By: Sarah Jane Woodall (aka Wonderhussy) Believe it or not, I wasn’t always a cannabis user until about 10 years ago, when I found myself with chronic insomnia. I tried everything in the book to help me sleep, from Benzodiazepines to antipsychotics, melatonin to lavender oil, regular therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy…but nothing worked. […]
By: Sarah Jane Woodall (aka Wonderhussy)
Believe it or not, I wasn’t always a cannabis user until about 10 years ago, when I found myself with chronic insomnia. I tried everything in the book to help me sleep, from Benzodiazepines to antipsychotics, melatonin to lavender oil, regular therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy…but nothing worked.
Except weed! More specifically, edibles. Make what jokes you will about brownies, edibles have the ability to knock me out like nothing else. An online search for the most potent recipe led me to the aptly-named Coma Cookies, made with the even more aptly named Blackout Butter.
Basically, this recipe calls for a minimum ratio of one ounce dried weed to 8oz. butter – but I would often add even more (depending on how much shake and trim I could score)! Moreover, I would use the highest fat-content butter I could find as supposedly THC binds to fat molecules, so the more of those, the more effective. But what do I know?! I’m just trying to get some sleep, not a chemistry degree!
But I wasn’t taking any chances, and I’d simmer the butter and weed for HOURS on low heat- the longer, the better, until the butter became an evil dark-green-black shade the color of oblivion. Then I’d mix that into the cookie dough, and whip up a batch of sweet relief. And let me tell you, IT WORKED! I’d eat a small cookie before bed, and zonk right out.
I did this for years, and the best part was, I could even travel with my medicine, since it just looked like Grandma’s homemade cookies. I had one of the most enjoyable transatlantic flights of my life that way – what I’d been dreading as a miserable ordeal from Dublin to Newark to LAX to Vegas became a dream; I popped an edible in Ireland, and promptly zonked out, upright in my economy-class seat. Every few hours I’d be gently woken by a flight attendant bringing me a hot meal, which I’d gobble down in classic stoner fashion before passing right back out again. When I woke up in Vegas, it was as if no time at all had passed – with only a pair of severely puffy ankles to indicate I’d just hurtled 5,000 miles through space and time without moving anything other than my jaws.
But over time, I learned that edibles must be approached with caution! This revelation hit me a few years ago, when I hiked Mt. Whitney.
At 14,505 feet, it’s the highest peak in the continental U.S., and the trail to the summit is about 11 miles with over 6,000 feet of elevation gain—so you have to get an early start if you wanna make it to the top and back in a single day! To that end, most hikers camp overnight at the trailhead. That way, you can just roll out of your sleeping bag and into your hiking boots, and hit the trail at whatever ungodly hour you choose.
My friend and I set 3am as our departure time (!!), which for me meant waking at 2am in order to be ready. We parked our cars at the trailhead the night before, and hit the sack as early as possible, but it was still 10pm by the time I lay down. No problem – I can summit Mt. Whitney on 4 hours of sleep, as long as I get 4 hours of sleep! To ensure my ability to pass out and not lie awake worrying, I took a tiny nibble of a Coma Cookie just before bed – just enough to metabolize over the course of 4 hours, I figured.
Sure enough, when my alarm went off four short hours later, I was clear headed and ready to roll. I got dressed, loaded my pack, dialed in my camera gear (of course I was shooting all this for my YouTube channel) and hit the trail bright and early. Well, actually, dark and early, since it was still well before sunrise!
All went well at first until only a mile or two into the hike, I started feeling really lightheaded. Uh-oh – altitude sickness!! It’s a very real problem at this elevation, and a serious one. In my prepping for the hike, I’d read that at the first signs of altitude sickness, one should immediately abort mission, turn around, and descend to a safe elevation – which, in my case, meant giving up my summit attempt and driving back home.
Noooooo! I’d done so much prepping and planning for this hike (not to mention getting the permit, which can be difficult). I refused to give up! So I pushed on anyway, despite worsening symptoms: now, in addition to being dizzy, I was also flooded with a heavy, overwhelming drowsiness that was so consuming, I just wanted to wrap myself in my Mylar emergency blanket and crawl under a bush and sleeeeeeep.
Double uh-oh! By now I was getting really worried, and seriously considering the fact that I was going to have to turn around and give up – and then it hit me: I wasn’t suffering the effects of altitude sickness, I was just high! As a KITE, I might add – apparently, the little bite of cookie I’d eaten had not been metabolized as I slept, and it was only when I began hiking, and my heart started pumping, that the effects kicked in. D’oh!!!
The initial relief I experienced at realizing I wasn’t suffering from altitude sickness was short-lived, however. The unpleasant reality that I was facing another 9 or 10 miles, uphill, with a fog-shrouded brain and what felt like molasses coursing through my veins drowned out whatever joy I might have felt.
But crawling under a bush in my Mylar blankie really wasn’t an option, so I slogged on, determined, through the pitch black of a moonless Sierra night. I felt like one of those undersea explorers, waaay down at the very bottom of the ocean, floating through inky darkness filled with who-knows-what kind of mysterious creatures. The only light was the dim, watery circle of my headlamp on the path before me, and the only sounds were the occasional twig snapping underfoot, and my own huffing and puffing.
After awhile, I guess I got high enough to where it actually became kind of fun – I started really imagining myself as an undersea explorer, safe and cozy in my bathysphere, looking out into a mysterious new world. Or no – I was an astronaut, floating through the farthest reaches of outer space in absolute stillness and peace! Either way, I wished I had Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon on my phone – it would have been the perfect soundtrack.
Finally, after hiking along like this for what felt like forever, the first fingers of light started peeking up over the mountains to the east, and soon the pale pink and purple petals of dawn blossomed in the sky.
Oh my GAWD!!!
I’ve never really been what you would call an early riser, so watching a sunrise was a special treat for me – I hadn’t seen many of them, let alone from 10,000 feet in the middle of the Sierra Nevada. It was spectacular!!
Now remember, throughout all of this I was filming everything for YouTube – and once the sun really started coming up, and the whole sky lit up with that fabulous dawn alpenglow. I’m afraid my commentary became a bit…well, a bit goofy. Remember the Double Rainbow guy? The crying hippie who filmed that double rainbow in the sky over Yosemite, and ended up becoming a viral sensation for his homespun enthusiasm (“Oh my God!! It’s so beautiful…”)? Yeah, I was that guy. It’s kind of cringey to watch….but funny.
Alas, my high eventually wore off, and I had to suffer the remaining 17 miles of the hike in miserable sobriety, but at least I wasn’t sleepy anymore! That first part of the journey, in the darkness, when I was foggy and drowsy and dreaming of cuddling up with a bristlecone pine – that was no fun at all, and hiking in the sunshine, stone-cold sober, wasn’t bad in comparison. And at least now, I could focus better on shooting quality footage for my video, not just hours of me looking at a pebble on the shore of a lake going “WOWWWWW!”
Anyway, after that experience, I vowed to be more careful with edibles and nowadays, I just use a vaporizer to get a little buzz before bed, and it seems to work just fine. But I still have four Tupperware containers full of Coma Cookies in my fridge, and who knows? Next quarantine, I might come to really appreciate the stockpile!