I know I will inevitably bring out the stoner comments with this Blog post and that is totally cool. I consume Cannabis because I am a registered Medical Marijuana patient with the state of Illinois. I can legally possess and consume marijuana and do so on a regular basis. I chose to become a Cannabis patient after attending several Disabled-Veteran events and discussing what options were out there to address some issues I developed during my service in the United States Air Force.
Much of this information will be used not only for my book, “Beautiful Trainwreck: Off the rails,” but during the research phase of my Doctorate dissertation. Thus, I give permission for anyone curious to use my situation and the information I provide as an argument against against our current pharmaceutical drug lords. I share as much of my life as I can in the hopes it will be of value to someone else so I guess it goes without saying I absolutely do not give a shit what your opinion of me is. I’m being me. You be you and lets do this thing we call life together.
While active-duty, I incurred several injuries at work both state-side and overseas. Like so many others, I was at first hesitant to ask for help after a series of unfortunate events took place in my life and I decided I was going to try to be a hero and man-up. I initially refused help because I was too afraid of the impact it would have on my career. I heard horror stories about what happens to you when you ask for help after an incident you have been involved in. I watched other people try to press on like I did only to go down in flames when they asked for help. I tried to do the best I could which only dug me deeper into a hole I was spiraling down. When I got over my fears and finally admitted there was something seriously wrong with me, all Hell broke loose in my work life, in my personal life, and in my family life. I committed a MORTAL SIN in my career field, in my marriage and in my interpersonal relationships. By rising up and then falling hard, I released the jealous wolves lurking in the shadows.
The problem with much of our BROKEN military mental health system is there is so much focus on what to “do to” someone who was performing well and gets hurt, versus what should we do “with or for” the individual who volunteered to do something others “should not.” By saying that I mean I honestly do not believe everyone is a good match for military service nor do I believe in anything but an all-volunteer service. If we do not have people who love their country enough to give their lives for it then truly what kind of place are we living in? More then saying not everyone is fit to pick up a rifle and walk toward someone who hates you, I feel no one should ever feel forced to do that. However, I would ask people to be cognizant toward those who made that decision and realize they are no longer the same as others. I’ve seen 35,000 people who hated me being held behind fragile fences in a small confined area. I watched them burn their mattresses in times of fear, take eachother’s lives during times of anger and hold eachother during times of sadness.
I mean this when I say it. I no longer see human beings and human behavior the same way 99% of you do. I just don’t.
The problem with our military mental health system is we are often admonished by those very same people who would not volunteer to walk into fire. When you carry an automatic rifle every day, are expected to be the pinnacle of physical and mental fitness at all times and provided the absolute minimal care possible there is gonna be a few people who look down on you because they will never be like you. When you study hard, become a good NCO, put the mission before yourself and exhibit true sacrifice, there will be haters who will look down on you the moment you fall from grace because you did what they could not and now they have the opportunity to say “look at you now, you’re not doing as well as you were are you?”
So what do I say about my medication? Well, I previously made a crappy video in my car detailing my pill use but I’ll sum it up. At the beginning of my Opiate use, I developed chronic knee pain after two back to back double-knee surgeries and was prescribed 50 MG of Tramadol, an Opiate. On top of that I took Vicodin and Percocet when the pain was bad. It was often a balancing act between managing my pain and being able to lawfully carry my weapons and do my job so I often chose to live in pain rather than receive another group-based admonishment for not being 100%. Shit happens and it didn’t drag me down too bad.
After I experienced the last incident that finally broke me I formally requested assistance from Military Mental Health and I was immediately placed on 150 MG of Zoloft “because I’m such a big guy and because of what I have been trained in” (to soften my aggressive nature and turn me into a sheep) and 100 MG of Topamax for the excessive headaches I was complaining of. After I was placed on Humira for issues which stemmed from work overseas I began to feel like a walking pharmacy. When I was informed I was being reassigned I brought up the medical issues I was facing due to my service overseas and met with leaders as high as I could go to voice my concerns about my continued care. To make a long story short, socialized medicine administered by inexperienced Doctors, coupled with some Lackadaisical Commanders who could not be bothered with anything important like the welfare of their troops led to the decisions of rather than continuing my care like what was originally planned for me, my medications would be simply increased and some even doubled. I was also introduced to 10 MG Ambien (an absolutely nightmarish and addicting drug) to help me sleep and 10 MG of Valium to “take the edge off.”
Now let’s review my daily intake:
200 MG Topamax
200 MG Zoloft
50 MG Tramadol
20 MG Ambien (I often needed two 10 MG since I was addicted)
10 MG Valium
Vicodin and Percocet off and on whenever I would complain too loud about the pain.
