When last we left the timeline of events, I was being introduced the latest, greatest drug to help opiate addicts gain control of their lives back, Suboxone. While I am not going to get up on my soapbox and hoot and holler about the nature of that particular drug, I will say it really helped me get my life in order.
There was no dope sickness, and my doctor at the time said I was the perfect candidate for using it daily as maintenance, and I was more than okay with that. Having conveniently forgotten time after time where heroin had gotten me, I never gave it a second thought. For about 9 months, I was on the wonder drug, and had come to a point in life where a girl from my workplace had moved into my apartment. Coinciding with this lifestyle modification, I had made the decision to be completely drug free. After all, my doctor told me to just cut down my dose from 8mg to 4mg, and finally to 2mg. At that point he said I could just stop and suffer no ill effects.
Not a problem, as I had already been taking just 4mg to double the length of my prescription. After all, the monthly doctor visits and the cost of the pills themselves ended up being pretty expensive. I was apprehensive, but remembered how painless my initial detox was, so I figured getting off the orange (actually says it is lemon-lime flavored, so why the color orange?) tablets would be smooth sailing. After all, this was not heroin. Having kicked so many times in the past, once even cold turkey in jail, this would be a breeze…
I was not expecting category-I hurricane winds to role play that breeze, and certainly never dreamed that it would stall over my house, with no signs of movement. After 5 days and a doctor not willing to prescribe the archaic combo of clonidine and some sort of tranquilizer, like Librium or Valium, that does help some to get through some of the symptoms, I picked up the phone and dialed a number I should have long ago erased. That night I slept, peacefully, deeply, choosing to completely ignore the fact that I went back to old faithful.
Before long, my girl had moved out, my apartment possessions of value had long ago been sold off to the first bidder and I had nowhere to go. Like any solid transient, I moved back down to South Florida, carrying clothes and a brand new bottle of salvation, back on the Suboxone. What followed was a whirlwind of life changers…meeting the woman of my dreams, getting married and buying a home. This can’t be right, Mike Janflone is not only alive, he has gotten his slice of the American Dream? Are we talking about the same guy?
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Chance. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fate. In one regard, the crazy conglomerate of life experiences brought Ann & I together. It is one reason I never use the word regret, because I am the sum part of every decision I had made, or had made for me at times. Driving home from the vet, in a car 3 weeks off the lot, a mere 4 blocks from home, I was hit by a drunken 21-year-old girl. She took a turn way to fast, and ended up slamming into my driver’s side door. The result, 3 herniated discs, and some good old-fashioned pain. I got through it, but one particularly long day on the line, chef, I was in obvious discomfort. When a young co-worker asked if I was okay, I just said, “My back is killing me, I don’t suppose you have any pain killers on you?”
“No, but they are easy to get.”
This was my introduction to the Florida opiate problem, fueled by ridiculous “pain clinics,” blues, as they are often called, very appropriately in fact, were everywhere. I would buy from this kid from time to time, and eventually, the physical therapy and some much-needed rest got me over the hump. I often wonder why I couldn’t have driven just a little slower, so that my position on the road would be different. Still, I moved past all of that, and sunk into my beautiful Ann’s embrace. My dream was still very much intact.
Fast forward about 8 months, and driving home from work…I left 10 minutes early that night, because I had to get gas, and was eager to just get home. Back to my perfect company. If I wasn’t day dreaming and missed my turn, that would have been plenty to spare me the next butting in by Chance. Going about 50 MPH, on a poorly lit road, my lights illuminated Fate, which in this case was wearing the disguise of a 1998 Maroon Mustang. Just sitting there, frozen in the middle of making a left turn. I instantly knew there was no action evasive enough to change what destiny had in store for me.
Both cars were totaled, and as the adrenaline ebbed, parts of my body felt the same way. A bruised sternum, a frayed shoulder tendon, 2 herniated discs in my neck, that would flare up and make my arm feel like I was soaking it in hydrochloric acid, and worst of all, the last disc in my back was obliterated. These pains all interlaced and made me a miserable human being…so I made the decision to find a doctor that would stop my leg from melting, to ease the million fire ants gnawing on the bottom of my foot. I even explained my situation, and that I should be treated like a 5-year-old.
And here I am, just turned 39. My ring finger still remembers what it was like to be dressed up, and struggles with its rapid weight loss. Our house is about to be sold for about 40% of what we paid. Its walls used to have pictures from our travels together, now they are empty. Everything is gone. And I still find myself shutting up my mind when it asks, Couldn’t you have just made the right turn, couldn’t you have just worked until 9:00 instead of 8:50?
As gut-wrenching and devastating a year as was 2011, it was the best year of my life. I got clean, for the right reason finally, for myself. I stayed clean through the blackest days, scratching and clawing my way to a higher plane of peace. Most importantly, the one ‘recovery’ phrase I heard from a man I truly admire, a man who passed away years ago, succumbing to AIDS and hepatitis C, that phrase finally sunk in: The greatest journey a person can make is only 12 inches, the distance between the mind and the heart.
People no doubt hold in a sarcastic chuckle when I say I am appreciative that my life fell apart, that I destroyed, in my mind, the true meaning of life (spending and sharing life with my wife). Yes, I am eternally grateful for 2011. I finally accepted that I have been a selfish human being for so long, that I had allowed those attitudes to become defining. I am so blessed to have finally learned from my mistakes, to know the word ‘junky’ describes someone else I became, and not who I am at my core.
Reflecting on the entire decade, if all of it was necessary to bring me to the place I am, I wouldn’t change a thing. For so long, I had felt a part of me was a time bomb, yet today I know I have successfully disarmed it. While I am sorry for all the pain I caused to so many, I am eager to begin repaying my karmic debts. I have forgiven myself, and my slate is clean. I have used this quote a million times, so I apologize for the redundancy, life is about the journey, not the destination.
To gain the inner peace, to unearth my purpose, one of giving, to love who I am, these are priceless and paramount to everyone, not just someone in recovery. I can make my life anything I want it to be now, free from the chemical chains and debasing mental padlocks. No regrets.
“Saints are sinners who kept on going.” ~Robert Louis Stevenson