Why I Gave Up Booze in Favor of Weed


By Sarah Galvin

Many members of my family, myself included, have generalized anxiety disorder, meaning basically we’re scared shitless every minute of the day. People sometimes say things like “Why don’t you try yoga?” These well-meaning people do not know what they’re talking about. I do every nonchemical thing possible for my anxiety—an hour of exercise a day, therapy every two weeks. It’s not an emotional problem, though; it’s the wiring in my brain. It fascinates me that many people don’t seem to realize there is as much structural variation in human brains as human bodies. For me, and several others who share my genes, it’s like some knob is cranked up too high. Everyday life is a flood, equal parts staggering beauty and horror. Makes you want a brandy or five, extra ice…

One side effect of my nightly ritual is that if there are any descriptions of food in whatever I’m reading, I have to stop and eat something. A couple of times, I have literally eaten all the food in my apartment. Once, after reading a description of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I was unable to sleep. I had already showered and brushed my teeth, but I just couldn’t take the visions of peanut butter and jelly beckoning like Playboy centerfolds. I finally got up, made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, ate it, made another peanut butter and jelly sandwich, ate it, made a third peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and ate that. I was in a trance. Their flavor seemed to inhabit my entire body. I put peanut butter on one finger and jelly on another and licked it off, in complete rapture. “Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have possessed me” is one of the hundreds of ridiculously stupid thoughts I have restrained myself from posting on Facebook or texting to friends while high…

One time, after purchasing and sampling some really good bud from a dispensary, I spent 30 minutes cleaning out my dryer’s lint screen.  I vacuumed it.  I wiped it down.  I buffed and shined it.  Poor thing has never had that kind of attention, before or since.

Is addiction about the things we can’t live without?



He has since gotten a haircut and a shave. He has been set up in temporary housing and been offered an account with donations that have hit $35,000. He has been been awarded a full scholarship to finish his college degree. And he has been reunited with his son.

“I was thinking I could just put my hat on the piano and make a couple dollars and get tips,” he told WWSB-TV. “I didn’t expect it to jump out to this.”

There are many missing links in Gould’s story. It’s unclear when and how he became homeless. He acknowledges having a drug and alcohol problem but it’s uncertain when that started. There seems little doubt, however, that he’s got some musical talent.

Gould picked up the clarinet as a child and played for years. He said he played while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. “My music took me around the world before I was 21,” he told WOOD-TV.

Soon after his service, he went home to Michigan to study music at Spring Arbor University. “I took music theory and ear training, and I had to learn how to play every instrument from the piccolo down to the tuba,” he toldWWSB-TV. “I can write parts like a handbook.” He said his dream was to teach but, three years later, he ran out of tuition money.

His drug and alcohol addiction took hold. His wife died. His then 3-year-old son, Donny, was taken away. But in the days after Gould became an Internet celebrity, he told WFLA-TV he hoped all the attention would help him find his boy.

“Every day it’s painful,” he told the news station early last week. “There’s not a day that goes by that they took him that I ain’t thought about him.”

On Tuesday, WFLA-TV in Florida and WOOD-TV in Michigan coordinated a call between Gould and his now 18-year-old son, who lives in Michigan.

“Donny, is that you?” Gould said.

“That’s me,” Donny replied.

“I’ve waited for this moment for a lot of years,” Gould said. “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to be there for you, son.” Gould still struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, WOOD-TV reported.

“I just hoped you’d get your act cleaned up so we could see each other still,” Donny said.

“I hope to make that happen one of these days soon,” Gould replied.  Gould said he plans to check into a rehab facility on Wednesday…

I think just about anybody could develop a drug addiction, just like anyone can catch a cold. Some people recover from a cold to breathe normally again. And for some people, the cold develops into seasonal then year-round allergies.  Cold patients take over-the-counter cold medicine so they don’t suffer through the worst of the illness, and then stop taking it when they begin to breathe normally again.  Allergy sufferers take combinations of decongestants and antihistamines, first through allergy season and then year round.  Believe me, allergy sufferers like me are addicted to their Claritin-D.  (Hey, that rhymes.)  You know, because we’re addicted to breathing without sneezing.  (Intentional rhyme.)

