Out of My Mind in Costa Rica-Living with CPTSD

Episode 18: C-PTSD and Cannabis

March 04, 2021 Ray Erickson Episode 18
Out of My Mind in Costa Rica-Living with CPTSD
Episode 18: C-PTSD and Cannabis
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 18

C-PTSD and Cannabis

Don’t Bogart that Joint My Friend

March 4, 2021

Today I am going to share with you my 50+ year love affair with cannabis. I first began smoking cannabis in January 1970 and I never looked back. Beginning as freshman at Western Michigan and continuing through today. I have never tired of the experience of being under its influence. So, you might ask, “Why are you not smoking for the month of March?” I don’t have a big answer to that. It just seemed like a good thing to do at the time. Today is Day 4 of this cleansing which includes alcohol as well. I just wanted to see what would happen when I stop smoking and drinking for a month. I will keep you informed about my progress. Meanwhile, here are some websites that hopefully will expand you understanding of the impact of cannabis not just on me, but on society as well. 

I support the legalization of cannabis as well as the decriminalization of all recreational drugs. The war on drugs has reaped havoc on our society and disproportionately punished tens of thousands of innocent people who were simply trying to get through the day. Thanks for coming by and I hope you enjoy today’s episode.

Let’s start off with an article that was published in High Times magazine. To no surprise this article is leaning towards the benefits of cannabis for those who’s lives are in turmoil due to PTSD and Complex PTSD.

https://hightimes.com/health/treating-complex-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-c-ptsd-with-medical-cannabis/

Here’s the Wikipedia article for Cannabis Use and Trauma. There are many affiliated links available on this web page for further exploration of the relationship between cannabis and trauma.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_use_and_trauma

In the Canadian publication The Conversation, they report on the positive impact that cannabis use has on people diagnosed with PTSD. Canada could soon be a leader in the research for the impact of cannabis on Complex PTSD as well.

https://theconversation.com/cannabis-shows-potential-for-treating-ptsd-new-study-125370

Here’s an article from Psychology Today that points out a phenomenon that occurs with frequent use has on the brain and our natural occurring cannabinoid receptors in our brains. This was something I didn’t know about. It’s a very interesting read.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/healing-addiction/202006/how-cannabis-defeats-itself-when-used-too-frequently

Episode 18

C-PTSD and Cannabis

Don’t Bogart that Joint My Friend

March 4, 2021

Hello and welcome to Out of My Mind in Costa Rica. I’m your host, Ray Erickson. It’s March 4th, 2021 and today I’m going to talk with you about my 50+ year love affair with cannabis. I know that probably doesn’t come as a shock to you, but this is the first time I have told the whole story to anyone, even myself. I’m a little excited to find out where this goes. Let me say this, I am completely aware of my loving dependence upon this innocent gift from nature and I am equally outraged by the rap that culture has given it. I’m not going go into scientific this and scientific that, but I may touch upon the unjust War on Drugs that made criminals out ordinary people just trying to get through the day. (record scratching to a halt).

OK, whoa Nelly. Let’s not go there just yet. Let’s start from the beginning. In order to do that you will need a bit of the backstory when it comes to cannabis. I also want to remind you that I was probably in a dissociative state throughout my adolescence and was coming from an archetype life perspective that was common on television in the 1950’s and 1960’s. My particular frame of reference was the program called, “Leave It to Beaver”. I was living in the Montrose version of Mayfield, the fictional town where the Cleaver family lived, so drugs were completely under the radar for me. I mean completely. I never saw cannabis, or marijuana in the raw until after I graduated from high school and I was working at the Fisher Body plant in Flint for the summer. Yes, the same Fisher Body factory where my father worked.

I was an innocent, a babe in the woods, wet behind the ear and completely innocent of anything drug related. This was 1969. How the hell could that happen? It’s easy to understand if you understand my state of mind at that time. Looking back on it, I realized that many of the kids in my school were drinking alcohol and probably smoking pot, even the kids I played sports with, but I didn’t hang out with those kids. I knew they drank, and at the time I didn’t want to have anything to with drinking. It’s not that I wasn’t curious, I just never got invited to any of the parties these kids went to. I was out of the loop by design.

