In this episode, we explore the world of drug and alcohol counseling through the eyes of a compassionate and empathetic counselor, Suzanne. She shares her unique approach to guiding individuals on their journey to recovery, emphasizing the importance of connection and understanding. Listen in to discover how empathy plays a crucial role in fostering lasting change and healing in addiction counseling.
Table of Contents
- Release Date: Monday, June 19th, 2023
- Episode Number: Season 1, Episode 24
- Special Guest: Suzanne Gottschalk
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Episode 24: Cannabis & Addiction: Strengthening Bonds Through Counseling
Why You Will Love This Episode
In this episode, I sat down with Suzanne, a former cannabis user turned counselor for recovering addicts.
Her story takes an unexpected turn when she rediscovers the benefits of cannabis after facing numerous health challenges.
Suzanne shares her journey from smoking cannabis in college to quitting when she and her husband decided to start a family.
After becoming a mother, she dedicated her career to helping others overcome addiction, working with individuals on probation and parole.
However, life took an unexpected turn when Suzanne was diagnosed with a brain tumor and developed seizures, among other health issues.
Despite her struggles, she resisted using medicinal marijuana due to her work with recovering addicts.
It wasn’t until June of last year when she lost her beloved dog Sela that she turned to cannabis for relief.
The results were remarkable – Suzanne hasn’t experienced a seizure since November 9th, 2022. As her health improves, she looks forward to regaining her independence and embarking on the newest chapter of her life.
Join us as we discuss the power of medicinal marijuana, its role in Suzanne’s journey to wellness, and the importance of staying open-minded when it comes to alternative treatments.
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Suzanne: I am not a nine-to-five kind of counselor; I live the way I believe. And the way I believe is a life of sobriety and a life of happiness and a life of not getting over trauma, not getting over grief. You won’t. You have to learn to live with the fact that it happened.
Announcer: Welcome to the Well With Cannabis Podcast, a show dedicated to telling the life-changing stories of those who live well with cannabis all while teaching you how to do the same. Meet your host, Emily Kyle, a registered dietitian nutritionist turned certified holistic cannabis practitioner. Emily changed her life for the better with the help of the cannabis plant, and now she’s committed to helping others do the same.
Tune in each week to hear heartwarming stories and gain the knowledge you need to feel connected, inspired, and supported on your own cannabis journey. Whether you’re a new cannabis consumer or a lifetime lover, you’ll benefit from these uplifting tales of real-life journeys that will show you how you, too, can live your best life well with cannabis.
Emily: Hello, Suzanne; I want to thank you so much for doing this with me because when I read your story, I have it printed out right here; I was like, “Oh my gosh.” You really have a story to tell, and it sounds like you’ve had a crazy last three months. Are you doing okay for longer than three months?
Suzanne: I’ve been an addiction counselor for 23 years.
Emily: That is a crazy job, and 23 years is a long time to do that.
Suzanne: It is at first, and then you start learning all these tricks, and you learn about people themselves and just the kind of run-of-the-mill every addict stuff. You want to hit that stuff, but that’s the easiest because it’s almost like you forget it. It’s just like blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Getting to know you. And I always only focus the first session on getting to know the person to be positive and also just ensure that however long they’re in treatment, we’ll work together.
Emily: That’s so nice.
Suzanne: I have a really great way of doing that, and that’s putting a couch in my office, for real. Have essential oils. Essential oils burning. I’ve got four different playlists that I play from. It’s usually like my mood music, kind of the ambient instrumental things like that. I made a punk scar kind of playlist for one guy. He opened up like a lotus flower, it was just beautiful. Just because I was willing to do that and I might have been the first professional that was ever willing to let, I want you to be yourself. I don’t expect anything from you. Just telling them that they feel horrible and they feel resentful and all that stuff. And it’s like, “I can’t take that from you. You need to feel it. But I want you to feel some other things while you’re here,” and they do. It’s so rewarding.
Emily: I was going to say such meaningful work that’s got to really make you feel like you’re actually helping people.
