Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I went to college during the late 60s and early 70s. Still, I was never much of a druggie. As opposed to President Clinton, I did inhale, but beyond that my recreational drugs were confined to coffee and beer. There were drugs all around me, but I never indulged. I solicit no points for my decisions. Essentially I did not want to take a chance and mess with my head.

I've maintained the same posture as an adult. I take almost no medicine except aspirin unless I am told that I really must take an antibiotic to ward off an infection. I've had back ailments in the past, but when I took pain medication it tended to rob me of my thinking apparatus as well as the pain, and I preferred the pain to feeling completely at sea. No medals for this decision to avoid drugs. I think individuals' bodies respond differently. I just think I, personally, am better off to just say no.

About two weeks ago I started to feel some pain in my head. About two months prior to that I had some dental work done and the dentist told me that I should make an appointment for a root canal. If I didn't, I was warned, eventually I would be in a good deal of discomfort.

I tend to pooh pooh such advice. I've heard it before from dentists and then when I visit another dentist and mention the warning, the new physician looks at my mouth and sees no problem. So, when I heard the dentist recommend I go for a root canal, I put the referral slip in my pocket, and intended to forget about it. As I was leaving the office the dental hygienist told me again to make sure I made an appointment and guaranteed me that I would regret it if I did not do so quickly.

But I didn't pay any attention. Until two weeks ago when I started to get headaches. I brought my aspirin with me on a trip to New York and found if I took a couple aspirin every four hours the pain would go away. So, I did, and I figured I would be fine.

But last weekend, I started to get the kind of headaches that I have only heard about. I've felt searing pain before with athletic injuries, but always sensed that the pain could be endured and eventually would go away. This was scary pain. This was hold onto the aspirin bottle like a wino holds onto Muscatel pain. At one point I thought maybe I had a tumor as the reach and duration of the episodes was debilitating.

I remembered what the dentist/hygienist had told me and hoped this was a function of my ignoring his and her advice. My dentist is on my route to work, so I stopped in Monday morning hoping maybe he could see me without an appointment. My dentist is really a special professional. He was about to consume his breakfast when I walked in. I told him what I was feeling and he suggested that I sit in the chair for a few minutes. He poked around, pulled up my ex rays, and explained that the pain was likely from the root canal that I needed. He phoned his associate right then and made an appointment for me, for Thursday. He also offered to write a script for some pain medication.

I adhered to my regular line about medication and told him I would prefer sticking with aspirin. He made a face like "suit yourself" but said if I changed my mind I should just give a call.

I got to work a little late, but felt relieved that I would soon be able to address the problem. And then an hour later, I felt pain in my head like I don't wish on anyone. Literally debilitating pain that had me holding my head in my hands. I called the dentist and left a message hoping he might write the prescription.

By the time I drove home I was feeling, almost comically, like my head was going to explode. I stopped at the drug store and my dentist had called in the prescription. I opened the vial feverishly and popped down the first pill.

Well, let me tell you, an hour later I was singing hymns to the CEO of CVS. There was no pain. I could drink hot, cold, walk around the house, read a book, watch tv. This stuff was great. What's more I was fully functioning. I was able to concentrate on work related issues. It was as if this pill knew just where the pain was and went right to it.

I "got" drugs, then. I almost got religion.

About six hours later I forgot I had problems with my teeth and head. Until I remembered again when about two hours after that I felt as if someone had slammed a brick onto the side of my head. I found the vial and popped another pill. Sea of tranquility in a half hour.

This drug stuff is great.

Last night I took one before I went to bed and slept like a marathon runner all night. But, my first steps this morning were a little wobbly. I took another pill before I went to work and thought I could hear the sounds of silence on my ride in.

I am supposed to take one pill every six to eight hours. About five hours into today's interval, I started feeling the pain again. I kept looking at the clock willing the time piece to go to six hours. Then I took another, and this time while the pain ebbed it has not gone away completely.

I am looking forward to tomorrow morning's appointment for this root canal like I might look forward to a reunion with a lost sweetheart. I cannot wait.

I think I was right about drugs in the first place. At least drugs that are taken to mask pain. They tend to be only good for the short run. If you use them for the long run, the natural problem will resurface--if you do have a natural issue, and then you will need more to suppress what is naturally surfacing.

Probably a metaphor in this related to sports and life. Perhaps the natural pains we experience from an absence of love and friendship, can be addressed by temporary coats of armor. But if the pain is so great and the source of the loss so natural, the armor/drugs will have only a temporary effect. But what do I know. The more times around the track, the more I tend to doubt what I at one time thought was irrefutable. So, maybe there is a metaphor in this, but right now I am more concerned with when the next brick will collide with my head.


  1. Very good message, Alan! Were you under a deep pain while writing this? Many people can learn and relate from this. Thanks for sharing it in your blogs. Our lives are full li'l understandable things, and everything's linked with each other. You managed to show that!

    Sean Butcher