Well, really, it isn’t a conundrum. I’m just being bad, and I know it. But I need some kind of guidance, or another sensible voice to chime in and help me along. My problem is simple: drugs. I’m not saying I’m a crack addict or anything, it’s nothing like that. It’s a very basic, simple conflict of principle that I’m wrestling with. Let me elaborate.
For the past several years, I’ve fought back pain. The past couple years have been worse than normal. Worse to the point that I’ve started having trouble managing it. It’s slowing me down, limiting my activities, affecting my mood, and disrupting my sleep. Late last year I flexed my job benefits and broke down enough to see a doctor. I don’t see doctors. I can only recollect one other time I’ve gone for a problem, when I got a throat infection about three years ago. The doctor was fairly helpful, and among other things, prescribed a pain killer. Hydrocodone. It worked great. While it obviously does nothing to fix the problem, it numbed the pain, helped me sleep, and generally allowed me to gather myself. I am not addicted (so far), let me be clear about that. That’s not the issue.
The issue is Buddhism. When I decided this was clearly the right thing for me, I really tried to subscribe to it through and through. This was about three or four years ago, and I’ve been more successful in some areas than others. I never did drugs or anything before that, but I did drink. I was young, and generally that’s what guys do when you’re young and get together. Since then, I’ve not touched alcohol. It was tough at first, now it’s not an issue, sort of. I say sort of because the pain lately had me literally on the edge of saying screw it, getting drunk would be preferable to the pain. That scared me. The fact that I was nearly willing to throw away a principle that I have given myself to so thoroughly was part of what got me to the doctor.
So now here I am, taking hydrocodone. The conflict arises from the principle that Buddhists abstain from mind altering substances. Some people even argue that one should avoid things like caffiene. The mind, above all, is to be cherished. Cultivating good mindfulness is paramount to the religion, as that is the path to Truth and nirvana. I know that ultimately I shouldn’t take these on that premise. A prescription drug is no different from an illicit one just because it’s legal, they both have equal power to take control of your mind away from you. But if I don’t, I’m in pain, and that on it’s own is “mind altering,” in my opinion. When pain so totally affects your life, it’s hard to see through clearly, and I’m nowhere near having meditation techniques that can block it out. I can offer a million rationalizations, and I know that none of them stand. The fact is that I feel guilty about the whole situation.
I’m not sure what I need. I want someone to tell me that I’m making the right choice, but that might not be what I actually need. The fact is, I’m pretty sure I’m wrong, but I’m afraid of the alternative. Suffering is a base principle of Buddhism, and I am dealing with it in a very basic fashion: physical suffering. I feel like I need guidance for this issue, because the whole situation has left me unable to get my bearings and find the right path. I’ve lost my mindfulness, and as a result feel exposed and unarmored, and it’s that kind of sign that tells me I’m making poor choices on this matter. I know this might sound silly to a lot of people, you’ll just say “Take the pills if they make you feel better, and work on getting better.” But for 96% of Americans, their religion doesn’t really get in the way of this kind of treatment. So help me, guide me.