I truly feel blessed and extremely fortunate to be alive today, and I attribute a great deal of this good fortune to cannabis. I wasn’t always the well behaved, friendly, and positive person I am today. I spent the majority of my life in a very dark place, especially as a child, and I’m lucky to have turned my life around. There was a time when I was on a road only leading to prison, death, or both. It was at this time I came to a crossroads, and I decided to change my life for the better. It hasn’t been easy. As a matter of fact, it’s been most difficult, and I still struggle daily with PTSD related issues and anxiety that cannabis helps me cope with. As I begin to share my story with you, which I’ve never done before, I can feel my anxiety creeping up, so know as you read these words, I was consuming cannabis to help me focus.
My childhood was a rocky one. My biological father abandoned my mother and I at a very early age and I was raised by a single mother, who was an alcoholic and drug addict. It wouldn’t be until much later in my life when reflecting on my behavior that I would realize how much this affected me. My mother had several boyfriends before marrying the man who would go on to legally adopt me, and whom I’m now proud to call my father, but I didn’t always have the same level of respect and admiration as I do now. Prior to marrying my father, who was also an alcoholic, she was in a few relationships with men whose names I’ve forgotten but drunken beaten rages I have not. I can’t remember why they happened, but I remember thinking at that time I deserved them, for whatever reason. The beatings stopped once my mother stopped dating and married my father. Sure, he’d whoop my ass with a belt pretty regularly, but it was better than getting punched and kicked by grown men. I had those dark thoughts of deserving those beatings often, because I was raised to believe I was a “bad kid”.
This isn’t my parent’s fault, and is more of a societal issue, but many hands were involved in shaping my self identity. With my mother always drinking, as well as taking over the counter speed medication and other drugs, she would often let her anger for my biological father out by telling me bad things about him. I was born on the Fort Riley, KS military base where my biological father was stationed. The only thing I know about his military record is that he worked as an MP and was dishonorably discharged from the military for smuggling drugs. She also told me stories of his constant alcohol and drug abuse, how he was a terrible person and untrustworthy. This made me feel like my biological father was this terrible person/criminal and I must have that in me, because time and time again, my mother would tell me I was just like him. Why? Because I acted out constantly, but in retrospect I acted out for attention. With both of my parents being alcoholics, they would often party. During the day they would tell me to go outside and play. At night they would tell me to stay in my room and watch TV. The following mornings they wouldn’t get up until after noon so I was forced into a life of early independence and mostly solitude. Given my traumatic experiences, I found it very difficult to make friends and was almost always alone. I’ve learned now it was this feeling of always being alone, and frankly afraid and unloved, that caused me to act out in desperate attempts to grasp feeling loved, secure, and safe.
What do I mean by act out? Well it started with being an all around smartass with a short temper, who was prone to fits of explosive verbal rage. I would often get in heated verbal arguments with teachers and other children. My mother’s work phone was literally on my principal’s speed dial. I spent a majority of my elementary school years in and out of solitary isolated detention, in what was literally a closet with a desk, no windows, and only one door that stayed shut. When I wasn’t at school, I was often under punishment at home which consisted of more solitary confinement in which I was only allowed to sit on my bed. Due to my erratic behavior I was dragged to countless counselors, psychologists, and therapists where I refused to speak to any of them. Sometimes sitting silent for entire hours as they tried to break me, but never succeeding. Eventually my parents gave up on that since I wouldn’t cooperate, but my behavior continued to get worse. As young as 8 years old I was a regular pyromanic, kleptomaniac, vandal, and bully. I quickly became the usual suspect in my neighborhood for any stolen goods, random fires, and property damage. The sheriff’s and local police regularly visited my home with questions, warnings, and threats of jail time, but never had any evidence for convictions, even though I was almost always clearly guilty. It wouldn’t be until 17 years old when I would finally be arrested, convicted, and incarcerated for two felonies. One felony was possession of a controlled substance, which was marijuana, and the other was intent to distribute. It was during my incarceration and time in court ordered rehab when I decided to change my life for the better, but addiction has a powerful hold.
At the time of my arrest I was addicted to alcohol, cocaine, and several prescription pharmaceuticals, including Xanax, Vicodin, and Tramadol, just to name a few. I was also consuming marijuana. I want to take this time to make it clear, my gateway drug was alcohol, which I first got at home. Then it was prescription pharmaceuticals, which I got out of my parent’s medicine cabinet at home. Marijuana, which I tried later and I contribute a lot of my success in overall sobriety to, was obtained on the street so it was harder for me to get to. This all took place in the middle of my junior year of high school, and even though I missed a full term of the school year, I still managed to graduate on time. When I returned to school I was on probation and had to participate in an outpatient rehab program. It still didn’t stop me from relapsing. I began to drink alcohol again, and I started stealing my parents pain meds. I would often show up to outpatient rehab high out of my mind on pills and still passing my random drug tests due to a water bottle set up clipped inside my pants. Knowing if I got caught I would literally lose my freedom, it’s amazing the lengths I was willing to go, just to make sure I could get my pill fix. I was released from outpatient rehab after just a few months and continued my downward spiral, picking up my cocaine habit again very heavily until hitting rock bottom for me, which was losing the love of my life. She had enough of my drug addiction and even though I promised I would quit the drugs, she refused to see me. It was at this rock bottom moment when I would begin to make serious life changes in order to escape my self made world of torment and addiction.
