Thanksgiving and Week 31 of Julia Cameron

Nov 21, 2017 by

Thanksgiving and Week 31 of Julia Cameron

In that time I’ve not missed a single day of Morning Pages. I’ve had my mom and daughters tell me, when I’ve encouraged them to follow suit, that they can’t do something like that–write something daily where they must commit to writing three pages before doing anything else every day. Mom says it feels heavy handed.

I even had a doctor two weeks ago tell me that “it’s hardly traditional medical therapy.” He scoffed. He was asking what I was doing to improve my mental health while I’ve been recovering from my back surgeries, getting off ten-and-a-half-months of opioids and trying to put my life back together.

He can doubt it all he wants. I know what it’s done. It’s brought me closer to God. My Morning Pages have helped me focus on what’s most important. They have helped me understand what I have to be thankful for. And as my daughters and I celebrated our Thanksgiving early this past Sunday, I kept those things in mind.


Now what I’m thankful for in large part is my own business. There are some obvious things. My church family. The love of my God, my daughters, my dear dog–Maycee. My own family–parents, brothers, and sister. A handful of church friends who have become what Julia Cameron calls my reflecting mirrors. People who are positive and supportive. People who give me encouragement and who are supportive to me as an artist. Who help feed me with positive support and ideas. People who are safe to share ideas with and who won’t make fun of me because I made myself vulnerable. I am blessed to have these rare and few people in my life and to have take comfort in their kind words.

May art has thrived because of them.

I still struggle daily because of what has happened to me. It’s been 18 months now and I am still afflicted with pain. This past week a doctor told me that a secondary aspect that I was not aware of may not ever go away–a result of the opioids, one that I had before that has been compounded because of the opioids–migraine headaches. It’s Monday, Nov. 21. I have an entry in my phone from Nov. 21, 2016–a year ago today that notes being hardly able to do anything because of my headaches. A year later, the pain is not much better, in spite of a high dosage of a med called Trokendi. I’m functioning but their are side effects, and I have had my present numbing headache for seven days now. I’m not thankful for that, but I’m doing my best to manage.

Julia Cameron

I have come to enjoy the days when I do work in Walking in this World, the third book of the Julia Cameron self-improvement trilogy. My mentor, Suzanne Frank from SMU says she believes it is the best of the three books and I can see why she says that. There is so much that is good in this third book.

Used to be I would put on Facebook about the progress I’d made on writing in The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club. I’m not doing that anymore, and I know why now. It does drain energy from the progress of the book when it’s done. Tis far better to put that energy into the production of the work and safe it for when it’s done. So much so that I even hate to mention it here. So that’s it for now.

I keep a stack of books next to me for reference. They are great tools. Some of them I’m learning to memorize. And where would I be without my Smith-Corona Super-Sterling. Want to change how you write? Get a typewriter.

Time to get back to what I do. Writing.

I saw a post on the Internet today that has become more and more obvious to me. It says that the secret to being a good writer is 3 percent talent and 97 percent not being distracted by the Internet. Time to enforce the 97 percent….


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The Opioid Crisis in America And How I Fought Back

Aug 28, 2017 by

The Opioid Crisis in America And How I Fought Back

There is an opioid crisis in America. Since June of 2016, I’ve been plagued by it. I was hurt after a visit to a chiropractor in Mesquite, Texas May 13, 2016. My primary care physician put me on hydrocodone in mid-June 2016 and I was on either it or Percocet, or Percocet with fentanyl patches, until late April 2017.

That stretch of time messed with my brain. A recent CT scan shows no physical damage to my brain, but until this past week, my sleep pattern was totally messed up. 

What fixed it?

The jury is still out, but it’s a combination of 100 MGs of Trokendi and 3600 MGs per day of Gabapentin. What I finally had to do was take 1:1:2 and 2 of 6– MGs of Gabapentin a day in order to not sleep 15 hours or more a day. And this past week I finally reached the sustained dose of Trokendi. It took four weeks to reach it having done seven days of 25, seven more of 50, and seven more of 75 Mgs, respectively.

Opioids Are Dangerous

Make no mistake about it, opioids are dangerous. I am one of the rare ones who find the way to get off them. There are scores of people one can read about who find themselves on heroin after using prescription opioids. Then there are those who run out of med and want more and do wild things like smash their hands with hammers so they need medical attention and more opioids to relieve the pain.

Dr. Britt Daniel of Medical City of Dallas

I went to see Dr. Britt Daniel earlier this month. He’s a neurologist and the one who put me on Trokendi and put me on the maximum legal amount of Gabapentin per day.

Within the first five minutes of talking to him, Dr. Daniel said I suffered from a condition he calls Medication Overuse Headache.

