Dear Jackson,

August 20, 2010

A confession, of sorts

Filed under: Uncategorized — aJOHNymous @ 2:24 pm

I had my last UC (ulcerative colitis) flare-up about 4 or 5 months ago. At that time I went in to see my colon doctor about it since the flare-up had somehow managed to usurp whatever good my current meds were doing for me.

I should also mention that it was around this same time that I developed a fairly uncommon side effect of my UC called pleurisy. The pleurisy manifested itself as chronic chest pain, difficulty in breathing, and moderate to severe pain in my neck, left shoulder, and left arm. It was pretty hardcore.

At the time, no one was 100% certain what was going on with me. We had investigated my symptoms on the internet and were pretty sure pleurisy was the culprit, but there was really no definitive way of knowing. I had a chest x-ray taken as well as a CAT scan. They both came up empty. I was told all I could do was pretty much ride it out until it ran its course.

About three weeks later I was fine. My UC went back into hiding, the pleurisy ran its course, and my emotional state went back to normal. Still, the whole experience fucked with my head pretty badly.

This is the true story of how I achieved such a remarkable turnaround in just over three weeks by simply watching my diet and supplementing with a natural, herbal medication.

***

Cue UC flare-up.

Cue pleurisy flare-up.

Cue one particular night in which we almost called an ambulance because I thought I was having a heart attack at 2 in the morning.

Cue quick internet search that led us to the most likely culprits: pleurisy and a probable panic attack.

Cue multiple doctor appointments over the next few days.

Let’s stop there.

It was my colon doctor who recommended that I get a CAT scan. He’d had a patient in a few days prior to our appointment who was complaining of all the same symptoms. This patient was a 22-year old kid with a similar level of UC and was taking the same meds I was on. He came in for the same chest pain that I was complaining of.

48 hours later, that kid was dead.

As a precaution, my doctor suggested changing meds and getting a CAT scan.

As a precaution.

A Precaution.

I didn’t hear any of this. A kid had suddenly, and without warning, DIED that had all of the same symptoms I was now complaining of. I was already in a pretty rough emotional and physical state (just read my letters from around that time) so hearing this did even more damage to my already fragile mental state. Even so, I didn’t let my fear and panic come out to play. I keep it locked inside my head like I always do and went to get the requested CAT scan, which subsequently showed nothing out of the ordinary.

After we got home, I made a decision to stop taking all medication for the UC and just man up and hope that the flare-up passed quickly. I made the necessary alterations to my diet and prepared for an uncomfortable next few weeks without pain relief. I lasted about a week before I just couldn’t take it anymore.

The UC was tearing up my insides, and the pleurisy was keeping me from sleeping because I couldn’t lie down due to the pain. I just couldn’t take it anymore so I made a decision to look into alternative forms of pain relief. I wanted to go the holistic route. No more sketchy pills that could potentially kill me or cause me further issue.

I did a little research into what others had done to ease the pain of UC, along with the physical pain of something like pleurisy without resorting to typical medications and painkillers and I came upon one alternative that really amused me: marijuana.

Now, I’ve always been a pro-pot advocate and I lobby for its legalization as often as possible, but to find out that I was actually a perfect candidate for the medical use of marijuana really gave me a chuckle. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t even thought of it as an option. Unfortunately for me, Wisconsin still has not become a state that provides medical marijuana to patients in need. So if I was going to use it, I’d have to use it illegally. As you may well be aware by now, I am no stranger to the pleasures of this wonderful herb so I knew exactly what I was in store for if I were to actually procure some MJ for personal use.

There was only one thing standing in the way of me getting healthy and easing my pain without potentially dangerous prescription drugs: your mother. I’m pretty sure she’d support medical marijuana or even full legalization if a bill were to be introduced, but at the moment, no bill exists and marijuana is still pretty damn illegal. I knew that there was really one way to go about this with the least amount of hassle: I’d have to go behind your mom’s back.

I hated having to do it this way, but I knew that having a giant argument about this wasn’t going to do anyone any good. I was sick and tired of feeling sick and being in constant pain. I didn’t want to take pills, and I didn’t know what else would help. I had to do something in order to start sleeping, eating, and feeling better physically and emotionally. I knew that this was my best option because it is something that I’ve always believed held far more benefit than harm. I suppose I could have told your mom my intentions, but I know with 100% certainty that she would have elevated the issue into a full-blown war.

I hate to admit this, especially in a letter to my son, but I firmly believe that your mother is very selfish when it comes to her beliefs and her points of view. I suppose we can all be like that sometimes, but many times I feel like her idea of a compromise involves 80% her opinions and views, plus 20% of my own. When it all comes down to it, I knew that she would have tried to make me feel guilty for wanting to feel healthy by invoking you or the illegality of my chosen medicine. That’s not fair to me and I consider that “dirty pool”. I’m not an idiot. I would never openly use an illegal substance—no matter how stupid the law surrounding it is—in your presence or at a time in which your care should be my paramount concern. But guess what? I still have a few perfectly legal cocktails whenever we get together with friends and family. How’s that for exposing the hypocrisy of the situation? She’s even aware that if medical marijuana were made available in Wisconsin, that I’d be first in line to get a prescription. That said, I’d put far more trust in myself while high on a few hits of illegal weed than if I were half in the bag thanks to a perfectly legal, and socially acceptable, six-pack of beer. I know I’m repeating myself here, but I just cannot get over the astounding hypocrisy of the entire issue.

