Saturday, March 13, 2010
I drank to drown my pain....
Frida Kahlo once said, “I drank to down my pain, but the damned pain learned how to swim. Now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good behavior.”
I was a social drinker since I turned 18 and left for college. I socially drank on the weekends, never to the point where I would consider it to be a problem. About 3 years into my injury, drinking became my primary pain reliever. I was only prescribed 40 pain pills a month. For people who are not dealing with a significant injury and chronic pain, those 40 pills would be substantial. 40 pain pills a month for me meant there would be days I would not be able to take pain medicine. With chronic pain, I am in pain 24 hours a day, even in my sleep I dream about pain. Since the pills were pretty average in strength, I had to take 2 pills to lessen the pain an insignificant amount (but it was something). If I took 2 pain pills, then I would only have enough for 20 days. Most days I needed 2 pills in the morning and 2 at night, so that means I had enough medicine for 10 days. I told the doctor about my situation and he said he was “giving me what he could.” I knew of people with back pain or menstrual pain that were getting 120 pain pills a month. My wrist was fused, titanium holding fragments of bones in between my wrist joints, and I was in constant pain and I only could get 40 a month! Drinking was the only option I could think of. I would do what I had to do during the day so I could start drinking. The quicker I could drink, the quicker my pain would lessen. Obviously this is not the safest way to relieve pain. The pain pills had Tylenol in them; Tylenol and alcohol are not good for the liver and used together are very damaging to the liver.
I would go to the bar during the day and sit among the Vietnam veterans who were drowning their pain of PTSD and war wounds. As they were talking about the battles they survived in Vietnam and the metal and bullets in their body, I would think about my “war wounds.” We, the veterans and I, were trying to drown the pain of trauma and the relief we felt was only temporary. I eventually stopped going to the bar because I did not want to socialize, I was there for relief. As the pain got more severe over the years, my drinking increased. I knew I had a problem in the Fall of 2008, I asked a friend for a Big Book. At the time I asked for the book, I wanted information and yet had no plans to stop. I fit all of the descriptions in the book, yet I was left with a hard decision. Knowing I had a problem, but knowing if I stopped drinking I would be left without the “tool” I used to lessen my pain and make it though the day. I wish I realized how detrimental my choice of pain relief was going to be. After a really bad night of drinking and having no recollection of 72 hours of my life, I knew that I needed help. I got that help.
I am now sober. Along with my wrist doctor, I am also seeing a wonderful pain management doctor that put me on a stronger amount of pain medicine that actually helps with my pain. I had a Spinal Cord Stimulator implanted in July and this device sends stimulation to my wrist. The stimulator helps with pain and also changes the brains perception of pain too. This has helped with my pain a lot. I am still in pain, but I do not have that hopeless all consuming pain feeling. I love Frida’s quote, I feel that it perfectly describes my life (past and present). I tried to drown the pain, physical and mental, yet when I would sober up the pain was still there. Sobriety has changed my life; it also has saved my life too. I am dealing with my pain, instead of trying to stifle it. Some days my pain is unbearable, but in my head I know like all things, it will pass.I am dealing with the fears that come with the pain and the uncertain future in regards to my wrist, my ability to work, etc. I am dealing with life as it comes my way. But when it comes down to it, I don’t miss being numb, not even a little bit.
Photo Credit: Darkman Photography.