Monday, May 11, 2009
I don’t often talk at length here concerning my religious beliefs. Sure, I have no compunction about telling you I’m a Christian, but I rarely go into detail about it. Today will be different. If that bugs you, well, it bugged me over the weekend. Explanation (in detail, as usual) follows.
So, you know I had a whole bunch of teeth plucked last Wednesday, right? There’s some background HERE, if you’re some sort of completist. The short story is that I had most of my lower teeth removed. I’ll be getting implants later on this year. In the meantime, I have a lovely temporary denture glued onto three of my remaining teeth. Here are before and after shots.
I apologize for the "after" shot being so blurry, but nice difference, no? Yes, nice. Comfortable, good-looking, functional – no problems. I’m happy.
I wasn’t so happy the day before the procedure. As a matter of fact, I was rather tense. I knew that going through the procedure wouldn’t be a lot of fun, but I also knew that the best way for me to wrap my head around the whole thing, after the procedure, was if I had some seriously fun drugs to take the edge off. However, in the current hysterical climate, telling your doctor that you want seriously fun drugs to take the edge off will actually tend to reduce your chances of getting them. Odd, that, but true. So, since I didn’t relish the thought of sitting around the house for four days, with mouth pain, in a disgustingly sober condition, I prayed for the seriously fun drugs.
I don’t know how YOU feel about such things, but I generally try to avoid self-serving prayer. My utterly untheologically-divined sense about prayer is that asking things for others is looked upon much more favorably than asking things for yourself. In addition, all requests made in a prayer should probably look to glorify God in some way. Getting blasted wouldn’t usually qualify as a way to raise God’s profile with others. However, I assured God that, if He would see to it that I got a prescription for 20 Percocets, I’d find some way to make it up to Him.
Percocet - generically (and hereinafter in this tale) known as Oxycodone - is a synthesized derivative of Morphine. The actual drug is more notoriously known, in sleazy tabloid headlines, as Oxycontin. It is the drug of choice for junkies who rob drug stores to feed their habit. Oxycontin is the pure stuff, and it fetches a premium price on the street. Oxycodone, on the other hand, is a mixture of Oxycontin and Acetaminophen, a.k.a. Tylenol. Effects of both are similar to Heroin and other opiates: euphoria, drowsiness, and a way cool time as long as you don’t get hooked and wind up sticking a gun in some pharmacist’s ribs in your attempts to get more.
Before my dentist yanked the teeth, I discussed medications for afterward. He felt that a Codeine preparation would probably be enough to take care of the pain. Codeine can be a nice fog to travel in, but the pain-relieving efficacy is about 1/6 that of Oxycodone. I argued, successfully, for the latter. This doctor had been my dance partner in my previous bout with multiple extractions, when I had my uppers done some 7 years back. He had seen what a traumatic experience it had been for me; sweating in the chair, pale, and otherwise in a clinical state of shock. At that time, he had told me that he would have given me a sedative had he known how much it was going to bother me. With that memory in mind, he understood my argument for stronger post-operative medications, and he wasn’t averse to giving me something to make the after-effects as non-stressful as possible. Good, compassionate, logical man, my dentist.
So, I had five teeth out, getting perhaps 8 or 9 stitches in the gums; had 3 other teeth filed down to pointy nubs (to act as posts upon which to glue the temporary prosthesis); and was given a scrip for twenty-four tabs of Oxycodone.
All in all, I consider that a good day. Rotten teeth removed; nice, white teeth in their places; and a four-day buzz starting as soon as I could get the prescription filled, which was within twenty minutes of leaving the dentist’s office.
By the time I got home, the Novocain was rapidly wearing off. I had no desire to experience any pain between the time of its diminution and the onset of the effect of the Oxycodone, so I popped two pills immediately. Then, to be on the safe side, I popped a third five minutes later.
Onset of Oxycodone takes about 20 minutes, with peak efficacy starting somewhere around the one-hour mark, continuing to deliver pain relief (and other nice effects) for 4 to 6 hours in total, depending upon body weight, speed of individual metabolism, and so on. After about a half-hour, I found myself really digging just about EVERYTHING IN THE HOUSE. Very nice, relaxed, with a mellow yawny sort of background drone in my brain at all times. Don’t operate heavy machinery, but enjoying the company of YOUR WIFE, while watching the Celtics beat Orlando in the playoffs? Highly recommended.
