Pot-Smoking Daddy

Dear Mamas,

This is a sticky one. My husband and I have been married for 10 years. We had our first child four years ago. My husband works in retail sales and gets home every night by about 5:30. For as long as I have known him, he has had a ritual after work of smoking a joint to relax.

Since the baby came, I have insisted that he go to the garage to do it and he was fine with that but now my son wants to go out there with him. I don’t want my son to know that his dad is getting high every night but it’s getting harder to make up excuses for why he is out there. My husband says his job is stressful and the pot just helps him calm down.

My son is asking lots of questions and has noticed the smell and that his dad acts silly and sleepy sometimes.

What should I do?

Worried

Dear Worried,

You have every right to be concerned. The “ritual” you describe has turned into a habit and possibly an addiction. And now you have found yourself in the role of the enabler – it has become your job to help hide the behavior and make excuses to cover it up. Without your involvement, he would be found out fast and would have to face the consequences in one way or another.

You aren’t happy with the situation but you have been playing along. And now it’s getting really uncomfortable, impacting family life, and causing you stress. If your husband’s drug use is causing problems for anyone, then by definition, he has a drug problem.

So, I would suggest that you talk to your husband about his pot smoking. Let him know that you no longer feel it’s appropriate, given the responsibilities that go along with his role as father, and that you want him to stop. If he refuses, that may be an indication that his habit has become an addiction.

The first thing you need to know is that it is not your job to try and make him quit. Most likely, you wouldn’t be able to, no matter how hard you tried. But you can get help for yourself, which will be a powerful first step towards healing the dysfunction that is happening in your family.

The best thing to do is find an Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meeting in your community and start attending. These are groups for family members of people struggling with alcohol or drug problems. They are based on the Twelve-Step Programs of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, are free, and very helpful in providing support, understanding and tools for dealing effectively with this very common and potentially devastating problem that affects millions of families world-wide.

They really do work, but it’s important to find a meeting that has people in it who you can relate to. In other words, if you are a young, stay-at-home, middle-class mom who lives in the ‘burbs, don’t expect a meeting composed of gay, male executives who live in the city to meet your needs. It won’t.

Just look for one that is made up of folks who are similar to you, demographically speaking. You will feel more comfortable, and, as a result, be more likely to continue going. And going is what will help.

Also, don’t be surprised if you feel embarrassed or ashamed by the idea of needing to go to a Twelve-Step Program. It’s totally normal to feel uncomfortable about it at first. Shame is one of the emotions that come up around addictions of any kind. But don’t be put off by those feelings or allow them to prevent you from going. It is simply coming up in order to be healed.

Your son is going to figure out what’s going on very soon. Kids have an uncanny knack for noticing changes in their parent’s behavior, and the feeling tone in the home. He may already know.

Since drug and alcohol problems tend to be transmitted from one generation to the next, you would be wise to deal with this one head-on before it goes any farther. You can’t stop your husband from smoking pot, but you can change the things that you may unknowingly be doing that allow it to continue.

Good luck, and I really hope you will get help for your family right away.

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.


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6 responses to “Pot-Smoking Daddy”

  1. anonymouseducator

    I don’t know; seems analogous to having a drink when he gets home. And noone would ask him to forgo his nightly cocktail.

  2. taqah

    Please, please rethink your advice. I am concerned at the discord it could cause in already tense situation. It may be that al-anon etc. could be helpful; but if he is not addicted and just disagrees with her perspective this advice could create a scenario in which if he doesn’t stop smoking he is labeled an addict who needs to face up to his problem: putting both of them in opposing camps with no space to find common ground. They need to work as a team to come up with a solution that will work for them.

    I’ll also add that he smoked pot ever since they have been together. There should have been a discussion about this before baby was born. This isn’t to chastise the wife, she didn’t have it for whatever reason– its too late now. But this should serve as a warning to anyone else who knows something about their spouse that they feel needs to change if they have a child. Don’t assume they feel the same way; if something is going to be a “deal breaker” its vital that you address this before you choose to have a child.

    I think it’s true there is a problem, and that there may be drug dependency here; but your somewhat drug-phobic “just say no” answer is just going to wedge this couple further apart. Someone not wanting to quit smoking up 1x a day because his wife disapproves does not a drug addict make. If I could pathologize all the things my husband won’t change to suit my needs or worldview he would be interned in a psych. ward right away.

