AN ACCIDENTAL ADVOCATE
June 15, 2018
By: Shannon D.
I’d just say that that if I know it, I learned it the hard way— and thoroughly.
I’m also a big believer in redemption, because I know what hopelessness feels like. After spending the last decade+ untangling a web of childhood sexual trauma, isolation, survivor’s guilt, addiction, and an utter lack of self-confidence, I realized that I had been carrying around the devastating idea that I had to be tough most of my life
Until tough meant stubborn and stubborn meant more and more sick...
With the help of rehab (okay, maybe a couple), therapies, a fellowship of people like me, and some bad-assed human beings who have loved, and continue to love me real hard along the way, I was able to get my shit together, sustain years of abstinence from all drugs & alcohol, and excel both personally and academically.
Needless to say, I was apprehensive about trying cannabis when my life fell apart in 2016 after a botched surgery and car jacking at gunpoint.
I mean.... What the hell, Universe?
Our lives as a newly married couple were just beginning. We took a dream honeymoon in Bali, Indonesia; the HuffPost featured our wedding photo as one of the most romantic of the year, and after a rocky start, life in the Bay Area was starting to work out for both of us (seemingly).
A car had hit me the year before, but I only needed a knee surgery and physical therapy. Plus we had mastered the art of just getting by, so the idea of not struggling for a bit was soothing once the settlement check arrived. I think that pretty much sets you up for my life falling apart.
On February 16th, 2016 I went in for a routine septum repair surgery at Kaiser Permanente, Oakland. It had been 10 years since anything went up it, and I figured it was finally time to address the wreckage of my past addiction. It was also the first time in my adult life that I had adequate health insurance (Oh, hey, Obama Care), so I showed up with a lengthy catalog of ailments I’d been putting off for years, like so many of us do.
I remember feeling eerily comfortable when I arrived for surgery that morning— the chief of surgery would be the one performing it, after-all. That, and my wife, Jen, has a video of me doing the robot as I rolled away from pre-op. For a woman who's often riddled with anxiety, the calm was comforting.
It was clear that something wasn’t right pretty immediately. I couldn’t get ahead of the pain, my face was unrecognizably swollen, and my wife and friend recall me saying things like “my face feels like it’s on fire” repeatedly. We went to the ER and 2 follow-ups before anyone even noticed that I had E. Coli living in the surgical site, too. The healing was too compromised at that point.
Please know that the struggle isn’t that it happened, it’s that we sought the aid of trained professionals, over-and-over again, and nobody took the time to look further than popular post-op ailments.
Hey, modern medical professionals: do better!
Turns out I had been infected with both: E. coli and Klebsiella, which together formed a super-bacterium that ate my nasal cavity for 9 whole days. This meant that the surgical work performed was thwarted, leaving me with nearly no septum at all. Good times, ey?
I know what you’re thinking.
“Girl, you better sue.”
Yeah. We tried.
Apparently when you become a Kaiser Permanente member, you’re agreeing to something called, “binding arbitration”. That means that if anything were to happen while under Kaiser’s care, outside of the max payout of 250k, which rarely gets paid at the hands of their legal team, you’re probably beat.
I’ve spent many of nights trying to figure out where I’d be if I hadn’t made the decision to operate, but none provided anything but additional anger, resentment, and godfuckingawful insomnia, so I’ve chosen to stick with acceptance.
And I'm grateful everyday that it's healed enough to only drive me crazy now.
It is what it is until it isn’t anymore, ya know?
I had no choice but to accept my life exactly as it was, confront compound traumas, and start practicing the open-mindedness I was taught in NA.
That meant that after July the 4th, 2016 @12:04am, after someone pushed a glock into the left side my head as I was exiting my car outside of our apartment, that I would be open to the possibility that something other than pharmaceutical drugs could treat the anxiety and terror that plagued me.
Luckily I did, too— because after all these years of running, cannabis has given me a hope and desire for life that I hadn't experienced until now.
If you’re one of the other 16 million people who battle depression and anxiety, then you know how important my last statement is.
Call it what you will, and I'll just call it beautifully synchronized irony.
I started Cannabis For Breakfast for a few reasons:
My part in destigmatizing the medicinal use of cannabis.
Homage to the plant that’s restoring me to mental and physical health every single day.
A place to share cannabis for chronic health stories and resources.
So I'd finally start writing again...
Edited Friday, July 6th, 2018
I realize that I wasn't as clear in the original publication of this essay. I have since left the program of NA and made that decision with the utmost of awareness, clarity, and introspection. I also believe that many of us whom end up in the rooms of organized recovery are also suffering from severe mental and emotional disorders, for which cannabis is medically proven to relieve many of. I will always be grateful for what recovery showed me and allowed me to become and I encourage current members to discuss medicinal cannabis as alternatives to the still suffering addict. Talk to your doctors, but also read up about the history of this sacred medicine. Closed minds never get fully fed, after-all.