Suzanne: Well, it’s like I can connect with anyone like me just saying I’m nervous. I probably wasn’t even really nervous. Just make sure that I got my head together for this conversation. I am a professional counselor. I got my master’s in 2012 and then, pardon me, I began to have seizures, and in 2015, I became completely disabled.
Emily: How did they come? Was it like one day out of the blue?
Emily: Oh my god.
Suzanne: I take that back seat. I’m going to take a lot of things back. There’s a lot of stuff that is really big that’s happened to me that I’ve just kind of been like, eh. I had brain tumor surgery in 2013. Nothing to me. My dad died on Easter Sunday that year.
Emily: I’m so sorry.
Suzanne: That’s what I remember. That’s what I remember. I don’t remember that I’ve still got a big old, looks like a donkey kicked me on top of the head because the screws and the plates that they put in on the brain, on the skull that they replace, it allows for expansion, for it to vacillate, I guess, with pressure. And anyway, brain surgery wasn’t that big of a deal. I wrecked two cars that year. One of them was a brand new beautiful truck. I ended up with my ’08 Chevy Silverado truck, and it’s got over 300,000 miles on it now.
Emily: Still doing good for you. So, you never used cannabis before the seizures or after?
Suzanne: Oh God. College was a… It is a series of events that I can remember and a whole lot. I can’t.
Emily: I think we can all probably have the same kind of experience with college for sure.
Suzanne: Anyway, I graduated when I was 21 from the University of Central Missouri. It was CMSU then because it was ’95. That’s how old I am. I was 21, and I kept partying. I met a friend, and I shouldn’t have married him because he wasn’t my friend. But we got married, and we made a very beautiful young lady, my Ryan, my little baby Ryan. She’s 23 now, and she’s got a five-year-old of her own, that’s partially what you read about. I haven’t spoken to them since then because she chose to work on her marriage and she’s blocked our entire side of the family, her entire side of the family.
Suzanne: So I’ve cried over it. I’ve done my ugly breakdown, whatever the hell you want to call it. Something really dark. That’s done. I’m just waiting for her to come back. I know that when I did that to my mother, I was partying though. I wasn’t trying to fix my marriage or something stupid like that. I’ve been married three times, so. And in all three marriages, there were things that I overlooked because of self-preservation I think.
Suzanne: I had gastric bypass surgery in 2009. I would’ve been… 13 years ago, 35-ish, 34, 35, 36, somewhere in there. I lost all the weight right away. Found out my second husband was cheating on me. Broke up with him. He moved me. I had gotten my master’s buy then, so he moved me where I was working in Boonville, Missouri. I stayed there for three years at an inpatient facility working with people and the nurses with the Suboxone and all the medications that they took. I learned a lot, but my father died in April, and my brain tumor was found in November, and two weeks later, I was in the hospital having major brain surgery. Then I became disabled officially in 2018. I kept trying to work. I tried so hard.
Emily: Oh gosh.
Suzanne: I worked three other jobs in between because that one was so taxing. I mean, I could do it now that I’m back. I mean, and I’ve accepted a lot of things, like my memory limitations, things like that. I know I could do it. And that kind of scares me because once you get on disability, you don’t want to lose disability.
Emily: Right, yes.
Suzanne: But with my daughter, her husband, and my grandson moving out, that leaves two upstairs bedrooms that I can make into an office.
Emily: Oh, nice.
Suzanne: And my whole garage is clear. So I foresee this big, huge, beautiful, some kind of huge rug in the middle with chairs and like a group room. Like where we can have the door up if it’s nice, or fans or ACs or heaters in the winter, whatever. I see a desk in there. Although, I do not see me doing my thing. That vision is yet to come to fruition. But I don’t know what I’m doing there. But I started smoking again. They had to talk me into it. My friend had to talk me into it.
Emily: Oh, interesting. How long did you abstain?
Suzanne: 23 to 48.
Emily: That’s crazy. That’s crazy. I mean, because of your profession, right? You couldn’t.
Suzanne: Yes. Right, exactly. But anyway, all these new things have come to light, and just looking back and looking at how I was living my life and how it is now, it’s 180 degrees different than it was.
Emily: Because of the cannabis, or has it just helped?
