Friday, May 23, 2008


When I was a rebellious teenager, thinking that my future lay in rocking out in a band, I used to write lyrics whenever I had a strong emotion. Now those lyrics have turned into poetry, of course. It's the same...only different. My poems now seem to be about memories, special people, special moments. They aren't trite, but they are rated E for everyone.

My lyrics, however, were anything but that. While not everything was gritty, the lyrics were often much grittier than I, in fact, was. I was in a rebellious phase, turning my back on everything I grew up with, and I was hanging out with the "wrong crowd," meaning that I didn't fit into the rich kids' cliques at school, so I hung with the outcasts. The outcasts were like me, smart, cynical, creative, and just as rebellious. I'm sure my mother wondered what was going on with me, but I had left her home and moved in with my sister. I felt a little lost and lonely. I tried to be tough, though, because I knew that's what it would take to make it in the world. I should have been tough, given the way I grew up, and I guess I was tough enough, because I'm here, right?

One song I wrote early on was called Comin' Down, and I must have just imagined what it was like since I had never had any hard drugs. At that point, I had smoked exactly 1/3 of one joint with a boyfriend and a mutual friend. I didn't really care for it; it wasn't my thing. In a way, I wished it had been my thing, because I felt like I needed something to help me escape the emotional pain I was in. It's a good thing that didn't take. The chorus to the song was this (insert power chords):

You can't get around it
You can't get around
comin' down....

Profound, eh? Of course, what I meant by that was that for every high there was a low, for every speed there was a downer, for every dose you had to come down and that? I imagined it would suck. Want to know how I knew what it looked like? My father. He had lung cancer, and as it progressed into its fifth year, past the point of radiation, past the point of surgery, past the point of chemo, they progressed him from Percodan to Dilaudid to Morphine shots. When I was a baby, Dad was an alcoholic. He overcame that because it almost killed him, but his crazy behaviors never went away. He never really held himself accountable, not like people in AA do. He never apologized or made amends for my mother having to go all over town (walking, in the middle of the night, with three then four kids) to find him, clean him up and sober him up.

I never saw that phase, but I saw the morphine phase. It was ugly. He eventually was so hooked that he started doctor shopping. He was supposed to take a shot of morphine every 8 hours. Eventually he was taking it every 2 hours. He was alternately violent and then passed out. There was no in between anymore, and although Mom certainly was glad when he was passed out (and therefore not violent), she started having to endure more and more craziness at his hands. He was sure she was poisoning his food. He yelled all the time. He threatened her, hit her, hit me, and was a monster.

I got to see drug use at its worst, up close, personal, horrible. The vials of morphine sat in the door of the refrigerator next to the olives. The syringes were lying on the sink in the bathroom, used, cast aside. The day his mother fell and broke her hip (which proved fatal days later), he was in the other bathroom from her, on the other side of a thin wall, passed out on the toilet with the needle still stuck in his leg.

The night he tried to kill me? Mom had enough. We left. We had no money, no jobs, no hope. We lived with my grandmother for a little while. Dad eventually sobered up in the hospital, but Mom was done. She had had enough. I never forgot it and stayed away from the harder stuff as I experimented with self-medication to kill the images in my head.

I settled into a nice life, eventually, and was doing alright until the spinal problems hit me. A couple of car accidents, an accident on the job, multiple surgeries, a rebuilt neck. I ended up with pain that could shoot up to 8/10 on any given day. When the pain specialist had exhausted things like facet nerve ablations, epidural injections, and suggestions that I try yoga, etc., he prescribed some long-acting medication to try to prevent me from having to take the short acting stuff like Vicodin.

The medication? Kadian. It's morphine. I shook in my boots when I read the package insert. I was scared to death. I had only ever had it in the hospital after surgery. One time it gave me an ileus (basically my colon ceased to function and nearly poisoned my blood). I asked the doc if she was sure this is what I needed. She said, "It's a very low dose, but it will be fine."

