• Michelle Janikian

A Personal Introduction to a Drug Writer

Hey all thanks for checking out the site. I was trying to figure out a way to keep you all updated on what I’m up to without rewriting my “About Me” page every few months. So I finally started a blog!

Here I’ll let you guys know if I’m working on any cool projects, going to be speaking at any events, if I’m going on any noteworthy adventures, and updates on my book! More on the book in the next post…

Me at one of my favorite nearby parks, relaxing on a Saturday in 2018. Photo by Martin Clarke.

For now, I thought I’d introduce myself a little more personally than in my official bio. You’re probably aware that I write about cannabis, psychedelics and other drugs, but did you know how I got into it? If you guessed doing a lot of drugs you wouldn’t be far off, but it’s a little more complicated than that.

I was a shy kid and angsty teen. I struggled to make friends and make sense of my emotions, which when I was a freshman in high school seemed out of control, but in retrospect were pretty average for a teenager. But the adults in my life didn’t know what to do with me, and I, like so many young women of my generation, was put on an array of psychiatric medications I didn’t really need when I was about 14 or 15.

Taking a cocktail of pills to numb strong feelings at a young age normalized this behavior for me. As I got older, I numbed all my strong feelings with a variety of substances. I binged drank alcohol, I did cocaine every weekend for a few years, and eventually was using opioids and heroin “casually” to fill a hole whose origins I couldn't recall.

I’ve never really been public about this. I don’t talk about it and I’ve never published a personal essay detailing my drug history. It’s mostly because I’m not proud, even though it’s been about eight years since I’ve touched most “hard” drugs. I did stupid and dangerous things during that time I regret, but unlike some of my closest friends, I survived. I’m still alive. Maybe it’s to tell this story and all the other drug and harm reduction stories I feel are so important. Or maybe I’m just lucky. Because I definitely wasn’t smart about my use.

Me at a party in 2009. Thought the image best describes how much of the time I remember

Somehow I finished college and the cocaine and opioid use waned. I worked jobs I didn’t really care about and even found a psychiatrist to help me wean off all the “mood stabilizing” drugs I was still taking daily (right before I was kicked off my parents’ health insurance). Letting go of my Klonopin prescription was the hardest, but slowly I got over it and learned to sleep and go out into public without substances. I never went manic – a deep rooted fear psychiatrists instilled in me as a teen – although I’ve been depressed a handful of times since. But I’m learning to deal with my strong emotions and sometimes unbearable anxiety on my own. Smoking weed, and now taking daily CBD oil, helps.

In 2013 I was getting it together, looking for an entry-level position in marketing when a close friend of mine died unexpectedly. I loved this friend and believed he was the only person who understood me, at least for a while. We also used heroin and pain killers together for years – although not at the time of his death – I still blamed myself.

That’s where my journey to becoming who I am today really began, for better or for worse. Although tempted, I didn’t use in response to his death. I flew to Guatemala for a four-week trip. I planned go to Lago Atitlan for two weeks and then Chiapas, Mexico for the other two and fly back to NY in a month, healed. It’s been over five years and I’m still here. I grieved this friend’s death and traveled for over seven months. Met my current partner who I live with now in Chiapas with our two rescued dogs and cherished plants.

Me at Boca del Cielo, Chiapas (literally: Heaven's Mouth) as part of my grief trip in 2013

I pursued writing full time, specifically writing about drugs, for my dead friend, for my lonely and confused teenage self, to show that America’s culture of over-prescribing psychiatric medications to numb strong feelings is wrong. It’s creating another culture of avoiding your issues by blocking out the pain with substances. It’s a culture that denies natural plant remedies, like cannabis and psilocybin, that can help people get to the root of their struggles and solve them themselves.

So I’ll keep sharing these inspiring medical cannabis and psychedelic stories, even if I get pushback, because we have to show society that there’s another way to be. That many of our normalized legal drugs are harming our most sensitive and creative people more than outlawed substances, like cannabis and psychedelics, used safely. That strong emotions and plant remedies are both natural parts of life that shouldn’t be suppressed, criminalized or stigmatized. I believe with education and regulation, we can “shift the paradigm” and create a healthier and more accepting future, one that will be easier to live in without so many mood stabilizing drugs.

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