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CHAPTER 8/THE “CRUTCH” OF CANNABIS USE, AND WHY YOU MIGHT NOT NEED HELP FROM A PROFESSIONAL

THE “CRUTCH” OF CANNABIS USE, AND WHY YOU MIGHT NOT NEED HELP FROM A PROFESSIONAL

There’s no doubt that therapists and other mental health professionals serve a very important function. People dealing with things like mental illness, severe childhood trauma, and terminal illness are in dire need of intervention from well-educated and highly trained professionals. Through either genetics or childhood events, some have been dealt an incredibly bad hand in the poker game that is life. It is extremely unlikely they would be able to achieve even a basic level of functionality or happiness on their own.

 Sadly, a large portion of the “normal” population also suffers from less severe but similarly rooted depression or anxiety. They, too, naturally seek out these professionals. In the grip of suicidal depression, it was certainly the first place I looked for help. It’s an incredibly appealing idea, that through a calculated process of discovery and understanding you can almost “fix” your brain and start a new life.

 I used to literally daydream about having the means to regularly see a psychiatrist, lying on my back while some bespectacled genius traced the source of every problem I had to some specific event in childhood or something physically wrong with my brain that could be easily corrected once understood.

 This is not reality.

 For many people, there are a few problems that I believe can be, practically speaking, “solved” by cannabis use. This isn’t to suggest that most mental health professionals are incompetent, only that their goals and methods might sometimes be unrealistic or illogical in the face of more practical solutions.

 Based on my experience, the primary issues relate to time, access and, of course, money. First of all, unless you’re dealing with very serious issues, you probably won’t be getting a referral to a psychiatrist. Whatever doctor you’re dealing with is most likely going to attempt to treat you themselves with a battery of antidepressants and anti anxiety medications. If you do actually get referred to a non-private psychiatrist, you might not be happy at how quickly you’re “diagnosed,” prescribed medication, and sent on your way. These people’s time is extremely limited.

 Therapists are great, but are rarely covered by whatever medical program you’re under, and if they are, it’s usually a small allowance of around $500 for therapy, which would pay for about three sessions. So, you’re probably looking at paying out of pocket. Most therapists would tell you, and I would agree, that to get some serious momentum going, once a week is a good number of sessions, or once every two weeks at an absolute minimum. Even the most ambitious therapist or psychologist would concede that to unravel a lifetime of problems takes quite a while. Some people have been seeing therapists for 30 years and still haven’t achieved the peace of mind and understanding they were after.

 I would ballpark it at anywhere from $3000 to $5000 for a serious attempt at achieving your goals with a therapist. And there’s zero guarantee it will add up to anything—sadly, the case for myself and many others. It’s extremely difficult for a person who sees you for two hours a month to turn around stuff that started in the womb and has been going on for 20 or 30 years. And if you or the therapist “burn out” and you start with someone else, it’s back to square one.

 So, you have to ask yourself, is it worth it? Is it worth all the time, all the money, and the constant struggle if there might be an easier way out? I believe for many of us, cannabis is a way out, a gift from the earth to deal with the inevitable pain life brings. I have absolutely zero interest in engaging in some never-ending examination of past, current, and future events or “discovering the authentic me” when simply ingesting compounds from a plant can make me feel fine.

 It’s a horrifying concept to mental health professionals, addiction counsellors, and other staunchly anti-cannabis groups that value their version of “sobriety” as the absolute be-all, end-all of human virtue and existence. (Many of which, I’ll note, paradoxically prescribe mood-altering drugs to almost everyone they deal with.) I somewhat understand where they’re coming from—some sense of utopian idealism. But for me, there’s just not enough time. Tomorrow is promised to no man.

I’ve seen way too many “normal” people get killed in accidents or become terminally ill before 40. Enough people who did all the “right” things (like not using cannabis) and still destroyed their lives have left me with little desire to care anymore. I’d rather just forget about a lot of stupid shit that’s happened to me and be happy today. Right now. And if there happens to be a plant available to me that can do that with fairly laughable “consequences,” I’m all in.

 Yet this kind of thinking enrages the average doctor or counsellor. This is where major alarm bells should be going off for you. Be very careful about the advice of someone who’s supposedly dedicated their lives to helping people…but only on their terms.

 Some people in the world of mental health and medicine only seem to care about you being happier if they get credit for it, and would actually rather see you fail if you have the audacity to not blindly follow them. Many of these people have never used cannabis and know virtually nothing about it, relying on heavily biased and outdated studies and ridiculous stereotypes. It doesn’t belong to them and doesn’t fall under their often arbitrary ideas of “good” and “bad.”

 This is why most doctors would never prescribe you cannabis but will happily load you up with antidepressants or opiates. It would be foolish to think the mainstream medical industry is ever going to stand up and admit that a bunch of uneducated “stoners” might have been right, that they might have been wrong, and that a plant is sometimes more effective than their treatments.