I spent the next two days in a percodanical haze. Scuse me while I kiss the sky.
While it was all very nice, the problem with Ox is that extended use, without adequate sleep, leaves you very shaky. And I mean physically so. The thing is, you know you should get some sleep, and both your body and the functioning part of your brain tell you to go to bed, but things are still so damned interesting that you don’t want to. In addition, when you finally stop moving and put yourself under the covers? Nerve synapses that haven’t been firing go into overdrive. Not pain, mind you; that’s still being taken care of. But you find yourself with twitching legs and mildly itching skin. The itch is pleasant to scratch, but the twitches suck.
Being a person who drank about three pots of coffee, without eating a lot of actual food, did not help to alleviate this condition. I got some sleep, but only in fits and starts. In addition to the twitches and itches, all of the coffee had me getting up to pee every hour or so. I took a short nap the next day, and that helped a little, but I also took more Oxycodone. No complaints, overall, as the waking hours were just fine. No pain, and that’s what I had paid for, but I knew, in the back of my flitting-from-one-subject-to-another-because-all-of-them-were-interesting mind, that getting to sleep again would be a problem that night.
Night came, and I was over-tired. You know the feeling? So tired that you have a long constant yawn going on in your head, but when you lay your head down, and just start to drift off, you tend to wake with a small violent gasp, a sharp intake of breath? There was that, and the twitchy legs and slightly itching skin. I knew I needed to somehow calm myself, otherwise I wouldn’t be any more successful in attaining rest than I had been the previous two nights.
I decided to read a little bit. I picked up a bible study that I’ve been enjoying, written by the late evangelical pastor, Dr. J. Vernon McGee.
Reading from The Word Of God never hurts. In this case, it helped a bit. I was still having some physical shakes, but my head was in a better place. I decided to see if listening to The Word might also be helpful. I slipped a CD into the bedside player. It contained a sermon delivered by Dr. McGee.
(Before you start thinking that I’ve gone off the deep end and put myself in the company of charlatans, let me tell you something about McGee. Not only do I find his teachings enjoyable, and his West Texas drawl entertaining, but he does one thing that no other TV or radio pastor does, and that’s why I’m more-or-less a disciple of his. He NEVER asks for money.)
(Well, let me clarify that. He’s dead. He died back in the 1980’s. So, if he DID ask for money, it would be something of a miracle. The organization he set up prior to his death, Through The Bible, also never asks for money. Sure, if you want to buy a book or a CD, you can. But there is never a broadcast appeal for funds, nor written exhortations via the mail. They are the only ministry I’m aware of with a perfect track record in that regard, so naturally, with my being a contrarian of the first stripe, what dollars I do donate to ministries, they get.)
So, I listened, and got into it somewhat, but still was not peacefully drifting into the arms of Morpheus. Well, actually, since I was taking Oxycodone, it was the arms of Morpheus that were shaking me now and again. I resigned myself to another night of off-and-on sleep. That’s when I heard the small noise.
There are Venetian blinds in the bedroom, thin aluminum ones. And I heard something hit the blinds. Since I had the window open, I assumed a slight breeze was knocking the pull-cord into the slats. I went back to listening to the sermon. Then I heard the noise again, and soon after, again. That’s when I knew that I had a bug in the room with me. It could only be a bug, throwing itself against the window in an attempt to get out, which would have made that noise on such an irritatingly constant basis.
I sat up in bed, turned on the lamp on the nightstand, and looked at the screen. No bug. I looked around the room. There he was, buzzing around fast, bouncing off of every surface available. He hit the blinds a couple more times, but mostly whizzed around near the ceiling, panicked and directionless. Being a bug, he had not devised a systematic approach to his problem. He trusted to blindly flinging himself in random directions, hoping that luck would result in his once again finding the opening he first came through, thus depositing him back outside in the cool night air.
I sighed heavily, I suppose trying to let the bug know my displeasure since no one else was around to hear it. I went and got my Bug Buddy.
Bug Buddy is a marvelous invention for those of us who try to relocate insects rather than just stomping on them. Here’s a picture of one.
