Saturday, October 7, 2017

Kicking Buddha's Gong - Bear's Detox Thoughts

Buddha's Gong
Hoagy Carmichael: "Kicked old Buddha's Gong"

There is a memorable Hoagy Carmichael song in the Humphrey Bogart movie, "To Have and Have Not," (1944) about "a poor, unfortunate colored man" who is languishing in Hong Kong because he "kicked old Buddha's gong." He is pleading for someone to lend him $50 so he can go back home. [Corrected: not Cab Calloway, who did "Kicking the Gong Around."]

The "Hong Kong Blues" clip has been added to the bottom of the piece. It's pretty entertaining.

Now, "kicking old Buddha's gong" was not some transgression at the local temple, as the Bear had always thought. 

"Kicking the gong" was slang at the time for visiting an opium den.

There are nowhere near as many opium dens around these days. And yet, opium has never been more popular. People get it - or, technically, "opioids" - from their doctors. Opioids have legitimate use for controlling pain. And yet, the molecular-level opioid receptors in your body don't distinguish recreational opium from medicinal opioids. 

Tranquilizer Darts and Hydrocodone

One of the hazards of being a Bear is the nuisance of being the frequent target of tranquilizer darts.

People can be so intolerant.

It finally got to the point where, entirely without his own fault, the Bear became habituated to the delicious darts. Which gives him some sympathy for those habituated to doctor-prescribed opioids such as hydrocodone, which is in the news lately.

Some people have pain that is chronic and just can't be cured. The only relief they can find is in prescription drugs that are fun and effective at first, but later, no more fun, much less effective, but desperately needed.

The respectable term "habituation" is used for the powerful physiological need for the drugs obtained from a doctor.

Scummy drug users without prescriptions are said to be "addicted."

Whatever the Hell difference that means inside a human - or ursine - body, the Bear could not explain.

Anyway, a federal operation like the friendly VA hospital just a few years ago was handing them out like candy, right through the mail. One could still easily find a doctor for pain management who would prescribe them, too. You do not have to go "doctor shopping" and get multiple prescriptions or abuse the medicine to become habituated. It is an inevitable result of regular long-term use even in legitimate pain management.

Habituation is said to be an epidemic these days. Call Bear cynical, but he wishes people had to buy his disreputable novel at $100 every month, or suffer unspeakable torments. He'd make a fortune. 

There's money in them thar opioid receptors.

Today, it is the rarer doctor who will put up with the hassle of monthly opioid prescriptions and risk an over-zealous federal prosecutor substituting his medical judgment for a doctor's. Even more restrictions are being contemplated. It is a very unattractive proposition for doctors.

If you're on these drugs, the gravy train is probably coming to an end, for better or worse.

This might be a good time to consider hopping off before you're kicked off.

Quitting Opioids: "You're Going to Feel a Pinch"

The Bear does not have an opinion on federal policy or prescribed use for chronic pain. Pain is pain and relief is relief and everybody must choose what pharmaceuticals they permit into their bodies. However, everyone should be aware that prescription users will become habituated over time, bound to a ferocious demon that will turn their bodies against their souls in return for relief from pain.

We all know how deals with the devil turn out in the end.

The Bear decided he did not want to live wearing invisible chains. Pain is not necessarily the worst thing in life. Even a prescription drug can have a peculiar effect, and for the Bear, the dependence involved a loss of self-respect. It was time to say goodbye to his old frenemy, Mr. Watson.

Being many days into regulated tranquilizer dart detox, the Bear has some observations for others who may be habituated to darts or prescription opioids. (In case you're imagining Bear in rehab somewhere like Robert Downey, Jr., no, he's just at Bear Manor, here in Zoar, where he always is. He's just feeling a bit under the weather.)

As the nurse says, "You're going to feel a pinch."

First of all, never be in the position to quit cold turkey, or you will discover how to live conscious of every second of your life with opioid receptors throughout your body turning the screws to the point of a constant cellular scream. You may develop a new appreciation for St. Maximillian Kolbe, the patron saint of drug addicts. You will experience Hell on earth for several days.