Suzanne: No, because of it, I say. I had a Weimaraner and her name was Sela. And Sela and I had 13 beautiful years together. I put her down in June and that day is when I started using medical marijuana. I did not have my card, of course, by then but about a week later, I got my card.
Emily: Oh, good.
Suzanne: I’m a very… That’s one thing that I got in my trials and tribulations in working, I do things I’m supposed to do. Whereas, when I was younger, I’d be like, “Eh, I’m not going to get in trouble.” But now it’s legal in Missouri for residents to just have recreational.
Emily: Amazing. Recreational in Missouri? That’s amazing.
Suzanne: I know, I know.
Emily: I think that’s crazy.
Suzanne: We’re in the middle. We get the last of everything, and it’s like, I know. There you go, baby. You can do it.
Emily: That’s a beautiful thing.
Suzanne: Yeah, because there are so many professionals like me that it is what it is, and I am not going to lie to anybody. And my coworkers, my peers, they know I’m not going to lie. People who have been my supervisors in the past, I’m not going to lie to them. So little bit by little bit, it goes up the string. And I think that’s what happened. There are just more people like me who didn’t use and abstained and were miserable for many years. I had two hip replacements.
Emily: Oh gosh.
Suzanne: I’ve had my right knee worked on, my left shoulder worked on. And, of course, the gastrointestinal stuff is just… I had complications. My original surgery was in ’09. I had complications in 2017.
Emily: That’s crazy.
Suzanne: I was in the ICU; I died on the operating table. They had to go back in and operate because somebody had nicked an artery or something, and I almost died. Well, I did, but I came back.
Suzanne: Anyway, so after that, of course, your life is going to change after an experience. I mean, there was a week there I couldn’t drink water or have any intake per mouth. And it’s just like, “This is torture.” And I’m not joking. I just wanted water.
Emily: Right, yes.
Suzanne: But they didn’t know. When I went in for emergency surgery, they popped a hole in my esophagus. That had to heal up enough for me to run around with a drain that would hold. There’s nothing like waking up with an IV in your neck because they wanted access. That’s scary.
Emily: Yeah, the PICC line in there.
Suzanne: I was terrified. Because I’ve never had an IV in my neck before. And I mean-
Emily: Oh, I know.
Suzanne: That’s like our last resort if we need… I mean, it’s my head. I had a port here, so they had access to my abdomen, but they wanted access to my head, which was terrifying. I remember so many things, and I don’t remember out of that stay because I tried. It was so painful that I was on Fentanyl, OxyContin, and Versed. I can’t remember how many other pain relievers I was on.
Emily: Were you nervous about being on all those knowing everything you know in your experiences? Or were you just like, “I need pain relief. I don’t even care.”
Suzanne: Some of both, but more of the pain relief. I don’t care because pain is-
Emily: Right. You can’t live if you’re in pain.
Suzanne: It can be debilitating, and it was. I had all these incisions, and I was bedridden, so I didn’t have any sores. I don’t remember, but I had sore spots.
Emily: Yeah, I mean, oh yeah.
Suzanne: As thin as I’ve gotten without even trying. And don’t hate that. Don’t hate that because it’s as bad as trying to lose weight. It is the exact same fight.
Emily: Given your experience of 23 years working as a counselor, how do you talk to people who maybe are still struggling with addiction or maybe are just struggling with the mindset of how to incorporate cannabis into their life in a way that’s safe and healthy?
Suzanne: Okay. First of all, depends on if they’ve been previous users. They would know a little bit more about their own tolerance and other issues in that way other than if they’ve been in prison, then they may not have had any access to it or other drugs or drugs that were not good. That’s part of all of that addictive process because it does become just ingrained so fiercely to protect yourself, to do only for yourself, to look out for number one and not get hurt. I’ve worked with a lot of different people in a lot of different situations. I’ve had people that came out of marriages that were like; they were institutionalized because they were so controlled.
Suzanne: It depends; every person is different. Just some of the ones that stand out and some of the regular things that I say to them are, you have to decide whether you’re an addict or not. I’m not going to tell you. That’s not my job. My job is to help you work through the reasons you were using abusively. I’m here to help you with the issues and the feelings and everything around the reasons maybe you wanted to escape. Things like that. Now, if they need marijuana in their life, it’s hard to cut all drugs at once. But if they could just go without smoking. And I mean, I taste how that sounds coming out of my mouth.
