Pain relief is one thing, the side-effects of the medicine is quite another. Thank goodness for morphine. When it comes to sheer physical pain opiates are the way to go, but the effects that the drug have on the mind are colourful to say the least. Depending on one’s state of mind morphine takes its captive on a variety of journeys. My first experience was wonderful. I was on a yacht being served martinis by young women in bikinis (says a lot about my psychology this). As the anxiety of being in hospital deepened in my waking mind the trips began to get darker. Gone were the scantily clad goddesses and my boat; now I was in the dream land of the horror and the grotesque. Mediaeval monks were nightly casting demons from me, shadows of primal darkness were shifting towards my bed, and portals to the abyss were opening up in the walls. Every night I dreaded my pills.

Sometimes, when my courage was waning (as often it does), I thought that a night in writhing agony was better than one of psychological and spiritual torture. The little brown pills were digging deep down into the basement of my fears and imagination and letting all the ugliest monsters out to play. Could it truly be the case that this suffering was making me better?

Then something wonderful happened. All that I could do to calm the psycho-spiritual distress was to apply a spiritual balm. I began to pray. Would you believe that?! For the first time in a very long time I moved my prayers from the mechanical to the meditative and reflective – focussing everything of myself (or as much as I could) into a reality beyond myself, and so entered into the mustard mist of morphine talking to angels, saints, and God.

Emerging from my dungeon one morning I was becoming agitated because I couldn’t – for the life of me – remember the words of the Our Father (yes, some drugs do that to you). I would get so far, pause, think really hard, forget, and start all over. I knew I had to say it all the way through as though it had some magical properties, but just couldn’t. Few things have upset me the way this was upsetting me. Then an angelic voice began to pray with me. Our Father, who art in heaven… I opened my eyes and saw a nurse. She was helping me to pray. That was perfect peace.


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