Monthly Archives: August 2012

T-Minus 21 Hours

I may not get a chance to blog from the island. I leave tomorrow morning at 7am with my friend Cheyne Sorenson to drive up and try to cross the border. Why? So that I can get to this tiny island off the coast of BC where my sister Rachael and my soon-to-be brother-in-law will be getting married this weekend!

It is hard because with everything that happened this past weekend (I re-posted my Huge Mistake post) I am still in limbo. Plus I really have no idea if the Canadian border guards will let me through (I have a small although not insignificant criminal record from six years ago). Although I called everyone I could, I was told straight up by the border supervisor that it is up to his individual border guards’ discretion whether or not to let me through.

I am just holding the intention that we end up with an understanding and sympathetic guard who recognizes that there’s not a lot of risk for me to do any damage since I’ll be with family on and island the entire time! But you never know what will happen, and we have a back-up plan if I can’t get through.

I am trying not to worry about that, however. I know that there’s no way I can change anything now, so there’s no point in me stressing over it. I’ve done what I could, and now I have to just trust the universe.

I think that’s the biggest theme in my wellness quest at the moment. Trusting the universe. With my aunt and uncle since the fiasco this past weekend, we are taking things day by day. I am trying my best to help them as much as possible, and have been doing my best to demonstrate my true intention, which is to be an asset, not a liability.

The phrase that keeps coming to mind is the AA slogan: “Do the next right thing”.

Sometimes I don’t always know what it is, but fortunately the universe seems to keep naturally showing me the path.

As my aunt Kate said a couple mornings ago: “we walk through the open doors, we walk past the ones that are shut”.

I might post again tonight if I can, just so you have some reading material over the weekend, and I’ll post from the island if possible. I know they have wireless up there now, so as long as I don’t spend too much time on it, I can probably get something out from there.

Peace to you all, and please pray or meditate or send out good vibrations for me the day and for my sister especially over the weekend. I’m sure she could use them more than I.

Thanks for bearing with me during that brief hiatus,

-Nathan

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Bear With Me

Hey Everyone,

Due to a couple changes in circumstances and all the health care stuff I was dealing with over the last weekend, my blog will be on HOLD for another day, perhaps two. I promise when I come back “online” I will have backdated entries for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

I apologize, but you will all just have to wait a little longer.

A reminder: the fact that my blog is on hold does NOT mean that my Wellness Quest is on hold.

I continue to pursue my goal of Optimal Wellness no matter what.

Thanks for your patience,

-Nathan

Huge Mistake, Consequences, New Chapter

Sorry for the loss of two nights of posts. I would apologize harder, but I ended up in the ICU so…I think I had it worse than you guys for a bit.

This is one of the situations where I said, while sitting in the ER, to my aunt as she held me hand: “the line is starting to blur.”

You see, I was scared at that moment. Yes, I was in pain, but I know by this time that to a certain extent I can deal with that. What it appears bothers me the most is the straight-up fear that I will end up in a situation (surgery, painful procedure, or just intractable pain with an understandable and traceable cause) where the only option for relief from pain will be the drugs I MUST not use.

I can’t tell you how many times I had to say that to how many different doctors on Friday night in the Meridian Park ER. And they have all my charts. They have all the red flags that say, “this guy is a drug seeker. He will still the prescription pad from under your arm if you look away for a second….don’t trust a word he says that you can’t confirm yourself” etc.

Yet they still took one look at me sitting in the discomfort I was in (my aunt Kate reminded me that there was no way what I was going through could possibly equal the discomfort she was in for her 26 hour long first labor during which she used NO form of medicinal pain relief) and told me the choice was up to me! Fortunately with my aunt sitting there in front of me, I said no. I said no, no.

