Even though I consume cannabis on a near-daily basis, I still struggle to accept that it is an okay thing for me to do. Not only because of the stigma that still exists but because I really like the way cannabis makes me feel. For some reason, I’m ashamed of the fact that cannabis not only helps my pain, it also makes me feel good. And happy. And relaxed. But why is that such a bad thing? Why do I feel guilty about feeling good?
I think it’s because — despite the intention of pharmaceutical medications — medication usually has at least one negative side effect; especially pain management pharmaceutical medications. For example, one popular medication prescribed to patients like me (i.e., patients with fibromyalgia) — called Lyrica — is notorious for causing rapid weight gain, increased lack of concentration, and decreased short-term memory capabilities. And yet, Pain Management Providers still prescribe Lyrica every day.
The same thing can be said about most medications, really. I mean, think about your own experiences with pharmaceuticals: how many times have you or a loved one had to try a new prescription because it was causing too many negative side effects? How many medications do you or a loved one take that still cause uncomfortable side effects, but you or they continue to take the medication because it helps more than it hurts? Or, how many times have you seen a commercial on TV for a pharmaceutical medication that sounded scarier than the issue it was supposed to help with?
Personally, I still take two (2) pharmaceutical medications to aid with various physical issues. But that’s only because they don’t cause any noticeable side effects. Cannabis, on the other hand, helps me with my pain management but it also makes me feel really good. Technically, my antidepressant does the exact same thing. That’s literally what it’s prescribed for; right? Yet, despite that knowledge, I still struggle to accept the fact that I can enjoy the side effects of cannabis when I’m using it to manage my chronic pain.
I think that part of my guilt comes from the way that I was raised. Not just the abusive stuff either. I’m looping in the fact that my mother and her late husband were both raised Catholic. To them, seeking pleasure was an act of needless self-indulgence. At least, that’s what it felt like to me. I wasn’t allowed to have fun while I was working, because working is no place for fun. I wasn’t even allowed to talk to my mom while I was doing the dishes, because her late-husband thought I would do a worse job or something. And don’t even get me started on the shameful act of masturbating. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t having sex — let alone unprotected sex — pleasure just seemed like something we weren’t allowed to seek. We needed to be happy with being unhappy, I guess. So it’s not really a stretch to think that medications that make you feel good are just as distasteful.
Which is why — instead of allowing myself to enjoy cannabis — I worry that enjoying the effects of cannabis makes me an addict. As a result, I often worry that I am just trying to make excuses to consume cannabis. It doesn’t matter that it relieves my pain, increases my libido, or otherwise just makes me feel really damn good about myself.
Isn’t that messed up? I think so.
It doesn’t even matter that I know what the definition of addiction is because I have looked it up. I also took enough Psychology classes to know that, in order for something to become an addiction, it has to cause a negative disruption in the user’s life.
Sure, there have been a few times I couldn’t drive somewhere because I was too high, but that’s not really any different from when I was taking prescribed pharmaceutical pain medications. Hell, I couldn’t drive home from my surgery last Friday!
Furthermore, I don’t fit the description for being an addict. According to the website for the National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment (NAABT), “Addiction is a primary condition manifesting as uncontrollable cravings, inability to control drug use, compulsive drug use, and use despite doing harm to oneself or others. […] There is no addiction without cravings.”
In my situation, if I can’t have cannabis, I can’t have cannabis. Will it suck? Yes. Do I want it? Hell yeah! Do I need it so bad that I am compelled to acquire and use it? Nope.
That doesn’t mean I never crave cannabis, but it’s never because I don’t have cannabis or haven’t consumed it; it’s because something has reminded me of cannabis and the good-feels it gives me. For example, I’ve been really craving sushi recently. Like, an absurd amount of sushi. My friends, my husband, and I are all planning to go out to dinner together really soon and I am definitely going to get baked beforehand? Why? Because sushi is one of my favorite foods, and cannabis makes food taste 1000-times better (to me). Also, without cannabis, I don’t have a very big appetite and I am not wasting the opportunity to go ham on some sushi!
I’ve discussed this concern with my husband on multiple occasions and we agree that — although I might have a dependency on cannabis in some aspects (e.g., pain management) — I am not addicted. That doesn’t keep my mentally ill brain from jumping into fear-mode every once in a while, but I’m glad to have the backup from my husband. Especially since he can no longer consume cannabis, and so has an objective perspective on the entire situation. I don’t need his permission, but I do value his input.