Drugs and addiction

It’s a rare night that I can sleep without drugs. For pain, I take Cymbalta, Dilaudid, oxycodone, and Neurontin. For sleep, I have Ambien, Dalmane, Restoril, and marijuana. All of these drugs have overlapping benefits and they work best in combination, but with the exception of marijuana I seldom mix them because of the increased risk of side effects. Also, except for marijuana, I never take any of them during the daytime. The one exception was when I took oxycodone two weeks ago for that anxiety attack caused by the Cipro.

My most effective painkiller/sleep aide, is Neurontin. Oddly enough, considering how strong it is, Neurontin doesn’t make me high unless missing doorways and bouncing off walls counts as being high. To avoid tolerance problems, I save it for when I’m desperate. For example, I hardly slept three nights ago, and when that happens, I go for broke the next night, so I took three doses (900 mgs) of Neurontin at once and spent the next several hours flat on my back. One of the ways I minimize pain is by turning over a lot, so when the pain finally awakened me, I was hurting pretty bad, but the drug still had enough kick (about 16 hours worth altogether) that I was eventually able to get back to sleep. 

Last night, I was so tired that I did my best to sleep without drugs, but that only lasted for five hours before I took a 10 mg Ambien, which is my short-acting favorite. Taking so many drugs means that I'm pretty much permanently snookered. I'll give some examples of the annoyances this causes. One. When I got up this morning, I couldn’t find my sunglasses, so I finally left the house without them. When I got home, there they were, right where they were supposed to be, which was the one place I didn’t look. Two. I’ve already looked once today, and I still can't remember if this is 2011 or 2012.

I’m going to address addiction since some of you expressed concern about it following my last post. I was surprised that one person was especially worried about marijuana because I consider marijuana to be the least harmful drug I take in terms of tolerance, dependency, side-effects, or—in the case of narcotics—addictiveness. It strikes me as exceedingly odd that the least scary drug I use is the only one that's illegal. Marijuana can be habituating, of course, but then so can jogging or eating ice cream. Narcotics are a whole other animal because they bring about permanent changes in the brain and hellacious withdrawal symptoms. As I write, I haven’t used marijuana for five days (I sometimes get tired of being high) without the least problem. If I used narcotics as often as I normally use marijuana, I would be under medical care for withdrawal.

To further compare narcotics and marijuana; I prefer marijuana because it causes me to think about the world in deeper and more interesting ways, ways that are so profoundly true for me that they seem to be coming from the core of my being. The drug rarely leads me to euphoria while it not uncommonly makes me anxious, dysphoric, and sometimes downright miserable. I often go for months during which I start most days with marijuana and coffee and then continue to use marijuana until bedtime. I do this because I like the mental stimulation but also because pot works far better as a sleep aide if I use it all day. Sleep is my major challenge not just because of the pain but because I have four separate sleep disorders—insomnia, sleep apnea, nocturnal myoclonus, and nocturnal bruxism.

Narcotics differ from marijuana in that they do induce euphoria, although I find them boring in terms of thought stimulation (who needs to think when he’s euphoric?). I’ll use an analogy to describe how I envision narcotic addiction. Imagine that you’re rafting down a slow and muddy river. The hot air is stifling and the scenery boring. You too are stifled and bored, and you wish with all your heart that you could feel like you were getting somewhere, but your entire life has come to seem like a failure no matter what you do. Then you come to a whirlpool (narcotics), but you don’t realize it's a whirlpool because it's so wide. You’re just pleased to find that you’re moving, although you can’t really remember why you ever wanted to be someplace else. The breeze in your face is cooling, and the same scenery that bored you a few minutes ago is now fascinatingly beautiful. Happiness seems so simple and natural, and sadness so twisted and complex that it's hard to imagine that you were ever unhappy. By the time you see Death at your side, you might be too far gone to turn back. I’m not talking about me, but neither do I remain cocksure that addiction only happens to other people, people inferior to myself. When you're desperate for a way out, even a bad option can look better than no option.

My narcotic mainstay is oxycodone (when it comes combined with acetaminophen, it’s called Percocet) because I’ve been approved for a years’ worth without even having to go back to my internist. I limit myself to 30 mgs at a time (the starting dose is 5-10) three or four times a week. Unfortunately, I feel less euphoric and get less pain relief from thirty than I once got from ten, but I'm afraid that if I take a higher dosage even once, I’ll be tempted to do it again. Why did I set 30 as my limit when my prescription calls for 10-20? Because I was taking 30 when I got scared, and since I was handling that okay—except for the hellacious constipation—I stayed with it. Narcotics are so insidious that even though 30 no longer gets me high for more than a half hour, I crave it on my narcotic-free nights. On the nights I do take it, I have trouble waiting until bedtime to do so because the rush initially makes me too happy to fall asleep, so I want to be up doing fun things. There's nothing like high on narcotics and marijuana and then baking crackers while watching a movie. Yep, that's right, I can carry on real well even while real high, so well in fact that even Peggy can't even tell if I've had anything.