Second, if you make the personal decision to trade slavery for pain, know going in that even regulated detox - slowly reducing the amount of the drug over time under medical supervision - sucks a whole lot. You will be tested, unknown friend. Be prepared to suffer, and pray to learn humility and many other things from your suffering. There is just no sugar-coating this.

The first few days are the worst. You'll want to give up. Bear hopes you have loving support. Be kind to yourself. If you want to, say, gorge on chicken wings, gorge away if it helps. (Chicken wings have been proven to be slightly less addictive.) But you will probably be puking too much to gorge.

Distract yourself. Fred and Ginger movies are the best, it goes without saying, or maybe binge watch TV series. Cover yourself with a blanket and pound your head on the floor - a personal favorite. Obsessively blog, creating long, rambling manifestos. Tell yourself every minute if you have to, "I'm one minute closer to being free." Breath.

Stick to your schedule scrupulously. Don't take a dose a minute before you're supposed to, no matter what. It's an important symbolic expression of your resolve. Give control of your pills to a trusted person and let them dole your doses out. And here's a good trick. Let's say you're taking three doses of two pills each for a total of six pills per day. The first week, your doctor might have you take one pill away from one dose so you take five pills instead of six for seven days. Then, drop another pill from a different dose the second week, and so on.

The trick is, have your helper add a Tylenol to the reduced, one-pill dose so you're still taking "two pills." It's what you're used to. Give yourself every psychological edge.

Don't backslide and lose all you've suffered for. But if you do, "Pick Yourself Up," as the Jerome Kern-Dorothy Fields number from "Swing Time" (1938) says. (Does Bear have to say more about the greatest movie of all time?)

Pat yourself on the back until your arm falls off.

Be prepared.

Clear your calendar.

Tell those around you this is a going to be a Big Freaking Deal. They cannot relate. It isn't like anything else. When you want to be left alone, make sure they understand they must leave you the Hell alone. And, no, you're not interested in discussing what you're going through, and a simple "how do you feel, hon?" may trigger homicidal urges, especially if you are a Bear.

Determine in advance with your doctor your personal cocktail to help with symptoms. Benadryl, ibuprofen and, if you can get a prescription, gabapentin (Neurontin) is an amazing all-purpose wonder drug. A dash of benzo is another prescription possibility. Anyway, this helps some for Bear.

Is it wise to include a benzo, which is another addictive substance? Up to you and your doctor, but used sensibly in the short term, you're unlikely to become habituated. NOTE: Benzos such as diazepam (Valium) or its shorter-half-life brother, lorazepam (Ativan) and opioids (Vicodin, Norco, etc.) can combine unhappily - by which the Bear means the unhappy people left behind when you die - so this is not a do-it-yourself job. Your doctor should know how to help you through safely. 

Obviously, Bear has the wrong degree and license to practice medicine, so work with your doctor, who will undoubtedly be more than happy to get rid of you. But advocate for yourself, especially with your relief cocktail. Your doctor might not know (or care) more than to provide a tapering off schedule. Feel free to tell him an 800-year-old talking Bear says he needs to prescribe something to ease the discomfort. Your doctor will be very impressed.

The bastard owes you for helping you into this mess to begin with.

Most importantly, know that, while you're in for a rough time and may feel like pulling your own head off and beating annoying loved ones with it, it passes. It does end. And you will come through the ordeal stronger and wiser. But you will be saved as by fire, my dear unknown friend.

The Mystery of Suffering

No, wait. While all that is good to know, it is not the most important thing, which the Bear will now reveal.

There is a mystery in suffering. The book of Job is one of the most fascinating in the Bible. In the end, Job is never told why he suffered. But he winds up in even better shape than he was before.

If you listen to sweet suffering, it is eager to teach you things you never, ever understood before. It can be like... Bear doesn't know. Some sort of massive download of... of whatever you let it mean to you.