Suzanne: I want everyone to be healthy and happy, not in pain. And they have to make their own moral decision of whether to pursue the use of marijuana. And then, I mean, it’s a long time you think about that, whether you’re using it or not. I still think about it. I still think, what kind of counselor am I going to be? I won’t lie to my clients. If they’re going to ask me, I’m going to tell them. Is that going to be all right with the state or whoever is? Or their insurance, whoever’s paying the bill. I really, I don’t look to go back to an agency to work for someone else. I look to going into private practice just because I mean, I worked hard for my master’s, and I’m not afraid to start on my doctorate. I’ve thought about it a million times in the last; I’d say, five years. I’ve thought about it a million times, literally.
Suzanne: I see how much my knowledge expands. Although, I’m working on my memory problems. And that is a very scary deficit when you’re a counselor because you want the people in your chair or on your couch. You want them to be relaxed. You want to catch up. I worry. I worry. That’s more important to me than my paperwork. And it shouldn’t be because if heaven forbids, something happens to me, another counselor can pick right up as they can with my person who is now affected by losing a counselor. And if they had connected with me, then there’s grief there, too.
Suzanne: I mean, there are so many facets to it. I am not going to tell anybody not to use anything if it helps them. I will question their thinking. I will give them things to question themselves, and that’s really where it needs to lie. I don’t even need to know the answer. Some of my guys on probation and parole are supervised. I don’t know why that word was so hard to come up with, but that is supervised. They do UAs or BACs or whatever, and that can become huge and could send them back a prison. That’s not what Missouri’s trying to do right now because the prisons are a show of a run. But in this going back and releasing people that were charged with possession of marijuana distribution, I mean, the amounts are going to have a lot to do with it.
Suzanne: Even as a Medical Minute marijuana patient in Missouri, you can only have so much. And I’ve never even, I will never be able to smoke that much. I want to be me; I want to be interested; I want to be out running around playing with my dogs, playing with my great niece and giving my nephew trouble, and bringing out the boxing gloves for my brother mentally. Because he’s a pain in the ass. But my mother, too, she’s 78, or she’s 79. Don’t tell her I made her younger. She’ll blow a fit. But my mother was actually one of the first ones who said, “Susie, do you think that’ll help you with your seizures? Because you can’t keep having these seizures.
Suzanne: Waking up on the floor, on the tile floor, on the hardwood floor.” I had one seizure; it was January the third of last year. I woke up; I’m looking over here because I’m in my bedroom. I woke up between my hard dresser and my soft king-size bed. I woke up, and I woke up enough to turn. I naturally was lying on my right side. Well, when I went to turn, it woke me up because this is why it woke me up. I didn’t know at the time. I turned over on my other side because I didn’t have any use of my right arm from my shoulder down to my fingertips, none. I mean, it flopped. And I had to because I can’t drive because of my epilepsy and I’ve got three more months left, and I bought a car.
Suzanne: I’m really looking forward to being, that’s part of me, that was part of my freedom. That was part of my crank the music up, and don’t give a F what just happened for now. And deal with it later. That therapeutic time in my car, it’s changed me because I’m not up on these new bands. I’m a big metalhead and grunge metal, new metal. Just, I love rock. I always have. I started educating myself on it when I was about 12 years old. I listened to a classic rock station to bone up and know what certain bands were like, “Oh, that’s Boston, that’s off the third stage.” Or, “That’s Lynyrd Skynyrd.” That’s so and so. Or I’d be like, “Oh, I got this song. I got the song.” I mean, I tortured myself; I’m a lifelong learner of that. And a lot of these bands, like a lot of them always do. If there’s any kind of new movement in the field, they sound a lot like another band. Oh, I’m not going to be able to remember who it was. I thought this one band was Nine Inch Nails last night, and it was something completely different.
