A Bit of a Reminder
I cannot believe it is Tuesday, and already, I’m late getting this thing out. But I’m not just slacking! There is a reason for my tardiness, honest! :)
I had to go back in for follow up surgery. Now, I won’t go into all the gory details, but let’s just say I feel a lot better the second time around, but not without some… concerns, I guess.
The last time I had surgery (December 4 of 2017), I received a prescription for only five narcotic pain pills, as per my request. That went pretty well, and I ended up returning what I didn’t use. This time around, they also gave me only five pills as per my previous request. The prescription allotment was the same, 1 – 2 pills, as needed for pain, every 4 – 6 hours. What I didn’t realize until I got them was that they were double the strength of the last prescription!
Now, one might think that after my realization last time that I’d be more prepared this time around, and it’s true, I was. However, what followed next was something I didn’t see coming until a very good friend of mine pointed it out. Paraphrased (or, how I remember it since I was so loopy), it went something like this:
“So, these are double the strength.” I said with some surprise.
“Uh huh” DA acknowledged with a side-glance as we drove down the road.
“Well, I don’t need double the strength. I only needed what I had last time.”
“Remember, DL, they [the doctor and nurses] told you that being in too much pain can actually cause the healing process to slow down.”
"Ya," I began to argue, "but – I don’t want to take this much!” <pause> “You know what I could do…”
DA sat in silence, waiting for my “grandiose plan” to come to fruition.
… if I were to split this up, take half every x-amount of time, then I’d be taking half the dose and I could spread it out over time, and still return most of it.”
<only the sound of cars whizzing by filled the air>
“It certainly sounds reasonable.” Left Side and Right Side began to chatter. “Then you have more control over how much you take.” I could feel the heaviness of the sly remarks – the two bastards were up to no good.
“This is a great idea!..” I stated aloud.
DA politely cut me short, “DL – that’s not taking it as prescribed! Take it as prescribed! I’d be worried about you heading towards a relapse. You can’t just change the directions, it’s not how it was written.”
Although I didn’t chew up the pills, or cut them in half (yet), I suddenly realized that I was, once again, going back to addictive thought patterns. Patterns so engrained into me that I hadn’t even realized I’d started doing it. The little, brown bottle clearly instructs how to take the medication – 1-2 pills, as needed, every 4-6 hours. No more, no less; no alterations in time frames, quantities, or otherwise.
It was like I was trying to control the outcome again; the director of the play, so to speak. My role was to simply recover and listen to what the doctor told me to do, not begin to adjust and “do what I want because I know best.” Don’t get me wrong, there are always levels of action and decisions that I must make based on my situation and intellect… I mean, we’ve got brains, we need to use them. But we also need help once in a while, and sometimes… taking only partial advice is not a good idea. Could you imagine if an airline crew member on a jet decided, “Hey, even though I was told to keep the door closed, I think I’ll just go ahead and open the hatch now – how bad could it be at this altitude, anyway?” That’s where I was heading – opening that hatch by not following directions to the “t”. What could possibly go wrong? Well, I have a feeling I know, and although I may be incorrect on the outcome, I’m pretty damn sure from past experience what will happen if I open that hatch.
I took our conversation very much to heart. I was rather concerned it even crossed my mind, but I managed to control the pain with Tylenol and Alieve for the most part. It was doable if I stayed stationary. So, I did most of the first day. The second day, however…
Now, I want to touch on service work here. I know, seems kind of out of place, but it’s not. Kade Hemerson asked me to respond on how I felt about Service Work, or the term “service work.” It is a term that still kind of bugs me, but I’ve grown quite accustom to it and have very much accepted it for what it is. However, Kade, if you’re reading this, here’s what I have to say:
My aforementioned friend, DA, has (for both surgeries) been the very definition of Service Work. Aside from my parents, who live a couple towns away (and who would have gladly come to my aid had I let them), DA is the only person I know who literally dropped everything to come help me. Granted, I didn’t talk a lot about my upcoming surgery, but it was mentioned to people, and others knew about it... but it was DA that picked up the slack and demonstrated not only friendship, but what true service work really was. She was not only there to listen to the doctor’s orders for me (since I was so out of it from surgery), she was there to drive me around, pick up things for me, and make sure that I had everything I needed for a successful recovery. She was pretty patient 99% of the time (ya, the last 1% I deserved to be “yelled” at… oi… ha), and she had to deal with constantly repeating herself because I was having a hard time remembering, anything. Truthfully. It was difficult to keep my mind on task or to remember what the tasks were; all things which are related to past alcohol and prescription drug abuse. More to my point, DA was selfless and highly accommodating in my time of need, and I cannot express the appreciation I have. She checked in on my all the time and made sure I was not just sitting in one spot.