    Because the wife has a problem with his drug use does NOT mean he has a drug problem; this is a facile argument. Think about it this way, if he had a glass of wine every Friday night and his wife was Muslim or Mormon and disagreed with drinking would that make him have an alcohol problem? It is not when other people have a problem with your actions that means you have a “problem.” If his wife joined in, and they smoked 10x a day would he not have a problem because she was okay? Of course not. If he can’t stop then he has a problem. If he does not want to stop, and she does want him to stop then they have a problem of differing values. Work needs to be done to come to a set of values they can both live with.

    I’d like to note that while I have on rare occasion used drugs, I usually go years without smoking pot. However, I would feel that someone was being controlling if they told me that smoking up one a day was a problem worthy of a visit to narcotics anonymous.

    It could be that the husband is addicted, but if he is only smoking once a day it’s at least equally likely that he is not. Should he choose not to stop, it may be a sign he is addicted, or it may be a sign that he doesn’t share the same values as his wife and feels that she is pushing him to live under her parameters and worldview without respecting his desires and needs. He may not see his drug use as something that will hurt his child. ( I have several friends whose parents were part of the hippie pot smoking generation and only one of them says that she was traumatized by her parents drug use.)

    The problems here can be divided into 3 areas:
    1. the wife is upset with her husband’s pot smoking.

    2. there seems to have been NO plan, or thought ( by either of them ) of how to deal with the reality of pot smoking when you have a child. If you are going to engage in this behavior, or really any behavior that goes against dominant discourse you need to have a plan on how to address this. To not do so is irresponsible.

    3. The wife is, rightly, concerned about the father’s behavior while high around the child.

    1. First they need to find a way to come to some agreement on smoking pot. There may be room for compromise here or there may not be. Perhaps smoking up less often: only weekends, only weekdays, every other day, etc. Or he may just have to give it up (perhaps except for social occasions) for family harmony, or she may just have to accept it as something he enjoys and that she needs to learn how to accept. The key is they both need to not just tolerate but really accept whatever they agree on. This doesn’t mean it can’t ever change but the agreement needs to be entered into without the expectation that the other one will eventually change his or her mind.

    Alternate ways of relaxation so that the mother is not the one who is always “the responsible one” could be a great idea. Maybe he smokes up Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the three do yoga Tuesday and Thursday or vice-versa. Or they decide to go jogging as a family every day at 530 or he goes alone… Maybe he smokes pot and then they all do yoga… whatever. What is clear is that if the stress is not just an excuse it needs to be addressed.

    A child does mean changes and the father needs to accept that. But a child should not be an excuse for shifts in values that may not have anything to do with the well being of the child. Mom needs to ask herself does she genuinely fear for her child’s safety, is he so high he can’t take care of the child? Is the father not fulfilling his parental obligations because he’s always taking a post marijuana nap? OR is she using the child as an excuse to pressure him into changing a behavior she doesn’t agree with and one that embarrasses her?

    2. If they come to some agreement about pot smoking where some smoking is still going on; then they need to address the second problem.

    They need to be honest with their child, in an age appropriate way. They may begin by explaining that “dad is doing something adults sometimes enjoy doing, but that this will make children sick, which is why he can’t do it around you; just the way alcohol makes children sick or peanuts make some children sick….” If pot use is not accepted in your community, you don’t need to tell your child his dad is smoking pot in those words until he is older.

    As the child gets older, you will need to be more open about the father’s drug use; I’m not suggesting you should share drugs or smoke in front of the child; just that it should be admitted that the father smokes pot.

    If it is hidden the child will feel the hypocrisy of the situation and either hide any activity (including potential drug use) that he feels his parents may not approve of. Or he may be embarrassed of his father’s drug use, seeing it as something shameful that needs to be hidden. Neither is a healthy state for the child. If the father feels this is something that no child should know that he is doing then he should not be using drugs. If he is okay with sharing the fact that he smokes pot; he should just keep it out of the child’s way.

    3. The third issue is the mental and physical safety of child with father when dad is high. This all depends on who else is with the child, how high the father is, and how pot affects him. If you can have a glass of wine around your child then you should be able to be around your child having smoked a bit of pot. You wouldn’t want to be drunk around your child, you don’t want to be baked out of your mind with your child.

