Prescription painkillers are slowing but surely destroying Appalachia. They’re easy to obtain, they’re cheap, and once you’re hooked, you pretty much stay hooked, because unlike booze or heroin or meth, you can more or less function while taking pain pills, even though you’re not functioning at full capacity, or even half capacity, but you’re basically up and moving when you need to be, most of the time. Still, practically every f**k-up I know is addicted to painkillers, and the addiction is what makes them a f**k-up in the first place.

The thing is, pain is hard to verbalize. It’s hard to measure. It’s different for men and women. It’s different for children. So when someone is actually experiencing pain, it becomes difficult to determine if it is a level of pain that justifies chemical intervention, or if just a few aspirin will do. Doctor’s pretty much have to rely on the patient to tell them, and there are plenty of folks out there who are willing to swear the pain in their back is so severe that they need a major prescription.

I had both my hips surgically replaced when I was in my mid-twenties. Genetics, mixed with way too much cheap vodka, pretty much destroyed the ball sockets of my hips and eventually caused my original bones to be cut off and replaced with metal rods. You don’s have any pain sensors in your bones. Any bone doctor will make a big deal of telling you that, as you’re trying to explain that your ass hurts so bad you can hardly walk without crutches and you can’t sleep at night, and anything you can get your hands on to make the pain lessen is welcome, even if it pickles your liver and makes your story even more unbelievable to the dozens of doctors you get referred to, one after the next, because they just see a young drunk in front of them and not necessarily the pain in your eyes but certainly they smell the cheap booze reeking out your pores.

It took two years before some doctor was finally able to pinpoint the problem, and fix it. I was so used to high levels of alcohol in my system at all times that normal pain medicines were not sufficient during my recuperation period, and I fairly quickly hit my bottom after that. So the good part is, I finally got sober, and at a fairly young age, so that I could go on and live my life.

But now I’m due for renewal. These things only last for so many years, and 20 years ago they were built to keep some old lady moving on her walker for another 5 years until she finally croaked. The docs told me then I’d need to take it easy on my hips and would eventually need to have the process repeated. So I got a desk job working for state government and made my hips last for over 20 years and now it’s time. I know this, because they hurt like hell sometimes.

Like now. Like today. I just did some basic yard clean up with the Boyfriend, but the leaning over and bending set off my hips in a major way and now I’ve ingested 4 Excederin Extra Strength and a whole handful of regular strength aspirin on top of that, and I can still barely stand it. I can stand. I can sit. I can move. It doesn’t really matter what I do, because the pain has set in big time and probably won’t go away until I’m completely unconscious later tonight, in my bed, with the help of a few prescription sleeping pills I keep on hand for just such emergencies.

I have no tolerance for several people I work with, who claim they have constant pain from some little accident they were in, or a fall, or a bad back. Bullshit. I am the living epitome of Pain with a capital P, and I’m not popping back prescription pain meds because I am not going back where I was when I was drinking. Pain means I’m alive. Lack of pain meant sleepwalking through my life and endangering the lives of those around me. Screw the meds. I’ll get the hips fixed, sometime, probably this coming year, but I’ll deal with this shit on my terms.

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