I sometimes imagine that narcotics are talking to me. They say they’re my friends, and that there’s really no reason for me to be in pain when all I have to do to feel better is to take a few milligrams extra. They assure me that, just as most people can safely relax in the evening with a few drinks, so can I relax with a few narcotics. Besides, don’t I deserve a little euphoria? Hell, I’m in pain; my brain—the one I once took pride in—is a turnip; I can’t do many of the things that I used to find meaning in; I look like shit, having gone from 180 pounds of muscle to 160 pounds of skin, bones, and a little round belly; and, worse yet, I have no hope of ever escaping the pain or ever regaining my strength and intelligence. As a matter of fact, the whole goddamn rest of my goddamn life looks pretty fucking bleak, and even after years of pain, I still don’t have a clue how to handle that. Narcotics tell me that they’ll handle it for me and make me deliriously happy.

The words that I say to myself are a bit different… "Why can’t I handle this better? I know people who are worse off but appear to be doing fine. Why can’t I be like them and cut through adversity like a knife through warm butter? And why, when I spent years trying to stay healthy and more years trying to regain my health, am I like this while people who are older than I and never gave a thought to diet and exercise are doing fine?"

So far, I haven’t been tempted to take a higher dose of narcotics or to take them during the daytime (except for two weeks ago when Cipro took me to the doorstep of panic). I’m helped in this by reminding myself of what George Peppard (see photo) said about drinking: “You have problems, you think drink helps, then you have two problems.” I never knew him, and he has been in his grave for years, but I sometimes imagine him beside me, looking the way he looked toward the end of his life when his arrogance was gone. I don't only want to be strong for myself and for Peggy; I also want to be strong to honor his memory because every little bit of inspiration helps, and George Peppard's tortured existence and eventual triumph has certainly inspired me.

The bareass truth is that I need drugs to sleep, mostly because I’m in too much pain to sleep without them, but also because I’ve taken them for so many years that normal sleep is all but impossible. Yet, drugs are robbing me of myself almost as much as the pain is, not because I’m addicted but because when you take mind-altering drugs everyday, you start to lose sight of who you are. I’m desperate to give up drugs as a way of life, but I’m desperate for sleep too, and I can’t have it both ways. You might look at my situation and think you could do better, and I hope you could because you might have to someday, but where I am is where I am despite the years I’ve put into trying to either get well or get strong. 

I just came off a five-month break from even trying to help myself—well, except for diet, drugs, writing, physical therapy exercises, and buying potted plants. When I started getting scared about how much I was looking forward to narcotics, which wasn't too long ago, I signed up for a Qigong class. My classmates are mostly old ladies, and I'm having trouble keeping up with them. I would have already quit the class, but where do you go after Qigong? It would be like dropping out of kindergarten. 

As the saying goes, “You either get tough or die.” I’m not all that tough, but then I’m not dead or on a psych ward either... I grieve my life. Although, for years now, my experience of it has hardly been in the league of a walking death, it seriously sucks. My chief support has come from Peggy, my doctors, and you. Two bloggers who were dying (Renee and Nollyposh) gave me a generous portion of their time and compassion, and that still helps even though they're gone. I wouldn't be surprised but what many a life has been saved by a single act of kindness on the part of someone who had no idea of the significance of what they were doing.


Elephant's Child said...

Oh Snow. I cannot tell you how glad I was to see this post this evening. I saw that you had a post this morning. When I attempted to read it blogger told me very firmly that your blog no longer existed. Not this post, but your blog in its entirety. And continued to say that all day. Since worrying is my pre-eminent skill, that is what I did.
As far as I can see most of us just muddle along. So do what works for you, for as long as it does work. I am a little jealous of your pain killers because I am simply not getting enough relief. That said, even on drugs which merely take the edge from my pain I can feel my brain turn to porridge. Slow, grey sludge.
Do what you have to, and stay with us. Hugs from afar. For you and Peggy.

Elisabeth said...

Wow, Snow, for someone 'snookered' on medication and marijuana, you write a fantastic post about the [process of struggling with unbearable pain.

Your gorgeous metaphor of what it's like, rafting down that slow ad muddy river, is pure poetry.

Your writing is such a joy, if only you weren't in so much pain.

My best wishes are with you.

rhymeswithplague said...

Although you referred to it, your last post seems to have disappeared.

Joe Todd said...

Snow I always wish you the best. Do you ever mix alcohol with the drugs?

