September has been a bad time coming off six months of painkillers. I have headaches, slurred speech, memory problems, weight gain, and general crabbiness. But I have clarity about human fragility.
I admit I am spectacularly judgmental about drug abuse. My mom was a horrible drug abuser and I am terrified of getting addicted. I always said I would never use drugs.
Pain wasn’t too bad until the nerve blocks wore off three days after the each of the initial surgeries in March. EEK. I thought my body was on fire and I would have done anything, well almost anything, to put it out.
The Friday after my arm surgery, in my surgeon’s building, I pleaded for painkillers. The staff was wide-eyed and scared. At one point I was sitting on the waiting room floor, sobbing, covered in body fluids, unable to see beyond my immediate painful reality. A patient handed me a box of Kleenex. An hour later, an unspecified person gave me a prescription for a strong morphine-type drug.
The pharmacist at my neighborhood drug store talked to me about having someone stay with me or at the least, check on me while taking the medication. I nodded at her. Unthinking. Wanting her to scream at her to go away so I could speed home and take the drug. Unable to see any future beyond the agony of that moment. A neighbor came over every two hours and checked on me throughout the weekend. Thank you neighbor. I hope I was civil to you.
Truthfully, I asked her to check on me because I was scared. Scared witless that the doctors would find out and take away my medication. I didn’t care about waking up as long as the opiates made the pain go away.
After about a week, when I could sit upright, I realized I would never go to the bathroom again until I stopped taking the opiates. That was my bottom. So I went off them. Coming off was a very lousy three days. I watched a lot of stupid TV, serial killer shows and sitcoms, but not movies. I could not concentrate on a feature length film. I itched all over. I ate many bags of corn chips and drank a lot of tea. I hate corn chips and tea. Corn chips taste like pasteboard. Tea tastes like my idea of embalming fluid.
During those shitty seventy-two hours, I reassessed my judgments about addiction. Forgave my mom a little more. Was humbled by how easy, how seductive, and how compromising it was and is to get hooked on a painkiller. Imagined ingenious ways to get back at my surgeons.
But chronic pain set in after another series of bloody painful procedures and in office surgeries. I spent the next four months on non-opiate painkiller medications. I am almost off these medications. Tapering off these medications has been another lesson in patience and in compassion for anyone trying to deal with pain. Starting with myself.
When I have more distance from non-opiate painkiller withdrawal, I’ll tell you about it.
I keep hearing my teachers say, “All behavior was productive at one point.” I wish I could have been more understanding with my mother.

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