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Who's Feeling No Pain?

lena
[lena_g8@hotmail.com]

I turned around the other day. I turned around, and I looked behind me, hoping to see what I'd left behind. My mind turned back, something that it often does all on its own. I'd let so many days go by unconsciously, never fully taking in the moments, the experiences, never really recording the memories. I remember a day when I turned around and was overwhelmed by the sight of friends, family, in general people who cared about me. Now I turn around and am overwhelmed by the sight of emptiness, all that's left is just a free wind softly whistling in my head, messing up my hair.

           Everything was moving in slow motion for four-and-a-half years.

           Slow.

           Slow.

           Slow.

           It started innocently, as all things do. Well, maybe not innocently, but rather with good intentions. Temporary intentions. Temporary insanity.

           Those damn wrappers. The thick foil was such an unnecessary obstacle. One by one, I would impatiently rip the foil with my teeth; rip my gums with the sharp edges of the packaging. Blood. With each new individual pill I opened, I read and re-read the warning printed in small black letters:

WARNING: MAY BE HABIT FORMING

           Vicodin was my life.

           I just wanted to sleep, relax, forget and keep my sanity all at once. Being a weak person, I didn't know just how to do that without the help of -- something. I liked drugs, I still do.

           They say that Vicodin (hydrocodone) is equally potent to morphine. Morphine. When it was in me, I was elated, carefree about everything I should care about, and I felt satisfied knowing that all those little chemicals had dissolved into my system and were swimming around in my blood making me so tranquil. FYI: hydrocodone comes from the opiate family, and is something called an opioid, very similar to codeine structurally. Of course, being the oblivious, reckless child that I was, I had no idea what I was putting into my system. All I knew was that it felt damn good, and I loved it.

Vicodin = hydrocodone + acetaminophen (tylenol)

           Finger lickin' good.

           I was sick often. I always felt sick, with tummy troubles and headaches galore. Monthly blood tests became part of my routine as a healthy high school kid. Despite how sick I was feeling, my results came back one-hundred percent every time. My parents were baffled, thinking that it was purely psychological. Which in an extremely ironic way was very true.

           "Some side effects of using this drug are fast or slow heartbeat, trouble breathing, swelling of the face, hives, skin rash, itching, hallucinations, changes in behavior, severe confusion or tiredness, yellowing of the skin or eyes, drowsiness, dizziness or weakness, dry mouth, nausea or vomiting, constipation, headache, & blurred vision."

           I went to my doctor several times complaining of a pain in the side of my abdomen, leading to my back. They thought it was my appendix, so did I. One of the symptoms of appendicitis is an increased heart rate. Mine was abnormally slow, so we knew it wasn't my appendix. I would return from a blood test or a doctor's visit and greedily swallow two or three vicodin from my bottle of goodies on the nightstand. Then I would drift, drift, float away.

           Wanna hear something cool? If you take several hydrocodone tablets, lay down on your bed (or sofa, whatever) then pass out, you will wake up in exactly the same position in which you "fell asleep." It's an odd feeling, but definitely something that brings a smile to my face. I used to test myself. I used to deliberately place my fingers and feet in odd positions and twist my head to the side, take a few pills and leave the world for a while. When I'd come back, I would be just as I was when I left -- weird.

DAWN data demographics suggest that the most likely hydrocodone abuser is a twenty to forty-year-old, white, female

           Gimme, gimme, gimme! More, more, more, I always ransacked the closets of my house for more, even just one stray tablet. This incredibly controlled substance is supposed to be "kept out of the reach of children," (me). I look much older than my age. I first set my sights on a long relationship with V when I was merely thirteen years old. Looking through the medicine cabinet is what occupied a lot of my time as a teenager in need of some desperate help, and something to cure the ever present boredom in my life.

The latest trendy drugs are old-fashioned painkillers. They're chic, mellowing, and way addictive. -- Richard Corliss, Time magazine.

           My mother was crying. Boo hoo. This was the kind of thing that really pissed me off. She was begging me, pleading with me in every possible way to "open up" and tell her what was wrong. With a poker face I would just stare at her and pretend like I didn't know what she was talking about. Today, when I think back to those incidents, a horrible gut-wrenching feeling of guilt washes over me. At the time, I really couldn't have cared less.

