Stephen Mandile spent 10 years on a host of pills after he was injured in Iraq in 2005. Now, he uses medical marijuana to treat his pain and wants to help other vets get the same opportunity.

Stephen Mandile, 37, holds a fentanyl patch -- an opiate painkiller 50 times more potent than heroin -- that he was prescribed by his Veterans Administration doctor.
Stephen Mandile, 37, holds a fentanyl patch — an opiate painkiller 50 times more potent than heroin — that he was prescribed by his Veterans Affairs doctor. He prefers to use medical marijuana to help his pain, but the VA won’t cover cannabis. –Ryan Breslin / Boston.com

One snowy day this past winter, Stephen Mandile did what lots of other homeowners did and snow-blowed his driveway.

Unlike most people, he was thrilled.

Ten years after Mandile was injured in Iraq and three months after stopping his opiate painkiller regimen for chronic spine pain and nerve damage, the father of two from Uxbridge felt like himself again. Clearing his driveway himself was just the latest milestone in his journey.

He says he has medical marijuana to thank for it.

Mandile, 37, was among the first in line when the state’s first dispensary opened up last June, buying cannabis to replace a regimen of powerful painkillers. Over the past 10 years he was on various opiates — morphine and percocet, then fentanyl and oxycodone — plus a host of other medications to help him sleep and combat the side effects.