On a personal note:
Thank you, DA. I appreciate your kindness, compassion, support, and friendship.
So, what did I do with the meds? Glad you’re asking!
Although I was in some pain, as I stated before, sitting around and taking Tylenol and Alieve allowed it to be “manageable,” the problem was, I was sitting around. Not a good thing after this kind of surgery, and DA didn’t let it stop there. Instead, rather than say “hey, you’re gonna move around,” she said, “hey, let’s go get lunch, I’m driving.”. Unfortunately, I thought she said, “Hey, I’m buying,” but that’s another story. Anyway…
Moving, of course, voiced the opinions of my Surgery, “HEY! That HURTS! Stop moving around, jerk!” And after enough complaining and pain, I realized that this was an appropriate time to take my medication, as prescribed, as needed for pain. I waited until DA arrived and took the pill right in front of her. For one, it held me accountable to taking the pill WHOLE. Not split, not chewing, but whole. For two, it helped me mark my time and I also knew that someone would be fully aware of what I was doing. I don’t want to relapse. Ever. It is highly important to me to have accountability.
And it helped the pain. But it did something inside me, too. Left Side and Right Side were quiet right up until bedtime. And then…
“So… you’ve been good, DL. Good job!” Left Side proudly spoke up.
“Great job! You’re a hero!” Right Side chimed in, “A hero in pain…”
“… and pain shouldn’t get out of control, because it will slow down the healing process!”
Damn them. What sense they began to make. I was definitely hurting, but was I hurting enough?
“I don’t need the pills, besides, they make me feel crappy.” I responded. But the seed was planted, and devil’s horns grew.
“Hey, it will help you sleep.” Left Side commented.
“It will take away the pain.”
“You’re allowed to take two anyway…”
“… and you’ve got four left.” stated Right Side.
I could feel the pressure weighing on my shoulders again, I kid not. It was like weight of old habits and old school thoughts were smashing down on me. I was beginning to feel overwhelmed.
“Just take it!”
“You can return the rest tomorrow!”
“It isn’t going to hurt you!”
“Besides, who will know?”
Indeed. Who would know? Who would know if I took pain meds if I didn’t actually need them? I had a great excuse! I had every reason to take it, and it was legal!
But deep inside, my Inner Voice began to shake. It brought forth many memories of what had happened in the past, it rang out voices of friends, and counselors, and mentors, and sponsors, and family. I was reminded, with a love and compassion so deep from within, and then WHOOM!... I knew what to do.
I picked up my phone, and I texted DA.
What followed next reminded me of why I was in Recovery. All the weight lifted off of my shoulders, and Left Side and Right Side huddled into their corners, terrified of the light that was glowing deep from within me.
“I am not bound to your decisions,” I proclaimed to the darkness surrounding me, “I refuse to bow to the conniving, deadly ways you’ve shown me simply for a quick fix!” I was welling inside. “I am in Recovery, and I will stay in Recovery, because I choose to be sober, happy, and free. Period.”
A tearful smile swept ear-to-ear and my beard wrapped around my face. I truly was free in that moment, and although I didn’t know what would become of tomorrow – I knew where I was at today.
DA responded to my text with a simple acknowledgement, such a necessary confirmation. I knew someone else knew, because I spoke up and told them. The relief of getting it off of my chest with someone I could trust was one of the most solid reminders that I was headed in the right direction.
The following day, I went to my doctor’s appointment for a small, follow up procedure to remove a drain tube, and handed him the pills. Again, he looked at me. “You’re a good man, DL.” In true DL fashion, I sheepishly looked away, "Well, I try to be." I said. Now, just to learn how to appropriately respond to people who make nice comments to me. In time, I suppose. All of my recovery tools have come unexpectedly to me in the times I’ve needed them.
Thank God/Higher Power/Creator/Whatever-It-Is-To-You, for my Recovery. Without it – I’d be finding more ways to get doped up right now... or drunk. But today... I'm as Drunkless as I can possibly be. And for that, I'm grateful.