Take the Pain

Friday, August 1, 2014

Lemon Boy Tomatoes-Bird Back 40
The calendar says it's only been two weeks since I last put pen to paper. But to be honest -- it seems like eons ago. Three weeks ago life was grand. That pesky Achilles tendon that kept me out of the garden had finally healed up. The boot was off. Bill Bird was back in his element -- in the garden where he belongs -- blowing through one delayed project after another.

And then -- wouldn't you know it? I pushed that envelope yet a wee bit too much. Even though I promised myself that I would take it easy -- I knew those heirloom tomato plants that I'd just staked up three weekends ago would enjoy a nice long drink of liquid fertilizers.

I use a combination of liquid organic fertilizers in the garden. I've been hooked on a product called Maxicrop, for example, ever since Farmer Fred Hoffman was kind enough to share some with me many, many moons ago when the wife that is Venus and I first started this North Natomas garden assault. Combined with another organic fish fertilizer that I'd obtained from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply in Nevada City, the fertilizer solution has always resulted in out-of-this-world tomato production.

Miracle Tomato Producer
Sure it takes time to fertilize 28 tomato plants with this liquid fertilizer solution, but the eye-popping production was worth it.

It didn't really dawn on me that hauling five gallon buckets filled with water and fertilizer solution from the garage to the backyard would put much stress on the back. I was more concerned about the foot that had just come out of a walking boot to be brutally honest. I wasn't thinking about the back.

And what a terribly bad thing to not think about.

As a veteran of many back problems, plus at least one back surgery, I can tell you that once you hurt the sciatic nerve in the spine, you're done for. The pain, however, is not immediate. It starts as an annoyance a day or two after the injury. And, depending upon the severity of the injury, that tickling annoyance of pain slowly increases to a level of gut wrenching, soul-killing, pain that is hard to describe.

There is no relief from this pain. Lying down doesn't help. It only makes it worse. Sitting only serves to increase the jolts of pain that the injured sciatic nerve is sending into your legs, and yes, even testicles. It is a pain like no other. And it was all mine, mine, mine. I owned it. All of it. I did it to myself. Three or four days after pinching the sciatic nerve, I couldn't move from the only contorted spot I'd found that temporarily relieved the shockwaves of pain.

It was, at this point, where I allowed waves of negative thinking to take control of my mind. What had I done to myself? How could I possibly screw up this back again after going through $15K of highly successful back surgery nearly ten years ago? How can I live with this pain? What about my job? My career? I couldn't move from the spot I was anchored too, let alone throw on a suit and tie.

Narcotics offered some relief. Prescription pain killers like Percocet, Morphine, Flexeril and many others offered the only road to relief that I could find. And while this road is nice for awhile, it's also a trap. Narcotics don't solve the problem. They merely mask the pain. Narcotics also leave you unable to function, especially in a work setting. And forget about setting foot in a car!

I spent a solid week -- my vacation week for the year oddly enough -- in this narcotics fog. The recipe called for pills in the morning, pills in the afternoon and pills before heading off to bed. With each passing day, the fog grew deeper. What was today? Wednesday? Was tomorrow Friday? Where did I leave the Percocet?

I was in no shape to return to work when I finally did just that. The pain levels were still very high, but the narcotics continued to mask it. On that first day back, a co-worker remarked, "your face is as red as a stoplight!" Simple tasks, like answering a phone call, suddenly weren't so simple anymore. And why was my voice so high?

It was at this point where I realized that allowing myself to sink into a pit of pain-killing narcotics for a week really wasn't the best of ideas. Instead? I should have just taken the pain. And that's when I decided to dump the pills. And when I say dump? I mean, DUMP. There is really only one way to confront the abuse of narcotic pain-killers. It's called "Cold Turkey."

It was also about this time where I ran across one of my favorite epics dealing with the Vietnam War. Platoon not only related a fantastic story of what our fighting soldiers faced in Vietnam, the Academy Award Winner for Best Picture in 1986 also gave rise to a number of great young actors like Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen and many others.

But it's one line from that movie that stuck with me one night while I slowly dried out from the narcotics I'd used to mask my back pain. It's a battle scene where several soldiers are wounded and one even loses his life. It's a line where Berenger tells a screaming soldier to "take the pain." And suddenly, I knew what I had to do: Take the pain.

It's been five or six days since I made that decision. My back aches as I sit at this desk and type this prose. But I'm smiling because I know it's a pain that isn't half as bad as it was two weeks ago. It means surgery may not be needed. The falling levels of pain might indicate some future time in a garden setting. But -- don't worry kids -- I won't overdo it this time. That's a promise.