Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Scary Pretty Things

In my last post, I referred to my friend Troy's wife, Angie, as "scary-pretty." It just popped out, and now I find it a curious adjective. I could easily describe my sponsor, Mary, that way, as she has one of the most beautiful faces I've ever seen.

When we first met (at one of my first AA meetings), we immediately connected, and within five minutes or so, she offered to be my sponsor. I said an unequivocal "yes," but I couldn't help but notice her extraordinary beauty. With her long, blonde, straight hair, she looks like a California model cloaked in urbane Manhattanite high-fashion threads. As I walked home from the meeting that day, I wondered if I could actually spill my guts to a face that was so perfect without feeling some kind of intimidation or, worse, jealousy. I actually considered backing out of the deal with some kind of lame excuse.

But it took just a few minutes to have the insight I needed. How many times in my own life have I felt rejected or rebuffed because of my own gifts? While I've lost a friend or two due to my health ordeals (some just can't handle this kind of thing), what's actually hurt far worse have been the rejections when I was shining at my brightest. Whether it was a successful art exhibit, or my writing a memorable pop song, or looking particularly fine while wearing a clip-on ponytail, or--perhaps most important--just feeling a day of boundless joy, the no-comment commentary or the sly digs were deeply painful, at times even excruciating.

These are the things we do to one another when we feel insecure about our self-worth or our own gifts. That insidious character-erosion of those we supposedly care about is a deadly game, for sure, and it hurts both perpetrator and victim alike. Sadly, when I've shined a bit too bright, instead of it serving as an inspiration, some friends fell by the wayside. While their departure was ultimately welcome in the end, as I couldn't stand the stress of it anymore, it was also profoundly sad, as are most situations where communication crumbles.

As soon as I had this insight, any intimdation I may have had about Mary's looks vanished, and since then, I've discovered that the beauty of her soul far exceeds her external appearance, if that's even possible. She couldn't be more compassionate, intelligent, loving, non-judgmental and serious about her role as my sponsor.

And, perhaps not surprisingly, she has the face of an angel.

Lucky me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Trojan Cows

My recovery pal Troy is holding my pain meds for me. I love his name, as I associate it with that warlike state from antiquity. Troy is tall, handsome and has a shaved head, as does his scary-pretty wife, Angie. They look like a beautiful salt and pepper set (he's light-skinned, she's dark).

I also associate his name with other things I like. One is the film "Troy," which actually wasn't that good, but it stars Brad Pitt, who's a babe. Also, one of my all-time favorite singer-songwriters (who's has a profound effect on my own songwriting), Sinead O'Connor, has a song named "Troy," which I never cared much for either, but as I'm such a fan, I gave her a pass on it. Come to think of it, she has a shaved head, too.

When I got out of rehab, I cut all my hair off. That's saying something as my long blonde curls used to get me cat-calls from passing cars, more often than not filled with hispanic guys who must like that kind of thing. It's so short that I sometimes think I should ask Troy and Angie to just shave the rest off for me, but I fear I'd look like a cancer patient, and I've got enough problems.

When I was in terrible pain the other day, refusing to take any medication so that I could "stay clean," Troy told me a curious bible story. Apparently, God had asked someone to kill one of his cows as a sacrifice. So the guy went and killed all of his best cows to show what a great guy he was.

When God came back, he said, "Why did you kill all your best cows? I only asked you for one, and it certainly didn't have to be your best!"

Confused by the meaning of this perplexing tale, Troy explained that we don't score extra points by suffering more than we have to. As I was still refusing to take any pain medication, even after the story, he bluntly asked, "Why are you killing all your best cows?"

Never one to argue with a good bible lesson, I went over and picked up a pain pill and that night felt much better. Can't say I'm much of a bible reader, but that was a fine story, indeed.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

History Repeating

The History Channel had a show on about the plague this afternoon. Half the population of Europe died because of it, and the surviving population was devastated psychologically as a result, questioning the meaning of life. I get this. Families watched one another die tortured, agonzing, senseless deaths. Talk about misery.

Not surprisingly, they all thought God was punishing their evil ways, but in watching this show with the wisdom of hindsight, it's clear that it was just a tragic thing that, well, happened. It wasn't God; it was a pathogen that half the people couldn't fight off. It spread from England to China, and some Christian Europeans began flagellating themselves, thinking that maybe inflicting more suffering on their bodies would somehow stop the insanity.

