able/disabled, aging, disabilities, health, mobility

Good Night, Sweet Prince

And how tragic that he died too soon. I empathize with this 57-year-old who had to live and perform while suffering from chronic pain. Yet his need to dance and sing demanded that he be exceptionally mobile. No doubt, he tried everything to erase the pain and then opioids became his salvation, or so he thought.

In contrast, I am an 84-year-old woman whose major mobility demands consist of just getting out of bed in the morning, sitting down in a chair and then rising from it. I also struggle with getting into and out of the car.

Like Prince, I possess prescription opioids, specifically, Vicodin. However, I am reluctant to use it because it works too well. One recent afternoon, my pain was so extreme that I resorted to taking one tablet. It knocked me out so intensely I was unaware that my friend, Mariah, had rung the doorbell, entered the house and walked into my bedroom, talked to me, banged around the house while resetting quail blocks, left a note and stuck it to the cellphone lying beside me before departing. Despite all this activity, I was totally out.

That scared me and reinforced my distrust of strong pain medications. Because I know that they are easy to get hooked on, I have tried many alternative pain relief methods: acupuncture, epidural injections, wearing a supportive belt, daily gym sessions, physical therapy, massage therapy, traction, chiropractic adjustments. The results have been mostly unsuccessful.

Finally, I consulted with a medical marijuana guidance counselor. She thought that the herb would be helpful and explained the steps needed to become a licensed New Mexico user. I received my license five weeks after sending in the paperwork.

At first, I felt self-conscious waiting in the NM certified dispensary. I wasn’t alone in my discomfort. One day, a middle-aged woman admitted that she used to scold her teenagers when they were experimenting with “pot.” Now her amused son accompanies her when she makes a purchase.

Likewise, my late husband used to warn our teenagers: “If others at the party are smoking pot, you have to leave.” Yeah, sure.

Norine wearing t-shirt from MJ Expresso. Outline of the state of New Mexico. Indicates that the cannabis is grown in New Mexico. Note the small Marijuana plant in the "O." Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2016.
Norine wearing t-shirt from MJ Expresso. Outline of the state of New Mexico to indicate that the cannabis is grown in New Mexico. Note the small Marijuana plant in the “O.” Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2016.

My now-adult children often tease me about what Dad would say if he knew about my taking marijuana. I’m sure he’d be happy that I am getting pain relief via an ancient natural herb without fatal consequences. Medical records show that no one has ever died from marijuana. Besides, I only take one capsule at night allowing me to get out of bed pain-free. Consequently, by morning I feel competent to drive without endangering anyone, including myself.

I have become a familiar and welcome customer at the cannabis dispensary. They open the door for me without first having me show my ID outside the establishment; one of the workers regularly greets me with, “Hi, Norine.”

The last time I was there, they had a sign: Become a life member All I had to do was buy a t-shirt and wear it for future purchases to receive a 4% discount.

What a difference. Marijuana is safe. Vicodin is dangerous. Besides, with Vicodin, you get No Lousy T-Shirt.

 

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who realizes that cannabis is not a panacea. As she ages (deteriorates) she will have to supplement with other modalities of pain relief.

food, health

From Naive 1950s Newlywed to Savvy Great-Granny Certified Medical Marijuana Consumer

I tried to appear nonchalant as I strolled the supermarket aisles looking for the location of brownie mixes.  Nonetheless, I felt self-conscious.  It reminded me of when, as a teen, I bought my first sanitary napkins or later, when I purchased condoms and feminine hygiene products.

Brownie baked with medical marijuana.  © Norine Dresser, photo collection, photo by Mariah Chase, 2014.
Brownie baked with medical marijuana. © Norine Dresser, photo collection, photo by Mariah Chase, 2014.

Who will know what I’m doing?  Will they care what a cane-dependent 82-year-old is tossing into her shopping cart?  Of course not, but in the middle of furtive first acts, paranoia runs high.

Speaking of high, that is exactly what I am NOT seeking.  Instead, I am looking for pain relief.  I have tried everything else but without lasting success: acupuncture, epidural injections under sedation, massage, chiropractic adjustments, herbs, poultices, and worst of all Vicodin.

I used to wake up in the morning in pain with tingling and numbness in my left leg and foot necessitating analgesics and the use of a heating pad.  Involuntary sounds of “ooh, ooh, ooh” escaped me as I hobbled about.  During the day I couldn’t walk very far before leg and back pain forced me to sit down and rest, and by suppertime, the pain struck my upper legs.

Then someone suggested that I try cannabis, medical marijuana, as a pain killer.  Now thanks to ingesting it before bedtime, I can just hop out of bed without discomfort and head directly for the coffee pot.

My family has had such a good time at my expense.  My son calls me “pot-head” and my brother addresses me as his “stoner-sister.”  I laugh with them because I am so grateful to have found something that brings relief.

The delicious irony of all this is that when our children were hippies, my late husband and I constantly warned them about the fictitious danger of using pot.  Naively, we advised, “Just say no.”  Now they are laughing at me and asking, “What would Dad have thought about your taking marijuana?”

My guess is that he would support my decision to take a pain killer that is less toxic than prescribed narcotics, has few side effects, and offers reprieve from suffering.

 

Norine Dresser is a folklorist, award-winning columnist for the Los Angeles Times and retired university faculty member: www.norinedresser.com