Suzanne: So I’m working on that because I think that’s part of what my memory did. I just exercised it all the time while I was awake. And why I have a hard time getting to sleep sometimes. It doesn’t matter how much I’ve had to ingest; it doesn’t matter. My sleep just comes and goes. And that is just something that I’ve got to deal with. I’ve tried the night-night ones. The night-night ones are not beneficial for me. There’s not enough in them to make a difference. I mean, it’s just being honest. But the edibles with the higher, because I really don’t like to smoke it. I smoke cigarettes and smoke weed. I’m worried about my lungs. I actually do have a spot where one of my lungs collapsed, and its scar tissue, and it could become cancer.
Suzanne: I’m going not to be smoking at all. Smoking, smoking. I enjoy my vapes with distillate. I like and distillate best. I don’t have a lot of money. Of course, I’m on disability, so I don’t get to go to the dispensary a lot. But when I do, I have fun. And there’s the cutest 20-something-year-old in my favorite dispensary. I’m still this old, and I’m still boy-crazy.
Emily: That is a great tip for anyone going to the dispensary. Might have a little eye candy to look at when you go.
Suzanne: Oh, and the other one is full of men. But I’m not as familiar with that. It’s that inborn. Even before the person that I am, you had different roles in your life. One of my roles right now is I use marijuana. So even before that, it’s I don’t want to look stupid. I don’t want to look stupid; I don’t want to look stupid. Groups or like speaking about recovery in front of 80 people that some of them I’ve met, which makes me nervous, more nervous. Some of them are my own patients. I always get a good review, and I’m always just so… I don’t know that there’s, it’s like being a rockstar, I guess. I’m elated when somebody comes up after my lectures and says, “Suzanne, listen. I’m so glad you said that. I need it said to me that way. You just made a difference in my treatment.” And hugs. I mean, I will tear up in my office when-
Emily: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Suzanne: Holy crap. I’m feeling what I’m supposed to do. Oh my God. For so many counselors that don’t give a crap that doesn’t understand, there are way more that do and just want you to be relaxed and comfortable talking to them because you’re here for a reason. Let’s do it.
Emily: I wish everyone could have you as their counselor. You just have that perfect attitude.
Suzanne: I wish that were everybody.
Emily: It’s just got to make whoever comes across your path feel like, “Oh my gosh, I found someone who understands me and treats me like a person”. That’s just so rare.
Suzanne: I don’t give a crap about your rap sheet. And oh God, another thing that’s really hard to get over, which I haven’t found in this many years, haven’t found something smart ass to say back to these counselors. There are counselors that you will work with within a team that has seen this patient three times. Or they’ve had three different counselors. In this facility, I’m thinking, what’s wrong with the facility? But don’t tell me what this person was about five years ago. Don’t tell me what they were like last spring because I’m working with them now, and I’m very capable of making my own decisions professionally. And don’t tell me how to do it. I’ll fight them on that.
Emily: See, that’s what makes you amazing, is not everybody’s willing to do that.
Suzanne: And as a caveat to that, I try new stuff every day. Because so many people that are resistant are the most important ones to me, that might sound messed up. I mean, I do get involved in their lives, but it is not inappropriate. Not violating any of my… Well, it’s like, Not to down surgeons and medical personnel, but it’s like a Hippocratic Oath, and I live by it. I’m not a nine-to-five or 7 AM to 10 PM kind of counselor. I live the way I believe; the way I believe is a life of sobriety and a life of happiness, and a life of not getting over the trauma. Not getting over grief. You won’t. You have to learn to live with the fact that it happened, and it’s very beneficial. You don’t have to if you don’t want to. You don’t have to do any of this stuff if you don’t want to.
Suzanne: But what I’ve found for myself and for my closest friends is I have friends on Facebook. That guy messaged me this morning. We became unfriended somehow. He was hacked, and I wondered where he went, but it was like, I didn’t realize it until he showed up. And then it was like, my cowboy’s back. He says yesterday, “Today, I have 11 years, six months, and one day.” I was just like, I mean, I’ve got goosebumps now. I was just like, “Praise the Lord.” And I don’t care who you pray to. You decide. You don’t even have to tell me. But I will, maybe not on the first go around, but you’re trying to make them want to come back to see you. And if you want to give them candy to do that, give them candy. Load them up, man. Do you want a monster coffee?