It is suffering that does not kill or harm, even though you may have moments you wouldn't mind being dead. So, see, it is not really that demon that is torturing you. He pretends to be your friend. Suffering is the opposite of what he offers.

It is an angel of God you can absolutely trust to give you rest and relief at the end of your education without harming a hair on your habituated head.

Is quitting doable for everyone? Bear does not presume to say, although he hopes so. He has had clients in jail tell him withdrawal from pills is harder than withdrawal from heroin. And they ought to know. Bear suspects there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Regulated detox reminds Bear of the little boy whose pup's tail was to be bobbed. He begged the vet to cut it off a bit at a time so it didn't hurt too much. Yet, the alternative takes more fortitude than the Bear believes he has anymore.

Of course, remember, personally, he's talking about tranquilizer darts.

Bear leaves with a prayer for everyone going through detox, everyone who is making that hard decision, everyone who has failed and yet may try again, and everyone who has made that deal with the devil and doesn't yet realize the cost.


  1. Wow: this brought back so many memories of the 100-count bottles of Vicodin/percodin,
    Soma, etc that got thrown at me when a vertebrae collapsed: L5-S1: for, oh, nearly two years in sometimes excruciating pain....finally FDA approved an anterior approach to this, for me: a fusion: fine since: but like I said....oh memories. so anyway: Very Sorry to learn that Bear was laid so low. it is a real.drag: and until one goes through chronic pain.......what does one know ? also it is exhausting. oh, and it was in '98 that I had the surgery: lots and lots more opportunities then for lots and lots more pills.
    I had no issue at all with getting off of it all, oddly enough: especially as both of my parents and many, many other antecedents were alcoholics.
    I promise to keep you and your wife in my prayers: such an event is not easily forgotten, or even gotten through. especially as the drugs warp one's head.
    I used to think Quaaludes would have been more helpful. but that is just the old hippie in me coming to the fore. *sigh*.

  2. The Bear also suffers from a lumbar spine that is a train wreck. (Not to mention being shot like 100 times.)

    The Bear asked about surgery and was told that in the long run, people who had the surgery were no better off. Good to hear you seem to have found relief with it.

  3. Bear--i will pray for you and send a salmon. Hang in there.

    1. Thanks, Mike. And the salmon was quite delicious. You have been a faithful contributor when most othe sources dried up. I know the ephemeris has lost something, and I am working on bringing it back up to previous standards. My other writing... well, it's hard to be 100% on both. So Bear is sorry.

  4. Bear, I am dreading not having my pain medication, and if my sleep med is denied as well,I will be buying stock in netflix. God bless you and RD.

    1. If you're dreading not having it, with all respect, that might be the right time to think about taking control. Bear dreaded every month. What if they don't renew my rx? What if my doctor dies or moves away. I knew I had one source for all practical purposes and lived in fear of an interruption. That's more than habituation. Mr. Watson (the pills are stamped "Watson" the maker) was, or is, in my head in a way I didn't like.

      But that is your decision. Everybody is in their own place with pain. One thing I realized was my life changed when I stopped practicing law. I became much less active, which meant less pain. Yet I still had to have the drug even if I felt fine. Sleep med and opioids? Yes, if sleep med was d/c it would also be unpleasant. Everybody makes their own decisions. Have a frank talk with your melds, perhaps. The Feds are demonizing opioids and we are going to see even more restrictions. That also scared me. I wanted to be in control of when I quit.

      Also, a "no drug" zealot at the VA humiliated Bear, you know, one of those "you can do anything with yoga, or big rubber bands. A lot went into the decision.

      I know anything more than a half hour in a car ride is going to be painful. I have a lumbar support roll I can tuck behind and I highly recommended it for LBP.

  5. Bear,
    I will be praying for you and Red Death. You're very brave. Thanks for writing about this. More people need to understand what is happening with these opiods.

    1. Thanks, but showing bravery isn't what my goal was. I'm here on the periphery, under the leaves at the edge of the woodlands, moved to the give the right word to wounded souls. The tips are quite useful, and maybe someone will follow the Bear's example.

