My story

This is a story about Life, Love, Heartache and HOPE!

Hello, My name is Christopher Charles Cialdella. I’m using my full name because my father would be proud that I’m here telling my story. I’ve been writing this for  the past 2.5 years, not with the intention of presenting it, I just happened to start writing as a way to preserve my sanity. When My friend Doug LaGrua called and said it’s time to tell your story, I was elated and nervous. My good friend Natalie asked if I was a good public speaker ….No way! But this is something I’m passionate enough about to try something I’ve never done.

There are two experiences I’d like to share with you. They’re about injury, pain, prescription drugs, prescribed addiction, recovery and natural pain management.

I have 2 disclaimers.

I want to make something clear, The only issue I have ever had with opiates was taking them as prescribed. I have never purchased an opiate that was not prescribed to me. In fact I have given back the opiates i did not use.

Please forgive me for using different names for cannabis. It is widely known by a few names and some fit better than others.


My first experience with opiates was the best of the worst.
When I was 18 I left my dream job of building racing engines to work with my father who was also my best friend. He had a fun array of small businesses ranging from metal ruler manufacturing and infrared dryer design to stamping greeting cards. Soon after, I was running production and helping with sales.
With his help I started a few businesses in search of my passion. I had a tire and wheel shop, I bought and sold equipment, I repaired personal watercraft and I had an online book business selling out of print and rare books. At one point I had over 200 thousand books which was kind of ironic for someone that can barely read. My father loved helping me, especially with the books. We worked very well together.
Life was good!

When I was 22 I ruptured two discs in my lower back and needed surgery to fix it.
It took about 4 weeks of paperwork before I had the operation. It wasn’t till two weeks after the operation that I was able to walk. I was in a ridiculous amount of pain.
Prior and Post surgery I consumed 500 prescribed Percocets. I remember counting the bottles when I felt better and trying to figure out what happened.
I was lucky enough that I was able to bare the pain before I ran out of pain killers. I remember the first night I felt withdrawal symptoms. At first I thought it was funny because I had heard about addicts withdrawing but me not being an “addict” it should pass quickly. I laughed out loud and said “I’m a crack head”. It took about 10 minutes of feeling like someone was tickling the back of my arms that I realized this was about to get real. I took 2 pills and waited for them to kick in. My nose would itch when they started working. With a nose the size of mine it was pretty obvious.

It took about 15 to 20 minutes before they kicked in and while I was waiting a sickness was building inside me. I can only explain it as my insides wanted to come out and I wanted to peel my skin off. It took about a week of this to wean myself off the opiates. I would wait till I couldn’t take it anymore then chew one pill and see if that worked. If I needed more I would take a half at a time till it went away. As the physical symptoms subsided anxiety and depression were building. I felt it coming but couldn’t stop it.

I loved my life and couldn’t wait to get back to everything I enjoyed doing and everyone I enjoyed spending time with but I felt like I had been run over by a truck then tossed down a flight of stairs while people laughed. No one was laughing but I felt alone. My father was very supportive and provided me the mental protection that I didn’t realize I needed.

It was about a month before I felt stable enough to leave the house. The first place I went was to CarParts in Hillsborough. Car guys and gearheads would gather. It was a place I felt comfortable and I knew I could be open about being depressed. “Uncle John” gave me a hug and said we got you buddy.”
I healed quickly. Physically and mentally…
I was back on my jetski in two months and I never looked back.

My second experience was the polar opposite.
If my father had not been so caring and understanding throughout my first recovery I would not have survived what I’m about to tell you.

Life had drastically changed. I had closed the family businesses a few years after my father suddenly passed away. My best friend and biggest supporter was no longer by my side. I had bills and a mortgage. A job. A product line that needed attention. Although I loved my life and the great people surrounding me, Life wasn’t as easy without my best friend.

On Saturday June 27, 2015 …my father’s birthday. I was out in the ocean on my jetski. Fortunately the waves were small enough that I got bored quickly and headed back in for the day. On my way back through the inlet I went over a wave backwards and and it violently shook me. When I got back to the ramp my back felt a little tight so I was going to rest and be ready for the long weekend coming up.

When I woke up for work Monday I had a stiff neck like I had never felt before.