In my own case, I sometimes think God is punishing me, too, for some evil deed committed in maybe a previous life, or that he's trying to teach me a lesson that I somehow refuse to learn.

But if I'm going to learn anything from history, sometimes things just, well, happen. There's nothing inherently good or bad to the event. As humans, we're simply organisms prone to infection, like bugs, or dogs, or even the dinosaurs, who could actually get cancer.

Many desperately want to believe that things like disease happen to us because of stress, unresolved rage, because we're not spiritual enough, or because we're not understanding the mind/body connection. While there may be some truth to this, another truth is that bad things do indeed happen to good people for no reason at all. Accidents happen, disease happens, as does death. There's no escaping it. Believing there's reasons for it is simply a vain attempt to control it. If we can blame the patient somehow, then we think it won't happen to us.

The History Channel ended on a positive note, saying that the plague ushered in a new era of thinking. People began questioning the Church's authority, now defining God for themselves, and because of the loss of the work force, labor-saving machines were invented that were the very beginnings of the industrial age.

The most positive thing that developed was the beginning of the Renaissance--a rebirth of art, culture and science.

Like the plague survivors, I don't know about this God thing either. But I'm certainly not going to flagellate myself, nor blame anyone else for my misery. (The Christian flagellators actually blamed the Jews for the catastrophe.) The best I can hope for is some kind of rebirth of my own...a new person that will rise from the wreckage.

That's hard to fathom at the moment, as I'm still swirling in a haze of pain and addiction. The plague had to run its course, and perhaps my own dark days have to run theirs, as well. This has been going on for an awful long time, though. Years now.

I'm exhausted.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wager, Anyone?

I'm on and off the pain meds. Luckily, they're again entrusted to a friend so that I take them as prescribed. In my possession, they're absolutely diabolical. I watch my hand go up to my mouth with yet another pill as if I'm not in control of my own body parts. I suppose I'm not.

Yesterday, I attempted to completely go without pain meds, as I did most of the day before. When the pain went through the roof, I called my sponsor, Mary, which I don't often do. In pain, I tend to isolate as my emotions are so overwhelming that I assume they will overwhelm others. I cry so hard that I'm barely coherent. But I called, telling her that the reason I haven't been able to write down my perception of my Higher Power (an assignment she had given me) is that I feel there isn't one for me.

The funny thing about recovery is that at meetings, I'm often listening to people talk about how wonderful their lives have become with sobriety and this newfound relationship with their God. What's difficult is that I know exactly what they're talking about, as I had this exact relationship with my creator before this disaster set in. I prayed for my divine purpose (as opposed to what I thought I should be doing with my life), I surrendered vexing problems, my ego was far less involved in my life than it had been, and I was of service to my community.

All of these things are in the "promises" of the rooms. And I agree, when you live your life that way, it gets better. For the 18 months before my hemmorhage, I was happier than I'd ever been, and my life, although not perfect, seemed on a continued upward path towards betterment. I suppose I had some kind of hubris that with God as my co-pilot, what could go wrong? Really wrong?

Well, what went wrong far exceeded anything I could have ever imagined, and despite prayers and pleadings and countless affirmations, nothing changed. The pain was all-consuming and untreatable. I had to live with it 24/7. I went to bed with it and woke up with it.

And my spirituality ended up in the toilet, along with the question, "How could any loving creator create such potential for this type of suffering?" My answer was one of two things: Either there wasn't a God, or if he does exist, he certainly ain't loving.

So when I now hear all my recovery pals talk about their union with this great spirit, I think them delusional. They say they found God when they hit their bottom, thinking they'll never find themselves there again, or if they DO find themselves there again, it will be because of something THEY have done, like picking up. They often say of their darkest days, "God didn't leave me; I left God." They think God will never leave them now if they continue "to do the next right thing."

Oh, yeah? Wanna bet?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Company of Chemicals

The pain comes and goes in intensity, but even when it's less, my kneejerk response is to take pain medication, which in and of itself is a "cunning and baffling" beast, as folks in AA/NA are wont to say.

Going to AA meetings (I go to AA even though I'm a pill addict) at first was irritating, 'cause everyone is so damn grateful, positive and cheerful all the time, but now I'm hearing the message more. (I went into rehab for addiction to pain meds on March 19, coming home April 4. My success with sobriety so far has been mixed.)

