Cannabis vs. Presence

I’ve been sitting with a burning question. A client asked me this week how I felt about cannabis usage. This individual visited to me to discuss his trauma and generative ways to work through and with it. My first reaction was that I am absolutely against it’s prohibition–since it is deeply rooted in racism—that people should be free to explore and adapt as needed, the positive benefits of sacred plant medicines given by nature. Like anything, I promote the middle path, avoidance of living on either end of an extreme. That anything of value loses its value if abused or taken out of context. I added that cannabis has in fact, motivated worlds of positive results when used in conjunction with other veins of trauma-informed-care. That many psychosomatic and psychoactive drugs were easily being replaced with medically approved cannabis use in states that had lifted the prohibition. And that is the goal, to get people OFF FDA approved narcotics and substances that have extremely toxic side effects. 

Some humans need help–they need an aid while the brain heals, and the body recovers. People whose autonomic nervous systems have severe traumatic memories woven into those cells, genuinely struggle in social situations, or their simple day to day lives. Their sensitivities to being triggered into physiological responses that cause retreat (flight), overwhelming excitement to the point of reaction (fight), or complete inability to function (freeze), are exponential as compared with individuals who have had a life unscathed by any form of intense trauma: grief/loss, abuse (emotional, physical, sexual), exposure to violence (witness or victim), subjectivity to daily racism that extends to being stereotyped, oppressed, exploited, and/or criminalized for being born into a non-white body, or for simply being born a woman in an extremely patriarchal, sexist, misogynistic world, etc.

This population (as you can see could be any one of us), depending on their environmental influences, social conditioning, and genetics, benefits from the aid of a medicinal to calm an overactive amygdala and nervous system so they can live optimal lives and find joy in moments that to them, can incite very little emotive response otherwise. I have no objection to people using cannabis or other sacred plant medicines as a tool, or even recreationally/responsibly, but not as a crutch. The very goal of my work is rooted in bringing people to presence, and working through all the barriers that keep them from showing up fully embodied and ready to face life on life’s terms. Trauma survivors’ most common presenting issue is that they feel numb to life–no real joy or motivations, that they are just going with the motions and doing what needs to be done. In some cases, even that is a stretch. Their defense mechanism includes an emotional numbing to external stimuli to avoid reliving energetic memories trapped in the body that rise up in triggering moments or situations. It’s a matter of life and death for some, to feel numb. Their joy has been stolen and they have forgotten all hope of ever experiencing a deep connection to anything again. I know this person, well.

And this is where I sat with what I know, and thought beyond for a moment. More so, because I was recently in relation to someone who meant a great deal to me. And I know it was a reciprocal affair. What else I know, is that people collide with you to show you who you are, to hold a mirror for you to see both your light, and the places where you still need healing. This relationship seemed to center excessive smoking and numbing. From the very first date, I was made aware that cannabis was a huge part of their lifestyle. While I enjoy the gifts of earth in moderation, I had long moved away from emotional numbing to the extent this relationship was pushing me to degenerate. In the beginning, I overlooked the excessiveness of it. I put aside my own truth to honor theirs. I believe in allowing people to decide for themselves. People know themselves better than anyone. Who am I to say? But my failure to acknowledge my own truth in the mix is where I fall short many times. More often, I focus their light, their potential, and forget to look at where their vibration actually is. 

This person was a mirror to remind me of what extreme numbing looks like, of what I did not want to return to. I have worked years to heal and integrate pieces of me that have been shattered a million times over. I pursued a whole new career that took me 8 years as an adult to complete schooling for. I traveled and studied in SE Asia and came to revere the ancient ways. Prior to all my deliberate expansion and elevation, I was once an entire catastrophic mess, all on my own. Trauma will literally destroy a life and the life around that life if left unresolved. I had done the work to heal. But then last year happened, and all the wounds of my life were busted open and I was forced to re-examine what healing needed to look like from a healthier model and the right support. I had to re-learn experientially, the wounds and the healing. I was one oversized open wound having been raped in the earlier part of the year, and losing the love of my life to a stroke months prior. (This is the first time I have said it out loud. And I know it is part of my healing. Of another’s healing.) And then came the Sun, just as I was literally on the edge, one hand keeping me from the depths. The truth is at first, maybe I wanted to feel numb, so I allowed his energy in. Welcomed it even. I was tired, and he brought the light. Until he didn’t.

