Pain is part of my everyday life. I say pain, as that’s what my condition is, apparently, ‘chronic pain’. But in reality, it’s agony.
Every minute of every day is spent wishing I could do even the most basic of tasks – getting in and out of a chair, walking up the stairs, even going to the toilet – without it making every sinew in my body object to my attempts at movement.
You probably think from reading this, ‘well that’s what happens to old people’. That may be so, and had I been 50 years older than I am, then I would probably accept that this is my lot.
But I am 32. Supposedly in the prime of my life, but even getting out of bed in the morning is the first massive challenge of the day. And the downward spiral begins there. Brushing my teeth, getting dressed, getting in the car – to be truthful, sometimes by the time I get to work, I’m pretty weary already.
My career in professional services is very busy and usually pretty stressful. It involves seeing clients during a packed day of meetings, advising them on what can often be life-changing matters and poring over the finer details of paperwork often until most people have gone to bed.
As a young professional, this is what I’ve always wanted. But against a backdrop of non-stop pain, it feels like I’m fighting a battle all day every day, just to do my job.
I’ve had this pain since my mid-20s. At first it was just a bit of aching here and there, which for someone with a very desk-based job isn’t uncommon, I suppose.
I tried doing more exercise, but that made things much worse. After a few days had passed and the aching hadn’t worn off, I started to think something wasn’t right. Someone young, in good health, shouldn’t be in this much pain having done nothing more than their daily routine.
A couple of weeks later, I visited my doctor. Seven years or so later, I’ve come to know my doctor rather well.
I tried painkillers, relaxation techniques, hypnotherapy, you name it. Nothing seemed to work. Backwards and forwards I went to the doctor over the years, hoping one of the varieties of medication would make some difference.
It was while researching pain relief during an online search that I stumbled across cannabis. I discovered that since November 2018, it had been legal for medicinal purposes, which initially made me think there was some light at the end of the tunnel, although I did question why my doctor had never volunteered this information. I’d certainly been a few times since it was legalised.
I made an appointment in light of my new discovery of medicinal cannabis and discussed my findings with my doctor. I’ll never forget her reaction.
Once the stunned look had subsided, she said ‘I don’t think we need to go down that route’ and turned away as she wrote out a prescription for yet more pills (I’d had so many bloody pills over the years, I imagine I’m immune to them by now).
Thoroughly disillusioned by my experience, and actually quite troubled as to why I had been refused something that is a legal medicine, I decided to take the law into my own hands. I am being denied something perfectly legal, so I’m going to find my own means of getting it.
Perhaps this was not the best course of action, and I appreciated this from the outset. When you’ve lived for so long in so much pain and you come so close to finding something that could help, however, you don’t let ‘no’ get in your way.
‘Black market’ cannabis is of course illegal but in my mind I was within my moral rights as I was being denied it in a more acceptable way.
Being given cannabis in a suspicious-looking little bag by a local teenager who you’ve come across smoking weed outside of the local off licence isn’t exactly what I’d imagined ever doing, but for me, it’s a case of needs must.
The first time I smoked some, I felt really disappointed. The effect was not instant, and I lay there, illegal cigarette in hand, thinking the police were about to show up at my door. I’d lose my career, my reputation, everything I’d worked for, all for nothing. I went to sleep that night pretty gutted.
The next morning, however, I noticed a change. I got out of bed and walked to the bathroom and I could move. I got dressed without feeling like a 95-year-old struggling on without their carer.
This was amazing. Unbelievable, in fact. I wasn’t quite sure whether to relate the cannabis from the previous night with how I felt that morning, but that was the only change to my routine. Nothing else could explain it.
The pain did come back throughout the day, but I smoked some more that night and the effect the next morning was the same. To me, this seemed like a miracle. An illegal one, perhaps, but nevertheless, this was what I had waited years for.
Now, smoking cannabis is a regular thing for me. I continue to get it from my unlikely friend from outside the off licence, and while I’m conscious and aware of the risks of using such cannabis, as long as it works, I’m not going to question it further.
For me, it’s a shame that I have been forced to have this as my dirty little secret. I have kept my chronic pain secret from colleagues and clients for years, even though I realise there’s no shame in it, but this one about my drug use is something they would really take exception to.
I’m good at what I do and I do a great job for my clients, and I don’t want anything to taint that. Being prescribed cannabis would be the way forward for me, as then there’s nothing grubby about it, but until opinions change that isn’t going to happen.
Even my own doctor, who has come to know me and my situation, rejected the very suggestion of me trying cannabis.
How can that be right? Smoking cannabis in my flat, hoping the neighbours don’t smell it or suspect, is of course a concern, but thankfully they’re all busy professionals like myself, so I’m sure they’ve got more pressing things to worry about.
Cannabis has, in all honesty, changed my life. It’s changed my outlook on life too. To be able to get up in the morning and think ‘I might be able to get through a decent chunk of the day without excruciating pain’ is a motivation in itself.
The best suits have come back out of the wardrobe. The appalling chat-up lines have resurfaced for when I’m out on the town. I am the person I want to be, rather than the one who lives only for the office and the home office, struggling to get between both.
I look forward to the day when being prescribed cannabis becomes a genuine option for people with chronic conditions like mine.
Until then, I only hope I manage to continue to buy and use it under the radar, as the consequences would be pretty dire, which I think is deeply unfair.
Andy is 32-year-old lawyer working in England. His name has been changed to protect his identity.