Emily: There you go.
Suzanne: I know your dietary needs. You can have a monster coffee. You have one of mine. But just treating them kind of special, letting them know that they matter. Letting them know that nobody’s forgotten about them. You’ve got every single person on staff’s attention here. Everybody knows about you. And that kind of feeds into paranoia. I’ve dealt with that before. Why is groundskeeping know why I can’t eat a normal, that I have to have a separate tray? If they’re on gluten or whatever, or low, low salt or whatever. And I’m like, “Well, you step in here, and we try to take care of your needs so you don’t have to worry about them.”
Emily: So nice.
Suzanne: And that’s one of your needs that you said the word when I did your intake. And you don’t have to worry about it for the next however many days your insurance will bless you with. And, of course, the longest cent is the best.
Emily: Yes, definitely.
Suzanne: Insurance companies don’t want to pay. But they, it’s called a utilization review. And I, for some reason, learned from the best. I got lucky. And I can get a utilization request approved the first time I write it.
Suzanne: And that is something; if you’re a counselor, you know that’s something. You know it. The insurance company’s job is not to pay. And it’s like, “Look, if I tell you about this person’s just a couple of little things, you lose your little attitude, and you got to listen to me.” Then I start talking about the generic. The empirical data in the treatment that they have achieved. The levels that they have accomplished with me, or they’re just a different kind of person, and they need more. Or they’re just, I’ve only met a couple of them and don’t know where they’re now. So it could be they’re dead. I mean, I don’t know. But people that didn’t tell me that stuff never called me back after they left.
Suzanne: Never called me back. And I don’t think it’s that I didn’t have the connection. We didn’t have a deep enough connection. They didn’t feel safe enough. So that is my number one first session. You got to feel comfortable. If you don’t, we’re sitting here through lunch; I’ll go get two trays. I will not care. The nursing staff will not care. The chef will not care. I’m doing my job, and food right now is how I’m going to do it. I can’t break out a cigarette in session, though. But maybe in my garage.
Emily: Just listening to you talk, you are clearly such an advocate, and you have such a unique perspective that I feel like private practice has to be your calling. You can offer something that you really can’t offer in that traditional setting. Do you feel like your thumbs are tied by working with the state or government or anything like that?
Suzanne: Sometimes. Oh, sometimes. Because I mean, no doubt. I’ve seen people for free. I’m on disability. I’m not going to screw that up. I have a farm to pay for. I live on the farm I grew up on, thank God. Well, I’m in Sedalia, which isn’t far away, when I was younger. When I was little before I had my baby, and then after I had my baby when she was about… Okay, whatever. So I lived there while I got my master’s. And then they moved me to Boonville because I was closer. And then, just months later, my dad died. So I moved on home and started plans for the house I’m in.
Emily: No, it sounds like you definitely have the office space. You have the garage space. You really could do the private practice thing.
Suzanne: I have dreams about that garage, the mandalas on the wall. I’m a big metal fan, so I have a lot of different types of diverse music. They’re like tins if you go on Amazon or, actually, Hobby Lobby started it with tins that say half-off things. Well, I’ve got Dimebag Darrell, Pantera, the guitarist that got killed back in 2008. I’ve got Panera stuff, as it’s always been, my favorite band. Slayer, the Van Halens. I’ve got all kinds of music stuff to put up. I’ve got ribbons and trophies from when I was in 4H. So I have a high shelf that you have to want to see what’s up there. If I put them up next to the edge, you’ll be able to see my little plaques and trophies and stuff. But that’s way back.
Suzanne: It’s like you start working with me; you know who I am. I don’t hide who I am. This is why I’ve had such a struggle in deciding how to come out to people that don’t know as a marijuana user. And I wouldn’t tell them the first time. Might not tell them the second or third because you got to hook them, and you got to want them to come back, and they’re doing better. They’re experiencing positive things and negative things that they didn’t realize were negative, and they’re changing that. And want to help facilitate that in their lives. And only if they trust you, they’re not going to say, “Oh, yeah, my counselor Ms. Perez. She’s not real.”
Emily: Right, right.
