Exactly one year ago, I wrote a piece for xoJane about my decision to begin using marijuana as a treatment for chronic pain. The article, scandalously titled I Was Totally Against Drug Use Until I Needed Medical Marijuana, detailed my ambivalent feelings on the subject. I wrote about my concerns over becoming a drug user, my prejudices against pot culture and about the disease that controls my life, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
EDS causes (among other things) severe joint pain, hypermobility and dislocations. Of all of the problems I've faced with this disease, these have been the most debilitating. The pain is constant and unyielding. It never goes away, only changes in severity. I try to soldier on, but it rudely interrupts my life, my activities and my general happiness.
There is no cure for my disease, but I was determined to find a something to help curtail my ever-increasing pain levels. After exhausting all other resources and doing tons of independent research, I decided to heed the advice of a few “groovy” doctors and commence reefer madness.
After one full year as a user, I'm relieved to announce that pretty much all of my concerns and assumptions about pot use were unfounded. More importantly, it works for me in a variety of positive ways -- not just pain relief. This is not quite the progress report that I expected to make.
I grew up in the Midwest suburbs, where smoking pot was less of a rite of passage and more like a daily activity. I never even tried it back then, though. It scared me. I've always had to work hard to maintain control over my body -- a fear of losing my balance always kept me off the pipe. This same fear still keeps me from drinking too much alcohol. I fall down all of the time, I don't need any assistance in that department.
When I began this weed experiment one year ago, I started out with the tiniest dosage I could manage from the tiniest one-hitter that I could find. To my great surprise, my tolerance has remained weak as hell and I've maintained that same dosage level today. I've been experimenting with a high-quality tobacco vaporizer (I received a beautiful Pax by Ploom as a gift) and I'm currently looking into edibles and weed tincture -- but there have been no heaping bowls, no big bong rips, none of that. I don't even use pot every day, only when my pain spikes.
Logistically, all has been well. I've only had to buy marijuana four times so far, which means that I've only spent $200 on this medicine all year. (I used to spend around $80 a month for prescribed narcotic pain pills.) I've never left my house with weed on me, so I haven't had any legal problems. And I don't drive if I've smoked, so there have been no issues with that, either.
Mentally, my new regimen has been easier than I'd imagined. I think I'd exorcised most of my paranoia before making the decision to give this treatment a try. I'm relieved that I haven't magically morphed into a patchwork-wearing, Phish-listening, dreadlocked dirtbag. I'm still just as smart and ambitious as before-- maybe even more so. Chronic pain is also a chronic distraction, and now that it's partially under control I feel like I'm more focused on my various projects and goals.
There have been no changes in my personality, but I'm already kind of a hippie so maybe that's why I haven't noticed any major shifts. I still think about UFOs, watch Pauly Shore movies and covet giant beanbags just as much as I ever did. (Which is to say: a lot.)
But I still don't think that I need weed to “enhance” music or the beauty of Christmas lights or any of that crap. And I still prefer go hang out with my friends than sit at home all stoned. Because I usually only smoke right before I go to sleep, I've also managed to escape most of those troublesome “stoner epiphanies.”
With the possible exception of the thought that Birds are the jazz music of animals (think about it), my stoned thoughts are mostly simple things like Huh, my wrist doesn't hurt anymore or Damn, my legs are soft.
Fearful of a stoned flip-out, I try to stay away from the pot during times of stress. I'd also be horrified if I smoked and then felt less stressed. I won't let it become an emotional crutch. I take pride in overcoming my hard times, not making them all foggy.
I did have my first real panic attack this year and it was only a couple of hours after I'd smoked, but I'd also napped and had a rape nightmare in-between so I wasn't sure which event to blame.
Because I'm so cautious, the only really bad weed experience I've had so far was when I was staying at a friend's house and tried some of his stash. It was stronger than what I'm used to and it knocked me on my ass. I had to curl up on his bed in the dark for a while. Lesson learned: I am not down with O.P.P. (Other People's Pot.)
Because I use marijuana medicinally, I'm hesitant to admit (to myself, mostly) that sometimes I really like it. In my first article, I mentioned that I enjoyed getting stoned and making out to My Bloody Valentine.
That's still true, though I'm pleased to report that my taste in make out partners has improved in the last year, too. Sex on pot has been a particularly interesting branch of my experiment. I'm adjusted to spending 90% of my day trying to ignore or block out all signals from my body because most of them are painful. But the pot seems to help me get to a place where it's easier for me to be more welcoming to pleasurable stimuli.
I thought about writing around it, but something has come up in the past few months that really shouldn't go unmentioned: While under the influence, I am suddenly capable of G-spot orgasms. I'm not sure why this has happened. Maybe it's chemical or maybe I am just more “in tune” with happy body feelings. I don't know. In any case, it's been an unexpected (and very welcome) consequence.
My friends and loved ones have been very patient with me during this last year. They've smiled knowingly and patted my hand when I've said something completely adolescent about my herb use. (“Dude, did you guys know that sex on pot is like, pretty cool?”)
As it turns out, most of the people that I love and respect either currently use or have used marijuana with some frequency in the past. I've been particularly interested to hear stories of why people have stopped smoking. I haven't had any issues with my use yet, but I want to be alert in case I need to make any life changes.
It took a whole year, but I'm ready to call the pot experiment a success. My entire life, I've had to forge my own medical path. Most doctors don't know much, so I avoid them whenever possible. I've wrapped my own injuries and relocated my dislocated joints. I've given myself stitches and used super glue to close my own wounds. I've swallowed -- and then decided to stop swallowing -- their dangerous and addictive narcotics. Marijuana works for me right now, so I plan to stick with it until I find a reasonable alternative.
Maybe I over-thought all of this, but that's what I had to do. With a disease like mine, I have to work constantly to find my own solutions. I've always fought the pain with patience and humor, but I'm very glad to have another option. The gamble paid off this time. I still don't think that this course of treatment is right for everyone with joint pain issues, but right now it's working for me.
Also working for me? G-spot orgasms.