You don’t have to be musically talented like Piano Man to deserve a second chance.  It seems to me that people have a better chance at recovering from cancer than from addiction. And to me, that indicates not only the severity of addiction as an illness, but also, if there was as much funding in addiction as there is in cancer, there might be a better success rate for treating it.

Loving those who suffer from addiction is hard and usually comes with second, third, maybe even a hundred, chances. Unfortunately, the recovery rate for addiction is pretty low, especially through abstinence.  But if you think about it, life in general is the same way.  We give people lots of chances, usually because we know humans make mistakes.  We make mistakes. Addiction is an illness that comes with making a lot of mistakes.  Bad mistakes.  Sometimes, illegal mistakes.  And just like a lot of people I’ve known, drug addicts don’t always learn from their mistakes. Drug addicts are like your average person on steroids, making steroid-level mistakes.

Some drug addicts really are on steroids.  Some are on Claritin-D. Some are addicted to surgery, some to caffeine. (Unintentional rhyme.)  Some are addicted to power and some to showers. Some don’t want to live without coffee, and some can’t live without love.  I’ve known women addicted to alcohol and some to make-up and men.

Is addiction about the things we can’t live without?

I had a shopping addiction once or twice in my life, but I think I’ve finally recovered from that. And I think most people recover from their addictions in their own time.  After all, for a lot of people, life just sucks — and that can always be a gateway to an addiction.  Who doesn’t understand the need to feel better?  Becoming addicted to feeling better is something we’ve all faced at one time or another, whether we need a drug, food, person, or thing.

But drug addiction is about more than just feeling better — it’s really about feeling normal. Think about how it would feel to give up your current “normal.”  Does it feel normal to walk on two legs?  What if that normal feeling was going to be taken away from you?  How hard would you fight for your legs?  As hard as an addict fights for his drug?

Does it feel normal to own a car?  If that car was taken away from you, what would you do? Walk everywhere?  Take away a drug addict’s drug of choice, and it’s like she has to walk everywhere — through mud and against the wind.  Oh, it can be done, but no one ever talks about the amount of effort it takes to live without drugs if you’ve really been addicted to them. Like walking in the snow while it’s raining.

Living without drugs you’ve been dependent on is not the same as living without drugs you’ve been addicted to. When you suffer from a dependency on a drug, you may miss it when it’s gone, but you don’t go to steroid-like lengths to obtain the drug again.  How do you know if you’re addicted to a drug?  When you choose it over the basic necessities.

Since becoming disabled, I’ve chosen Claritin-D over chocolate.  I’ve chosen cigarettes over food. But I knew I would have both chocolate and food again — these are necessities.  I wasn’t giving them up forever.  I don’t know how it would feel to give up chocolate forever, but I know I’m not interested in even contemplating the possibility.  However, I also know that I wouldn’t lie or steal to buy chocolate if I didn’t have any.  That’s how I can define chocolate as a necessity — at times, more of a luxury — and not as one of my addictions.

Thinking about what will happen to Piano Man started me on this post.  And I guess the point I’m trying to make is that we’re all the same. We all have addictions.  But because Piano Man is addicted to drugs and alcohol, many people look down on him.  When they’re really just looking down on themselves.

DEA Destroyed Medical Cannabis


When federal Drug Enforcement Agency agents visited a Santa Fe medical cannabis dispensary after an explosion last week, they seized what local police originally described as “evidence” for an investigation. SFR has since learned that the federal agency yanked all the marijuana plants that were growing there and hauled them away for destruction…

As investigators try to determine more details about what caused the explosion, suspected to have occurred during an extraction process at New MexiCann Natural Medicine’s compound on West San Mateo Lane, attorney Marc Lowry says the management and staff are more concerned about the health and recovery of Nick Montoya, 29, and Aaron Smith, 28, who received third-degree burns and remain hospitalized.

