This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten myself a nice prescription and contemplated becoming addicted to some soothing painkiller. While some people have never had surgery or any pain of the kind that requires chemicals beyond what can be had over the counter, like many, I’ve had a few brushes with the good stuff.
Though I don’t remember what was given to me at age five when my tonsils came out, at age sixteen I had my wisdom teeth removed and that required large doses of codeine. It was at this time that my mother learned that I could swear like a sailor. There are issues with Codeine that anyone who’s had it knows about. The major problem is that – while it’s prescribed for pain – it does nothing for pain. Nope. Nada. Squat.
The only thing Codeine does is make you not care. The first afternoon, after the anesthetic wore off and the pills had time to kick in, my mother asked me “Are you feeling any better yet?” “Nope.” (I grinned my swollen-faced grin.) “Really?” She asked. “Nope Mom, it hurts like a mother@#$%^. I just don’t care.” Notice how I didn’t put in the second half of the word? Yeah, that’s because I’m sober. But that day, I said it. Not only did I not care that I was in pain, I didn’t care that I was going to be in future pain just for knowing that word and throwing it around, pain meds or not.
So Codeine doesn’t even make my top five list of painkillers. I’d rather have two Advil and tough it out, at least I know when the pain passes I won’t be held liable for something I might have said.
Later, as a teacher, I had a group of students getting ready for a big test, and I was trying to explain to them about being in good condition. This means well rested, not hopped up on caffeine, in need of a cigarette, etc. I made a joke that students could come talk to me if they had an addiction they were concerned about: I was thinking coffee, etc, but I joked that if they were sniffing glue, I would just help and not judge. Well, one student came up and mentioned that he was on a daily dose of morphine that would have killed a cow. I didn’t joke about it so much after that. Though I did wonder, how does a person get hooked on that much morphine?
The thing is, my pains had all been petty. And, in a cerebral sense, I could see where the good doctors would hop you up on the strong stuff until you got better, then worry about detoxing you later. That kind of made sense. But the real issue was that I’d never had a morphine dose prior to that. Because once I had one, I totally understood addiction.
At this point I’ve had all kinds of stuff. Soma for a pulled muscle – It made me pain-free for a while and happy, but too sleepy to enjoy it. Later, I had myself a major surgery. Though I wasn’t supposed to be up and around as fast as I was, I was all over the place in the days following my release from the hospital. I was given Vicodin at home – of which I took maybe three or four before I stepped down to Tylenol and Advil. Which was fine. The Vicodin had that same sleepy side effect as the Soma, so I’d rather be awake. Giving it up wasn’t much of an imposition.
But in the hospital I had been given Percocet . . . and a new understanding of why people became addicted to it. You can sell those tablets on the street for twenty-five dollars or more! Each! Why? I always attributed it to ‘addiction’ – that crazy state that makes people pay large amounts of money to put hurtful substances into their bodies. (Here’s where I take a step aside and admit to my blatant naivete!)
I’ve always heard that cocaine makes you euphoric, and Percocet doesn’t do that. It just takes away all the pain. And it doesn’t make you woozy or sleepy or un-sober in any way. Or at least you sure don’t think so while you’re on it. (I remember that the only reason I didn’t drive my car was because everyone told me not to. But I felt fine. Really, really fine.) In addition to kicking your pain and not making you woozy, Percocet gives you an extra little nudge of happiness. Not enough to make you crazy but the kind of goodness that makes you smile and say “I feel great, today.” The kind of ‘greatness’ you’d like to feel every day.
If I hadn’t just had major surgery and had some tugging in my stitches to remind me what I could and shouldn’t do, I would have cleaned my whole house and detailed my car. Then I would have cooked a nice dinner for the family and painted a landscape to hang in the living room. I would have fixed the dripping faucet in the bathroom and that bedroom door that sticks when it’s humid, I would have . . .
What I would have is an addiction. If anyone were feeling bad about things before taking one of those little blue wonders, it would be really easy to start taking them all the time. And when everything is organized and you’ve got a smile on your face, it would be easy to justify taking the next pill and the next . . . Luckily, I sobered up on the vicodin when I went home, even if I did sleep through a lot of it.
But just this last week my dentist told me I needed a root canal, and didn’t that tooth already hurt? Well, no, it didn’t. What hurt was that I had been saving for a new deck and the cost of the root canal was going to dip into that. I had so little tooth pain that I was kindof surprised that I needed the root canal. He offered a Vicodin prescription in case it started hurting before my appointment in five days. But I asked for something else: I would be responsible for small children and I didn’t want to be woozy and make bad choices. So the good doctor handed me a new scrip. I expected one or two pills – enough to hold me until I could get in to the office if the tooth started bugging me. What I found was a slip of paper good for sixteen percocet.
Wow. I told him I really didn’t need that much and what would I do with the rest?
Well, I could stand to put some more funds toward my new deck . . . I mean, at twenty-five bucks a pop, it would help cover the cost of the stupid root canal, right? No, I turned him down. Instead, here I am, on Lortab. And it just ain’t the same. Lortab is like Percocet’s little brother. It makes you feel mostly better. And it completely lacks that nice mild manic vibe. Nope, out of the Sex, drugs and root canal, it seems I only got one of them. I think you already know which one.