Our son Randy was a creative, handsome, humorous, loving, kind-hearted, and gentle soul. He had his struggles from a very young age with ADHD, low executive functioning, and a slow processing speed. However, he never failed because he was also blessed with several “workarounds” including fabulous memorization skills, and high verbal and written acuity. He was a hard worker, personable, and he had an extremely strong will. Because he struggled with impulsivity and focusing we had him psychologically tested to see how we could help him. He was tested 4 times between the ages of 4 and 16 years. Consistently he tested positive for ADHD, slow processing speed, low executive functioning skills, and mild dyslexia. When he was 16 and after he started smoking marijuana, they added that he was suffering from anxiety and depression as well. These were the first two of many horrible side effects today’s marijuana has on the adolescent brain that Randy would eventually exhibit. Interestingly enough, Randy thought that “weed” saved his life, but it took his life in reality.
The first time we knew Randy smoked marijuana, he was 15 years old and with the neighbor boys who were 3 years older. He enjoyed it, was seeking acceptance/friendship, looked up to those boys, and liked getting high. After those young men left for college, he started smoking with other kids at his high school. It helped him fit in and for a kid with an active brain, we think it temporarily brought a sense of relaxation. However, getting high had its consequences for Randy that he just couldn’t see due to the misconceptions that marijuana is harmless, nonaddictive, and “natural”.
After using marijuana from his sophomore year to his senior year, he suffered from anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, aggressive behavior, and delusions. Randy was diagnosed with Cannabis Use Disorder when he was 16. In the fall of his Junior year, he attended Wilderness Therapy. He attended 3 different high schools and graduated online. He had one 72 hour hold during his senior year after threatening to take his life because we would not allow him to smoke marijuana at home.
Randy desperately wanted to go to the University of Boulder. He loved to ski, and the mountains and he made it clear he thought college was a big party. We suggested that he attend community college close to home, in Minnesota, but he insisted on moving to Boulder. When there was a “will” with Randy, he would find a way. He moved to Boulder, got a job, his residency, and completed a year of community college all on his own. By the time he was 20, he started two companies – a web design company and a clothing line. We were very proud of him, yet very concerned since we knew he was still smoking marijuana. He told us so and when he did come home, at times, he was irrational. After thinking about his drug usage while living with us, we knew that on days 3-5 without marijuana, he would be anxious, moody, aggressive, defiant, and difficult and he would exhibit that behavior during his visits.
As a huge proponent of marijuana got his medical marijuana card in Colorado which allowed him to access weed legally even though he was under 21. Although we did not want to admit it, after his passing, it was evident that he was selling to friends and others which is exactly what happens with “Medical Marijuana”. So much for keeping it away from adolescents!
We know that Randy went in phases with his drug use between 2018 and 2021 and that he experimented with other drugs like acid, molly, LSD, mushrooms, and Benzos. However, “weed” was his main thing. We talked a lot, and he was honest. He told me his first year in CO he became addicted to Benzos but got off of them himself. He told me all about marijuana because he wanted us to accept his use. At times, he shared that he was using less. During those times, he would communicate with us almost every day and then at times, he would have months of heavy use. With the heavy use, came less communication and distancing.
Randy did not come home for the holidays in 2020. By late January 2021, it was apparent that he was going downhill. He suddenly quit his second job in the course of about 3 months. He shared with me that he thought the people he worked with were out to get him. He was paranoid. He had been struggling with his roommates since the summer of 2020 and really had it out for one of them and even threatened the roommate to the point that Randy was eventually evicted. He became delusional in his thinking. He thought he was going to become a huge Rapp artist, making tons of money. He was writing and recording music non-stop all while smoking weed regularly. He told us that he thought everyone was talking about him and in March of 2021 called us stating that the Mob was after him, that a music gang was after him and that we too, were in danger. Randy attempted to take his life during that episode by slitting his wrists. After that incident, he agreed that he needed help, but would only go to treatment if he could talk with the FBI. He was hearing voices that did not exist and thought that people were messing with his phone and computer. After spending 4 days in detox and then lasting one hour in treatment in Florida, he left and stated that he could do it on his own. We were devastated. At the time, we thought we were heartbroken… little did we know, that things would get worse.
