If you wandered onto the Wake & Bake website through a Google search looking for a cannabis lube recipe or to figure out how to infuse coconut oil with marijuana, you probably have no idea who I am, why I wrote this book, or why I'm head over heels in love with cannabis. I believe it's time to share my personal story in hopes that it will inspire you to explore cannabis if you're in debilitating pain, overweight or depressed.
This post is not about curing cancer or the incredible things that cannabis does for people with epilepsy. We're not going to go into all of the specifics about what's good for what. This post is just about my personal experience. I started using cannabis therapeutically and it healed me, so I want to talk about that.
[disclaimer: Keep in mind that I'm not a doctor. Please speak with a doctor before trying cannabis. I am not advocating for anyone to break the law. If you live in a state/nation that does not support the use of cannabis medicinally or recreationally, do not take this post as advice to engage in what has been deemed a criminal activity. I don't agree with that law, so do however advocate that you work to change it by participating in the movement to legalize cannabis in your state or country. Look em up. They're everywhere.]
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way… Yes. cannabis healed me. And I want to tell you how it all went down.
My Cannabis Journey
Before it was widely accepted that cannabis could be used medicinally for a variety of conditions, I was decidedly anti-pot. I tried it a few times and I thought I'd gotten the gist.
It made me want to eat a lot. It gave me these uncomfortable tingling sensations in places where I was already feeling a lot of pain. It made me feel lazy. For me, these things were deal breakers. And since I was surrounded by a culture that perpetuated the belief in stereotypes about cannabis, I easily saw it as a “drug” that was “bad”. Mm'kay? From the time I was 15, I was overweight, sometimes tipping the scales at 220 lbs.
I tried Weight Watchers, extreme cleanses, and almost every diet pill on the market. But no matter what I did, weight loss was always short-lived and I quickly returned to a cycle of loss followed by even more gain. The weight issue was only a small part of the misery I was experiencing. The real tragedy was living a life in chronic pain. My back would give out regularly and I wouldn't be able to walk normally for days.
I would constantly have shooting pain down my legs. At 15, I wore back braces under my clothes that looked like ace bandage corsets, slathered on creams and gels that made me smell like an old man, and took NyQuil to sleep. I self medicated, drank myself into oblivion and when things were still really bad… I just ate.
Let's just be clear about something: When you're in chronic pain, thinking clearly and making good decisions is nearly impossible and it becomes more and more difficult to find your way out. It's easy to think that this is just the way it is, and that the pain is just part of who you are. I didn't believe that I would ever get better unless some miracle pill came along, or some diet, or unless I got really really rich. Deep down, I thought I was just a sad, sick, fat girl and that's just the way it was.
When I got to college, I knew I had to try something. I convinced myself that I was just a lazy person, so I started by going to the gym. Working out almost always caused new injuries or inflamed the pain I was already experiencing. Since I had no idea how to keep my body in integrity while I was moving, I was doing things I had no business doing, trying to push myself to get results. I was also constantly sick and became chronically depressed, making it difficult to gain any traction or make any lasting changes in my lifestyle.
I think it's a story that many people know well. I meet lots of people who are in a similar situation who have convinced themselves that it's somehow their fault. There's a lot of guilt and shame around being overweight and in pain, and it seems to exacerbate the problem. I thought there was just something wrong with me.
So when, at the age of 21, I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, scoliosis and herniated disks that pushed towards my spinal cord (causing me to lose feeling in my legs), I felt that I'd been proven right.
I was broken, and I was ready to rely on the conventional medical system to fix me.
Unfortunately, the medical advice that I received after the diagnosis wasn't hopeful.
I was told that I'd have back surgery or I probably wouldn't be able to walk by the time I was 30.
Instead, I opted for incredibly expensive therapy that used a huge traction machine to literally pull my body in separate directions, like the old torture chamber devices (but way fancier and with better music).
I did physical therapy as well, but nothing was working.
I was prescribed opiates and when those made me too spacey to function in school, I was prescribed Ritalin and Aderall.
The depression was getting worse and I was routinely drinking a huge bottle of wine along with all of these prescriptions.
I started taking the pills recreationally and trying to manipulate my doctors into giving me higher doses.
A Turning Point
While all of this was going on, I was living with a girl who LOVED pot. Like, LOVED it. And I thought she was the coolest person in the world, so I also wanted to love pot. I didn't really, but I started smoking to hang out with her more and eventually started to think it was pretty fun. It wasn't until a year later, when I found a regular supplier that I started smoking daily. I was still on a lot of pills, but when I smoked cannabis, I just didn't feel like taking them.
I started feeling like they were making me feel sick. This was the first lesson that cannabis therapy taught me. Marijuana taught me how to feel when something was making me feel shitty. Take note of this lesson, because it's going to come up again…
Cannabis and Exercise
I started smoking before I'd go to class, and instead of driving, I'd walk to the bus station (I'm an awful driver already and I hated driving while stoned). Eventually, I started skipping the bus, making a cup of coffee, bundling up, putting in headphones, and walking the four miles to school and back. I loved wandering around stoned, especially when I had a mission, warm coffee and music. It was the first time that I ever really enjoyed exercise. I didn't know it then, but the combination of cannabis and exercise was crucial for me.
