In September of 2014, I lost consciousness and collapsed at work. Soon after, I began to experience urinary incontinence while sleeping and awake. Worst of all, I began having moments of disorientation and dizziness to where I could not walk, several times a day. During these episodes I would forget where I was and my vision would effectively prevent me from walking.
Prior to this point in time, I was being treated for undiagnosed seizures and convulsions with a maximum dosage of two dangerous drugs. After meeting with several neurologists and after many expensive tests, I was formally diagnosed with epilepsy. I also received the news that years of suppressing seizures with prescription medications had left me with severe gastrointestinal damage. This damage had essentially destroyed my ability to benefit from medications that are absorbed through normal gastrointestinal processes, and I am still working with a full gastrointestinal team in repairing my gut.
Every morning I start my day with severe nausea and vomiting, and cannot eat until the afternoon. I have to set alarms to wake myself up during the night so that I can take the medications that allow my digestive system to accept the anti-epileptics that I need to take every morning. I have to continue this difficult treatment route because Utah law requires multiple therapies before a person can even submit an application for CBD oil. These drugs come with side effects, including one that brings a 6% chance of death directly related to the drug, but it is a better option than non-treatment and losing my disability subsidy. A side effect of another drug I was prescribed is an increased risk of suicide. I tried but was thankfully unsuccessful. How I survived my attempt at leaving this awful situation, I still don’t know. I stopped the drug immediately and the awful thoughts of suicide quickly faded away. Many of the other drugs carry similarly unpleasant side effects, any one of which, can significantly lessen a person’s quality of life.
As recently as 2013 I had been a personal trainer and nutrition coach, with a BS in Human Performance/Wellness and Nutrition, but my condition has left me without the ability to pursue my passion of physical wellness and health. I have been unable to keep my weight up, and just over one year ago I was in the hospital, weighing in at a meager 125 lbs. It was around this time that my girlfriend told me about full flower cannabis oil, and I decided to tried it.
Now, thanks in part to cannabis, I am back up to 180 lbs. However, I still cannot drive, am home-bound, and struggling to get healthcare coverage and disability assistance. I still have to take pharmaceuticals to show my disability application that I am legally trying to be healthy, while also struggling in an illegal, uncontrolled, and inconsistent environment to get the care that works.
Additionally, cannabis is still highly stigmatized in society, due in part, to its legal status, and medicinal use can come with negative societal repercussions that someone might not consider given the obvious legal risks. After discovering the benefits of cannabis, I wanted to help spread the word about its potential to help others. My name was in a local Utah news article about cannabis policy reform efforts. Certain people within my family circle jumped to conclusions and made assumptions resulting in my separation from my three sons. Threats of legal action have prevented me from asserting my parental rights or even being allowed to spend time with my youngest son. He recently turned one and it has been months since I last saw him. I love being a dad. It is my first and greatest joy in life. But because of the legal status of the only substance that gives me relief from my illness, I am unable to be the father to my sons that they need and deserve. I can’t seem to escape some form of pain – it’s either heartbreak (when I’m healthy but prevented from being with my family), or heartbreak AND physical pain (when my health prevents me from being a father to my sons). Unfortunately, my only defense against this is Medical Legalization.
Although my struggle continues, there are many bright spots in my life. The time I get to spend with my two oldest sons is no longer marred as badly by my seizures and other health issues. When I spend time with them now, we are creating good memories of being together, happy and relatively healthy. My condition is still something that is constantly in the foreground of whatever I do, and sometimes it takes over for a time, but cannabis has at least given me back a portion of my life that I can enjoy, appreciate, and share with my family. I am not afraid to continue sharing my story and lending my voice to those of others in furtherance of change and compassion. I am a better person and a better father because of this plant. Let’s legalize it so that I and countless others can reach our full potential and live life without the fear of prosecution or being ostracized by society.