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Doctor's Orders

The other day my friend who was visiting and staying with us seriously messed up his back playing tennis. He was completely incapacitated, lying on the floor of our living room in a fetal position, a pillow between his legs and one under his head. I saw him and immediately snapped into action. "Oh my God" I exclaimed and I felt a little vicarious rush. "We need to find you a doctor. Should I call an ambulance?" I was giddy with the potential drama of this situation. “You need some Percocet, maybe even intravenous, but first you'll need some Ativan or Xanax - double whatever they tell you on the bottle. Maybe they'll give you some of the good stuff. If they see you like this, they'll definitely give you some Oxy. You have to ask for the crushable Oxy, not the new non-crushable shit." On and on I went, not that concerned about my poor friend’s back but very concerned about what drugs he could get his hands on. "Why do you seem so happy?" he asked. "And since when are you a doctor?" he grunted through clenched teeth as a spasm tore through his back and contorted his already pale face into a rictus of pain. "Oh" I answered cheerily "I'm not a doctor, but I am a specialist when it comes to painkillers”. He laughed, then winced, and asked me to call his son who is in med school. How boring could he possibly be? Why are we even friends I wondered?

I wanted to call 911 - to get the drugs, the drama, the ride to the hospital. I wanted the ambulance, the gurney, the hustling ER doctors, the frantic nurses, the unflattering fluorescent hospital lights. I was up for it all. The IV narcotics and the hushed "you'll be fine, just relax now”. And shameful as it is, I was wondering if my friend would send me to the drug store to get his pain meds, where I could get my paws on that gorgeous chunky translucent-orange bottle with the child safety cap. A bottle chock full of opioids or narcotics with that fluorescent sleepy-eyed strip sealing the bottle shut with lame warnings about "no driving" and "no operating heavy machinery" and "not to be mixed with alcohol”. That sticker would send a shiver of excitement up my spine every time I saw it. "That's the good shit", it signaled to me. I saw myself picking up that bottle at CVS where (unbeknownst to my friend) I could skim a few pills off the top. He would never know. He's not the pill counting type. Drug addicts like me are expert pill counters (lest - God forbid - we start running low). I don't do that anymore. I haven't done that for years and yet still the opportunity beckoned to me. "No one will ever know" THAT voice said. "You don't have to take them", it assured me, "just grab some for 'later' - you never know when you might need a sedative or an opioid or a narcotic”. And then I was suddenly very awake, thinking it through. Thinking about the time a fancy-pants shrink prescribed me a bottle of the sedating benzo Ativan with the label cautioning against taking the pills for more than 3 consecutive days and never more than 6 per day. Before I knew it I was taking 8 a day every single day for months and had to wean off of them with a months-long course of Librium, slowly decreasing the Librium in milligrams over the weeks so I would not have a possibly fatal Ativan withdrawal-related seizure while I got that benzo-poison out of my body. So, although I have had real trouble with pills of all sorts, Oxy, codeine, Percocet, Fioricet, benzos, the idea of my friend getting to take them "legally" was thrilling.

I'm drawn to drama. When someone I know has surgery, I wonder not so much about the procedure itself but about what "good stuff" they will be allowed to ingest. So now, although still drawn to it all, thank God I know better than to romance these thoughts. I also know that even if I had gone to pick up my friend’s pills at the pharmacy, I wouldn't have stolen any off the top. I wouldn't dare. But that part of my mind that conspires to pull me back into addiction is loud and relentless and patient. With all that I now know, and with all the people I have seen buried WAY before their time because of pill overdoses, it still tries to tempt me. But I steadfastly refuse to be tempted.

I’m happy to be in recovery. And my friend who hurt his back? He recovered too - with rest, ice, aspirin, and some non-addictive non-narcotic anti-inflammatory bullshit. The lack of drama around that really pissed me off. It could have been so "exciting”! For so many years I equated drama with fun and excitement, but no longer. In A.A. I'm learning to steer clear of getting high on drama and I'm also trying to work on regulating my feelings. I'm using the "doctor's orders" that I was given when I first started my journey of recovery. These "orders", given to me by my first sponsor, are to try to keep my emotional highs low and my emotional lows high in the hopes of achieving a nice smooth drama-free equanimity. And apparently this prescription, which has recently allowed me to live a life unhampered by unnecessary drama, comes with unlimited refills and has caused zero overdoses to date. I think I might be hooked.


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