Unknown said...

At least you know what the prescriptions are doing to you Snow, and what you're likely missing out on in everyday life. And I agree with you about MJ being much less dangerous than the other stuff.


All of your posts speak to me, but this one coincided with something I've experienced all my life but was only able to 'label' it today.

It might be off subject, but it HAS ruined my life.

Due to having REAL, honest to gawd, horrifying pain and surgeries that only added a new pain, I've always felt like I didn't belong ANYWHERE.

It seems there are three types of people in the world where true maladies are concerned:

(1) They are healthy as hell, yet believe they have every disease that I have, and they out-moan the rest of us.

(2) They are healthy as hell and enjoy it by bragging about their exercise programs and biking, golfing, etc.

(3) They are in pain like me, so they try to adjust, adapt, and overcome, and mainly keep their mouths shut about it and stay home.

The first two have made my life miserable. I don't belong, I can't join, and I feel like the true odd-man-out. And I AM.

The third group stays home and deals with their pain and problems in quiet desperation.

How I wish the first two categories would fall off the earth. But they refuse to.

They make me feel bitter and powerless and then I have THOSE feelings to deal with on top of the pain.

I wish I could change how I feel. It is miserable.

Marion said...

I agree with your about the marijuana use. It's probably the LEAST harmful of all those drugs you're taking. Some folks obviously swallow the propaganda about a mild, wonderful herb that Mother Nature created and man chooses to villify. Trust me, the big pharmaceutical companies do not want pot legalized because it's a simple herb you can grow in your yard and they wouldn't make any money on it. Sheesh!! I wish it were legal in my state.

I agree with you about the Neurontin. I'm prescribed two per day, but usually only take one at night to sleep due to the side effects (weight gain for me, among others). Life is a living HELL when you can't sleep, as you well know. To me, it's the lesser of two evils.

As far as addiction, I know I couldn't function 'normally' without medication. It allows me to walk, sit/stand longer than 10 minutes, garden a little and sleep.

Sending you good wishes, my friend. I leave you with a quote that hits the mark for me:

"Nothing I'd read prepared me for a body this unfair." ~John Newlove

Strayer said...

Your blog disappeared last night, Snow. What happened. I e-mailed Elephants Child to see if she knew. She said she'd e-mail another blogger who comments to see if she knew. I'm glad you are back.

Charles Gramlich said...

One reason I never like to take meds to help me sleep is how disruptive they typically are of dream sleep, which is also critical to us. I tend to get a lot of rem sleep normally.

Snowbrush said...

First off, I have no idea why my blog disappeared. When I tried to log on last night, I got a message saying, in effect, that someone had been trying to hack into it, and that I was to supply my phone number (the one they have on record), so Blogger could send me a code to use in order to retrieve my blog. This went smoothly, so now everything appears to be fine. May we all take this as a warning that we should do our best to create bombproof passwords.... Well, maybe everything isn't so fine. Rhymes mentioned that my last post is missing, and so it is. I can put it back up, but the comments will probably be gone.

No, Joe, I rarely drink and then no more than an average size glass of wine or a twelve ounce beer. I worry too much about the effects of the drugs I take to want to add liquor to the mix even if I liked the effects of liquor, which I don't. I do like the taste though.

SQT said...

Having grown up in a family with lots of addiction issues, I find marijuana to be the least alarming of the substances one can abuse. I worry a lot more about my brother driving drunk than how much pot he's using.

I've never used pot myself, but I was diagnosed with a chronic, and progressive, condition a little over a year ago and pain is definitely an issue. I've told my husband that I'd use pot before I'd go to any prescription opiates and that makes him really squeamish just because it's illegal. I agree with Marion- Big Pharma is a racket!

My mother-in-law is a prime example of a drug addict who gets her drugs from her doctor. She used to work in the medial industry and became a fan of self-diagnosing. She's been on every pain med and anti-psychotic you can think of (usually all at once). I shudder to think of all the stuff she sometimes has flowing through her bloodstream. She's scaled back, but still drinks like a fish.

Snowbrush said...

"blogger told me very firmly that your blog no longer existed. Not this post, but your blog in its entirety. And continued to say that all day. Since worrying is my pre-eminent skill, that is what I did."

I will never delete this blog, and if it ever happens that I can't get to a computer to write a post, Peggy has the log-in information, and when she gets home tonight, I will impress upon her the importance of letting you know what happened to me. My dear, I won't flake out on you. I promise you this with all my heart.

Snowbrush said...