           "What haven't I given you? What haven't I done for you?"

           Blah, blah, blah.

           It was more than that, it was more than what I had and didn't have, it was about the past and what I refused to deal with and remember.


December 15, 1996

Life was peachy. I felt like I was a member of the Arabic version of the Brady Bunch, and to be completely honest and cliché, it was too good to be true. Somewhere between Christmas and my birthday everything went completely haywire. Crash.

           On the night of December 15th, and I remember it well, I popped my first pill. Not Vicodin, but Valium, a similar euphoric inducing painkiller. The generic name for Valium is diazepam, an anti-anxiety agent, also highly addictive.

           I was lying in bed, thinking weird things, smoking a cigarette and listening to music. It was three a.m. I sat up when I heard my sister run to the bathroom in a panic, and waited patiently to hear the familiar gagging sound of vomit rushing from her fragile throat. It was common, it was normal, so I wasn't surprised. I got up to check on her when I realized that I could barely stand up. My knees were weak, I couldn't walk and my body felt like it was elevated beyond anything earthly, beyond anything real. My buckling knees, my collapsing body. For my thirteen year old existence, I was on cloud nine -- almost literally. And so it began.

           Back to the present

           Okay, okay, now I know what you're wondering. Where the hell does a thirteen-year-old middle-schooler get drugs as powerful as Valium? Daddy dearest.

           It's not what you think. It really isn't.

           In my eyes, my father is the most responsible man in the world, and I love him more than anything. He is educated, wise and everything else that a father should be, and it kills me that I abused his position to hurt myself and him in the process. He studied for almost ten years to become a surgeon. Today he is a very accomplished and respected surgeon, and almost close to retirement. He also gets tons and tons, bags and bags, bottles and bottles of freebies. I'm not just talking coffee cups, novelty pens and t-shirts. I'm talking about pills, syrups, inhalers, drops, what have you. Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. I just couldn't help myself.

He said you'd love to try some / he said you'd love to die some. -- Bush.

           It kept getting worse. It was like driving a car. When you first learn how to drive, you're extra cautious, checking your mirrors, using your signals and getting a rush out of being on the freeway. As you get more experienced, you get into a groove of speeding, forgetting to use your signals and relishing the mind-blowing pace with which you can race down an empty road. You think that you have everything under control, failing to realize that with every extra mile you go, you're losing the grip you're so convinced you have. You forget that cars are killing-machines, you forget that your life hangs in the balance and that other peoples lives are in your hands too. All you can think about is how fast your car can go in zero to sixty seconds. I opened all the windows and pushed the petal as far down as it could go, letting the wind blow through the car, messing up my hair. You don't realize how dangerous this kind of recklessness is, it's too much fun -- until another car crosses your once empty path, and all you can hear is metal crunching, glass breaking and terrible terrible screams.


Eighteen. That was my maximum. In any given day towards the end of my senior year in high school, I would consume up to eighteen pills every day, loving every moment. My mother didn't know, my father didn't live with us, I never told a living soul. This was something personal, something between me and my pills, strictly confidential.

           I don't recall what sent me over the edge. My physical chemicals were all messed up, and I was depressed. I remember wandering day after day into the theater at school, sitting back stage, alone. Sobbing, shaking, red-faced, stuffy-nosed, gasping for air. God help me. Vicodin, or any abused substance, changes the chemical composition of serotonin (the chemical controlling happiness) in your brain. My teachers were concerned, my friends didn't know what was happening to me as I began to visibly transform before their eyes. I was yellow, thin, and always unhappy. I didn't care. I didn't want to stop, I was afraid of living life, afraid of who I really was. The only me I knew was the me on drugs. I kept questioning everything about me, and knowing fully that everything I did was a direct result of my addiction. There are countless stories that I could tell you, but there is one story in particular that marks the pinnacle of everything that went on during those years.

Vicodin and other hydrocodone drugs can cause psychic and physical dependence after several weeks of continued use and mild physical dependence after only a few days.


