A Note about Pills from
Your Friendly Neighborhood
Genteel Crip Junkie
Give me a pill and I am happy. Give me two, and I am ecstatic. Give me three, and you have a friend for life.

Not just any pill, of course. It has to be an analgesic. Darvon. Tramadol. Maybe Percodan - - - although it's awfully strong. You can skip the Demerol or Dilantin: I want to laugh and sing and enjoy life - - - not dump it. And if you give me Valium, I'll probably just store it at the back of the medicine cabinet. I don't like turning into a cow. I may be just your typical neighborhood genteel crip junkie - - - but I want to be happy, not stupid.

I got all these anti-social attitudes on drugs from growing up in the sixties, and from listening to messages from my body, and from Consumer Reports. No kidding.

I don't have to tell you about the Sixties. They have movies to tell you what we thought we were doing to the world - - - and ourselves - - - in the flower-power years.

My body? Well, let me say this about that. It's on an extended vacation, has been so since 1952. And all these years haven't helped it worth shit. Walking on crutches - - - like I did full-time for thirty or forty years until I returned to the wheelchair - - - has induced arthritis in the shoulders and knees, funny shooting pains in the arms and hands. Falling again and again has turned my face and my body into a battle zone.

Years of living with braces, wheelchairs, and back-supports have left all sorts of sores behind, and there is never a moment - - - standing, sitting, or lying down - - - when I feel comfortable. Man-made mobile, seating, and walking equipment can never replace the real thing. After all, they are substitutes, and you remember what substitutes do to us. Substitute sugar, substitute loves (or substitute blow-up lovers): ellos no vale la pena as they say in Spanish.

Consumer Reports? Several years ago, in one of their books on drugs, they reported several facts that I had never read anywhere before, probably won't be allowed to read again.1 One was that heroin was probably one of the best all-around pain-killers available, and they suggested that it was a grim mistake that we didn't make it available for those in terminal pain. In other words, we let the FDA and a bunch of thoughtless bureaucrats (not to say thoughtless junkies) interdict a very humane method for pain control. In this respect, we differ sharply from the English, who still permit heroin use for terminal cancer patients.

The other part of the CU report told of "weekend" heroin users - - - those who weren't interested in being junkies, but who enjoyed the effect of casually using the drug. These were, it was reported, among its biggest, most loyal consumers.

What was surprising was that for this bunch, there was apparently no need to get hooked. They're just people who get a bang out of being stoned on what is, after all, one of the most powerful drugs of all time. Their use is casual, their attitude unrepentant, the results - - - non-fatal.

For better or worse, I am not very interested in heroin. I figure I am one of those people who would find it just too good, and I would probably end up sticking it in my arm for the rest of my life - - - knocking over 7-Elevens after midnight and stealing little girls' bicycles so I could feed my habit.

For that reason, I content myself with pills. I like pills better than martinis, Virginia Slims, cheesecake, the Mamas and the Papas, and Doritos. Give me a Tramadol or codeine. One with my afternoon beer and I'm happy as a clam for the rest of the day and much of the night.

§   §   §

Our latest scare has these pills killing off thousands of the dispossessed in Akron or Buffalo or Cleveland. Our poor working stiff, his job shipped off to Hangchow, China so what does he do? He starts in on Oxycontin. A few die in the process, but there's no report on the thousands who find it cheaper and easier to drop a pill that comes for free from the family doctor for his aching back, his lost job, his miserable future.2 And instead of overdosing on a twelve pack of Bud Lite or a dozen shots of Wild Turkey which he can't afford anyway, he drops a pill, kindness of Medicare. And it doesn't leave you with a crappy hangover, either.

Unfortunately, they don't make it easy for us to follow this pill-friendly regimen. They want us to suffer with our aches. So when I call my once-friendly doctor for another prescription for analgesics, the messages tend to get lost. When I finally do get through, you can hear the edge in his voice. He'll write one prescription (a small one), charge me $45 for it, and won't honor any further requests unless I can show a broken leg, brain tumor, the Yaws, or imminent death. He's not listening to me. He's listening to the FDA and Fox News, telling us we have an emergency in the emergency rooms of the Middle West.

In America (home of the brave) it has always been immoral to avoid pain. We're all John Waynes, right? They want to be sure that I feel bad for ducking out from under the required day-in-and-day-out malaise that my body has been forcing on me all these years. And being a coward induces guilt, and you know how convenient that is.