Suzanne: But I so am. And I just have to convince them of it.
Suzanne: Just have to do it.
Emily: I think that one of the hardest parts for so many of us is coming out of the cannabis closet, and when is an appropriate time? When is it okay to talk about it? When is it not okay to talk about it? And I think I connect with that because I feel like we all experience that on different levels.
Suzanne: Yes, I think so too. I noticed one thing I wanted to ask you about your credentials that are behind your name, Emily Kyle, the dietitian nutritionist. What do the last three letters stand for?
Emily: The last three is HCP which is holistic cannabis practitioner. I did the traditional route. I went to college and got my master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, but I didn’t learn anything about cannabis then. I had this really strong interest in talking about cannabis just because I used it in my own life. And when I started talking about it, and maybe you’ll relate to this as a healthcare professional, I kept feeling really guilty that I didn’t have the formal training on it. I’m like, “I’m not qualified to talk about this.” So I ended up going back to do that certificate program, which is where I got those letters. And it was good for me because I actually feel more confident in knowing what I’m talking about. I think, as a professional; we obviously want to know what we’re talking about.
Suzanne: And we want other people to feel comfortable that you do.
Emily: And that’s… Oh gosh, I know that exactly. I know exactly how that feels.
Suzanne: In fact, I wonder if there’s some kind of, I mean, I know I could become an addictionologist at a doctoral level, but is that workable for me to do? I know; I can tell you right now I made a B. I graduated with honors with my master’s, but I made a B in research because it just doesn’t make sense to me. But you get me numbers I’m interested in that make sense, and I have somebody to explain them to them. You don’t have anybody explaining. That instructor was such a sweetheart. She looked like she was about 25, a new instructor, and loved us. So I think she gave us, she didn’t want to see us fail. And thank God for her. I mean, I met a lot of wonderful clinicians and professors, and I still am along the way.
Emily: I don’t know if you can connect with this with me on this level, but it’s hard to be like a professional in the industry because I feel, and maybe this is my own perception, but I feel like a lot of other professionals in my field judge me because of the cannabis.
Suzanne: Right. So you just advocate for yourself just like you would anybody else. Just as hard.
Emily: I mean people like you, people like me who are in the field who come out and say, “This is okay, and we are okay, and it will be okay.” I think that’s what it takes to move the needle forward and change the face of cannabis. Because so many professionals are so afraid to be honest and to show the truth, they’re afraid of what will happen to their careers or how people will perceive them. I just am really thankful that you had this conversation with me because I feel like so many people will listen and be like, “Oh my gosh, she is just like me, normal, and lives a normal healthy life with cannabis.”
Suzanne: Oh, I’m not normal.
Emily: But you’re better than you were.
Suzanne: I function really well. I am not normal. And there’s no such thing while I’m plugging my… While I’m saying some of the things that I always say. What was I going to say? If you have an addiction, you’ll always have that addiction. It is. So you’re going to have to be really mindful and self-aware. And if you don’t have that and you don’t know how to wrap your head around how to get there, there are programs; there are eight-week programs. I know in Columbia, Missouri, where MU is, there’s an eight-week class. It’s at a Unity church. So the very non-denominational, very welcoming, very, very loving community that lets some professionals do, people that wouldn’t have offices, they let them do workshops or whatever with people every Tuesday night from seven to nine or whatever.
Emily: That’s perfect.
Suzanne: And I’m a very lax teacher. “I got to go to the bathroom. Anybody else I got to go to the bathroom with us? Take a break. I’m giving you a whole 15 minutes. You better be back.”
Emily: I feel like that’s why people connect with you, though. You’re so real. It’s easy to connect with you right away, and I can see why your patients would feel like, “Oh my gosh, she’s a normal person.” I just connect with her. I feel normal. I feel safe.
Suzanne: Good. I’m glad I come off that way because that’s how I intend to be. That’s how I intend to be.
Emily: That’s amazing. Now I want to be respectful of your time. We’re going to wrap this up. I’m going to ask every interviewee the same four questions. So bear with me. And the first one is, of all the things you’ve done in your life, what are you most proud of today?
