Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

In The God-Box: Two Guys Taking Vicodin.

P & P's sweet yellow lab, who I love and who loves me.

Last night went to a 50th birthday party for my friend P. This morning her husband (also called P) phoned to thank me for helping him in the kitchen. I didn’t do much: gave him instructions for browning his baked brie (under the broiler), taught him how to use his own convection oven, and oversaw the complex, gourmet task of heating the Costco frozen mini hotdogs wrapped in puff pastry.

Over the phone this morning, P said her husband was suffering from an infection in one of his molars. His jaw was killing him.

“Hasn’t the doctor given him anything for the pain?” I asked. “Codeine?” They’ve known I’m an addict since the summer day in 2010 that I told them at the Tate Modern in London, looking at Niki de Saint Phalle’s “shooting” paintings.

“Yes: I picked up a Z-Pac for him this morning for the infection,” she said. I sat there waiting for her to announce Which Drug he’d been given.

“And he also has Vicodin.”


“But they didn’t want him to take it during the party last night.”

Of course. Because he’d have been drinking. Also, it might make him sleepy. Vicodin makes normal people sleepy, and sometimes nauseated. It makes addicts like me wake up and want to clean the entire fucking house from attic to basement, all the while sorting out three or four book chapters in our minds. “My house was never so clean as when I was using,” my friend L murmured to me the other day during a meeting when someone mentioned Vicodin.

Once upon a time, if a friend mentioned she had Vicodin in the house, I might have felt an immediate, overwhelming drive to invent a pretext for coming over right away, eagle eyes scouting around for the brown plastic bottle with the child-proof cap. They say you’re either moving toward a drink/drug or away from one, and today I didn’t have that compulsion—I had the memory of it, but not the actual feeling—so today I think I’m sober.

The reality is, drugs are everywhere, anyway. In order not to descend into insanity, I have to keep steering into some kind of solution.

“Has he taken any?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, “but it’s not helping.”

“When did he take it?” I asked.

She handed the phone to her husband. He said he’d taken one 7.5mg pill two-and-a-half hours before.

“G, why isn’t it helping?” he asked.

Because the fucking drugs never take away all the pain, I thought. They just take away part of it and make you not-care about the rest.

“Because when you have severe acute pain, sometimes you need a bit extra to get on top of it,” I said. That’s what they taught me at the pain clinic: when a flare comes along, try to anticipate it and take a bit extra. I suggested he take one more, and then dose every 4-6 hours as it said on the bottle.

“Is that going to be OK?” he said.

“You don’t have a problem taking drugs,” I said, “so you’re not going to have any trouble. And that much Tylenol isn’t going to hurt you. Just don’t take more than that. And why don’t you try putting some ice on your face?”

I call him a couple hours later and the one extra has helped him get on top of the pain. “It’s just like you said,” he tells me. “It’s not all gone, but it’s not killing me anymore.”

Would P ever think of chewing the Vicodin? Hell no.


A couple days ago I get an email from a reader, a guy about my age. Dave from California. He’s sitting out in San Diego or somewhere waiting for spinal surgery, he’s got 16 years clean and sober, the pain is frigging driving him nuts. He NEEDS to make it go away. He thanks me for my post about Chewing Vicodin.

This post gets tons of hits. There are many, many of you out there, pills in your hot little hands, wanting to know “how to maximize the effects of Vicodin.”

“I have found myself wanting to chew the medicine,” Dave writes.

Would P ever think of chewing the Vicodin?—I ask myself again. Hell no: because P isn’t an addict. P can have one or two glasses of wine. He can choose which it’s going to be: one—or two.

“Sixteen years clean,” Dave writes, “and as soon as the pain gets too big I start to think I know a better way to take pills. Thank you. Keep doing what you do. It is a service for which I am grateful.”


If I had a dollar for every time someone has told me to keep doing what I do with this blog, I’d have a nice packet of dough. It’s very, very kind of people to say this. I’m grateful for you guys who read me. For the many people like Dave who check in and find help and who are generous enough to let me know about it.

Dave is having his surgery today. He’s going to be in a lot of pain. I’m holding him in the light. That’s how Quakers talk about praying for someone: “holding you in the light.” (I’ve been walking around these days, holding a bunch of people in the light. It’s quite a comforting thing to do, praying for someone else’s ass life besides my own.)

“Pain sucks, man, I know,” I write to Dave, “but one addict praying for another is a powerful thing.”

If you have a moment, maybe you’d be willing to drop a note in the God-box for Dave.

Why not also pray for P?—Actually, I pray for P, too, he and his wife are quite often on my gratitude lists, but I know P will be all right. It’s Dave I’m worried about. He’s dealing with two monsters.


  1. First off, I think you are onto something. Why shouldn’t we send a dollar to bloggers every time we get just what we need? There are a lot of talented people helping others out of the goodness of their heart and as a type of service. Probably I owe you a few bucks or at least a Starbucks.