    There should always be someone who is fully capable of caring for the child, and this is not just the day to day caring but sober enough to handle a real emergency too.

    It should not always fall on the mother to be this person; this turns her into the parent for both of them.

    As for the mental well being. Being a bit goofy around the child on occasion is okay but it can’t be too goofy or too often. Whether you should be around your child after smoking depends on how pot affects you. Just as some people become uncomfortably jocose or morose after just one glass of alcohol while another person may talk a bit more than usual and another may have no noticeable change at all. If the father tells more jokes or is a bit more quiet or is exactly the same then there is no issue. But if he is terribly groggy, or fascinated by the smell of lemons for hours then it’s an issue.

    To the wife: Before you head to al-anon make sure you have tried to work this out with your husband. Once you are on opposing camps it will be that much harder to reach an agreement. If you truly believe your husband has an addiction, and that this addiction is causing him some kind of harm ( your change of heart on his pot using creating fights doesn’t count as a problem, but problems that his pot smoking creates in your relationship because he isn’t “present” would count , as would making you have to take the responsibility in child rearing etc.)

    To the husband: Try to see how your drug use is upsetting your wife. Is it worth the tensions it’s creating? Does your smoking up make your wife have to be the responsible one in the relationship, or the one who always has to be sober for the child? Make sure you aren’t putting her in the situation where she always HAS to be sober. If that is her preference that is fine, but there should be times when she has the freedom not to be sober EVEN if she never has or never would drink, smoke up etc. She needs to not always be living as the “designated parent”.

  3. Sarah

    I think the more important point here is that the behavior the father exhibits once he is high (described as silly and sleepy) is being noticed and commented on by his toddler. This father doesn’t sound like he’s having the herbal equivalent of one cocktail to take the edge off – he is getting high. And while I may not agree that one cocktail is the same as smoking an entire joint (even without getting into legalities), I do believe what matters here is the resulting impairment of the father and the impression that leaves on his child and family. If the guy in question was drinking every night to the point where he was drunk and exhibiting the same behaviors described above, my guess is that the expert Mamas who run this great site would still encourage the mom to seek help for herself and her family.

  4. Boyfriend Gives Weed To Kids

    [...] gut, you know what’s right. For more information on this subject, go to an earlier post, “Pot Smoking Daddy.“  Email This [...]

  5. Earl

    Anyone is a fool to believe that smoking pot and raising a child can be mixed. I have been around it throughout my whole career, my first marriage (she smoked) and I can honestly say that no one I have met that smokes this stuff is an over achiever. Most have criminal records and the list of failures grows every year. Sure you will find an exception to any given rule or occurrence, but this is not something you introduce or continue to expose a child to without 99% negative repercussions in life. When you grow up, there are somethings you must give up and having a child there are even more……..its time to stop with the excuse making and do the right thing for your child, they deserve the best you can offer, not a “compromise” between you and the spouse or whoever……

  6. shine1lytskin28

    Ok well first off, it is not detrimental that Dad comes home after working all day to smoke a joint. Its when he does not go to work, you have to start worrying. But after so many years it should not even be a question as to should he stop, the question should be are you gonna be the parent? Your son is a child and( I’m not trying to be rude) you are the parent. So you set the rules down, no negotiating. Honey Daddy’s in garage doing adult stuff so you have to stay inside. Why? Hence the Adult stuff. When Daddy is doing Kid activities then you can join him. And of course you may have to repeat this a few times but he will catch on. And make sure dad knows the plan and that he does schedule some “kid activities” in the garage for his son to join.
    A problem I have noticed with the forthcoming generations parents is that is easier for the parent to give into the child out of guilt (for various reasons) then to set the rules down and stick to them and most importantly be consistent. If you waiver on the rules then it will not work to either one of your benefits and will actually be more damaging to your child as they grow and develop.
    Better to explain to him in the near future (couple years) that Daddy is grown and chooses to relax that way.
    And to Earl, so not sure where you got your statistics from but there wrong. There is not any studies that have showed smoking pot creates underachievers. Nor is there a study that says 99% of children born into or raised around pot smokers will be negatively impacted in anyway. More children are negatively impacted by alcohol than any known intoxicant.

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