So, last year, something life-changing happened to me: I got COVID-19. And all I got was this stinking t-shirt.
Well, that’s not all I got, of course: chills, body aches, brain fog, and some really miserable times. But I also got some really important affirmations from community when I least expected it, and a mandate to truly walk the path of the wounded healer that I have chosen — although sometimes, I wonder how much of a say I had in the decision. And of course, it feeds directly into Medicine Box and my hopes for that and the rest of the world going forward. Ultimately, it comes back to radically accepting life on its own terms, no matter how painful, scary and unpredictable they happen to be. However, there’s a lot more behind that than I would have imagined before I got sick. So here’s how it happened.
THE COVID COME-UP
While I have no idea when or how I got COVID, I can still remember how it came on: first, after a brief swim, I brought back with me a shiver that never really left me, even after I dried myself, in the middle of a warm Tahoe day, with fingers that felt like they were frost-bitten. I immediately went back home and gave myself a hot shower.
Later that night I would reach a fever of 100 degrees, and the body aches and chills set in. At first, I thought it might be a seasonal cold or a flu like the one I had back in February. But even though the fever eventually broke, I eventually got tired and sluggish. Finally, I took a whiff of an essential oil, and recognized I couldn’t smell it at all. Even though I got tested the next day, I really didn’t need to check the results to know that my luck had run out and that finally, I had caught the ‘rona.
The first four days after that were dangerously disruptive to the routines and rituals that have kept this recovering addict on the straight and narrow. My meditation and Qi Gong practice went by the wayside, and emotions and fearful thoughts ran high. Perhaps the most upsetting part of it was the dreaded brain fog you’ve probably read about. In addition to feeling pretty miserable, I felt like my home had been transformed into an unfamiliar, alien environment, Since I have spent so much effort to make it my own sanctuary, this added to my anxiety levels during the worst moments of the crisis.
For those of you who’ve already had it, I have no idea what your local health department’s recommended to you when you got your test. Mine basically told me one thing: stay away from other people. That’s it. So basically, like you, I was on my own. Go Team USA.
THE HOMESPUN REMEDY
So as always, I spun out my own recovery regimen, which involved a lot of prayer, my daily supplements (and yes, that does include 1CaB, just had to get that plug in there, okay?) and a little help from my friends. Some of it was classic rainy-day fun with a friend of mine who also had it. We sailed through every episode of The Queen’s Gambit and Euphoria imaginable. And I kept up with two of my best friends who had it on Facetime. Having that community to plug in with made something very scary a lot more tolerable than it otherwise would have been.
Most importantly, what ultimately smoothed my road more than anything was ACCEPTANCE. Once I accepted my illness and what it had to teach me, the less power it had over me. I am lucky now to have made what is a full recovery — not everyone can say that, as we all know. Like all COVID survivors, I can only guess what long-term effects can be, but whatever they may be, I will have to live and die with them just as I live with my alcoholism and drug addiction. And I’m grateful for the lessons it’s taught me about my body and mind alongside the humility that it has bestowed upon me.
STOPPING THE FIGHT
We ended 2020 in the midst of so many bitter enmities forged, many of them as a result of this pandemic. It is difficult to bridge the gap between those who, like me, contracted COVID and got off easy versus those who lost someone or something dear to it — a job, a loved one, or the health and lifestyle they spent years cultivating before this rudely swiped it away from them. Acceptance just ain’t in the cards for these guys, and the damage will take a long time to undo.
But WE have to start somewhere, because this is definitely a WE pandemic, and it will affect all of us in different ways. I myself hail from a community that is saturated with plandemic-sized conspiracy theories, and some of these people have dug in their heels, still insisting that this is an overhyped flu. Well, during the worst of my experience, I would lose my thoughts mid-sentence. No flu I’ve ever had in my life ever did that to me before. No flu season I can remember since at least 1918 ever flooded hospitals to 0% capacity, or became the #1 cause of death in the US. There is no shame in acknowledging this, but for a lot of people, their egos are on the line. They mourn what they have lost to the virus, and fix the blame on an enemy they can see, which is often each other.
The overreliance on conspiracies has sown division and polarization, which for me was NEVER the point of wellness. I often think to my dearly departed mentor Michael Hollister’s wisdom, and one bit comes to mind. “There is no right or wrong way; only a different way.” The fights we are having now thrust contempt at this core truth, which makes this moment a uniquely tragic one for a community that purports to base itself on spiritual wisdom.
We are only at the beginning of grappling with the issues here. My own perspective as a recovery patient shapes it. The finger pointing ultimately lies in egotism — the demand that others see you as right, and this only perpetuates the collective trauma that we’ve all suffering through. It’s a suffering that our health care system is deeply unequipped to meet or manage. Therefore, we must become our own doctors, and become sovereign in our own health. The Seven Pillars are what does it for me, and it has been my mission in life ever since I learned of the untapped potential of plant medicine. That, alongside a greater acceptance of self, will bring us closer to the root of our suffering and allow us to work with it and learn its lessons. For like it or not, we ALL are in recovery now. It is time to accept it, and let it show us what it needs to show us.
“The hard core of egotism is difficult to dislodge except rudely. With its departure, the Divine finds at last an unobstructed channel. In vain it seeks to percolate through flinty hearts of selfishness..”
– Paramahansa Yogananda
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It will take a mixture of convincing testimony and solid data to show the rest of the world that we indeed know what we’re doing. It will also take education that shows THC IS a medicine, and that even those not looking for psychoactivity can work with it through proper education. “There is a potential for psychoactivity that may be uncomfortable for a patient should be taken into account when selecting a medicine for them, and just as importantly, when establishing a titration schedule,” Mara tells me.
“When THC is introduced to a cannabis-naïve patient it is important to start with a low dose and increase it slowly. Many speak of cannabis as a ‘mind, body, spirit, medicine, and I would have to agree. With education and dose modulation we can eliminate the fear associated with psychoactivity.”
– Mara Gordon, Aunt Zelda’s
Similarly, I believe we can eliminate similar prejudices and control obsessions with the same sort of education. Matter of fact, things are even beginning to show signs of improvement here in California. Manufacturing facilities are moving towards more contract manufacturing arrangements, which carves out space for more innovative products, which gives breathing space for brands that can’t yet afford to own the means of production. Still, people are suffering now, and the bureaucracies in place to ensure safety are woefully unequipped to meet the challenges of our times. That’s why we’ll continue to let people know, whenever possible, how it’s all about the Plant, the Whole Plant, and nothing but the Plant. Anything less, and you’re just not letting nature take its course.