Six months ago, Kim Curtis* was still sitting on the sidelines every time she took her kids to the park – if she made it there at all.
The 31-year-old mother-of-two was diagnosed with palindromic rheumatism around the time she got pregnant with her first child – Ethan, who is now six.
Over the years that followed, she was prescribed everything from codeine to morphine for relief from the disease, which is characterized by sudden, paralyzing attacks of arthritis that include acute pain, swelling and the disability of joints.
While the powerful painkillers helped dull Curtis’s discomfort to a degree, they also put her in a “zombie-like haze” that kept her moored to the living room La-Z-Boy.
More importantly, the disease – and her body’s growing dependence on opioids – robbed her of myriad meaningful moments with her children.
“When you’re on opioids, you almost feel like you don’t exist... and yet you’re still trying to be a good parent,” Curtis, who lives in Ontario, recalls.
“My son would ask to go to the park... and I’d be stuck sitting on the bench hoping we could go home soon.”
Trips to the park in the Curtis household – which includes two-year-old Emily – are very different these days.
Five months after swapping opioids for medical marijuana – a decision she admits was made with some initial hesitancy – Curtis describes herself as “the most adventurous parent” she knows.
“At first I was laughing to myself, thinking: ‘Great, I’m a mom of two and I’m going to go get medical marijuana... but five months later I’m no longer on any opioids at all,” says Curtis, adding that she’s now the “first to join” a game of tag or hide-and-go-seek with her kids.
“For years, I had no control because this disease was everything. It told me when I went to the park and when I to sit inside and do nothing. It controlled me and now I control it. [Cannabis] has been a complete life-changer for me.”
Curtis is far from alone. In fact, she is just one in a growing number of North American parents coming out of the cannabis closet in one manner or another. A poll conducted by Civilized in 2016 found that 51 percent of cannabis users surveyed had children under the age of 13, while 27 percent had children between 13 and 17.
Curtis says she can vape a high-CBD strain and watch as the inflammation in her joints shrinks before her eyes.
“The beauty of a high-CBD [strain] is that it takes the inflammation away, but keeps me clear headed... so I can take care of my kids 100 percent,” says Curtis. “I don’t want my cognitive ability not to be sharp.”
Knowing that she “never actually feels stoned” makes it that much more irritating when people judge her for using cannabis, says Curtis. She says she isn’t open about her medicine of choice outside of her immediate family because she “still feels that judgment – very much.”
“I am split with my son’s father and I don’t ever say anything to my son or his father because he could turn around and use it against me in court,” says Curtis, who admits she finds this knowledge “scary.”
“It’s hard for me to be open and tell people ‘cannabis works for me, you might want to try it’ when I’m afraid [my ex-husband] could find out and take my son away.”
Curtis says she can’t wait to see what happens when Canada legalizes cannabis next July. More than anything, she’s looking forward to seeing the stigma around cannabis use gradually slip away, so that parents-in-pain like her can seek the help they need without judgment.
“When I was pregnant with my daughter, my palindromic rheumatism was so bad that my three-year-old son was actually making me sandwiches. He should have been having fun with his mommy, not taking care of her. I look back on that now and think that if I’d known about medical marijuana earlier, I would’ve been all over it that much sooner,” says Curtis.
“People need to educate themselves... and realize that there are proper ways to take cannabis and still be a good parent.”
*Names have been changed to protect privacy
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