For weeks, I could not identify why I felt myself slowly distancing and pulling away. It felt energetically off, even though I honestly had never met a kinder, more gentle soul, which further complicated my lens for honest discernment. But he was high ALL the time. It wasn’t recreational. He could not survive the daylight of a morning without it. I could never meet who he was running from, because he was not even ready to meet himself. And I asked myself, is this who I am? Is this what I do? Is this how I show up when I am too fragile to deal with my own shit? And for the first time in my life, I walked away from something that was not aligned with where I am today, or want to be tomorrow.  Without apology or explanation. I did not want to be numb. I wanted to feel, all of it. Even if it wrenched my guts out. I did not love another more than I loved myself. And although the pain is something I am well attuned to, I no longer want to hold it, hide from it, deny it, or diminish it. And today I know that is OK. I still hold our shared moments like I would hold the stars if they were holdable. The whispers of those moments gave me the answer to a question I would be asked this week. And the person asking the question helped me further make sense of myself. This is the joy of healing work. We are all in the same process together. It does not matter where you are on the path. Just know we are all reaching for the same final destination.

Coincidentally, the client that posed the original question this week–“How do you feel about cannabis usage?”—was going through a divorce very much motivated by his “depression”. After having sat on this all week, processing fully my more recent relationship, I understood why I chose healing over numbing. I wish I could go back and ask my client a few things: Was there ever a time he was fully present with his wife, or himself? If the answer was no, could he imagine how his lack of presence/love impacted his 9 year relationship? Was being numb worth losing anything we say we love in life? Did he love his story/pain more than he loved the possibility of healing, or feeling alive again? Because this is the truth–so many humans say they want to feel better, to be at peace, or happy, or thriving, or somewhere, anywhere besides wherever they are. But 99% of humans love where they are too much to do the work to get to a different x, y, z. They hold their pain, their trauma, clinging to it like a security blanket with no awareness of how dangerous that blanket is; that it has any correlation at all with their need to continue the numbing cycle. They relive their trauma daily, recreating it, and numbing it, to relive it all over again. And as insane as that sounds, it is very comfortable for them. They will take up nearly anything to distract themselves from feeling. 

And this is where I want to say, I understand. I have been this person. There are people and moments in life that will literally murder you and somehow we are supposed to go on, unchanged, or minimally affected. That pain cuts every time it flashes across the screen of your mind. It pulses in your bones and ravishes your nervous system. Numbing is survival. Until it’s not. Don’t you want to feel again? The joys and the pains of a life that is meant to be experienced in waves, to remind us how delicate she is, how powerful she can be, how destructive and regenerative alike, how resilient and real…she is. What about JOY, pure joy? What is a life lived where we feel nothing? Where we can walk away from the possibility of love because the numb burns better. Where we cannot fathom looking ourselves in the mirror without smoke in our lungs. Aren’t you tired of running? I am. Put it down and feel it all. So we can collectively heal. All of us. 

My final thoughts are this. Intake of cannabis, however you take it, can be used in moderation for an elevated experience, to help you commune with your own inner divine. To be still in a very busy world. To quiet and listen. Its usage most certainly aids in social situations (or as sleep inducing), allowing the nervous system to calm so one can relax at a normal rhythm, in support of a healthy immune, emotional, and energetic system. This is all the more so true for trauma survivors. This population would argue that it, in fact, helps them to be present (as in bodily present). But what they won’t admit is that they are not really there. They have shown up without actually showing up. Essentially, it is best to take the middle path if you so choose to partake in sacred plant medicine. If you have been smoking for YEARS, and you cannot go about your every day normal routine without it, it’s time to take a closer look at yourself. If practiced with love and responsibility to one’s vessel, I do believe it can act as a spiritual sacrament. We give thanks to the “most high”, meaning our higher consciousness, our god/dess nature. We can never rise to that elevation and awareness of self if we are interrupting our flow of energy and natural frequencies. I am wildly grateful for someone holding a mirror up to remind me what it looks like to love someone you can’t fully be present with. To say you love yourself when you can’t even meet yourself where you are, let alone another. When you intake anything that alters the mind to an extreme, you have stepped away from full presence of mind, body, and spirit. There is no love in that. You are afraid to love or be loved. And you are afraid to look at why. And when someone enters your orbit, you disappear in the clouds. This is not an equation for heathy partnering. It is not a partnering at all. It is asking someone to be anything but present with you, to join you in escaping into an abyss. Can we call that relational even, let alone love?

I love the Earth and the Earth loves me, but I also love feelings. They are the sparking force that propels us forward towards more life. Whatever it may be. They exist to act as guides for us, to show us where we need deeper opening, as well as stronger boundaries. For all those who intake the Mother’s love, do it with love. And remember—to be fully present with someone is to love them, to love yourselves. If you cannot be sober/present with another human, intimate in all the ways imaginable without medicinals, you still have work to do. It’s not love. It’s another distraction to distance you from healing your own wounds. And when the distraction is over, all you have is smoke. No mirrors. 

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