Basically, it gave me many side effects, no high, and no lasting pain relief. She doubled the dosage. Worse side effects. I was increasing my fiber and all of the other things you have to do to deal with a slow digestion. I started to transpose letters and numbers, though I didn't feel any effects consciously. So after a few weeks of physical therapy, I went to my doctor and asked her to take me off of the medication.

I'm on one week of a reduced dose, and then it will be gone altogether. But you know what's coming, right? The side effects from slowing down the meds. The body becomes accustomed to the medication, making a compromise with the necessary poison. I'm just not willing to go up on the dose in order to find relief. And I'm not willing to continue having to deal with these side effects -- weight gain, for one. I was pre-diabetic with high blood pressure and high cholesterol when I was heavy. I lost the weight to save my life. I'm not gaining it back. I'm just not.

So there you have it. I'm sleeping a lot. I'm having weird dreams. I'm very thirsty, not so much hungry. It will be over soon. But you can't get around it...


Daryl said...

No, you cant get around it but you can and will get past it with help from family and friends .. I have broad shoulders and large ears .. feel free to use them as needed and you wont have to adjust the dosage!


Momma said...

Daryl - Thank you, my friend. I appreciate the offer, and who knows? I might take you up on it.

I will still have short-acting meds for the days when I need them, but I have to get this stuff out of me. All will be well soon enough....

Peace - D

Dave Baldwin said...

Hi Momma,

I had knee surgery in 1962 to correct a condition called "jumpers knee," which affects the tendon that joins the kneecap to the shin bone. This was back in the bad old days before arthroscopic surgery. I was in the hospital for three days. The pain was unlike anything I have experienced before or since.

The doctor and the nurses administered morphine to ease my pain. Morphine gave me a marvelous sense of well being. It is the most wonderful feeling in the world—wonderful, but very scary at the same time. That was the one and only time I had a brush with addictive drugs. I can see how a person with a weak will can get hooked. I swore it would never happen to me, and it never did.

I like having control over my life. I have seen too many people, including my own alcoholic and tobacco-addicted father and my alcoholic mother, lose control of their lives to chemical dependencies. It is really very sad—such a terrible waste.

Max-e said...

Hi Momma, looks like you have really been through the mill, but with your determination I am sure you will get through it.
I agree with you that Morphine is terrible stuff. I was on it after my heart bypass surgery. I did not enjoy the hallucinations and it played havoc with my respiration.

Maggie May said...

You really have been through a lot & now have a little further to go. Keep hanging in there & you'll get through.

Momma said...

Dave - I can imagine the pain of that knee surgery. I've had two surgeries from which I woke up in horrible pain and stayed that way for days. Morphine didn't help much, and it never gave me a sense of well-being. It just gave me the shakes. At the time, I wondered what could have been so fascinating for Dad.

Max - Right, that is another thing. I have asthma, and on this medication, I've had to use more of my inhaler and have had worse sleep apnea. I'll be glad to be rid of it.

Maggie - Thanks, my friend. I'm so glad I didn't let the doctor raise the dose on this med. I can't imagine what it would be like to come off of a larger dose.

Peace - D

Not Afraid to Use It said...

Wow, D. This story is so powerful and a true testament to how strong you really are. I understand about the need for control. I think it is one of the reasons I never really partied in college, or anytime for that matter. All the love and hugs in the world.

Momma said...

NATUI - Right back at ya. By the way? Got the t-shirt. Love it!

Peace - D

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

Oh dear. OH that's tough. YOu've been through a lot, oh boy. I just don't know what to say; my goodness...

Your body has been through the wringer; I don't know how you hold it all together, my heart goes out to you. REading this has made me think about valueing my health more. I can only say, listen to your body; my impression is that there are many pain killers out there; one of them should hopefully be right for you.

I am very sorry for the cruelty of your father; as children we are so helpless, aren't we. I'm glad your mother finally drew the line.

Momma said...

Lavinia - You know I often connect a lot of my pain to the way I grew up. When you are constantly under stress and you are constantly anxious, your body and mind simply can't develop in healthy ways. I think that's why I (and all of my siblings) have terrible health problems, depression, and anxiety now. That's the legacy of parents who are out of control.

Peace - D