 And, on the subject of antidepressants and anxiety medication, I was turned into a soulless zombie by these substances. I take responsibility for my own actions, as I came looking for help and didn’t question what I was being told to put in my body.

 But I have no doubt antidepressants played a huge role in my basically losing five to ten years of my life in an apathetic haze. I became seriously addicted; I almost had a harder time getting off them than I did getting off opiates. It took almost a year, and my emotions were an absolute rollercoaster, not to mention some bizarre withdrawal symptoms.

 This, despite numerous assurances from my doctor that they were not addictive (and that I needed to stop using cannabis).

 It was later hilariously explained to me by another mental health professional that my doctor was right- antidepressants aren’t addictive, they only cause dependency. As if that semantic distinction makes an ounce of difference to someone who feels like they’ve got a low-volt Taser attached to their brain, and the emotional capacity of an eighth grader after dropping down to 10mg of Celexa.

 This is the danger of taking advice about what drugs to put in your body from people who have never put those drugs in their bodies.

 Cannabis is unlike any other plant or substance on Earth. It cannot be compared to alcohol or other drugs. It contains hundreds of different compounds, and how they interact with our bodies is poorly understood at this point and likely will be for some time. We have nothing to rely on but the signals our own bodies send us and our own intuitive sense of right or wrong. You have to figure this out on your own. For myself and many others, the signals are clear.

 I always used cannabis, but like many, I thought I might be doing something “wrong.” I took the advice of therapists, counsellors, and doctors who told me abstinence from cannabis, regular therapy, and antidepressants would solve my problems. It wasn’t until I trusted my heart and truly embraced my cannabis use that my life got better. And easier. And I saved a lot of money and time. And guess what else? I ended up being happier, more active, and more physically fit than most of the professionals who told me cannabis use was ruining my life!

 I don’t give all the credit to cannabis use for my success, and it’s obviously not for everyone. At the end of the day, it’s up to us to get things done, regardless of whether we use or not.

 But that’s part of the empowerment of cannabis use—you know that all you need is your own will and desire. For those times when life is really pressing you, the earth has blessed us with an incredible gift as shelter through the storm.

 Some people would say that’s the “easy way out” or “running from your problems.” I would instead suggest it’s extremely intelligent. Would you chop down a tree one branch at a time while I chop it at the base because you don’t want to “take the easy way out”?

 And I don’t have much patience for any nonsense about being “dependent” on cannabis for happiness; it’s about as tough to quit as coffee should it become a problem. And if it weren’t subject to such ridiculous prohibitions and taxes, it would cost about a dollar a gram, meaning supply shouldn’t be an issue for anyone. The argument makes as much sense as saying we’re dependent on vegetables for happiness. All right, maybe so. Who gives a shit? We should be concerned with having a high quality of life, not how we achieve it.

 For most people, the consequences of cannabis use are very manageable. So, if you enjoy it, why wouldn’t you use a tool that makes your life better without needing an appointment every Thursday afternoon to remind yourself how unhappy you are? I don’t care anymore about what happened or how I feel about it, and neither should you.

 Life is passing us by at every moment, and I only have use for the present. Not a past that is gone and I can never get my hands around, or a future that doesn’t exist. Cannabis use is about honoring the moment, while traditional therapy and counselling seem to inevitably draw you back into the past and can reinforce the idea that something is fundamentally wrong with you.

 And this is no pet theory based on my own experiences. Google “does therapy work,” and you’ll see a growing number of well-researched articles and studies with conclusions on the dubious effectiveness of talk therapy.

 For those who are doing very well financially, dropping $15,000 a year on this stuff is no big deal, and some people choose that route regardless of financial consequences. I commend anyone trying to become a better person, regardless of the method. But for the rest of us, cannabis use can be an incredible tool to overcome things like insomnia or anxiety, which are symptoms of underlying issues.

 It’s a noble cause to try and address those issues at their absolute root, but for me, it simply wasn’t worth it. We have limited time on this planet, and sometimes the pursuit of “knowing your true self” or “finding the authentic you” is a waste of time. You are always the authentic you; what else could you be?

 I’m happy with who I am, and the idea that there’s some utopian version of “you” hidden beneath the surface is probably a fallacy and can be dangerous. That shift in attitude surrounding my cannabis use and who I was changed my life and helped get me to a place of happiness and energy that could have taken ten years of therapy to achieve, if it ever came.

 If you’re going to spend your money on trying to enrich your life, my suggestion would be in most cases to spend it on a personal trainer, a better gym membership, or your food budget. Use that money to take time off work and just be for a while. But don’t waste it trying to achieve an ideal that may not exist.

 All you should need to be happy is yourself. If the world isn’t perfect, who says it has to be? Being “sober” is far from a guarantee of happiness. So, if at this point in your life, all you need to be happy is yourself and a little bit of green…. I’d say that’s a pretty good deal.