Cops, Cannabis & PTSD - Officer Jake speaks about his healing journey - Part 1
10 min read Part 1 of a multi part series
In this interview Police Officer Jake speaks with KookiMike and the KookiJar Team for an honest, enlightening, and informative conversation around PTSD, how cannabis has assisted him, and the stigmas associated with his journey as a police officer. Below is part 1 of the conversation
KookiMike: Jake, thanks for sitting down with me today. Can you tell us a bit about who you are and the journey you are on?
Jake: Let’s start back in 2016; the pre-diagnosis period. I’m a police officer. And I met that day, with one of my friends and colleagues, another uniformed officer at Tim Horton’s, nothing special. We sat down, had coffee, no doughnuts :)
We were just talking about life and how it was going. Mid conversation, BOOM, he begins to tell me that “man, it’s been rough. I just got diagnosed with PTSD.” He starts going through all the symptoms. My initial reaction though was to look over my shoulder – I was thinking “Oh my God, like, we’re two uniformed guys here, people are listening in.”
And you got to understand, for me, that’s another stigma piece. I was so used to dealing with mental health issues, or I was so used to dealing with mental health issues from the other side, objectifying it, answering calls on patrol about it etc. And here I am sitting with my colleague and he’s telling all this to me. That was my initial reaction.
I come from a workplace where we still call people being off on sick leave or medical leave, “snap leave”. “Yea, where’s Joe? Oh, he’s on SNAP LEAVE.” I used to be that guy that perpetuated the stigma.
Back to Tim Horton’s. So, my colleague starts telling me about his symptoms. He, you know, described his flashbacks, his nightmares, the lack of human emotion, yelling at his kids at home and the inappropriate anger. The more we talked the more it gave me shivers. He was describing what I had been living for the last three or four years – And I had thought everything was normal.
Fast forward. I go home and I tell my wife the story. She breaks down in tears – tears of joy. Why? Because I had made a promise to my colleague to go see a doctor. So, not only had I been living with all this stuff, but she had also been living it with me.
It took another three months for me to take that first step and go see my family doctor, because of the stigma. My family doctor told me it sounds like PTSD and sends me to get a psychiatric analysis ––a couple of months later and my appointment day finally arrives. The psychiatrists bring me in for the diagnosis and BOOM they drop the bombshell: “the diagnosis is PTSD and you have a major depressive disorder.”
I like to use the analogy of a mirror, a shattered mirror. I still have flashbacks of staring at myself, or the shattered version of myself and of what it means to be a cop, a person, a man, a husband, and father.
That was a very difficult process.
Let’s fast forward to the beginning of my healing journey in 2016: I’m still at work. I’m still functional to a certain extent. My healing journey started with the psychiatrist – which is a paid friend. I recommend psychiatrists to everyone. The medication part of the journey started with Zoloft and SSRIs, which had helped immensely. As well as the medication, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness all helped.
KookiMike: Jake, that is quite the journey. I’m interested in how your journey crossed paths with cannabis.
Jake: In 2018 cannabis was legalized. I had been doing a lot of research, speaking to some acquaintances, and listening to podcasts about it. So, it piqued my curiosity. I spoke to my family doctor and psychologist about my interest in this medicine. My doctor was super supportive and referred me to a cannabis clinic to see a specialized doctor.
Since then, I’ve been a cannabis user. Because I’m from the policing side of things it started out feeling a bit weird, right? But I’ve told myself – I’ve lived through so much. I’ve given so much of myself to my work. I need to refocus on this part of my healing journey.
Since then, I’ve been a cannabis user. Because I’m from the policing side of things it started out feeling a bit weird, right? But I’ve told myself – I’ve lived through so much. I’ve given so much of myself to my work. I need to refocus on this part of my healing journey. The only time I consumed cannabis was like once or twice when I was a kid, in my teens, and that’s it. I’ve had acquaintances around who used it and swore by it.
