The Making Of A Marijuana Addict

I owe my life to my weed addiction.

Woman living homeless on the streets carolthacker | Canva

I will never forget the first time I smoked weed. The year was 1987. I was 13 years old. My brother, who was ten years my senior and my chaperone for my first homecoming dance with a boy, took my date and me out to a cornfield just south of town and showed us how to smoke pot from a small metal pipe.

I can still taste that pipe, and I can remember walking into the high school high as a kite thinking, “Someone will know,” as the paranoia set in. Fortunately, they didn’t and I had a wonderful night. My brother picked us up later, and we giggled about how much fun the dance was all the way home.


But the truth of the matter is, in Iowa, we were all committing felonies — and getting by with it made it more alluring than ever. I continued to smoke weed throughout high school, here and there. It was never what I would call a habit, but if someone near me had it, I was smoking it. And since two of my brothers were smoking it, I had ample opportunity.

I dabbled in other drugs a little bit. But none of them ever impressed me and some of them scared me.

But weed — weed never let me down, it was like wrapping myself in a warm, weighted blanket. My teen angst and anxiety melted away giving my brain a few moments of much-needed peace.


I intentionally quit smoking my senior year. I was looking forward to being an adult, and based on what I had learned in school and by societal standards, I couldn’t be a productive adult and consume cannabis.

My Gateway to Alcoholism

Like everyone else in my demographic in 1993, I became an alcoholic. Drinking was a right of passage in small-town, rural Iowa. My mother was buying my friends and me Bartles and James wine coolers in junior high. The rule in my house was that as long as you weren’t leaving, you could drink.

My parents got a keg for my high school graduation party — which was five miles outside of town, long before the days of Uber. Nobody thought anything of it.

From the ages of 18 to 33, I was as straight as an arrow — outside of the socially acceptable binge drinking on the weekends. I remember the 35-mile drive home from the downtown bars in Des Moines after having a few “cordials” with my work buddies. I often drove home with a college textbook open in the passenger seat of my car, so if I got pulled over, I could say was distracted — “I’m cramming for an exam.”


Then, Wells Fargo Financial sent me to San Francisco on a business trip in 2007.

RELATED: 10 Early Signs Of Alcoholism You Should Never, Ever Ignore

Culture Shock

After the big meeting with the salesforce from California, Oregon, and Washington, a group of 30-somethings were turned loose with free rein to the company credit card to pay for upscale restaurants and massive bar tabs.

But on day two, after the day’s meetings were over, some of the sales guys said to my colleague and me, “Hey, we’ve got some smoke from upstate, you guys wanna partake?”

I was stunned. In Iowa, in my bubble, no one smoked weed, or if they did — they didn’t admit it out loud to people they barely knew. But I was intrigued.


“Oh my god,” I replied, probably blushing like a schoolgirl. “I haven’t smoked weed in years.” 

“Come on up, if you want — we’re in room 340.”

I sat on the barstool for a while. I contemplated my options. “When in Rome…” I thought to myself. It was the most rebellious thing I had done in over a decade. And it felt good.

The Final Straw

However, what eventually did me in, was later that week, I was invited out for dinner and drinks with Candy, the branch VP. She was a lively, short Black woman who I just adored. She had a bright, bubbly welcoming personality and was eager to show me around San Francisco.

She took me to an upscale, gourmet restaurant in Berkeley where the chef came to our table and talked about the hand-chosen ingredients he found at the local Farmer's Market that morning that he would be using to prepare our dish.


It was the most elegant thing I’d ever done. But one night after work, we were sitting in a swanky bar and Candy pulled a package of peanut brittle out of her purse and said, “Want some? It’s ‘special’ peanut brittle.”

Once again, I was shocked. A successful VP of a large branch of an international banking company was using marijuana. The concept that those who use weed can’t be productive human beings was completely turned on its head for me in San Francisco. The first thing I did upon returning to Iowa was start looking for a plug.

Again, I didn’t make it a habit; I smoked it here and there. I remember lying on my bed, listening to my teenage son play guitar from across the hallway, while I was blowing weed smoke into a paper towel tube filled with dryer sheets to mask the odor.

There I was risking a felony again. As a single mom, with a good job in the heart of Iowa, it was a huge risk. I could lose my job. I could lose my son. It could’ve ruined my life had I been caught.


Honestly — that was the biggest risk in using marijuana in Iowa, getting caught with it. So, once again, I stopped buying it and only smoked when the opportunity came up.

Then I Met My Husband

My husband and I met in the fall of 2012. We had been dating for a couple of weeks when I invited him to spend a weekend with me in Wisconsin visiting apple orchards and going on a pub crawl to find the perfect pumpkin ale.

We were at a small town bar when a Colonel Sanders look-a-like in a biker vest challenged him to a game of pool. After a couple of rounds, the biker avatar version of the KFC mogul asked, “Do you smoke?”

To which Gary replied, “Nah, I quit smoking cigarettes years ago.


And the man stopped him. “No man, do you smoke?” lifting his thumb and forefinger to his lips. Then he turned, and the “Highway 420” patch on his back said it all.

Gary froze. We hadn’t crossed this bridge yet. I had just come back from the restroom and he sheepishly asked, “Ummm, this guy wants to know if we want to smoke weed?” He looked at me, hoping for the best, fearing the worst.

