Sarah’s Story – My Cannabis Journey

I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Sarah, your friendly Let Us Be Blunt admin and writer. Today I’m sharing my cannabis journey with all of you in hopes that it will encourage you to share your story too. Everyone has a story – whether you use cannabis for a medical reason or socially, you still have a story. I hope that some of you can relate to my journey.

The Beginning of it All

When I was just 15 I was diagnosed with manic depression. My doctor prescribed me anti-depressants. I can’t remember all of their names, but I tried 8 different ones. Some of them were Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, Wellbutrin and Celexa. None of them worked for me. Some made me feel like a zombie – I couldn’t function, I was numb, I felt nothing. Others had the reverse effect on me and made me suicidal.

I was hanging out with friends one weekend and one offered me cannabis. At that point, I was willing to try anything to make me laugh. It worked. I laughed, and laughed and laughed. I was happy for the first time in quite a while.

My depression stemmed from years and years of being bullied in school. The bullying got worse as each school year passed. It started when I was very young and continued all the way until my last day of high school – even after I was done with school. Bullying takes its toll on a person, and sometimes can leave permanent scars.

When I used cannabis – I was happy. Nothing that those kids said to me at school bothered me. I could smile, be a normal young adult and just be happy – at least until the effects wore off. I wasn’t using cannabis every day – just when my depression was really bad. It was the only thing that worked.

Counseling didn’t work, medication didn’t work – nothing worked. Ignoring them, at the suggestion of my mom, didn’t work. In fact, if I acted like what the kids at school were saying/doing to me didn’t bother me – it actually made things worse. They didn’t get bored.

As my high school years went on, I did use cannabis a little more frequently, but it still wasn’t every day.

Stigma

Of course people heard or knew that I was using cannabis as a teen. Of course there were other names thrown at me like “stoner”, “loser”, “drug addict”, “doper” – the list goes on, but you get the idea. Back then it was the mid-90s when using cannabis wasn’t okay. It was frowned upon and you were seen as someone with a drug problem.

Back then, it was called a gateway drug. Back then, you were an outcast if you used any substance at all other than alcohol or cigarettes.

Despite the stigma and all of the flack I received for using cannabis – it was the only thing that worked for me, so I continued to use it.

The Event that Changed Everything

It was Christmas Eve 2007 and I was on my way home from work. Out of nowhere, just before 8:30 p.m., I was hit from behind. A drunk driver hit another vehicle; they stuck together and struck me – in a car. I was looking at the roof of my car while sitting in the middle of Mesa Dr. by Pete’s Fish and Chips, nearly in the oncoming traffic lanes.

I was in shock. My seat was broken, my seat itself was broken – the rearview mirror even flew off and hit me in the face. It ended up somewhere in the backseat. Even the battery was knocked out of place. I was hit hard! I tried to open my door and couldn’t. The frame of my car was pushed forward. The axle was bent. The rear end was just destroyed – but I was alive and I wasn’t bleeding.

I felt no pain at first. Shock and adrenaline didn’t allow me to feel any pain or notice that I was actually injured for several hours later.

After photographing the damage to my vehicle and interviewing me, the officer told me I could go ahead and drive home. I looked her and said, “Ma’am, no disrespect, but what exactly am I supposed to drive?”

There were no taillights left on my car. The axle was visibly bent, I had no usable seat or seat belt, but she wanted me to drive home. My husband and I worked for a towing company at the time, so we just called one of our driver friends to come pick up the vehicle and take it to the yard.

Once I finally got home and calmed down, the pain started to set in. It was the worst pain I’d ever felt in my entire life. I cried, and cried and cried. It was overwhelming.

Our roommate at the time was a daily cannabis user, so even if I didn’t need it for my depression that day, I still had access if I wanted it. She said, “Hey, let’s go smoke a bowl, it’ll help your pain.”

Again, willing to try anything and knowing it helped me with my depression; it didn’t take any arm twisting. At that time, I didn’t know much about how cannabinoid and terpene profiles play a role in how cannabis works in the body, but I knew that I wasn’t in as much pain and felt calmer.

The next day is when I finally went to be examined.

