Sometimes, a series of unfortunate circumstances leads to an involuntary hiatus from cannabis consumption. As a person with a disability, my income is limited and presently, I have found myself having to make some sacrifices to make sure that the bills are paid, and unfortunately one of the things at the top of that list for me is cannabis.
If you’ve been a cannabis consumer since before legalization, then I’m sure you remember how much of a hassle it could be to get your hands on something. For the past few years, I’ve been super fortunate to have a consistently reliable person that lives very close by, but the cost of ease and access has been, well, higher costs. It shouldn’t be a surprise that prices can vary pretty widely in a place where there is absolutely no regulation, and that holds true where I live. To be quite honest, I didn’t even realize how “expensive” our person was until we recently got a half ounce from someone else for the same price we were paying for an eighth. Granted, it was a nightmare to figure out when, where and how we were going to acquire this half ounce and I still haven’t decided if the stress of that was worth the lower price.
All that to say that as I’m writing this, it’s been close to a week since I’ve smoked a bowl and to be perfectly honest, I’m not doing so hot. Cannabis has been a key factor in controlling the pain levels from my disability and without it, the pain begins to bleed into everything else, making lots of things very difficult.
Fortunately though, I am a resourceful and poor person so of course I’ve figured out how to get a little THC into my system once or twice during this nightmare time and it’s probably going to gross a lot of people out but hey, when you’re in pain and can’t sleep, you do what you’ve gotta do. My partner and I almost exclusively smoke our bowls out of the same pipe every day and we empty our “cashed” bowls into a little tupperware container. Usually they’re not fully cashed and there’s some green hiding beneath the ash, so that’s the beginning of our little stash. Rhyme not intended. When we need to, we use a little metal strainer to sift the “half-cashed”, as we call it, and separate the ash from the “chunks”. It’s usually only a hit or two per bowl, but it’s enough to ease the pain for a little while and sometimes that’s all I need to not completely loose it.
And of course, resin, but I don’t think we need to talk about resin. Although I do love the process of scraping a bowl clean.
What I want to do is examine how this unplanned week off of cannabis has affected me, physically and mentally. At this time in my life, I’m more conscious and aware of my body than I ever have been and I think it’s important to examine how I’m feeling more than ever, especially since it’s not often that I go this long without.
First things first: Physically. Surprising no one, that’s the first thing I notice, even if it’s only a day or two that I’ve gone without.
Cannabis absolutely does not make me pain free when I do have it, but it makes the pain so much more tolerable. When I was two years old I was diagnosed with a-typical spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Caused by a missing or mutated survival motor neuron gene 1 (SMN1) , my body has insufficient levels of survival motor neuron (SMN) proteins that “leads to loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord and causes weakness and wasting of the skeletal muscles”. Those motor neurons control muscles in “arms, legs, face, chest, throat, and tongue, as well as skeletal muscle activity, such as speaking, walking, swallowing, and breathing.”
I can’t run, jump, make a fist, lift my arms above my head or a number of other things that I’m sure are slipping my mind, and I really try not to make a big deal out of it but almost everything I do every day hurts, at least a little bit. Sitting, standing, walking, laying down, it’s all uncomfortable - but cannabis makes it a little more tolerable. If I weren’t taking an involuntary tolerance break, it’s much more likely that sitting in this chair to write this piece would include a lot less painful repositioning and finger stretching.
While I definitely don’t enjoy my pain levels being higher and less manageable, it really becomes a problem when we’re a few days in. It starts affecting my appetite, my sleep and worst of all, my mood. Standing in a kitchen long enough to make a meal can be excruciating, not to mention any and all of the prep work and clean up that might have to be done.
Most days - or should I say nights - I am a champion sleeper. As soon as my head hits the pillow I’m usually out cold in a matter of minutes and can sleep for an uninterrupted twelve hours, no problem. Not the case during this cute little break I’m taking at the moment. For example, it took me close to an hour and half last night to finally fall asleep, and I managed to stay asleep for a fitful six hours that ultimately felt like four.
What I’m learning by putting this all down in one place is that it’s highly likely that all of the other things I am experiencing at the moment are a direct result of my higher-than-normal pain levels. Difficulty cooking and eating and lack of sleep are almost certainly impacting my mood. I woke up grumpy as hell today for seemingly no reason but alas, it’s all starting to make sense.
Oddly enough, there is one thing I’ve noticed during this time that is, in my opinion, both good and probably bad. My physical anxiety symptoms have greatly decreased. When my anxiety is triggered, I have the hardest time pulling my body out of the anxiety spiral and I often have heart palpitations. What I’ve noticed this week, though, is that while my anxiety still spikes occasionally, it’s not accompanied by my heart also freaking the fuck out, but I do have a theory.
We all know that I’m not a scientist and I am certainly not a doctor, but it’s no secret that some strains have been known to elevate anxiety levels in some people. My theory is that because I have virtually no control over the quality or variety of cannabis I’m buying, I have no way to know which strains may or may not have an adverse affect on my physical anxiety symptoms. To be quite honest, at this point I’d gladly take a few palpitations to be able to sit without my legs being on fire. Figuratively, of course.
My intent with this piece wasn’t for it to be a bitch fest about how much worse I’ve got it right now than everyone else, but rather a little bit of vulnerability during a kind of difficult time for me. I don’t often open up about my struggles, especially to a bunch of strangers in the form of a published article, but every once in a while it might be beneficial to share my experience. Maybe someone can relate, and hey, you’re not alone.