Cannabis relieved my pain enough to be able to move for long periods of time and made it a lot more… well… fun. Over the next few months, I started losing a lot of weight. As winter turned to spring, I parked my van and started getting stoned and walking to the grocery store, the movies, and pretty much anywhere I could walk. I would sometimes walk 15 miles a day. I continued eating a bunch of nonsense, but I started feeling better.
As I started losing the weight, and started moving more, my back pain started easing up. While it wasn't completely healed, I knew something good was happening.
Cannabis and Diet
Remember when I said that one of the first lessons I learned from cannabis therapy was learning how to feel when something made me feel shitty? I get that this is something that most people already know how to do, but I honestly didn't. I was so numb to most feelings that I couldn't tell the drastic difference between something that felt good or bad (I now know that most people experience this when they're in chronic pain) .
This was especially true with food. For a long time, I prided myself on having an iron gut. I could eat anything. I loved pounding Monte Cristos at Bennegins, having burger eating contests, and going to McDonald's for something I called an “after sex McChicken”… Sexy, right? I could physically eat things that seemed impossible. I even considered eating competitively because I thought I had a talent for it.
But when I began using cannabis therapeutically, I started feeling these nasty tingling sensations in all of my joints after I would overeat or eat something terrible. When I would eat something decent, not so many tingles. When I would split a giant bucket of fried food from the Walmart hot bar with some co-workers, soooo many uncomfortable tingles. I had so many blockages around food that I still couldn't make the connection for a long time and thought it was a coincidence.
Usually, I would just pop a pill and convince myself that I was just having a flare up for no good reason. But when I started learning about food, it all started making a lot of sense.
As I watched documentary after documentary about what's in our food and how it interacts with the body, I started to actually feel how the things I was eating had a direct and immediate effect on my chronic pain.
While cannabis has a bad reputation for causing overeating (and eating the craziest combinations of crappy food), I experienced something very different.
As my awareness around the feeling grew, I was able to use cannabis to help me gauge when something felt good or bad for my body.
It's a tool that I think many people can be coached into using effectively. I didn't have to go on a crazy diet, I just tried to eat what felt good and tried to avoid what felt bad.
Eventually, I ended up on a gluten-free and mostly vegan diet for several years.
And while I don't necessarily think that a vegan diet is for everyone all of the time, I believe it really helped me correct some major imbalances that I was experiencing after years of processed food, sugar and a shit ton of meat.
Cannabis and Yoga
At the same time that my diet really started to shift, I began smoking cannabis and doing yoga.
I started doing yoga on a hard bare floor by myself with some videos.
I'll be the first to admit it.
I just wanted to be a hot yoga chick, and yoga seemed to be the only way to get there.
But my journey with cannabis and yoga completely changed my life.
Doing yoga while medicating with cannabis helped me use that feeling tool I talked about earlier to start figuring out the structure of my own body.
Just like the food tingles helped me feel out my choices about food, sitting in uncomfortable positions for-ev-er while ba-k-ed helped me begin to feel for the difference between intensity and pain, the relationship between being strong in some places in order to let go in others, and the deep vitality that comes from actually breathing.
As an offshoot of those incredibly transformative realizations, practicing yoga while engaging in cannabis therapy led me to fulfill my wildest dreams.
I'm not sure why it took the combination of the two to give me the confidence to quit my job and become a full-time freelance writer (even though I didn't know how to spell), but it was one highdea that I'll forever be grateful for.
I've since written a couple of cannabis cookbooks, learned how to farm, traveled all over this incredible world and got certified as a yoga teacher and health coach.
During my yoga teacher training (in Forrest Yoga… which in my opinion is the most healing yoga for back issues and emotional trauma) I experienced my first pain-free day since childhood.
It was so incredible that when I realized that I'd gone an entire day without any pain, I cried.
And even though my first pain-free day wasn't my last day experiencing pain, knowing that it was possible to feel good for an entire day is a gift that I'm incredibly thankful for.
While I still sometimes do silly things and live in a way that brings the pain back, I now know the difference between what works and what doesn't for me.
And to me, that's what healing is.
Because I chose to use cannabis therapeutically, I got know myself in a way that I wouldn't have otherwise. I was able to stop numbing out and start tuning into what was actually happening in my body. From there, I was able to make changes to transform the way I feel, walk, eat, move and breathe. I was able to learn how to carry myself in a way that helped ease the pain, and eventually, I learned how to change the structure of my body with some yoga poses and my own breath to rid my body of chronic pain (at least most of the time).
I was able to learn how to grow and cook food that is soulful, healthy and delicious. And, most importantly, I was able to look at myself honestly and give myself the permission and motivation to do what actually feels good. I'm not perfect. And I'm not saying that cannabis will help everyone lose weight and eliminate chronic pain.
I wanted to share my story because I think that if more people understood how cannabis can help you reframe your whole way of seeing yourself and the way healing works, everyone could stop thinking that it's only medicine if you have cancer or glaucoma, or at the very least, everyone could stop thinking of it as a “drug” that's just “bad”, mm'kay?
But enough about me.
I want to hear about you.
Share your story below in the comments section or email me at [email protected] and tell me how marijuana healed you.
If cannabis has helped you fight cancer or defeat a really bad headache, if marijuana helped you heal your spirit, lose weight or connect with nature, I'd love to hear about it.