Resourceful Randy made his way back to Colorado. Over the next 6 weeks, he was aggressive, verbally abusive, and still thought things that did not happen happened. He found a therapist and a psychiatrist. We knew it was a band-aid for a much larger problem and communicated with both of his caregivers. In April of 2021, he reported himself as suicidal and was put on an involuntary hold at Denver Health. When he called in on himself, he had a registered gun in his right pant pocket. Instead of confiscating the gun, the officer put it in his safe in his apartment even though he was threatening to kill himself. A court order from a judge is needed to take the gun out of a suicidal person’s possession. Does that make any sense? The doctor wanted to do a 72-hour hold, but with no beds available, he sobered up and they released him. After this incident, he seemed much more mellow and happy but made it clear he would continue to smoke weed. After leaving treatment, one of his first jobs was guiding tours at a dispensary in Colorado. Remember, he thought marijuana treated his anxiety, depression, and PTSD. In June, he suffered more paranoia. For example, he thought that we should communicate via What’s app because he was going to become so popular musically, that it might be “better and safer.” The P.A. at the psychiatry office diagnosed him with psychosis (she said “resolved”, I say she misdiagnosed), bipolar, PTSD, ADHD, Depression, and Anxiety. She prescribed Adderall because that is all he wanted to treat his ADHD. We knew he was not well, but at this point, we didn’t know how damaged and hurting Randy was due to his marijuana use. After 3 weeks, he stated that the Adderal was helping him and that he was smoking less weed. During those last three weeks of his life, he was mellow, appreciative, loving, reflective, attended confession, and wanted to have a relationship with us. We talked and texted daily. The evening before he died, we talked on the phone. We knew he was sad. We knew he was overwhelmed with bills: from the hospital, for his corvette in need of major repairs, and from recording music. When we hung up the phone we never dreamed it would be the last time we would talk. We had no idea he was planning on taking his life. He did not threaten it and at approximately 12:36 am he sent us a text message that said, “My attitude with the music and everything has been way too self-righteous. I am done with the music. I’m quitting weed for good and want to surround myself with healthy and happy people. This has been too much for me and for you guys. I have been running from my past mistakes and I think it’s time that I own up and start living a good life. Love you.” Then at 1:09 pm, he sent the following, “I love you and am sorry for everything. I love dad and the same for him. I wish I would have been a better person.” Randy shot himself at approximately 1:10 Am after googling images of Jesus 3 times and putting Jesus as his screen saver on his phone, writing, “Can I live for Jesus. Can I… “in his notes on his phone. He had his rosary and his open Bible with him. From what I have learned about CIP, I believe Randy had an acute Brain attack.
His autopsy report showed low blood alcohol levels and low levels of THC. We know he was trying to quit, but he was addicted to what is supposedly a harmless and beneficial plant – marijuana.
When we went to clean his apartment we found a couple of notes taped to the bathroom mirror. One was dated, 07/7/2021 and he had written, “57 days hard then home.” He intended to record his music and then launch it at the Minnesota State Fair which is always in late August. We asked to come to visit him over the 4th of July and he said, “No, I am coming home at the end of August.” He also had a post-it of, “If God brings you to it, God will bring you through it.”, a saying I have had hanging in my office since 2011. He had a list of future goals – One was to “Give mom a hug”. Oh how I wish, that could have happened.
Now, we do know what it means to have broken hearts. We, his dad, his three sisters, myself, and our extended family are all devastated. We will never be the same, our family will never be the same. We will never know all this bright soul could have accomplished. Over time and yet in an instant, we were robbed of our son, our innocence, and our naivety. We now know an ugliness that no one wants to be familiar with. We are angry with the misconceptions that surround this powerful drug. We miss our son, Randy dearly and will do our best to prevent another family from having to experience this type of loss. We are thankful for organizations that aim to share the misconceptions and deceit the marijuana industry perpetuates and that the government endorses all in the name of making money. We will do all we can to educate and spare others from losing someone they love to this horrible drug.