2014 was the worst of my life and one of the most important. Medical marijuana helped me end a ten-year opioid dependency which came courtesy of being a 100-percent disabled veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was on a pharma cocktail of Fentanyl, Oxycodone, Xanax, Flexeril and Cymbalta, just to name a few.
I hardly ever left the house. I did not feel like a person. I did not want to be alive. I was disgusted by everything about myself and convinced that life was never going to improve. I only knew what I didn’t want, which was to be like one of the many Vietnam veterans I had met who were 40 years or more into the same Hell engulfing me. I would listen to them talk and see the zombie of a person I was becoming.
We would discuss our medicines and I realized I was on higher doses than many of them, which deepened my hopelessness. I allowed myself to believe what I saw, because I had been lied to by so many doctors. I would grow comfortable with one doctor then be forced to see another. After a while I didn’t want to talk to any of them. A Veterans Administration Hospital appointment meant frustration and a wasted day. It seemed pointless.
My life had positives. I had the same beautiful wife I have today. I had two beautiful, amazing daughters. But I could not appreciate them. The only future I saw was more physical, mental, and emotional pain. I gagged on a handful of Oxycodone, some Fentanyl patches, and old morphine that I had left over. I yearned for real pain relief but ended up feeling depressed, confused, and angry. But I was numb to everything and everyone. It was just me and my negative thoughts. I’d look in the mirror and feel disgusted with what I saw. I saw no reason to keep living.
All this time I had my Massachusetts medical marijuana patient card and had never used it. I had obtained it soon after the ballot question passed in 2012 and had renewed it each year. Though my wife had been urging me to give medical marijuana a try, I had no desire to meet caregivers and or try something I knew nothing about. I was worried about who grew it and how. But I was desperate to wean myself from the VA’s cocktail of torture and death. Like many other potential patients, I waited. And waited.
Finally a dispensary announced it would soon open and began accepting appointments. I decided to tell my VA primary care physician that I was going to try cannabis. She had been telling me I was too young to be on an endless pharmaceutical path, but when I asked for alternatives she had no answer.
I hardly ever left the house. I did not feel like a person. I did not want to be alive. I was disgusted by everything about myself and convinced that life was never going to improve.
I had entered my darkest days. My desperation, I thought, was caused by my circumstances, and nothing else. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I didn’t find out how wrong until seven months later.
My first trip to the Dispensary I picked up a few different strains of flower and a few oil cartridges for a vape pen. I was amazed at how much it helped with the pain and anxiety and anger . It was not the “weed” that I had smoked as a teenager. Immediately as I started to taper off of my opioids, the withdrawals were terrible. I had the constant urge to peel of my skin and rip the muscles off of my bones. Cannabis kept that at a manageable feeling. I was amazed at how much it helped the pain, the only problem was – and still is – not having enough of what I need, and not having legal access to the concentrates that help best. I found a lounge in Rhode Island where I was able to get the cannabis I needed in many forms. It was great until I was warned I was breaking federal laws by driving across state lines. Telling me they could not help me if I got caught doing that. Yet I drove over state lines for years to the Providence VA hospital every month with Fentanyl, Oxycodone, Xanax, and more.
I was three months off opiates when I developed foot pain and went to the VA for treatment. They diagnosed gout and sent me home with a bottle of Vicodin. The next day my doctor called me, apologized, and begged me not to take them. She told me I was her only patient in her 20 years of working in the VA to get off of the medications I was on. I never took any of them, I was pissed they gave it to me and surprised no alert came up on the computer saying I was just getting off of opioids.
The current handling of Cannabis in Massachusetts continues to perpetuate too many social injustices and the stigmas that keep many people stuck on opioids. Currently if I want to go to a dispensary, I need to clear at least 3 and a half hours of my day to do so because it is so far. Then there is the Department of Public Health’s “Patient Registration” that keeps so many residents of the Commonwealth from going to the doctor to get a referral. Why are those that want Cannabis treated and registered like sex offenders in Massachusetts.
I now have a caregiver that helps me out with making it affordable. Ideally I need around 2 ounces of flower a week or about a gram of concentrates a day, with some edibles or RSO for sleeping. I don’t have access to all of those and I ration everything I get because I’m not trying to burden a friend with the responsibilities my Government promised me.
Ideally I need around 2 ounces of flower a week or about a gram of concentrates a day, with some edibles or RSO for sleeping. I don’t have access to all of those and I ration everything I get.
Legalization of Cannabis through taxation and regulation will bring the prices down to a much more reasonable level. It will help people who feel strange or guilty about using a medicine that is much safer than what their doctors are prescribing them for their problems. I also don’t think politicians should have a say in how anyone intoxicates themselves to relax or escape. Why is something as deadly as alcohol “permitted” and legal, when a plant that has not caused a death directly, illegal and bad.
My wife, my kids, and my community prefer me off of my Opioids and on my cannabis . I can play with my kids, I can help other Veterans with the 501(c)(3) I started called Veterans Alternative Healing Inc, and the other 501(c)(3) that I co-founded, We Are Allies, Inc. to help those addicted to opioids. I have had the honor of volunteering on the Campaign to Regulate and Tax Marijuana in MA, meeting some amazing professionals and so many compassionate advocates and patients. I don’t intend on stopping after the election. I’ve been asked to visit over 15 States across the country to help patients looking for safe Cannabis in states where it’s still illegal. I plan on going and helping them all after a much needed break over the holidays. I believe with the team of people, and the support I have, we can de-schedule cannabis federally, end unnecessary suffering, and save lives .
Click here to read our first debate between other Massachusetts advocates about whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
Featured image by Mark (flickr:eggrole).
Special thanks to PHP fellow Jonathan Gang for his assistance with this post. Featured image by Mark (flickr:eggrole).