Marihuana and Stress
I guess it has been about 11 years since my first joint. It began during my teenage years in a social context, but quickly progressed to what I call the "expansion phase." I picked-up the guitar about a year and a half after first getting stoned. The pot allowed me to embrace learning about the instrument, musical arrangements, and creative lyrical content. I have truly experienced an expansion of thought while under its influence. In fact, while in college, my best friend and I routinely got high to discuss our honors classesdebating a wide range of issues including community and citizenship. My thesis exemplified my interest in our ability to control our own thoughts during problem solving, known in the psychological community as metacognition. In those days, being stoned was a way to explore new ideas, solidify old ones, and express my creativity through music.
Over the past decade, I have smoked just about every day, the exception being those months when I needed a breather, or couldnt find any. Now, my use of marihuana has demonstrated the multiplicity of its offerings.
Bear with me as I provide you with a brief history.
Two years ago, my wife and I had a son, Dillon. The doctors identified three symptoms indicating something was very wronglow platelet counts (3K to 30K versus the normal range of 150K to 350K), eczema, and susceptibility to infection. Even under the direction of one of the top pediatric hematologists in the country, the team of doctors were not able to come up with a diagnosis. When we would ask which tests were being run this time around, we were told, "Dont worry about that right now. If we told you every test we were running, you would become too concerned and afraid for your sons life. Most of the tests are just to rule out possibilities." When pressed, they would respond, "Okay, well we have ruled out meningitis, leukemia, cancer, etc."
Understandably, we were very frightened as first-time parents. The unknown combined with the possibility of his death made us extremely volatile. We found that by getting high, we were able to enjoy the time we spent with our son, as opposed to dwelling on the fact that he was in grave danger.
In his 11th month, Dillon was finally diagnosed with Wiscott Aldrich Syndrome (WAS) -- a rare, genetic blood disorder that prevents the bone marrow from producing blood components properly. Thus, his platelets were too small to clot and died off rapidly, and his T cells could not fight off most infectious diseases. The disease is fatal without intervention in the first four to five years. The only option for eliminating the WAS, was for our 11-month-old son to receive a bone marrow transplant. What an impending situation to be thrust into! As new parents in our twenties, we had never known this amount of stress. Luckily, getting stoned allowed us to remove the focus on the possibility of death, and shift it toward enjoying Dillon.
Our insurance company insisted that Dillon have his transplant at the Childrens Hospital in Los Angeles. Having both grown up in a college town in Colorado, relocating to LA for 3 months was not our idea of fun. But at 13 months, Dillon underwent 9 days of intensive chemotherapy in LA to completely kill off his entire blood system. Then, on the 10th day after the chemo started, he received his new bone marrow. I wont go into all of the thoughts that enter a parents mind when in this situation. But even after the transplant, the likelihood for survival was as low as 70%.
Imagine spending every waking hour in a 10 foot by 10 foot, "boy-in-the-bubble" hospital room. We were required to wear "space suits" so as not to bring ANY bacteria, fungi, or viruses into the room. You see, he literally had no immune system. For two and a half months, my wife and I were not able to touch his skin with ours or to kiss him. Finally his blood showed signs of accepting the new marrow and he began to recover. He was finally discharged and able to return homestill under a medical quarantine.
Throughout this ordeal, an incredible amount of stress entered our lives. Not one day passed without the thought of losing our son. In fact, he is still not out of the woods but is much closer to a complete recovery. Without the ability to "anesthetize" ourselves by getting high, one of us would have had a nervous breakdown. My wife is a "Type A" and I think it would have been her first. But the pot made us feel somewhat relaxed, somewhat okay, and less anxious about our son.
So, in addition to being a drug of mind-expanding qualities, I deeply feel it also has far-reaching decompression implications, a way to release the pressure valve in your head. It certainly has helped my wife and me relieve some of the burden associated with having a chronically ill child. On top of that, it has wonderful recreational characteristicsmost of which are discussed in delightful detail in other submissions on your marijuana uses site (www.marijuana-uses.com). But I am most thankful for marihuana because I have access to a non-destructive outlet for my emotional toils, in addition to an avenue for mind-expanding endeavors.
For the past few months I have been taking a breather from getting high. But I think next weekend, when I celebrate my birthday on a camping trip in the Rocky Mountains, I will take some ganga and commune with nature, my family, my friends, and my music.