Five Reasons to Get Off the Painkillers

Two weeks after seeing my lower leg flop from side-to-side, and feeling my bones crunching, I’m off the pain meds. WTF, Cordes, don’t be such a quitter! (I know, I know, but at least I failed in my initial attempts to be a quitter. You can’t do nuthin’ right.) Fuck those things. Oh no, I can hear friends who were near me after my spinal surgery say, Here he goes, the salty “hates painkillers” thing.

Pre-spinal surgery, 2005.

Back in 2005 I had major a spinal reconstruction, with fusion, at L4-5. My articulating facets had fractured and the disc was gone, completely disintegrated, with the two vertebrae 50% offset, the overlap keeping my spinal cord (the cauda equina at that level, technically) from shearing off but causing it to run through two 90-degree bends (ouch), with the vertebral bodies grinding together, bone-on-bone. It had deteriorated for years. I think our Great Trango climb, in 2004, was the final straw. There’s something gruesome about bone-on-bone pain. I went without painkillers until post-surgery, and then I hated the damn things, just as I hate them now. So, I’d be grumpy as all hell, taking the minimum, my friends urging, “Take one of those freakin’ drugs already.”

Forgive my macho posturing (I have a girl’s name, after all) – indeed, sometimes ya need the drugs. On those initial attempts to quit, after being off them for 28 and 24 hours, each night I woke squirming at 4:30 a.m. – the pain mostly comes out at night, mostly – tried to resist for awhile, but took an Oxycodone (lasts 3-4 hrs) and it felt good and I slept like a baby for another few hours. Rest is important. But the drugs make me feel stupid, and I don’t need any help in that department.

So, yeah, I’m a little grouchy.

I’m heading-in tomorrow for some heavy-duty construction, and might require another surgery a week later. I expect the post-surgery pain to be the worst yet of this episode, and being off the drugs going-in might allow them to more fully work their magic when I need them. Weird, I can feel myself getting surly and intense. I know I have a huge road ahead, and I’m ready. BTW, fear-not the bored with low standards: I’ve got a couple of posts pre-loaded to run in case I don’t feel up to comprising more drivel like this list of reasons to get off the painkillers:

To mix, or not to mix?

1. Margaritas. This one’s a mixed bag, because the drugs seem to greatly amplify alcohol’s effects. When I’m edgy, hurting, looking like Charles Bukowski, I don’t know if mixing is a good or a bad thing. Probably bad. And I’m sorry for my un-authenticity here, for those who’ve put faith in me as a raging margoholic, but I don’t like feeling too loopy. I hate feeling out of control. It’s why I correct people who try to call me an “adrenaline junkie” – those people don’t understand climbing. I love the alpine because it’s wild. Finding self-control amid chaos is a truly wonderful thing. But the chaos of alcohol-with-narcotics wigs me out a little. And Jenna gets on my case when I mix them, thus giving further reason to transition off the drugs and onto the margs.

2. In the words of the inimitable Hankster (Hank Caylor), who phoned me with encouragement and advice – when I told him how I hate the drugs, he said:

“Yeah, but dude, other people love those things! Stock-up because it’ll make you super popular when you’re recovering. [name removed] will suck my dick for a sandwich and a Percocet.”

Uhhh, OK, thanks Hank…

3. I can auction off the leftovers for charity (or for the bills my insurance company weasels out of paying; anybody against insurance reform has clearly never been sick). It would be a wondrous cross-cultural affair, a true melting pot of peoples (ever notice how the already plural “people” needs to be “peoples” in order to be a true soft-speaking brah), not unlike riding public transportation or a coast-to-coast trip on the Greyhound. We need a volunteer for the role of hippie negotiator, for when the DEA comes for the bust, to say, “But, c’mooonnn, bro. It’s for a good caaause!”

4. As Rush Limbaugh proved, any dipshit can get hooked on prescription narcotics. It takes talent to pour and appreciate a good margarita.

5. The mind is everything. Physical pain is your mind’s interpretation of your body’s signals. Sure, sometimes ya need the drugs, but minimizing them helps. I think it helps even if it makes me a little edgy, simply because tomorrow begins a long and painful road, and for things like this it always helps to toughen the fuck up.

20 thoughts on “Five Reasons to Get Off the Painkillers

  1. Hi Kelly ! We discussed by email. I just discovered your website today, and what happened to you. Sorry for this accident ! Best wishes for recovering very soon. Henry

  2. Hey Kelly, good luck with your recovery. Hankster is right, but I also threw a few in my First Aid kit, they might come in handy someday. Shoot me an e-mail if you are interested in borrowing some nice forearm crutches, I bought a pair when I broke my foot and they make getting around easier.

