I’m stressed. Revelatory, right? What parent isn’t stressed in 2018? The ’80s and ’90s parenting villages that once lovingly ushered child-minding from one home to another have been replaced with judgmental articles about gluten and screen time. Career-wise, I live a variable freelance life that involves daily pitching and daily rejection. My family is saving for my son’s college education while also paying for his preschool tuition. As I’m writing this, the cat has vomited on my bed. Like I said, I’m stressed.
My husband, Dave, likes to help, and so it was on the eve of my birthday a few weeks ago that he decided to bombard me with feel-good gifts: A weighted blanket, knitting supplies, chocolate and writers’ reference books. “There’s one more thing,” he said before disappearing to retrieve something from his car. Like a man with a dark secret, he returned with a sheepish look and a package clutched behind his back.
“Take this the way it is intended,” he began. “You said that childbirth changed your reaction to alcohol and you don’t like it anymore.”
“Yeah . . .”
“And you can’t turn your brain off when it comes to the baby and work.”
“And sometimes, you wish you could decompress at the end of the day.”
“Well,” he said, “do you want to try this?”
He handed me a package that included three tins of cannabis mints laced with various concentrations of CBD and THC. At age 35, I found myself in the middle of an after-school special.
I grew up around drug users. I never went in search of “the stash,” but it was always there: Behind the breadbox on the deepest kitchen counter, in the back of a closet, in the air that smelled faintly of skunk and pesto sauce. It made me nervous. The secrecy of it, combined with a rocky childhood and the harsh warnings from the local DARE program, formed my early and deep-rooted opinions: Drugs were bad, dangerous and a waste of time. And so too, if only by my direct associations, were the people who used them.
Dave knows this about me, so it was hard to picture him perusing the aisles of a Seattle dispensary for my birthday gift. He decided to appeal to my analytical nature: In true engineer fashion, he launched into a 15-minute scientific presentation about CBD and THC. “That stands for cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol,” he instructed. The CliffsNotes revealed that CBD is the second most abundant cannabinoid found in the marijuana plant.
Often described as “non-psychoactive,” it’s sometimes used to treat anxiety and seizures. THC, like alcohol and other substances, impacts the part of the brain that affects decision-making and motor skills. It also has the benefit of providing that euphoric response that many a stressed parent relies on after a long day.
Before I lost my tolerance for alcohol, I was never opposed to having a glass or two of wine. The concentration of CBD and THC in my gifted mints, my sweet husband told me, were equivalent in terms of intoxication.
As amused and intrigued as I was by the presentation, I had a question.
“Do you think I need to get high?”
“No, not at all,” he said. “I just think you deserve a break.”
Okay, then. Sign me up.
The Saturday following my birthday was the perfect opportunity. I’ll take one during naptime, I thought. My son sleeps for around three hours, about as long as it takes for two glasses of wine to enter and leave my system. One little mint would probably last that long. As he and Dave toddled upstairs to read a book, I popped 10 milligrams of a CBD/THC combo and turned on the TV.
Nothing happened in the first two hours. Maybe weed just doesn’t affect me, I thought. Or maybe years of peripheral exposure built up my tolerance. Those thoughts went away by hour three, when my legs began to grow and the sofa began to sink. Dave looked on with concern.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing. You okay?”
“Yes. I just realized my legs are long. Do I seem high?”
“No, you seem like you . . . with long legs. How are you feeling?”
How was I feeling? I couldn’t put a word to it, but I can tell you what I wasn’t feeling. For the first time in about six years, I wasn’t feeling stressed or preoccupied by the familiar pull of my Type-A brain – the one that never shuts off. I wasn’t worried about the kid or my career trajectory or the house or the college fund or the 401(k). I wasn’t feeling much of anything. I was in the moment. I just was.
The buzz that was meant to end with nap time lasted 9 hours, and included playing with my son and watching four consecutive hours of Home Improvement reruns on Hulu. I was enthralled.
“This show is so fun,” I said as my son and I snuggled and munched on handfuls of popcorn.
“We should have two more kids – two more boys!” I told my husband.
“Oh yeah,” Dave said. “You’re definitely high.”
The Lost Saturday ended with dinner as usual, followed by an unplanned nap for me on the sofa. I woke up feeling relaxed and hangover-free. Mine was not a brief high, and I can’t say that I’ll be popping another mint any time soon, especially with my 3-year-old in tow. But for parents with a higher tolerance and more experience, I could see how the occasional lozenge might be a useful alternative to anti-anxiety meds or “wine o’clock,” both of which carry similar effects and – inexplicably – half the stigma.
For now, I have a lifetime supply of edibles stashed on the top shelf of my closet, and I don’t feel like a bad person – or a bad mom. And it is possible that leaving the door open to a therapeutic mint after my son’s bedtime on a Saturday night might lead to a more relaxed Sunday. I could use more of those.
Sarah Szczypinski is a journalist living in Seattle. Find her on Twitter @SarahSz23.