"I shouldn't be doing this," I say to myself, as I down another pill. "I'm just a weakling," I mutter to myself. And I do feel quite weak until my dose starts to make me feel on top of the world again.

§   §   §

Two percent of our national population is in jail, on parole, or coming up for trial. And almost two-thirds of these were involved in drug-related crimes.

It is agreed by all with bat-brains that drugs have created madness. It is a madness that has taken over police departments, infected the legislators, rendered governors, presidents, and judges plumb crazy.

They - - - the governors, the legislators, et al. - - - think that the way to solve the "drug crisis" is by further penalties, further interdiction, further crack-downs. They didn't learn shit from the rise and fall of Prohibition. Nor from what all those wars have done to millions of innocents.

In the midst of this, we genteel part-time junkies don't have a monkey's chance. Either we can go to Thailand or India or Uruguay where prescription drugs are sold over the counter, or we can head out to the street - - - you and me and our electric wheelchairs, trying to scare up a couple of Vicodin at the corner of 4th and Broadway at three a. m.

I haven't always been a junkie, mind you. Over the years, I've tried to stick with the usual legal drugs: cigarettes (forty-three years, listen to my wheeze), alcohol (fifty-nine years, look at my rheumy eyes), coffee and tea (seventy-one years, look at my shakes), and the usual over-the-counter trash - - - Tylenol, Excedrin, Vanquish, Advil.

I even did peyote when it was legal. It was legal, for some 8,000 years - - - until the Food and Drug Administration and Congress decided the visions it gave us were just too dangerous. Which is fine by me. All it did was make me realize that all reality is fantasy, all fantasy reality; which I guess is what they were legislating against anyway.

Good thing they made it illegal. I might still be there, basking in the Truth. Besides, it didn't do diddly-squat for my aches and pains; all it did was to let me see god, or one of her brothers or sisters - - - and you know what a pain that can be.

Rest assured, I know all the propaganda about drugs. I know that by being a pillhead I am not facing up to my pain, nor my responsibilities. I'm certainly not being brave. Better I should go to an agony clinic to learn to do auto-hypnosis and feedback, right? Once I know that I must live with my misery, I can hold up my head, be proud, get on with my life (with a song in my heart and a grimace on my face).

Unfortunately I find I can get on with my life just fine with Vicodin or its equivalent. Not only does it get rid of my nagging headaches, nagging backaches, nerves and lousy self-image - - - it makes me devastatingly charming. It mixes perfectly with the White Zinfandel I serve with my meals. During dinner, I regale my friends with terrifically witty stories out of my past. And afterwards, my dreams are better than those out of the Disney Channel. Last night I dreamed I was starting a series of savings-and-loan banks around the United States. It was fun and very cheap - - - and perfectly legal. I had the government behind me one hundred percent, just as in the socialist countries; and the dream only cost me seventy-five cents, that being the cost of one pill.

I don't know whether there is any solution. I'll always have to scheme to get my drugs, at least until the United States decides to enter the twenty-first century and stop treating us all as demented children. And I'll continue to feel guilt until they (and I) realize that the previous century is lousy with wars fought and wars not won. WWI led directly to WWII, which in turn led to the Korean War and the War in Vietnam, which should have led us to the realization that there are wars we cannot win. The War on Drugs is about as successful as the Russians in Afghanistan (and us picking up the ball immediately afterwards).

You and I are the victims of the propaganda against drugs. We should not and cannot enjoy ourselves (they say). It is wrong (they say). Medicine is meant solely for "pain and suffering" (they say). Any other uses will lead us deeper and deeper into the black hole of addiction, shame, misery, woe, and death.

Those of us who believe the contrary will suffer mightily.

And - - - look at me. I'm probably the prime example of that.

- - - From CripZen: A Manual for Survival
©1994 Mho & Mho Works

1U.S. Pharmacopeia Drug Information for the Consumer,
Consumers Union, Mt. Vernon NY; 1987.
2Annual mortality figures (U. S. - - - CDC)
Guns - - - 44,009
Intentional self-harm (suicide) - - - 42,773
Automobile accidents - - - 32,675
Opiods - - - 11,438
Military (Iraq/Afghanistan) - - - 3,505
Terrorist attacks - - - 242.