What’s A Calcaneus?

Answer: the collection of bones that make up your heel.

Near the end of May, I shattered that mighty construction that we all take for granted. Looking back on it, the only thing I feel slightly good about is that I wasn’t doing something foolhardy at the time. I was coming down a flight of stairs, stumbled, and to prevent falling ** over teakettle, I tried to jump to the bottom. The jump was successful; the landing? Not so much. Emergency rooms, medical consultation, surgery, and a post-operative direction to put no weight on the re-constructed body part for three months ensued; I was among the wounded.

I was also introduced to the nebulous world of narcotic painkillers. These were prescribed within hours of the injury. While I don’t consider myself to be particularly soft or intolerant when it comes to pain, I remember calling my wife twice while she was in line at the drug store to inquire what was taking so long to fill the prescription. After the surgery, I spent the next two days in the hospital, hitting the morphine drip button faster and more frequently than a Jeopardy champ. I left the hospital armed with a bottle of episodic relief pills.

As my students and many of my readers know, I’ve devoted the past thirty years to the treatment of chemical dependency. I am blessed with a physical constitution that does not find drugs pleasurable under normal circumstances. I’ve learned the hard (and painful) way that a shattered calcaneus is not a normal circumstance, however. Initially, I was encouraged to take the painkillers, my doctors reminding me that tolerating extreme pain would actually slow or intrude upon the healing process. While I never took the maximum allowable dosage, taking the ‘oxy” posed no ethical problem for me. I needed them, even to get to sleep.

As time passed, blessedly the pain began to ebb. I was still taking the meds periodically , however, and I began to notice curious dynamic. The normal dosage, which previously was offering about four hours of relief, was reduced to affording me about two hours of comfort. After 120 minutes, I was back where I had started, pain-wise. Considering all of the painful stories I had heard from my clients over the years, it occurred to me that I had three choices. Choice #1: Start taking more pills as the duration of relief had shortened. That didn’t seem very appealing. Choice #2: Request an increase in my dosage. That one was even more frightening. Choice # 3: Quit taking them altogether. That was the option I selected.

When I was a young married man, pre children, I took flying lessons. I remember my young instructor making an important point about a single engine plane recovering from a flying-related emergency. He explained, “These little planes are so airworthy that any crash is almost certainly due to pilot error. If you are ever in a panic situation and everything you are doing isn’t working, do this. Take your hands off the yoke and your feet off the pedals. The little planes will automatically right itself into a glide pattern, and you can resume flying once you’ve regained your own composure.”

What, you may be wondering, is the connection between a calcaneus and a single engine plane? And where do powerful drugs fit into this story? Simply this: I believe that our bodies are like a single engine plane. Like the plane, we have tremendous recuperative powers. Ironically, my pain seemed to diminish once I stopped taking the drugs. This certainly had to do with the healing process itself. But I also know that, like the plane, once I got out of my own body’s way (stopped taking drugs), my potential for healing increased considerably. My clients often find themselves in a self-destructive pattern of taking something to wake up in the morning and another pill to fall asleep at night: an ominous cycle of taking a pill to relax and another one to become alert and attentive. They are sadly like an inexperienced and frightened pilot frantically sending their little plane into a tailspin while trying to right it.

As I said before, I attribute my drug-free current situation to a body chemistry that is not normally drawn to them. And I also acknowledge that, in my most painful state, I was happy to have access to them. But my real healing and overall improvement came when I terminated their use.

What is your “drug of choice?” Is it acquired through a prescription pad?” From a bottle? Via “comfort food?” Do you indulge in gossip? D you harbor and nurture resentment? What will happen if you give up that habit? What if you “take your hands off the yoke” and allow your body and mind to right itself?

I don’t like that I shattered my heel. But I like that I’m dealing with it, thanks mainly to my wife who is doing everything possible to help my healing. I believe it has brought us closer and reminded me of how fortunate I am to have her.

What do you need to heal from, and what negative habit or addiction must you release to achieve your recovery.?