I’m addicted to painkillers.
“You have a very rare disorder,” the doctor had said. “Which is why it took us this long to identify it, why we had to run so many tests.”
Lucky me, a very rare disorder, like having the winning ticket in some cruel genetic lottery. Like giving the winning ticket to the guy behind the counter at the convenience store, and he puts it into that blue plastic machine that sucks it up and makes all those cheesy electronic sounds, bells and whistles that mean we have a winner!, only for you instead of a million dollar jackpot your prize is a gigantic genetic fuck you from mother nature.
I’ve been in horrible pain for most of my adult life and no one could tell me why.
Horrible, stabbing, piercing pain all the time, pain that I could feel all the way into my bones, and no one knew why – until that moment.
“You have a very rare disorder,” the doctor had said. “You have a developmental defect in your nervous system that causes your pain receptors to fire incorrectly.”
“So what does that mean?” I’d said, gritting my teeth.
“It means that you’re in pain all the time.”
“And the cure is…?”
“There is no cure, it’s a part of your biology. The best we can do is try to mitigate your symptoms so that you can get through each day. This is something you’re going to have to live with for the rest of your life.”
So now I’m addicted to painkillers.
Do you know what it’s like to be numb? Do you know what it feels like to not feel any pain at all? I do, now. I bet you think constantly having that shit running through my veins would make me feel goddamn invincible. With drugs that powerful I could do anything, I could feel no pain. The pain would be gone and I could go back to living my life and feeling good again. Enjoying it. Climbing mountains. Kayaking on the sea. Going on a bike ride with an attractive brunette and laughing about it afterward, all smiles and white suburban bliss like one of those motherfucking lifestyle ads.
No. It’s not like that.
The doctor hooked me up, yes. I’m on the painkillers 24/7 now, and damn they’re strong. Yes, they make the pain go away. Yes, I can live. But they make other things go away too. It’s a spectrum, you know, the feelings people are capable of, the material that makes the experiences of human existence. The drugs own me now, I’m dependent on them to live. I can never run out. I’m always thinking about the next time I have to refill my prescription. The pharmacist and I are good friends now. She said she’d never seen a prescription written out indefinitely. Here you go sport, enjoy your drugs – for the rest of your life.
But the painkillers have taken other things from me too. Pain and pleasure lie on that spectrum of human existence. The drugs let me function by keeping the pain at bay, by keeping me from feeling like my bone marrow is being ground out of me with belt sander. But they also take away something else, and this is the price I pay. They’ve taken away my ability to feel.
No more pain. No more pleasure. No more feeling. No matter how blue the sky or how brightly the sun shines, every day of my life is one of gloomy overcast November. The kind of day when you feel a little off. The kind of day when the traffic just seems to move a little slower. The kind of day when manic depressives finally commit and ignore the scrawled message in permanent marker on the overpass handrail that says don’t jump.
Is this best my life can be? My doctor says yes and I try to believe this is true. A lack of feeling must be better than feeling pain all the time. But I still just feel so empty.
The drugs do what painkillers do: they kill the pain. But they’ve killed the other parts of me too, the parts that feel.
The part of me that would have seen red when I came home and found her in bed with him. The part of me that would have been upset when she yelled at me and said she was leaving. The part of me that would have felt remorse when I put the knife in, and when I pitched that last clod of earth on top of the grave I dug for her.
Now there is only emptiness. Now there is only darkness. But at least the pain is gone.