It’s the International Classification of Headache III. The old name for it was Rebound Headache. It is a syndrome related to overrating. Dr. Daniel’s paper says that 80-90 percent of new patients seen in specialty headache clinics have MOH.

MOH may come from overtreating with simple pain killers like caffeine, Tylenol or Advil, opioid narcotics, pain killers with barbiturates, or triptans. Patients typically rotate drugs and take many drugs at the same time that may cause MOH. After awhile, the pre-existing headache problem, which is usually migraine, becomes transformed from and intermittent to chronic headache problem. It is like what happens to the person who drinks coffee every day and then gets a headache when they don’t. They the brain becomes sensitizes to these drugs repeat dosing cause neurologist-inflamatorry chemicals to be released in the brain which keeps the headache going.

This is what has been happening with me the past couple of months.

I’ve been working to lose weight so I’ve been cutting all kinds of things from my diet. And I’ve cut the meds. So my body was going nuts trying to figure out where everything had gone at one time. And I spiraled downward with headaches galore.

Thanks to Dr. Daniel, I think, praise God, I’m finally on the right track.


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Overcoming 10.5 Months of Opioids is Not Easy

Jul 17, 2017 by

Overcoming 10.5 Months of Opioids is Not Easy

As a result of a chiropractic injury, I spent 10.5 months on opioids and the results of having been off them for almost four months now still afflict me.

On Friday the 13th, May, 2016, I went to what was then an unlicensed chiropractor operating in Mesquite, Texas. I did not know this at the time of treatment. I went in complaining of upper back pain. The man noted that my SI joint was out, too, and said he was going to make adjustments to my upper, middle and lower back. The next day, I was in so much pain, I could not drive to my daughter’s mother’s house to take pictures of the twins in their prom dresses. I returned on Monday, May 16 thinking my SI was out again and the pain was from that. It was not. The problem was from the treatments to my lower back.

A few weeks later, barely able to walk more than 20 yards without being in excruciating pain that required me to stop walking, I went to my PCP. She put me on hydrocodone and muscle relaxers. Nothing worked. I did PT. After three visits, the therapist said not to come back until after I’d had an epidural. This meant getting an MRI, seeing a spine surgeon, and a pain management doctor. The pain guy switched me off hydrocodone onto Nucynta. It didn’t work either. A month later I had a three-level laminectomy in my lower lumbar. This led to more meds and instead of stopping the pain, made it manifest in both legs, not just one.

My Sleep Cycle app graph from last night. After four months being off opioids, my brain is still affected.

My spine doctor wanted to do a fusion. But I also had a hernia he wanted repaired before he would operate again. In September 2016, I had two hernias fixed. Seeking a second opinion about spinal surgery, I went to a neurosurgeon who didn’t want me to have one and instead said we should test other options. This led to my being on Percocet and other meds.

Finally, in March of this year, the neurosurgeon put in a pain stimulator in my spinal column and buried a battery pack in my right hip.

In April, I took my last Percocet, having weaned from three per day to one-half.

It’s now mid-July and I’m still suffering the consequences of having been on mind-altering drugs for almost 11 months.

My sleep schedule is so erratic I have a hard time functioning. The Sleep Cycle app shows that my sleep is a mess. Naps are part of my day because I’m so tired constantly. Even with walking and a proper diet, I’m struggling to function.

I understand the need for opioids or pain-relieving drugs. The pain I’ve endured the past 14 months has been horrific. But the long-term impact of the meds is something I did not expect. I would like to be able to get a sound night of sleep. I would like to be fully functional again at normal hours of the day. But that’s not happening. When I saw my sleep doctor back in April he said it could take months for my brain to recalibrate. MONTHS. He was not kidding.

I have been walking in the mornings to get my brain used to seeing sunlight first thing in the day. By noon, most days, however, I am asleep again, sleeping more soundly than I did all night. This is a vicious cycle and I post this so that others can see the impact it can have.

I was lucky. I was determined to not become an addict of opioids. There are thousands of others who are not as strong-willed and who succumb to the need for meds. Some people are known to do dumb things so that doctors will be compelled to give them more—have you heard of these people who break bones in their hand with a hammer so they can get more opioids?

I cannot imagine getting to that point, but what I do know is what I continue to experience having been on these meds for so long. They have an impact on your mind that does not go away overnight. The opioid epidemic is real and it’s a problem that many people face.

And at this writing, I have yet to find an answer for the impact it has had on my brain.

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Open Your Heart To The World And Love Will Come To Your Door

May 23, 2017 by

Open Your Heart To The World And Love Will Come To Your Door

When a chiropractor screwed me up on Friday the 13th, May 2016, I didn’t realize it then, but God decided to break my back so He could get my attention. Then at 50 years old, there were many needed changes in my life but I was too afraid, headstrong, wrong-minded, and sinful to do them on my own. My weight and diet was out of control. My finances ailing from a divorce several years before. My relationship with whom I thought was the most important person of my life teetering. And church, while important, was something I did when I could get there.

