No sleep. Tossing and turning. Sweats. Diarrhea. Mood swings. Goose flesh. Sneezing, welcome to day two without percocet. I swear them off regularly, at least once a year. I stay off them for years and years. And then a back incident happens, it gets bad, and I need relief to function.

It starts at one twice a day, then one three times a day, then 1.5 four times a day. If you haven’t taken them, you don’t get it. You don’t understand how our bodies like opium; how it delivers. You don’t understand the depression of chronic pain, and the temporary psychological and physical numbing the drug provides. But it’s a cruel mistress. Every month on it, it wants more, and more.

And try and quit once on over a month. Go ahead, if you take four or more per day, for over a month, try and just stop. If you’re unlucky enough to take high doses (mine is only 10mg), and find yourself on 200mg or more a day, stopping is effectually, heroin withdrawal.

Doctors are getting wise, states trying to crack down. That means many are turning to heroin. And you sit there and you simply can’t understand. You shake your head at those poor people. Well with 249 million prescriptions for pain killers written every year in the USA, that’s 80% of the world’s painkillers, with 46 people a day dying from overdoses of the stuff in the USA (again, that accounts for 80% of all drug ODs), those “poor people” are your wife, your son, your daughter, your husband, aunt, uncle, grandmother or father, they are your family. If you have more than four family members one of them statistically is on an opiate.

And while getting on them may be harder, getting off of them is even worse. It’s the hardest thing I do in my life, because I can’t wean down like you are supposed to; most users can’t. They take the pills until they’re gone, or on days that are reduced pill days, they end up taking more and run out. Millions of Americans spend the end of the week or month counting pills to make sure they don’t run out before refill day.

Each time i quit, and I’ve done so six times in my life now, I swear I will never take them again, that I will have the surgery and try and aggressively treat my completely f’d up back. I have a 12cm lump on my nerve root, two other lumps protruding at different areas and at times can’t stand, walk or do much of anything without intense pain.

But back surgery opens more cans of worms and leaves no guarantee of a pain free life. So I manage. Pain management is big business in the USA because aging hurts.

So here I sit beginning of day three. Now, I could get more. I’m not an abuser. I’m not an addict. I go to one pharmacy, the same one for 18 years. I see one prescribing doctor, the same one for a decade. And when I get them, I only get 50 at a time or about two to three week’s worth. If I still need them, I get 50 more. Never 100. Never 150. Never more, and they’ve asked. Because if you have more, you take more. Oh, a small percentage can stick to a non-escalating, therapeutic level, but most will end up taking them.

So I get it America. I do.

But every time I’m off them for months and years, my life is so much better. Granted, I’m also out of pain, don’t have chronic depression and usually being active then, but still, a life free of opiates is a marvelous thing.
So, I”m trying again to manage my pain with ibuprofen, tylenol, exercise and yoga, showers, walks, a puppy. And it’s so hard. Because it hurts.

The South of the USA must really hurt, because it is opiate use and addiction central. Thank goodness I have cannabis to help me through, and Elizabeth Warren has advocated using cannabis to help with the opiate problem. A good indica edible before bed will knock out pain, and you.

I saw a map where every red state was deep purple; red being a political color, purple for opiate use. The levels of addiction and abuse in the South is overwhelming. California, surprisingly, is on the low end of the scale for use per 100 people. But not the South.

That explains Donald Trump in so many ways and I’m being honest. Chronic pain means chronic depression.

So as I sit here sweating and shivering at the same time, I get why more people don’t quit. Weaning or not, it’s hell. And the habit of taking the drug is still there. The ritual. So you have to replace it. The chronic pain may still be, so you must find another way. And the depression doesn’t magically go away, so now, that emotional pain is laid bare with no medication. Ya, sign me up.

But that’s life and we all deserve one free of chemical interference of such a magnitude. We need to find new non addictive drugs to treat pain. And we need to make the USA a more harmonious place to live. We need real advances in back and spine injuries and surgeries.

And we need to suck it up.

My Thursday of this week, I’ll be OK. I’ll be sleeping. things will start to fade. Yes the first four days are hell.

Beware: When the Fog lifts you may look around and say, what have I done? What has my life become? There’s so much work to do in so many areas…real (like home maintenance, physical maintenance and stamina building, many things pushed to the side and left in a haze of “later.”)

Here’s to anyone brave enough to quit opiates. It’s worth it, and I applaud you.

Now I have to go use the restroom. And shower. So I can sweat some more and sneeze.