Then another doctor came in and said he was admitting me to the ICU where they would do a bronchoscopy (essentially stick a tube down into your upper airways to try and find where the bleeding had come from) under conscious sedation. He explained that the typical combination used to sedate patients during this procedure was versed (midazolam) and fentanyl (a powerful opiod). So with my dad sitting beside me I said, no fentanyl. Just the Versed – which, by the way, really hardly had any effect on me. They kept giving me more during the procedure and it is supposed to make it so you aren’t really conscious and that you actually have no memory of what happened. However my memory of the procedure is clear as a bell and I could walk you through it if I wanted… I probably would have kept talking except that at one point the doctor told me he was moving the scope down through my vocal chords so that if I tried to talk I could damage them. So I shut up.

The point I was trying to make? Every single doctor who entered my room on Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday, offered me some form of narcotic in order to make me more comfortable.

Scratch all that. No matter how good the story, no matter how great the rationale, the real point of this post is to tell you all that I relapsed early Saturday morning in the hospital. Sure, I had a string of doctors offer me drugs. But I had up until that point rejected them. Part of me knew I could handle it. And part of me had decided that I couldn’t. I chose to take narcotic pain medications even when I knew that would completely sabotage my wellness quest.

I wish I didn’t have to say it. My dad actually told me that he wouldn’t tell anyone about it, that we could treat it as a mistake and an isolated incident. But I didn’t feel that it was right to hold him to a lie or to lie myself. Not to my family, and not to all of you.

Here is what I am truthfully struggling with: what was it that made me decided that I couldn’t handle what I was going through (painful or not) without drugs? And furthermore, how can I prevent that part of me from taking control in the future?

This is going to be a long, hard road.

Because, you see, me taking those drugs, even in a hospital setting, has violated the contract I signed with my aunt and uncle. That means that once I finish this blog entry, once I finish doing the nebulizer treatment I am currently doing, I lose all their support and my parent’s as well.

I don’t know where I am going to sleep tonight.

I doubt I will have internet access, so I figured I better post this fast.

Thank you to everyone who is reading this and helping me get honest. I hate it, but the truth is that no matter what was going on, I could have gotten through it without taking painkillers. I could have done it, but I made the decision to go back on a commitment I had made.

So what if the “line was blurred” like I said before. So what that I was in some pain. So what that the doctors told me it would be ok, that it was ok for me to take these drugs now. So what so what so damn what?

Regardless of the circumstances I know that I could have dealt with that situation without opiates, and if that is the case then I have taken a serious step back in my wellness quest, and I don’t know where things will lead from here.

But no matter what, it isn’t over. This is not me giving up, this is not me “signing off”. This is me opening a new chapter where I examine what it inside me that allows me to make this type of self-destructive choice.

Thank you for listening,

-Nathan

What I Need

Alright, so this is going to be another post that has some brutal honesty in it. I’m not going to like it, chances are if you know me, you might not like it much either. But really, if I let the image I want to create supersede truth, then I will lose all credibility with myself, and eventually, with you.

So here it goes:

As many of you know I’d been given a prescription for some benzodiazepines (clonazepam – brand name Klonopin) for the anxiety and muscle spasms caused by my withdrawal from the Subtuex.

I would like to divert here by talking about how often doctors prescribe a different drug to manage symptoms caused by another….but that’s not the focus of this post, so I’ll get to that another time.

What I want to talk about today is my “need” for pills. I’ve been curious for a long time what it actually is inside of me that makes me think I actually need some sort of pill to change the way my brain is working chemically. After all, I made it till 18 years old without ever drinking a drop of alcohol or smoking marijuana or doing any sort of drugs at all except my legitimate CF treatments. At one point (at 15) I did go on Ritalin for ADHD but I found that all it did was make me lethargic, and make it impossible for me to focus on more than one thing at a time. In short, I took it for about a month then stopped.

The point is, I know that although I may not have been totally healthy and I ignored quite a lot of mental health symptoms (e.g. depression, anxiety, etc) I was able to manage my life okay without the influence of a pill to take away pain or calm me down.

A lot of people may hate me for saying this, but I think I opened the door for myself with alcohol and marijuana.

