Who is Harriston Bass? How does he relate to addiction? Where is he today? Why did Dr. Bass choose to practice medicine? Was he in practice to help or to hurt patients? Was he a good man gone bad? Or was he a bad man made evil?
Disclaimer: I am not licensed or qualified to diagnose, prescribe, advise or even render a professional opinion on addiction other than my own (personal) experience and those who’ve agreed to be interviewed.
Are you (secretly) a part of the invisible epidemic that has hit baby boomers? Are you addicted to opioid painkillers? Were they prescribed by a doctor? Are you self medicating from chronic pain? Mental illness? Emotional anguish? Lonliness? Divorce? Aging? Have you tried to stop and can’t? Have you lied to the doctor to get more? Bought them on the street? Convinced yourself taking the pills outweighs the potential for abuse? Been desperate? Have the pills taken over your thinking? Are you always anticipating and planning out when the next dose will be taken? Looking forward to it? Or are you dreading it?
Opioid addiction is the best kept secret among the baby boomers that is about ready to explode. And in more ways than one.
We are a group who experimented in youth and early adulthood with illicit drugs and alcohol. We also experimented with sex and doing things our way.
We participated in high-impact aerobics, we grounded in repetitive motion sculpting our abs, triceps and asses. We spent long hours running on treadmills going nowhere.
We lifted heavy weights, tried steroids and loved the glamour women and the lifestyles of Dynasty and Dallas. In the seventies and eighties we had little respect for our bodies and even less for our minds.
John Travolta and Saturday Night Fever had us dancing in stilettos into the wee hours of the morning fueled with whiffs of white powder, gulps of Harvey Wallbangers and smoking Marlboro Red’s in the box.
As we grew older and matured we began having children, honing in on our careers and planning for the future.
We quit smoking, hanging out in bars all night and no longer associated with our buddies from back in the day. We experimented with green drinks, cut out red meat and did yoga.
And then it hit: “Seniorville.”
Our bodies were breaking down. Obesity skyrocketed. We began landing on the couch after work for a night of mindless TV, drinking red wine to relax after being hunched over a desk all day with a headset in our ear that had begun to take its toll.
Knees started to hurt, hips were letting us down and backs were giving out. Rotator cuffs gave us fits. We hurt all over. We went to our family physicians and demanded relief. Doctors in the nineties started prescribing Loracet, Percodan, Vicadin, codeine, and prescription strength cough medicine.
We were prescribed a rainbow cocktail of little blue, white and yellow pills that took away the physical hurt. We found the painkillers also temporarily veiled the stress and disatisfaction in our lives from the poor choices we’d made or maybe the consequences from living other peoples lives.
The little colored caplets dimmed the disatisfaction and disappointment that was slowly unraveling, revealing the truth: life is difficult and navigation is sometimes non-negotiable. Not everything turns out like the fairy tales read we believed as children. Life doesn’t always end “happily ever after” and more importantly they forgot to share the in between. There was more to life than a beginning and an ending.
Today there are millions of boomers who are medicating real physical pain and secretly finding relief from mental anguish and emotional disturbance through opioids and alcohol. The painkillers are prescribed (in most cases) for legitimate (chronic) pain. Alcohol is the complimentary ingrediant that enhances the sedative effects of the opioid that lulls one into a hypnotic calm and in many cases breathing stops. Forever.
Inside this dreamy state there lies a perfect storm brewing. When the rainbow becomes the sole support of your every waking moment you are careeneing down a highway to hell. There are only three outcomes from opioid addiction: jails, institutions and death.
The painkillers fuel us through grueling work days. Opioids help us focus and keep us working like automated machines. The painkillers hit the mu-receptors and hijack the reward centers of our brains. They numb our pain (mental, emotional and physical) and mask fatigue. We can work 12-hour days and train for marathons and help our kids with their homework. And we can sleep.
Opioids perform double duty.
At night they help us calm down and sleep deeply for long periods of time. We aren’t awake all night stewing. We gently fall into a restful sleep and wake up looking forward to the first dose that starts our day.
Opioids mask themselves as Nirvana.
Over time Nirvana stops working as efficiently to ease the pain and mask the fatigue as our bodies develop a tolerance.
We pop more pills and wait for that first response from the mu-receptor to connect to the rainbow reactor. We take more and more to ease pain, feel Nirvana and recapture the feeling we found in the beginning But we can’t ever seem to recapture. It can be a slow process, other times the bodie’s tolerance rapidly increases like a runaway train, out of control.
