I spent all of yesterday morning in a dental chair, getting my gums poked and numerous teeth drilled. The pain then was extraordinary. The pain today is agony.

Being an ex-drinker. I have experienced mixed feelings regarding medications, especially those that contribute to me “losing control.” So, when a dentist asks me if I want nitrous (laughing gas), am I crossing the invisible line that protects my sobriety? And, how about that prescription for valium that he gives me, just so he can get me in the door. Is that out of bounds, too?

One of my best friends, who has been in AA for nearly 20 years would argue that I am crossing the line and falling back into a life of decadence. He is anti-cough medicine, anti-aspirin, and I have even known him to refuse novocaine in the dentist’s chair. His argument is that alcoholism is a slippery slope that begins one drink at a time, or one pill at a time.

I have to admit that for the first year or two of my sobriety, I felt the same way. An aspirin might lead to a Vicodin, which might lead to a swig of Nyquil, which might lead to a swig of whiskey. I avoided aspirin for pain, refused to fill prescriptions for cough medicines, even turning down a sweet shot of morphine after a broken elbow.

Now, 14 years later, I have no problem accepting a valium if it means taking care of my teeth. I have no issues with a Vicodin if it means I can overcome excruciating pain. I have even been known to take that swig from a bottle of Nyquil during a particularly bad cold. However, it seems like a constant fight to not take an extra swig or an extra pill when I don’t really need it. Maybe my friend was right in saying that the addict is always inside, ready to sneak out and attack.