"MARIJUANA AND PSYCHOSIS?" - JACOB'S STORY
My family moved to Montreal from Long Island, New York when I was 14. Back home, I had a close-knit group of friends. We did everything together. I also had cousins around my own age who I spent a lot of time with during the summer. It was a lot to leave behind.
Midway through my first year of high school in Montreal, COVID hit. I didn’t have much of a social circle at my new school at that point, and I felt really out of the loop with my old friends in New York. What I did have was a connection to buy weed, and I started using it more and more often.
At first, I enjoyed it. It made the things I had left (video games, listening to music) feel more intense. Smoking weed filled up a lot of the empty space in my life. When you’re 14, it’s not like you’re dying to hang out with your parents all the time, so having this secret gave me something that was just mine, even as the lockdown made our house feel more claustrophobic..
Then I started getting paranoid. I was afraid to talk to people, thinking that they’d know I was high, or that they were hyper-focused on all my flaws. After a while, I started becoming obsessed with the idea that people knew what I was thinking.
Eventually, my parents noticed. Or rather, they rushed me to the Jewish General Hospital when I began screaming at them about how I was being tracked by surveillance cameras and being studied by the government. When they told me they wanted to take me to the hospital, I grabbed my dad’s car keys and tried to flush them down the toilet.
The staff at the Jewish were able to get me through the episode, and when they found out about my regular drug use, they suggested my parents call Lifeline. I’m sure you can imagine what the prospect of getting substance abuse counselling sounded like to an ultra-suspicious pothead with a questionable grasp of reality. I agreed to go because I basically had no choice. When I got to my first session at Lifeline, I was expecting to be given some speech about how dangerous drugs are and how irresponsible I would have to be to use them. Instead, my counsellor asked me about my life. When he learned that I had made a big move, he asked me how I felt about it. As it turns out, I had a lot of feelings about it. I surprised myself.
I kept going for sessions, and the more I was able to talk about my problems, the less I wanted to avoid them by getting high. When they saw how well I was responding, my parents joined me at Lifeline, signing up for parent coaching. I still have some low points, but it's nothing compared to before. When I was secretly smoking weed, I felt like I was falling through endless space. Now, I feel grounded. I know where I am, even though I’m not always crazy about it. I couldn’t have gotten to this point on my own, and I’m glad I didn’t have to.
*Names and details have been changed to protect the anonymity of those involved, as the story was adapted after being told to a Lifeline staff member with permission to share. Additionally, we would note that the reason we were able to attend to Jacob immediately is because we are regularly expanding our staff in order to meet the growing demand for our services. As Chabad Lifeline is sustained through private donations, this entails significant fundraising efforts. Making a donation can help ensure that we can continue to provide timely care that can ultimately save a life or set a family on a better course, creating a positive ripple effect on future generations.