P.S. to Child. I don't have an email address for you, but if you want to put one in the response box on my blog, I won't allow it to appear. I make an effort to swap addresses with all of my longterm readers, but I'm not systematic, so I don't really know who I've shared addresses with and who I haven't. The main reason that I like to share addresses is that I don't trust Blogger to always be a dependable meeting place for my bloggy buddies and me, and I would feel a little stupid if it went down--or some horrible person hijacked my blog--and I lost all contact with people whom I have been friends with--in some cases--for years.

Snowbrush said...

So, Ms Elephant's Child, you thought you could send me something this sweet when you gave me your address and me not publish it? Yeah, right.

"When I contacted ______ to ask if she knew why your blog was gone I told her that it amazes me how dear to me some people I have never met and probably will never meet have become. You two certainly fit firmly into that niche."

That just makes my day. Thank you so much.

Elephant's Child said...

Foolish me. I didn't occur to me that you would publish it. It is true just the same. I suspect that many of us feel that way.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to function on too little sleep. I wish you many nights of long blissful sleep. And I agree with you about marijuana - just look at how alcohol affects people, for example!

Kerry said...

I was worried about you/your blog too. It was the 2nd blog I'd seen that message for, though, so something sketchy is going around.

I am impressed that you don't need to take anything during the day. I think that's pretty good. That's a boatload of options at night though, so no surprise that you're a bit forgetful in the morning.

One good thing about the marijuana (besides its relative harmlessness) is that it encourages you to write. So yay for that.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Snow, I wish you well on your journey... just be careful!!! I know what it's like to be in too much pain to sleep but I know I would be an addict in no time....

Helen said...

Dear Snow ....

From my side of the mountain .. a simple 'I care.'


Strayer said...

I figured it must have been related to your post, all about drugs, that maybe some drugees had found your place, broke in, tied you and Peggy up, were at that moment tearing your place apart to get your drugs. I was worried about your cat! Hahahahaha.

Deb said...

Wow. This has to be one of the most honest posts/write ups I have ever read. I can relate all too well, but perhaps on a lesser, or in better words - on a 'different' scale. I suffer from anxiety attacks, not so much pain. And at night, I need to take ativan to help me sleep. I've been on them...geez...at least for over ten years now. It's at the point where it doesn't help any longer (maybe some nights), to which when all else fails and the anxiety meds don't work any longer, I turn to alcohol. A glass of wine, or two, or three... The madness begins. But, as they all say, "I got it under control" -- or do I?

I remember not too long ago having an asthma attack due to a cold. I had to be brought into the ER because my throat was closing. They had given me steroids (which put me on a high) and of course, the oxycodone in a cough suppressant so my cough would lessen and I could sleep. Well, I used it more of a sleeping aid and ordered more until they said, "You're cold is gone." O.O I can see how that can be quite addicting.

Although I don't use marijuana (because for me it gives me anxiety attacks and paranoia), there is not ONE reported death from it. It's a herb, a natural herb that people are sneering at, yet they'll throw anyone some pain killers, or morphine to kill the pain or use sleeping aids... It's illegal here where alcohol, you can get at any bodega down the street. It doesn't make sense. My father has terminal cancer, and I can't get him medical marinol, but I can grab oxycontin and morphine faster. .......eh.

You're not alone. We're all addicted to something, whether it's food, alcohol, sleeping aids, sexual addictions, anythinggggggggg. Many won't admit to it. We use something to alleviate something. It's human. We don't want to be in pain or sleep deprived, omg --- being sleep deprived IS pain.

So what's the lesser of the evils? I don't know.

I just hope you find peace, and natural remedies along the way, as I try to seek them out too. I'm with you. Hang in there! And, thank you for making me feel less alone in this. You're so brave.

Myrna R. said...

I almost missed this post. Sorry, to comment so late.

I wish I had some potently, magical words of kindness that would help. Please know that I feel kindness towards you though I can't express it well here.

I know pain and drugs are robbing you of much of the quality of life you deserve. I have no idea how I would cope with the pain you endure. I'd probably be dead by now. So, I admire you. You seek to find respite as well as something deeper. Your writing is so intelligently penned, I wonder then how smart you are when your brain is totally clear. I guess I envy you too because I'm a little smart impaired.

Please know that I've grown to care about you. I think you're unique and I learn a lot from you. Thanks for sharing what you do. I love your honesty.

Zuzana said...

Hello my dear friend, I am back blogging again, I am hoping my optimistic and sugar sweet posts will make you feel good.;) They are sweet, but they are the truth about my life, the way I perceive it, just as you tell your story with honest truth. I love your blog and I hope that those drugs, no matter how many you take, can help you in your pain...
Currently I am in a pain of my own, the love of my love is temporary overseas, still I have to face 4 months without seeing his face or feeling his touch. I too will suffer from insomnia, maybe I should try some of those drugs you write about.;))
Have a great weekend,

Ed Pilolla said...

marion's got it right, but we know that:)