I don’t see those substances as being “bad” in and of themselves. However, they, just like anything else, can be used and abused illicitly and end up turning into something they were never meant for. For example, marijuana was originally used by workers in the fields to calm their weary muscles and help them relax after a long day of hard physical labor. (Or at least, as far back as we really know – plants of the cannabis family have been cultivated for thousands of years, and their medicinal use has probably been understood and utilized at least as long)

Alcohol, too, arose from the general human need to deal with pain and to relax after labor.

However, that human desire can all to quickly turn a substance with a legitimate medical use into a drug of addiction and dependence.

Look at the opium poppy. From this innocent and very beautiful flower, some person lost in the mists of ancient history discovered that he could dull the pain of soldiers on the battlefield. Some of the earliest recorded usage of the gum harvested from poppies come from the annals of Alexander the Great. You see, he realized that the morale of his men was much improved when their injured comrades were not screaming all night long. And since someone had figured out that the poppy could induce sleep and pain relief, he began to have his battle surgeons administer it to the injured.

Even before that, the poppy was cultivated in ancient Egypt, used in ancient Ayurvedic practice in India, and grown in China. But it was used by medical professionals in isolated situations, and because the technology did not yet exist, it remained useful rather than harmful.

Then came the industrial age, modern chemistry, and morphine. Named for Morpheus, the god of dreams, morphine was much stronger than any previous tincture or distillation of opium. Although there were many opium addicts prior to the advent of morphine, morphine was different. It could be injected directly into the veins, in a way opium could not. It also “edited out” many of the chemical compounds in opium that caused numerous side effects. It was, by many medical professionals, considered to be a panacea.

But then C. R. Alder Wright had synthesized another compound in 1874 – diacetylmorphine – more commonly known as Heroin. And the world had a new cure-all. It went into everything from cough syrup to headache remedies to food and drink products.

In fact, they even thought at one point that heroin could be used to cure morphine addiction! What a thought. Instead they ended up with a bunch of people even MORE addicted to heroin than they had been to morphine.

And there ends my diversion into the history of man’s problematic relationship with poppy derivatives. Obviously there are many more types of what are now known as synthetic “opiods” meaning anything synthesized to mimic the way the natural opiate compounds (morphine, codeine and thebaine being the primary three natural substances found in the opiate poppy) work in the brain.

All of this research, chemical study, and clinical use has had one primary purpose: to help relieve pain.

And I don’t think a single one of us would argue that there is something wrong with that goal. The issue has consistently been that while these types of substances work incredibly well to deal with pain, they also cause a host of other effects that are not intended, including a level of dependence that is at least alarming, if not downright terrifying.

If you have ever had to take prescription pain medication for an extended period of time and then had to try to stop, addicted or not, your body does not like it. Your body, for lack of a better expression, gets angry. It tells you, “what the hell man! You’ve been putting this substance into me and so I’ve adjusted, and now you STOP?! Either you keep using that substance or I am going to flip your world upside down!”

But there is something deeper than mere physical dependence for those of us who truly become addicted.

I finished my prescription for the clonazepam yesterday. It would have run out much sooner, except that I kept myself to half of what the prescription actually said I could take.

But I probably would not have been able to do that without the help of my aunt and uncle who held onto the medication for me and just gave me the 3 pills a day that I had decided I “needed” to get through the last part of my withdrawal from subutex.

And yet here it is, I’ve stopped. The withdrawal process (at least the acute portion) is totally over. But something inside me still says, “you need to take a pill today. Right now, actually. You aren’t right without something to change what’s going on in your brain.”

It says: “You are too anxious, too active, you can’t focus, you are in pain…pill, pill, pill, pill, pill!!!”

But at the moment, as I sit here writing, I can analyze my body dispassionately (as much as that is possible for any human being). And I can see that the pain I feel is manageable. The anxiety I feel is manageable. The hyperactivity I feel is just causing me to write this faster. I am easily able to focus, and I don’t feel one bit depressed.

