By Patricia Allen
I was eleven years of age.
It was in May of 1969, a month after my eleventh birth- day, at the peak of the peace and love generation, and Woodstock. I had recently ordered a paperback regard- ing Woodstock from the Scholastic Books flyers they handed out at school. My brothers ranged in age up to 9 years my senior, and I can clearly recall my second broth- er, Robert, in 1968, walking into my mother’s sewing room wearing pastel colored striped bell-bottoms. He wanted to borrow her sewing machine to put paisley patches on his blue jeans. He was home for the summer.
Robert had been sent away to military school, which was at the time, the solution for problematic teens from wealthy families. Not so true anymore. Nevertheless, he was considered a problem teen, or a “hood,” as my par- ents referred to him. I only learned recently that his antics were far more than problematic.
Upon his first visit back home, Robert, now considered to be an ideal example of a well-disciplined soldier of youth, was asked to take me for a walk and “talk some sense” into me, his little sister. I was indeed a handful, as rebel- lious and undisciplined as a pre-teen could be. No one knew why; I was the first daughter, a gift to my father after siring four sons, and I was babied to the point where my brothers supposedly carried me instead of making me walk to my destinations. I didn’t walk until almost the age of three.
Robert took me on a walk and talk down the road, and we paused across the street from the barn, where he told me “…and this is how you deal with Mom and Dad,” and held a joint in the air. The only lecture I received was one on how not to be obviously stoned and raise suspi- cion.
“Don’t head right to the refrigerator,
because you will be hungry,”
followed by “ you must
use Visine and carry it with you at all times.” I remember his instructions to
day, almost 43 years later. The best advice he did give me is still true today. “If it goes out, leave it alone. You don’t have to smoke the whole thing.”
The sad irony in this true scenario is that Robert was one of my abusers as a toddler. Yes, sexual abusers. But I did- n’t remember. I had successfully numbed and repressed the memories of sexual abuse by both Robert and my oldest brother, Richard. And I did it with narcotics, beginning at the age of 8. When one brother went off to college and the other to military school, my abusers/pro- tectors were gone. The dynamics of incestuous relation- ships are deep and complex, but I did miss them dearly for reasons I could and would not comprehend for years to come – 24 years, to be exact.
As is now considered a common sign of an abused child, I was constantly falling and breaking my arms, ankles, and spent more time in casts in elementary school than I did in actual classrooms. Mentally, that is. I was fortu- nate to have a safe haven in the old library at the top of my street. I would toke on my walk up the road to the street, and then curl up in a cushy leather chair and read historical novels until evening.
The child of a family of medical professionals, my home was an extension of the pharmacy my father frequented in town. In the same cupboard as the coffee cups was a bottle of Paregoric. And In a basket at my father’s office there was a sampling of Percodan pills, as well as Darvon, to be doled out after tooth extractions and such. I was raised in the legal drug generation. If I had an ear- ache, there was Paregoric, an opiate. Paregoric tasted
good, too, with a hint of licorice when my mother mixed it with water and sugar and gave it to me like a shot of good whiskey. Many of us know we all are biologically predisposed to have endocannabinoid receptors in our bodies. Well, we also have opiate receptors, also. I responded to these opiate receptors quite nicely at a very young age, coincidentally during the sameperiod of time that my brothers were practicing their newfound sexuali- ty on me. Simply, Percodan and Darvocet, and the occa- sional swig of Paregoric, took the unidentifiable pain away and afforded me a less stressful and restful diversion
– listening to music and reading.
I can now admit that I was a self-medicating, narcotics addict at the age of eight. Dad’s office, the medicine cabi- net, and the plentitude and subversive support for their use were actually nurtured in my early childhood years. I responded with both a sense of peace and relief, and while still in grade school, began feeding myself opiates simply because they made me feel good. I was an excellent stu- dent, from a competitive, education-oriented family of seven children, and as the rarely dutiful child of a narcis- sistic mother, I found my bond with opiates to be more natural than my bond with my own mother. I never told her about her sons. I was afraid to be the one to ruin the family vision of wholesomeness.
