Recognition and Gratitude
Let’s catch up:
It’s been many years since I’ve had surgery. I think it’s been close to fifteen-plus years, actually, and it was on my lower back – blew a disk. Terrible pain that had built into a bulge over the course of about five years where it ended up herniating and blowing out. Not a good feeling, I’ll assure everyone who’s been fortunate enough to avoid it. For those poor suckers like myself – you know what I mean.
Since I’ve joined the Recovery Force, I’ve been somewhat afraid of what might happen to me if I ever needed to take narcotics again. The concern I’ve had has been around the triggering of my alcoholism. I wasn’t much for pills, unless it was Valium (I loved that much too much, and it would take me back out faster than any other drug or situation I can imagine), but I would occasionally steal my late wife’s extra meds (which she had a lot, trust me on this) to help me get through the day. Oxy, Methadone, Klonopin, even Trazadone. Heavy stuff! And when I couldn’t get that, strangely my back would have spasms and cramps and pains shooting down my legs, so it was off to the hospital to refill my own personal pharmacy… or pay back my wife for what she “loaned” me previously… until the doctors caught on to my pill-seeking.
It’s here that I’ve been concerned. Even though pills were a problem for me, they weren’t my drug of choice, so I didn’t have a “drug” problem. I was an aware-alcoholic, too proud to be a prescription druggy or a junkie. Yet many times in my previous attempts at “sobriety” it was those very non-problematic drugs that would trigger a relapse of my short lived “sobriety.” In fact, with the exception of the pot smoking, it was always the prescription drugs that was the common denominator. Always.
So where have I been?
Sober. Still sober, still in Recovery, still as nutty, crazy, and apparently lost as always. So good, truthfully. Well… “good.” I’ve since moved Triii-Point Studios and Drunkless HQ, and it’s been very hard to find time to do much of anything. I’m taking on schooling now, too, just because I’ve never been to college, and I thought it would be a good time to do it. Wait… I’m stalling again, aren’t I? okay, okay…
Over a year ago I visited my doctor for an issue. It was a seemingly small issue, and as discussed with my physician, I needed to watch it as his concern was (as he frighteningly explained to me), “Oh no – this could be cancerous!”
When he realized he’d lost his bedside manner, he simply followed up with, “Well, I mean it could be, but we’ll just watch it, and if anything changes, we’ll get a better look at it, it probably isn’t anything to worry about. Check back in six months.” –Bye!
Well, six months rolls by, and I find out he’s no longer working there. <sigh> “I have to go through all this AGAIN?” I thought. But not much had changed with the issue, save the size, so I didn’t do anything else except worry about what was going on. Stupid, stupid, stupid. “Uh, HELLO!!!” I should have gone back to someone else then. but I didn’t. I spent the next six to eight months with this weighing on me, being too embarrassed to go back because “what idiot waits so long?” Ya, Left Side and Right Side still taunt me, even these days.
Let’s fast forward, shall we?
Without getting into details, I was doing light duty exercises one evening, and this issue kind of got in the way. I mean, it had been for quite some time, but I had just been working around it. I didn’t want to deal with it, so I didn’t – instead I just worried about it. <sigh>. Ya, I know… I can hear what everyone is saying… “Self-care, dope!”
So, I finally made an appointment (a year and a half later), and my new doctor said, “Why in the hell didn’t you get this looked at sooner?!” Oh snap. Was I in serious trouble now? Had I waited too long? Was I going to die this far in my recovery?
Well, here’s where I’m at today.
I did see the doctor, and I was ordered tests and scans, etc. I was diagnosed with one thing, which turned into a lesser thing that still required surgery. So, I scheduled for the surgery, and in I went… this last Monday (December 4, 2017—stated for my records, ha!). I did all the right things all along the way, telling the doctor, the nurses, the anesthesiologist, and any other caregiver that would listen, that I was an alcoholic and an addict. I wanted to make damn good and sure they knew I wasn’t playing around here. They needed to know that I absolutely knew that I couldn’t go back out, because if I did, I wouldn’t make it back. I talked to family, friends, and people in The Rooms. People are aware of where I’m at and how I’m doing.
The surgery came, and they discovered, after opening me up, that they were indeed wrong about the changed diagnosis. The issue was worse than expected, and a change in surgery plans had to be made immediately. Now, for those who might be worried—don’t be. I’m fine. It was a “bigger issue” than expected, although it was a less intrusive procedure (so they say) than what they had originally planned, but at this point, nothing life threatening. The samples have been sent off, and they are 99% sure it’s not cancerous. YAY!
But now… now I’m in pain. Or, I guess less pain than I expected, but pain nonetheless.