Yet the loss of the 150 plants—conservatively valued at $750,000—will impact New MexiCann’s fall harvest and ongoing operation…

In the meantime, SFR has also learned inspectors from the city’s fire marshal office visited New MexiCann’s facility after the producer filed a certificate of occupancy, but Fire Marshal Rey Gonzales Jr. says the gas extraction equipment was not in place during his team’s original site visit…

Meanwhile, Lowry says that Len Goodman, the founder of New MexiCann, is engaged in open dialog with all law enforcement and government agencies and is waiting to get a green light after the investigations are concluded before reopening his Santa Fe location.

Other state-licensed producers tell SFR they’re in discussions and plan to provide New MexiCann new plants so Goodman’s patients have a consistent supply of medication and he’s set back up in time to plant a new winter crop…


New MexiCann is one of the largest dispensaries in New Mexico, and one of the few that are expanding.  New MexiCann’s owner has said in the past that this state doesn’t need additional dispensaries.  I wonder what he thinks now?  There’s been talk of shortages ever since the program began about 8 years ago, and the resulting shortages from this explosion will add to the problem.

Growing plants is a risky business.  There’s bugs, mold, weather, chemicals, bad seeds, and other things that can ruin your product.  (And there’s always the DEA.)  The small number of dispensaries in this state (and all the things that can go wrong) harms patients every day.

Political strategies in the war against pain patients

In trying to help pain patients understand that the war against them is not because of drug addicts, doctor-shoppers, or any other group of patients, I’ve used the drug war so we can see the bigger picture.

Just like you can compare the issues in our history of alcohol prohibition to the federal government’s refusal to legalize cannabis, it is interesting to see how the political strategies for the overall drug war have been adapted to the war against pain patients.


In the book, Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure (we urge you to read it if you have not already done so), author Dan Baum explains:

The [Nixon] White House lived by the principles of the southern strategy, and Dent’s office had its own lingo. There were issues that mattered to “our” people, and those that mattered to “their” people. “Their” people were what the White House called “the young, the poor, and the black.” The phrase rolled off the tongue like one word: theyoungthepoorandtheblack. The young were the longhaired student antiwar types for whom the president had open and legendary contempt; the poor and the black were leftover concerns from the Great Society.

Brownell daily read a dozen newspapers from around the country and clipped stories that played on those themes. He looked for stories about badly managed social programs, watched for currents of localized resentment, combed the columns for colorful quotes and juicy anecdotes the presidential speechwriters might use. He particularly kept an eye out for drug stories. Drugs were one thing the young, the poor, and the black all seemed to have in common.

In the old days, marijuana was cheap and used by poor people because of that, but you can’t say that today.  Of course, the amount of disposable income available for luxuries like health care have decreased a lot since the old days.  And if you think that illegal drugs are not part of health care, then you must also think that legal drugs aren’t part of health care.

And I’m not only talking about legal drugs that require a prescription, but also legal drugs like caffeine, sugar, and nicotine.  What, did you think you weren’t self-medicating with every cup of coffee or energy drink?  Do you think you should have to pay a doctor for access to that drug? Should that drug be illegal?  Should caffeine and nicotine be included in the DEA’s drug scheduling list?

Despite Nixon’s assertion to the Disneyland crowd that drugs were “decimating a generation of Americans,” drugs were so tiny a public health problem that they were statistically insignificant: far more Americans choked to death on food or died falling down stairs as died from illegal drugs.

So Brownell was delighted that the media were inflating the story by melding the tiny “hard drug” heroin threat with the widespread “soft drug” marijuana craze. Marijuana, Brownell knew, was a perfect focus for the anger against the antiwar counterculture that Nixon shared with “his people.” Brownell dug out a-recent clip from Newsweek: “Whether picketing on campus or parading barefoot in hippie regalia, the younger generation seems to be telling [the middle-class American] that his way of life is corrupt, his goals worthless and his treasured institutions doomed. Logically enough, a good many middle-class citizens tend to resent the message.” In an article Brownell might have penned himself, Newsweek identified the targets of that middle-class resentment this way: “The incendiary black militant and the welfare mother, the hedonistic hippie and the campus revolutionary.” The young, the poor, and the black. Nixon couldn’t make it illegal to be young, poor, or black, but he could crack down hard on the illegal drug identified with the counterculture.