You try to put the large end of it, which has a receptacle of sorts, over top of the bug. There’s a lever, built into the handle, which slides a small piece of hard plastic over the opening in the receptacle. Once you trap the bug, you can release him at your leisure. If you’re into such things, you can study him for a while through the clear plastic. I’m more into expediency. I tend to bring the bug outside as soon as I catch him, releasing his sorry bug ass back into the wild.
OK, I got my Bug Buddy and proceeded to chase this bug all over the room. He was moving way too quickly for me to get a real good bead on him. As a matter of fact, he was moving so quickly, bouncing from wall to ceiling to bookshelf to lamp to wall to window to top of a pile of boxes, that I wasn’t even sure what sort of bug he WAS. The configuration definitely wasn’t that of a moth, nor was the speed, but he appeared too small to be a proper bee or wasp. In any case, he was a fast bug and might have had the ability to sting me, so my tracking was also hampered by a fear of being attacked in a fit of buggy panic.
I aimed the Bug Buddy this way and that, going from foot to foot, clad only in my underwear I might add, and ran after the bug as he flew crazily around. He lit for a few seconds on top of a volume of encyclopedias, and I thought I might have him, but just as I climbed up a half-shelf to reach him, and brought the Bug Buddy down near him, he took off again. I climbed down and resumed the chase.
Finally, after about five minutes of this futile hunt, I decided that the only way I’d get the bug out of my room was to throw open the screen window and try to herd him in that general direction. I opened the screen, grabbed a newspaper, and tried to work the bug in the direction of the window.
I lost sight of him. I stopped moving. And I heard no sound! The bug must have flown out the window. I lowered the screen, got back into bed, turned the CD on again, shut out the light, and tried again to drift off to sleep.
And that’s when I heard the sound in the Venetian blinds again.
This time, I didn’t sigh so much as growl. I again turned on the light. The bug was definitely caught in the blinds somehow. I heard him there, but didn’t see him. I grabbed the Bug Buddy. I opened the blinds slowly. And there was the bug, crawling on one of the slats, seemingly unaware of my presence. I brought the Bug Buddy down swiftly, trapping him between a slat and the chamber of the tool. He had stopped fighting. I slid the hard plastic into place, completing the temporary bug-holding chamber, and I then carried the bug to an outside door. Looking at him inside of the Bug Buddy, I still wasn’t sure what he was. My best guess is a small wasp of some sort, but I wouldn’t risk cash on that opinion. I released him outside and he flew away quickly (and, I’d like to think, with gratitude.)
I went back to the bedroom and that’s when I realized something delightful. All of the bug chasing and shelf climbing and shifting from foot-to-foot and other ridiculous activities had calmed me down considerably. I wasn’t shaky in the least. I felt peaceful, relaxed, and definitely ready for a good night’s sleep. And that’s when I remembered my promise to God.
Remember? I had asked for 20 Oxycodone? And I got them? Well, I had said "Thanks!" to God, in prayer, but I still hadn’t made good on my end of the bargain, to somehow glorify Him in return for the favor.
I am of the firm conviction that God sent that bug into my room to accomplish a number of tasks. First, to exercise me in such a way as to calm me down and get me ready for a good night’s sleep. Second, to remind me of my earlier prayer and my need to tell you about it in some way. Third, to supply me with a decent little story via which I could accomplish that task, and I hope this has succeeded. Fourth, to remind me that what appears, at first, to be a curse, often turns out to be a blessing. Fifth, to be reminded of the fact that my willingness to help another creature in peril will often result in more good for me than for the other creature. Heck, if I had just been satisfied with crushing that bug with a swat of some sort, I’d still have been shaking and itching and twitching in bed, and with no good story to tell, but here I was feeling like a new man. And, finally, to get me thinking about how often I’m like that bug, blindly throwing myself around in hopes of luckily coming upon a solution to my problems, when all I have to do is be still and trust in God’s help.
And that’s the story of how God bugged me. It’s a weird little testimony, but it’s the best I’ve got at the moment. If you’re not as religiously inclined as I am, you might just dismiss it as coincidental silliness heightened by drug abuse. Me? As usual, I expect...
... more better stuff, soon.