Today I’m going to start a three-part series in which I give you entirely too much information about the various mental and physical afflictions I suffer, and how I have treated these conditions, or mitigated their symptoms, using cannabis.
Please let me begin with a shameless plug for my upcoming coloring book, which is being fund-raised on Kickstarter now (through 9/23/2018), and which will be available in print beginning in November:
If you’re a person who enjoys relaxing, colors, and the feel of a crisp piece of paper beneath your fingers, grab your colored pencils, crayons, and come along on an adventure with me! That’s right! You, too, can have colorful adventures, and they start with POOKIE’S CANNABIS COLORING ADVENTURE, an adult, cannabis-themed coloring book. (Pro-tip: You don’t even have to smoke pot to love this thing.)
before 9/24/2018, and you’ll receive FIVE backer-only coloring pages and a cannabis word find
plus, I’ll revere you and your contribution toward my art for all of eternity
there are sample images and a lot of other stuff on the Kickstarter page, so please go to there immediately.
OK, y’all – this is totally a big deal for me, so let me explain why this project is so personally important and close to my heart.
Watch Me Stand on This Soapbox, Here
If I’ve ever worked for you as a web developer or designer, you can rest assured I was smoking (or otherwise consuming – orally, topically, vapor-ally, etc.) cannabis while I completed your project in a thoughtful and timely manner. If I managed to return your emails, complete tasks, keep open lines of communication, and maybe even call you on the phone; this is how you know cannabis was intimately involved in the creative, technical, and administrative minutiae of the project.
Lemme share a not-secret-at-all secret with you: I am a hot mess without cannabis.
I was diagnosed in fifth grade, 1990, when the practice of handing out Ritalin like candy had nearly reached its peak. My mom declined to put me on the drug, and while I agree with that decision as an adult, and as someone who appreciates not having been raised on speed, it did cause significant problems throughout the course of my education, from elementary school all the way through college. Early employment wasn’t an issue, because pretty much anyone can stock shelves and ring people up at a cash register, keep a smile on their face, and walk away at the end of the day. As I progressed into more career-oriented positions, however, I realized what I was really up against. Though I managed to do a great job and keep track of most things fairly well at the beginning, the situation with my crazy scaffolding of safeguards and systems that I tried to construct around myself in order to function on a really basic adult level became so absurd and time-consuming that I had to find a better way to live.
Doctors put me on Adderal when I was working at Yahoo!, and at the time, it was a revelation. I couldn’t believe how focused I could be. I couldn’t believe how much work I could get done. And sometimes, at the beginning, when I still felt like a human and had human feelings, I remember even weeping a couple of times; once, because I was so grateful to be able to function, another time because I was wrecked by the concept that this drug just allowed me to do things like…like I was normal. Like I fit into the grownup world. Like I wasn’t a mess of a child playing at being an adult, like I wasn’t a failure, like I wasn’t someone who is a complete piece of garbage. And if you think that’s hyperbole, think again. The amount of self-deprecation and destruction that went into my quest just to fit in and be normal is not only kind of tragic, but it also quite aggravated the initial problem.
When you have ADD/ADHD, it’s not just about not being able to pay attention. It’s about not being able to pay attention like you know you’re supposed to. And then you wonder why you don’t do things like everyone else seems to be able to. And you wonder why the eff you’re always losing your keys, or hell, the whole car, on a bad day. You berate yourself for not trying hard enough. You berate yourself for your lack of focus. You see yourself as being inferior, and helpless to control your own mind. For me, there was a lot of thinking a thought and then obsessively wondering if I’d already voiced it aloud. It’s a constant barrage of confusion, quick back-and-forth shifts of focus, self-deprecation, outright self-abuse, depression, anxiety, and sleepless nights lying awake replaying all the mistakes and awkward moments of the day, so the next day, when you get up and try to do it all again, you can add “not well rested” to the growing list of things that are turning you into a hyperactive, crazy-faced, zombie-human.
Why Not Pharma
Q: Um, I have seen two alternate solutions to cannabis in the last several paragraphs – why didn’t you stay on Adderall?
A: Adderall is fantastic if you love being a productive af plastic humananoid who can no longer parse emotions.
The love affair with Adderall ended after just twelve weeks on the drug. I lost about twenty-five pounds in that time, quit my band, kicked out some of my roommates, burned some friendship bridges, and broke up with my boyfriend. But hey! I was pure brilliance in the workplace. I was on top of everything and efficient as hell. I was blowing sales goals out of the water. I was a machine. It was as if all the inner workings of the Universe revealed themselves to me. I found myself able to make intuitive logic connections that had previously eluded me, and then actually follow through with putting them into practice. I literally felt like I was able to slow down time.
Right there before the end of The Adderall Times, one of my really good girlfriends approached me one night at a bar. She’d been crying, her eyes were puffy, and she wanted to tell me about how some boy broke her heart. I remember looking at her face and thinking, “You’re a disgusting mess and I hope you don’t touch me.” She pulled me in for a hug, and my body went rock hard. My inclination was to say, “What is wrong with you? I don’t have time for your problems. For any problems.” And that was it. I realized I’d lost all sense of empathy. It was my logical brain, not my heart, that kept me from saying this horrid thing. And it wasn’t because I cared, but because I thought, “This person could be useful to me in the future, I’d better not damage this relationship.” In the coldest, most calculating way you can imagine a person thinking this, I thought it. Utterly devoid of warmth or care. It was at that moment I understood I wasn’t seeing a normal’s version of the world, but that of a sociopath.