If you think you might be out of control, you are. If you ruminate about the feel good and what you have to do to get there, you are in trouble. If you try and stop taking the pills and anxiety, nervousness and lack of concentration seem to dominate and you can’t find another source of relief, you’re in trouble.
Painkillers are thought a panacea to take the edge off life’s mental and physical hardships. They chemically kill mind, body, and spirit.
What is your life really worth?
Think about it.
And the winner is: Sports West Athletic Club!
One last trip around town and it paid off in spades.
The health club was a storefront nestled inside of a old shopping center looking rather benign from the outside. I didn’t let the exterior deceive me.
I stepped inside the front door and was immediately transformed by the energy and ambiance. The front desk was bustling. There weren’t any guests being waited on, the staff was just busy. They were folding towels, reassinging locker keys, shuffling paper and all were animated and focused on their jobs. Great first impression.
I asked for the membership coordinator and a lean, muscular blonde named Roger met me at the front. He led me to his office first for a bit of qualifying: what was I looking for in a gym? Was I interested in classes, hydrotherapy, personal trainer, TRX, Pilates, Yoga, spinning? Did I play racquet ball? And finally, he asked, did I like socializing? He looked me in the eye and seemed interested in my responses. He didn’t write anything down, we interacted nicely together. He questioned and I answered. So far, so good.
We walked around the weight room(s) and I spied my favorite piece of equipment.
It is a must have for anyone with weak hips, especially those who work sitting down hunched over a desk all day. This contraption flexes, extends, abducts and adducts the hips, stregthening and helps increase range of motion. Physical rehabilitation facilities typically have it, rarely do I see it offered in a gym or health club but when I do it’s a deal maker right out of the box.
We continued our stroll into the main area of the gym where the TRX station was located. It had Bosu balls, sticks, therapy balls, steps, tires, ropes and bands. Everything needed for a functional fitness routine or a high intensity workout.
We hit an area dedicated to abs and core next, and I was excited when I saw this piece of equipment. It looked like I could get a bit of hoop practice and coordination in with my ab workout. And doing it was harder than it looked. Another fun way to work on the menopot that won’t melt away.
And finally we came across what I’d been coveted all along and diligently seeking: an indoor heated pool that was open 25-hours. Added bonus: it was a saline pool, mostly eliminating the dangerous chemical effects of chlorine.
The Athletic Club West also had a designated Pilate’s Studio complete with reformers, yoga and fitness class room, basketball court (full sized), and raquetball courts.
The health club offered a dry sauna, steam room, therapeutic spa, towel service, lockers with keys for daily use, a sitting room, juice bar with free coffee all for no additional cost. It was like being in spa heaven with a workout area on the side.
One of the most important components of change is having the vitality and energy to seize the day. Working out is no longer an option it is a necessity. If you don’t use it you will certainly lose it. I don’t know about you but I’m going down fighting. I don’t want to shuffle around at sixty because my legs are weak with my chin on my chest from osteoporosis and all the other stuff that comes with aging. We are in a battle people.
Change is all about having the courage, energy and wisdom to follow through. It’s the first step for living a radiantly inspired life. Go find a health club today. No excuses. Just do it. You will save yourself untold amounts of grief later on down the road. If you have to justify the cost think about all the time and money spent sitting inside a doctor office being treated for heart trouble, diabetes, cancer and whatever age-related maladies that start happening about now in late midlife.
You are building sweat equity (now and forever) to have a quality life for entering into the golden years.
Happy Birthday Dad!! You were the best father I could have ever had…I remember the words of wisdom you lived by:
Be courteous, find a need a fill it, hustle, and always be yourself.
He grew into a man and became a loving father.
He came from generations of working men who influenced his work ethic.
He had a sister who was 12 years younger and he didn’t get to know her until much later in life.
My grandfather and great uncle who were two of dad’s greatest influences.
He fought in WWll. He was a hero who fought for his country.
He was my dad and I will never forget him.
Fitness Connection was the one. Or so it seemed. On the surface it had all the trappings of the perfect health club:
Sign up, enrollment, and processing fee: a whopping $300!!!
Unless of course I signed up for a personal trainer for another monumental $280 a week for the duration of the contract!!!
I was so bummed out I almost gave up the hunt. Fitness Connection was the last hope around Reno for less than $64 a month and having to get roped into a contract…and no matter what verbiage they used (contract, enrollment, committment, arrangement, blood) it all translated into being locked in by signature and bank withdrawal for the duration.
