Hubby Quits Pot - Yells at Me a Lot!
anonymous Asks ...
My husband is a marijuana addict. He started smoking when he was 14 and he is still smoking now that he is 32. Now he is trying to quit. We have 2 children and I made an decision that I was not going to put up with marijuana in the house any longer. They are 6 and 8 and they are old enough to start to suspect that something is wrong with their dad when his eyes are all red and also it gives him mood swings and they never know what they are going to get with him. It is not good for them. Now he has not smoked for three weeks. He is so grouchy all the time. He blows up at me for any little thing. When I get angry about how he is treating me he never fails to remind me that I am the reason why he is in such a bad mood. I kind of think that he is not grouchy from quitting any more and that he is just getting revenge on me for making him stop. Should he still be so angry all the time after three weeks?
Dr. Ari Hahn Says ...
First, I want to commend you and your husband for taking this step and working on quitting. Although many people still believe that marijuana is not addictive, it has become obvious in the last 15 years that there are clear withdrawal symptoms and it is just as difficult to quit a marijuana habit as other drug habits.
There are a number of studies that describe what happens when a person tries to quit smoking marijuana. They all include irritability. But how long should he stay irritable? One study states that most people "return to baseline" after one week while another notes that almost all of the participants remained irritable until the end of the study after 28 days. So it is 100% possible that your hubby is still going through withdrawal. And since there is no way of predicting how long it will go on in his particular case, it might be for at least a few more weeks.
That might not sound so good, but the real question is how to deal with it. The goal is to turn this lemon into lemonade. The real problem, here is that he is blaming you when he gets angry. That, of course, is not unusual even without drugs in the picture. Being directed towards somebody is painful. But anger, or more precisely, irritability, does not have to be focused on a person. It is always an internal process that gets attributed to something or someone. As a couple, you have a wonderful opportunity to learn the skill of experiencing irritability without blame.
Here is the message that you need to convey: I now that you are grouchy and hot tempered now because you are quitting. I am happy that you chose me over Mary Jane. You could have chosen her and left me. But it is not me that is upsetting you, it is the process of withdrawal. I am here to help you, but not if you are attacking me. Calm yourself down, and then we can talk. Take your time because it is not you or me, it is the struggle to clean your body of the effects of 18 years of the drug.
You are probably wondering how long should this go on for? I really do not know. I have not seen any long term studies. But the question is if he has issues that were covered up by the tranquilizing effect of marijuana? If there are, he might need to deal with them in therapy. But it will not be your place to make sure he goes to therapy. He needs to recognize that there are issues (if in fact there are, I am not saying that there are issues) and he needs to want to deal with them. Identifying issues can take months. And you will recognize them first while he will be denying them. If there are issues, you need to be patient.
Regardless, if both of you can realize that irritability (whether from withdrawal or any other reason) is an internal state that each individual needs to take responsibility for without blaming others you will both benefit greatly from this experience.