The date is June 28, 2017, and Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth is launching a public local war against the local misuse of opioids in the city of Santa Clarita.  He includes in his public presentation a number of local “stakeholders” from the health and human services field that represent the wide breadth of the growing opioid abuse challenge in America. 

Since I am here to do something or other, I feel a kind of duty in the wake of this concern to at least share my experience with opioids, which is more widely understood if we simply call them painkillers. 

It may be important to admit that the first time I had really heard of opioid being a public problem when I heard about ten years ago of the problems that the political commentator Rush Limbaugh was having with addiction to his painkillers.  My understanding was that Limbaugh who is in addition to being political is also a kind of comedian tried to be both political and funny while fighting off chronic back pain.   But his legal problems emerged when it was found he was getting many more opioids prescribed to him than any one physician was legally capable of prescribing.

It is not unusual for addicts to find more than one doctor who even a multitude of doctors to prescribe them many more pills than they are supposed to take.  Sometimes a person in pain thinks mainly about getting rid of the pain, no matter how. And sometimes they will settle on an answer even if the answer kills them.

At that time, I did not know how chronic back pain can curtail your life.  Yet a few years later, as my seniority was beginning to jam my skeleton down to a lower height, displacing everything inside of me by a lower inch, including especially my sciatic nerve which began screaming bloody murder over its sudden displacement, my sciatica helped me how to understand how back pain can curtail you and your entire life.

Indeed, when our children attended school at Mitchell Elementary School in Canyon Country, the man who then served as role-modelling principal of the school later committed suicide by shooting himself through the head because he could not stand his back pain one day longer.  

My own back pain led me to be prescribed the most excessively used opioid in America or indeed, according to Business Insider, the most excessively prescriptive medicine anywhere– Vicodin, the narcotic hydrocodone and acetaminophen.   What did I know about Vicodin before I started taking it?  Nothing.  But it left the numbing pain intact in my back even if it took out the sharpening pain.  After taking it, and being left with the numbing pain, the main thought you may have is what to take now to get all the pain out.

Vicodin in my experience was also a kind of horse trader.  In other words, while it took the sharpening pain out of my back, it created an exchange with giving me something I never had before – chronic constipation.

I can sort of understand why one pill of a painkiller can lead to another, because you always feel like you are left with something new to deal with after you have had your initial opioid.

I went around everywhere with a cane, but even that was uncomfortable.

My only real chance of rescue from this cycle began when I started noticing my pain growing just a little … just a little … milder every week.  The improvement was truly tiny-tiny, because you could not detect it on a daily basis, and you could hardly detect the reduction of pain on a weekly basis.  But I could certainly feel the improvement on a monthly basis.  I began to feel that my pain was slowly releasing its radiation.

I think part of this improvement had to do with trying to listen carefully to what my pain was trying to tell me.  It was shouting at me, but sometimes when I get shouted at it is even harder for me to listen than when I am hearing whispered the words.

Generally, the best I could decipher from the shouting words of my pain was “This is your sciatic nerve, and I am being messed with by all this instability around me.”

I could understand that any instability made my pain worse – sudden moves, the imprecise structures of getting out of bed, etc, could make my pain not just go up my back but also down my leg.  So, conforming to that reality, I made my nights more stable by sleeping on the floor.

In fact, sleeping on the floor accelerated my healing and the relief of my pain.  Later I learned that traditional Japanese sleep on the floor to give stability to their backs for the same reason I did – to cultivate their good health.

The best part of this whole experience is that after just a month of sleeping on the floor, I no longer needed my opioid. I also give my cane.

But just to be sure, I am still sleeping on the floor.

Chris Sharp- Commentary

Chris Sharp is an Educator and a prize-winning professional writer. He has recently published a new book titled How to Like a Human Being . Sharp's latest book is an Amazon Kindle collection of his published short stories, Every Kind of Angel . His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon.