Published: 13 December 2014
A journey finding pain relief and other benefits from the leaves of the Kratom tree and my reasons for working to keep it legal.
By Susan Ash, MS
"I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees!" The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss reminds me of my former life as a professional, paid "tree-hugger," a never-ending source of amusement for my family and friends who'd watched me turn into a hippie (well, as close as I could get at age 16. From that book comes my motto; "UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." I used to speak for entire forests; large ecosystems our whole planet depends on. Now I speak for one tree that saved me, and for my right to purchase and consume it as I choose.
Born and raised in Virginia, I began my career 25 years ago as a Park Ranger in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. I'd received a Bachelor's of Science from Old Dominion University (ODU) and was already a budding environmentalist, having founded ODU's first environmental club. I spent three summers proudly wearing my "Smokey Bear" uniform, surrounded by the majestic beauty of a park owned by the American public. A life-long obsession with protecting public lands and natural resources was born, and I left Bryce (seen here, caught off guard behind the info. desk) in pursuit of a Master's of Science in Forestry from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Degree in hand, I went west to spend many years living my dream of getting paid to save the earth. This required frequent outdoor site visits to the forests and wildernesses I was trying to protect. It was the perfect job and it was, like the Lorax's, my life, too.
I moved to Oregon in 2000 to run wilderness, old growth forest and endangered species campaigns. I began experiencing a myriad of inexplicable health problems that ranged in severity and was diagnosed with "Fibromyalgia" and "treated" with narcotics. A lot of narcotics. And not only did they work, they gave me energy, decreased crippling anxiety, and made me happy. Every time I had a prescription filled, I felt like I'd hit the lottery. In 2008, plagued with too many symptoms to list, getting sicker and sicker, I became unable to care for myself. Heartbroken and devastated, home I went to live with my parents (after making sure my doctor sent me off with three months' worth of pills).