Saturday, May 13, 2017

Dilaudid! the musical, or, the limits of equanimity

When the surgeon suggested switching from percocet to dilaudid at my first post-op appointment I have to confess that a wave of giddiness washed over me.  Dilaudid, or hydromorphone, is derived from morphine and in its liquid injectable form is significantly more potent than codeine-based opioids (e.g. vicodin, percocet, oxycontin, etc.).  Back in my junky days it was a most prized quarry, quite rare and hard to come by.  Now, it may seem at first glance to be dangerous for me, given my past, to be prescribed such a thing.  But the fact is that percocet was not working.   At least not appropriately.  It would offer maybe an hour of euphoria, which would then subside into queasiness and a return of the pain.  For most people, I concede, dilaudid would flatten them into a stupor.  But for me it works exactly as it ought.  When the pain comes on, the kind that wakes me from a stone sleep, I take it.  In about twenty minutes it kicks in and I get relief for about four hours.  Not only that, it doesn't make quite as fuzzy as percocet or nearly as fuzzy as weed. All this being said, here's what it really boils down to--  

We are told two things about pain in the Yoga tradition.  On one hand, we are told to take pleasure and pain with equal indifference.  We are told to be equanimous no matter what.  On the other hand, we are told to be focused.  All of the Ashtanga "rules" (that people either rail against or are self-righteous about following) are designed to create a life of limited distraction.  The ethic of creating a life focused on God or liberation is not unique to Yoga.  This is why, for one example, music per se is forbidden in more rigorous interpretations of Islam.  The sensuous pleasure of music distracts the believer's focus on God.  This may seem excessive but I think most Western people (or people raised in or around Abrahamic religious backgrounds) are at least hip to the notion of the dangers of pleasure for its own sake, even if they disagree.  

My own trip has been about coming to terms with the dangers of pain for its own sake.  Put succinctly: yes, we should be equanimous but at some point pain becomes a distraction.  Lately I've been making it my work to eliminate such distractions.  It's a cliche, perhaps, but when you really really want something you'll find you can let go of all types of hang-ups.  Think of the football player who takes up ballet to increase balance and flexibility.  Or think of all the sundry indignities to which parents subject themselves to keep their children happy.  So I'm trying to let go of my hang-ups about seeking help and seeking relief.  This is why I chose to have my other shoulder operated on.  I had the exact same injury, and I was uninterested in doing another five years of trying to work around it and seeing if it might heal itself somehow.  This is why I'm seeking help again for Depression.  Ultimately, at some point pragmatism comes in to play.  In a nod to another cliche, I've decided to light a candle instead of screaming at the dark.

Your equanimity within can be bolstered from without if you choose moderation.

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