I went to my primary care Physician, Dr Harprete Bagga of Hillsborough medical associates. She was on vacation so I went to the emergency room. They gave me a shot of something, a script for a few Percocet and Valium with instructions to follow up with my primary care doctor. I went to Doctor Bagga’s colleague who gave me scripts for 30 Percocet and 60 Valium with a script for an X-ray. I had the X-ray done and waited for a call. I was calling and calling for the results, when I finally got a call he told me the X-ray doesn’t show anything. I was in tears, I asked. “What do I do!? I haven’t slept in five days!!!” He said you need an MRI. I said do it. I had very good insurance I knew they would cover it. He said wait for Doctor Bagga to come back. I went to Doctor Bagga as soon as she was back from vacation.
She said nothing was wrong. I went to her multiple times, one time she told me I need a girlfriend to relieve the stress. I was dumbfounded. I begged for an MRI. She sent me to physical therapy.
The physical therapist said there is something seriously wrong with your neck and you need an MRI now!
I called Doctor Bagga with this information and she said it was too hard for her to write a script for an MRI. I said send me to someone that can.
She gave me a script for more Valium. She filled out the script wrong so I had to call her late Friday. She called me back on Saturday and said she fixed the script but she wasn’t giving me any more pain pills. I said I don’t want any painkillers I want an MRI. She chuckled and said if it hurts that bad go to the emergency room.

At this point I had not slept in 20 days while taking a prescribed opiate – Benzodiazepine mix. I was in more pain than anyone should have to endure. My left arm had atrophied, I could no longer move my hand at all. I hadn’t eaten in days and wasn’t craving meatballs. I’m Italian. That’s a pretty good indication something is WRONG.

I called my best friend Sunny who convinced me to go to the ER. I was afraid they wouldn’t believe me either but I had nothing to lose. I put on my super Mario pajamas and called my mother for a ride to the ER. They brought me in and started me on a dilaudid drip very quickly. 20mg, I could hit the button every 6 minutes. The drip barely changed the pain level. I watched the nurse turn up the drip so I was turning it up trying to get some relief. I was keeping it around 40 to 60mg. At one point I went to 80mg but that one scared me. I thought I was dying.
I was getting Percocet and an occasional injection of something to keep me from crying.
As soon as the MRI team was there I was in a tube. They had to give me another injection so I could hold still long enough to do the test.
I woke up to an angel named Kevin McCracken. Not only was he an incredibly caring and genuine person, he was a good look’n guy. That’s pretty much the first thing I said to him.
He laughed and promised to take good care of me.
He told me that I had shattered the cartilage from two discs and it was crushing my spinal cord.
I was scheduled for emergency surgery.
When I woke up from surgery, I put both hands up and tried to say holy crap I can move. He performed a two level fusion putting a plate and screws on the front of my spine. The surgery took much longer than expected so my vocal cords stretched and I sounded like batman.
He apologized and said your voice should comeback but it might take 2 to 6 months. I was happy to be mobile and finally have some relief from the pain. I could deal with the voice and it gave my friends a little peace and quiet.
When asked my pain level before surgery I was trying to say 20 but the “opiate smiley face scale” only goes from 1 to 10. If I was at a 10 prior to surgery I was at a 6 after. I was still in an incredible amount of pain but it was tolerable.
Right before I left the hospital I told my mother and Dr. McCracken “I’m going to need my therapist and a lot of weed when I get out of here.” They both said we don’t want you to do anything stupid on weed. I said you’ve obviously never tried it. You do stupid stuff when you drink, You don’t do stupid stuff on weed, you’re too scared.

I was given a half dozen prescriptions and sent home. I took one Dilaudid pill the first night out of the hospital and that was only because my mother begged me to.
From that day I went cold turkey. It was excruciating. I wanted the toxins out of my system as quickly as possible. I knew there was a depression to follow and I wanted to get on with it.
I had no idea what was triggered in my mind or how bad it was going to hurt. I was sick with the shakes and sweats for almost a month. Then I had to piece my mind back together for two years.
Even after surgery I wasn’t able to sleep because of the pain in my left arm. I would get an hour here and there but every time I bumped my arm I would wake up.
I got just enough to keep going but the only way to describe it is, I felt like I was dying. I’ve spoken with other people that could not sleep and they described it the same way.

Anxiety was building. I was worried about being able to work, losing my house, losing my business, losing my friends, …I was most concerned with losing my mind.

The first 5 days I went without sleep while taking the opiate benzo combination something clicked in my mind. I became very paranoid. I imagined someone was hurting me for something I had done. From that point it was like my barrier from bad thoughts had crumbled and whatever I imagined was reality. Every little thing felt catastrophic, and the bigger things were almost unbearable.
I felt weak and helpless but I was going to battle this with every ounce of strength I had left.

As soon as I was able to drive I went to Carparts. The original store was gone but the family was still there. My pal Joe and I ate Sonic and talked for a couple hours. He had broken his neck years ago so he understood. We chatted about life, love, Jetskis and HotRods. Joe was currently dealing with some severe pain. We were in the same boat.

