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Turning Pain into Power with Medical Cannabis

I am a 32-year-old father of 4. Before this, I had only had experiences with cannabis in my teens. I rarely drink alcohol and can go months or years without drinking a drop. I don't smoke or do any other recreational drugs. I have always wanted to be a good father and partner and just trying to give my family the life that they deserve. I was in a serious accident at work back in April of 2016. I was left with spinal cord injuries, and my life changed forever. At the time, my partner and I had our first child and were expecting our second. I had never experienced such pain and suffering, and I was given a whole cocktail of powerful drugs from day one. No one ever told me how bad they were. You expect something that a doctor gives you to be safe, and over time the dose just keeps getting higher and stronger.

Fast forward to 2021, I have had 14 surgeries to help with the injuries I had sustained during my workplace accident, which include spinal injury, neurological bladder dysfunction, sleep paralysis, PTSD, and severe depression and anxiety, plus more. I went through hell with this whole injury that was not even my fault; it was due to lack of safety measures, and I paid the price. Out of the 14 operations I have had, 3 of these operations had complications that nearly ended my life, further worsening my mental health. I was hospitalised 3 times and spent 6 weeks at a time in a mental health facility, as it was so hard to make it through every day. I did not feel like life was worth it anymore, and that is huge for me to say as I love my children and partner more than life itself.

In 2022, I was a walking, talking zombie. I was taking a 40 mg Targin twice a day, 3 Endone 5mg every 4 hours, 2 Valium 5mg every 4 hours, 2 Panadol every 6 hours, and 2 ibuprofen every 8 hours, and a 30mg Mirtazapine before bed every day. I was taking all these tablets. I was still in extreme pain, still had problems sleeping, and when I could sleep, I would get sleep paralysis, and my anxiety and depression was out of control, and I was struggling to be a partner and parent. We had our 3rd child now, and he was nearly 2 years old. I knew these drugs were going to kill me, and I felt like I could feel them shutting my body down. I felt toxic and sick, and I had the worst stomach issues that my GP, who prescribed me these tablets, told me it was heartburn from stress and gave me more tablets to take. None of them worked, and we tried a lot. I trusted my doctor; I thought he knew best. I got down to 60kg. I was usually around 75 to 80 kgs. I couldn't eat. I was vomiting non-stop. I had severe pain in my stomach, and I vomited so much that it affected my throat and teeth. My life that was already unbearable just became so much harder. I couldn't do anything in my life without pain, being extremely uncomfortable, stressed, or depressed.

I ended up going to see an amazing pain specialist who told me about medical cannabis and gave me a referral to see a local doctor who specialises in medical cannabis. It took a few months, but I got in to see him and was given a script for CBD and THC oil and a flower. The very first night after taking my oils, I slept for 6.5 hours! I didn't have any sleep paralysis, and my pain was already reduced after 3 months.

I was a different person. I was sleeping like a normal person, and I had not had any sleep paralysis since my first dose of oil! I was controlling my pain, and even though all my stomach issues persisted, I wanted to eat food even if that meant throwing it up. I was still getting some nutrients. I felt amazing, well, as amazing as I could with all the problems I was experiencing. I even started to forget to take my tablet as all my symptoms were improving, and then I learned about physical dependence. I would feel like I had the flu just from missing a dose of my tablets, and I couldn't believe that for 8 to 9 years of my life, I was given tablets that, if I missed a dose, I would feel like this. I realised I couldn't live without them physically, not just pain-wise, but if I stopped taking them, it would be the worst pain and suffering of my life.

I talked to my GP about how well the medical cannabis was working and that I wanted to cut down, maybe even stop all the tablets I was on. He told me it would be 4 years of slowly withdrawing or months in a hospital-like situation where I would need to be on a drip. That scared the hell out of me, even though I couldn't do much around the house. I am an amazing father, and I couldn't leave my family for that long, so I decided I could do it at home. I started one tablet at a time, withdrawing from one tablet group at a time. It took me 10 months, and the withdrawal symptoms were out of this world. Everything you see in movies, I went through, but I only made it due to having medical cannabis. My medical cannabis doctor was with me every step of the way, helping me with different medications and ways to take medical cannabis, making the hardest, and I mean hardest, thing I have ever done in my life, even the 14 spinal surgeries, being a young father with all the odds against me, this was still the hardest thing I have done in my life, but all thanks to medical cannabis, I was able to get off all those tablets.

It has been 8 months since completely being off all tablets. My stomach issues are 95% better. I have got back to 76kg and feel healthier than ever. I'm doing more, I'm sleeping better, I'm feeling better. I manage my pain and mental health issues how I want to and when I need to. I have control over my health issues due to my medical cannabis, and my life has changed for the better, and I couldn't be more thankful, but it comes with its hurdles. Cost is a big one. I'm still going through all the hurdles with WorkCover after nearly 10 years and have no idea when it will all come to an end, even though they haven't paid my wage in 4 years. They have not settled my claim, so money is tight, and second, driving is huge for me.

We just had our 4th and last child, and my partner needs me more than ever to be able to drive the kids to school, activities, see their friends, and all the things that come with having kids, plus be a father and take my children out to do things and make memories as the last 9 years haven't been hard for them, and now I feel so much better and can manage my own symptoms so well, I want to be able to live my life more with my beautiful family. Plus, I have my own appointments, and I have many. I need to drive to see my GP, medical cannabis doctor, physio, hydro therapist, urologist, neurosurgeon, pain specialist, and so on, and can't rely on my partner. We live in Woolgoolga, a small coastal town 15 mins north of Coffs Harbour, so all my doctors are either in Coffs Harbour, the Gold Coast, or Brisbane, so public transport is just not an option for me. The fuel is already hard enough to pay for, let alone the costs of taxis and airplanes, and so on. I am very careful with my medication and take it as intended and when intended. I take my oils at night and flower, if need be. I have a cutoff time of nothing with THC after 10 pm, so I know I will be no longer affected the next day and be safe to drive. I will not take anything else with THC in it until I know I no longer need to drive for that day, depending on the day and what needs to be done. It can be up to 4 pm to 6 pm the next day to make sure I am clear and able to drive.

I know I am breaking the law and risking my license and insurance, even though I am no longer affected by the medication I took a minimum of 11 hours ago. I was a danger to the public while driving while taking all those painkillers and anti-anxiety medication. Now, I'm using medical cannabis, and I am no more a risk than anyone else on the road. However, I am constantly worried and scared about driving when I'm just doing what I have to do, looking after my children and myself. I don't do any driving out of kids and appointments for myself, as I'm so worried about what could happen, as I just can't risk it.

I have even thought about stopping medical cannabis and getting back on painkillers and so on, but I can't do that to my family again or my body. I have even thought and tried to not use anything at all and just been out of my mind with pain. I don't know what to do. I am doing everything I can to do the right thing, but I'm so terrified, as I'm breaking an outdated law.

I already have enough to worry about with everyday life and having a family, then add in my injury and WorkCover, and what will my future hold. Medical cannabis has saved my life, changed my quality of life in ways I never thought could happen after my injury, and changed my family's lives and made us all closer together. People need to know that this can happen for them as well. The laws need to be changed. I need to legally be able to drive without fear of prosecution. It is unfair that people like me are targeted. This medication has been the only thing that has worked for me, and it is unfair that now I'm doing so well, I am now held hostage by the driving laws.

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