An Alcoholic Walks Into a Pain Doc’s Office…

Lest you think I am starting the new year with a bad attitude, I’m here to tell you I woke up full of piss and vinegar. That could be because I am actually on steroids. I went to an orthopedic surgeon yesterday, convinced I had bone cancer, only to find that the radiating pain in my hip was probably caused by, “Years of doing what you love to do…”.

For example, hiking up hills, running on the beach and the wearing of four inch heals. That, and a lack of space between the round ball of my hip bone and the socket it fits in. I am a bit crooked. I have lost range of motion in “bound ankle pose”.  I am occasionally in enough pain to limp piteously.

When an alcoholic is in pain…

To put this in the proper perspective, I have not been to a doctor in ten years. The whole process is so rarefied, that even filling out the insurance forms seemed novel and “fun”. I asked questions. And I couldn’t help but think of the opioids lined up like fluffy, white rabbits with fangs, on a shelf somewhere. I was asked three times, even before I made it to the examining room, what I took for the pain.

My response, “Um, nothing? Maybe an Advil gelcap when it hurts really bad?” was met with looks of incredulity. It occurred to me that most people take pain medication when something hurts… As an alcoholic, it’s weird I suppose, that I have always avoided medicine of any kind. Other than the three bottles of elixir I used to drink per day, of course…

To the young man who took my vitals (excellent), I said, “I’m an alcoholic so I can’t take anything, you know, strong…” It felt like TMI, or at least like I should have had the proper name for what I couldn’t take. Narcotics? Opioids? Oxys? Corticosteroids? I’m an addiction professional for God’s sake!

To the x-ray technician I said, “I wish this would just go away…” She laughed, but I meant it. Miracles occur, why not me?

X-Ray Department | AccessAble

Bone Daddy…

I waited in the appointed room, with my x-rays pinned to the light box like a Damien Hirst exhibit. My hip and back bones looked fragile and lacy. It made me feel tenuous. As if a wrong step might snap my underpinning and I’d clatter to the ground like old pottery.

An hour and 1/2 later, I didn’t care anymore. I had studied my infrastructure ad nauseum, and sped read six Hello magazines (Megan Markle is divorced). I played with the models of joints. I thought about Tom Hager’s cyanotypes. I looked out of the sliver of window like a prisoner on the Bridge of Sighs… I just wanted out of there.

I mean, doesn’t everyone think of Thomas Hager’s cyanotypes while at the orthopedic surgeon’s office? Thomas Hager “Departure” cyanotype photograph.

When the great man arrived, I amused myself by thinking of him as Bone Daddy. He was actually super cool. And, get this, one of the first questions he asked was, “Has there been an alcohol problem in the past?” I nodded yes. “Are you an alcoholic?” Bingo…

Apparently my dicky hip could be caused by excessive alcohol consumption. The gift that keeps on giving, right?

I performed like a trained bear in one of those sad, roadside carnivals for Bone Daddy – over-anxious to please. I bent at the waist and touched the floor. I duck stepped in place. I lay on my back while he twisted my legs like pipe-cleaners. Does that hurt? How about that? 

Stoic or scared straight?

The doctor said I was “stoic”. That most people would have been shouting at him to stop when he pushed my knee to my chest even though it didn’t want to go there. But, I don’t feel stoic. And as with each new experience I have in recovery, I tried to process.

The bottom line, is that those of us in recovery must advocate for ourselves.

I have developed a condition that begged the alcohol question, but what if I had said, no? I volunteered the information about my alcoholism to anyone who would listen, but what if I didn’t? As it turns out, I left with a dose of Prednisone mild enough for “pregnant women.” And a prescription for an anti-inflammatory that “also coats the stomach”.

But I keep thinking about the question, “On a scale of 1 to 10 what is your level of pain?” What if I had said 10? Alcoholics are used to under-reporting. How many drinks a day? One? I am suggesting we also try to accept a bit of discomfort, when the fix is potentially addictive. And don’t be embarrassed by the TMI. 

In this case, too much information is a good thing…

Today I’m not drinking, because I am advocating for myself…

How come you’re not drinking?

E2E – I’m BACK