By Andrew Hall:
I've hijacked my sisters blog.
I meant to do this months ago because a story came into my life that needed to be told and we Halls, being story-tellers, I wanted to tell it. I haven't told a story in a long time but this one was close to me, strong in my mind and it pulled at me in ways that most stories don't. But for some reason at the time, I didn't tell it. I don't know why.
Well, the story changed this week. In fact, someone died. It's tragic and it hurt and I'm still reeling. Now I know, it's time to tell the story.
At this point, I want to give credit to my sister. She is a writer because she writes. I am not a writer because I don't write. The formula is that simple. And because Sara writes, she has become a very good writer. Again, it's that simple. Good job Sara, keep writing.
I originally wanted to call this article, 'Doctors On Drugs'. I wanted to talk to you like Sara talks to you: honestly, upfront, in a Mike Rowe, down-home, back-porch kind of way. I can often hear in my mind, softly in the background, the evening cicadas calling and my nieces and nephews playing in the backyard as I read her blog. I like that kind of scene and it is the sign of a good writer to create a place like that, were we can all meet.
On the porch you can be at your best and most real. On the porch it is usually your best audience because they are your best friends. But the danger of the porch (you have to remember) is that this audience knows you best and they won't let you get away with anything other then you being authentic. My sister has perfected this in her blog and in respect of this tradition, I will do the same.
Months ago, I really wanted to tell you about Dan. He is a patient of mine and no, that's not his real name. I've changed a few other details as well, so don't worry about that. Dan came to my office at 28 years old with back pain, neck pain, trouble sleeping, headaches and migraines; depression and fatigue. All of these were made worse by his morbid obesity.
Being a chiropractor, these are the things I see pretty regularly and frankly, I'm really good at helping people get better. Not just good, really good. I'm not bragging, it's just the truth for those who don't know.
What caught my attention most though was Dan's story.
It was hard to hear, even for a doctor. With the help of his Dad, who was with him at his new patient exam, I heard his story.
Dan told it to me unblinking. He did not hesitate once, he did not turn his eyes, his voice did not waiver, like he was telling me about his morning routine or what kind of work he did. It's not an easy story, so if you are not in the place for this, here is your exit ramp.
At the age of 9, Dan took swimming lessons at the local YMCA. During the time, he and eight other boys, over a period of months, were severely molested and sexually abused by a swim instructor. His parents did not know about this for years. Dan's parents are not neglectful parents either, they are upstanding Christians that hold esteemed places in our community and were/are engaged in their children's lives.
Again, kudos to Sara for writing about talking to your kids about sex and protecting them here. Most parents have no idea of the predators out there. They are there and are very, very real.
By the time Dan's parents found out and the man was brought to justice, the wounds were very deep. So deep and horrific was the abuse, that of the nine boys molested, eight of them committed suicide before reaching 25 years old. Sit on that for a minute. Dan was the only survivor of this abuse.
As I sat and listened to his story in my new patient exam room, this is the part where my hands started to tremble and sweat. I can't remember that ever happening during a new patient exam.
He continued on.
He said that during his late teen years he coped with the abuse by working out and going to the gym. He became quite strong and proficient at lifting weight. I imagine that not only was he trying to find solace in lifting weights but he was trying to build strength so that no one could ever hurt him again. A wall of muscle. But those are just my thoughts.
As he worked out at the gym, he injured his low back lifting weights. A common injury for weight lifters, especially young, inexperienced weigh lifters. Most gym-rats report that at one time or another they have had at least a sprain/strain injury of the back. It was the same for Dan.
Dan's parents, being concerned, took him to the local medical doctor and he prescribed heavy pain medications. Vicodin to be exact.
For those of you who don't know, Vicodin is a very strong pain analgesic, of the opioid family; in the same group as opium, morphine and heroin. It's strong, efficient and addictive. After taking his first dose, Dan remembered thinking, "This is the high I have been looking for." He was 17 at the time.