The membership coordinator used the Zig Ziglar sales pitch. He asked me, “What is stopping you from signing up today?” He smelled the desperation I felt.
“Ah, I don’t want to spend $34.99 a month for a half-assed gym.”
(I didn’t say this directly to “Joe,” of course I didn’t have the nerve to say what I really felt.)
I waffled and hedged and sat through a lecture from a personal trainer (read the closer) trying to convince me it was the right place and perfect time for me to join as Joe sat at his desk staring off into space and picking his nose, waiting for me to fall over and sign the contract.
I got out of there, debit card still intact and told them I needed to check out some other clubs in the area.
I gave it 24-hours and decided to sleep on it.
May 31, 2007
My real estate business was plummeting at a high rate of speed. The death rattle knocking at my door. I was physically and emotionally drained from worrying.
I got up early and tried to look up new stuff on the computer and re-research the old printouts piled up on the side of the computer.
I gave up work and spent the rest of the morning running around for flowers, balloons, cake and put together a gift bag of Mother’s favorite goodies. I also found new things for her to try – it was the only way I could think of to surprise her.
It was Mother’s big birthday today. She was 85 years old and I was going to celebrate and make it a good time for her no matter how badly I felt.
I was exhausted before I got ready to go pick her up and fought putting on make-up and doing my hair. My mood was too morose for celebration but I couldn’t let Mother down today.
I hurried down to the restaurant and Carrie Kenyon, our favorite server helped me hang the balloons and arrange a vase of pinkish-red long-stemmed roses at the head of mom’s favorite table.
I picked mom up shortly after noon and we drove down to the beach. We parked the car and made into the restaurant shortly before the big lunch crowd started arriving.
Carrie came running from across the other side of the restaurant to greet us yelling, “Happy Birthday to my favorite second mom!!”
When Mother saw the decorated table and the pretty flowers that greeted her the look on her face was priceless.
“Oh, honey, you shouldn’t have…but I’m glad you did,” she said, beaming.
We took our time and ordered three-pound market priced lobsters with French fries and coleslaw.
We chatted and noshed on saltine crackers and cocktail sauce while we waited for our meal.
It arrived soon after and it looked divine.
I watched Mother dive into her lobster and chomp on her fries. It erased all the pain I’d felt all morning, seeing her gobble down the delicate meat, butter dripping down her chin, totally immersed in her task of finishing everything on her plate.
It was hard to imagine that just over a year ago she had suffered so with her heart. By electing the surgery we bought extra time, something we thankfully never took for granted. Right then I loved her so much it hurt.
After lunch Carrie brought the lit cake out and the entire restaurant sang happy birthday to her. She basked in the attention and blew out the candles with 85 years of force, making a wish only she was privy to.
After we got home she opened everything in her bag and loved each item, exclaiming over the new things I’d chosen to try.
“You thought of everything, sweetheart, I can’t thank you enough for such a wonderful day. I can’t believe I made it to 85 years old.”
“Well, thank God you did, and we’ll have many more,” believing will all my heart we would, but knowing in my mind she could still die at any moment. I shook off the thought and concentrated on staying in the joyful moments of celebrating.
“You know dad’s birthday is in four days, can we buy some flowers for the grave?”
“Of course,” I said, “Where are we going to celebrate his birthday?”
Mother laughed with delight. “It’s an excuse for another outing precious, we’ll eat wherever you like.”
“Mom, I was just kidding!”
(Dad had died years ago but each year (since) we celebrate the birthday honoring his memory and the family days once removed.)
We chattered a bit more and then I kissed her goodbye and walked out the door. As I moved down the sidewalk and turned around one more time to take a last peek at her. She was standing outside the door waving and blowing kisses, “I love you, thanks again for the best day ever,” she called out loudly.
I blew a kiss back to her and kept on walking; realizing just how much pep had come back in my step, grateful we celebrated life one more time and all was right with the world.
Sweet dreams Mama, R I P (I must carry on. You will always hold a place in my heart.) We truly were soul sisters.
I needed to save my health and regain fitness and vitality. Diet and nutrition simply weren’t enough. Finding the right health club was the first priority after relocating. There were too many to choose from so I took the time at home and did my research.
On the surface the storefront appeared to be an adequate fit. It was in the neighborhood. The gracious woman at the front desk quoted unreasonable monthly fees and justified the cost with little explanation. It woud stretch my budget. It would wind up being a compromise. It didn’t have a pool but there was enough functional fitness equipment and cardio machines to potentially make it work in the short term until I could find something better. I got a seven-day day free trial to test it out.
