A portrait of Matt Monteverde, a former military member and police officer, wearing a shirt that says front toward enemy, glasses and a camo trucker hat.

How a Hero Healed with Hemp

4 minute read

Matt Monteverde’s new career as a new home salesman in New Braunfels, Texas, is a mild existence compared to his time on the Arizona police force. 

“Oh god, what did I not do during my law enforcement career,” Monteverde said. 

He started as a patrolman, spent 13 years on the regional swat team, and was a criminal investigations detective. He worked undercover on the narcotics gang task force, was on the motorcycle unit for some time, and worked as a field training officer. Before joining law enforcement, Monteverde served in the U.S. Navy. 

“I did it all,” he said. 

His list of spinal injuries is as long as his resume. Monteverde, a father of three, has two herniated discs in his lower back. He has degenerative disc disease in his neck, where there is no curvature, and his brain is being pulled toward his spinal canal. And as the cherry on top, he has mild scoliosis and arthritis in his neck and lower back.  

“It’s just from the wear and tear,” Monteverde said. “Just from the pounding, the grinding, the heavy lifting, wearing the vest and helmet, being on top of choppy waters. It took quite a toll on me.” 

He joined the military when he was 17 and collectively spent over 20 years in service. During that time, he took a mental beating as severe as the physical punishment.

“It’s not fun dealing with deceased children and suicide and shootings and stabbings and the perpetual violence that you see and go through,” he said. “There is the post-traumatic stress and anxiety and depression that is all too prevalent in both [law enforcement and the military]. That turned its way into alcoholism.”

While certainly not the norm, police officers showing up to work hungover does happen. It happens in any field.“ If anyone needs a clear mind, it should be law enforcement,” he said. “Especially now.”

According to a 2010 study, 11 percent of male officers and 16 percent of female officers reported at-risk alcohol abuse in urban areas

Outside of policing, up to three-quarters of people who’ve experienced abuse or violent traumatic events report drinking problems, and one-third of those who survive traumatic accidents or illnesses report alcohol-related issues. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse and Alcoholism, research suggests 28 percent of chronic pain sufferers turn to alcohol to alleviate their agony. 

Matt agreed he was like the Hollywood version of the distressed cop, ending his long days with whiskey neat. He could easily put down a bottle of bourbon a night.

“You drink to try and forget. You drink to try and wash away. Obviously, you are numb physically and psychologically. You are anti-personality. You bottle things up. You dont say when things are bothering you, and you drink to get it out and get it off your chest…You feel good while you are intoxicated, but when you wake up, you’re depressed all over again. It’s a cycle of violence.”

Monteverde also drank to cope with physical pain. It seemed like his only option as someone staunchly opposed to prescription medication. He’d been injured before—a ruptured Achilles tendon and a shattered foot. 

“Being disabled, the VA puts you on a whole cocktail of medicines,” he said. Doctors prescribed Percocet and Vicodin after his surgeries.

“The only way I could describe it is I just didn’t feel human. I didn’t feel like I was alive. I was barely skating by, like a zombie. I felt so vacant,” he said. “You take away the pain, yes, but I just didn’t like the way I felt.” 

He was so averse to medication that after a 45-minute surgery to remove bullet fragments from his arm, he refused to take his prescriptions. The next day he was vomiting from pain, but he didn’t care.

“I do not like pills, but I also don’t like pain, so finding that true balance was always incredibly difficult.”

To top it off, the camaraderie he was used to disappeared when he retired at 38-years-old and went into real estate. Everything came to a head. After two decades of pain and mental stress, relief was necessary.

A woman from work suggested CBD. He took a low dose from an obscure brand, didn’t see results, then quit. Some time passed. Then, a new home buyer, another disabled veteran who used Extract Labs CBD encouraged Monteverde to give CBD another shot. After finding the right dose, it paid off exponentially. 

“I originally tried the 1000-milligram Lemon Extract. It did fine, but I am not a little person,” he said. “I am 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, so I tried the 2000-milligrams, the extra strength. That’s when I really, really noticed [a difference].”

A healthy lifestyle, a CBD regimen, and quitting drinking transformed his life. It’s been ten months since his last sip. Our community manager Liz Rogers got to know him a little bit on his journey. 

“Matt is so sweet and easy to talk to,” she said. “It has been so cool to see Matt grow through the questions he asks.”

After a lifetime of hypervigilance, he still feels anxious at times, in which case he may take a little CBD. But his standard regimen includes two full droppers of the Extra Strength formula night, as well as the muscle cream for his neck and back as needed. 

“I get deep sleep, and I dream. Especially since the alcohol is no longer involved, my nightmares have subsided. I will never get rid of them. I will never not have them. I can’t wash away memories, but I don’t wake up and feel horrible anymore,” he said.

CBD is still a policy violation in the police force. Full-spectrum products could result in a failed drug test due to less than 0.3 percent THC, which is also why military members are not allowed to use hemp products. Some of his former colleagues see the benefits of cannabis, but they’d be risking their careers by using CBD or THC. Yet, Monteverde said there is no question that CBD is better than alcohol. 

Through his experience, Monteverde said he wants to be an unpaid brand ambassador for Extract Labs.

“You have to think of the hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers that are trying to self-medicate,” he said. “I just want to help people. That’s been ingrained in my whole lifeservice. On a higher level, how many people would be the same as me? There are thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands.”

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