In Sickness, and In Health
by Kristina Etter
Standing before God, in front of your friends and family, on the happiest day of your life, when you repeat these lines,
“To have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, through sickness and in health…”
Rarely, does the actual the depth of this vow really sink in. How can it? You’re happy, starting a new chapter in life with endless possibilities. No happy person fixates on the “What-If’s” in life… we just pray for the best and roll with the punches.
The day I married my husband, Gary, I knew there was potential. I attended multiple doctor’s appointments with him before we were married. Working in a factory most of his life, Gary’s neck and upper back are simply destroyed. With a cervical neck fusion (which did more harm than good), degenerative disc disease, and spinal stenosis, my husband’s upper spine is a mess; plus, he’s had two rotator cuff repairs. Living in Iowa, the doctors in our small town kept him readily supplied opioid medications. By the time I met my husband, he had been taking opioid medications for the better part of 6 years. I knew it was an addiction then, but it appeared to work for his chronic pain.
Then life throws you a curveball…
Gary aggravated his neck injury just after my career moved us to Minnesota. We spent the next 3 years going to monthly appointments at a pain clinic begging for solutions, only to receive larger and larger doses of opioids. Prescriptions of hydrocodone, Percocet, and Fentanyl came with ease. No wife wants to watch her strong, strapping husband deteriorate, but I didn’t have a choice. The medications took their toll… Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and uncontrollable mood swings; some days I no longer recognized the man I once vowed to spend my life with.
An unexpected trip took me to Denver where two different women from two completely walks of life said the exact same sentence to me,
“There’s something about the mountains that pulls the negative energy out of you.”
…and I made the decision to find a way to stay in Denver. When I told my husband, obviously, he was less than pleased - the future of our marriage was dim, and he was 1000 miles away.
Little did we know, this journey to Denver, and ultimately into legal cannabis, would not only save our marriage, it would drastically alter our lives.
A New Start in Cannabis
Once I had made the decision to stay in Denver, priority number one became finding a job. Although I had a successful career in corporate information technology, this was my opportunity to start anew, and I couldn’t see myself spending another 20 years stuck in an office or cubicle. I was miserable there, so I wanted to explore my options. I spent hours browsing job listings, but it was a chance meeting over lunch which would open a whole new door for me, and within 10-days, I was working in the Colorado cannabis industry.
Training and Tears
Throughout the course of 20 years in corporate America, I have attended more than my fair share of training classes, but never in that 20 years have I had on-the-job training bring me to tears. My first day at the dispensary, my employer had lined up several cannabis companies to talk about their products. The first was an organic cannabis grower who told the story of a man with Stage IV cancer, the same kind I lost both my parents to, who was alive and well today. I listened, then, when they excused us for a break, I went to my car and wept.
As training continued over the next several days, I was a good student. I took notes, and after work, I would continue to study. I immersed myself into cannabis education, reading everything I could get my hands on. I studied research on the endocannabinoid system and how cannabinoids affect the various areas of the body. I read medical cannabis patient surveys and hundreds of anecdotal stories. Within 6 weeks, I called my husband and said, “We have hope.”
On March 18, 2016… my husband took the last opiate pain killer he will ever take.
Trading Opiates for Cannabis
Withdrawal is a scary condition for anyone. Opioid withdrawal causes nausea, shaking, tremors, muscle spasms, extreme pain, and insomnia, not to mention mental anguish, extreme mood swings, and desperation. When Gary was seeing a pain specialist, occasionally his appointments wouldn’t align and he would have a 3 to 4-day lapse in his medicines. Withdrawal would start to kick in with 4-6 hours of a missed dose.
As a wife, I couldn’t stand to see Gary in pain, which meant I was usually calling the doctor and begging for a prescription bridge to fill the gap until Gary’s next appointment. While the nurse on the other end of phone heard nothing but another junkie looking for pills, I was watching my husband break into a cold sweat, shivering and writhing in pain.
We knew what we were up against when he took that last pill, but this time we felt we had a better set of tools.
CBD to the Rescue
Immediately, we started Gary on a daily regimen of CBD supplements in every form we could find including, tinctures, lotions, capsules, oils, and edibles. First thing out of bed in the morning, he would put several drops of concentrated tincture under his tongue, and he had capsules he would take throughout the day. I would massage CBD-infused lotion on his neck, shoulders, and spine in the evenings. There’s no guide to dosing with CBD, and in fact, each individual case is different. What amount works for one person, may be too much or too little for another. Our rule of thumb, if it wasn’t working, take a little more until it did start to work. In the beginning, Gary’s CBD doses were much higher - between 300-500mg of CBD per day.
