Saturday, July 11, 2015

A friend's story about Norco, II

Part I is here.

The worst of the sleep disruption went away by the third night after she stopped taking Norco, but her mood plummeted the next day. She woke up feeling anxious, tense and worried. In the mirror she saw an ugly person with a ruined middle aged body. She felt sure she'd just get uglier and uglier for the rest of her life.

She made herself meditate, partly just to get to that place where the world goes away and your mind rests in nothingness. She made it there a couple of times during a 45-minute meditation, but mostly she felt like she was zombie-ing out, shutting down, going numb. Did that dead, lifeless mental state count as calm stillness?

She made herself eat a breakfast of eggs and papadam even though she craved pancakes with real maple syrup. She spent lots and lots of time online, reading articles linked on Facebook, checking email, reading NPR stories, watching Seth Meyer monologues. 

She had never been one for the outdoors, but after reading an article about how walking in nature helps depression, she decided to take a walk. The beach was two blocks from her apartment and it occurred to her what a shame it was that she rarely spent any time there. 

With dully glazed eyes and stiff movements, she reached the beach. Her mind stayed gray-blank as she dug her heels into the sand for that satisfying crunch. Slipping off her sandals, she let her feet take in the feel of the shifting grains. Her eyes stayed riveted on the ground before her as she took small steps, more focused on the powdery feel than on covering distance. "I just have to keep moving," she thought. "All that matters is that I keep moving." This kept her from lying down and letting lethargy take over, which she very much wanted to do. 

She passed an ice cream vendor and felt the strength of her sugar cravings. All morning she'd been longing for candy bars, donuts, and cake. She wanted a cookie so badly it hurt. This bewildered her. 

After staggering along for fifteen minutes, she got tired of the weight of her purse and let it and her sandals drop. Now she walked in a circle around them, eyes still focused on the sand at her feet, mind still filled with nothing more than the sensation of grinding grains.

At one point she lifted her head, stared toward the water and started crying. Why did she feel this way? Was it the fucking Norco screwing with her brain? What was wrong with her? She went through several kleenexes, giving in to despair. 

Then she stopped walking. Stopped crying. Dug her feet down into dampness. Saw nothing with her eyes as she focused on the feeling of sand against toes. Back to empty numbness. 

Finally, she moved off the sand and sat on a bench. She couldn't bear the prospect of the rest of the afternoon and evening with nothing to do, no place to go, no one to talk to. She couldn't go back to her apartment, she couldn't. She pulled out her phone and called a friend she hadn't seen in a while. Luckily, the friend answered and asked how she was. Her voice shakey, she said, "I'm not doing well. Do you think, either today or tomorrow, you could give me a reason to leave my apartment and talk to another human being?"

They met a little later, shared a meal, had a long conversation. She ate white bread with her lunch, even though what she wanted was the cupcake in the pastry case. She felt much better afterwards and thanked her friend many times for responding. She felt proud of herself for asking for what she needed. 

That evening, the sugar cravings that she'd been fighting for a week overwhelmed her. She had worked hard on her sugar abstinence and hated to blow it now. She didn't even keep sweets in the apartment anymore, but finally she went into her kitchen for the only thing with processed sugar she still had: a boxed cake mix at the bottom of a drawer. 

Her mind gave no argument as she opened the box, slit the plastic bag and stuck in a spoon. When the powder hit her tongue she felt both bliss and sharp disappointment in herself: her streak of sugar sobriety was over. The spoon went in again and again until the edge was off her craving. She tried to put the bag away and forget about it, but ended up pouring the rest of the yellow cake mix into a bowl, adding the rest of the ingredients and baking herself a one-layer cake. After eating lots of the batter, she only needed two pieces of the finished product before she felt done with it. NOW she could relax.

Worry lived at the back of her mind that she'd opened a dangerous door and the sugar bingeing would continue the next day and become a habit again, but it didn't. The next day she woke up in a much better mood and took another walk on the lakefront, this time without the zombie stagger and the weeping. She passed an ice cream truck and a snack stand without a second glance. It stunned her, but the horrible cravings of the previous several days were gone. How was it possible? As miraculous as it was, she could feel that she was back on the sugar-free wagon without a struggle. She had no sweets that day. She didn't need them. 

The pain, the Norco, the cravings, the sleep problems - she longed for this ordeal to end, although she considered herself lucky to not have bigger addiction problems. One thing was definite: she would never touch another opioid drug again. 

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