A Veteran's Story
This past Friday, November 11, was Veteran’s Day, a day we honored and celebrated those who have served our country. There were many events in the District this past weekend giving us a great opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices our men and women in uniform have made to protect our country and promote freedom. It takes a lot of physical strength, emotional strength, and a strong sense of patriotism for one’s country to devote your life to military service, and to those who have served or are currently serving, thank you! Recently, we met CJ, a DC resident, marijuana chef, advocate, father, and disabled veteran who served in United States Army for 2.5 years stationed in Korea. After being honorably discharged due injuries, he was left with a lot on his plate: chronic pain, bipolar disorder and PTSD. He turned to Veteran Affairs to seek treatment but the experimentation with different prescription drugs and treatments left him drained, lethargic, depressed, and angry. He turned to alcohol quickly drinking himself into a life of homelessness and criminality, losing his children and family, and almost his life.
Unfortunately, CJ's experience is shared by other veterans seeking medical attention after their service. These veterans can be left with bills that lead them into homelessness and even further away from proper medical care. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 3% of the homeless population are veterans, and for a short time CJ was one of the 50,000 homeless veterans in America. After twelve years of physical and emotional pain he submitted himself into the DC VA Medical Center and Martinsburg VA Medical Center to unpack and recover.
CJ has been sober from alcohol for an year and a half and started using marijuana, specifically edibles, as an alternative to prescription drugs to cope with chronic pain. Along with pain, CJ found marijuana useful in aiding his PTSD, bipolar disorder, and curtailing his anxiety and paranoia. His edible use has eliminated the need for the cocktail of 13 different drugs he was using before, and now only needs a single prescription to function. This combination has given him the drive to help himself out of homelessness and start a business that showcases his passions and talents.
Lunch Box Slims was founded by CJ in New Jersey. Through the company, he provides services such as cooking and baking lessons, information sessions and brochures, and also support group meetings for other healing veterans.
CJ found his passion for cooking instruction by uploading YouTube videos of his cooking and original creations. After losing his kids, he used social media and YouTube to reach out to them and show them their father was recovering and leading a healthier lifestyle.
“This was something I created for my kids and with my kids. I started cooking to stay busy, to distract myself from the bottle. And those YouTube videos I made took time and effort. I had to spend all day setting up, getting ingredients, cooking, and editing and if I were to never see my kids again, I want them to see their father for who he really is. And I wanted them to know that everyday that I am uploading and making these videos is a day I am not drinking. ”
CJ expanded his social media presence to Instagram, where his business gained real momentum. He uses his Instagram to post personal videos of him playing saxophone or piano, hanging out with his friends, cooking, as well as him talking and advocating for veterans and raising awareness of mental illnesses among veterans, offering words of support for those on their road to recovery. For CJ, it is important for him that veterans, especially male veterans to express their feelings in a healthy environment and community. Through Lunch Box Slims, he is able to showcase his vast knowledge of marijuana and cooking, helping veterans explore edibles as an alternative to prescription medication.
Lunch Box Slims donates a percentage of earnings to the Veteran Affairs hospitals in West Virginia and DC, the very hospitals that have helped CJ recover. To see what CJ is all about, follow him on his Instagram @lunchboxedibles.