The Holistic World Part I: Discovery
Certainly for as long as I’ve been alive, there’s always been one way to tackle a struggle with the soul: blot out the symptom. Exploring cannabis, I eventually discovered a path to greater wellness; since then, I have devoted my life to it.
For me, it began with my ADHD diagnosis. In high school, I embodied the persona: unruly, high-achieving yet trouble-making, non-conformist and resistant to authority. As a first-year student in high school, I also drank alcohol for the first time, and I would later add cocaine into the mix in my college years. Between the ages of 14 to 32, I floated around in this haze, not even asking myself why I was truly compelled to do what I did to myself. Because I had no understanding of wellness maintenance outside of a very limited paradigm, I merely obliterated its side effects with substance abuse, a condition that I would later treat with 12-step, starting in 2012.
However, only with cannabis did I fully reclaim title to my own well-being. Digging deeper into the plant I had been growing, not only did it become clearer to me what had been wrong with me, but what had been wrong with society’s perspective on wellness in general. Medical cannabis not only gave me a transformative insight into my own struggles with alcoholism and ADHD, but it also taught me how to channel those insights into the company I now helm here in Lake Tahoe. But there was a little detour I had to take on my way to a greater awareness of self…
Step one: the prozac years
Around 2014, I, like many in recovery, began to hit a spiritual wall. During this period, addicts in recovery will encounter bouts of anxiety, restlessness and irritability – the by-products of all of the problems we used drugs to avoid. I wasn’t maintaining a wellness regimen as thoroughly as I do today, so the work I needed to do to maintain my equanimity simply wasn’t being done. Around the same time, I contracted a bad case of poison oak clearing out some brush on one of Medicine Box’s properties. Spurred on by both, I received my first scrip for 10 mg of Prozac. After years of severely damaging the delicate balance of serotonin and dopamine in my mind, I struggled with the high highs and the low lows afforded by this shortage. When I first started taking it, I experienced even greater lethargy and moodiness before the drug lifted me back up. And if I stopped taking it even for a day, my mood would once again descend.
For those who’ve never been on Prozac, I can describe it best to you as being trapped in a white-walled cage, forced to watch the most boring movie you’ve ever seen in your life. Even worse, this movie IS your own life. I recognized pretty shortly that I had merely swapped out one dependency for another, instead of determining the core drivers of my discontent and addressing them head-on. But once I found myself in as deep as I was, I couldn’t risk going cold turkey.
(Apparently, I’m not the only one. The New York Times wrote a piece on antidepressants which focused on the withdrawal symptoms patients face when they decide to quit after a long time of using the drugs. It’s called Discontinuation Syndrome, but I prefer to call it by its rightful name: addiction. And it’s all brought to you by your friendly neighborhood pharmaceutical company, but I digress.)
Spoiler alert: I eventually weaned myself off of Prozac, and am thankful that I was able to do so. Having said that, I want to acknowledge Prozac – hell, even cocaine – as a difficult yet necessary step in my eventual healing. In our passion to spread the good word on the good weed, we can often erase the perspective of those who actually DO need the medications – especially if they are suffering from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or any serious mental illnesses. “If the industry really wants to revolutionize the medical landscape, it must put patients’ needs over selling product,” Louisa Ballhaus recently wrote in Merry Jane. ”And the way to do that is by admitting that ‘plants over pills’ doesn’t apply to everyone, including people like me.” Embracing and living the tenets of Conscious Capitalism will allow us to place all of these healing methodologies in the proper perspective for the patients who need them. They just want to be healed, as I did, and they should not be deprived of anything once they’ve found what works for them.
The next step, the cannabis cure
During my 12-step process, cannabis was referred to as a drug of abuse, and something I was advised to avoid. At the time, the plant was merely my livelihood, not something I consumed at all, so this never made much sense to me. I certainly didn’t apply cannabis to my own condition, since I barely had much insight into it to begin with.
However, after meeting up with my mentor Michael Hollister, I learned more about the plant and how it could effectively counter the brain chemistry imbalances which led to my initial ADHD diagnosis. Dr. David Bearman, in a recent podcast with Dr. Mitch Earleywine, speaks directly to this phenomenon: when ingested, the plant’s phytocannabinoids slow down the speed of neurotransmission in the brain. It does so in part by stimulating the levels of dopamine in the brain. For those of us with a dopamine deficiency, we are constantly looking to stimulate ourselves to increase these levels. “A person who starts using cannabis before the age of 15 has PTSD or ADD until proven otherwise,” he summarizes.
Oftentimes, this condition, which was known at one point as “Minimal Brain Damage” many decades ago, is treated with stimulants like Ritalin. Bad news is that the cure is worse than the disease, since these meds also increase anxiety, loss of appetite and insomnia. I knew from the work I did with the plant that people who used it avoided these side effects. It only made sense to try it on for myself.
As a former holistic nurse and herbalist – as well as a fellow 12-stepper – Michael understood my condition well enough to create a special formula. Weaning myself slowly off the Prozac with his formulary, I was able to kick it in six months, and I haven’t used it since. This process gave me a valuable insight into not only my condition, but the power of cannabis itself. My doctor was all too happy to prescribe me a medication that only skimmed the surface of my underlying issues, but the cause for it remained untreated, and I suffered needless side effects as a result. It took cannabis to teach me how to control my own well-being. And it’s a discovery that others around the world are learning alongside me. Of course, the second part, as any natural-born entrepreneur will tell you, is all about the execution and implementation. That’s what we’ll get into with Part II.