I joined the Airforce in 1997 at the age of 21 and proudly served my country for 13 years including deployment to Saudi Arabia after 9-11. A career in the military requires certain sacrifices you understand before you join. They are still sacrifices I’m paying for today in the form of intractable pain. I have spinal damage and nerve pain in my neck as a result of injuries I sustained while on active duty.

After Spinal fusion surgery in 2008 I was prescribed prescription painkillers to help manage my pain and at some point, I became dependent upon them. At my peak, I was prescribed 10-12 opiates a day along with OxyContin just to function.

The problem with prescription pain medication is, they aren’t natural and over time, your body rejects their benefits. You want to take more, but the physical side effects are awful. Constipation, dry mouth, and liver pain weren’t conditions I could live with day in and day out.

When you are on painkillers, your life is controlled by them and everything else takes a backseat, including family and friends. I went into isolation. I didn’t want to be around anyone.

When medical marijuana became available in Illinois in 2015 my life changed. I know it isn’t for everyone, but for me- it was a clear path to end my opiate dependency. The ability for me to purchase it legally and know exactly what I was getting to manage my pain came at a critical point in my life. Today, I have completely eliminated prescription painkillers from my daily routine and I finally have my life back.