So there I was, in a bit of a pickle. Should I break my wife’s trust and try to make myself healthy and pain free, or should I continue to let the physical and mental pain I was going through drive me further into my rabbit hole of depression, pain, and anger? The decision I ultimately made wasn’t one that I took lightly but it was the one that I felt was right for me. Take the legality of my decision out of the way and I feel like I would have had overwhelming support from most everyone in my life in order to make myself better. (You know what? I think it’s terribly sad that I have to justify wanting to feel better. It’s even shittier that I have to be so secretive about it as well.)

I decided to call my friend Justin and place an order for a small amount of “medication”. A few days later I went to pick it up. Since I hate the act of actually smoking anything, we stopped at a smoke shop (aka a porn store) and I picked up a cheap vaporizer. Rather than having to take smoke into my lungs via actual combustion, I was opting to vaporize the weed by heating it through a pipe fitted with a ceramic filter. Vaporizing is literally superheating the weed so that it doesn’t burn, and inhaling the nearly odorless, nearly tasteless, and smokeless vapor. It’s the healthiest way to smoke anything. No smoke, no overwhelming smell, no coughing, and no inhalation of burnt sediment.

Later that evening, after you and your mom had both gone to bed, I went into the basement, packed a small bowl and took a few hits. I was always a lightweight when it came to pot so I knew 3-4 hits off one small bowl would be just enough for me to feel the effects. After I finished the bowl, I leaned back in the computer chair and waited for the high to kick in.

***

5 minutes in and the floaty, numb feeling started to take over my body.

10 minutes in and the head high hit.

15 minutes in and my head and body meet in a perfectly synchronized dance of happiness, freedom, peace, and pain-free bliss. And I’m way more lucid and in control than I would be after a six-pack.

20-30 minutes in and the creativity lights went on in my head and I began to write.

That’s usually how it goes for me. I tend to stop after one bowl and ride the wave for about 2-3 hours until I’m too tired to stay awake any longer and I go to bed.

***

I woke up the next day feeling great. I still had UC symptoms and the pleurisy to deal with, but at least I had gotten a good night’s sleep and was able to latch on to a more positive attitude for a little while. I’d almost forgotten how positively the occasional toke session could affect everything in my life.

I was offered reprieve from my depression so I was less cynical and I adopted a more optimistic attitude. I smoked 2-3 more times and within two weeks, my pleurisy was pretty much gone, my UC symptoms had simply vanished without the use of prescription medicine, and my work with my therapist had helped to alter my mood for the better. I was also back to writing again and had far less conflicts with your mother. Coincidence? Perhaps. But I like to think that my holistic approach to bettering myself was the catalyst to such a quick 180 degree turn.

Apologies beforehand, but I feel a rant coming on so let’s just get this all out in the open right now.

It just seems so stupid to me to that my only legal alternatives are to put my faith in a prescribed pill (which may have adverse side effects) or to resort to drinking alcohol (which is incredibly unhealthy for both mind and body) just to relax and feel good about myself. Many people, your mom included, would likely get incredibly angry about what I’ve just written and all I can do is shake my head in disappointment. I’m a responsible adult who would rather choose a time-tested and all-natural approach to relaxation and good health rather than have to resort to the unhealthy alternatives listed above. I just don’t understand how anyone could have valid points in an argument against me. That said, it deeply saddens me that I’ve found a supplementary tool (read: not the be-all, end-all solution) to help nourish my creativity and emotional well-being, and I have to keep it a secret from my loved ones or face anger, disappointment, and disapproval. It’s just so silly to me that something that has proven to be so positive to my life would be met with such puritanical and archaic judgment that is based on lies and misinformation. Yes, technically what I am doing is illegal. I understand that and I understand the tiny risks involved. But the fact remains, if it was legal tomorrow, no one would have any logical argument for me to not use it. It’s just so ridiculous that someone could find enough faults with my improved health and well-being that they would try to make me feel guilty for daring to help myself by using what can only be described as the most useful, all-natural plant on Earth. It’s simply mind-boggling.

To be honest with you, I really don’t have any idea how your mom hasn’t suspected anything yet. I go off on rants about the bullshit drug war all the time. I make jokes about it, I post articles online about it, I watch documentaries about it, and she knows exactly who I’d have to talk to about procuring it, and so on. Hell, she knows if it were made legal tomorrow that I’d use it openly. I’m not exactly hiding my feelings about it from her. She can’t possibly think that when my friends come to visit from out west that I’m not doing it with them. It’s just so obvious. Every time we’ve gotten together and she’s not around, we’ve all smoked a bowl or shared a joint. It’s like turning on the memory machine and I feel like I have my brothers back for just a few hours. You have no idea how much those few hours together mean to us and getting high helps to bring those feelings out in the open. And I am so, so thankful for that. Sometimes I have to chuckle to myself, because perhaps she does know and she’s just choosing to look the other way and not acknowledge it. I don’t know but that really wouldn’t surprise me.

It really all boils down to this: if what I did was wrong, then so be it. I don’t regret it and I’m not ashamed of it. I think the fact that 6 months later, no one has any idea how I achieved such a rapid turnaround is a testament to my maturity as well as the ability use marijuana responsibly. Since my “recovery” a few months ago, I’ve smoked probably 4-5 times in order to keep my creative juices flowing as well as mellow me out when I feel myself sliding back down into that rabbit hole of depression, cynicism, and pessimism. I don’t abuse it, and I don’t overuse it. In fact, the last time I got high was almost 6 weeks ago, and it isn’t for lack of privacy, free time, or even supply—I just don’t currently need it to relieve any sort of debilitating symptoms or issues. But if I start to sink back down into that rabbit hole again, I now know how to help myself climb out and get back on the path to recovery.

How’s that for a confession?

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