I’m not a hippy.
I was too young to be one back in the frolicking sixties. And I’m way the hell too old to be one now. So don’t go thinking that I was stoner in my youth.
But now, at the not so tender age of 63, I am a devoted and grateful user of marijuana on a daily basis.
Here’s the story of how I changed from the frowning Mother of pot-smoking kids to a radical fan of cannabis culture.
My story began about 10 years ago. I was the mom of three adult offspring, a fifth-grade teacher, a doggie momma and the wife of my very first serious boyfriend.
Although I have always been healthy and hearty, I found myself suddenly grappling with mysteriously annoying physical symptoms. Pain all across my back and shoulders. Inexplicable but overwhelming muscle fatigue. Pins and needles in my feet and up my shins. Vertigo that gave me dreams of sea voyages and spinning carousels. Mental fog and a sense of brain fatigue that I couldn’t even explain.
And insomnia. Night after night of falling asleep, then jerking awake to see that a mere ten minutes had passed on the clock. Sleeping for five hours, but waking up exhausted.
And friend after friend who suggested that it might just be in my head.
But I’m lucky because my family practice doctor knew what he was seeing, and he diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. He prescribed a medication that has helped me enormously with the pain and numbness and fatigue.
Sleep, however, was a different story.
My doctor told me that he could help, and he prescribed me some Trazodone. I found that it gave me a full night of deep sleep, but left me feeling like I was still in that sleeping state the whole next day. My doctor cut the dose in half, but it had no effect, so he cut it once again. While taking only a forth of the original dose, I found myself awake at night but feeling like I was sleepwalking all day.
Next, we tried the more serious sleep meds. My doctor put me a dose of Ambien. I took my first pill and quickly fell into a deep sleep. But I woke up the next morning in tears for no reason. I cried on and off for the next 20 hours. I had no idea what was filling me with such despair. At one point, I found myself thinking that it might be a fun idea to kill myself.
I was terrified.
I reported my reactions to my doctor, but when I told him that my youngest child had been moving out of our house the same weekend that I took the medication, he thought there must be a connection. So he suggested that I wait a bit then try the Ambien again.
I waited four weeks and knew that I had adjusted to my newly empty nest. I spent a happy and relaxed day with my husband, then took my Ambien before bed.
And I woke up 10 hours later in tears, sobbing for an hour before I could pull myself together enough to make a cup of coffee. Later in the day, when I found myself idly contemplating several ways to kill myself, I knew that this drug was not my answer.
I didn’t know what to do. Over the years I have tried meditation, Sleepy Time Tea, melatonin, passionflower, hot milk, red wine, a hot toddy, Benedryl, Lunesta, and muscle relaxants.
Nothing helped me to sleep deeply and wake up feeling refreshed. Nothing.
Until one night, when my twenty-something sons were home for a weekend. “Mom,” they said, “We’re going to smoke a bowl of weed and we think you should try it.”
What could I say? I love my kids. And I was freakin’ desperate. At that point, I would have tried almost anything to get a few hours of sleep.
So my sons filled a bowl with weed, and we toked a bit. I laughed. They hugged me. I headed to bed.
“Damn,” I thought, as I pulled back the covers. “I don’t feel anything.”
Still, it was late. I turned off the light and rolled onto my side. I pulled up the blankets and hoped for the best.
My next coherent thought was, “Who turned the light on?” I opened my eyes to see that the sun had come up. I had slept through the night. I was in awe.
After that miraculous event, I started to experiment with cannabis. I smoked from a glass pipe for a few weeks, but I have asthma. Although the weed knocked me out, I woke up several times a night from coughing.
Next, I found good friends who made their own homegrown cannabis butter. A half a teaspoon in a cup of tea would send me off into the most blissful sleep!! It was amazing!
But our friends traveled, and I found after several tries that making my own butter was way more difficult than it seemed. For a few months, I tried to grow my own weed (failure of epic proportions) or to buy from friends (inexact at best, dangerous at worst).
Just when I was at my most frustrated, the marijuana laws in Massachusetts changed, and suddenly there were dispensaries opening all around us. One opened only three miles from my house. It was set on the very route that I have to take to get to my mother’s house, my siblings’ homes, my old job and most of what passes for culture in this part of our state.
So I went into the local potshot. I talked to my “bud-tender” (ahem) and got some advice. Ten minutes later, I found myself in possession of a little vape pen, some cannabis oil, and a few gummies for good measure.
And I have been using all of the above fairly consistently for about six months now.
Every evening, when all is quiet and the day is truly done, I go to bed with my vape pen. I breathe in 3–5 puffs, and settle in to read. In about 15 minutes, I find myself feeling relaxed and limp.
I turn off my light, and close my eyes.
I sleep deeply enough to dream. Oh, sure, I still wake up to pee at three in the morning, but I drift back to sleep before I even realize that I’m awake.
And the next day, I rise up with the sun and feel rested.
Although I have mild asthma, and worry about my lungs, I will not give up my vape.
Although I understand the seriousness of the disease that is mysteriously striking people who use vaping products, I won’t give up my nightly vaping routine.
As a person with a chronic illness, I know that our health is a gift to be treasured and protected.
But as a fibromyalgia patient who has spent far too many hours wide awake in the darkness, I know that when we find a treatment that works, we don’t turn away just because there might be a risk.
Life is full of trade-offs. I guess for me this is just one of them.