No one else could heal my pain and I just can’t contain…this feeling that remains.
The La’s couldn’t have said it any better than that in their song “There She Goes,” which was purportedly influenced by heroin. The irony is that song, whether it is about heroin or a love affair, fits both perfectly. The official debate continues on its true inspiration. I certainly don’t have the talent to create such an amazing song, but I do have the talent to become an accidental addict and pull it off quite well for years.
My first love was Percocet. At age 15, I had four wisdom teeth pulled and would’ve gladly had the rest pulled if I could’ve gotten my hands on more of that magic pill. It took away the pain, natch, made me funny, and want to talk on the phone to boys (chipmunk cheeks and all). It calmed my ever-tumultuous digestive disorder. I slept! Soundly! Fortunately, during this crucial period of brain development, that’s as far as the first love went. I never actually abused a drug until my 30s.
I had my normal experiences with college drinking — not so compelling. Tried pot, didn’t like it, and that’s as far as it went. I was a pretty good kid. I got more into reading and going to the gym than anything else. I should have stuck to them. But I don’t really like that word “should” — it brings back a lot of Catholic guilt. You can’t change the past; I’m just glad I survived mine.
Fast forward to graduation from college and going right into the Federal workforce. I was officially the grown-up version of the “Small Wonder” my parents always wanted. Ten drudging years went by and I began to look forward to physical maladies. Dental work? No problem: Hello, Tylenol-3. Kidney infection and blessed Vicodin went hand in hand. Severe migraines yielded Percocet. But I never abused. I always just enjoyed. During those times, who needed friends, books, hobbies, sex or food? I had finally found my answer to my life of a Pod Person.
It was just my luck that on Columbus Day, 2004, I was hanging a curtain in the shower window of my condo. I know, what kind of pervert builders put windows in showers? Apparently post WWII, pre-central air-conditioning builders. Still, on my way down in slow motion clutching the vinyl curtain like a refugee grabbing onto the last helicopter out of Saigon I cursed those builders. Historical building status, my ass, which is exactly what came to crushing rest on the lip of the ceramic-covered steel tub.
I frantically called my best friend and off to the hospital we went. Broken coccyx or the medical term, asseus busteus. At least the docs weren’t skimpy with the pain meds, immediate release Oxycodone, Oxycontin, Fentanyl, Demerol, Dilaudid (my favorite), even lame-o Darvocet, you name it. I could see their faces wince as they looked at my x-ray. One told me I had the back of an 80-year-old woman. I was flattered. I took off work, I had sick leave and annual leave stored up and I was going to wallow in bed. I noticed that my life-long struggle with depression seemed to fade away. I got off my antidepressants, which had helped me after my divorce and dealing with my android government job. I was in a state of warm, opiate bliss.
I did go to a pain clinic and got injections via x-ray, cortisone shots, therapy, and more painkillers. When I started to run out, I would panic. I had to doctor-shop. I handed in scripts to various pharmacies paying cash so insurance wouldn’t find out. Soon I ran out of pharmacies and doctors. The tailbone was better, but I was a mess. I was getting depressed and going through horrible withdrawals. The scene where Ewan McGregor goes through WDs in Trainspotting is almost accurate. It’s WD-lite.
I called a friend whose wife had recently died of cancer and he had a stash of Dilaudid, but it was the kind to be put into an I.V. I didn’t care. I had about 135 mgs of this and it was my ticket back to sanity. Another friend had unused needles for a medical condition that I swiped — he didn’t notice. I didn’t even tie off. My veins had been quite prominent and “good” according to phlebologists. I went for it, pulled the plunger back to see if I had a hit and bam, in it went. IMMEDIATELY, I was myself again, only better. This was better than an orgasm. Seriously.
I figured out how to render Dilaudid tablets into an injectable form. Things spiraled out of control and I started forging scripts to get my fix. I got caught by one pharmacist, but talked my way out of it. I started ordering Vicodin and Tylenol-3 online, paying exorbitant amounts for both. I stole from the medicine cabinets of family and friends. I used my makeup skills to bruise my ankle black and blue with cream eyeshadow (Nars, if you must know) and inject saline under the skin to make it look swollen and sprained. It worked. I got meds.
By now, I had quit my job, and sold my condo, and was planning to go to grad school. It never happened. I traded one addiction for another, luckily not really liking cocaine, but wasting lots of money trying to. I ended up at the bottom of a bottle. My nickname became Blackie Lawless because I could drink a bottle of vodka a night. At least it was good vodka. Newsflash – alcohol is depressant! Not surprisingly, I became more depressed than ever.
I ended up in three inpatient programs for dual diagnosis – chemical dependency and mental illness; severe depression and generalized anxiety disorder. The third stint finally clicked. I realized that each time I binged on hooch, the consequences got worse. Family and friends’ trust eroded. I weighed less than 90 lbs. I’m 5’7. My money was gone. To quote Jerri Blank from Strangers With Candy, “I was a boozer, a user, and a loser.” Minus the donkey show in Tijuana, thank God.
I’m glad medical conditions like addiction and depression aren’t as stigmatized anymore (thank you, Dr. Drew and Intervention.) We’re making progress, but the more we keep the dialogue going, the better things will get for sufferers. They have gotten better for me, but then again, I am blessed with a big mouth.