The Injury Report

I woke up on Christmas morning in such pain that I could barely breathe. I couldn’t move it hurt so much, so I finally went to the hospital. After several x-rays, I was told that I had whiplash, muscle trauma and some compression in my lower back from the impact. I was advised to get additional medical care and an attorney.

Later that day I did obtain an attorney who referred me to a clinic in South Phoenix for care. At this clinic, I was evaluated and given a bottle of Oxycodone and a bottle of Soma. Soma was for muscle spasms that I was having from the trauma to my muscles from the impact. I was also referred to a physical therapist.

Physical therapy was excruciatingly painful. It didn’t really help much, so chiropractic care was added.

I was given as much Oxycodone and Soma as the doctors thought I needed and was basically medicated 24/7. I didn’t know if I was coming or going.

After several months of no improvement, my attorney decided it was time to settle the case. The man that caused the accident was charged with Aggravated Extreme DUI. He served 9 months in jail. He did not have insurance since his license was permanently revoked from previous extreme DUI convictions. He was in his wife’s brand new truck, and because he was driving – it wasn’t insured, neither was he.

I wasn’t able to work, so I had to apply for AHCCCS to continue my care. I was assigned to a new doctor who ordered a series of MRIs and additional x-rays. Later in 2008, I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease.

Pain Management

Seeing the damage to my neck and spine, my primary care physician referred me to pain management. That is when the nightmare really began. I was already completely miserable because I was constantly in pain. The word “can’t” was never a part of my vocabulary until that accident. I needed help getting dressed, showering, walking – doing everything. Some days I couldn’t walk on my own.

When I went to the pain management doctor for the first time, he told me to continue my physical therapy and chiropractic care – which I did. He switched me from Soma to Valium for muscle spasms. He increased my Oxycodone from 500 mg to 750 mg. He also increased the frequency to 1 -2 pills every 4 – 6 hours. This means that I could have taken up to 6,000 mg of Oxycodone a day! That’s just too much. I already lost all grasp of reality on lower doses but it wasn’t helping my pain.

I was instructed to take the Valium and Oxycodone at the same time – together. My doctor said, “When these kick in, you’ll feel like you’re dying, but you’re not dying.”

How is this okay? It’s definitely not. I didn’t want to experience that, so I never took them at the same time, I waited an hour to 90 minutes between each.

My initial dose of Valium was 5 mg three times a day. After just 60 days, he increased the Valium to 10 mg 3 times a day and added on OxyContin at night. I was terrified because I had seen so many reports of people overdosing and dying from taking OxyContin. I didn’t take the OxyContin at first. I was just too scared, until one night when I could not stop vomiting because my pain was so intense. I hated how it made me feel, so I decided that I’d only take it as a last resort.

After a few months, my pain was still not decreasing, so it was onto spinal injections. My pain management doctor tried 7 or 8 different types of injections – again, nothing worked. I was still in pain all the time. I still didn’t know which end was up. I still couldn’t function.

Then the side effects started to take their toll on my body. I had to see another doctor for those. My body was not digesting or accepting food, I couldn’t sleep; my blood pressure was constantly up. So, of course, I had to get prescriptions for those.

At one point, I was up to 13 different medications resulting in taking over 40 pills a day. Many of the prescriptions were just to combat side effects of other drugs.

Nothing was working to help my pain. I stopped pain management because I felt as if my pain management doctor was just treating me like a guinea pig because he really had no idea how to help me except drug me up.

There were days when my pain was so bad that I begged my husband to take me to the nearest set of train tracks and just leave me there for the next train to run me over. I contemplated jumping off of bridges. I just wanted to die because I didn’t want to live a life of being in constant pain, not being able to work, function or take care of myself.

Of course, I still had connections to obtain cannabis – and whenever I could afford it, I “phoned a friend”. I had a little relief and could sleep. I could eat and laugh and smile.

Going Off the Pills

Seeing that narcotics were doing nothing for me and I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, I went off of all of those medications. It took months for my body to recover and start to act semi-normal again. I have permanent damage from all of those drugs. I still have digestive issues from all of that medication. My body no longer tolerates opiates at all. I get very ill and just can’t take them at all now.