  3. Kel and Jenna – good luck tomorow ! hey Kelly i met your buddy Pete Tapley and his friend Dana and got to dogsit Logan ! over in Cody last week…
    us northeasterners are thinking of ya man and heal up fast, then go climbing ! jim shim

  4. Yeah, the forearm crutches made me more mobile when I had to be on them for a month.Is there some legal or other reason that we have not heard the circumstances of your accident, I did not think it would be too rude to ask, hope you recover well.

  5. thanks so much, all (and bill, i’m honored to have you reading — i would think such a surly fellow wouldn’t read such trash as blogs, and it makes me so happy i don’t need the painkillers!). shim, glad ya had a good one up there. nah, geoff, no good reason, just haven’t gotten around to it. for the sake of storytelling, it’s pretty non-dramatic and random, didn’t fall while climbing or rap off the ends or anything like that, so it goes — i’m working on a post in which i’ll describe it and try to analyze it. mostly just haven’t felt like dealing with it, but it’s coming soon. indeed, forearm crutches seem like the ticket. have a couple offers (man, everyone is SO awesome, it’s really overwhelming), think i have a pair i’m set to borrow. will be great to have ’em.
    ok, gotta do a ton today before tomorrow’s surgery. am soooooo excited! getting better, woohooo!

  6. Kelly, sorry to hear about your accident. I have been reading your writing for a while now, and it has made me want to be better (better climber, better man, etc.). Keep up the good work and keep being human.

  7. Oxy’s fetch about 67 cents per milligram among my sketchy friends, so you could fare pretty well for fundraising that way. 5mg pills X 50 pills X 67 cents = three bottles of patron.

  8. Oh man, I thought I was the only crazy enough dud to read Bukowski! Well, if you mix Bukowski with Tequila and pain killers, nothing good will come out.
    Now, seriously, I know you will laugh at this one, but what helped me a lot with pain (in my neck, I have 40Lb of equipment blown into my skull at an IED in 2006 and almost took my skull off) is acupuncture. Try it. the good thing is that you can mix it with margs!
    Kelly man, speedy recovery and stay strong.

    • sweetjesus, uri! didn’t know that about your injury (injury doesn’t seem a strong enough word). wow. nah, i won’t laugh at accupuncture. well, ok, maybe i will, but i make fun of everything — if it works, and i know that it does for a lot of people, i’ll try it if my pain becomes too severe. if, that is, the margs don’t do it on their own. (btw, have only read Women and Post Office, but loved ’em, totally classic, hilarious, that guy’s such a pig but also brilliant.)

      • Those stories are good, the Bucko is a crazed writer but he is great. In any case, give it a try (acupuncture) you won’t be disappointed. Let me know how the operation goes, and again, if you need anything and I can help let me know.

      • I’ve done the acupuncture thing for chronic knee and foot pain. It worked and was actually really interesting.

  9. Reason Number 6: Those little fuckers back up your shit (literally) worse than a block of Velveeta ! Maybe that’s really why you’re so grumpy.
    I think saving it until you need it is a good thing. They really work for pain.

  10. Reason Number 7: “Oxycontin is the gateway drug into black-tar heroin” – just heard that on a NPR program report, no shit. Yeah, yeah, this’ll help me kick that nasty black-tar heroin while I’m at it.

  11. Best of Luck with things.
    I just got an implant of a plate and 11 screws in my shoulder a few weeks back so I have a similar understanding. I got off the oxi quickly because I wanted to sit comfortably in my bathroom and not feel like I was going to burst open my sutures; and for my great love of beer. Some advice, don’t let people slap your back (or in my case shoulder) when they greet you at a party!

  12. Great comments from all. I agree with M.Babin, don’t go through the terrible back up. You’re already in enough pain and the anesthia will block you up too! Double whammy!
    They do help a bit with pain, but shit man-I can’t remember what I did the last 2 weeks.
    Good luck, be a purist, drink only those margs and we all are thinking of you.
    P.S. if you want to go into business let me know, I have a ton left over from my surgery, the good ol’ percocet and oxy-we could make tons. Doesn’t Estes need a dispensary?

  13. with respect to numero uno, yeah don’t mix that s— but if you are looking at either/or scenario, margs or drugs for the pain, then pick one and make it a science experiment.

    For example, “On a scale of one to ten, the pain is 9. Will a 9 oz glass or 12 oz of tequila numb it for x hours. then the next day when #9 pain sinks its claws, take a 250 mg of percocet and see if that achieves x hours too?” Compare and start logging results.

    or a non-narcotic experiment, does 10 minutes of walking around the block mean only taking 500 mg of vicodin. 20 minutes? 20 minutes of walking plus a 9 oz of melon margarita?

    if anything it could give your mind something to do when lying around convalescing…. and maybe not join be a dipshit too.

    my two bits. get better!

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