Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Speaking Words of Wisdom (Teeth)

As I type this blog post my son is at the oral surgeon's office getting two wisdom teeth pulled. Not that big of a deal, really, for a 24-year-old man. Or for his parents. Unless that 24-year-old man is a recovering addict.

This is the first time in my son's nearly 19 months of sobriety that he's going to be faced with a decision regarding pain medication. I'm guessing that the standard procedure following the extraction of a couple of wisdom teeth is for the doctor to send the patient home with a prescription for Vicodin, or some other prescription opioid pain killer.

But as the father of an addict in recovery, I'm worried about that possibility. To his credit, so is my son. He talked to the doctor openly about his addiction before the actual surgery started. The doctor said the teeth looked like they'd come out pretty easily and that the pain might not be that bad. Here's hoping he's right and that my son can get by with some 800mg Motrin.

If the pain is terrible, my son told my wife that he's thought about getting the prescription pain killers and having his girlfriend keep them and dispense them to him only as needed and prescribed. I'd be lying if I said that idea didn't concern me. At this point, putting any opioid into my son's body doesn't seem smart to me; even if it's prescribed by a doctor.

I'm hoping the pain isn't too severe and that my son can suck it up and get by with a non-opioid pain reliever. But I also know it's not my life and it's not my decision. That said, I will say a little prayer asking that my son's higher power helps get him through this.

Addiction changes lives forever. Things "normal" people don't think twice about--like getting pain meds after having some teeth pulled--aren't so simple for addicts in recovery. Or their parents. And that's the tooth. (Sorry...I couldn't resist.)


  1. Dean,

    Great post and sentiment. Since stopping the vicodin shuffle myself a couple of decades ago, I always wince when life happens on life's terms with medical/dental appointments, etc.

    A great argument for taking pristine care of oneself, but dental happens so what to do? I love your approach of "do what's in front of us." Yes, perhaps Motrin will do the trick and it's going to be a win-win: If your son can "suck it up" w/o the big daddy stuff, another recovery milestone. But if he DOES need the meds–for what they're actually prescribed for–and take them with a lot of help and consciousness, another recovery milestone.

    I know...easy for me to cheerlead from here, but with a Dad like you and an open, honest and willing son like you've got, I'll bet in retrospect you will not have had to get mental about this dental incident and das da tooth!

    Rootin' for you!

  2. Great post, man. I felt compelled to reply based on my experience with addiction, and obviously that has little to nothing to do with your boy.

    So I don't care who you are, any addict who walks walks away from wisdom tooth surgery with painkillers isn't serious about staying sober or getting better. Sure it may be painful, but it's not impossible. In fact, the truth is we never need painkillers for anything. All pain can be endured, in my opinion. Leaving with a script for opiates means I'm looking to get high. So if that's the case, you'll want to pray.

    Having had the same surgery as well as wrist surgery and abdominal laparoscopic surgery with no painkillers, I can tell you that it was simply my 'willingness to go to any length' that made it an easy decision. Plus what example am I if I cave to something as ridiculous at minor day surgery?

    And what helped drill this decision home was knowing about the nature of addiction and the physical allergy that we addicts have. Putting any opiate or other drug into my system will set off this allergy and trigger the phenomenon of craving - that is to say that I will begin to crave more the very instant that drug is absorbed into my bloodstream via the small intestine and hits the reward system and CNS.

    At any rate, the second I've made the decision to accept a narcotic prescription, I've relapsed. To note, I've had several friends who've done the, "Oh, it's cool, my girlfriend is gonna divvy them out to me, man." They all relapsed. Anyway, the above is what I'd tell a sponsee if he bothered me with this question that he can well answer for himself if he's serious at all about growing spiritually, or just serious about his recovery. Hope this isn't in poor taste, as trust me, these thoughts truly have nothing to do with your son. Just all too familiar with this exact scenario.

    Charlie P.
    The Privileged Addict

    P.S. What might be in even lesser taste is that this is a message I would pass along to him, from a recovered addict who has had great success in adopting the attitude to reject any and all mood-altering substances out of fear alone that they will set off my allergy, prevent me from getting better and growing spiritually, and break my connection to God.