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Essay: "Psychic Experience"

Floating on Poppy Dreams

My first experience with major medication was under a physician's care. I had tried pot and alcohol enough to know I was prone to enjoy being high more than most. At fifteen, both my legs were badly broken when I was hit by a car and morphine was prescribed to me. I liked it.

Trapped in traction devices to straighten my crumpled bones, my legs slowly began to heal while I dreamed in color for the first time and got good at drifting along, barely conscious. Mother would shush my visitors and tell them I was sleeping as I watched through slitted eyes, entertained by hiding in plain sight. Unless I liked the visitor, I'd just watch and listen quietly until they left. Trouble arrived in the form of a dream that I shouldn't have told mother about. She was waking me up for some reason and I had been floating in the air surrounded by rustling leaves in full fall colorations from red to yellow and glowing like neon. As I floated back to my bed, my mother called and I suddenly fell, hit the floor and then bounced back into the bed. As soon as I awoke, however, I found that I hadn't moved at all. I couldn't. Soon after, the doctor and my mother were trying to change my medication and cutting the doses. The pain came screaming, but it was already too late.

Two things occurred: first, I got an injury that would hurt for the rest of my life; second, they had taught me that there were drugs that could make me feel all better no matter where the pain might be. This was not a good combination for a young man genetically predisposed to be easily addicted.

For years my redneck background let me resist the needle's call. We rednecks know all those dope shooters are the real drug addicts. We're just drinking booze, swallowing pills, and smoking pot every day to have fun. It's not the same at all. Yeah right! It was inevitable that I would stick a needle in my arm with that crowd when the pain got too great to bear. At 24, that time came. It was after the loss of my Uncle Joe, which was a year after the loss of my sister, Dorothy. At the time, I was alienated from my family by my smoking pot and living in a dump apartment surrounded by real addicts. The day I learned Uncle Joe had died I had gotten paid and a girlfriend told me she knew where to get some pills to make the pain go away. When she explained they had to be liquefied and injected, I didn't care. I was hooked and crazier than I'd ever been. I would do anything for another shot- lie, steal, or kill; I just wanted the pain to go away. It worked for a time and then I went to prison and lost everything, even hope for a while.

Knowing what I know now about myself, I wish they'd never given me any pain medication. Hurting wouldn't have killed me. Addiction destroyed my life and the ease of my addiction taking control of my life took root with the first shot of morphine and the floating on poppy dreams.

In prison, I would take any kind of dope to change my perspective. Antihistamines were a favorite, as were the side effect medications prescribed to psychiatric patients. It was on one such binge that I wrote a letter while high. They quoted back the paragraph they had questions about. It was about goat beards and made no sense and I had to admit that I didn't know what I was saying either because I was high. Why would I pay to be made stupid?

That was the time that I began to get better. Today, I do not take any drugs that are not necessary for continued health and I wish that I didn't have to take those. Much of the medication I misused in my life was prescribed to me, but I didn't need it. I had to lie to get it. Prescription drugs, however, are not excuses for taking drugs, especially when they are not needed.

Today I have one addiction left. As always, each addiction I got rid of was replaced by a new one. And once I finally find one to replace them, it rages out of control. My new one is writing. When I need to change my state of mind, I turn to my writing. No other drug has ever done so much to make the pain easier to bear.

-Daniel H. Harris