When my physicians “discharged me without notice” flinging me headlong into massive withdrawals from some of the strongest narcotics on the market, I thought my life was over. My blood pressure reading when a paramedic was called by my Facebook friends echoed that assumption. 50/30 is not the blood pressure of someone who is doing well at living. Six months later, I was dancing with a Saint, celebrating a life I didn’t understand ahead of me. But I knew I was alive. That was something of a miracle.
In a pool of vomit and other detritus that any self-respecting adult would be embarrassed to be found in, in level 10 pain, I prayed. I prayed to a God I didn’t know if He knew who I was. I called out in tears, “PLEASE HELP ME!!!!” He did.
About 4 years prior to that breakdown, while I was still on Fentanyl, percocet, neurontin (gabapentin), and 16 other medications, a friend asked me if I had ever tried marijuana for my pain. I had used it as a teenager, then as a young adult when I wanted to drink and party with my friends, noticing it’s anti-emetic properties allowed me to drink when I was taking medications I should not have been drinking with (my bad!), but I had put my “stash” far away when I began having pain that completely ruined my life… overtaking every aspect, finally putting me in bed. It was in that bed that I lived. A life consisting of watching DVDs from the library (I could check out an entire season of a television program at a time) and Netflix. When I could focus. When I said to my friend, “but won’t it make me unable to do anything?” She told me to look around at my life. That was a sobering experience.
Once I looked at the life that had been crumbling before and around me for the previous 3 years, I thought, “what can it hurt?” After all, the mind-numbing narcotics and antidepressants and antianxiety medications had made me nearly a drooling idiot, what more could marijuana do? Hey, maybe I could “get high” and stop thinking about the pain? Either way, it was worth a try.
I tried it, and it worked. This was in 2006, two years before my youngest graduated high school, four years after my physical disabilities had taken my permanent employment from me, 10 years before I was to learn about the emotional and mental disabilities that had been haunting me my entire life. Before 2006, I had been heard to say on several occasions that people were just using the “medical marijuana” excuse to get high. God proved me WRONG on that account.
By 2008, while I was still using multiple opioid and other medications (19 of them, total), I found “breakthrough pain” relief in cannabis, marijuana. I talked to my urologist and internist (my primary care physician) and they both agreed that the changes they had seen since I had been using it were positive and they agreed with me using it, but neither of them were ready to put their license on the line by recommending it (the marijuana alternative to “prescriptions” due to the federal illegality it can not be “prescribed”). So, they referred me to a specialist that JUST recommended marijuana.
I met her in a hotel conference center with my $200 and a large file full of my medical records. After completing a short exam and reviewing my records, I was given a paper that allowed me to have an “affirmative defense” if I was ever in legal trouble for my use of marijuana. At that time there were NO dispensaries and I was left to find my own supply of medicine from the streets.
In 2008, one ounce of fairly decent bud would range from $250-$300. I needed at least that for a month. But that was a lot of money to someone living on $900 in disability. I made it work, running out nearly every month towards the 25th of the month. But the difference in my abilities was ASTOUNDING!!! Not only could I get out of bed, but I learned to ride a Harley Davidson (2002 Low Rider)! Riding on the wind was so much more freedom than I could have imagined. My disabilities still had me bed-bound 5/7th of the week, but for 2 days each week I felt like I was LIVING again!
THEN, in August of 2009, I felt like I was dying. Around the 20th of the month was when I would make my monthly trip to Tacoma from Olympia, Washington to visit my urologist for the purposes of picking up the paper script for my Fentanyl patches and percocet. When I arrived at the doctor’s office, I was told that I had been “discharged;” I was no longer a patient of that clinic. They claimed to have sent me a letter, but it was never received.
I began to panic. The 3-day patch on my arm was my last and I was on the last day of it. Even the idea of withdrawals from an opioid 100x stronger than morphine scared the living daylights out of me. The reality sent me into a panic like none I had ever experienced before. Although my diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder wasn’t to come until 2015, my symptoms were in full swing, causing me to lose more time than I could remember during frantic panics and pain.
The next few weeks were physically and emotionally gruelling. My body and brain gave out completely: days and nights blended together as I lay on the carpeted floor of the bathroom not knowing what end should be towards the commode when both needed to be. I felt like I was in absolute hell. This continued for days until a Facebook friend heard my pleadings and worried about me, called 911.
The paramedics arrived, taking my blood pressure both they and I were surprised I was conscious: 50/30 are numbers I won’t forget. After they loaded me up and took me into the hospital, my husband at the time demanded my release before I could be admitted to a rehab, he needed me at home was the excuse. The nurses looked at me like a junkie. They all looked at me as an addict, not as someone who was dependant on a medication prescribed by the doctor… I felt lower than dirt and went home with a prescription of clonidine (a blood pressure medication to LOWER my blood pressure from the impending pain) knowing I would likely be committing suicide to take it.
It was the 25th of August, 2009 and my monthly ounce of cannabis was long gone. One of my personalities hid my pocket knife from me… as my nightmares continued day to day. After the spasming in my legs and the pain in my body and brain evened out to a “normal” of about a 8-9 waking level on a scale of 1-10, I tried to do my best to get on with my life. I had lost about 40 pounds during the withdrawals, and looked emaciated to my family and friends. In March 2010 I met a man who taught me how to maximize my cannabis medication by infusing it into butter in addition to smoking it.
The first time I ate a cannabis-buttered piece of toast, the difference was unbelievable! My pain was MUCH better, lowering to about a 6 or a 7 within a half hour… then I began LIVING!!! Out of bed, I started looking around me to see what I was missing. I was missing out on LIFE!
My last child had “flown the coop” in June of 2009, moving in with the man who would become her husband within a few years. I left my husband and the confusingly abusive relationship with him (and parts of my brain I wouldn’t begin to understand for 7 more years) in March 2010; by October 2010 I was finally recovered enough from the physical trials to start exploring. My Facebook friends who had saved my life the previous year by calling 911 continued to bolster me and invited me to visit them all across the country.
Somehow, through the Grace of God, I was able to put my MASSIVE social anxiety aside and get on a train, then a bus and a plane, finally in my own vehicle to visit many of them. What I found was that all around the country there were people like me in pain physically and emotionally who needed a reason to live. A reason and a method to Stand Up To Live. That is why I travel to this day: To show it can be done.
As I travel and talk to people, learning more about humanity than even about the herb I have spent the last 7 years researching, I have found not only a following, but deep friendships that I could not live without. As I continue my goals to write my books and then develop the “Lightehouse Recovery Center Network” (a holistically-based wellness recovery center network for the disabled with a focus on hemp production and use), my focus is on helping others to “Stand Up to Live.”
While reading a children’s book on writing, I came across the quote, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” By Henry David Thoreau, A few weeks after I read it, I saw Mr. Thoreau’s name on a report by Relative Finder as my distant ancestral cousin.
I took both of those instances as a sign. The quote that so perfectly described the decision I made almost 7 years ago was destined to influence the title of my journey.
“Standing Up to Live” is the title of the book I am writing about this journey. I prayed to know what to do then I used that faith I had hiding in the back of my soul, followed the impressions I received from God, through the Holy Spirit: I stood up and I began to live; Now I share that life in my writing and photos. Thank you all for being with me on this journey, I could not have done it without you!!!