This post is the second part of a previous essay: Medical Cannabis and Recovery – Part 1: High Time For Change

Why I care at all about the topic of medical cannabis as it relates to substance abuse and recovery?

First off, I am not a fan of attending funerals and wakes of people who were once lived clean and sober, only to died suddenly of an overdose. I also don’t get any joy from watching someone overdose and turn blue, even if they pull through and live. For me, it seems to be the one way I can live with my own brother’s overdose and death, by trying to help others not follow the same path. I may not be the country’s leading expert, but I can certainly hold my own when in discussions with medical and substance abuse professionals on the subject.

Of the people I know in recovery who utilize medical cannabis, few of them are willing to talk openly about their use of this one particular medicine because of the ‘shame’ factor. But where does the shame come from, since shame itself usually comes from the knowledge that you are doing something you know you shouldn’t be doing. Where would the idea that people in recovery shouldn’t use certain medicines, while others are “recovery approved”?

Twenty years ago, the idea that someone was claiming to be clean and sober while also using a daily psychiatric medicine, would draw the ire of some very dedicated, very crusty old timers grumbling their opinion from the back of more than a few 12 Step meetings. They categorized most psychological medicines as “just chewing your alcohol”. They themselves would proclaim that they had been sober for X number of years, which they defined as ‘not using anything that affected them from the neck up’ (a popular label that is officially backed by exactly no one). Presumably, this hyperbole didn’t probably didn’t include other items in their drug free lifestyle, such as coffee and cigarettes. Those never seemed to make the list of unapproved medicines in AA to these self-appointed pillars of recovery.

And this goes precisely to the main points for this entire series:
• What is our personal perception of what is constitutes ‘a drug versus a medicine’?
• How do you defines ‘acceptable recovery’ for yourself?
• How do you define ‘quality of life‘ for yourself?
• Whether or not the individual themselves know what they can safely use of the first question, in order to obtain the rest.

Despite what some random AA member insists in the truth, these are questions that each person must ultimately work out for themselves. However, barring someone’s own willingness to get introspective on these points there is always a church basement full of people willing to tell you what they themselves did, and why you should do what they say. I mean honestly, has that kind of thinking ever worked on an alcoholic? Telling them what to do and how to live their lives? By the time most people have developed a substance abuse disorder, they have limited or lost their ability to accept suggestions willingly. And a large portion will never accept any outside input whatsoever, even long into their recovery.

One thing is for absolutely for certain, there are few humans who can actually persuade an active alcoholic to do something they don’t want to do. The same goes for a drug addict. Alcohol and/or drugs are often the only thing that the addict will listen to when it comes to curbing their use, up to a certain point. And, if the person is truly an addict or alcoholic, they usually no longer have the ability to even influence that choice themselves.

And yet, few can argue that at some point something deep inside of the alcoholic/addict kicks in and takes over, allowing them to suddenly rally and seek help when they normally wouldn’t. Call it what you like, their spirit, a sudden moment of clarity, a gift of desperation, a last gasp… whatever you like. Luckily, for some addicts there seems to be a hidden safety switch that gets triggered, suddenly saving them from themselves. And where once sat a sick and stubborn alcoholic hell bent on destroying themselves, there now stands a person willing to do things to save themselves that they would never have even considered before. Of course, that doesn’t always happen. Some people never rally, some try repeatedly and fail, and others simply choose this way to die.

But for those who choose to seek help, make the necessary lifestyle changes and do actually recover from alcoholism with the help of a 12 -Step program, they now face something even far more challenging: life. Or, as the saying goes in AA culture, “life on life’s terms”.

To Be Continued…