I was prescribed generic Norcos. Our previous discussions leading up to the surgery made me feel like it was perfectly fine to request only a small, limited number of pills. He obliged, so five I got. Truthfully, I’m glad. Here’s why.
Addictive behaviors. Addicts and alcoholics tend to have specific patterns, things they do when they are around certain drugs or alcohol. It’s a trained habit, for many of us since we were young children, for others, such as myself, behaviors learned later in adulthood. Nonetheless, these are patterns, things we grew into, that we often never even recognized. Perhaps we were excessively and/or obsessively thinking about it, how to get it, when, or where. Maybe sneakily but definitely secretly we’d find our way to “it.” We didn’t always know why, only that—and as long as we were fixed, we were good.
Surgery Day, I’m home, I’m hurting, attempting to ride off of the meds from surgery, Tylenol, and Advil, but it’s just not quite cutting it anymore. I’m allowed to take one to two Norcos every three to four hours. I have five pills. “How do I spread it out?” I honestly wanted nothing to do with them. Yet, one small bit of advice on how to take it started flapping those internal lips.
“Hey,” came the first whisper, “You could take one.”
“Or two, you’re allowed two.”
Left Side and Right Side have never left me. Always willing to come to my aid at trying to kill me.
“No!” I tell them, “No. If I take any, it will be as discussed by my doctor—AS NEEDED, as prescribed.”
They toned down for a while. Patient bastards. They knew the pain was there. They knew I’d have to get up to use the bathroom. They knew it was only thirty feet away, locked in a safe that only I knew the combination to, in a private room where I can shut the door. And so the pain came to fruition, right along with the necessity for the bathroom. <sigh>
I felt like I was hiding. I tried not to feel that way. I truly did need the meds, and so allowed myself to be okay with it. And I was. I only took one pill as discussed by the doctor. I was doing my due diligence, remaining fully aware of my actions; I was following orders, and I was doing it strongly and under prayer. I was okay, and I knew it.
Yet, here’s what scared me to my senses – when I took the one, single pill of five out, I broke it in half (so it would digest that much faster – addictive behavior), and then chewed it up (more addictive behavior). This was a pattern I’d done with pills of all sorts time and time again. I did it entirely instinctively, without a single thought until after it was said and done. Holy crap. Holy crap. How easy that was to fall right back into that pattern! ONE PILL!
But here’s the upside to this (I’ve said it before, for every down, there is an UP, and I’m going to stand by that right now):
I’ve learned tools in my Recovery over the last four-plus years. Some I’ve learned from the recovery center I was in, some from the rooms, from counseling, and from some of the best people I’ve met in my life who I now get to be friends with. Among those very important tools are two very distinct things: recognition, and gratitude.
Firstly, I recognized a seemingly hidden pattern, a pattern I’d done automatically from habits formed in my past and which I hadn’t even recognized as a pattern until the moment I did it! I recognized it! That is so important, because if we don’t know what we’re doing incorrectly/wrong/disruptive/harmful/whatever, we can’t CHANGE IT! But I can change that! I know I can, because I have been. For four years, and I still continue to do so and expect more lessons on more things I can change for the better.
And for that, I’m so thankful. I feel like gratitude must be mentioned here because 1) I cannot express the feeling of gratitude that I have for even recognizing it, but that 2) it is such a powerful tool to keep our heads above the water in any condition we’re in. Last night, after about eight hours from the first one, I ingested a second pill, whole, because I was in more pain. Today, I only took one and a half, and I’m controlling the rest of the pain with Tylenol and Advil. Tomorrow morning (which will be today, Wednesday, December 6 if I get this scheduled to publish in time) I will bring my remaining one-and-a-half-pills-out-of-five with me to my doctor and hand them over to him. I kept up my end of the deal, now I want that sh… uh, crap… out of my house. I’ve still got a long way to go to get past this surgery, and perhaps I’ll need to have the drugs later on during the course of my diagnosis, however that may end up. But at this time, TODAY, I don’t need them. I don’t want them, and although there is something screaming inside of me to hang on to it, I remember the damn Beast that was hunting me down but couldn’t take me; Death wasn’t allowed to release the Beast just yet. It was beyond his control, as well as mine, no matter how much I begged for it then.
Today, I’m grateful for my life, what I currently have, what I’ve been blessed to learn, and that I have support around me by people who care enough to help me, from my family (Mom and Dad, brothers, nephews, nieces) to my awesome friends in recovery, to my counselors and The Rooms. I’m a lucky dude these days, and if I can do this… so can anyone that wants it as badly as I do.