Repressed memories are difficult for many to compre- hend. There was much ado about this topic when my memories finally did return, 22 years ago, when I was 32. This is the reason I completely discredit Freud, as it was he who ultimately suggested to author, Virginia Wolfe that it was all in her imagination; that somehow she wished it so.
The way I am able to best describe repressed memories is to make a point of asking someone what their most embarrassing moment in life was, and then observing a turn of the head and a pause. Most people think they will instantly remember, but when summoned to answer the question, nearly all were at a loss. That is repression. It is a necessary coping skill for survival, and I took both nec- essary and unnecessary coping skills into consideration for reasons I never knew existed. I was a child. Perhaps it was my predisposition from my early youth, but then it was in my early youth that I was, as we all refer to it now, molest- ed. It is indeed difficult to separate the two needs for opi- ates, while both are indeed related to pain relief.
The currently suggested and recognizable signs of sexual
abuse in a child were ignored
or misinterpreted, possibly
intentionally in my early youth. I
was clumsy. I was moody and “too sensitive,” as
my mother would
say when I made my signature
move when teased by my
brothers: running upstairs to my room
in tears, locking the
door, and waiting for someone
to knock and ask what
was wrong. There never was a
knock on my door, though,
and The Beach Boy’s song “In My Room” became my anthem. Music, I have now concluded, was the better drug of choice, but I had quicker relief readily available, and taking a Percodan, Darvon or a shot of Paregoric was much more effective in soothing my emotional pains.
I think it almost comical that my parents never noticed. I believe they were simply relieved to see me in a more docile state of mind. When I began “mumbling” instead of speaking articulately in sixth grade, my Smith College English major of a mother who didn’t believe in “baby talk,” quickly sent me off to elocution lessons. There was no consideration whatsoever regarding why I was mum- bling. I was taking up to four Percodan a day. Fortunately, in the present time period, if my child were to suddenly develop a sudden speech impairment, I do believe I would give strong consideration to the use of opiates, or at the very least, an underlying emotional problem related to communication.
That joint that my brother held before me and smoked with me was the very significant end of my opiate addic- tion to emotional pain relief. This is why I am writing and sharing this highly personal account of my love affair with narcotics, which ended when I met and mended with that one joint in 1969.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was originally assigned to those who served in the military and witnessed horrors that led either to narcotics abuse, suicide, or alcoholism, to name a few “coping” methods. Now, it is recognized as a diagnosis relating to many other trauma related condi- tions.
When I reveal to people that I’ve been smoking pot since the age of 11 now, I get mixed, but less severe reactions. When I admit to my affair with narcotics, opiates since early youth, and state that it was one joint that ended that unhealthy, dangerous addiction, I am met with priceless expressions of surprise and mortification combined.
I have been studying my own path with Cannabis for many years now. I have been both an advocate and activist for its benefits in treating PTSD, among other ailments, ranging from mild to severe, which I will address in future in these pages of this publication. Now there is a plenti- tude of clinical proof substantiating the benefits of Cannabis as treatment for PTSD. There are so many cita- tions and publications that lend scientific opinion to this topic. I feel no need to cite a reference. I cite myself.
Quite simply, that one joint was my path away from a nar- cotic addiction that lasted from early childhood and into my early adolescence. It allowed me to step back from the emotional pain that was buried and resurfaced without warning, but stung and ached like a fresh wound each time.
I am very pleased to see advancements made in the recognition of Cannabis as an effective, albeit tem- porary treatment for PTSD. Psychotherapy and behavior modification techniques that we adapt to our lives as individuals help in the healing process and control of triggers. I don’t always have to reach for that joint.
More so, I feel very strongly about how the use of Cannabis negated my need for narcotics, and in fact allowed me to completely stop using them without any symptoms of withdrawal. It is now a fact that Cannabis has the capability, if utilized with proper perspective, to help narcotics addicts ease off the Pharma train and onto the tractor in a field of green. And yes, I am quite eloquent and articulate. Next stop on the Pharma train: ADHD.