  6. I too will offer prayers. My already healthy respect for the Bear has just been elevated even higher. My L5-S1 disc is smashed flat as a mouse pad from a youthful obsession with basketball, and only by grace did I avoid the opioid trap myself. I would not be a good detox patient. God bless all here.

    aka @txtradcatholic
    aka Texas Thomist

    1. I don't know if Bear should be respected. This is something he should have done a long time ago. He did quit once cold turkey, but the pain and, probably other factors, pulled him back. No chance of taking any pills after I'm done. I would rather limit my activities and never ride more than a half hour in a car again.

      I have decided to stop a lot of rx drugs. I'm pretty minimal now and better for it. But remember, you can always trust Adapt - the pill you take when there's nothing wrong - with you. (Paid spokesanimal for Hermes Pharmaceuticals with offices in New York, Munich and Buenos Aires and their drug Adapt. Tell your doctor you want the leaf green pill you've seen in on all the TV commercials.)

  7. Oh God bless you Bear.

    1. Thanks, Woodlands friend. See, the Bear can talk about anything. He was a little afraid some might sniff and assume he was pulling a Rush Limbaugh, but no, he seldom even took as many as prescribed. But he was regular on x6 7.5 / 300 per day, which is a pretty good dose.

  8. So sorry all, it is suffering for sure. My mom, back in the day, was given Percodan for decades, for what, I don't know, and one day the doctor just shut it off. It must have been at the time of increased awareness of how bad it all was for you. All I remember was her saying she wanted to "jump off a bridge". There were no helps, no supports of any kind. I don't know how many prescriptions she filled, but one of my most vivid memories is picking up her prescriptions in the pharmacy, and selecting my comic book from the revolving rack. Would it be Archie? Superman? Batman and Green Hornet? Casper and friends? Archie usually won out, so I'd plunk down my quarter for the big comic and spend a half hour with Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Reggie, and Archie. My poor mom. Her childhood was hell and those traumas took a toll on her. People end up on painkillers for all kinds of reasons, both physical and emotional or mental. They should be avoided if at all possible.
    God bless you Bear and consolata and all who suffer this problem and unresolved pain.

    1. That is horrible and malpractice. I quit cold turkey once. As bad as regulated detox is, that was so much worse. I cannot imaging such irresponsibility. I makes me want to go on a hunt.

      My relationship with Mr. Watson is more complex, of course. There are psychological reasons and even sometimes he gives me the old body high which Bear will not pretend he won't miss. This is just dragging on, and one thing I didn't mention is I am going up to three days without sleep. Grrr.

  9. Stay tough. Go to daily Mass if possible. Offer your suffering to the GLORY of God and to help others in Purgatory. It is very hard to do. I also will offer a prayer for you.

  10. I have spoken to young men about this (having had my own issues). I warn particularly about the post-withdrawal risk of "euphoric recall". I tell them: you think that voice is saying "You don't want to leave. You're my friend; I love you." When it is really saying "You CAN'T leave. 'Cause you're my BITCH, and I OWN you." You can't scare the hardcore; but you can sometimes get their attention.

  11. Mr. Watson is such a liar, and like the best liars, mixes the truth with his lies. One-third through. Acute misery is behind me, just feel a bit under the weather. Really is like the flu, now, and am actually getting some sleep every night. Going down to one-half in a day or so. (Only Red Death knows for sure; best if Bear remains in the dark.)

    No denying, he's going to miss those halcyon days of feeling damn good and pain-free. Those days have been over for awhile, though. How someone with chronic pain can safely use highly addict - er habituating drugs is a question to which the Bear does not have the answer. Probably having an iron will and not a weakness when it comes to addiction maybe. No one stuck a gun to his head and made him stick himself with darts.

    Actually, they sort of did, but you follow his meaning.

  12. If anyone sees this, now at half my usual dose. I wasn't feeling too bad, but with the reduction to half, Mr. Watson returned with some new tricks to torture me. Or, maybe it was my angel to jar me out of my complacency.


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