Sarah Stenuf founded Veteran’s Ananda Inc. to help others. It didn’t take long for Sarah to realize that by helping others, she created beautiful relationships that were built on the foundation of hope.
Stenuf served four honorable years in the U.S. Army before being medically discharged for epilepsy caused by a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). On a fast path to total self-destruction using drugs and alcohol, and often isolating herself, Sarah became suicidal.
During Sarah’s search for help, she visited several dual-diagnosis programs and facilities. While these facilities offered her a place to stay clean and sober, Sarah found herself overmedicated. Doctors prescribed her antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, sleeping aids, and epilepsy medications. Thirteen pills later, her social and psychological issues continued to worsen.
After feeling totally hopeless and struggling to get by day-by-day, Stenuf reached a breaking point. She decided that she’d had enough and was more scared of living than dying.
Stenuf shared, “Cannabis was never on the forefront of my mind. I smoked a little in high school, but never in college or the military, but when I got out, I dabbled here and there. My cousin who started a veterans organization, was using cannabis and it was helping him a lot. I started doing research on who was using it and what for. I remember thinking, like, am I the only nut head thinking about smoking this plant instead of taking these pills?
I found articles and research online like, cannabis and epilepsy, cannabis and ptsd, cannabis and this and that. I thought, there’s a bunch of people using cannabis for all these reasons, maybe it can at least help me eat, help me sleep and relax.
I tried suicide twice and failed. Thank god. There was a time when I told my wife I was overwhelmed by the number of pills. I was trying to take care of my wife and my son living in my aunt’s basement – we were saving up for our own place. I was falling asleep with all the pills I was on. It got so overwhelming, I can’t keep up, I told my wife… I’m going to kill myself.
So I started meeting up with friends to smoke. I’d finally be able to breath, sleep and relax. I slowly started using it more and decided to step down on my medications.”
Once Sarah reached out for help and took her treatment into her own hands, she learned how to integrate Western medicine with holistic medicine. Sarah slowly started to achieve balance in her life and was able to open up about her trauma.
High Times reached out to give Sarah a platform to speak on a panel. The impact of her story hit the entire room even prompting a guest to confide about her own struggles post-military service. This motivated Sarah to launch Veteran’s Ananda, a 501(c)(3) non-profit homestead and retreat that will utilize traditional and non-traditional treatments and therapies for veterans, first responders, and their families.
Most recently, Sarah acquired a 22-acre farm to launch her for profit hemp farm operating under the New York hemp pilot program. Super Closet donated a grow system where veterans and first responders will have the opportunity to participate in all farming responsibilities. Sarah believes the farm will bring value to the community igniting hope for those who need it most.
All images courtesy of @veteransananda
“Growing my own medicine helped me tremendously. I had to take care of the girls (plants), granted I have a child and wife, but beyond that, I was still numb. There was no other purpose or reason for life. When I had to plant, if I didn’t get up to water them they died, if I didn’t care for them, they died.”
Four years after being medically retired from the U.S. Army, she is now epilepsy-free and off all of her former thirteen prescriptions. Stenuf firmly believes it is our social responsibility to help one another and if we all come to this realization and take action, a revolution will begin (it’s here!).
Veteran’s Ananda is on a mission to establish Veteran’s Villages throughout the nation. Veterans Villages that are adaptable, mimicable, and scalable. Meaning in each demographic with any needs, these villages can be applied. The villages would be scalable to go from a tiny area to a larger scale model.
“I want something like this in every town. I want Veteran Villages everywhere. They can live here for free as long as they participate in treatment and maintain their duties. They have jobs, opportunities – school, trade school, training programs. This is my main goal.”
Sarah shared that while this may seem like a huge undertaking it’s actually quite easy. “It’s not hard. We have land lots all over that towns aren’t using. Scholarships for veterans, the elderly, LGBTQI and no one is using them. There are services, resources and money that is just sitting in these towns.”
The for profit hemp farm feeds the non-profit. Veteran’s Ananda has a two part dream. Veteran Villages that offer healthcare, treatment, and resources, but to each be equipped with a farm that offers jobs, training, and therapy.
Veteran’s Ananda is creating a unified approach to healthcare. They’re utilizing both private and public healthcare to offer an individualized approach to their community. Sarah dreams of bringing hope to all service members, first responders, veterans, and active military.
We asked Sarah how our readers can be advocates and alleys for Veteran’s Ananda and she had one message: speak up. “If you have an idea, take action. If you want to help make change, really want to get involved, speak up, get engaged, call your legislators.”If Sarah’s story has moved you, and you’re compelled to give, visit Veteran’s Ananda’s website here.