The federal government cannot make it illegal to suffer from chronic pain, but it can crack down hard on the drug treatments identified with chronic pain.  Working- and Middle-class resentment against those on welfare or disability is nothing new, but now a lot more middle-class people have moved into the working-class and are part of the poor.  So don’t be fooled that these loud voices of resentment contain as large of a group as they did in the old days.

Just like in the overall drug war, the war against pain patients is also about the grief of parents who have lost children to drug addiction and their resentment against the drugs involved, which they blame.  And now those drugs include opioids, many times being blamed as a “gateway” drug to heroin.  Some people still think cannabis is a “gateway” drug to stronger drugs like heroin, but I think the research says differently.  (Besides which, the gateway drug theory isn’t even a theory anymore — it’s more like a joke.)

John Erlichman (of Watergate fame) eventually admitted that the drug war had been dreamed up by Nixon and his team because it was too good not to do so:

Anybody who thinks this is the wrong fight for the NAACP should take a peek at this note from the diary of H.R. Haldeman, President Nixon’s chief of staff, referring to the launch of the war on drugs 40 years ago.

“[President Nixon] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks,” Haldeman wrote. “The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”

For the war against pain patients, the system includes the PDMPs, patient contracts, drug testing, pill counts, and the blurring of definitions for dependency, abuse and addiction.  When you criminalize a drug, you criminalize the people who use it.  When you criminalize a medical condition like addiction, you also criminalize the people who might potentially suffer from it. And then a pain patient is automatically guilty (of abuse or addiction) and has to continually prove their innocence (through drug tests, pill counts, checking the blacklist, etc.).

That system turned out to be the War on Drugs, with marijuana being put in the same category as such drugs as heroin and morphine. Nixon’s White House counsel, John Ehrlichman, verified the intention of the War on Drugs in a 1995 interview with author Dan Baum, author of Smoke and Mirrors: The war on drugs and the politics of failure.

For the war against pain patients, illegal heroin is put in the same category as prescription medications.  Meaning, people who use opioids are as “bad” as the people who use heroin.

“Look, we understood we couldn’t make it illegal to be young or poor or black in the United States, but we could criminalize their common pleasure,” Ehrlichman confessed. “We understood that drugs were not the health problem we were making them out to be, but it was such a perfect issue for the Nixon White House that we couldn’t resist it.”
(From, Joining the fight: Not your grandfather’s NAACP, by Larry Gabriel.)

The war on drugs has been a sham since day one. That alone is reason to end it.

Because the war on drugs is a sham (and a failure), then the war against pain patients is also a sham (and will also be a failure).  But it’s taken over 40 years for the drug war to start winding down. How long do you think it will take for the war against pain patients to turn around?

Back in the old days, when the drug war first started, there were a lot of political motivations behind it.  It’s not hard to see the political motivations behind the war against pain patients, but it is hard to count them all.  Since the Great Recession (I don’t know what else to call it), there are now less rich people at the top pulling the political strings. Unfortunately, the amount of money involved only increases as time goes by, even though it’s held by fewer people. Regardless, one of the “people” with the most money will always be the federal government. And the federal government spends a significant portion of its money on the drug war — really, on any and all wars.

Hey, don’t we fund the federal government?  Aren’t we some of the investors in this corporation? Trouble is, we’re only small investors — corporations are really the “people” with all the money. How do pain patients fight corporations?

A strategy for pain patients would be to connect with advocacy groups that have more political clout, like the environmental or gay rights movements.  (I’ve personally tried to find interest in the issues of pain patients from marijuana advocacy groups, but received no response.)  But first, we would have to make up a big enough group for other groups to take us seriously. And I guess we would also need funding — good luck with that.