But for 2 1/2 years, I've needed routine and predictability. My ability to handle stimuli, sounds, lights, other people's insanity, was seriously curtailed. I needed to make my life as small and controllable as possible. Anything too big, too loud, too incessant, too confusing, too unknown shut me down, put me in bed, turned my life completely off. Routine and I have never been close, but now I've had an opportunity to appreciate it's finer points.
I recently caught a glimpse of the old me, a renewed desire, this familiar craving of the unfamiliar. A piece of me seemed to slide back in to place. What could it mean? How could I explore it with the limitations I still have?
Our local weekly has a regular marijuana column now and I've been reading about how these new strains can take care of your headache (really?) or your swelling and pain but not get you high. I was curious if it could be an alternative to the ridiculous opiates I was prescribed. So I began to do some research on Leafly. You can pick your main objective in smoking weed and then weed out side effects you don't want. So I selected migraine control and omitted social anxiety and paranoia. I was surprised to see paranoia on there as I thought that would have gone away with legalization, but apparently it's just part of the plant. Medicinal Weed, I decided, would be an open ended adventure I could handle.
The little bright purple and green shop was just inside the warehouse doors. A rope line mazed me to the cashier. Cash-ier is literal as it's an all cash business here. The most amazing thing about that cash-stash-ier was that there was not a thread of hemp macrame jewelry on her.
"I need something for my migraines," I said.
She pulled out a bag of New York City Diesel, "This is what you want. It won't get you high, but it should help with any kind of pain."
In Washington all legal weed is now tested for purity and chemical content. We can know now that NYC Diesel is high CBD (the pain control part) and low THC (psychoactive chemical). Now that they know the contents, they've developed more and more specific strains.
I also picked out a new pipe, clear glass with a white double helix running through it.
"Is that everything?"
And suddenly I shook my inner self and screamed at me: What kind of prudish, puritanical weed excursion was this?! Are you seriously going to just buy these two Billy Grahams of weed?! Why not get high too!?"
"Nope. No. No. Nonono. I wanna get high too!!"
Laughing, she said, "Here's our most potent strain."
I turned the bag over in my hand. The clear side showed off the huge bud against the sheen of the opaque silver backing. Something seemed familiar, like seeing an old college friend but not quite sure. I read the label, "Alaska Thunderfuck? Is this like... um... Matanuska?"
"Yep, same thing."
"Oh!" It all came back to me, a damn released of it's memories: Alaska Bible College, the pink trailer, the chili, the damn chili, every bean of it. My old friend, after all these years, they're still making it.
"This is the stuff I smoked when I really liked weed!" I yelled. In my mind a glorious reunion scene played out: Matanuska Thunderfuck and I lock eyes, run to each other, take each other in our arms, swing each other around, even though that's not logistically possible, laughing and kissing.
Good old Matnuska ThunderFuck! Back in Glennallen, it was grown outside, nearby, on THE Matanuska glacier, with ACTUAL Thunder, and REAL Fuck. And here it was, my old friend from college, of all the places to run in to her!
As usual, I was frank and open with the kids about this new venture, but it felt weird. I have no problem having a glass of wine or two at dinner, in front of them. And all the science I've read has weed being safer and better for you than alcohol. No teen has ever died of weed toxicity. No one's ever had their lungs pumped for weed. It's not great for teens, developing minds and what-not, but it's not the worst thing they could try either. Our culture isn't here yet and it's an odd disjointed sensation to do something that is safer than prescribed opiates, safer than alcohol, but still has such an entrenched stigma. When will Target sells glass pipes along side their wine glasses? I had to separate out what was me, my beliefs, my ideas, and what was "Reefer Madness." Despite my en-cultured discomfort, I felt I owed it to the kids to be honest about it.
"So, kids, I'm going to do something kind of strange. It feels strange to me, anyway. I'm going to try smoking weed for my headaches. Blah blah blah, health, studies, culture norms, not for kids blah blah blah." Dedicated as I was to an honest discussion, I nevertheless at first failed to mention that I'd also picked up a recreational strain, focusing exclusively on the health aspects and headache strain. I was clearly not all that clear on recreational use myself. I also asked them to not talk too much about it at school. On the one hand, I don't want to project shame about it or ask them to keep my secrets. Yet of their friends, friend's parents, and teachers, I couldn't predict every reaction and I understandably want to mitigate any possible fallout befalling the innocent. Who knows what assumptions or prejudices I was welcoming into our lives?
Coyote: "OH. MY. GOD. MY MO-O-OM SMOKES WE-E-E-ED!!!!" And then he prophetically launched in to Snoop Dogg's "Smoke Weed Everyday," which is the song-de-jour of 5th graders these days, apparently.
I found myself wondering when I was going to get my next recalcitrant headache. I started to wish I had a headache, checking in every so often to see if maybe, just maybe I had a headache yet? Please? When do I get my damn headache!!! Of fuck it. I toked up that Tuesday night on the back porch. Not too much, just enough. It was a warm evening, crickets and frogs and the half moon and all that. And it was nice. Very nice. And I slept well, deeply. For the first time in 2.5 years, I woke up refreshed and ready to live. By Friday, I was toking 4 times a day.