“Oh, hell yes,” I said, and we were married within six months and we’ve smoked copious amounts of cannabis since then.

RELATED: 6 Reasons Smoking Weed Will Solve All Your Relationship Problems

My Mother Died A Non-Criminal

In the spring of 2014, my mother called to tell me that she had been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer and that she wasn’t going to fight the disease with radiation and chemo. She had done that in 1995 when she survived breast cancer. Nearing 72 years old, Mom just didn’t have the will to fight anymore.


She expected me to be angry. She expected to have to defend her decision. But I understood all too well. I replied to her, “Mom, I get it. I’m almost half your age, and I’m tired, too.”

I continued, “I’ve been hearing good things about medical marijuana, Mom. Do you want me to go to Colorado and see what I can learn?”

To which she replied, “No, it’s not legal here, and I won’t die a criminal.”

Mom got her wish, and in August of that year, she died a non-criminal. That conversation with my mother hung on my heart like a lead weight. I had just turned 40 and I was so exhausted, overweight, and damaged, I didn’t think I’d have the energy to fight for my own life.


I started to look at how I was living and I didn’t like it. But I knew that no one could change it but me. So I bailed. I completely left my old life behind and did what I should’ve forced my mother to do: I moved to Colorado, quit my six-figure corporate job, left my husband, and dropped off my adult son in Iowa.

I deliberately and intentionally demolished my life — I chose homelessness over stability, just to draw a line in the sand. Not a line that says this is where it ends, but a line that declares, “This is where it starts.”

My Life as a Colorado Weed Refugee

I lived in a hostel for the first 16 days I was in Denver. I had less than $300 to my name when a friend of mine wired me some money and insisted that I get a hot meal. While sitting in the restaurant, a woman came in and sat down at the counter beside me. After striking up a conversation, she eventually asked, “Honey, do you need a job?”

“Yes, yes I do,” I replied. “How do you feel about legal weed?” she asked.


And so began my new career as a budtender in the newly legal cannabis industry in Denver. (Budtender — like a bartender, but sells weed, not booze.)

Being a 41-year-old, married, albeit separated, professional woman with two decades in corporate America, I wasn’t the typical budtender at that time. $12 an hour is an entry-level job and most of my coworkers were college-aged.

I had no interest in a social life. I didn’t want to “party like a 20-something.” I spent all my free time smoking weed, eating weed, trying new products, and reading everything about cannabis I could find. I was a good student and I was high — a lot.

After about six weeks, I called my husband, who was still in Minnesota, and I said, “We have hope, but you’re going to have to trust me.”


RELATED: I Smoke Weed For My Depression — And It Helps A Ton

We Gave Up Everything — For Cannabis

In March 2016, my husband and I ceremoniously pushed 13 bottles of pharmaceutical prescriptions into the trash. That list of drugs we gave up included:

  • hydrocodone (opioid painkiller)
  • oxycodone (opioid painkiller)
  • fentanyl patches (opioid painkiller)
  • gabapentin (for nerve pain)
  • flexeril (a muscle relaxant)
  • metformin (blood sugar control)
  • atorvastatin (cholesterol control)
  • lisinopril (blood pressure control)
  • alprazolam (anti-anxiety)
  • citalopram (depression)
  • lorazepam (anxiety)
  • adderall (focus)
  • levothyroxine (thyroid)

My husband gave up a 10-year prescribed opiate addiction overnight, without withdrawal. Together we gave up alcohol and overeating. We gave up apathy, and started to care about our health — and we declared personal accountability for how we were living.

We started hiking. My husband played disc golf. We shut off our cable and spent more time outside than inside. We started ordering meals to split at restaurants and asking for water instead of booze or sugary sodas. And we consumed cannabis in every way shape and form we could — every single day.


We kept a journal. We tracked the effects of every product. We obsessed over words like cannabinoids and terpenes. We studied and we learned, together. We discovered what products we prefer, what products help, and what products are best for strictly getting high.

Within a year, we had lost 150 pounds together. We were healthy, happy, and living our lives to the fullest.

Sure, We Were High — Until We Weren’t

Eight years later — we haven’t increased our consumption at all and we still rely on no modern medical intervention of any kind. We are in our 50s and in the best health we’ve ever been in.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to always be high to gain the benefits of cannabis. My husband found his sweet spot dosing between 25–50mg with a cannabis edible 5–6 times a day. His dose hasn’t increased in 8 years.


A healthy tolerance allows us to medicate without being impaired. We aren’t “high” most of the time, but we can “get high” if we choose to. We know how to manipulate the effects of every product we consume and we take a mindful, responsible approach to achieve a desired outcome — whether that’s pain control, mood balance, or just simply enjoying a social environment with friends.

We exchanged 13 different man-made pharmaceuticals for one simple plant. Yet, by most people’s standards, we are nothing more than addicts — those “dirty stoners,” because we choose to medicate with an herb instead of prescribed medications or over-the-counter chemicals, and our medicine “looks different” than yours.

RELATED: Why I Smoke Weed Every Single Night Before Bed

Kristina Etter is a corporate refugee, writer, freelance creator, and editor. She's written content for Cannabis Tech, Leafbuyer, The Fresh Toast, Medium, Business Insider and dozens of trade publications.