Cannabis In Real Life: A Veteran’s Story

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by Dan Larkin & Jim Ankeny.

This is a veteran’s story. Jeremy Sankey’s story is one that will sound familiar to many veterans. It’s his story of overcoming health challenges, opioids, and a mental health crisis; a crisis that nearly took his life. Cannabis saved Jeremy and now he’s dedicated his life to fighting for access to medical cannabis for other veterans. This is his Cannabis In Real Life story. (Full transcript below)

When you deal with pain every day, day after day after day, month after month, year after year, you get tired. But there is a huge difference between being alive and living. And with the veterans when they’re in that type of situation they’re just alive. ..

But cannabis and medical cannabis; it helps that. We need to stop talking about this and just get it done already. Words are nothing without action. Patients First. Thank you.

Jeremy Sankey-Dir., Minnesota Veterans for Cannabis

Cannabis In Real Life: A Veteran’s Story-Full Transcript

Jeremy Sankey: I have a lot of pride in being able to serve because my grandfather served. I have uncles that served.

What stands out for me during my time in the service was when I was stationed in Korea. I had just gotten married. I was with the 2nd Infantry Division artillery. I did a lot of training of other soldiers who were going to go into combat. And I’m not gonna try to sound conceited but I was damn good at what I did. And I was in communications. But when they left to go over to the Middle East I felt right here, I felt confident that I had done my job good enough that they would be able to communicate with other units. They would be able to call for air support if they needed it. They would be able to call for a chopper if they had wounded. All that stuff matters a lot to me because I would look at those people and I would think you know if I don’t do my job good enough there’s a family who is not gonna see them again. And yeah that makes me proud. How can that not make you proud?

 I left the service in 2005. I was involved in a training accident 2004 which led to back surgeries in 2005. They didn’t go as planned. Got to the point where I really couldn’t run no more. So, at that poin,t I was medically discharged from active duty. At that point I was at 10 years. I was 10 years shy of where I wanted to be. But circumstances played a part in it. I couldn’t, I couldn’t continue. So, I got out.

My care has been troubling at times but positive at times. Shortly after I was discharged in 2005, I was put into the V.A. medical system. Which I now call the V.A. MediScare system. It started out OK. I was in constant pain. They, you know, they did distribute narcotics, painkillers, opiates whatever you want to call it like it was candy. They had to. They were so understaffed. They didn’t even have close to the number of people to be able to handle the patients that they had.

A Veteran’s Story-Jeremy’s Worst Day

My worst day was September 7th of last year. And I’m seeing a spine doctor who decided he wanted to try to taper me off of medication I’d been taking for 13 years. And do that in order to see how well it was working. So as I came down off that medication and close to the time I was done taking it, my mental health took a quick dive.

One week at Tuesday night, I’m sitting at home and I just started having some weird, weird thoughts. And I knew they weren’t good thoughts and I really didn’t even think about it but something told me you know what I just need to go to the hospital. So I ended up at the hospital and they eventually sent me to a crisis center. I spent the night there and after talking to them and feeling totally different, the next day they let me go home that morning which was Wednesday. That Wednesday I was fine all day. That Thursday I was fine all day. In fact, that Thursday afternoon I was on the phone with another veteran trying to get him to go to the hospital or trying to get him to allow me to contact another veteran who had come to talk to him that was close to him.

But then Friday came and that’s when everything just got out of control. During the day Friday night my thought process was definitely not where it needed to be. I will not lie. I was thinking about hurting myself. I had no thoughts of hurting nobody else. But eventually family members called on enforcement. Law enforcement got involved and it just went downhill from there.

I am very, very lucky I didn’t get shot that night because it could have happened very easily. I did have a weapon on me but thankfully the law enforcement officers were able to get to me and get me on the ground before anything real bad happened.

Medical Cannabis

The first time I ever tried medical cannabis I had a fellow veteran convince me to try it. He said, you know, just try this for a week. Use a little bit before you go to sleep and try not to take any more pills and see how you are for the week. I mean the first night I slept for eight hours which I had done in probably a decade. I woke up felt refreshed but the real good thing is when I looked out at everything when I looked at the world my eyes had a different perspective. They had the perspective that you know what? I feel, I feel healed. I feel different than I did yesterday. I feel better. I feel like I can challenge anything that comes before me.

When you deal with pain every day, day after day after day, month after month, year after year, you get tired. But there is a huge difference between being alive and living. And with the veterans when they’re in that type of situation they’re just alive. I mean they’re not going out and doing stuff. They’re not doing what they love to do. You know, and doing all that stuff is part of what makes you happy. Part of what gives you internal joy and when you don’t have that darkness sets in.

But cannabis and medical cannabis it helps that. We need to stop talking about this and just get it done already. Words are nothing without action. Patients First. Thank you.

Right now, I’ve been doing this for four years. Things have picked up a lot. I’ll get phone calls from veterans on a daily basis. Emails, text messages. They want advice. They want to know, I mean, is it really going to cost me an arm and a leg if I get on the state program and I use the state dispensaries to get my medication? I mean, they have a lot of questions and they’re questions that we answer.

You’re not able to carry yourself. OK, so get on my back and I will carry you for you, and we will tackle this together. And, if the darkness is getting too dark, I will bring my flashlight and we will find the light.

-Jeremy Sankey

If I get in contact with a veteran or a veteran gets in contact with me, who is possibly in a crisis situation, I’ll talk to them. If I’m close enough I’ll drive to see them. But I’ll tell them straight up you’re not alone. You’re having an issue right now. You’re not able to carry yourself. OK, so get on my back and I will carry you for you, and we will we will tackle this together. And, if the darkness is getting too dark, I will bring my flashlight and we will find the light.

I’m Jeremy Sankey. I’m a 10 year disabled veteran in the US Army. I served from ‘95 to 2005. I’m the founder of Minnesota Veterans for Cannabis, an organization that was started to help veterans get away from taking all the deadly opiates that the V.A. was given them.

Read more CannabisIRL stories about veterans here.

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