Thursday, August 06, 2009

When Love Is Enough

I awoke this morning with an aching emptiness, as I knew this was a day that I was going to take a much harder look at myself, without the crutch of abusive substances.

What's been a little disturbing lately is my glass of wine in late afternoon, after my day is pretty much done. It's never been a problem, nor even a daily habit, but I've noticed this past week or so that the time I pour it has been inching up by a half-hour or so, and yesterday I poured a small amount at about 2:30 p.m. instead of my usual 4 p.m. or after.

While my intake has remained the same, this earlier start is scaring me, as it should, and when I went to sleep last night, I promised myself that today, no matter how well I'd be able to resist the clutches of pain medication, smoking and now wine, I would at least take a hard look at my feelings, and the best mirrors I've got are my private journal and this blog.

What's so interesting about these promises we make to ourselves is that most of the time they're half-hearted, something we say to make ourselves feel better for the moment, but never really put into action. But then there are those occasions when we know we mean it, and that's when life can get scary indeed.

Even before I began journal writing today, my anxiety level was up, almost as a type of wall to prevent me from this little trip into the unknown. But I stuck to my guns, made a cup of coffee, watched the last few minutes of a Sopranos rerun (no matter how bad things are, I have to see what Tony is up to), did not light up a smoke, and began writing.

I wish I could say that some startling insight was uncovered, but instead, what became as plain as day was that the pain in my jaw is still holding on with a fierce grip, and I literally felt sadness wash over me like a wave.

Somehow, in recent months, I've been distracted from the pain by family drama, by new freelance writing assignments, by trips to the shore to help my parents, and, of course, by pain medication.

When I told my doctor last week that I was taking way too much Vicodin, he switched me to MSContin, which is morphine sulphate in pill form. While that may somehow sound more dangerous in terms of addiction, for me it's a better choice in that I actually take less medication yet get better pain control. And I don't get the mood lift I was getting from the Vicodin, which, to be honest, is something I've come to miss.

With MSContin, the medication is released slowly over the course of 8 hours, so there's no rush, and therefore no quick and easy escape from the pain and sadness of my condition.

When I just sat with my feelings this morning, not having any deadlines looming or any particular place to be, there was a stillness there, a lack of motivation of any kind, which was in such stark contrast to just yesterday morning, when I felt like I had the world on a string, making all kinds of plans for a type of playday as a reward for meeting a big deadline--first to ride my bike, then to paint at my studio.

Those plans changed, of course, when I took that first sip of wine at 2:30, and interest in anything else simply and quickly waned. I cursed my behavior, vowing to do better today, and indeed I have. I've had one dose of medication and one cigarette, and it's now nearing 2 p.m. And I've made plans to meet a friend in about a half-hour.

But the pain in my face has me reaching--that feeling of wanting to grab something, anything, that will make me feel better, that will quell the loneliness that comes with chronic pain and constant disappointment.

At this particular moment, I suppose I need to just have faith, not in God, per se, but in the realization that in resisting the reach, I will feel better overall--maybe not now, but perhaps tomorrow, or the next day. That's hard to see in the moments of deep sorrow or wrenching pain, or in the throes of an addiction spell. When the latter occurs, it feels like every cell in my body is screaming for relief, and turning a deaf ear for the five minutes or so it takes for a craving to pass can feel like a lifetime.

I talked to a friend about faith earlier today, and I can see that I haven't lost it--it's just changed shape. When I pray now, I don't use the word God anymore, as it's attached to just too much baggage from my Catholic upbringing.

I pray to the "Universal Spirit" instead, which when I shorten it to the letters "U" and "S," spells "us." And that's something I can get with indeed.

All this misery has made me feel the love of others and within myself in ways I never have before, and as I said to my friend this morning, in terms of faith, love is enough. I don't need to pray to some great being in the sky, but I do need to pray to whatever the mysterious source is of all this deep compassion. When I pray to this universal spirit of love, I feel it, and I feel it for me in particular.

That's new.


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