Writing this letter may be one of the more difficult things I have had to do in recent memory. Partially it is because I need to admit that I was wrong, and the other part is the infuriation I have about everything I was ever taught, and everything that I have ever taught my students, and clients about Marijuana.
About ten years ago, I successfully completed a three year “tour” at a residential drug and alcohol treatment facility for a primary diagnosis of Opiate and Stimulant abuse. This three year stay included one year of intensive residential treatment (7 days a week; eat, sleep, and work at the facility), one year of intensive outpatient services, and one year of weekly outpatient meetings. At the completion of my treatment, I decided that if I understood anything in this world, I fully comprehended all aspects of, and loved drugs. I decided at that point that I would use this “drive” of mine to help those who I felt could be the most receptive… our youth. My mind was made up, and nothing could stop me from becoming what I felt would make the greatest impact in the world to some kids; I was going to be an Adolescent Drug and Alcohol Counselor.
Fast forward to today. I have been an active CASAC (Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor, NYS Registered) since the beginning of 2011, and have worked intensely with the youth of NY since 2005. I have worked as a counselor, as a prevention specialist, as an addictions specialist, and intervention agent throughout these years, always focusing my efforts on youth, and youth based organizations. I am sure that throughout this time, I have prevented and assisted many of our young people become free of dependence from narcotics and alcohol.
Three years ago I began having some distress in my life. I was getting unusual stomach pains, lethargy, bouts of nausea, and my bowels seemed to literally be rebelling against me. I thought it to be stress, or maybe job-related but found that my symptoms were getting worse and worse as time progressed. I finally went to the doctors. I completed endless rounds of testing’s only to find that the doctors couldn’t accurately tell me what my affliction was. Their first impression was Diverticulitis, and that I should not eat any small seeds anymore. They also provided me with a prescription for Vicodin, and Percocet for the unrelenting pain I was having. I knew immediately that this could not, and would not be a long-term solution to ending my pain.
It was during this time I saw a documentary entitled “The Union: The Business behind Getting High”. There was a scene in this movie that decidedly changed my perception completely about medicinal marijuana use. A man with Multiple Sclerosis was barely able to function. He stammered a lot of his words, has a hard time holding his hand steady, walked with a limp because of his pain, and his functionality was minimum at best. There was nothing for this man to gain to fake this illness, or even exacerbate his condition, and was truly, legitimately hurting. Yet he declared that he was “happy”, and more so, looked it. I watched as he reached across the table, grabbed his joint, and lit it up. I watched a man transform on television go from emaciated, trembling, stuttering, and pain stricken, to a man who was again full of life, happiness, warmth, and most importantly was pain free. The man continued to say that without Marijuana as his medicine, that he would be unable to complete simplest of tasks, or lead a life that has any sort of fulfillment at all, free from the pains, and the ailments that his M.S. had caused him.
I decided that I was not going to live my life in misery anymore. I decided to bring my destiny back into the hands of its owner, and make it my own, instead of this mystery disease’s. It was then that I decided that I would rather use medicinal Marijuana then pump myself full of addictive opiates and other narcotics. And so I did. To my absolute amazement I recall my first time returning to Marijuana since being a teenager. It was a warm “wave” slowly washing over me. In a matter of three tokes of a high quality Indica, my stomach pain flare-up went from a blazing radiant pain, to nearly indistinguishable. I remember the overwhelming guilt I felt for months as I slowly made Marijuana a regular part of my (nightly) life. Feelings of “how could I”, and “what a hypocrite”, and “way to blow your recovery” entrenched my thoughts and feelings for months. How could a drug and alcohol counselor still function while actively using Marijuana himself? This was a paradox that took me months to become comfortable with. Through the support of my wife, and a few chosen family members, I have been able to gain a self-acceptance, and self-confidence in the medicinal qualities of this herb.
It has been about one year since I started smoking daily. I have just recently been diagnosed with Crohns Disease after three years of pain, testing, and complete drama. I still actively work with my clients and students focusing on their addictions and behaviors. My personal beliefs are that Marijuana use should be left to those who are of adult and consenting age (18), and that while children (under 18) are furthering their education, working on goals, and building a self-image, that Marijuana should not be part of their lives at that time. I wish I could openly teach my clients the truth about this medicine. I wish I could teach them about responsible usage, but alas, providing for my family currently is my priority. It has taken months, and a lot of personal reflection, but I had to come to a more comfortable personal space concerning separating my job from my personal life. Meanwhile the majority of clients who I treat still get copious amounts of Nicotine, which I can only mildly reprimand them for, although it kills over half the people who use the product. I still actively work today as a full-time employee of a drug and alcohol treatment facility. I provide each one of my clients with the highest level of care possible and each day I deal with constant fear of repercussion for using the medicine that best fits me.
Enough is enough. I have finally found a medicine that will take away the symptoms of my Crohns, but THC is still classified as a “schedule 1” drug (meaning that the US Government considers that this drug has “No accepted medicinal uses in the U.S.”, and “Has a high potential for abuse”) along with such drugs as GHB, Mescaline, Heroin, and MDMA (methamphetamine). I know these drugs in and out. I know how these drugs affect our brain chemistry. And most importantly
I know myself. Over my one year of active, nightly use, I can say that I have never been addicted to Marijuana. I have never had any withdrawal effects from Marijuana. As an adult, using Marijuana has not taken anything away from the time I spend with my family and two children, with my friends, or helping in my community. In fact just the complete opposite is true! I find myself more relaxed, and not worrying about whether I will need to run to the bathroom or not. I find myself becoming more engaged with my children and giving them more attention. I find my sex life with my wife has greatly improved, as I am not so worried about a flare-up during the middle of my valuable intimate time. I find that my life I have become a much more productive and in turn a happier and healthier person has evolved without sacrificing any of the core ideals that I hold so close.
More than anything I have ever done though, I want to be an advocate for the medicinal use of Marijuana. Being in my field, and in a position to continue to support my family keeps me held prisoner… again I don’t know what to do, or where to start. I don’t want to lose my job, but I feel it is so vitally important that people understand the truths of Marijuana as a medicine. Thank you so much for your time in reading my life story. It is the deepest secrets that we hold onto that keep us from becoming better humans. I refuse to let my secret hold he hostage any longer. The lies and deception have to end. I am looking forward to hearing back from you at your earliest convenience; your feedback, and any help you can give me during this time would be unbelievably appreciated. Again, thank you.