Searing pain ripples down the back of Matt Grant's legs to his feet. It feels like a scalpel slicing through his flesh with no anaesthetic.
Five weighty metal screws threaded like lattice work through his spine fuse it together in three places.
To ease the intense pain the 48-year-old takes a concoction of pills that are slowly eating away at his insides, with ulcers forming on his throat, his stomach lining becoming irritable and he regularly spits up blood.
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Sitting for longer than five minutes becomes excruciatingly painful so he either has to stand or lie down - sometimes he can be in bed for 16 hours. Driving more than a few kilometres becomes torturous, with every bump in the road sending shooting pain through his back.
So during a two-hour interview he stands, and occasionally rests against a crutch, because it's more comfortable and today is a good day, the pain is only seven out of 10 not a 12.
But his story is no laughing matter.
In fact it's grim.
Pain is isolating and depressing, he says.
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But the one thing that makes him "feel like a human" is using illicit cannabis.
"It's life changing to find out there is something, a plant, that can do this."
He calls it his "medicine" and says that by smoking and eating it in smoothies the pain dissipates to a bearable level, sleep patterns improve and so does his appetite.
"I managed to get off all the opiates and other pharmaceutical poisons in just under four months using cannabis.
"Compared to the medical cocktail of pharmaceuticals I was taking it was like an instant relief, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The pain was more bearable, it was still there, but for the first time in months I had something that would not just mask the pain but kill it, you know.
"It chopped it down a level from a constant eight or nine out of 10 to a four or five."
Grant didn't want to buy cannabis off people he didn't know, saying the risk of buying outweighed the risk of growing.
"I was a law-abiding citizen and always have been until I started growing cannabis to get some quality of life," he says.
"I've never been involved with police, I have had speeding tickets, breath-tested twice and passed. I've never been in trouble with police let alone been before the courts."
But earlier this year his Whangārei home was raided.
Police found plants, dried cannabis and charged Grant with cultivating cannabis.
He told officers his story and the reason for growing the plants and that it was purely for his use only.
Grant pleaded guilty to the charge and will lodge a 106 application for a discharge without conviction when he appears next in the Whangarei District Court.
"All because I took my own health and wellbeing into my own hands and tried to help myself when no one would."
There is precedence in New Zealand where people found growing cannabis to help pain have been discharged without conviction and that is the result Grant is hoping for.
After the raid Grant went back on the morphine and opiate cocktail.
"I was throwing up three times a day again until I got a phone call from the mental health team saying I have a mental injury caused by all my injuries. It's a registered mental injury with ACC.
"Sometimes I just don't want to be here anymore because life's too hard to struggle ... struggling, that's all I've been doing."
A series of life-changing injuries over almost 30 years have left the once fit healthy man, broken and his body screaming with pain.
Grant has had five spinal surgeries, three of which were done last year because of issues from previous fusions.
He has 31 accepted claims with ACC and at least half a dozen of those have been serious enough to force him to lose his job and career.
"I've had to retrain and take a new tangent and just when I nearly get there something has happened and I've had to recreate myself again. Mentally and physically it's been debilitating."
The tragic series of events began in 1984 when he was 14 and cycling to school when he was struck by a driver on a roundabout.
The bike went under the front wheel, he flew over the car bonnet and slammed into the road.
"I didn't walk for six weeks. I suffered knee injuries and wasn't wearing a helmet. There was no record of me having a head injury but later on in life I developed some depressive issues, anxiety and mental injury problems.
"It changed my life. It stopped me pursuing a career as wanting to be a professional football player in the UK."
The year before the crash he had been one of six junior players selected to spend three weeks training with the All Whites.
"They were grooming us for the New Zealand [All Whites] team. It was a year after they came back from the 1982 World Cup."
Then in 1991 as a 20-year-old he hurt his back unloading a container of bearings at work as warehouse storeman.
"I lifted a box and threw it the wrong way and ruptured my spine. At 20 years old no one wanted to operate so seven years later they decided they could operate."
But it wasn't until after enduring six years of pain that his back was fused.
"I had a spinal fusion of the L5 and S1 vertebrae. All that time I had been in excruciating pain and unable to work. In your early 20s it's not much fun when you are in pain.''
The fusion gave him so much relief he started studying to be an appliance technician through the Open Polytechnic, while during the day he pumped gas.
