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.
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:
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.