I was desperate to sleep. I felt my mind slipping away.

I asked my surgeon if he would help me get my medical marijuana card. I found a participating MMJ doctor. Neither the MMJ Dr or my surgeon felt comfortable giving me a prescription under the NJ guidelines. Pain was not an acceptable reason to give someone this medication.

I was given numerous nerve pain medications that only sent me spiraling deeper into a depression I thought I would be stuck in forever.
I met a girl. It was an instant mutual attraction. But i found out the hard way why you can not date while detoxing. I was a shell of who I once was. It killed me that I couldn’t just be myself.
All I wanted was sleep.

She told me “Snuggling releases the same chemical as opiates”

I didn’t sleep more than an hour at a time for almost a year and not more than 2 hours a night for two years. I didn’t know who I was. I kept my composure as well as I could but I was very close to calling it quits.

I fought for 8 months to get my medical marijuana card. When I finally got it, I went to Breakwater in Cranberry New Jersey where I was given a tutorial on Marijuana and they recommended a strain to help me sleep. It was called Bubble Gum 5.
*I think the names should be altered or added to in order to help patients understand their properties.
Although it has a funny name it was a life saver. It gave me a glimpse of sanity. I was able to get about 3 hours of sleep on some nights which felt amazing!
I even had a couple very deep dreams. I judge how well I slept by the depth of my dreams. One about a really nice girl that I wanted to be friends with. I had a second dream about the same unknown girl but this time she was devastated and all I could do was hug her. 

I used marijuana instead of opiates to get through worst physical and mental pain I could have imagined. While using marijuana, I kept my house, I kept my friends and family. Through my character and knowledge I earned the respect of an 85 year old man that is grooming me to take his position one day.
I have an invention that I sell all over the world. It’s been copied but not improved in ten countries.
I’m no genius but I don’t believe marijuana has made me any dumber. In contrast, I think it has made me brighter. What I know and do today is not less than I would have done if I had not used marijuana, in fact I believe my productivity level is higher due to the fact that I am not in pain or depressed.

Any day spent in misery, mental or physical, is a day lost and wasted.

I am certain that Had I been using opiates as they were prescribed I would not be here today.

When you can’t see a future with hope it just looks black.

I never wanted to be considered a pothead or have people think of me with that stereotype so I started speaking openly with people about marijuana to get their opinion and help me end the stigma in my head.

Going by the answers I’ve received by informally polling hundreds of people over the past 2.5 years, my guess is that at least 50% of the country has tried cannabis at least once in their life. Be it smoking, edibles or oils…

 I have a few questions.
– [ ] How many of you felt you needed to do it again?
– [ ] How many of you felt sick when you stopped doing it?
– [ ] How many of you would do it again if it was legal?
– [ ] How many of you are now addicted?
 I think your answer would be different if I asked about opiates.

It is a common misconception that marijuana is a gateway drug to harder Street drugs such as opiates. For me, marijuana was a gateway back to the life I loved. It gave me the tools to find myself and my sanity.

No matter what you think, After one month of opiate use, you will at least be physically addicted and will experience some withdrawal symptoms. Although It may be easier for some people I can say with certainty it will happen.

If you want to compare marijuana to alcohol, it is similar in the fact that it changes how you feel but you do not lose your inhibitions or feel awful the next day

I would compare it to having a drink and going for a walk on the beach. Even someone that doesn’t drink would quite possibly have a drink on vacation.

I didn’t sleep for the better part of two years. Not sleeping changes your mind very quickly. Its worse than drugs. Not sleeping and losing my mind was a blessing in disguise. But I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

My mind felt like someone put it through a shredder. I couldn’t remember anything. It was a struggle to remember where forks and knives went.

I have battled anxiety and depression since I was 6 years old. Ever since the first time my “friends” beat me up for no reason. Not until recently did I understand how badly they had damaged my self confidence and set my life of anxiety and depression in motion.

I have used Marijuana very heavily. Ive consumed over 3 pounds and kept myself medicated 24/7 for most of two years. During that time I was hired as an engineer, I was asked to take over a department building valves that hold peoples lives hundreds of feet above the ground. I work with tolerances one 25th the thickness of a human hair. My brother happens to do work that uses these valves. Would I put his life in jeopardy?

I used marijuana to get and keep myself off Aderall, Prozac and Painkillers

I am able to achieve the same focussing affect from Marijuana that I got from aderall, without the side effect. Such as sleeplessness, loss of appetite, loss of drive and anxious feeling.

I have always tried to live as honestly and righteously as possible. The worst thing I do is get a little heavy on the gas pedal.

