From Pills To Pot: How Weed Saved My Life
It was the summer of 2003 when I was shot. I was hanging out at my favorite local bar, and it was near closing time. My friend went to use the restroom but a few low life characters I knew from the neighborhood followed him. They waited outside the bathroom door for him, and I instinctively knew they were up to no good, so I joined and waited alongside them. When my friend opened the door to leave the restroom, one of the guys pulled out a gun, grabbed my friend by the cuff of his shirt — forcing him back into the bathroom. I pulled out my knife, but I soon realized this was a gun fight. What a mistake.
All I remember were fists crashing into me from every angle, then “BANG!” I felt the slug tear through my back as my body jolted forward. In a single moment, I saw a blinding white light, and then heard nothing. When things started to focus in again, I saw my assailants walking over my body, fleeing the scene. The feeling in my left leg went numb, and still to this day has never fully regained the full sensation. The bullet is still lodged in my back and the pain that I suffer from daily can be unbearable at times. Learning to manage this pain over the last 12 years has been a difficult journey. That one moment of my life led to years of dependency on pain medication, specifically Vicodin (Opiates).
The doctors started me on Kadian. Kadian is a pill form of Morphine and comes in an extended release capsule. The problem with Kadian was that it was hard to find at the pharmacies and that every once in a while, the pharmacies had to order it, which took up to 3 days. Usually that meant after the first day of not having it, I went through crazy withdrawal symptoms until I was able to get it. I still remember the cold sweats, my body physically jerking, and the mental anguish. This was enough that after 6 months of using it, I asked my doctor to take me off of it.
During this time, I was also prescribed numerous other medication, including Neurontin for nerve pain, which gave me crazy suicidal thoughts. A few weeks after being asked to be taken off of it because of these thoughts, I came across a commercial that asked, “If you or someone you know has committed suicide on Neurontin, please call us.” There were many others I can’t even remember the names of.
It was then that Hydrocodone, aka Vicodin, was introduced into my life. The dosage grew to an allowance of up to 6 pills a day — because it didn’t seem to work at all at lower dosages. Over time, this took a toll on my body and my quality of life. I didn’t take it during the day because it Zombied me out, and instead took a whole day’s worth of Vicodin in a matter of 2-4 hours at night. I took it at night with the impression that it may help me sleep because it was at night when ,u back pain was at its worst. Instead, the pills did the opposite, and kept me up all night — and had me nodding out during the day.
When the insomnia got so bad, I started being prescribed Ambien, a powerful sleeping pill. The combination of Vicodin and Ambien was more dangerous than I could have known at the time. The Ambien was supposed to help me sleep, but if you stayed up past a certain point on Ambien, your mind goes into sleep mode, but you’re physically awake. It puts you in a state similar to sleepwalking. This was incredibly dangerous because in that sleepwalking state, I would forget how many Vicodin pills I had taken — to the point that I was not even caring how many I was taking. For years, I averaged 2-3 hours of sleep a night, thinking it was normal and that this was just a phase I was going through. I did not realize that taking an opiate-based prescription drug in combination with a sleeping pill was doing to my life. The scariest part was that the Vicodins would stop my breathing every once in a while. Those are still my scariest memories when I look back on it now. I was lying there awake, unable to breathe, thinking I was going to die, and my mind would go into panic mode. It was like being buried alive. I struggled to breathe with no avail, and I thought to myself that maybe if I passed out my body would start breathing again. I realize now that this is how people actually die from taking opiate-based pills.
I happened to be on probation at the time I was shot so during the first four years of my recovery, I wasn’t able to smoke marijuana. After I got off probation a few years later, a close friend of mine who was shot a few years before me handed me a bag of weed and told me to try it when the pains was at its worst. At first I dismissed the idea. At the time, California had already legalized it for medicinal purposes, but there wasn’t much information about how marijuana could help medicinally. I always thought that using marijuana for “medical use” was just an excuse for stoners to smoke legally, (not that I minded — it’s not like I haven’t). One night, when the pain was bad, I took my friends advice, rolled up a joint, lit it up, and inhaled. It took about two to the three puffs but that’s when I felt it. It was as if the pain melted away. I also noticed that not only did the pain go away, but I was actually able to function and wasn’t put into a Zombie-like state. It was a miracle.
Even with the introduction of marijuana though, Vicodin had a hold on me. Years went by and I would self medicate during the day with marijuana and up to 6 pills at night. It almost felt normal to have such a poor quality of life. My closest friends would tell me I needed to get off of it because they said it changed me, but I couldn’t see it. It made me anti-social to the point where I’d be hanging out with my friends, and leave abruptly so I can go home and take my pills. In the beginning of 2012, I started dating a nurse. She knew of this prescription called Marinol, whose main ingredient is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active component in marijuana. She suggested I ask my doctor to give it a try, so I inquired with my pain management doctor about Marinol. After trying it, I started weening myself off Vicodin, and slowly diminishing my intake from 6 a night to 5, then 4, then 3, etc.
I am happy to say that as of April 2012, I have been completely opiate free. The quality of my life has drastically improved. My mind is clearer during the day and I’m able to sleep up to 8 hours a night. I find myself to be highly motivated and energetic again. I feel like I have a new lease on life. Since then, I’ve developed quite a passion for cannabis research — what it is, why it affects your body, and how. It’s become an obsession. I’ve learned how to extract the cannabinoids into oils and butter and create candies — and other edible weed snacks. There was a problem with my prescription plan and the Marinol became too expensive, so now I am completely off all prescription drugs and only medicate with the edibles I make.
Thank God for Weed… because it saved my life. — Jason