Why I use Cannabis
I grew up a product of the DARE generation, with President and Mrs. Reagan’s voices constantly reminding me of the horrors of cannabis and other drugs. The first time I learned of a good friend in high school smoking pot, I was devastated. I knew for certain that she would be led down a path of unspeakable horrors now that the gateway to more terrible drugs had been flung open.
Except that’s not what usually happens. It turns out we better watch out for… normalcy??
I began my journey as many did with cannabis, by going away to college. During my high school years I battled an intense depression and became quite sheltered by my own design. I preferred to spend as much time as I could working with horses at a local barn, rather than socialize with many of my schoolmates. When I left for college at the age of 18, I was incredibly naive and inexperienced but I began meeting people. Really amazing and incredible and productive people that *gasp* smoked pot. With this new knowledge, it wasn’t long before I finally realized it really wasn’t as bad as the officers in the DARE program claimed. In fact I noticed it had a way of bringing people together as a group, even if just for the time it took to smoke a joint.
Cannabis is one of the oldest medicinal herbs known to man, having only been blacklisted in relative recent history in the 1920’s. And I do mean recent. The first documented use of cannabis was in 2737 B.C. but was known to be in use in even earlier times as 10,000 year old hemp remains have been discovered with ancient humans. Unfortunately for a variety of reasons including profit and racism, propaganda has painted cannabis as such a revile plant that our government will not even recognize studies on its efficacy conducted by medical professionals. It is instead classified as having no more medical benefit than heroin or PCP.
Despite the attitude being perpetuated, the medical benefits have still been documented. Turns out you can’t silence the voices of thousands of people saying the same thing, especially with the internet’s wealth of shared information. The overall effect of cannabis on mankind is beneficial, not harmful.
As a cannabis user in the 90’s you couldn’t help but hear about the benefits of medical marijuana, even if it wasn’t as common in the regular community yet. 1996 brought the passage of Proposition 215 in my home-state of California. It was the first of its kind, allowing people who were sick to benefit from the use of cannabis somewhat legally. Although it technically became accepted in the state, the federal government could, did, and still does, prosecute medical marijuana users.
In my own circle, I myself didn’t quite believe all of the hype initially. Of course I saw the benefits for folks with cancer and AIDS, but come on, seizures? Debilitating pain? Depression?? I seriously doubted the stories I had heard as I just couldn’t believe how a single plant could treat all of those conditions.
Until I finally started paying attention to my OWN body and at long last realized… cannabis had been helping me as well.
For many with mental illness, pharmaceutical medication is a salvation. It was for me for a time, but it wasn’t for me in the long-term. The thought of replacing Sad and Crying Becca with No Emotion Becca didn’t seem like an acceptable alternative, so I weaned myself off the medications. I’d like to say I magically found relief from cannabis, but I didn’t. Years of trial and error, slipping in and out of depressive cycles, were what helped me finally realize the role cannabis was to take in helping me with my depression. I don’t make the claim it will work for everyone, but this is how it works for my depression.
I used to have an incredible ability to suppress difficult emotions. When an intense wave of negative feelings came up I could literally feel a wall push it right back down to where I would feel nothing. One moment it would feel as if my heart was about to shatter with these intense emotions boiling up through my entire inside and roaring through my head, leaving me flushed and hot, almost feverish. Then WHOOSH. In the next it would be as if nothing happened, leaving almost a void where the rush had been. An increase in the frequency of these events generally signaled the start of a depressive episode and the entire process of it would terrify me, from the initial wave of emotions to the feeling of helplessness that came with suppressing it. It was as if my mind was trying to protect my heart at whatever cost. The practice served me well over the years when I was just trying to get by, allowing me to continue functioning through most of a depressive episode. In the long run however it wasn’t allowing me to actually DEAL with anything. Thankfully there came a point when I grasped just how harmful this was to my emotional well-being.
When I began journaling and exploring who I was as a person, I realized that cannabis allowed that inner wall to finally come down. As hard as it was in the moment, I was finally able to work through my feelings instead of either wallowing in them for unlimited amounts of time, or just suppressing them altogether. Although my brain might be hard-wired to slip easily into depressive episodes, I also know that I can do things to lessen the chances of slipping, or at least to reduce the impact of the fall. Being able to bring down these walls has allowed me to understand my depression and how it presents itself in my life, which in turn has given me a better understanding on how to deal with it and how to lessen its impact. In other words, I am beginning to control my depression instead of it always controlling me.
And that was just my depression. I also directly attribute cannabis to saving me from an addiction to pain pills. Due to an unfortunate accident involving a 225 pound alfalfa hay bale, I have a compressed spine. This has resulted in ongoing issues for my back, and will realistically mean I have to be conscientious and careful of it for the rest of my life.
When I finally started having my back “go out” on a regular basis in my late-twenties, I began to seek treatment. Initially this was your standard Western mix of ibuprofen and Vicodin, but as time went on and the pain gradually worsened every time it went out, the medications became stronger still. Although I sought out chiropractic services as well, the medications still felt necessary when my back was at its worst.
Eventually I came to a fork in the road. I had been experiencing one of the worst episodes of back pain ever, resulting in being off work for a week, barely able to move, and not even the chiropractor was helping. When I went in for a follow-up at the doctor’s office she prescribed two things: physical therapy and stronger drugs, suggesting I would probably be on OxyContin by the end of the year. I only took the physical therapy, vowing to find an alternative to even stronger meds.
As an aside, I had recently begun making tincture, a cannabis concentrate using Everclear alcohol as its base. After soaking the cannabis in the liquid for a time and then evaporation of most of the alcohol, a potent liquid concentrate is left. Taking the tincture internally finally gave me some relief from the intense physical pain. The next time my back tightened up and began to spasm, I mixed some tincture with olive oil and wiped it on my back.
It was the first time I had been completely without pain in over a month.
I now use a combination of homemade tinctures and salves to treat my back pain, along with some other alternative methods that I have found to work for me. I feel good about using natural products that I’ve made myself and I know. I KNOW, that had I followed the Western path of treating my back I would have an addiction to pain killers. OxyContin use is one of the easiest paths to pill addiction, one that I am thankful to have avoided.
So will cannabis work for you? I couldn’t say as it is incredibly personal to everyone. This is only MY story. Can you become addicted to cannabis? For some people, yes. The addiction is much like one to gambling or shopping however, as it is the disease of addiction that is the problem, not marijuana itself. As with all addictions, there is a real withdrawal for those folks when they stop using it. However, unlike an addiction to substances such as alcohol, heroin or methamphetamine, cannabis has limited physical dependency related to it and what is there, is resolved relatively quickly. This is an acceptable risk for me.
Cannabis has given me a life of normalcy, and for that I am grateful. Normal in that I can function without major medications that are chemically created. Normal in that I can function without major pain or depression. Normal in that I feel human instead of zombie-like.
As for my friend that smoked pot back in high school that I thought for sure would have her life destroyed? She ended up on a very well-respected path as a wife to a great guy and mother of 2 beautiful children, whose biggest debauchery now is a couple of beers on the weekend.
Frankly, I’m OK with that kind of normal.