At a party recently I made a casual reference to Vicodin, probably in some sort of self-depreciating, irritated attempt to diffuse what is my love/hate relationship with that narcotic and my chronic pain in general. Either I didn’t make the subtext clear or it didn’t matter, because the person who overheard effused her joy at recreational use of the drug and how if you chase it down with wine you get the perfect buzz. I don’t know what my outward reaction was, but I can still hear her words in my head now, and when I think of them I feel a white-hot rage that is disproportionate and unfair (she’s a very nice person) but is still there nonetheless. Because I fucking hate that drug, even though it’s clear I won’t have much of a life without it.
I’m really lucky, because most of the time I get by with Voltaren, which is essentially a mega-ibuprofen. Pharmacist husband wants me to get my kidneys tested because I’m pretty much on it all the time, but I so much prefer this drug to the other. For starters, I can function on it. There’s nothing like a Vicodin to take the edge off your pain, but it also takes the edge off your brain. I take them as infrequently as I can, which means that when I take them they really, really work because I never build up a tolerance. The problem is that when I do take them, I’m stoned until noon the next day. I can drive in the AM, but I’m sluggish and unmotivated, so much so that if I can get away with it, I don’t take it. But if I don’t take Vicodin when I’m in pain, I don’t sleep, and then the next day I’m sluggish and unmotivated because I didn’t sleep, and I’m also probably in a lot of pain. So whenever I’m going through a flare-up (which I am now), every night is a battle of how to get to sleep without killing the next day.
My initial thought was to write this post and use it as a springboard into writing, because I really want to write, and also because I really fucking need the money. There’s nothing like having a door open up in front of you where you could, with more ease than anywhere else, sell something because they already like you. If Dreamspinner had an office nearby, I’d probably have to stop by every day and press my face to the door and weep in gratitude, because it’s hard to say what I love more about them right now, the emotional or the financial relief they might be bringing me. Even the potential is enough at this point. Which is kind of sad, but at this point I don’t even care.
But I was talking about Vicodin.
I’m going to the chiropractor today at 11, which is good for pain, but will put a kabosh on this plan to write, because pretty much I’ll need to finish this entry and get in the shower. And then, since today is Dan’s last day of his fall "staycation," I’ll want to go hang with him, because I can. There’s also laundry to fold, and we’ll need to eat something for supper, which means I’ll need to go raid the freezer and figure out what that should be, and I need to keep reading my research books because they’re due at the library, and there’s probably something else I need to do. Tomorrow is also my meeting with the editor I hired for TSV, which reminds me that I need to deal with that and get back to working on TEMPLE BOY. And that starts the thought spiral of should I keep chasing that, or should I not waste time and just work on writing what is selling, which makes me think of SD with the editor right now and want to make small animal sacrifices that she takes it and gives it as quick a release date as possible.
And then the Vicodin slides back in, and I think, God, it’d just be easier to shower and read Pratchett.
I get intellectually why people turn to substance abuse. I get the lure of alcohol and marijuana, and I sometimes enjoy the former. But the more I use a narcotic to manage my pain and just try to find the balance of living my life, the less I can stand any of it. I don’t even care much for whiskey anymore. I think it’s because I can feel that edge, that invitation to just slide off into the stupor so none of it matters. Why worry about money? Why worry about which story you should work on? Why work on anything at all? Why do anything? Why struggle? Why fight life? Why, why, why, when you could just slip down another pill, have another drink, and forget it? I can feel that pull right now as the narcotic slides away and my hips start to get angry, as the weight of my day and week and my life push on top of me. I can feel it, and it scares the shit out of me, and it pisses me off. I don’t like my pain, not at all, and I’m glad for the days when I don’t have it. But I have to tell you, I would keep this pain at four times the intensity before I would surrender to that forgetting, to that nothing. That isn’t life. That isn’t anything.
Pain, both emotional and physical, has taught me more in my life and most loudly in the last two years than any glass of wine or pill ever has. Finding out that I have the strength and inner wisdom to be beaten down like that and not surrender into a chemical out or an excuse to say "this is why I don’t do anything" is worth more to me than I can say. The only thing I truly can’t stand is that when the pain comes back, I can’t work, and when it gets really bad, I can’t live. I guess my goal when the pain comes is to use that space as a reminder that when it goes away, I should live as much as I can, and I should not take being pain-free for granted.
I don’t think anyone gave this to me to teach me a lesson. I don’t think this is my punishment or even somebody’s Great Idea. I think it just is. But what I also think is that I have the power to take something as unfair and aggravating as pain and turn it into something useful and maybe even beautiful. That, baby, is living.
With or without Vicodin.