Motivated by the thought of spending some time with his beloved, Mike James (he requested that his real name not be used), 40, pulled himself from the exhaustion of his long shift as a power company lineman to visit his girlfriend.

It was the summer of 2000, and he recalls leaving her house. “It was night and the road was dark with a curve in it. I closed my eyes for a second and when I opened them I had run right into a pole.”

James ended up in the emergency room followed by a night’s stay in the hospital. He didn’t break anything, but he did sustain spinal damage.

Like a crooked xylophone, James’ spine has a number of herniations from his neck to his lower back — all playing a concerto of chronic pain. Some days are worse than others. Physical therapy and martial arts helped strengthen the muscles surrounding his vertebrae, but it did little for nerve compression. That’s when he’d pop narcotics like Percocet and Vicodin.

“Daddy had a lot of anger and other issues taking ‘legal’ drugs,”describes James of himself. The opiates didn’t just cause agitation and diminish his libido, they also compromised his ability to do an already dangerous job so James would forgo pain medication before work only to gobble them up upon returning home. It was no way to live for an involved father of two, ages 8 and 10.

It was James’ friendship with Lance Parvin that made him aware of the pain-relieving properties of medical marijuana. James decided cannabis oil would be preferable to prescription painkillers because he heard it lessened the psychoactive effects.

“When I used recreational marijuana before, it was different,” notes James, “I guess it was more for fun and finding a different place, but now utilizing medical marijuana is about enhancing my physical health, which has also enhanced my performance.” He says it took one week of taking cannabis oil orally to find relief from pain and to stop the narcotics. Another unintended side effect is James’ improved libido. “I’m like a teenager again.”

James may feel like a teenager, but he’s fully aware of his adult responsibilities. His two children do not know the improvement in their father’s temperament is the result of using cannabis nor the discreet method he chooses to take it, but he says, “It’s an issue I will deal with when they are mature enough.”

Although he no longer dangles from bucket-truck platforms, James now supervises other electrical lineman. He’s somewhat conflicted about the source of his improved quality of life and the sobering reality that he’s one drug test away from joblessness. “You have to make a choice and ask if the risk is worth it?” says James, “For me, it will be a change in employment.”