I love testing out gyms. I used it four times. I paid $35 for the key tag which allowed me 24-hour access and was excited about getting started.
The gym boasted bosu balls for balance, TRX for strength, standard machines and free weights with some added extras such as spinning and heated rollers to ease the soreness out of the muscles (post-workout). There were even a couple of group classes offering yoga and mat Pilate’s. There were no restorative options other than group yoga and some stretching classes and the times weren’t convenient for my schedule.
None of this was enough to get me excited to keep coming back. And more importantly during each visit I couldn’t seem to break the cycle of inertia.It felt like I was going through the motions to keep what little energy I had instead of gaining the strength and vitality I was missing. I didn’t leave the gym feeling refreshed, I left bored and unfulfilled.
In order to use Anytime Fitness for its maximum potential I would need ot hire a personal trainer. Trainer fees started at $55 an hour. And to see (any) results, I’d need to sign up for a minimum of three months.
It was time to convert inertia into momentum. I’d changed my entire lifestyle over the past thirty days and was exhausted. I moved across country into the northwest. I changed job description and my shift was different from any I’d worked in the past. The adrenaline rush from rapid transition sucked the energy right out of me. The changes inspired me emotionally and mentally but physically I was leaking vitality like a chemical spill.
And after officially settling into my new digs I was having trouble just getting out of bed. Of course having to get up at midnight and work the 2-10 graveyard shift wasn’t helping anything either. Grocery shopping and working out were now pared down to chores. My life had been reduced to eating whatever I could find to shove down my throat, and sleeping off and on (when I could), between shifts. I was barely functioning.
Enough was enough.
I had to find a source of activity that would accommodate my crazy (new) work schedule and give me flexibility and regain vitality that wouldn’t put additional pressure on my already taxed immune system.
Fatigue is like being sick. Unless you root out the cause and fix it at the core nothing changes.
Activity was the answer. And not just mindless movement would do. My pursuit had to include restorative motion.
I decided on a health club and it would serve two purposes: I could gain strength and endurance AND restore my health by regaining momentum in a controlled environment instead of the succumbing to the inertia threatening to pull me down into the bottomless black hole of apathy and laziness.
My Nirvana must include:
• Location (close by in order to eliminate the “I’m too tired” excuse.)
• Indoor heated pool (to avoid the “I’m too tired” to lift weights and my feet sore from standing all night at work excuse.)
• Cost effective (I didn’t want getting healthy to eat through cost of living expenses.)
• I didn’t want Gucci or Grunge…I didn’t want to be reminded constantly of fat, frumpy and faded in front of gym rats who prowled the floors erecting egos or the vanity driven divas patrolling for swag.
• The equipment to handle busy times, including a vast assortment of cardio equipment and functional fitness accoutrements readily available since I was getting ready to prepare for new winter hobbies: cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
• 24-hour access most days of the year. No excuses to let days turning to weeks gone by like over the holiday’s when typically we get scattered and involved in too many things pulling us in all directions with little time to spare.
In Reno, Nevada there were plenty of options to choose from. It was a matter of narrowing down the choices.
I’d been living in the southeast for last two years where obesity reined and the entertainment revolved around drinks and dinners or festivals that celebrated food. I lost control of portion control and gained ten pounds in a matter of months. It was depressing and the threat of obesity colliding with middle age was what drove me to make drastic changes.
Change sucks but doing nothing proves much worse. It was going to take drastic measures to produce positive results. Adaptation is uncomfortable, especially adjusting to drastic changes at 59 years old. It can be done. And I was going to prove it so.
It was the beginning growth of a seed I was planting to start my life over again . The best was yet to come.
Her frail body was lying peacefully face-up in the middle of the large cherry wood bed, her hands folded across her chest. The lines across her face had softened. Her pale, waxy complexion was bathed in a soft glow. And I felt her living spirit had already started enveloping and calming the room. She smelled fresh in an antiseptic sort of way. I didn’t miss the chemical odor of death that clung viciously to her inside the confines of the hospital. The gentle peacefulness of the hospice covered us both like being swathed inside a warm blanket wrapped in a protective mother’s arms.
I felt her spirit casting its bittersweet sorrow across the room. The air was filled with sadness. She was holding on. And I still wasn’t fully prepared to let her go. Death was imminent.
Her chest continued rising and falling at a steady rate. I held her hand and talked to her, willing her to respond to the sound of my loving voice and my tender touch.
They said her hearing would be the last to go.
