In Memory of Don
By William Bradley
I guess it would have been late 1996 that I met Don in Norman. He was one of the town drunks at the time. A friend of mine introduced me to him and I was privileged to meet one of the kindest human beings on this planet. Don would do anything for his friends.
As I began to get to know Don, I began to learn that his drinking problem had an actual cause. Don had served three tours of duty in Vietnam and suffered from severe PTSD. He was on the max dose of Thorazine that they could give him, along with Vistaril to help him sleep, and yet he still either had to drink until he passed out, or lie awake all night wrestling with the demons in his head.
My friend and I were both devout cannabis users and we figured out pretty quickly that if Don smoked cannabis before bed, he would go to sleep, sleep all night, and wake up feeling refreshed. This is the first instance that I can recall that I began to really think of cannabis as medicine. He just did so much better in life all the way around if he could smoke cannabis every day.
Unfortunately, this particular time frame was when the War on Drugs was reaching a fever pitch. The local police department seemed to triple in size overnight and people were being arrested left and right. I had a lot of friends end up in prison throughout this period.
One day, a pizza delivery boy smelled weed coming from Don’s apartment and called the police to report on Don. Unbeknownst to my friend and I, Don had a very old warrant out of Wyoming. He had ended up in a barroom brawl when he came back stateside and accidentally killed a man.
Between being snitched on for smoking cannabis and therefore being unable to use it, and his worry about those warrants, Don chose to hang himself in his bathroom. I still wonder to this day if that delivery driver knows his judgmentalism ended up killing a man.
It is sad that our veterans cannot access cannabis as medicine. I know that this particular story does not have a happy ending but it is a story that drives me because now that cannabis is legal, we can begin to tell happy stories. But we should never forget all of those who suffered and died. We should never forget the Dons of this world.
We still have a ton of work to do. And the memory of Don compels me to tell these stories, and to teach, and advocate for the numerous health benefits that cannabis offers.
If you have a story, whether happy or sad, we would love to hear from you, because it is these stories that help the uninformed to understand. I do not think our work will ever be done in this world, as long as there are people like Don in it.