Please forgive the attention seeking crypticness of my previous entry - I was in a strange state of mind. Now, though, I’m out the other side and can fully explain myself.
Regular readers will remember the problems I had with my foot - the ulcer, the pain, the insanity, the hospitalisation and the subsequent recovery. Unfortunately, the healing of the foot wasn’t the end of it: I had become addicted to one of the pain killers I was taking, tramadol. This had become blatantly obvious to me some weeks ago but I was reticent to admit it because I was so happy at the fact that my foot was finally my own again.
I tried just not taking any tramadol one day — I’d been on 8 per day (400mg) at one point — and I quickly discovered what a bad idea that was: mild palpitations, shallow breathing, anxiety, hot and itchy legs and arms. I needed to wean myself off slowly.
I quickly discovered that just three 50mg capsules per day would put off the withdrawal symptoms, so I did that for a few days. After about the fourth day of this new, decisive action I only took two - I got the mild palpitations and shallow breathing but found that I could easily control them if I just relaxed myself, mentally and physically. “Hey,” I thought, “this is going to be easy!” After four or five days on two capsules, the palpitations and breathing now fully under control, I went onto one capsule per day … and that’s when it started getting difficult.
From when I woke up, all throughout the day, the aches and pains would gradually build up until by around early evening, 6 or 7 o’clock, I felt like I was about to come down with flu - I also had a thick head and a phlegmy chest as if I had a cough. I took my single capsule at about 8 o’clock and, within about an hour, virtually all the symptoms had gone. I began to wonder how much of it was a chemical withdrawal and how much was psychosomatic.
This continued for about five days until, on the sixth, I didn’t take any tramadol. On a usual day (in the long and distant past) I’d go to bed somewhere around 11 o’clock, midnight or 1 o’clock in the morning; now, however, I was finding it hard to keep my eyes open after ten so I climbed into bed and lay there waiting for sleep to take me. And I waited. And waited. And waited. Until around 5 in the morning I caved and took a tramadol - my legs were so hot and itchy that I literally couldn’t keep them still for more than about 30 seconds, all my joints ached and my mind was chaotic what with the lack of sleep and the anxiety. Unfortunately, an hour later I still hadn’t got to sleep and the symptoms were only eased slightly so I took another. And, almost as if the tramadol realised it had beaten me, it released its grip and I slipped into sleep.
The next day I felt tired but not much else having had a double dose not long before getting up, so I decided to try again … the same thing happened.
After about four attempts at this strategy I stopped being so bloody minded, admitted temporary defeat and went back to taking one capsule about 8 o’clock in the evening - everything was “fine” for a week.
I thought about it, trying (and failing) not to get depressed about it until I finally decided that what I needed to do was to pay careful attention to my days and then pick one when I was feeling my best physically and mentally, not take any tramadol and just bloody stick it out!
So, I waited. And waited. And waited … until I had another epiphany: I was making excuses as to why I couldn’t do it that night - I was too tired, I was upset, I had a bad back. Did I sub-consciously want to keep taking the tramadol? Sure, when I popped a capsule in and swallowed it down my aches and pains died away and I could sleep peacefully, but my conscious mind rules my body, dammit! I did not want to carry on this way - what if I kept taking them and then one day ran out with no way of getting any quickly? Would I be able to sweat it out without going mad? I certainly couldn’t answer “Yes” with even a little bit of confidence. This had to stop, and now.
The day came: Sunday 14th May, 2006 - I felt good: very few aches and I was in a damn good mood for some reason. I decided that was going to be the day, so I made sure I got myself ready and made a point of moving all the tramadol I had far out of reach of my bed. When bedtime came I had all the usual feelings bit they somehow seemed lessened - I hoped it was because my body had given up reacting to the psychosomatic side of all this. I did all the usual stuff: wished N good night, let Rocco out for a whizz and then put him to bed, checked all the doors were locked, had a whizz myself and climbed into bed - it was midnight.
I can’t remember when it was I fell asleep (can anyone?) but I saw 4 o’clock come and go. When I woke up in the morning, I still felt all the symptoms, but they were still lessened. I was ecstatic: I’d done it! I was free!
Unfortunately, by early that evening I’d come to realise that it wasn’t going to be that easy: I still had all the symptoms and, even though they were milder, having had them for longer than usual was taking its toll.
Monday night was the same as Sunday night, Monday morning the same as Sunday morning.
Tuesday: the same. I felt fucking terrible. I had purposely avoided looking up anything about addiction and coming off tramadol for fear of reading something that would scare me off trying to quit and I was now fighting an even bigger urge to do so - I started now and had to finish.
Yesterday, Wednesday, came and I still felt the same - I was beginning to sink into a depression. But then, around early evening (which had seemingly become a significant time of the day!) I could feel all the aches, pains and flu-type feelings slowly washing away. I tried desperately not to be happy incase is was only temporary, but by bedtime I felt much better. And for the first time in what seemed like months I fell almost straight to sleep.
And so, this morning, I woke up and … felt absolutely fine. In fact, I was better than fine: I felt bloody brilliant! Was it finally over? So it seemed.
Now, at just after 7 o’clock in the evening, I still feel great with my physical feelings being lifted by the elation that’s swirling through my mind.
* a quick re-read through what’s been written so far *
That all sounds quite dramatic and, to be honest, it was. Most of it was in my mind and part of the struggle was trying to not let on to those around me that I was going through it all - N was obviously aware of it but she quickly learned to steer clear for a while: I wasn’t exactly in a jolly mood.
So, that’s it: that’s why I wasn’t well and, now that it’s over, I’m feel better than I have for a long, long time. Having my foot healed was a red letter day for sure, but I had unending help from doctors and nurses. This was me and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m feeling damn proud of myself.
Thanks for reading, and please send congratulatory cash c/o Timothy Griffin …
Looks like I should’ve heeded Nicola’s advice …