Vanish

You struggle to breathe

Your lungs groan under the weight of a million cigarettes
Your body will not heal, nor will you allow it to
You prefer to smoke tobacco than to breathe, you tell me
Your liver is hardened
Fluid builds up in your legs, abdomen and lungs
You bleed into your GI tract
Again and again
Requiring dozens of blood transfusions
Until when?
You prefer to drink than to live, you tell me
Your blood harbors viruses and bacteria
Years of IV drug abuse riddle your veins
My eyes draw lines between the scars on your skin
And spell out your pain
Your body is massively obese
You’ve had just desserts
Your blood is dangerously sweet
The food on the menu is not nourishing
With vibrant foods, we could all be flourishing
Instead we are toxic
Now you’re turning hypoxic
Your own body gets in the way of breathing
Rather than a vehicle, your body is your handicap
Too much mass to move
Stumbling, you tumble into my view
Bullet wounds have torn right through you
Senseless violence, what kind of freedom is this?
We reserve the right to die at the hands of another at any time
I want to take all the suffering I see
Concentrate that energy inside me
And use it to wipe away cigarettes and liquor stores,
Smash opioids off the face of the planet, and while I’m at it
Take my magic wand and with a swish banish sugar from our lips
Eliminate weapons with one wish
I’ll water that seed of hope with the tears of those who know, so it will grow
And we shall be sheltered in our old age by the tree planted in our youth
We’ve suffered enough to learn how to thrive in our world- at least we’ve discovered what not to do.
I have a dream that tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, processed foods, and guns will vanish.
I realize that this is unlikely to happen for a while, as there are profits to be made and suffering to be had.
Taking into account the billions of healthcare dollars it costs to deal with lung disease, liver disease, drug addiction, diabetes and gun violence, let alone the immeasurable cost of lost lives and poor health, how can we afford to carry on the way we have been?
If a substance is harmful, let it vanish.
Why hold on to that which is no longer serving us?
We can do anything with our infinite human potential.
We alone can change our lives and leave the world better than we found it.
Let’s do what we can before we vanish
Do something today
There is no guide book
Vote with your dollars, your actions, your thoughts
Breathing in gratitude, I thank you

Pain

Pain and addiction.

I walk the line between giving too much and giving too little.

Rarely do I get it right.

Rarely do I feel right with myself when I prescribe opioids.

Knowing what lies on the other side of pain relief, knowing the train wreck waiting at the end of the line, knowing the lifelong prison sentence that opioid dependence brings- held hostage in our own skin, til death do us part.

Too many loved ones have died too young from overdosing.

How can I justify prescribing a substance that could suddenly and unapologetically kill someone I’ve never met, somebody’s beloved son or daughter, a curious teen who wanted to feel comfortable in their changing body, experimenting at a party, sampling the medicine cabinet

I want to feel comfortable too.

You complain of pain that you’ve had for years and expect me to fix in an instant.

You say there is a national opioid epidemic, but that you are not a part of the problem.

You say that tylenol and ibuprofen don’t work on you. You say that you need at least Percocet.

You say that other people have been prescribed more for lesser reasons.

You become bitterly enraged if I hesitate, and sickly saccharine if I yield to your request.

You shout that I wasted your time if you don’t get what you want. It kills my spirit to prescribe you opioids, because opioids are, in my humble opinion, the worst medicine- the most risk for the least benefit. With opioids, there is no healing, only the creation of an unnecessary problem without a solution.

It makes me want to leave medicine when I prescribe the medicine you beg for. I’m not practicing medicine for my health, so if I’m not ultimately benefitting your health, then what the hell am I here for.

Can’t you feel my pain? I’m so damn uncomfortable in this drug-dealer role.

If we reserved opioid use for more select scenarios, like only metastatic cancer or the immediate post-operative period, perhaps opioid dependence would be prevented for many who have yet to be born.

However, there are more drug profits to make and more blood to spill before change will come.

The whole scene makes me ill.

If I wanted to deal drugs, I wouldn’t have put myself through the brutality of medical school and residency. I could’ve just dropped out of high school and saved myself a lot of hassle. That might sound cold, but my pain ignites my fire. You didn’t ask about my pain.

I don’t want to be part of this system because I feel like I’m doing more harm than good.

I’m trying to do right in a world of wrong.

I swallow my words until they explode in a song.

Nobody hears my melody because I work all day long.

Sing sweet nightingale.

My Corner Drug Dealer

My dealer waits for me
On every corner of every town in every state
Their supply never runs out and their drug
temporarily makes me feel great                                                                                               Until withdrawal begins, though I’ve yet to withdraw for long                                                             My drug is everywhere and my dependence is strong

My dealer is every store
My drug is sugar
Sugar finds its way under my skin
Even when I think I’m not going to let it in
It is suddenly in my hands, then melts in my mouth
My gastrointestinal tract welcomes it
My blood carries it around
It causes little fires everywhere in my body through inflammation
It over-taxes my pancreas which struggles to produce enough insulin to handle the copious amounts of sugar I pour into myself
Sugar never stays long on my pantry’s shelf
While vegetables, the true heroes of this story
Wilt in the fridge in unsung glory                                                                                                You are neglected but not forgotten, dear salad greens

Sugar comes in an endless variety of colorful packages
At my corner drug store, it was on sale today
So I easily threw my vague intention to abstain away
It doesn’t take much
For me to justify buying another sugar rush                                                                                                         When it comes disguised with vitamins, fiber, probiotics and protein                                               and covered with velvety dark chocolate                                                                                       It is even organic, for Chrissakes                                                                                                       A wolf in sheep’s clothing

In the throes of my addiction,
I fool myself into believing that my affliction is not so bad                                                         I will stop after I finish what I’ve got
It is already bought, so I better use it
I’m just using it because I have it
Otherwise, it’s a waste of money, right?
A person’s gotta eat, and I need energy for my busy life

I know that in reality
My drug will finish me
It is only a matter of time
Until my body won’t be able to stand the abuse anymore
Sooner or later the drug will crash through my door
Crush me helpless on the floor
It will be too late to un-do what I spent a lifetime doing then
One mouthful of sweet poison at a time

My willpower is weak when I am stressed out and hungry
I wish that my corner drug dealer would stop tempting me so
If sugar was less ubiquitous, not so easily found
How might that boost your wellbeing, help you reach your health goals?
How much would it radically improve the health of our nation, our world?
How sweet would it be to see our epidemics of obesity and diabetes decrease?                Tell morbidity and mortality to go bark up someone else’s tree
We may never see in our American lifetime                                                                               An end to the societal sugar overdose
But I want to plant the idea seed
And see if it grows
Maybe someday I will quit sugar
If only for today                                                                                                                            Today was not the day                                                                                                                      But tomorrow still could be