Thursday, November 22, 2007
Here I am again, at 3 AM, awake and feeling creative and contemplative. I just ordered up the pain pills, and the nurse came in with the little plastic cup and waited until I swallowed them. Guess I am going to have to give up my plans of hiding these under my tongue and selling them on the street once I get out of here….
I know that’s not really funny, but saving the medication is also not really an option, either. I need this stuff. Now those words are coming from someone who doesn’t take aspirin or drink alcohol (any longer). I do admit to a psychological dependency on chocolate—but after I realized I had addictive tendencies, I became quite aware of compromising situations and I follow a regular path of personal maintenance. I’ve been successful—no alcohol or cigarettes for almost 14 years, and I regularly practice Twelve Step living. Like any of us familiar with the Program, I know that constant vigilance against addiction is the order of my day, as is the need to be honest with myself and others about my condition.
On the other hand, I can’t quit being near alcohol, or cigarettes. My professional life consists of lots of compromising situations, from business cocktail parties to trips to Russia, where turning down vodka is a lasting personal insult to your host. (Stop here for a moment and picture me visiting a Russian real estate office. They are so delighted that the American has come to see how they do business that the whole office immediately stops working and sets up a bar in the conference room, complete with several large bottles of vodka and a personal shot glass for everyone. The order of the day is to laugh, tell jokes, and toss back straight shots of the stuff, bonding and networking as only Russians know how to do. Seeing my glass untouched for several rounds, my translator grasps the situation and begins substituting his empty glass for my full one. I don’t dare look at him to see if he is slowly sliding under the table, but he explains to me later that he understands that it is an American peculiarity for some of us not to drink, and to save the day he provided some liquid refreshment to the fern placed against the wall behind where we were sitting.)
It’s taken me a while to realize that I shouldn’t be trying to hide the pain pills in the Boston fern. During what I now think of as My First Recovery, I was intent on cutting back on the meds in general, and in the pain pills in particular. I would take fewer than prescribed, or try and stretch the time between doses by several hours. “Why are you doing this?” my doctor asks. “The pain is there, and it’s real. You aren’t making it up. The pain is your body’s message to you that things are going on, in this case, healing. You need to listen to the pain, but you don’t need to be its victim.” Take the dosage prescribed, he advises me, and when it’s time, we’ll work on a reduction program more in keeping with the healing that is taking place and the level of relief your body is requiring.
The other patients in this facility aren’t drugged comatose—most of them don’t even seem to have much pain, either. The nurses here are quite attentive to dosage levels and they are careful to make sure you don’t practice the drug-under-tongue-for-later-resale technique of financing a second home in the Bahamas. The idea here is PAIN MANAGEMENT, a term which does not include being a victim or hoping some kind enabler will drop your temptations in the potted plant behind you. There is a full responsibility on the part of the pained person to listen to the body’s shouts and whispers, and to anticipate its needs with attentive and caring concern.
Today Diane came by for a visit and brought me a little bag of Godiva chocolates. I think I will have one of those now, in celebration of a new day.