So what the hell do I want to take a pill for? This is why I know the motivation for altering my mental state is coming from somewhere other than just my body. Yeah, people talk a lot about “psychological dependence” but they don’t really make much effort to define or understand it, in my opinion.

While there are many therapy approaches to help deal with this issue, my approach, at the moment is to just continue on my journey and keep myself accountable to my friends and to all of you.

I’m done with pills to make me “feel better”. And yes, I recognize that in certain situations I may have no choice (if I was in a severe car accident or something crazy like that). But except for in some sort of dire emergency, I am choosing to use other methods to change how I feel, whether it be exercise, meditation, or even just getting on the web to interact with some of you about how I feel.

So yes. As I write this, I wish I had one of my “anxiety pills” to take to “calm me down”. But I don’t. And even if I did, the reality is that I don’t need one.

Remember one of my first posts: When Have I Done Enough? In it I examined that idea of “enough-ness”, and here it is again. What I know now is that what I have, who I am, and what I am doing, right now – in this moment – is enough.

And that, my friends and fellow wellness questers, will be my mantra for the next decade, probably:

“What I have is sufficient – I need nothing more than what I have”

-Nathan

Inward to Outward – Shifting Perspective

Winston Churchill in Downing Street giving his...

Winston Churchill in Downing Street giving his famous ‘V’ sign. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As many of you might know, I finally created an official Facebook page for The Wellness Quest. I just wasn’t sure where all this was going when I began. Sure, I wanted an outlet for self-expression. Yeah, I was looking to connect with others who might be going through similar challenges. But I honestly never imagined that The Wellness Quest would become something read by people I’ve never met from places like Germany, Malaysia, and China. Of course, I figured my family and close friends would probably use my blog to keep tabs on me, in a manner of speaking. But again, I never really anticipated the power of the response I have received.

I know that this blog and the community it has helped to create has greatly influenced my recovery. I feel like it may have been one of the single most important pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, and that if not for a chance conversation between my uncle and I at the breakfast table, it might not have ever materialized.

Then again, I don’t really believe in chance any longer. I know that the conversation between Richard and I that was the initial genesis for The Wellness Quest was no accident. No mistake. In fact, the further I go along this path, the more I truly believe there are no accidents.

Sure, there are events that can be interpreted as “bad”, and “wrong”. And tragedy exists. It truly does. The question is how we interpret that tragedy.

Winston Churchill had some things to say on that subject. Most of it was in the typical British vein of “stiff upper lip, old boy”. But sometimes he’d throw out a gem like this:

“It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.”

And:

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

The reality was that during his time serving the British people, they were facing a tragedy of a magnitude so great it was difficult to understand. But despite his hard-charging, cigar-smoking, scotch-drinking, bad-naturedness, he did something that seemed impossible:

He was able to shift the mindset, the paradigm, of an entire country. He was able to help them see that the bombings, the pending invasion, the constant loss of life and property, that these things were in fact opportunities to show the world the strength of the British people.

And that is something few leaders in this millennia have achieved. Mandela tried. He spent half his life in prison. Ghandi succeeded, at least in part. Going back even further, Buddha was somewhat more successful, but even he only was able to influence certain groups of people. And sadly, Jesus Christ was killed for attempting to wake up the Hebrew people.

If you don’t like me religious references, deal with it. The truth is that all of the aforementioned leaders tried their best to energize a population, to create a shift in their perspective. And in his isolated position of crisis, Churchill was perhaps one of the more successful. (Again, if you don’t like my analysis, feel free to argue. If you know me, you know I enjoy a spirited debate)

So that brings me back to The Wellness Quest.

My original goal was about 80% self-focused, with about 20% of my attention devoted to the possibility of helping others.

But the natural progression has shifted my focus, and I would say at this point I spend about 70% of my energy (within The Wellness Quest) trying to help others understand my struggle so that they can utilize that information in their own respective journeys, whereas only around 30% of my attention is placed on personal therapy.

