Stephen Crown sat behind his computer. He moved his head from side to side, stretching to relax his neck without even noticing. It was Tuesday morning, his usual blog time. The time he most looked forward to. On a normal day it was his chance to entertain and challenge the minds of others with his humor. But today there was just too much pain and anger for entertainment. Today he needed to share something more somber.
Where do I even begin to talk to this? Gotta be honest, right? Okay, well here goes.
“My apologies for not posting last week and in advance for diverting from my usual upbeat style. Today I am much too full of sadness to be witty. You see, my father died last week. On Tuesday morning, he simply didn’t wake up.
My pops was addicted to painkillers and they killed him at age 44.”
There, that feels better, getting it out in the open.
“That is a poor elegy I know and there was so much more to him than that, but that is the one thing that defines his death. Even more so than the fact that he leaves behind a wife and a son.
His death began a year ago last April when he fell from the cab of his truck. He was a long-haul trucker and after he backed his rig up to the loading dock on a rainy night, he slipped getting out. It wasn’t a long fall, but he landed with straight legs, knees locked and injured his spine. He was in too much pain to stand, but luckily he had his cell phone and dialed 911. The paramedics found him still laying in a puddle.
The doctors prescribed opioid pain meds and between them and the constant flow of energy drinks, he was back on the road in days. We thought it was a miraculous recovery and credited it to his personal strength. We were wrong on both counts. It was not a miracle and he was no match for the pain or for the addiction.
His downward spiral began that easily, just a little accident and a little too much self-applied pressure to return to his job quickly. As he pushed himself the pain increased. So he took more of the painkillers. As he took more drugs, his tolerance grew, so he had to take more to reach the same relief. When the painkillers began to affect his focus, and the energy drinks no longer helped, he sought medical help and was prescribed a psychostimulant.
His story is not unusual. Forty six Americans die from painkiller overdoses every day.
I found three empty and two full bottles of his pain pills in his truck. In the medicine cabinet there were two more, but one was nearly empty, as was the one in the bag on the nightstand. Some rough math based on the dates and quantities and I estimate that he was taking twelve, 15mg tablets per day. That 180mg total dose was three times the normal amount.
The Sunday before he died was a slow drive day. A blown recap on the rear left dual had cost him nearly two hours. He pushed to get to his drop yard and then to get home on Monday night. One more push. One more pill. One too many as it turned out.
The thing is, Mom and I never knew how bad it was. I guess we were both naive. In hind sight, there were warning signs. His irritability for one thing. The new, small, leather man purse he carried everywhere now for another. His constant need for laxatives should have been the biggest clue of all. Even the fact that eight months ago he changed his normal route so that he now stopped for a full day in Tulsa, should have told us something. But it didn’t. He was Pops, I trusted him to be smart, honest, and to be there; and now, he isn’t.
So, dear readers, today’s discussion question: “How is it that the doctors that gave him the prescriptions are different from the drug dealers on the streets?” I really need to know.”`