Opinion Extra

Wilson: 'From whence come rest and joy'

Not too long ago, I had to have my pills taken away. Linda took them from me because of my increasing addiction to Lortab, after I had injured my shoulder. Now, my Oxycontin, prescribed for a broken elbow, will soon be taken from me. Dependent again.

At first, they were my medications. Then they became my friends. No hallucinations, no goofiness. But, one or two before bedtime to take the edge off, ease the aches and pains of a middle-aged man, make my sleep a little deeper and more restful.

Then, never thinking about the portent of addiction, I swore that "tonight would be the last," only to gravitate again toward the bottle. "I'm sure that by tomorrow, I won't need it again." When Linda hid them, I simply played hide-and-seek. What about when they run out? "Not a problem," I deluded myself. "I'll just stop." Only when the now-horrifying thought of asking my doc-kids to prescribe more crept into my head, did I my conscience clutch. But, it was not addiction, I reassured myself. No. Just conscience toward my kids and their profession. Then, more panic, more dread. Stopping became a necessity, not a virtue. The pills ran out.

Since I "wasn't addicted," I took no counsel. I would muster the strength and simply stop. I went to bed that night at my kids home. Within an hour, the sweats soaked four tee-shirts, chills, shaking, crying, contemplating the most horrific thoughts. I woke Scott. But, I "wasn't addicted," so he assumed that I was dehydrated. He drove me to the ER. No, I was not dehydrated, they said. A moment later, Scott winced. "You haven't been taking narcotics?" he asked. "I dunno, maybe I have."

"You are going through withdrawal." Shivering, I could no longer escape the truth. Foolishly, I drove myself home to Greenville. All to the best, Linda was away at a conference. I thought the worst was over, so I laid down, slept fitfully for a couple of minutes, awoke, and went into contortions, tossing, screaming, directing garbled prayers and epithets toward God, Kabbalistic rabbis, anyone, vowing piety, pleading for forgiveness, cursing, then begging for life. Only when I cried out for Momma was my torment exorcized. Cradle me again. Wipe my eyes. Tell me you understand. Promise me that I am safe.

How, in search of calming ones pains, might one slip so easily into darkest torment? Momma, let me be at peace. Let it not hurt anymore. Return to me the innocent sleep and dreams of childhood. "Whence comes rest? Whence comes joy?" the refrain of an old Sabbath hymn. Addiction is not in the chemicals, but in the emptiness of the soul.

Months later, I find myself struggling with Oxycontin, despite my broken elbow being long healed. An addictive personality, you say? Perhaps. Perhaps in the short-run, it simply helps me feel more restful, softer, at ease. And the short-run is sometime all you can see when the long-run seems so evasive.

Why is simply counting my blessings, of which I have so many, less than enough? Ingrate! Whiner! Pathetic! Victim! Wallowing in unjustified self-pity! You don't even know what real pain is! From what does the emptiness in ones soul come to hunger for the momentary, futile attempt to put the heart at rest? Will Torah, or the Rebbe, the Dalai Lama, et al, allay the torment of the soul that Oxycontin cannot?

Here I am, about to have another round of my pills taken from me. This time, I know something more about handling their post-partum effects. I'm "not addicted," remember? But, I still do not know what un-wholeness within one's self makes the brown bottle so irresistible, and perhaps - even given therapy and Torah - I never will.

"Whence come rest and joy?"

Please, Momma, please . . .