He told me that a month later he was shooting heroin into his veins on a regular basis. He says he spent the next 10 years of his life an addict. He stole, he lied, he did anything necessary for his next high. When his parents finally threw him out of their house after repeated attempts at rehab, he slept on heating vents during the winter nights on the streets of Boston, stoned out of his mind or in such bad withdrawal that he could barely move. He did this for ten years. Ten years as an addict.
There is a lot of noise in mass media about 'Gateway Drugs' and for good reason. The illicit drugs out there being pushed towards kids are dangerous. But the most available and often times the most addictive 'Gateway Drugs' are the ones in your medicine cabinet right now. The ones that you have forgotten about or the ones you use only now and then when the pain or the headaches get really bad. Those are the ones your kids find and try.
I remember as a young man having four of my wisdom teeth being pulled at once and having a prescription of OxyContin given to me. I took them once right after the surgery and was a total zombie for an entire day. I remember never wanting to be in that state again.
Later that week, I had a co-worker at the restaurant I worked at offer to buy them from me because, "They were a great high. The real professional shit."
I didn't sell them, but I do remember never wanting to be involved with that kind of scene. I was 19 years old, busing tables in a breakfast restaurant in the suburbs.
But back to Dan's story.
Dan continued with his story about drug abuse, the multiple times in and out of rehab, in and out of his parents house. He said that it had all started back with the sexual abuse and wanting to get away from it, wanting to get away from he pain.
He sat in front of me and said that he was now in a place of recovery and that he wanted help with the migraines, the neck pain, the back pain, the obesity he was currently dealing with and he wanted to get his health back on track. He felt like he was finally 'waking up' after 10 years of addiction.
Dan started care with me and I began adjusting him. It was hard for him; he didn't like being touched, (understandable) and he had a hard time getting out of bed some days because of the depression. (I would have too).
Dan did get better. Dan's body responded well and he started down the road to recovering his health. He even got a job at the local Salvation Army helping other addicts to go through the recovery process. He was doing really well.
That was the original story I wanted to tell you: Dan's story with lessons about protecting your kids, knowing that some of the most addictive and dangerous drugs out there are given to you in round orange bottles; that the road to recovery is possible, that even when health seems to be lost, it can be recovered. But all of that is over now. Dan died last week.
His dad emailed our office and told me that it wasn't because of drugs; Dan died in his sleep because of sleep apnea that was made worse by his obesity. His heart stopped and he died, I pray, peacefully and quietly.
I have heard an idea that at certain times in our lives, God gives us an 'out' of this life. We reach a point where this life seems to have taken so much from us: the pain, the despair, the dirtiness of existing in time and space seems too great and God speaks to our spirit and we can choose to come Home early.
The freak accident, the young marathoner dying from a heart attack, the fatal occurrence that would have never happened without perfect timing, a loved one slipping away in their sleep; these things that seem unexplained and tragic really aren't. It is just a life-weary soul whispering to their Maker, "I am ready for Home." and our ever compassionate Creator reaches out and whisks this soul immediately into His Presence. No more pain, no more suffering and with the view of Eternity, the soul understands all of the 'why's' of their journey.
I believe this to be true and I believe that Dan took his 'out' last week.
I'm not writing this to give a lesson at the end, not anymore. I think there are lessons to be learned here if you choose to hear them, but that is not why I write about Dan.
His life, like all of our lives, was too big, too complex, too meaningful to sum up in one simple cliche or sentence like, 'Don't do drugs' or 'Watch out for sexual predators.'
I wrote this because Dan's story touched me, from the time he began to speak during his new patient exam, to the point where his father wrote an email to my office telling me of his death. It is still touching me, affecting me, pushing me deeper into this life. Into the dirtiness, yes, but also into the glory of it; the beauty of each moment and the overwhelming Grace of God that is always with us.
Dan's story needed to be told. Here, on this porch of my sister's creation, here amongst friends and the evening calls of the cicadas, because I am a story-teller and maybe even a bit of a writer still, I stepped up and told it. Thanks for listening.