A year ago this time, I was weaning myself off all of the medications that I had been prescribed by my doctors. It took me blowing up like a balloon while on one of the pain medications and realizing that the new “bigger-version” of me was still in insane amounts of pain to make the decision to do this. I was fat and in pain and I had had enough. I wanted my life back, I wanted to have something that would actually work, without messing with every other part of my body that wasn’t affected by this stupid disease. I began to realize that the side-effects of the medications outweighed the small amount of relief from the pain they provided. I wanted to start with a “clean slate.” If I was going to give cannabis a try, I wanted to know if it, alone, could help, rather than being just one more thing to add to the other medications.
Looking back over the last 9 months, thinking about the weeks leading up to my actually going to the dispensary I realize that it had taken me much longer than a few weeks of researching and then calling around. I had my MMJ card for about 2 yrs, and then our state legalized recreational cannabis- so it has been available to me for the past 5-6 years and yet I hadn’t opted to give it a try.
In the first few years, after my doctor issued me an MMJ card, I didn’t live with much pain. It would come and go but it wasn’t a major concern. It wasn’t until more recent years that the pain became chronic and took over my life. I lived with crazy levels of pain and tried numerous different medications my doctor prescribed but still couldn’t gather up the courage to take the plunge and visit a store. It all seemed so overwhelming and daunting to me.
I was extremely nervous about making a trip to a local dispensary but not because I am opposed to cannabis – I’ve never had an issue with its use. I wasn’t overly concerned about others judging me either. To each his own has always been my opinion on the matter. What I was concerned about was the level of knowledge of the people working there. Because this shit was way too important to have some “Fast Times Of Ridgemont High” millennial selling me the wrong thing – something that wouldn’t help with my pain. I couldn’t risk someone messing with my last chance at finding relief from the pain.
“I was self-conscious and extremely apprehensive but desperate to stop the pain.”
Before I made that first trip to the “pot shop” I did some research on sites that seemed legitimate and focused on educating people about the plant and its uses (Leafly.com Marijuana.com, Herb.co) as opposed to the hundreds of sites with stoner memes and jokes about getting munchies. I was looking for the nitty gritty of it all – can cannabis help and if yes, what do I have to take? What do I have to do to reap the benefits? That’s what I wanted to know. Plain and simple.
I had a vague knowledge of there being two different plants (Sativa and Indica) and that there are things called strains. I read a bit about THC and CBD – the gist of which was THC gets you high, CBD doesn’t. But that is about as far I as I got, because I became completely overwhelmed with all the additional information – dabbing and waxing, bongs and grinders, joints and blunts and I again thought there is just NO WAY this is going to work- that I am going to be comfortable “toking up” in front of my kids (or anyone for that matter.)
What I have learned:
- Most stores (at least where I live) know the value of having staff that is knowledgeable about all aspects of the plant – not just recreational. If you sense that the person doesn’t know what they are talking about, or if they don’t seem interested in your own personal medical needs, it might not be the “right” fit. Finding a place and even a person that I connected with, that I could talk openly about my hopes (less pain) and fears (that it wouldn’t work and I would be out of options or that I would have a bad high like back in college) was a big part of the success that I have had. I look at it like finding the right doctor. This is your medicine and you need to find people that are gung-ho to help you find relief.
- If I had based my opinion on just the first few things I bought and tried, I would no longer be using it – because those first few weeks, were not that impressive. Granted, I uttered the words “I don’t want to feel high” about a dozen times during that first visit and sending me home with a CBD oil was the right first step. But it was a baby step. I had to come to understand that what works for my body, and my pain are strains that have a high THC % (60% or higher) and a bit of CBD (ideal seems to be more than 3% – the highest I have found is 8.0%) I had to learn that these strains (the ones that have those percentages and help with the pain) don’t make me feel high or stoned. If anything, they manage to bring a bit of clarity to my MS fogged mind.
- Invest in quality equipment and product. Since cannabis is not covered by insurance, it can be pricey to choose to medicate this way, but I have learned that being frugal isn’t always the best option. Because I had never vaped before, I was not familiar with the pens or how they worked. Over the first 7 months I have had vape pens fail, cartridges break and one that didn’t even fit in my pen. Although this might be “annoying” to someone that is looking to consume the cannabis for recreational purposes and the store may take the defective item back, it does me no good in the moment. I need to take a puff or two for the pain and I can’t get the relief until I go back to the store. I recently realized that not having a good quality delivery system was adding to the unknowns. I would often get what I have been told are called “ghost puffs” when you inhale and then little to no smoke comes out when you exhale. I never know if it’s me, if I have some how “puffed” wrong? Is it the vape pen? The cartridge? I had been running into this over and over again until I finally got myself a legitimate vape system! (istick 30W by ELeaf) It may not be what is considered “top of the line” but it has made a world of difference- knowing that when I choose to take a puff – I can be confident that each one will be consistent.
- Figure out what plant works best for you. I am most definitely an Indica gal – most of my top Pain Strains are Indica. I have found a few Sativas that work (Great White Shark & Jack Herer) but they are still not my favorite. They tend to make me paranoid – as I quickly learned during one of my first strain trials. I came home with a Sativa strain, and although I took fewer and smaller puffs that what I had been using of the Indica strain, I almost immediately entered into a world of being absolutely certain that something bad was going to happen, that my kids and Shawn would arrive home and find me stoned and then make fun of me (hey, my struggles are real) Again, if I had based my decision on cannabis on this one experience, I wouldn’t be using it anymore. I know there are many other MMJ users that prefer Sativa strains, so it’s about figuring out what works for you.
- Start trying strains and connect with others that use MMJ for your condition. There are dozens of cannabis groups on social media. Find one that you like and that has like-minded people participating in conversations. Once I began blogging about using cannabis, and about how I am trying to learn and find strains that help with the pain I had many readers and others living with chronic illnesses make suggestions on strains that work for them. If I found someone that gave me a list of 2 or 3, and one of them was one that I had tried and liked, I would jot the other strains down. It’s never a guarantee that a dispensary will have the exact strain I am looking for, but I have learned that by mentioning one or two from my ever-growing list of suggestions, it can help lead my budtender to other “similar strains.”
The first nine months of my MMJ Adventure have had their ups and downs as far as the relief I have had. I have learned that not all strains work. I have learned that the strains that do work, won’t work all the time. Given the amount of random shit that this disease throws at me daily, I’m not surprised by this. It’s always going to be a crap shoot but I now feel like I have some control over how I deal with it. I have found something that does provide me with relief, but that also seems to be making other small improvements to my life. I am feeling more at peace with myself, I am feeling the urge to move my body more and I am appreciating each small accomplishment I achieve and those side-effects seem a hell of a lot better than weight gain, constipation, insomnia and dry mouth!
**This is my personal blog and all opinions are my own. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one here on my blog. The content here is for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of medical professionals. Be sure to contact your doctor before trying any new medications/vitamins/supplements, physical activities or therapies **