I wouldn’t say that The Wellness Quest has become irrelevant for me. I would say it has become increasingly relevant. As I have said before, in AA they say repeatedly that you “cannot keep what you have without giving it away”.

My desire to use the last five years of hell I have been through to help others and to use the unique knowledge and experience afforded to me by my disease continues to increase.

It appears I may have a few opportunities coming soon to do just that.

Remember what I said a couple days ago about Karma? I entered the intention into the universe months ago to use my experience to help others. And now the universe is responding in kind.

I am living in gratitude today.

Peace to you and yours,

-Nathan

Reminders

Some days it can feel like life is narrowing. Some days it can feel as if you face a myriad of paths. And sometimes it can feel like the very earth is shifting beneath your feet so quickly you can hardly stay standing.

Amazingly, today seemed to be all three for me.

I was presented with a new opportunity to use some of my experience and knowledge to help others with interest in the goal of optimal wellness.

I was reminded that I hardly have an inkling of what the next three weeks holds for me.

I was reminded once more that there is nothing left for me to do to ensure a successful border crossing into Canada other than focus my intention on positive energy and belief that others will respond to the peace and compassion I exude.

And I was once again reminded that I could be a million things, do a million things, choose a hundred-thousand different paths in every second of every moment.

Wellness, for me, is not a singular choice. I haven’t just made the choice to pursue my wellness goals, snip-snap, done. No, I have to wake up every morning and choose wellness. I choose wellness every minute of every day.

Sure, some of those choices are easy. And yeah, I don’t always make the “right” choices. The point is that I consistently endeavor to choose the path that aims me toward my ultimate goal: optimal wellness of my mind, body, and spirit.

Another thing that came up for me today was my relation to past patterns. I am reminded that I am no longer the person I was six months ago. In fact, I am no longer the person I was an hour ago, or even ten minutes ago.

I talked about impermanence in yesterday’s post – and I find it coming up again tonight. Because it is not just the rest of the world that is impermanent, constantly changing – we as human beings are in constant flux. Our cells divide and grow, slough off and die, shift, restructure, constantly creating new patterns and new connections. We are by nature capable of immense change, both within and without.

I have the capability to feel like shit at one moment and to feel completely content a moment later, if I choose to shift my perspective and to use the power of my mind to command my body.

I’m not at all saying that some pain is not real. What I’m saying is that ALL pain is interpreted by the brain. Physical, mental, spiritual – all forms of pain are in some ways a choice. When I choose to give in and allow my pain to overwhelm me, I chose to be my pain rather than feel my pain.

There is NOTHING wrong with feeling pain. In fact, it is a necessary fact of being human. The problem, in my experience, is becoming your pain, to the point that if that pain were truly removed, you would lose a part of your identity.

I have had that experience. I have felt like my world was closing in. I have felt like the word was shifting and I couldn’t get my balance. I have become the essence of pain that permeated my whole being.

But I have had the chance now to choose to hold peace, compassion and gratitude within me while the world around me spins.

That is the intention I have for myself over the next few weeks during this time of newness, change, and opportunity: I shall radiate the peace and love that I truly feel for my life.

I feel a bit like a cat. I’m on my ninth life. Now’s the time to express my truth, and to be what I am with no hesitation.

Peace to you,

-Nathan

Change, Impermanence – How We Discard Futility

I had a conversation with my mom today. The way things are turning out, it is looking as if we won’t know until we reach the border whether or not I will be able to cross. There is a part of me that is really fucking pissed off about that. I mean really, I feel like there should be someone I could call or something I can do to at least get a solid for-sure answer, even if the answer is “no way”. I’d rather know right now that I can’t cross the border than find out when I’m sitting there in Blaine, Washington (where the border crossing we typical use is located).

But using the part of my brain that is beginning to remember some of the things I’ve learned over the years, I realize that the more angry, the more frustrated, the more I fight, the less I achieve. When the world is a certain way, I can use my spiritual energy to extend myself, and try to promote positive outcome. But there is no certainty in this life. There is a chance I could die tomorrow, or I could live till I am in my doddering second infancy.