Not all products are created equal, and because we were trying so many different products in the beginning, we started to keep a journal. We would make note of the effects, how well it worked, how long it was effective and various other notes about what we liked and didn’t like. As we found products which worked well for Gary, we noted them.
Withdrawal? What Withdrawal?
Incredibly, Gary never experienced withdrawal… at all. In fact, the only side effect he felt throughout the entire process was that he felt “a little more tired than usual.” A week and a half into quitting 10-years of opioid addiction, my husband was hiking at the Garden of Gods in Colorado Springs. Alone, he did what many others can’t do with an entire medical team and rehab… he walked away from the deadly grasp of opioid medications and never looked back.
October 2017 marks 19 months Gary has been completely opiate-free. We continue to use cannabis therapy in our daily lives, and we are astounded by the incredible benefits we have found along the way. Through educating ourselves about the potential of the plant, we have managed to find an entirely new path to wellness.
When we turned to cannabis as a possible alternative for Gary’s pain management, we had no idea the landslide of possible benefits which were in store for us both. Responsible cannabis therapy has utterly changed our lives!
A New Lease on Life
In the Spring of 2014, my 73-year-old mother was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. When she called to tell me, she also said she had no intentions on fighting it with chemo or radiation, and she thoroughly expected me to be upset. She continued justifying her decision by reflecting on her battle with breast cancer twenty years earlier, and by telling me she just didn’t want to go through it all again. She was tired of the rat race, and would rather spend her last days on the farm than in a hospital. More than 30 years younger than my mother, not only did I understand, I questioned whether or not I would have the fight if it were me.
This conversation weighed heavily on me, throughout her illness, and long after her death. I was only 40 years old, but I, too, was exhausted. For the last 20 years I had been fighting and clawing my way up the corporate ladder, only to have high stress, high anxiety, and high health bills. I was unhealthy - overweight, taking prescriptions for thyroid, anxiety, depression, and another just to counter the side effects from the others. I drank alcohol, sometimes heavily, and caffeine was a daily staple. I took ibuprofen like Tic-Tacs.
Cannabis Changed Everything
When I discovered cannabis could help my husband overcome his addiction to opioids, I also learned how cannabis could possibly affect my anxiety beneficially. Besides the residual effects of watching my husband find a possible alternative solution to his pain, CBD therapy also helped me replace anxiety and depression medications. Think of it like this, lorazepam was the prescription I was prescribed for anxiety. Lorazepam is also prescribed to control seizures in epileptic patients. CBD extract is being used to control pediatric epilepsy, so is it not plausible CBD will also work to control anxiety? So, I too, started a daily regimen of cannabis therapy.
What started out as targeted therapy ended up becoming a whole-wellness solution for both of us. While we started cannabis therapy in an attempt to treat his chronic pain and my anxiety, we coincidentally started noticing other changes. We were steadily losing weight. We were feeling better. Our health was improving.
Today, my husband and I are completely prescription-free, eliminating 10 prescription medications between the two of us. Gary no longer has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or Type 2 diabetes. We no longer drink alcohol, and neither of us take anxiety medications anymore. I don’t even take ibuprofen but maybe once or twice a month. Together, we have lost 180 pounds and we have gained wellness and vitality we never imagined possible.
As science continues to advance on the endocannabinoid system and how cannabinoids impact the human body, we will continue to discover a plethora of possible benefits from CBD therapy, and cannabis therapy in general. As CBD therapy continues to gain popularity across the United States, more stories like ours are being told, and more people will find their solution.
Continue to read stories like this one, as well as CBD therapy and cannabinoid education throughout the site.
Cannabis Writer & Advocate
Author Bio & Quote
After years of watching opioid medications destroy her husband and their marriage, Kristina Etter, set out on a mission to change her life. On fate and bad brakes, she landed in Denver - stranded and alone; but what she would learn over the next several weeks would not only save her marriage, it would save their lives, and open a whole new approach to health and wellness. Responsible cannabis therapy ended her husband’s 10-year legal opiate addiction without withdrawal, reversed his Type-2 diabetes, lowered his blood pressure, reduced his cholesterol, and helped them lose over 180 pounds together. In all, they traded in 10 prescriptions for one herb.
Kristina is badged in the Colorado cannabis industry, and has worked as a cannabis advisor on both medical and recreational sides of the market. Now, as a cannabis writer and advocate, Kristina’s goal is to end the stigmas associated with cannabis use, and educate others about the possibilities in marijuana therapy.
“I believe everyone should have access to the same vitality, energy, and quality of life my husband and I have found through cannabis therapy. I feel 15 years younger than I did just two years ago.”