Now I wonder how bad anyone’s speech might get slurred and how much weight they might gain after swallowing that cocktail everyday and then drinking excessively every night. I was assured these were “minor side effects.” Have I mentioned that I also drank? A LOT? Something very common with people in my career field. I guess it was easy to just blame what was going on with me on alcohol right? Although I consistently reported the negative side effects of the medications I was prescribed, I was ignored which made me more depressed so I began drinking a LOT to escape. I take full responsibility for that.
It is still hard to believe that was my daily regimen. My therapy sessions were cut off for 8 months before I could get my Federally Funded Tricare (we call it try and get care) coverage to actually kick in properly cover treatment and boy was I in for a shock when it finally did. The only counselor I was approved to see told me during our first session I was a subject of Government mandated mind-control and I would have to start reading these weird poetry books to “free my mind.” I couldn’t believe that was my only option without paying hundreds of dollars out of pocket to satisfy my career-field requirements. My Psychiatrist was about an hour away from my assignment and would fall asleep within 5 minutes of our sessions beginning. He simply did not care. He would take personal phone calls about his leisure activities or stare off into space during our sessions.
I’m no pharmacist or Doctor, but that was absolutely ridiculous. It was ridiculous I brought my issues up to my chain of command and for a couple individuals, their only response was simply to admonish me for not being 100% anymore. That is status quo. That is why troops do not seek help.
This was the best medical care that could be afforded America’s servicemen and women after we walked past the losers hanging out in an air-conditioned warehouse handing out boots and dog tags, to openly meet hostility. Far from the safe zone is where so many men and women I have met found their purpose in life. Discovered the essence of their being. Now so many I talk to are saying the same thing. How we individually have been let down. Our stories are all too similar. Prescribed excessive opioids and sent on our way to avoid the costs of surgery. I will never forget the day I learned why. Why it is cheaper to feed us pills that will eventually lead (and has) to so many suicides. No more VA care required, one less serviceman to take up space, one less voice to Bitch about the care we were promised being substandard at best. No. One day eventually we will be silent. We are less than one half of 1% of the United States population. And less than half of those ever saw combat. You really think there are that many of us? The number gets smaller everyday.
When I retired, my wife and I changed many of our circumstances. I was weaned off the heavy medications by one of the most intelligent, caring and professional women I have met in my life. My Psychiatrist not only listened to my concerns regarding my medication but had solutions we could try. After discussing with several Doctors what we would like to happen to my body and my mind after years of poisoning it we agreed we would now try to address issues on a quasi-homeopathic approach.
Opioids and other pills destroyed a part of my life, worsened my conditions and became the center of my downward spiral. Sobering up, weaning off addictive substances and ridding myself of the poison that was introduced to it was hard enough in a welcome environment. Dealing with unwelcome family obsessed with their own negativity did not help matters either.
So at that point what else did I have to do other than follow the unlikely advice I had been given by several Medical Doctors who encouraged me to participate in studies and felt cannabis would assist in my many issues including my memory.
Yes, you read that correctly I as well as others have experienced incredible cognitive improvement as well as restoration of advanced reasoning. I was able to kick the Opioids and rekindle my motivation that had been killed by them. In fact, you can read about the Harvard study that was recently granted $4.5 Million for topics just like this Blog post. I am coupling my dosage with my physical therapies just like any other medication. At MIT, Neuroscientists are studying the incredibly positive results Cannabis has provided. Earl Miller, Picower Professor of Neuroscience at the Picower Institute, will now lead studies on the effects of cannabinoids on both attention and working memory.
Cannabis dulls the pain I relied on Opioids for all day. Cannabis assists in me falling asleep and after utilizing it daily for over a year I have yet to wake up and feel a “hangover,” which was common when I drank to numb my pain and get to sleep. Cannabis helps ease my anxiety I feel EVERY time I am outside of my home. I’ve become a more grounded individual.
My focus and concentration have improved. My mannerism has improved and while I am still a very aggressive individual, I feel I am now in control of myself better than I have been in a very long time. While I don’t think Cannabis is the answer for everyone, I do believe the words of those I have met and come to enjoy knowing as fellow cannabis patients. We are happy. We are some of the happiest and loving people you will ever meet. While I realize it will soon be legal for everyone in Illinois to use Cannabis I cannot help but feel that we as a society are moving in a better direction with how we view pharmaceuticals. I feel not only privileged to assert my own experiences with Cannabis but in the knowledge I intend to one day be able to use my company to assist in promoting better awareness of the positive effects of a plant that has finally brought me much needed relief. And I think it’s totally cool if you disagree.
You’re Welcome. Internet.
Gruber, S. (April, 2019) Unraveling Cannabinoids. Retrieved from: https://hms.harvard.edu/news/unraveling-cannabinoids
Orenstein, D. (October, 2018) MIT News: How working memory gets you through the day. Retrieved from: https://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-picower-how-working-memory-gets-you-through-the-day-1024