Either way, no outcome is certain. But one thing is absolutely certain: when you fight to control things that are not within your influence, you will surely fail.

That’s another AA platitude that I can get on board with. I have spent years of my life trying to change everything around me to fit the way I thought things were supposed to be. I wanted everything in a neat little box of academia, I wanted a simple nuclear family around me, I wanted a steady job, a steady girlfriend, a simple but comfortable place to live…and I wanted financial stability.

And yet by trying to force those things to happen too early in my 20’s, and because of my own aversion to pain, I ended up with the direct opposite of everything I described above. Currently nothing in my life fits into a simple box. I live with part of my extended family, and that situation will soon be changing as well. I have no job currently but to focus on my wellness. I’m not dating, and that’s a good thing. My living situation is comfortable, but only because of the support of my family. And of course, I haven’t hardly a cent to my name. In fact I don’t even have a bank account and had to go with my aunt to the bank yesterday to negotiate some checks that had been written to me.

The harder I try and force my will on the universe, the harder it seems to push back.

I am a firm believer in the truth of Karma. And I believe that much of the chaos of the past few years of my life was a direct result of the chaos I created in the lives of others. Even now, the uncertainty I am facing is a product of my own choices, of the energy I have released into the universe returning to revisit me.

The Bible says clearly, “you reap what you sow”.

A simpler colloquial expression in our culture says simply, “what goes around comes around”.

That might feel uncomfortable. It might make you think of all the shit you’ve done that you wish you hadn’t. If the reverse of the “golden rule” (what you do unto others will be done unto you) is true, that could seem pretty damn heavy right?

If every single indiscretion, angry word, snub, or even a missed opportunity for kindness is going to come back to haunt us….holy crap….that’s kind of a scary thought.

But think about the other side of things. Think about everything in your life that you have done that has made a positive impact. Even something as simple as telling your grocery store clerk to “have a nice day” and actually meaning it. What about the time you rescued an animal in distress? How about the time your friend called you in crisis and you talked him through it?

So yeah, the Karmic Wind blows in both directions folks. As Jesus said, “the things you do to even the least of these (my people), you do to me”.

My dad works at the Union Gospel Mission in downtown Portland. He spends quite a bit of his time working with what our society considers the “lowest of the low”. These are men and women with stories that make my journey sound like a walk in the park. Many of them have no family, no support, no place to live, no way to earn income and yet are trying to support a drug habit while living on the streets.

And yet there seems to be no place for them.

Sometimes I wonder about how “great” America is if we let so many of these people (many of whom are intelligent and talented) slip through the cracks.

On a national level, I think our Karma is about to come back to bite us hard.

But what I really wanted to speak of today was the idea of impermanence and uncertainty.

We never really know what will happen, and when we spend our lives trying to direct, control, facilitate and force the universe to do our will, we will be consistently disappointed.

I am finding that the most beneficial option for me is to simply be here, now. To allow my energy to flow out into the universe. And to allow my cells to vibrate with the energy that I wish to receive. I know for certain that what I put out into the universe will return to me in equal measure.

I never know how it will look, but I know it works because I feel it.

Life changes. We never know where it is going. We think we can control it and fit it into our idea of acceptable events. But it defies us. We don’t know the master plan. There is a universal source of energy, call it God if you like, but it is only he that holds that plan. We are destined to make our differences on a small scale, and occasionally, if the plan permits, on a larger one.

So although I don’t know what will happen at the Canadian border in a couple weeks, I know that from now till then, I will continue to focus my energy on promoting a positive outcome, with the knowledge that despite that, things may not go my way.

Preparation then, is important, but despair is useless.

Everything is impermanent. What we feel passes in an instant, and we are suddenly someone else, something else, somewhere else.

I am blessed to be reminded of this today.

Peace to you,

-Nathan