In June 2017, I was asked to join government agents and numerous members of the military for a two day adventure that I’ll never forget. I gained their respect and took the opportunity to speak openly about marijuana with them. When I revealed I had my medical Marijuana Card, I was commended for taking the steps to keep myself off opiates. When I asked their opinion of marijuana, These men and women had the same answer as the dozens of law enforcement personnel that I have spoken with,  “we have bigger things to worry about than weed”. More than one of these highly respected and trusted soldiers said They wished Marijuana was legal so they didn’t have to take either anti depressants or painkillers.

I feel that in almost every case CBD extracts or Cannabis should be the first line of defense against pain.

High CBD cannabis has very little effect on how you feel but it can cure the worst tension headache in seconds. For the better part of a year I got headaches that felt like someone was trying to connect my eye socket to the back of my neck. On those days I would smoke Catatonic, A very low THC High CBD strain. Again, the name does not reflect its positive property. It sounds like you’ll be in a coma when the opposite is true.

Opiates are an instant escape from reality. Having a life that you love is the only way to beat opiates.

*My friend Betty was a nurse in Baltimore where she saw hundreds of children with sickle cell that are put on opiates starting around age 8.  She said by the time they are 18, most of them were turning to heroin.

Different forms of administering Marijuana have different effects.

Each strain of Marijuana has a maximum level of effectiveness. You can meter it but once you have achieved the top level of effectiveness thats it. After that point you can smoke or eat as much as you want and nothing will happen. I AM DEFINITELY NOT SAYING TO START THERE. SOME STRAINS ARE MUCH STRONGER AND EVERYTHING SHOULD BE TRIED IN VERY SMALL DOSES AT FIRST.

Any time I try a new strain, I take one very small “hit” approximately the size of my pinky nail, or less. I use smoking as my gauge because it gives the most powerful effects. Burning cannabis releases more chemicals than any other form of use. If you are going to get paranoid or have adverse effects that is most commonly when it will happen.

The only addictive property to Marijuana is mental.

Needing it to mask or hide from something that is affecting you negatively. That can most often be healed by talk therapy or some other form of mental or spiritual stimulation. Be it Church or volunteering or working on old cars and making friends.

One of the best things to happen to Cannabis is professional grow operations.

There is a proper processes that need to be followed to ensure you don’t get adverse affects. Such as paranoia or nausea. The drying process is very important. If it is not properly cured it can grow mold that you will ingest. Using chemical fertilizers and bug sprays can also make you sick.

Understanding the science of cannabis is very interesting. It goes way deeper than a funny smelling plant. There are more than 600 different strains of cannabis. I know that is a low estimate. I love science and find it very fascinating that two very similar plants can have the complete opposite effect. There are Indica strains that will calm you down and help you sleep and there are Sativa strains that will wake you up and keep you alert like a shot of espresso. I find science especially intriguing when people say something even the people saying it know to be false.

The reason you get hungry when using marijuana is because it works with your metabolism. If you eat healthy you will healthily lose weight.

Marijuana being illegal only keeps it out of the hands of good people and it turns good people into criminals.

I have helped about 10 people get their medical MMJ cards by giving them the name of a Dr. that is willing to review their case.

2/27/18, One year to the day that I was asked to give my testimony to The New Jersey General Assembly, I sent my good friend Joe the information to get his Medical Marijuana Card.

He was having severe pain issues but I didn’t know how serious it was. We spoke briefly. He said to stop by. I still wasn’t sleeping or feeling well so I didn’t get a chance for a while. In June ‘17, I finally started sleeping and feeling a little better. I was on my way to bring Joe a shirt that I got him from the IJSBA Jetski World Finals. The place we bonded 10 years earlier.

Unfortunately my second dream came true. The girl in my dream was Joe’s sister. We stood in a room full of Joe’s friends hugging. Joe had overdosed the night before I went to see him.

He came home from rehab and passed away that night.

I blamed myself for not being there, for not being strong enough to help him, for not pushing him to get his card, I know how desperate he felt. The feelings you get when coming off opiates is indescribable to someone that hasn’t experienced it but every person that has, completely understands.

If Joe had something to take the edge off without the fear of persecution or prosecution, something to ease mental and physical pain without the possibility of dying. I firmly believe Joe would be standing beside me telling his story as well.

A mother lost a son, a father lost his fishing buddy, a wife lost her husband, his two children lost their protector and roll model, his sister lost her best friend. So many people lost more than a friend that day, we all lost a part of our future. Joe was one of those people that always knew what to say to cheer you up and keep you grounded. He was there no matter what.

Joe was 40 years old and just became a statistic.

I firmly believe that weed saved my life and kept me off that list.

Smoke Weed Whenever You Need But Please Don’t Do Drugs.