Since I was in this Leave It to Beaver state of mind, there was no vortex in my world that would allow me to experience pot when I was in high school. It was never in the script. You can watch all the episodes of Leave It to Beaver and drugs do not come up, not once. That meant that there was no intersection point where Wally or the Beav got high. I think we can all agree that Eddie Haskell got high. Hell yes, he did. I bet he probably sold pot to all the Mayfield High students. No script about drugs meant I had no real means of experiencing cannabis before I left my safe little cocoon of Hill-McCloy High. Which was fine with me.

The only time I flirted with alcohol in high school came when a classmate invited me to a party out on Willard Rd. It was Friday night, and the party was rockin’. There were tons of people there and the beer was free flowing. In my varsity letter jacket I leaned back against the wall with a longneck in my hand, enjoying the spectacle when suddenly there was a huge commotion. People were running around and trying to get out of the house as fast as possible. I remained where I was, leaning against the wall in my stupefied innocence almost like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. I had no reference for what was going on, so I just kicked back and watched people flying out the back door, jumping over the 6ft fence and running across the field.

Then appearing on my right shoulder was Ray Adams, the Montrose Police Chief. I took a sip of my beer and said, “Hi Ray.” We had known each other for most of my life. He was just as surprised to find me there as I was to find him there. He shook his head and after everyone had split, he escorted me to the squad car, opened the back door and told me get in and wait there. They will take me home. Cool, I thought. My biggest concern was the cruiser would wake my parents when they dropped me off, but luckily it did not and I snuck in through the back door crawled into bed. I didn’t put another thought to that evening.

On Monday, in the middle of my drafting class, the teacher, who was my baseball coach asked to talk with me in the hallway. I honestly had no clue what this was about? Was he going to start me in the next game? I happily left the room and followed him to the hallway. He had a serious look on his face, and I didn’t know how to interpret this. It didn’t take long before he said, “Ray, yesterday at the volunteer fireman meeting Ray Adams told me that one of my boys was at a party they raided on Friday night. Mr. Feher went on to tell me that the police chief told him that he found me, drinking a beer at that party.” My heart jumped into my throat as my coached rubbed his chin in his characteristic way and looking down at the ground. When he looked up, he looked me in the eyes and said, “I have to let you go. I’m sorry Ray, but I can’t allow you to be on the team.” He turned and walked back into the class.

I did not go back to class. I was a senior and I had been on the team for the last 3 years. It was my favorite sport to play. I was broken. In shock. I never, ever expected this to happen. So, I wandered around the hallway until the class was over and went on to my next class. I was dead. I was numb and completely distraught on the inside but going though the motions on the outside. Right before the end of the last class of the day, I get a notice to go to his office. “Now what?” I shouted to myself and with my head bent down and full of shame, I walked the long hallway to where the coach’s office was located. 

He was seating at this desk and as I knocked, he waved me in. “Sit down, I need to talk with you.” My heart was pounding. What was I going to tell my parents? “Ray”, he said, “I’ve been thinking about what happened last weekend and I have never heard of you doing anything like this before. It was true, I had never been to a beer party in my life. This was the first time. He rubbed his chin again as said, “I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to keep you on the team.” I was overwhelmed with relief and joy. I profusely thanked him and ran out the door to get ready for practice. I had never felt so relieved in my life. I was going to prove him that I deserved to be the starting 2nd baseman for the team.

It didn’t seem to matter how well I performed in practice and in the one and only game I played following that event, I went 3 for 4, 2 RBI’s, a stolen base and no errors. I had an amazing game, but I never played another inning for the remainder of the season. I sat there on the bench feeling bitter. That was my senior year, and my life was just about to make an abrupt U-turn. This experience should have tipped me off regarding the dangers of alcohol with me, but no, I had to learn that lesson the hard way.