With the hope of one day reuniting with the love of my life, I quit cocaine, prescription and over the counter pharmaceuticals, alcohol, and even marijuana, all cold turkey. I spent the second half of my senior year in high school separating myself from the crowd and people who I used to hang out with in order to avoid drugs and alcohol. This left me with a lot of free time so I began reading numerous books on addiction. How it happens. Why it happens. How you can overcome it. I dove deeply into my psychology coursework, which would heavily influence my decision to obtain a Bachelors Degree in Psychology. I managed to stay sober of all drugs and alcohol for about 6 months before almost having a cocaine and opioid relapse. I resisted, but only by starting to smoke marijuana again was I able to hold off the cravings of my addictions. Rather than distract my thoughts of cocaine and opioids, I found it gave me a sense of clarity, and focus, allowing me to be more mindful and conscious of my emotional states, which are my triggers for drug use.
When I turned 18, my juvenile criminal record was expunged, so it did not affect my professional career. It could have ruined my entire life so I took this opportunity to rebuild myself into a new man, and I was able to turn my entire life around thanks to cannabis. Having beaten a drug addiction and resulting criminal action, I was able to get a part time job at a bank delivering office supplies. It would be a year after graduating high school before I would start attending Columbia College at night and online, and graduated all while working full time for the bank. I would work for this company for almost 8 years, working my way through several positions and promotions, lastly as a Branch Manager, before turning down a Regional Manager position to create a life more meaningful. During those 8 years, and to this day, I never once touched cocaine or opioids, but unfortunately, at 19 years old, with just a year of sobriety under my belt, I gave into my alcoholism socially and then began to drink heavily into my mid 20’s before managing to quit alcohol all together in my late 20’s, thanks to cannabis. I also knew nothing about nutrition, and made no attempts to learn about it. When I was managing banks I drank all the free soda I wanted at work, and I ate fast food almost every day. I spent the majority of my time at work, sitting behind my desk in a chair, with no fitness routine at home. I wouldn’t start to take my fitness, nutrition, and overall health more seriously until learning about food intolerances with the woman I was dating at the time, who is now my wife, Heather.
As fate would have it, Heather is the same girl in high school who refused to see me again, and to whom I made my promise to quit drugs. Four years after splitting up, we met again. I was able to apologize for my behavior as an addict, and show her that I had kept my promise. We rekindled our relationship and have been together ever since. Heather’s food intolerances sparked our education into nutrition, which lead to fitness, and her epilepsy would lead us to research more about cannabis. We already knew at the time it helped us both cope with the stress and anxiety of our lives. I personally consumed cannabis every day before going into work as a Bank Manager. I consumed cannabis before board meetings, chamber of commerce meetings, community events, and especially when I had to speak in front of large crowds. Under the influence of cannabis I spoke and interacted with executive leadership, business owners, and elected officials. Under the influence of cannabis I successfully trained and coached award winning sales teams, and the branches under my management were some of the most successful in the company. I was even under the influence of cannabis in every job interview I took with the company, in which I was extremely successful in being hired for promotions.
I stand here today as an entrepreneur with a professional resume of business accolades, a independently produced hip hop artist, and also as a cannabis athlete who is drug and alcohol free, as well as fast food and soda free. I take my fitness, nutrition, and overall wellbeing seriously and I do so with cannabis. I completed my first 5k in 2015. This was the very first race I had ever competed in. I spent the majority of 2016 training for this year, and in 2017 I became the first male to complete an entire 420 Games National Tour to help change the public’s perception of cannabis. I placed 4th in the La Sportiva Beaver Creek 5k and 8th in the La Sportiva Berry Picker, which was a 4.8 mile uphill climb with 14% average grades. I also placed 1st in my age group at Realm of Caring’s Run for the Realm 5k. I’m sharing all of this with many hopes. One is to prove that people can change, and you can do what you set your mind to. I want everyone to know, there are no bad people, only bad behaviors. You can choose to make better decisions. You can choose to be a better person. I was facing a dark road that would only lead to prison or death, but I chose to take a different path and cannabis played a huge role in that. Not only did I turn my entire life around from felony incarceration, to managing entire banks, I also ended up with the woman of my dreams. I am here to prove that cannabis does not make you lazy, unsuccessful, or a bad person. I am also here to stand as an example that opioid addiction is a serious issue that needs to be addressed among adults, and teens. Cannabis can help with opioid addiction, and replace several opioid prescriptions, resulting in fewer pills on the street. On top of these reasons for me choosing to stand and advocate for the legalization of cannabis, my parents are another. My mother is on disability with fibromyalgia and my father has diabetes and is a disabled United States Air Force Veteran. They live in Missouri, a non-legal state, and currently take opioids for their conditions. The sooner they can have access to cannabis, the better their quality of life will be. Clearly, the legalization of cannabis is important to me personally, for several reasons, and I will not stop until it is legalized globally. When it is, I will continue to share my story of hope and to educate as many people as possible about the many incredible benefits of this amazing plant.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to my story.