Years back, radio talk show host Dennis Prager was hosting an episode on the struggles of “coming out.” The following caller changed his understanding on what it truly means to come out.
“Dennis,” the caller begins, “I am gay, I am liberal, and I am Jewish. I came out years ago to my parents about my sexuality. They embraced me fully and said they loved me unconditionally. But Dennis, (long pause for dramatic effect) I’m truly terrified to tell them I am a Republican.”
Until this moment I had never really thought about the proverbial closet as anything other than sexuality. However, as I thought about this caller’s dilemma I realized there are all types of closets.
There are certainly political closets - particularly today. Try being “out” as a liberal in fundamentalist religious communities. In certain countries it can literally get you killed. There are mental health closets - anyone who has battled depression, or survivors of suicide, know what I mean. There’s nationalism closets and professional closets and divorce closets. In our hyper exposed society there are ironically more closets to hide in than ever before.
And then there is the closet I help people come out of on a daily basis - the cannabis closet.
The cannabis closet? Really? Absolutely! There are a lot of people crowding these closets. My last blog, “The Morality of Marijuana,” only reinforced for me this point. Since then I’ve received numerous emails from people who are hiding in the cannabis closet from their family, their friends, their community or their pastors.
One such email was from a woman who has been in this industry for two years and her parents, her siblings, her nieces and nephews don’t know that she’s involved in cannabis.
Another email was from a senior who uses cannabis to help with her arthritis and is constantly hiding her medicine when her grandchildren come over.
Another gentleman shared that he wants to tell his pastor and church community what he does, but he hasn’t had the confidence to do so. When I challenged him on being honest with his community, he pushed back worrying that they might reject him.
This is true. There may be rejection. When you come out of the closet, any closet, by definition you are exposed. This is why we retreat to closets in the first place. Closets feel safe. The truth, however, is that closets are the farthest thing from safe. In fact, they are dangerous, destructive, and in some cases - deadly.
Time and again, personally and professionally, I have witnessed the destruction that comes from living in the closet. Sometimes a closeted life can lead to suicide (as it did for my grandmother and father who both lived in the mental health closet, and ultimately both, respectively took their own lives). However, even if living in a closet doesn’t result in physical death, it always resorts in other types of deaths.
It kills trust. It kills integrity. It kills relationships. And it kills, in one way or another, the person living in the closet. If you hide who you are for long enough, you may be alive, but you aren’t living, and that is a form of death.
No, the cannabis closet is not the same as these other types of closets, to be sure. However, whether we are talking about sex or depression, politics or relationships - pretending to be someone you are not, or pretending not to be who you are - is no way to live.
Look, in the case of cannabis if you don’t think you are involved with something ethical or moral - get out, choose something else and live a life in which you can be honest, authentic and real. Divest from that cannabis stock. Find a different industry to be CFO, or switch from cannabis to sedatives if that makes you feel better about how you fall asleep (though I hope you read my last blog before you make the switch).
However, if you believe in this plant, are inspired by it or are benefiting from it, physically, emotionally or spiritually - then I urge you to think about why you are withholding your truth? Why are you not sharing about what you are invested in? Why are you not telling people what you do? Why are you hiding your medicine or what helps you relax? If you believe in it, then believe in yourself, share your true self and step out of the closet once and for all.
And to anyone, in any type of closet, I implore you to come out of the closet - no matter what. We are not here to live closeted lives. Be who you are. Own your power. And summons the courage to step out into the light and fully and fiercely live YOUR life!