I started using cannabis more regularly in about 2011. I was slowly able to start doing more by myself. I accepted the fact that my spine was just going to slowly deteriorate over time and that I’d always have pain. Some days are better than others – even today. I will have pain of some degree every day for the rest of my life. But, I was determined to get my brain back, to be able to function and participate in life again. On all of those pills, I avoided friends and family because my head was just in such a fog I couldn’t even carry on a conversation.

Once I could think clearly again, I started going out again, I started seeing my friends and family again. I started participating in life again. I even went back to working again. I couldn’t go back to life as a chef, so I took on a new career – writing.

The Day I was Approved for my Medical Cannabis Card

We are originally from Ohio. We came to Arizona in 2006. In 2011, we moved back to Ohio during the recession. Treatment in Ohio was minimal, but I was still able to access cannabis whenever I needed it. I tried to just use Ibuprofen. The climate in Ohio caused the degeneration in my spine to speed up a little. The pain increased again. I was back to begging for my husband to take me to the train tracks and leave me.

In 2014, we moved back to Arizona because I would have access to medical cannabis. In November 2014, we were rear-ended by another drunk driver. Thankfully, not as bad this time, but I did end up with a partial rotator cuff tear and more damage to my lower spine. Again, I sought counsel and had a better team of doctors. So, when I went to get my medical cannabis card in 2015, I had all of the documentation.

With this team of doctors, I learned that I had herniated discs, sciatica and my degenerative disc disease was progressing. I’d lost 3 inches in height because I’d lost cartilage between 3 discs in my lower back.

I’ll never forget what that certification doctor said to me, “You’re the most damaged person I’ve seen walk through this door in weeks. I am happy to recommend you for your medical cannabis card and truly hope that you find some relief. What you’ve gone through must have been horrible – I know I couldn’t live in that kind of pain for years.”

Since getting my medical cannabis card, I have less pain. I’ve even had pain-free days. It’s helped fix some of the digestive issued that all of those other pharmaceuticals caused. I have anxiety in cars now because of those accidents, and I use CBD to help with that. I have as much of my life back as I am going to get.

The progression of my degenerative disc disease has slowed significantly. I need less chiropractic care.

The Takeaway

I know that I am going to have good days and bad days for the rest of my life – but I am grateful to still have a life to live. Yes, there are still days where I can’t walk by myself – but they are fewer and farther between than they used to. I still have muscle spasms that cause my legs to go out randomly. But – my pain is significantly less. There are no more nightmares. My anxiety is less. I live life on my terms – with a few alterations.

Yes, I still have pain but now I am able to manage it better. It took a lot of research in learning about cannabinoids and terpenes to learn what strains would work best for me in different situations.

Cannabis, if you really think about it, saved my life. I wouldn’t be here today if I’d have had to continue a life of pills because that is just a miserable life. Cannabis has helped heal what pharmaceuticals broke in my body – and some other things that had nothing to do with pharmaceuticals.

I am healthier today than I’ve been in 20 years – all thanks to a glorious plant that’s graced this earth for thousands of years.

People think that because I have my medical cannabis card that I just sit around stoned all day. That’s not the case at all. I microdose. I use a very small amount when I need to. I use CBD only during the day because I have my daughter to take care of. I don’t get high to the point that I don’t know what I’m doing – in fact, I barely use any cannabis at all these days. CBD works really well for me. I don’t even use cannabis every day now. Some days I just don’t need it.

Even before I became a medical cannabis patient, I knew it had medicinal value. I’ve been writing for the cannabis industry for a decade now. I’ve learned so much, and still have a lot more to learn – especially as science is able to bring us more information about the various cannabinoids and how they work in the body. Now I am able to help new cannabis patients find the right delivery method, frequency and strains for their needs. Friends and family now come to me and ask if they should seek their card, they ask how well it’s worked for me.

This crazy journey has led me to a career that I love. My family now understands that a plant worked for me. It might not work for everyone, and everyone isn’t going to have the same results – but they get it now. It took time for my choice of medicine to be accepted – and it might for you too.

I am grateful to this plant for giving me my life back!

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