About a year ago I began looking into getting a medical cannabis card for a number of reasons, primarily because I found myself experiencing some pretty intense stuff after a month of sobriety causing me to kind of lose my mind. I didn't drink (I had been steadily increasing my habitual, self-medicating drinking since I was 21 but it really shot up about 2 years ago) and I didn't smoke any marijuana for about a month.
I wrote in my first introductory review for this column I felt, “... like my head is a beehive being hit with a flaming baseball bat. Anyone around me is subject to a sobbing distrust and screaming rage that my mind tells me is their fault. The anxiety is unforgiving, freezing my body—it tells me everyone hates me, everyone I have ever loved wants nothing to do with me because I'm so broken. It says if I move, I'll die, so maybe I should go ahead and move and get it over with.” So yeah, it was a pretty fucking terrible time.
On a recent visit, the considerate staff at CG Corrigan reminded me I was about 90 days out from my card expiring. I thanked them and set out to find the most cost effective place to renew my license. After some research, I found that NM Brief Relief offers this service—and after seeing David Valdez, the knowledgable owner of the nonprofit speak in-depth covering a variety of topics at Weekly Alibi's 2017 Hempfest—I was confident that his staff would be able to help me.
I went to the NM Brief Relief website, filled out a renewal application and waited a couple days. When I hadn't heard from them I called their office, left a message and still got no response. I was leaving for vacation the following week, so I decided to just head over the next day and see if I could get in during my lunch break. (They ended up returning my call about a week later when I was on vacation.)
I had a difficult time finding the office because there was no sign in front of the location when I drove by the first time—which is super weird—but once the sign was out I did find it and the staff was helpful, patient and encouraging. Normally they prefer folks to make an appointment ahead of time because the doctors are on a rotating schedule between the Albuquerque and Española locations. Luckily enough, I showed up during the lull of the late afternoon lunch hour and I was able to get in to see a doctor right away after filling out the necessary paperwork.
I was nervous about the interview because I knew they would have to know exactly why I have PTSD—it's not something I talk about lightly because I still experience triggers and intense reactions when discussing those traumas—but the doctor was very respectful and knew when to stop, let me take a break and then continue the interview. When the question, “How has the program helped you?” came up I was suddenly overcome with emotion because in retrospect, medicinal cannabis has been enormously helpful for me in every single aspect of my life.
When I experience symptoms, I take what I need—not an entire pill, no Xanax or any antidepressants, which I find personally very unpleasant to take. Medicinal cannabis alleviates my pain, stress, anger or however my disorder may negatively manifest, and I feel like I can breathe. I'm able to take a step back and I can recognize where the feelings are stemming from and stop them from fully burgeoning. I feel it all melt away and I can see everything clearly. It's been a miracle for me.
The doctor recorded all of our conversation, approved my application and explained that the company would hand deliver the paperwork to the N.M. Department of Health themselves to make sure it actually got there and that I should receive my card in 30-60 days. (When I applied last year at R. Greenleaf I was told 60-90 days but received it in just over a month, so I don't anticipate the wait to be too long.) All-in-all the renewal cost me $108 including tax, which is great because at a lot of places it can end up being closer to $200, sometimes more. The prices, guidance and intelligence of the staff at NM Brief Relief certainly makes it worth the time to find them—pro-tip, it's behind Nexus Brewery.
And regarding my distaste for depending on those substances that I mentioned—I realized after that month that I had forgotten about the institutional stigma around mental illness and marijuana. There is absolutely no shame in taking medication whether that is Xanax, antidepressants, marijuana and the like … It's about using resources responsibly to live your best life healthily and be the best version of yourself, so I feel no shame about using medicinal marijuana anymore. I know from my personal experience with doctor prescribed medications that it doesn't work well for me but I have found something that does work well—extremely well—and that's something to be proud of and thankful for.