It’s a lovely Sunday morning in northern Colorado and I’d be in good spirits if I had won the battle with my insomnia last night.
For the past month and a half I’ve been in a bad way, thanks to having agreed to a different regimen for the management of my pain. The regimen meant an increase in something I worry about, rather than a decrease.
I could see myself heading into a territory of suffering only addicts know about– a merry go round of trying to get off drugs only to scare yourself back on because feeling like hell is just too hard. By some people’s estimation I suppose, I’ve been waging this war for thirty years and never won so much as a round.
It’s true that those of us with dependent/addictive personalities with chronic pain have to maneuver through rough water. My rough water began at three a.m. when I went to bed, and lasted until 8 a.m., when I determined that I had given my body and mind every opportunity to go to sleep, and we– my body, mind, my being– couldn’t get there.
I attribute this to the fact that yesterday was my first day of returning to my original dosage of pain meds at my initiation, which in the eyes of the new clinic would barely touch anyone’s pain. The MA there warned me that I would “feel it” if I made the switch, and she was right. But the lower dose feels comparatively safe, and I’m all about feeling and being safe. I continue to hope that I am moving in the direction of not needing these at all.
I understand why people overdose. I have spent many hours, days and years enduring withdrawal and fear. I understand how it feels to give up, as in check out, because I tried. Only I couldn’t do that either.
Medication is the ultimate double-edged sword, breeding dependency on the one hand and working its magic on the other. I have written volumes in part because I haven’t been in grueling pain. I’ve also slept, most nights, as opposed to having a spate of the skin-crawling withdrawal I had this morning. Pain relief is a small price to pay for a few bad nights here and there, but I don’t want the price to go up.
And, I can’t afford to and don’t view myself or my recovery– now four years sober from alcohol– as a failure.
For, as opposed to traditional recovery thinking, it isn’t necessarily the case that everyone, even those with a history of alcohol abuse, who needs to take something for pain will become addicted to opiate medications. It means one must be vigilant and pull back and tell a provider to lower a problematic dosage. Rather than go running to someone in a peer group who may or may not understand, who may jeer at you for “not getting it,”–i.e., the program– and may or may not broadcast your private life into the world, just take control of the situation and be proactive with a provider. And keep it simple. Don’t let someone write you an Rx for 180 pills of an opiate if you know that it’s dangerous to have that much around–dangerous in the sense of intensifying obsession and compulsion.
It does seem like it’s time to get rid of the one-size fits all recovery paradigm, the black and white thinking as well as the dangerous idea that we addicts have no personal power. The latter is not true. We make choices every second of every waking moment, which requires power and autonomy.
It’s time for support groups to stop shaming those who don’t believe in suffering just to claim a certain amount of “sobriety.” People are on their own schedules and timetables when it comes to recovery. For some, recovery is littered with potholes of relapse. For others, the golden fleece of “pure sobriety” was in reach the first time through the door.
I’ve shared before on this blog that the bottom dropped out of my faith. We have evolved and each of us is a masterpiece of evolution, parts of us thousands of years old! It appears that we have in fact descended from Eve herself; here is her picture:
For some time, what sustains me has largely been my creative work, my life in arts and letters, not substances. It sustains me to feel that I am part of the world and the conversation taking place in it around politics.
Segue: I caught a glimpse of the very highly evolved Melissa Harris Perry on MSNBC just now, talking about Obama’s achievements, I was glad. We as a people have been in a long-suffering dark night of the soul, wondering if we will ever resolve our difficulties.
Obama probably has a lot of insomnia, more than any of us can know. Among his many achievements, Health Care Reform, the Equal Pay Act, repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” amazing statesmanship in the foreign affairs arena, saving the auto industry and the banks, dealing with Bin Laden and his clones.
I will bury myself in work, take a hot shower, and possibly drift off after a while, and it will be a weird, out of whack day. I’ve survived many such days, though. I hate them, but they pass.