That fall, I went from a small-town high school to a large university in like 60 seconds flat. When I first arrived to Western Michigan University, in the fall of 1969, my parents dropped me off at the front door of my dormitory, Spindler Hall for Women. You heard that right. This small dormitory was previously the domain of women, but Western was converting it to a 200-bed dormitory for new male students, the vast majority of us were freshman and for most of us, this was the first time we were away from home. This was not a good idea. Most of us ended up on academic probation or were drafted that year. 

That year I learned how to binge drink and smoke marijuana and yes, I was one of the students who ended up on academic probation that year. My second semester GPA was a whopping 0.92. I snicker at that now, but it was pretty concerning at the time. It had been a fantastic first year of college for me regardless of my lack of academic success. That would come later. That first year of college will, forever, be one of the best years of my life. 

It wasn’t until second semester that I ventured into smoking pot and it is fitting that a high school classmate was the one who introduced me to the herb. He and I ended up in this delightful little dorm and one day he came to my room, eyes all ablaze and a shit eating grin on his face. I said, “Joe, what have you been drinking?” He said, I haven’t been drinking anything. I’ve been smoking this, and he produced a joint from his shirt pocket. We wasted no time in getting wasted that afternoon and I never looked back. It has been 51 years and pot has been a constant companion for me ever since.

In that 51 years that has followed, there were very few occasions when pot was not available. Yeah, there were dry times, but that usually did not last long. Cannabis has always been there for me. Cannabis has been there for me through all kinds of trouble and chaos. Its gentle effects helped me to cope with all of the wild and crazy times I was having living in Idaho and California. It was there for me writing my graduate thesis in the Master of Social Work program as Sacramento State University. It was there for me when the loves of my life left me, and it is still there for me as I sort out what is going to happen with my wife and me. 

I love marijuana. I loved it from the very first toke, way back in January 1970 while a freshman at Western Michigan University. In fact, I love it more than I love pretty much anything else. Just writing about it makes me want to light up and catch a buzz, but I’m not doing that and here’s the reason why. I decided that it might be a good idea to take a break from my all day, every day routine of waking and baking until my requisite bedtime buzz. 

I am not doing this because I no longer enjoy cannabis. No, I love getting high but that is not why I am taking a break. The main reason I am taking a break is because I want to see if life still has its charms when I’m straight versus when I’m baked. I don’t really think I smoke all that much pot. I know many people who smoke a shitload more grass than I do. For the past 50 years, my average consumption has been about 3.5 grams a week or about a half-an-ounce a month. Certainly, a lot less that Snoop Dog and Willie Nelson. And it has remained remarkably stable over all of these years, but the pot is a lot stronger than it was in 1970 and the price has certainly gone up as well. 

This is day 4 of my cleansing. This includes alcohol by the way. Alcohol has not been agreeing with me physically for some time now and I have all but quit drinking completely except for that rare occasion where I test myself to see if anything has changed and usually the results are the same. It hasn’t changed. So, I’m OK with not drinking. 

There have been a few times when I have gone without cannabis for long periods of time (30 or more days) and I have a pretty good idea of what is going to happen. I will probably become more productive during the day, but I may also have a more difficult time sleeping. I am excited about and looking forward to my REM stage dreams coming back. I know the dreams are going to be pretty freaky at first, but then they will mellow out and take on a more normal level of sublime dreamtime. 

I hope to have more energy for healthy activity, like taking walks around the farm and around the neighborhood just up the hill from me. I expect that I will go through a temporary depression and this will challenge me with filling my time with activities which lead to getting something accomplished, like writing and editing my podcast. I anticipate losing some weight because I may not be stuffing my face with chips and chocolate and ice cream as much as when I was stoned. So far, all of the benefits appear to be positive with little downside. I hope this hiatus from smoking will also relieve some of the chest congestion I have been having as of late.

I am not sure how much of this is related to smoking pot or due to chronic allergic reactions to airborne particles. The dry season in Costa Rica produces a lot of pollen and a lot of dust and with the winds whipping up a frenzy, I am always having some kind of allergic reaction to something. Many years ago, Kaiser tested me for allergies, and I was not surprised to learn that I was allergic to 62 of the 64 compounds in the test. What’s a guy going to do?