February 20th, 2001

I fished in my bottomless bag for a fresh pill. The Grammies were blaring on the television in my best friend's sitting room. Everything around me was hazy through the thick tears coating my eyes. Drop. Splash. The ink smeared on a piece of paper where my tear dropped. It bled onto my finger as I continued to fumble in my bag, praying to god that I had an emergency pill left. I felt the familiar edge of the wrapper, and triumphantly produced two pills. Joy. A friend was sitting in the TV room, and the rest of the group had gone out for food. I carefully unwrapped my treasures and headed to the kitchen. Sniff. My nose was running. I stood in the middle of the kitchen looking around, it was as familiar to me as my own home. It was my second home. My friend was standing at the kitchen door. I didn't see him there. I put the pills in my mouth, relishing the bitter powder as they began to slowly melt onto the flesh of my tongue. The bottom cupboard was open, and the black label whiskey was glaring at me through the tacky fluorescent light that illuminated the tiny kitchen. It was a huge jug. I didn't have to think much about what I did next, as I poured myself a tall glass of straight whiskey. I hate whiskey. I held my nose (which was still running by the way) and took a generous gulp to wash down my pills. I breathed a sigh of relief, and spared myself the cringe that comes from pure alcohol.

           Don't ask me what happened next.

           Birds were chirping, and a soft breeze was blowing through my friend's window in the early, disgusting, morning light. They promised not to tell my parents. Her mother took care of the hospital bill, and I stood up feeling like I had been run over twenty-thousand times by a freight train. Shit, was I still alive? They pumped out enough hydrocodone out of my system that night to last me a week. Those last two I had taken topped off the sixteen I took earlier in the day. What the hell was I doing? I didn't care.

Habit: 1. A motor pattern executed with facility following constant or frequent repetition; an act performed at first in a voluntary manner but after sufficient repetition as a reflex action.Habits result from the passing of impulses through a particular set of neurons and synapses many times. 2. A particular type of dress or garb. 3. Mental or moral constitution or disposition. 4. Bodily appearance or constitution, esp. as related to a disease or predisposition to a disease. SYN: habitus (1). 5. Addiction to the use of drugs or alcohol.

           Remember the days gone by?


April 4, 2001

This morning before school, I went through my ritual of peeling pills to keep in my bottle. Push down and twist. Plunk, plunk. I was late, so I shoved all the wrappers carelessly in a drawer. After school, all twisted on pills, I went to my favorite coffeehouse with a friend. The familiar jingle on my Nokia began to wail insistently from my bag.

           "Hi mom!" (I was trying to be enthusiastic)

           I knew by her tone of voice that something wasn't okay. Shit.

           I went home to find an empty house. My footsteps echoed on the marble stairs and my head began to loll back and forth as the second set of drugs settled into my system. I thought it was a good idea to lie down before I had to face my mom.

           "Get up." My mother's voice was menacing and eerie.

           Oh no, oh no, oh no! She took one look at me and burst into tears. I didn't care. I couldn't tell her everything, I didn't know what to say. I was still "under the influence" and I had no words. Soon it all came out, and I lay in my mother's lap like a baby sobbing and crying as she stroked my hair. I was scared out of my stupid mind. So was she.

           Everything wasn't okay. All the medicine was gone. Nothing but some children's Tylenol. I paced the kitchen night after night, walking aimlessly. I had more energy than I knew what to do with. I felt like screaming, pulling my hair out. I felt like dying. I tore the house apart, I screamed at my mother, I called her a bitch. I broke my window with a chair. I ripped my clothes. I lay shaking under the sink of my bathroom day after day. I didn't sleep, and I ate and ate and ate and ate. I was a pig. I was in the deepest most terrible part of hell.

           I'm okay now though.

           Looking back, I have no regrets. It took me about six months to recover fully. I'm glad this happened to me, I'm proud of myself. I'm not one of those people who seeks pity for their past mistakes, or even someone that looks back and thinks "What a terrible thing I did! Never again!" I pat myself on the back for what I did, because after all, it was me that did it, and it was me that got through it. I didn't know myself before, who I was or what I was doing, but I know who I am now exactly one year after this whole mess. I know that if I had some pills today, right now, I would definitely take them. Maybe that's sad, and maybe it's wrong, but it's the truth, that's what I'm all about.

Couldn't love you more, you've got a beautiful taste. -- Bush




About the Author (click here) © 2003 lena, all rights reserved
 appears here by permission



Author Notes

           It still hurts sometimes.

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