I stopped taking Adderall and my life almost fell apart completely. I swung wide in the other direction. Quit my good corporate job. Regathered and doubled down on my hot messitude. Stepped up my recreational drug use, because (obviously, in hindsight), I was self-medicating. This cycle went on for a long time. I limped along, making just enough money to pay my bills. I tried other ADD management drugs, exercise, yoga, meditation, behavioral conditioning, more drugs, more self-medicating, lather, rinse, repeat.
Legal Weed Changed My Life
After bouncing around for a couple years, Tytron and I ended back in Los Angeles. During our time away, California had loosened the restrictions on licensing and obtaining medical cannabis. I got my medical card immediately and began visiting the dispensaries in my neighborhood (of which there were many – pre-ICO, for y’all keeping track). This was a very enlightening experience, one that really made that cartoon light bulb in my head go BING! It was because of this new, legal way of purchasing weed that I was able to tailor what I was smoking to what I actually needed.
OK, maybe this is confusing to anyone who’s not purchased cannabis, so lemme back up. When you’re obtaining marijuana from the black market, it goes like this: You show up at some dude’s house or in some dark-ass parking lot, when he has the time and inclination to meet you. You hand over $60, and he hands you a Ziploc bag with some buds in it, and you’re getting what you get and that’s the whole deal. You don’t get to take a deep breath and savor the aroma, ask about the strain’s parentage, examine the flower and make sure it was not harvested too young, that sort of thing. You’re lucky if your dealer even knows what strain it is (btw, it’s always NY Sour Diesel, for the record). Don’t even get me started on the horrible and funny stories about dealers, and multi-hour adventures that involve driving all over creation and back just to get a plastic sack full of dried flowers. When you’re relegated to obtaining whatever it is you can get your hands on, and to smoking like this, you may have a really hazy idea of how cannabis can help with anxiety, maybe…maybe that it can be good for helping you sleep, or mitigate pain, and you know it’s fun. But you don’t really KNOW. You do not.
You cannot possibly.
That’s why it was THE MOST AMAZING EXPERIENCE in the history of my life to walk into a dispensary for the first time. It was brightly lit, staffed by professionals (women, no less!), and rows upon rows of jars, all neatly labeled, sat benignly on glass shelves awaiting my approval. It was only at that point when I began to discover the nuances of different strains, to learn what treats specific issues – for focus, to sleep, to treat pain, to get recreationally stoned.
Within those groups – the sativa for daytime, the indica for bed, the sativa dominant strain for recreational use, and the high CBD strains for pain – there are a plethora of sub groups. You begin to learn which strains work the best for when you have to spend hours sifting through code, which CBD strains work for cramps. You start to understand that you can take a whiff and know how it’ll affect you, or if it will do anything at all for you. You begin to understand how much good growing, careful harvesting, and proper curing makes a difference. You begin to understand that you can know just a few things about your bud and your source, and know with a reasonable degree of certainty if the weed you’re getting is going to be racy, anxious, or if it’s going to do precisely what it’s supposed to. You’re able to talk about it in an educated manner, using a scientific vocabulary that accurately describes a strain’s attributes, and you begin to understand the full impact of its many benefits.
You are able to treat it like the powerful medicinal entity it is.
For me, cannabis is the mother, the life-giver, the all-important thing in my life that finally allows to me act and accomplish things much like a normal adult must in today’s rat race. It may not be a panacea for all life’s ills, or even recommended or effective for all human beings as it is for me, but having legal access to cannabis has a quantifiable positive effect on my life, and, most specifically and profoundly, on my professional life. Consuming sativa in the day time is such an effective treatment for me that, when I stop smoking for several days, invariably a friend or two will either give me noticeable side-eye or straight out ask if I’m off my meds. While it’s not without consequence, what sativa does is help me level out my manically high highs, elevate my lowest lows, and allow me to focus and sit still for the dedicated blocks of time that I must, in order to do my job as a project manager/web developer/graphic designer/illustrator.
As for the negatives — does it slow me down a little? Sure does. For me, that’s a good thing. Does it affect my cognitive function and speed? The answer there is a little trickier. I’m not going to say I don’t space out sometimes, or not admit there are times when I smoke in the daytime that I get a little too high to work efficiently for twenty to thirty minutes until I’ve settled in (that’s when the dishes get done in my house, when I smoke too much to work). But it’s because I’ve slowed down and become more deliberate with my actions that I’m able to look at problems and puzzles more calmly, rationally, and thoughtfully. It’s because I’ve slowed down and become more deliberate that I am able to catch myself when I throw my keys in a weird place, stop, go back, get the keys, put them where they belong. It’s about being present enough to make very intentional decisions about my actions. So, a little slowness, a few days here and there in which I’m not as productive as I’d like to be, those are acceptable costs for the benefit.
When I hear people say “I can’t smoke weed, it makes me paranoid/sleepy/unable to move/nauseous/anxious,” my first question is always, “What are you smoking?” Because if you know, you can alter your treatment, but if you getting what you get just because you live in a non-legal state…well, that’s what this fight for legalization is all about. Accessibility, affordability, and regulated, safe product.
Hey, thanks for tuning in! Next time I’ll talk about my GI issues, and how cannabis has helped me mitigate symptoms of painful disease! Huzzah, I’m sure you can’t wait to talk about poop with me. In the meantime, I’d love to hear you share stories about how cannabis has helped you or someone you love. xoxoxox