Suzanne: Making my father, who was a lifetime farmer, a lifetime rancher. He had a little girl in 1973, and he had no idea what to do with her until she decided to throw down and make him show what she could do with him. I’m glad that I created a relationship with my father before he died. That was one of mutual respect and love. And I’m not going to cry because it is so powerful. He was a hard, hard, hard-headed soul of the earth type person. But my grandmother, his mother, was my favorite grandmother because she understood everything. I could tell her anything. She didn’t understand tongue piercings and shit or tattoos. But I didn’t even try. I mean, it’s like, really, you know my heart. You know my heart, and that’s what’s important.
Suzanne: So, at the same time, I knew he had that in him. I thought, literally, we got in two or three yelling matches to where I finally made him listen. “I want to run this farm when you die, and if you set it up, we can. So stop it.” All the things that I intended to do with him, I did not get to do. But when he was not with us anymore, he was in the ER when I got there; it was about a 45-hour drive from where he was. When I went into that ER room, and I grabbed his hand, his big huge hand, still way bigger than mine. I grabbed his hand and squeezed it as hard as I could. And I said, “Daddy, Susie’s here. I’m right here. I’m right here. And if you have to go, you have to go. But don’t stay because of us because we’ll be okay. We’ll figure it out.” So my whole life, that’s what I’m proud of.
Emily: Oh, that’s such a sweet story. And thank you for sharing.
Suzanne: I did cry. I’m sorry.
Emily: I mean, it’s emotional, though, and I’m so sorry you lost your dad, and just honoring him.
Suzanne: But I talk to him every day. You don’t understand. Well, we won’t get into that in this talk, but he’s here.
Emily: I’m so happy.
Suzanne: My grandmother. I smelled his cologne so heavy the other night. Nobody wears that cologne.
Emily: Oh my god.
Suzanne: It was so strong. And it’s like, I get it. I get it. What do you want? I don’t know. But things like that, just… And I think before; it’s because I’m more self-aware that I’m more aware of the things around me.
Emily: Yeah, spiritually as well. Definitely. So moving forward, what do you think what your life would look like if you hadn’t found cannabis? Where would you be today?
Suzanne: I’d be in pain, possibly overdosing on Oxycontin again. Not on purpose. Not on purpose at all.
Emily: Does cannabis effectively manage your pain to where you don’t need anything else?
Suzanne: I am still on Oxycontin, but…
Emily: Which is fine.
Suzanne: Because I have pains that marijuana couldn’t touch.
Emily: Yes, and I’m so glad you were brave enough to say that because I want anybody who listens to this podcast to know that cannabis doesn’t have to be the only answer. There can be multiple layers to an answer, and one’s not better than the other.
Suzanne: If it’s your only answer, God bless you.
Emily: Yes. Yes. That is a great way to-
Suzanne: I mean, I take pills for my stomach. I don’t produce enzymes, so I don’t digest my food. I have to take these big horse pills for that. And I mean, just, it’s not fun, but I have it, and it makes me happy, and I can relax.
Emily: See, yes, that’s-
Suzanne: Totally relax and not be stupid. Just I’m relaxed.
Emily: I’m so glad you have that. And to give you just that little piece of calmness and relaxation really, I feel like can make such a difference for people too.
Suzanne: Yeah, yeah. I hope.
Emily: Last question we’re going to wrap up with, if you could be remembered for one thing in this world, what do you hope it to be?
Suzanne: As a helper.
Emily: I feel it. I feel it. You’ve helped.
Suzanne: As a healer. As a healer, as a helper.
Emily: And I feel like in the future, I don’t know, I have these vibes for you. I can see you in your garage; I can see chairs around. I can see you helping people in a way that maybe people haven’t explored yet. And I think that’s really exciting for you.
Suzanne: Thank you. Thank you. It is…
Emily: I know it coming for you in the future. Who knows what the future will hold? But I see you helping people through this path. I mean, you have such specialized training and knowledge to be able to help people who are struggling. But also, you have that personal connection with cannabis, which is so unique and different, and I think it will really help a lot of people in the future.
Suzanne: I really do hope so.
Emily: Thank you so much for your time. I really enjoyed getting to sit with you today.
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