The Spirit without Drugs


I took drugs every day for twenty-six years.  They were all prescribed by physicians, but I make no distinction between the drugs you prescribe for yourself and the drugs your doctor prescribes you:  they’re all chemical cocktails to alter your being.  Let’s be honest about that.  You take drugs—street or office—because you want to feel better.

One day my primary doctor was having a bad day.  He came into my treatment room, frustrated, shut the door behind himself and said, “I am going to retire and go sell drugs on the street!” 

I replied, “Well, okay, as long as you have a plan.”  This doctor, you see, was a heck of a lot more honest about where his work fit in the greater scheme of society.  Most doctors aren’t willing to admit that they are drug dealers but have you ever been to a doctor when he didn’t pull out a prescription pad and try to write something for you?

When I stopped taking drugs ten years ago, the hardest part was getting doctors to stop ordering me to take drugs.  They were determined; drugs are what they do.

I have a chiropractor who prescribes herbs and other nice weeds but wouldn’t prescribe a pharmaceutical if you put a gun to his head.  We decided that for Halloween he should dress up in a white coat with a stethoscope and prescription pad because we don’t know anything scarier than a physician prescribing pharmaceuticals.

So after taking drugs—lots and lots of drugs—every day for twenty-six years, I quit.  A few weeks later, the nurse who’d been supervising my home health aides for several years showed up, and she started crowing about how great I looked.  “You look great!” she said.  “Your eyes have so much light in them!  Your face looks so bright!”  It was embarrassing, really.  Nursie just kept carrying on about how great I looked—and all I had done was stop taking drugs.

That happened ten years ago.  I was reminded of it today when I was interviewing a new home health aide.  I explained to her that my doctor calls me a basket case, and I’ve got this wrong with my heart, and that wrong with my spine, and my kidneys are almost totally crapped out, but the biggest problem is that my immune system freaks if I try to take pharmaceuticals so I don’t treat any of my dozen chronic illnesses with drugs.

And the woman said, “But you look so good!”  And you know what?  I do.  My eyes are bright and my skin is clear.  My massage therapist keeps telling me what great skin I have—and at 63 years of age.  I don’t take drugs, and I’m going to die looking good.

In the past decade of un-drugging, I’ve figured something out:  the reason so many people look gray and pale and tense and wasted isn’t because of their illnesses.  It’s because of their drugs.  Try a little survey:  mentally rate people on how healthy they look, then ask them how many drugs they take each day.  You think they look like crap because they’ve got fourteen things wrong with them?  I think they look like crap because they take fourteen drugs.

The average American is taking three prescriptive medications on a regular basis.  Pharmaceuticals have side effects, and physicians don’t screen for side effects:  they prescribe new drugs to treat the side effects of your old drugs.

There was a very healthy nurse who retired and then got very sick.  She felt terrible and was tired all the time.  Couldn’t get out of bed.  Her husband would stand up in church and request prayers for her as her doctor ordered one invasive test after another, trying to diagnose the cause of the sickness.  Then the nurse had a long talk with me and I told her all about how the immune system works and how drugs overwhelm the immune system. 

She went back to her doctor.  The nurse’s sickness began after she started taking a drug for osteoporosis.  She didn’t have osteoporosis; she just had kind of low test results that might lead to it, so her doctor prescribed a drug.  Then her doctor ordered all the tests to diagnosis the problem she couldn’t see:  side effects.  The nurse stopped taking the drug, started eating foods high in vitamin C, and the last time I saw her she was marching in a parade, swinging her arms and grinning.

You don’t feel like crap because you’re sick.  You feel like crap because of the side effects of all the drugs you’re taking.

It’s reached the point that the number of drugs you take is used as the indicator of how sick you are.  I’m falling-down-dead from all the stuff I’ve got wrong with me, but yesterday a doctor said, “You must not really be sick if you’re not taking medications.”  Even if I could tolerate pharmaceuticals, I’m no longer sure I would take them.  The aide I was interviewing was telling me how she’s skilled at heparin locks, dialysis problems, insulin injections and so forth, and I responded, “But can you cook from scratch?”  That’s what matters to me; that’s what keeps me healthy.  I am appalled at the thought of going back to all those horrible drugs days.

I used to do it—used to go to doctors, get referred to other doctors, spend hours in waiting and treatment rooms, have absolutely horrid tests and take pills by the handful.  I was a standard American woman, fighting for her life by going to doctors.

No more.  Now I’m a superior American woman who’s got her soul back.  I don’t go to doctors and I don’t take pills—and I wouldn’t go back to the pill pushers for anything in the world because it is not the life of the body that matters.  It is the life of the soul.  Last week I heard someone say, “Your body doesn’t have a soul.  Your soul has a body.”

And my soul is healthy.  Without drugs, the light of the spirit shines through my eyes.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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