It was getting harder to smooth back her hair from the expressionless face. It physically hurt me now to caress the soft pink cheeks. I felt my enormous love for her crushing both of us.
I had to let her go.
It was then that a vision appeared and I remembered the little Eastern Star Ritual book in Mother’s personal effects. I reached inside the suitcase and grabbed the little gem and held it close to my heart for comfort.
As a child I used to peek inside the worn pages looking for secrets to be revealed but I wasn’t old enough to read. The tiny book was always hidden under precious handkerchiefs and beaded clutches inside her top dresser drawer. I watched Mother refer to this book often; as far back as I could remember.
Its tattered yellowed pages were like an old familiar friend coming back for a long overdue visit. I clutched the small, hardbound gem in my hands and rubbed my thumbs along the smooth worn cover, seeking guidance that I’d watched mama once find for so many precious years of her life.
Masonic rituals ran deeply inside our lineage, on both sides of the family. Mother had kept the secrets of the Star for 87 years, passed down by my grandparents and great grandparents from day gone by.
I thought far back to the precious years that hugged the innocence of my youth. I couldn’t forget the lonely winter nights that I’d spent without mama when she left to tend to her secret work. I was always frightened she might forget me and never come back home. I treasured the softness of the fur on her wraparound mink cape that used to brush up against my wet cheeks each time we kissed our goodbyes. I remembered the glimmer from the swish of her formals competing against the sparkling diamonds that dotted the blankets of glistening snow and the crunch of her ugly black boots that left the lone set of footprints behind, as she disappeared into the cold, dark and still nights. She used to tell me that the secrets of the Star were in the name of our Heavenly Father.
Now, I opened the book and began slowly reading the sacred text, grateful for the wisdom the five points of the Star might reveal to me in the final hours of Mother’s life.
I wept uncontrollably as I read the words carefully and gained clarity. The Eastern Star illuminated five heroines from the Bible who illustrated teachings of moral excellence from the All Seeing Eye. The good deeds that were done in secret were the embodiment of the Order’s devotion to God.
Words such as honor, truth, justice, charity, hospitality, fervency, moral obligations, fidelity, constancy, light, purity and joy danced across the pages of the little book as it illuminated the All Seeing Hand through the Order that Mama had dedicated her life to.
She had worked relentlessly within the radiant dimensions of the Star in the Spirit of love. She was a light worker in the name of truth, justice and beauty in her devotion to God and her love of people.
In the back of the book I found the funeral rites dedicated to the sisters in the Order of the Eastern Star. I began reading (out loud) the passages. The rites comforted me, as I read, re-read and prayed incessantly, hoping that as I continued to find clarity, Mother would find the peace she needed to let go.
Moments after I finished reading the last of the rites I began weeping uncontrollably, again. I palpably felt her presence in the room slowly slipping away.
I now understood that I was playing a part in an orchestrated concerto being conducted by God. He had revealed to me her purpose here on earth, and entrusted me to help conduct a part in helping her through the last leg of her journey, ascending into her eternal home.
At 12:38 she took her last breath.
I reluctantly released my mother’s hand for the last time and gently kissed her velvety cheek goodbye.
Seventeen years ago my father was still alive and offering his advice and wisdom to a very troubled middle-aged woman (me) who had lost her way. His next to last gift was the note above, from the desk of a fighter pilot (he was P47 fighter pilot in WWll): He and my mother were pulling for me – I was in a battle for my life – finding the courage to fight addiction and seeking the path to freedom and the release from the chains that bound me.
Sixteen years ago (a month or so before he died) he gave me ‘A Short Guide to a Happy Life.’ He gave me this book inscribed, hoping it would be of some help along the way… and it has been. The simple words of wisdom remind me to stay in the moment, show up, listen, and find laughter every day.
My dad died suddenly and didn’t live to see me find freedom from addiction. He didn’t live to know I found some semblance of happiness along the way…and he didn’t live long enough to know I would someday truly find peace and serenity in “just being.”
One day he was here and the next day he vanished. May 7th marks the before and after. My dad died on this day, sixteen years ago leaving trace evidence behind. But he left one thing, the most important I believe: he left a part of him embedded deep inside of me. There was a certain wisdom and understanding I didn’t have before he left this earth – he tried to instill these in me before he vanished forever, much too soon. My stubborness and rebellion died with dad, but it was too late for him to see his only daughter break free, he was never coming back. It took the silencing of his voice and the whispering of the wind to help me gain clarity.
I love you dad. May your soul and your glory be with One and your light continue shining down from heaven.