    I never liked pain killers. They have been perscribed for me several times. The prescription filled, but I almost never took the pills. There was knee surgery, trigeminal neuralgia and other assorted painful ailments and conditions. Somehow the pills disappeared. It wasn’t me. Was it party guests? Was it kids visiting my kids? Was it people working in our house. Only one thing could drive someone to sneak into medicine cabinets. There are a lot of addicts out there, probably a lot more than chairs in church basements.

  2. Dear Upright G –
    I usually start monday morning with a small outing in the backyard
    because my two-legged companion has to go to her Centergy class.

    But surprise, surprise she decided to skip today to instead take me on a long neighbourhood massage of my legs
    so I had a marvelous sniff fest this morning while I could tell she was centering herself for a busy work week ahead.

    I could feel her intention to clear her brain, so she could in turn clear the house, the inboxes
    and digital reading lists as efficiently as possible.

    Then, WE discovered the photo of me.
    I’m headlining your blog in soft focus fashion!!!

    It killed us girl, any chance I’d settle down for the day was out of the question,
    as well as the hard-won concentration on her to do list evaporated entirely.

    She’d rather hang out with me, the now famous canine, The Ginge…
    and savor my two minutes of hard-won fame!

    But I also so so savored your kind words about P
    and the other P,
    my wonderful two-legged enablers in all things I so treasure:
    food, more please…can you remind them I’m of glutton heritage?
    warmth, would it kill them to crank it up a notch?
    exercise, the aforementioned roaming of neighbourland is fun, but when are we going to the park again?

    and last but nor least:
    company, when, when, when, when will they force you to bring me YOUR four-legged friend I can love and wrestle with?

    I know, patience is a virtue but my years are short and since I’m 25 years of age now, it’s perhaps time to settle
    for an arranged marriage, one of convenience would also do fine…

    Thank you for being such a good friend to P&P and I sense they surely love you!
    And Yes! I love you too, but for me to love you even more, I’d just had to remind you: dogs rule!
    Keep up the beautiful work you are doing in writing and helping others.


  3. Well done on typing all that with your paws, Ginger. x /G

  4. Dave, there are people I stole drugs from that aren’t even alive anymore. So writing about it is one way of making amends and staying humble. /G

  5. Hi Guinevere,

    I was never much of a pill popper, accept for speed, and vicodin had not been invented when I got sober, so I had no experience with it until I got frisky with the dental floss and pulled out a filling, which led to a bit of an infection and pain in my tooth and jaw and the Doc gave me an Rx for vicodin and I used it as directed, and it was just like you said, it took the edge off the pain, making me not pay so much attention to it. Imagine my surprise to wake up the day after the Rx was completed and experience withdrawal. I am grateful that I could know what it was, and walk myself through that, and be prepared for future dental issues. Pain makes me such a coward. Prayers to Dave and P.

  6. Hello fellow Vicodin addict and writer ( I am a loyal reader and benefit from your posts. I’m sober 3.5 years and, although the obsession for alcohol left me quickly, it’s taken almost all this time for the pill obsession to go.

    I was a teeny bit taken aback by this line: “They say you’re either moving toward a drink/drug or away from one, and today I didn’t have that compulsion—I had the memory of it, but not the actual feeling—so today I think I’m sober.” I think you’re sober if you don’t take any drugs/alcohol.

    While I struggled for three years with feeling ashamed and like a failure for my continued pill obsession, I heard somebody say at a meeting that “Even if I want to take drugs, I don’t have to.” EVEN if I WANT to. He let me know that it’s okay.

    My heart still skips a beat when I see an orange bottle with a white cap, but the feelings of obsession are starting to dissipate and I am so grateful.

    Thank you for your work.

  7. G- thanks for holding me in the light. The surgery was perfect. Pain free (neck wise anyway) and I took the Vicodin as directed (swallowed whole) for about 14 days and then brought the pain pills, and everything else they gave me to the Sherriff’s station and dropped it in the drug disposal box. The fusion is growing really well and I’m back to doing yoga and picking up the grandkids when I need to.

    The Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous states “we need have no guilt over taking a minimum amount of medicine as prescribed for extreme pain.” There is still some pain where my vertebrae are fusing. It’s about the level of a headache. It reminds me that I’m healing and that I’m alive. That’s enough for today.


  8. G-
    Thanks for holding me in the light. All prayers are answered.
    Surgery came out great. Took the medicine (as directed, swallowed whole) for about 14 days and then brought everything left to the Sheriff’s Station drug disposal box.

    There’s still some pain while my neck is fusing. About the level of a headache. It reminds me I’m alive and healing. That’s enough just for today.

    Celebrated 17 years on March 5th.
    Thanks for the love.


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