Here I am professing the benefits of smoking cannabis while, voluntarily choosing not to smoke cannabis. This was not planned, I just thought now would be a good time to tell you about my experiences with cannabis and in a totally separate decision, felt it would be a good time to take the month of March off. I will let you know how it goes. This is the first week of the experiment and so far, so good.

Well, almost. For the last 4 days, I found myself a bit more depressed than normal, but I don’t believe this has much to do with withdrawal form THC. Instead, it probably has more to do with my marriage, which is stuck in neutral and going nowhere. I keep offering my wife opportunities to begin a dialogue, but she does not respond to these opportunities. This depression also comes on the heels of having some brief contact with my wife. Last Friday, she came by to pick up a few things that would make her life a bit more comfortable and it did not go as well as I had hoped for. I am not surprised because in the last 4 months, we have not had a single conversation about our relationship. It is certainly not because of a lack of effort on my part. She simply chooses not to respond. 

I am constantly searching for articles on the web or videos on YouTube. Everyday I am asking questions about how to resolve the problems in my marriage and be a better partner which means every day I am researching answers to those questions. My problem is I want to dialogue with her but there is never a response. Nothing, nada. And this makes me a little crazy. No response is a response. It just doesn’t convey any information. Plus, no response is an immensely powerful response because it creates even more anxiety and depression for me. The problems remain unresolved and there is no resolution in sight. This is a very sucky place to be. No wonder I am feeling distraught and depressed.

Like Lloyd Bridge’s character in Airplane, maybe this is not be a good time to quit smoking pot. But I am moving forward with my plan regardless of the lack of response from my wife and the resulting anxiety and depression due to the lack of healthy communication. I’m going to suck it up and not abandon myself this time. I am taking the month of March off and I will see what living sober does or doesn’t do for me. Only time will tell, but so far, the upside outweighs the downside. We shall see.

I have picked up my guitar on a daily basis which is a good thing. I’ve played guitar since I was 12 years old and you would think I was better at it than I am. My problem is Attention Deficit and this creats an problem with attention. If you want to be good at guitar, it’s important to practice every day and not just practice, but practice with a purpose. Not me. I was never encouraged to practice when I was a teen because it always annoyed my parents. The trumpet annoyed them as well, so I was never good at that either. The problem is I never learned how to practice, and I never had the discipline to practice for the long hours that good guitar players do. 

I become bored easily and this either lead to playing another song before I really learned the previous song, or it led to getting bored and discouraged with my progress. I would become discouraged and would go for long periods of time without practicing at all. All of these patterns were sabotaging my playing ability and now that I am old, my memory is not so good and memorizing songs is a real struggle. Can an old man change his old bad habits or am I relegated to being too embarrassed to play anything in public? Time will tell. I’ll keep you informed about my progress. Right now, it is one day at a time.

I am not focusing on cannabis today because I advocate its use. I am merely expressing my opinion and telling you what my experience with cannabis has been. For me, it has been a good thing. I can’t say what it would be for you. I do support the legalization of cannabis, medical and recreational as well as support the hemp industry as well. This one plant has so much to offer humanity and it needs to be allowed to fulfill its promise. For now, I am simply taking some time off to clear the head you might say. Chances are on April 1st I’ll be rolling up a big ole fatty and firing it up to celebrate a successful campaign. Wish me luck with that. 

Meanwhile, thanks for listening to Out of My Mind in Costa Rica. I really appreciate you taking the time to come by and check out what’s happening here.

If you like what I am doing and you think it deserves more recognition, please share it with people you know who will also benefit from listening to tales of my fucked-up life. Make your voice heard and write a comment or do a review on those platforms that permit you to do that kind of stuff. If you have any questions at all, please send me an email at [email protected]. I will get back to you right away. Although doing this podcast is helping me address my painful dynamics of PTSD and Complex PTSD, ultimately, I am doing this to help you get through the week, the day, or the hour. Don’t forget, I am here for you. 

So, until the next time, Be Courageous. Be Strong and Be Kind. I’ll catch you later. Bye