Today’s Morning Sign Ministry Message: Open your heart to the world and love will come to your door.

Several surgeries, a half-dozen medical procedures, and eleven months of opioids later, my life was at a standstill.

A pain stimulator was installed in my back permanently in March. It lies to my brain. It says, “You’re not in pain,” while I am still troubled enough that a “normal” lifestyle still isn’t within grasp in late May 2017. But things are changing.

I stopped my pain meds in mid-April at the urgent request of several friends who said, even though I’d weened myself down to ½ a pill a day, that if I didn’t stop then, I’d lose myself eventually.


Once off the meds, I started going to church. An amazingly beautiful friend from church, Lisa Kilgore, was featured in an amazingly beautiful video about how she’s lost more than 120 pounds over the past year and a half. That was my first inspirational fire. She’s gorgeous and there are pictures to prove it. Lisa used a book called Made To Crave. It’s premise is, “God made me for more than this.” More than to be overweight. More than to be tired all the time from eating sugary foods and fried things that were making me as sick as the opioids I’d been on.


More than a year ago now, our preacher at church, Gordon Dabbs, did a video feature of Laura and Eric Daulton and the turquoise picnic table they have in their FRONT YARD. The Daulton’s have become a second family to me this past year. Several times they brought me food and company when I needed it the most. They use their table to do ministry and to reach out to their neighbors. I didn’t know it, but Laura got the idea from Kristin Schell’s book Turquoise Table: Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard. Kristin has been featured nationally for the life she has built herself around the original turquoise picnic table. It’s an amazing story. A second fire of inspiration.


Five weeks ago, I began reading (again) Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I’ve done one chapter a week like one must. For 30-plus days the first thing I’ve done when I’ve gotten out of bed is typed three solid pages of pure stream of consciousness thoughts. You’re not supposed to re-read your morning pages. You just vent and get that stuff out of your mind so you can live in the day. I’ve written how I feel from my recovery. What I’m angry about. What hurts. What I’d love to do again in my life. What might seem like impossible, but I’d like to do before I die. And I’ve done the exercises at the end of each chapter. The answers to those questions are personal. They’re inner-reflective, and they are designed to cause transformation of one’s soul whether you’re a creative like myself or it’s been blocked and you just don’t know it. Inspiration number three.


Back to Lisa Kilgore. We have met twice now to talk about her success story. And I’ve told her that Made To Crave is targeted toward women. It feels a little funny as a guy to read it. She said I might try another book—Rick Warren et al’s The Daniel Plan. That’s been the eye opener. Inspiration number four.


I’ve started walking every day. In the last two weeks and a day, I’ve walked more than 101,000 steps and walked more than 46 miles. During part of my walk, I listen to the soundtrack from La La Land. It’s peppy. Upbeat. Another Day of Sun makes me race out of my apartment complex like I’m on a mission. And I am. I walk across from my apartment complex into Mesquite, Texas’ park and along their Butterfly Trail. Once I get to New Market Street or to the end of the trail in the frisbie golf course, I turn around, and switch over to the audio version of YouVersion and walk back with Paul (I’ve been doing the New Testament) and Paul is feeding me Christian baby milk.


Three Sunday/Monday nights ago, (the opioids have left me with an inability to fall asleep before 2 a.m.) I had an inspirational thought, typed it up and folded a manila file folder over and stuck it on my black metal table just outside the door. I don’t do Saturday or Sunday, but maybe I should. Everyone who leaves on my end of the apartment must walk past my door to get to their car. So the messages have been inspirational. Two Friday mornings ago, I left three boxes of glazed and chocolate Krispy Kreme Donuts on the table with encouraging words—HELP YOURSELF. I know. Not healthy, but I was amazed at the impact it had.

On Easter, I left each apartment on our end of the building a basket of candy and a card. For Mother’s Day, each mom was left a yellow carnation and a card. Our doorways have a clip on them so the apartment complex can leave notes to us from time to time. I’m changing the purpose of those tacks.

I’ve received thank you cards and notes on the door and kind words since starting my Morning Sign Ministry.

Last week, I bought two cans of turquoise paint and painted my table. It’s now turquoise and beautiful. Thank you Kristin and Laura.


My turquoise table, inspired by Kristin Schell and Laura Daulton.

I didn’t know what to put out for this morning when I got into bed last night. I fell asleep at 10:30 p.m. last night for the first time in months. At 0415 I awoke with something of a thunderclap surprise and the first thing that popped into my head was today’s message: “Open your heart to the world and love will come to your door.”