Since cannabis has been introduced into my life. It has changed both me and my life drastically. I am no longer on Zoloft or SSRIs, which I was able to remove from my life in the last six months. Pre-cannabis I had tried to come off the medications unsuccessfully. Cannabis has also been great for my PTSD. I have triggers that I don’t always recognize, or I don’t always have control over. If something difficult happens at work or life – cannabis is another tool I can use along with my mindfulness and meditation tools.
I like to tell people it hasn’t just helped me in my healing journey, it’s healed relationships: friends, my daughter, my mom, my family members, colleagues. Everyone has noticed the difference.
KookiMike: That’s amazing. It must have taken a lot of courage to come out and say things publicly, especially in your field. Someone very close to us is in the military and has been to Afghanistan on tour. When he came back, he had to recover, he didn’t talk about it. He went outside the military to seek help and services.
Jake: I did the exact same thing. There’s lots of positive things about the police culture, but there’s also some negative as well. The stigma around mental health is one of them. So, I went outside and sought help that way.
KookiMike: Do you have any recommendations for people in similar situations to yours; trying to use cannabis to treat themselves, those first steps?
Jake: What scared me the most, my biggest anxiety around cannabis, was the fear of losing functionality and the fear of how people would perceive me. What made the difference for me was going at it from a knowledge base perspective. Reading books, doing research, speaking to local people, including budtenders, that have the knowledge – that made the difference for me. The more I read the more I noticed “okay, this CEO is a user, that actor is a user, that senior is a user”. All positive outcomes from that research. All the positive outcomes coming from that.
KookiMike: Moving forward, what would you like to see happen in fields like yours in relation to cannabis consumption?
Jake: I’m lucky to work for an employer who is progressive enough and has policies in place to allow me to be a consumer when I’m not at work: as long as I’m fit for duty. There are other employers out there at the moment that still have restrictive policies – it adds to the stigma. People who are going to consume will still consume, just in hiding right?
KookiMike: Yeah, it should be more open.
Jake: We’re not there yet, but there has been some good progress in the last few years. It’s not recognized as medicine in a lot of circles, but legalization has opened the research paths to do their thing.
KookiMike: Totally agree. Amazon just changed their internal policy regarding employees’ cannabis use outside of the workplace. That is a positive shift by a large employer. Do you see any negatives to cannabis usage?
Jake: Absolutely. The methods of consumption and the types of cannabis vary immensely. Good knowledge and information are important. There is a lot of disinformation which can make it hard to decipher good from bad when starting out. Legalization has helped in this area.
KookiMike: How do you feel about the ability for people to now be able to grow their own cannabis?
Jake: I think it’s a great thing. I’m a grower as well. I’ve grown to experience the farm to table process. I consume more than I grow outdoors though. My wife doesn’t want me to grow, which is ok, so my growing is limited. There is a whole community of growers. I’ve met some of my neighbors and became good friends through plant growing.
KookiMike: It’s interesting the people you’ve met that you may not have connected with before your journey started.
Jake: Absolutely. Even at work now it’s not as taboo to talk about. Recently I was at a demonstration and started talking to a random guy about our pot consumption. After we chatted, I gave him a big hug. This guy was friends with Ziggy Marley, Bob Marley’s son. That’s a crazy connection – the world is small.
KookiMike: What strains are you currently growing?
Jake: I have two of them at the moment: SSOG and Black Dog - super sour.
Jake: Before we end, I’m just going to add, because you asked me previously to look at your app. I’ve been using it and like it. I’ve also used Strainprint. When I compare both, I love that the KookiJar app and Strainprint both provide strain recommendations. I noticed Strainprint will recommend brands and they also give you some coins. That’s pretty much the only differences I’ve noticed. I find your strain descriptions are more in-depth.
KookiMike: We are intentionally brand agnostic at the moment. We want people to be able to do their research without it being tied to a brand. The KookiJar app is focused on making the journaling of your cannabis experiences easy to document.
We spend a lot of time collecting industry data and getting it organized in such a way that it is easy for the app users to understand in their cannabis journey.
KookiMike: Jake, thanks for taking the time today to talk about your personal story. We look forward to future discussions.
Jake: Thanks Mike. It was great speaking with you. Let’s do it again.
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