Boston Marathon bombing survivor of Hope, Pain and Pot
Thousands of spectators will line up on Boylston Street in Boston on Monday for the Boston Marathon race, as I did on a sunny afternoon in 2013.
On that fateful day, my arm and leg were shattered by flying shrapnel from a pressure cooker bomb that was detonated by terrorists at the finish line.
I was a victim of terror that day, but I also became a survivor. I survive every day. I survive through painful surgeries and debilitating anxiety. I survive in an effort to help others; people who are suffering like me.
I made friendships born in blood and smoke on Boylston Street, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and the Bataclan in Paris.
I have traveled to these places which have been turned into war zones. I have looked into the eyes of those who have lost loved ones and parts of themselves to senseless violence.
Since the Boston Marathon attacks, my mission is to share my experiences with others around the world, especially those who have faced the worst of human nature to show them that there is still light, that there is still hope.
But every heart-wrenching conversation creates additional stress for me as I’m forced to relive those terrifying moments when I thought I was going to die.
I take these thoughts to bed with me and I can’t sleep. This is when the nightmares take over. I was prescribed several medications, which either did not work, or left me groggy and not myself.
I have explored cannabis and it has really changed my life. It finally allowed me to rest my body and my mind. I no longer feel like I’m underwater. I wake up each morning knowing that I am healing myself so that I can help others through the process. With a clear mind, I can run in the morning and think about how I’m going to approach the day.
Cannabis has given me healthy relaxation so that I can then focus on my mission, which is to pay it forward.
When I was injured in the bombing, I had to rely on strangers who created makeshift tourniquets to stop my bleeding. For them, it was an instant and humanitarian mission to save my life and that of others. Without them, I wouldn’t be here right now. This is why I felt compelled to travel to France after the deadly terrorist attack at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French newspaper in January 2015 and again months later after the Bataclan tragedy to offer the whole help possible.
I hate how we all met, but the other survivors I spent time with on this long and painful journey have become my family.
As survivors, we communicate in ways that only we can understand.
During the pandemic, I continued my outreach activities from a distance. Whether by phone call, via Zoom, by SMS or by simple card, I want everyone to know that they are not alone.
Next week, when I see these runners heading to the finish line on TV and hear those cheering crowds, I will remember the day that changed my life and the lives of hundreds of others.
I will no longer take prescription pills to relieve my anxiety. Instead, I will take comfort in knowing that cannabis will give me the sleep I need to get through the day in a healthier way, so that I can continue to spread a message of hope and understanding to me. ‘others who have endured so much.
Michelle L’Heureux is a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing and spokesperson for Curaleaf’s I Cannabis campaign.