What the hell was wrong with me?! I'm nearly 40! I'm no 20 year old co-ed. But it made me feel so so good. Of course, being high feels good. But I wasn't high at all. I'd tried the Matnuska ThunderFuck and it was terrible. I was dizzy and sick and it gave me a huge headache. It was like being severely concussed once more: dizzy, confused, too tired to move, uncoordinated and slurring the few words I could find, the ones I could remember by the time they took that long dangerous walk from my brain to my mouth. I hated it! I'm embarrassed to say that hating it made it much easier to finally admit to my kids and friends that I'd also thrown a recreational variety in to my little brown bag. I could confess it all now that Matanuska ThunderFuck and I were over, truly over. Although I appreciate it, and its ability to hold up to twenty years of breeding innovations, there just was nothing between us anymore.
"High" on NYC Diesel and it's CBDs, all of my thoughts are clear and easy. When I finally got one of my massive, opiate-needing headaches, marijuana erased it by the second toke. No headache AT ALL. In it's place, I had energy. I was focused. I was organized. My life, internal and external, felt manageable with a clarity I've missed. I cried the first few days with utter relief every time I smoked. I couldn't believe how cluttered and cottony everything had been in my head for so long. I was in awe of myself and what I'd put up with. Now that I had a breather from it, I could see how bad it had been. I felt okay, truly okay. I even thought, "Damn, I think I could work again like this! I think I want to! If I could find a gig again that let me smoke weed." A friend noted, "You sound so much better. Even your voice is clearer." It was a miracle. A switch was flipped and I was good, I was fine. For four hours at a time, I feel transformed.
Was this wrong? Was feeling norml and okay wrong? What was happening to me? Was I just an addict? I tried to refrain, but it felt so good to be almost all the way me (some traits are still missing and I don't expect to ever see them again, no matter how much whatever I smoke.) Yet I couldn't believe my own experience, my own sensation. Was I deceiving myself? Wasn't pot supposed to make you stupid? Disorganized? Lazy? But I had so much energy and focus that even my house was finally recovering from my head injury: windows were getting washed and cupboards were getting cleaned. My culinary herb garden looks incredible, well trimmed and all that. Perhaps my word-recall has slipped a soupcon, but otherwise, my executive function had taken a huge leap forward. How could this be?
I discovered that marijuana has brain protecting properties and was found to significantly improve outcomes for people having head injuries while high. To me these studies suggest we have football teams toke up before a game, but then instead of a tackle pile, they'd be a pile of giggles.
But what about after the injury? What I did find was not real science, but close to it: hundreds of testimonials of brain injured people finding salvation in weed. I cried as I read them:
"I've had a hard time writing and reading since my brain injury... but when I smoke a little, I have no problems! After a few hits, I have zero problems and I feel like my brain can function as well as it did before."
"Neurologists were so quick to try to prescribe me antidepressants, sleeping pills, pain-killers and anti-seizure meds, but weed can do most if not all of the things those pills can do....And there's no withdrawal."
"It helps with my headaches, lowers my stress and helps with concentration." Yes! Yes it does!
"High grade weed saved my life," from another head injured person.
Testify, baby. Testify! Arms in the air! Oh Sweet Mary Jane! It's a goddam miracle! I was at a weed revival meeting that, thanks to the internet, spanned time and space.
The theories correlating with my own experience were that in the brain injured weed slows down our sensory input so that it actually matches our processing speed. The scream and smoke of mismatched torque in our mind-motors quiets. Everything runs at the same speed. Energy is not lost trying to sort more environmental information than we can process. Our experience of the world slows to the point where it matches what we can handle. The same mechanism which makes every Stagg chili bean the focus of the universe works to create a world which comes at me one thing at a time. And then, ironically, almost magically, I have energy to handle the world again.
Worried about myself, I tried to refrain, but really, is there anything edifying in forcing oneself to feel like crap? Mother Theresa thought so, refusing to provide pain killers to her "patients," not wanting to rob them of the dignity of suffering. Why even have a hospital if suffering is so dignified. If suffering is so holy, why not leaving them on the streets? And what of the truer dignity of being allowed to make ones own choices about suffering?
I don't want to be thought of as a pot-head, so I should feel shittier than I need to, right? What do I say to my loved ones who need medication to feel okay? Need anti-depressants to get out of bed? Take 'em! Life's too short for endless misery. Need meds to control your bi-polar? For the love of god, take them! Please!! We like you here, alive. It's hard to not feel like yourself, to not be the life of the party, but so many of us live like that and we're okay people too, lovable and all that. Just had surgery, in pain? Take those pain meds!
I smoked every four hours for about a week, and then an adequate background level seemed to be established and now I'm smoking it only 1-2 times a day. With such regular doses, I'll next try vaping my weed to mitigate the carcinogens that come with my relief.
When it comes to pot and it's ability to wipe out my need for four different medications, why would I resist? It's not like I'm a horrible person on pot. It's not like I'm worse than I am. If anything, I'm more useful. Usefulness is not longer that allure it once was to me. Without being useful these past couple years, I still managed to have inherent worth and value and learned to love who I am, as is. Suffering is part of life, but there's no need to insist on it. Why would I avoid less suffering? I'm no flagellate. Leaping in to the open arms of suffering is no high road, no matter what that bitch Mother Theresa says.
If this is a big mistake, at least it's mine. I think the bigger mistake is not making your own mistakes. Our culture may not agree with me, but it's now my mistake to make. Worrying about what other's might think, might assume, might say would be a bigger mistake than allowing myself to feel okay. I'm not going to chose misery because we've got a cultural hang-over from the drug wars.
Now that the science can happen a little more freely, who knows what we'll discover about weed. Maybe it's a cure-all. Maybe there are more and worse side-effects than we dreamed, although it seems unlikely they would be worse than the side-effects of many modern medicines. But now the truth can begin to emerge. And that is an open-ended adventure we're all on.