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4:20: A Story of Recovery

For many, happy hour is at the end of a grinding workday, which for some quitting time may be 4ish. Otherwise, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere as the song goes. In cannabis culture, 4:20 has become code for getting together to share a “toke,” or “sesh,” or “safety meeting.” On the calendar, April 20th (4/20) has become an annual celebration for all those who enjoy the myriad benefits of consuming cannabis with events worldwide to commemorate the iconic date.

While my personal journey with cannabis began just as it did for many high schoolers and college students- smoking marijuana to get “high”- it has long since evolved into an essential tool in my wellness kit. After many years of rolling joints, packing bongs and passing around a glass pipe at a concert, on a hike in the woods, sitting around a fire, or less conspicuous places to conceal it from the authorities, the desire to smoke for fun faded like the sun dipping below the horizon on a warm summer night.

My relationship with cannabis has on more than occasion included abstinence. This was mainly due to habitual use that kept me from being at my best. As much as I loved to partake in the herb with friends, becoming a lifelong “pothead” just wasn’t in my life vision. So I swore it off and periodically jumped off the wagon for “old times sake,” or when I really needed something as a hedge against stress. Drinking alcohol was never anything more than social for me, and so cannabis remained an intermittent ally. This pattern persisted for a couple decades.

In recent years, I rediscovered “weed” in a therapeutic context. As I review my history with consuming, cultivating and yes even distributing the plant, I realize it was serving me in other ways beyond enjoying a recreational buzz. However, using the plant with an intention to support well-being truly emerged when I found myself reeling from symptoms of PTSD. Traumatic events in life are increasingly common in modern society. To some degree, every human on the planet has endured adverse events and unresolved psychological disorders in their lifetime. In short, we’re coping with “pain in the brain.”

Facing chronic pain, anxiety and fatigue in my mid 40’s came on suddenly as a wake up call in many ways. Unresolved trauma from earlier events in my life had accrued like compound interest as a series of adverse events, including death of a loved one and the abrupt end to a serious intimate relationship, along with financial challenges, took a major toll. As a counselor noted in a session shortly after things imploded, “The toxic waste buried deep down burst open.” I was amidst what could be referred to as a “spiritual awakening.” Nobody appreciates being woken up from a deep sleep.

In response to the daily struggle of inconsolable grief and dread, my body began showing symptoms of dis-ease. I went to see a physician for the first time in nearly 15 years, but they didn’t offer much guidance- other than a diagnosis for a fairly common single nucleotide polymorphism (gene mutation) which indicated sluggish methylation pathways. The prescription called for folate supplementation, which only seemed to exacerbate the issues. Instead, I focused on holistic solutions making lifestyle changes as I was sorting through the rubble of my life. I lost weight, without that being a goal, and began starting my day in meditation. I took some yoga classes and developed my own daily practice. I went for walks, even through the cold of the winter season. I dove with determination into as many spiritual practices and philosophies as I could find time to explore. I was desperately seeking healing in mind, body and spirit. And I hadn’t yet fully understood the gravity of my upset.

Cannabis reappeared as I began experimenting with many different dietary supplements to address health issues and support recovery. With the passage of the Hemp Farming Act in 2018, cannabis was making headlines once again, although this time not for drug busts, rather as a bona fide agricultural crop and medical solution. Specifically, cannabidiol (CBD) products flooded the market touting relief from all types of joint/ muscle/nerve pain, digestive and mental disorders, and even supporting a good night’s sleep. I needed all of the above.

Through my internet research, I came upon an offer for a free trial bottle of CBD oil. Upon arrival, I eagerly opened the package and dispensed a few drops beneath my tongue and waited. I anticipated some notable response, but nothing of the sort. After an hour or so, I took a few more drops. Still nothing of note. I recalled from my days of recreational use that edibles can take upwards of 2 hours for the effects to be felt. I also noticed in my checking account that I had been debited for the cost of the bottle, or perhaps it was for a subsequent subscription order, which I went ahead and canceled. Anyway, after a few more days of taking their product, I had concluded that CBD oil is just another scam. Fortunately, I hadn’t made up my mind unequivocally. I had been incorporating a friend’s homemade coconut oil extract made from THC trim (leftovers from manicured flowers). However, I wasn’t finding much support, other than some relief when I went through an episode of Bell’s Palsy. It was enough to allow me to close my right eyelid, which I’d lost voluntary control over, along with most of the right side of face. I didn’t know it at the time, but I would’ve benefited immensely from a high quality FECO (full spectrum cannabis extract). What I had ordered online was a CBD isolate, and it’s not anywhere near as effective without its entourage.

Fast forward another year, I stumbled upon a social media group featuring its unique no-extraction process of preparing the plant for oral ingestion. The company stated that its product was superior in maximizing the “entourage effect”, preserving the delicate phytocannabinoids and terpenes for therapeutic use. Despite my skepticism, I gave it another shot, and I was rewarded for my patience and perseverance. I immediately noticed I was calmer in social situations, as my sleep improved and nerve pain decreased. I even shared with a therapist I was seeing at the time how profoundly beneficial my reintroduction to cannabis had been. She validated my conclusion noting how I was showing up in a more relaxed, and even sanguine manner, to my appointments.

In subsequent years, I remained a consumer of full spectrum CBD as I explored other entheogens to amplify my recovery, including mescaline, ayahuasca and psilocybin (magic mushrooms). These psychoactive substances have each proved invaluable at not only reducing systemic inflammation, but also downregulating a nervous system that had simply crashed. With a new level of self-awareness and a deeper understanding of my life’s adverse events, I began to see a way forward after I had wondered if I’d ever be redeemed. I recognized that I was going through hell for a heavenly cause.

When I found out my cousin had developed a relationship with a multigenerational farm based in Amherst with its own line of full spectrum CBD products, I reached out to see if I might be able to help introduce REAL NY CBD to the WNY community and beyond. After a productive meeting to discuss the opportunity, I took home a sample and the moment a drop of the golden nectar hit my tongue, I knew it was a quality extract. I’ve smelled and tasted many different strains of cannabis over the years, and this was as if an ‘eau de vie’ had been bottled in an old country still in the foothills of the Vosges mountains of France. I told Peter that the products had my personal endorsement and began consuming about 50-100mg of the oil daily. Since then, I’ve been steady with my regimen as I’ve managed to resolve flare-ups of trigeminal neuralgia. I have also been able to handle workflow stress with greater ease. An enhanced mental faculty and increased energy to navigate the day, life is now less of a grind and more of an adventure.

I’d be remiss if I were to omit from this abbreviated recollection of an extremely difficult period in my life a shout out to all of the wonderful human beings who have held space, confronted me, taught me and allowed me to find my way. I’ve been blessed with many friends and family showing up as a village upon whom I could lean through the worst of the storm. I know I had been terribly difficult to deal with at times throughout the ordeal. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Most of all, thanks for your presence. It is a gift. While I am by no means fully recovered- still unraveling the human condition- I have achieved a significant degree of mental clarity, physical rejuvenation and emotional intelligence. I seek to serve as many others as possible in need of support and guidance on their awakening journey. You are not alone.

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