Just when things were looking up disaster struck again.
On October 17, 2001, Grant came off his motorbike at 140km/h and shattered his T12 into 20 pieces.
He was riding a Triumph 1973, which he had spent two years rebuilding, and was returning from a physiotherapy appointment for a knee injury from a fall down stairs.
Grant says as he straightened up after a corner, the bike went from under him throwing him 4m through the air.
"My entire spine got compressed when I went over the handle bars and hit a tree ... the weakest link in the middle took all the load and shattered."
Just a month later he would have sat his electrical trade certificate exam and become qualified.
"That changed my life considerably," he reflects.
"My lumber spine with first fusion started playing up.''
Four months later his relationship ended.
For three months he was in a full body cast held together by velcro straps.
"I became a huge opiate addict. I was a drug addict on prescription medications. At that point in time my mental health took a turn for the worse and I started suffering severe anxiety, severe depression."
In 2015 surgeons had to extend his spinal fusion which was a direct result of the first surgery. A disc in-between had worn out.
Grant reckons he was just getting back to full recovery in 2017 and was living in an apartment on Port Rd.
"I was walking the loop three or four times a week depending on how I was feeling as I was still having problems with loss of feeling in my legs and pins and needles.
"Sometimes I would collapse in a heap when walking up stairs. I didn't know what was going on."
Disc degeneration was detected and another spinal fusion ordered for April 2018.
"They discharged me with a screw that had been put right through my L3 vertebrae and L3 nerves, a screw starting to fracture through my L4 vertebrae and two tears in my spinal cord from failed epidurals that were leaking cerebrospinal fluid into my body.''
That resulted in severe neuropathic pain and severe spinal headaches. He was rushed back to hospital for a "revision" surgery at the end of June to remove the two screws and seal the dural tears in his spinal cord.
Five months later he was back in hospital again for a third surgery to drain a massive build-up of cerebrospinal fluid that was pressing on the L3, L4, L5 and S1 nerves causing severe pain and bowel and bladder control problems.
He is still dealing with the fallout of the repeated invasive surgeries.
It comes as no surprise when Grant says he supports a change in legislation and will be voting yes at next year's recreational cannabis referendum.
He's even started a website and facebook page voteyes2020NZ to promote legalisation.
"I'm not going to be silent about it anymore because people need to know what happens to people like me when you try to help yourself.
"They should have had options, not for Joe Public, but for people that are wanting to and have the ability to grow their own cannabis for their own medicine, for their own use that helps them the most. It should be part of the new consideration.''
For chronic pain sufferers cannabis was a simple, safe, effective option that had been proven effective time and time again, he said.
"My sleep patterns got better, I was no longer constipated anymore, my bowel movements more regular. I had a better thought processes without having this huge cognitive fog. Some of the medications I was taking literally blocked cognitive function.
"I could have a conversation with people. I could move around the house better. There was still a level of pain there but it was more manageable. I had a better quality of life at that point and I could see some positive things in the future versus everything being totally negative.
"Before that I would take a handful of drugs, I'd pass out, I would wake up and vomit, take more drugs and repeat the cycle which lasted almost eight months."
Grant reckons when he used cannabis he was able to function like a person and was no longer living like a junkie.
"To me it's a human right to be able to use an effective natural medicine that is not toxic, that is not going to kill anyone, yet they don't want to put it in our own hands. They want to put it in the hands of the people who have already got money and give them a licence to make more money out of our misery."
So in a move to get on the right side of the law Grant went through the process of being able to be prescribed Sativex, a cannabinoid-based drug.
But the cost could prove prohibitive.
Grant has worked out he would be using 1ml twice per day minimum, putting the cost at $1048 per 15 days or $2096 per month.
To put that in perspective he gets $1906 per month from ACC, before paying the bills and living expenses.
"So I am essentially expected to pay more than I get from ACC on medication and not pay any bills, eat or put a roof over my head."
So what would be the solution?
"In a perfect world I would be growing my own plants, removing the goodness off them. I would grow enough and choose the exact strains I needed to have CBD-rich plants and some high-THC plants, then I could pick and choose what I needed.
"As long as we are not out there flaunting it we should be able to grow it for our own use and pain management."
One thing is for sure, there will be plenty more debate before voters go to the polls and make their views known in the referendum.