And so I give thanks this morning. Thank you to Gordon Dabbs for your two sermons to highlight two mavericks for God’s love—Laura and Lisa. Thank you to the Daulton children who have come to visit and to watch Disney movies on Apple TV. The Daultons and a couple others from church were regular visitors when I was out of it from my surgical nightmare. Thank you to Julia Cameron for her book and to J. Suzanne Frank for telling me to get it two years ago. And thank you to Kristin Schell for your inspirational turquoise tables because that’s what they do. They open one’s heart to the world, and they bring love to one’s door.

And most of all, thank you to God for grabbing me by the nape of my neck and getting my attention. I have prayed to forgive the man who has hurt me. But there are a lot of damages left from what was done. Those still need addressing. The billings alone total more than $800,000.


The other day, as I was typing out my Morning Pages, I tried to write the line, “I am changing my life.” But what happened is I missed the F letter completely and it came out, “I am changing my LIE.” They say in counseling therapy that the goal is to get a person to change the narrative of their life and to see it in a new, healthier way. I think that’s finally happened in my world and life is changing. I needed to make changes in who I was. I needed to stop telling myself it was okay to eat bad food, it was okay to do this and to not do this. That’s changed. I was lying to myself.

Indeed, I have changed my lie and I am changing my life.




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Opioids–The Exit Strategy

Apr 12, 2017 by

Opioids–The Exit Strategy

During the past 10 months I’ve been on all kinds of pain meds. After the installation of a Abbott Pain Stimulator, I’m doing everything I can to get off the opioids. At present, I’m down to 1/2 a 10/325 pill in the morning and 1/2 of one at night. I am doing everything I can to get OFF these meds. The problem, most people are not like me. 

PAIN is a HUGE problem in America. When I first called a Pain Management doctor’s office in June of last year, the scheduler told me that doctor in North Dallas receives 50 new referrals a day. FIFTY new patient opportunities a day. FIFTY. That’s 250 a week. That’s 1,000 per month. Now I doubt the numbers are 1,000 new patients a month, but I can believe the numbers are that staggering.

From the picture, these are all meds I’ve been on during the duration. Most of them did nothing to stop my pain. Having a pain stimulator surgically implanted in early March 2017 has helped.

I was on Fentanyl patches and three Percocet a day from December 2016 to February 2017.  I still felt my pain, but my GiveADamn about it was broken. I was in true pain. That’s when these meds are most needed and they do help. But they are highly addictive and what didn’t come with any of them was an exit strategy.


I’ve been cutting my consumption myself. That’s probably not a wise thing to do, but it’s what I’ve had to do because my doctors have not given me a written plan on how to get off the meds.


Having been a consumer of opioids for more than 10 of the last 12 months, I can see how easily this can become a problem.

This post is just the beginning in a series. It is my intention to raise awareness about the dangers of using opioids. If you have a family member, friend, or you yourself have had issues with these meds, getting off of them, I mean, I’d like to hear from you. You can email me at DC at GrammaticArtist dot com.

It’s time to take action about these meds. Let me be clear. I am for their use when a person is in pain. But there needs to be better understanding among doctors about getting off of them, as well as just getting a script written and off you go to the pharmacy for more.

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Amazon Needs A “Do Not Use USPS Button”

Mar 28, 2017 by

I have been largely homebound the past 10 months. I’m an Amazon Prime member. That means I pay an additional amount yearly for them to rush things to me. Over the past two years, that mostly has meant things arrived at my door via FedEx or UPS.

But over the past 10 months, Amazon shippers have gotten cheap. They’re relying more and more on the USPS and there is no other way to say it, their service is sub par.

There needs to be a button at check out that denies an Amazon shipper to be able to send you something via the USPS. It’s that simple.

Today I received notice of a package USPS delivered yesterday. The “Your Orders” function says it’s in my mailbox. I live in an apartment complex. I went to the central boxes. Guess what. It’s not there. It’s in the office. I then had to drive further down to the apartment complex offices and they’re out until noon. So now I’m going to have to make another trip down to the office. 

Did I mention I’m having back issues. I’ve had four major surgeries since August. Getting around is not easy. And THIS IS NOT THE FIRST ISSUE I’VE had.

I’ve ordered dog food for my Great Pyrenees since I’m not supposed to be carrying 50 lb bags of dog food. It took an extra week for USPS to get it delivered. I’ve stopped ordering it this way at all. Screw you Amazon. You’re going to lose business.

Then there are repeated issues with delivery that have been noted on Twitter.

Using Amazon saves money. Particularly on books. But they suck when they let shippers send stuff via the USPS. It gets screwed up most every time. And there needs to be a button on Amazon that lets a purchaser say don’t waste my time with the USPS.

Now to their credit, USPS on Twitter has been most responsive. Their local office has not. But this has gone on for months now and I’m really just about ready to cancel buying on Amazon. It’s no longer convenient and has become a huge pain in the butt.

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