Four days, and as the clock relentlessly ticks down I count every hour with a strange combination of sheer terror and wary excitement, my emotions swinging from one to the other like spectators heads in a high-energy tennis match.
Two days ago I picked up my last Morphine prescription, and as the bottles were handed to me I looked at them with a feeling of triumph. This is it.
I mostly know what to expect. I’ve done this before, 28 years ago, and again a bit more recently when my motorhome was towed with all of my meds inside. It’s not what I remember that frightens me the most, though those memories still clutch at my mind and sink their diseased claws in when I try to make myself believe that I’m strong enough.
No. It’s the things I know I don’t remember that frighten me the most. The whispered shadows of the nightmare, the parts that my mind gratefully thrust out of my memory in an act of self preservation. The small things that are lost in the fog.
It’s surrounded me for over nine years, from when I finally gave in to my doctor’s concern & offer of something to help with the pain that twisted my face, carving each line on it deeper like a Halloween mask of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”… the only difference being that my screams, I kept inside. At least when I could.
With the first pill they finally went away, and I was so grateful I almost cried, even through the personal guilt and failure of feeling like I wasn’t strong enough, that I had finally lost to what for so many years I had conquered when necessary, not even taking so much as a Tylenol-3 or even an aspirin when I broke my leg skateboarding, tore apart the tendons & dislocated my shoulder when my van rolled 5 times across I-5, and hundreds of other minor bangs, bashes & aches. Those, I knew, would all pass, and all I had to do was hold strong and stand my ground. This time though, instead of fading, getting better & finally going away, the pain only increased. With each day, with each strip of flesh on my legs that caught under my fingernails while the poisoned fluid pooled and the unbearable itching multiplied, the pain grew and my conviction deteriorated…
There were, of course, many, many times I needed them, so if I chose not to take that first pill then, it was just a matter of time before I did. When the cirrhosis decided to go to town on my body, it’s two favorite places to destroy were my legs and abdomen – and it was like a category-6 tornado in a trailer park. From the swelling to the point where I couldn’t bend my legs & had to cut the legs of my pajamas to be able to squeeze into them to the itching so horrid from the poisons my liver couldn’t process I cut myself open with my own fingernails, to the pressure from the swelling in my abdomen & legs so severe the fluid actually started pushing out of the skin on my calves and pushing my intestines out of my navel, to the pain from the occasional infections that slipped right by even the highest doses of morphine – I was certainly grateful for it at times…
…but as the months & years continued and the pain slowly subsided, when I began to wonder and doubt how necessary the morphine was anymore, I knew I was screwed. Sure, there was still the mild constant pain from my calves that never fully healed or grew back more than the thinnest layer of protective skin, and there was still the occasional breakthrough pain in my abdomen – but nothing I thought – that I think – that I can’t deal with. Nothing so bad that my body’s own pain killer can’t handle it. Nothing so severe that the mind/body & quantum healing practices I discovered and used in the hospice and the surprising strength I found in my mind can’t handle it.
There’s only one small problem. My brain has completely shut down all of it’s own natural pain killers. Feeling unloved & un-needed, the receptors that normally block everything bad have gone on to other tasks where they feel more appreciated. I wish I knew more of the science of it – it’s not entirely endorphins or dopamine but a combination of the two along with some other things. That’s what I kind of know. I know the human body is fucking amazing. We all should kiss ourselves every day and thank it for all it does for us.
I know without any question, without the slightest hint of doubt at all – what I know intimately – is that the human body is in constant pain. Anyone who hasn’t experienced the feeling of not having any help at all from your body to dull pain cannot even come close to imagining what it’s like when you feel EVERYTHING.
I don’t feel as if I can explain it well enough right now, nor do I want to.
But I want my body back. I want my mind back, and all the things working as they should again. I want to feel alive again- with all the pain, passion, love, joy, excitement & fear.
So here we are, nine years later. And I’m fucking done. Things need to change and that is the most obvious one. The feeling of the morphine sticking felt thorns of stupid into my brain is over – or will be soon. First, I need to pay for those lost years, and I know I will – dearly – but every second will be worth it. Nine years of mental fog, nine years of suppressed emotion – the passion, love, excitement, joy, happiness and everything else a person feels on a daily basis has all been muffled, like my mind & heart trying to speak to me through a sealed door.
(Hm. That’s an interesting mental picture.)
On September 21st I will take my final dose of morphine, hopefully for the rest of my life. On the 22nd I’ll begin to feel the withdrawals. They don’t come at once, of course – they gradually build, if I remember correctly, over about three days – but it’s like sticking your hand into a put of 75 degree (Celsius) water. It’s not boiling yet, but it sure as hell isn’t pleasant.
This ought to be interesting.
But WAIT! That’s not all!
To make things completely absurd, I’ve also decided to quit smoking at the exact same time. I mean hell – If I’m going to change my life, I may as well just jump right in with both feet. Get rid of all the things that I’ve been wanting to quit.
In a way I suspect that it will give me something to laugh at myself about – like when you stub your toe and hop around like a fool, feeling like a dumb-ass and laughing through the pain – except in this example I’ll be writhing in pain, wanting a cigarette, and laughing at myself because only someone who is a complete and utter fool would consider quitting both morphine and cigarettes at the same time, and I’ve always held the self-imposed title of “Fool” quite proudly at times such as this.
But there’s something else which is more of an experiment than anything: I have this notion that kicking morphine AND cigarettes at the same time will somehow drive the point that I am now (or will be horribly soon) a non-smoker home a bit harder, because I know smoking is going to be the hardest one in the long run – and I’m in this game to win. So far, I haven’t died 100% of the time, so I’m doing pretty good I think.
When the door is opened, when the fog clears and for the first time in nine years there is no drugged buffer repressing all of the beautiful and horrible things inside of me, I suspect it will be one hell of a ride as I become accustomed to feeling *everything* again – I mean hell, in preparation I’ve cut down the regular dose of 60 – 90mg through the day to one 30mg pill in the morning, and was nearly bawling during parts of the movie “Pete’s Dragon” I watched earlier tonight.
As I said, it’s going to be one hell of a ride. It should make for some interesting blog posts as well.
I should probably apologize in advance to anyone I offend, but honestly – if you get offended, it’s your trip, not mine. Fasten your seat-belts, put on a couple extra layers of skin – and Lighten Up. Things are likely going to get a bit crazy.
Wish me luck.
And please – I’d like it if you commented, if you wish. It will help me not feel so alone.
Comments & ‘likes’ left on my WordPress blog are MUCH more appreciated than those on Facebook, as well.
Four days until I begin to rip myself apart. I’m excited to see what the rebuild will look like.
And I need to figure out whaat kind of art project I’m going to make out of these:
(I haven’t counted them, but I suspect I have about forty that I’ve saved over the past couple years = when I remembered to.)