I became a widow at age 57, after 38 years of marriage to my husband, a good man I loved dearly and miss every day. He was a hard worker, employed in the logging industry for over 20 years until he was in an accident on the job. He was prescribed OxyContin, which at the time was being touted as a miracle drug with a low risk of dependency.
My husband was so functional and so discreet that I didn’t know for years he had moved on to heroin.When OxyContin Came to Our Valley, New York Times, November 15, 2023
I used to smoke cigarettes and drink a lot of alcohol when I was younger. Had to maintain that infamous drunken sailor image that the navy worked so long and hard to develop.
I quit smoking in 1990. I still miss cigarettes.
I quit drinking in 2009. The day I learned I had leukemia.
And after I developed severe graft versus host disease in my lungs and eyes as a side effect from my bone marrow transplant, I was placed on a high dosage of prednisone for many years. When it was finally decided it was safe to take me off the steroid immunosuppressant, it took over six months to wean me from it, such is the power of its addiction and the danger of its withdrawal.
So, unfortunately, I have some idea the overwhelming helplessness one feels when addicted to a life consuming habit that cannot be denied…
When it comes to pain killers, I also have quite the history with them. Fortunately, I am allergic to them. They make me itch madly.
I learned about the allergy after I had shoulder surgery at Portsmouth Naval Hospital a long time ago.
After the surgery I was placed in an open bay ward – there must have been maybe 30 post-op sailors in there with me. I was hooked up to a morphine drip and given a button I could press to activate it.
It wasn’t until much later when a nurse saw me pressing the button like crazy that I learned that the drip was on a five-minute timer.
I scratched and scratched for two days straight because of the opium.
I scratched so much, I had everyone in the ward unconsciously scratching themselves at phantom itches along with me. They begged the nurses to get me out of the ward.
So much for the good stuff.
But what I hate most about pain killers is the constipation… sadly we learned after Matthew Perry’s death that his addiction was so bad that at one point his colon erupted.
But, occasionally, I was still placed on pain killers for various cancer treatment reasons until finally I put it in my health record that I wanted nothing stronger than non-opioid pain killers.
Apparently per my request, after my bone marrow transplant in 2010 I was given a synthetic opioid pain killer I had never heard of before.
It was called fentanyl.
I don’t remember giving my consent to being given the drug. I’m not saying I didn’t give it, just if I did, I don’t remember. I don’t remember much post-transplant.
This drug was so strong, I essentially was in a medically induced coma for three days before my wife, afraid I was dying, finally went ballistic and forced them to take me off the drug.
The irony is, even in my zombie state, the drug made me itch so badly my under garments were torn and bloody from scratching so much. All without anyone realizing it until after I finally came to.
I did a lot of research on the drug for my novel The Good Kill.
It was gut wrenching.
I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines about children dying just for accidentally touching the residue of their addicted parents’ stash.
Some seriously deadly bad juju fentanyl is.
My heart breaks thinking about all the damage it and other addictive pain killers have done and are doing to so many addicts throughout my addicted country.
Xi Jinping is in town.
It is expected that Biden will confront him about China’s culpability in the illegal fentanyl production and trade.
I hope so.
If you have any doubt that it is China’s unwritten policy to get and keep our country addicted to the drug, you need to read this Propublica article.
It reads like an implausible movie treatment for an outlandish Hollywood action spy thriller…
David Fincher would be my choice to direct it.
If only it all were make believe…
Featured image courtesy of the New York Times