What I'm realizing is that I haven't been all that honest with myself. Yes, the jaw pain at times can be excruciating, but when I take opiates for it, my resistance to smoking vanishes, and smoking, of course, makes any bone infection worse. Without opiates in my system, the idea of smoking gags me. With opiates, I turn into psycho party girl, and caution is thrown to about a 150 mph wind.

But then I end up in more pain, which makes me take more vicodin, which then makes me smoke. Talk about a vicious cycle.

The pills are also a curious type of friend. After rehab, I stayed clean for 30 or more days. But when a severe bout of pain set in, I crumbled. Since then, I've been off and on, having a new AA pal hold the pills for me. He's away for the weekend, though, and I just refilled the prescription. This isn't good. Pills plus me equals watching a lot of "Law & Order" episodes on the couch. Or "American Justice." An episode is on now about the Menendez brothers.

I once knew a gal who worked for Jose Menendez. We were business associates, and I remember the day I read a Vanity Fair article about the case, and Vicki was interviewed. I nearly hyperventilated, 'cause I love bizarre murder cases, and here I was, just one degree away from the Menendez brothers themselves. So I called her and pumped her for even more info. She said the brothers were brats and morons.

That kinda how I feel at the a brat and a moron. Taking pain medication makes me a one-dimensional shadow of myself. Yes, it relieves the pain, to some extent, but it relieves life's angst, which is where the art is. So I'm not making any art today, watching the Menendez brothers instead. What a waste.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Bitch Is Back

Physical pain is indeed a confusing and diabolical monster. Ordinarily, pain is a good thing. It lets us know that something is wrong with our body; something needs our immediate attention, and pain sets our survival mode into high gear. Few thoughts can penetrate our minds when we're in pain, as its demands are all consuming: "Fix this problem, and fix it NOW." The worse the pain is, the shallower we breathe, the faster our heart rate goes, the higher our blood pressure goes, and the louder we scream.

This is all good stuff, as the body wants to get back to its normal state of homostasis, where everything is functioning on an even keel. But what happens when that pain trigger goes awry, or the condition setting it off won't heal or resolve? What happens when that pain continues day after day after day, despite all efforts to relieve it? That panic to control it, to fix whatever is wrong, is still there. And the pain's never-ceasing demands for our attention still screech and scream, often drowning out any hope that this will ever end.

When I awoke this morning, I had about a minute before my blood began circulating at full-throttle, at which point the pain returned in all its glory. I felt my heart sink like a cement shoe, and I've been white-knuckling repeated cravings for pain medication all day. At some point, the will falters and faith fails. Taking the pills will only set me back on this journey, I know, because when I take them, I take too much. They don't actually work for the pain; they just alter my reality so that I don't care about it so much.

Make no mistake...when it comes to this pain, I'm its bitch.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The End of Days

It's May 1st. I can't believe it. Time flies when nothing happens. But that's not really true. A lot has happened this year. I went into rehab March 19 to get off painkillers and stayed for 16 days. They practiced the whole 12-step thing there, which has gotten me into the habit now of going to meetings.

They're very nice, and I love the people (who wouldn't love a bunch of former massive partyers?), but I find it somehwat humorous that amidst this scrappy bunch of misfits, I don't fit in. If only I'd gotten addicted to painkillers for any other reason than pain, then this whole program might mean something to me. I actually envy their connection to one another, and more important, to their Higher Power.

They attribute all their suffering to their former spiritual bankruptcy, their ego and their will. I attribute all of my suffering to untractable, untreatable physical pain, along with depression, despair and a complete abandonment by my "Higher Power." I'm open to the fact that maybe my ego or will or deficient spirit got me into this mess, but it's hard to see how all that can affect bone marrow. It hasn't affected anyone else in the rooms that way. Why me? (And please don't say, "Why NOT you?" JUST DON'T SAY IT.)

Which leads me to the title of this post, "The End of Days." That's right. This is it. My apocalypse of sorts. I'm done with this God thing. No more praying or surrendering or asking why or turning over my will, etc. IT DOESN'T WORK. True, when the pain gets awful, my prayers are of the foxhole sort, which are perhaps perceived as annoying or insincere to any higher power, but still, I need a break. I need an insight. I need money.

My AA pals say, "Keep coming back! Wait for the miracle!" Do they mean the miracle that will heal this jaw pain? Are they delusional? Or am I? Is there some profound connection I'm not seeing?

All I know is that I've been praying to a God who's unmerciful, cruel, sadistic and a bad listener. Time to change Gods.