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The Death of Prince

When I heard Prince had been found dead, I right away thought: drugs. No, not necessarily a heroin overdose, but when people in ever greater numbers are dying too young–found dead—and there’s been no talk of going downhill from cancer, no car accident, well, the involvement of prescription drugs is certainly what springs immediately to my mind.

True, Prince’s autopsy report hasn’t yet been made public, but it wasn’t long before Percocet was mentioned, and today we get the story that Prince died just one day before a famous addiction specialist was scheduled to fly to his aid. This is revealed as a tragedy of timing, as if he missed being saved by just one day.

But it’s not that simple. When it comes to getting off narcotic painkillers, money’s little help. As I suffered through withdrawal coming off of Oxycodone after my knee replacement surgery, I’m sure a sympathetic doctor holding my hand and encouraging me would have been better than the help I got—which was basically nothing—but in the end, it’s all down to the addicted patient. The most famous, high-priced doctor around pointing out you have to stop taking the drugs will not spare you the horrors. Doctors don’t have a whole lot of tricks in their bags for helping people deal with this addiction—never mind that in so many cases the addiction began at the prescription pad of some fellow physician.

What they don’t talk about in most addiction stories is just how long a person has to feel perfectly horrid long after they’ve stopped “using.” Is this because so few people ever actually get off this stuff and have the story to tell? Even in tales of recovery, it seems to me the physical difficulties are downplayed. I wonder if it’s possible that addicts feel they’ll sound whiny if they talk about this. Maybe they think others wouldn’t be sympathetic because they are, after all, addicts?

Maybe that’s the way I felt before I went through this myself—as judgmental as the next person. Now I have nothing but the sincerest admiration for anybody who can get themselves off these brain-damaging drugs and stay off. Since I have nothing to feel guilty about, I have no problem speaking up and pointing out that withdrawal is truly hell, and our medical system better get its act together in a hurry to deal with restrictive new prescription protocols for opioids, and all the people who are soon going to be ushered off of their painkillers and into this horrid illness.

I’m hoping my upcoming memoir—Accidental Addict--will help shed light on all this. I’ve been receiving some wonderful pre-publication endorsements, including this one from Dr. Andrew Kolodny, Executive Director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing: "I hope this timely book gets widely read. Linda Crew’s experience has been shared by millions of Americans and many have lost their lives. The medical community has accidentally created an epidemic of addiction by overprescribing narcotics, and now everyone, including prescribers, needs to know how easily these drugs can destroy lives."

So sad about the loss of the talented and popular Prince, but for every famous person who dies this way, there are thousands who die without headlines, becoming only another statistic in the CDC’s alarming new reports of the rising rates of overdose deaths from prescription drugs.  Read More 
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Horizon Gazing

I just finished reading—and loving—Maria Semple’s novel WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE. It did what my daughter Mary and I agree our favorite books do; it took me, with delightfully snarky authority, to places I’ve never been, and let me listen in on pockets of people I will never know: The culture of Microsoft, Seattle real estate, architecture in Los Angeles, the MacArthur Genius Grants, and an amazing trip to Antarctica. I particularly enjoyed Semple’s West Coast take on things, and the fact that none of her areas of exploration involve anything to do with yet another view of life in Manhattan.

Because she had me believing every detail, one sentence jumped out at me. The father explains to his daughter that, “When your eyes are softly focused on the horizon for sustained periods, your brain releases endorphins. It’s the same as a runner’s high.”

Wow. So that explains it. My husband and I have noticed that we can’t seem to read with any efficiency while sitting on the beach. Our eyes keep drifting up. I’ve always described it as the scene simply being too compelling, but now Maria Semple offers the science behind it: gazing at the horizon is a better brain fix than anything anybody can write.

I guess this also explains why I’ve always longed for a cabin with a porch facing West, and now that I have it, why it feels so good to me to sit there and gaze across the valley of young trees to the forested ridge beyond.

Seven months ago today I had total knee replacement surgery. I’m doing okay with the knee itself. I’ve had a bad knee almost my whole life, ever since I knelt on a sewing needle at fifteen, so, no big deal there. The hard part has been detoxing from four months of Oxycodone. My brain, apparently, has to learn how to pump out the endorphins on its own again, and it sure is taking its sweet time about it.

People have always known about this horizon gazing, of course, even if they didn’t know the science. Isn’t it right there in the King James version of the Bible?

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

A good RX for me.

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