I’d like to say a few words about pain.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I have (note: I’m not copping to suffering from) chronic pain. This little gift derives in large part from what doctors in my 30s identified as a viral encephalitis suffered in my baby-hood. Other issues — numerous broken bones, an artificial knee that doesn’t quite work, asthma, chronic shingles, what else?– contribute their own special twinges until I am, as one physician recently noted with no small amount of irony, “a complex girl”.
Since age 13 or 14, I have had access to damn near any pharmaceutical I wanted. In early years, the drug of choice was Darvon or Darvocet. I popped those suckers for menstrual cramps or leg pain with equal ease before I finished grade school. All according to doctor’s directions, of course; I’ve never exceeded any allowed number of pills per day in my life.
In high school, an apparently well-meaning neurologist prescribed Valium for my neurological pain. By the time I started college, I took 10 mgs of Valium four times a day, and moved through life in a veritable fog. A really phenomenal friend, David Frain, sat by my bedside for about 36 hours, listening to me beg for Valium, to help me kick that particular habit.
In college and graduate school, I substituted alcohol for Valium or Darvon. I won’t say “I was an alcoholic”, or “I am an alcoholic”. When I wanted to stop drinking altogether, I did, cold-turkey, at will, and sometimes for months at a time even back then. I just self-medicated. Was that “a drinking problem”? You bet. I never lost hours; unfortunately, I remember every single stupid thing I ever did while drunk, from near-car-accidents to dangerous encounters with men that I barely knew. I count myself very blessed to have survived the 1970s.
In the last five years, I’ve had almost unfettered access to Percoset and Vicodin. Because I take blood thinners, I have had to alternate those two pain drugs. They influence the efficacy of Warfarin differently, so taking one or the other all the time can threaten the thinning power of Warfarin in ways that alternating them ameliorates. I also take an anti-spasmodic, which only mildly controls pain; mostly, it enables me to walk more easily.
By last October, i found myself again living inside a thick veil of cotton candy. I had never exceeded the maximum daily allowance of either narcotic. In fact, I could take as much as 4 per day of either (not both) along with my muscle relaxant, and rarely did so. But 2 or 3 per day over all that time, sufficed to numb me.
When my mother-in-law died, I knew I grieved; and felt strangely cheated because I couldn’t quite connect with the loss. I realized that my inability to completely own my sorrow at losing this wonderful woman stemmed in part from the accumulated effect of all those drugs on my system. With my doctor’s help, I weaned myself from all narcotics over a two or three month period. I found it surprisingly easy, affirming for me that I don’t have an addictive bent. Thankfully.
A week ago, I decided to take myself off white sugar. Right before Easter, even! I won’t be neurotic about it — I just want to be healthier. Feeling good has taken the place of feeling numb. Of not feeling. Connection replaces attenuation.
The downside of being off pain medication lies in feeling pain. I’m a little shocked that I forced myself to give up drugs and complaining at the same time! Losing the cushion of pain pills has certainly made trying to be nicer to people that much more challenging.
But I do feel good: really vibrant, really hopeful. Whodda thunk that clean living would be the right choice for me after all?
I’d like to send you all into this weekend with the sentiments that my mother used for an Easter card one year, on the front of which she had me glue a reprint of my two little brothers, Frank and Steve, pulling the innards from the previous year’s jack-o-lantern:
Happy Easter, Happy Spring! Happy, happy EVERYTHING!