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"What we mean by pop music of the '90s is maybe not what everyone else thinks but it's pop to us." — Edge, on Pop

Like a Song: Moment of Surrender

[Ed. note: This is the 34th in a series of personal essays by the @U2 staff about songs and/or albums that have had great meaning or impact in our lives.]

Like A SongIf I want to live I've got to die to myself someday

Different time, different song, and maybe even a different type of surrender. Or is it? Whether the background is a city o' fire, a bad relationship, or a substance that's overtaken you, to surrender yourself is just about always in the equation somewhere. But as we know all too well, surrendering to something can either be good for us, or it can be bad for us.

So this story is, in a sense, my moment of surrender.

I've never actually tied myself with wires, but I have played with the fire, and yeah, the fire does play back.

The March 3 release date for No Line on the Horizon couldn't have come at a better time for me. In February, I was given a chance to do something I've wanted to do for a very long time. I was given two dates when I could do this: March 3 and March 10. I picked the 10th because ... well, I had important plans for the third. On the 10th, I entered the hospital for a 10-day chronic pain program. Yeah, good times indeed.

After countless surgeries to my eyes years ago, I was left with ... well, let's just call it a headache. And after seeing about 10 doctors, they all had the same thing to say: You need to control the pain with medicine. That helped for many years. But after a while, the same amount of meds wouldn't do the trick anymore. The pain was getting worse and worse. Or so I thought. Turns out my body was just building up a tolerance to the meds. So naturally, between myself and the doctors, we increased the meds for better pain control. This increase happened about 10 more times.

Chronic pain is a condition that many people live with. The key word there is "live." But I don't think I was living with this pain. I think I was just trying not to live with it. And by doing that, there were certain parts of my life that were starting to fade away. Yes, some of the pain was gone, but so was part of me as well. There's definitely a balance between pain and meds, but unfortunately, my physical body could not keep up with that balance. When the body builds up a tolerance to pain meds, you can end up with the dependency and side effects of the meds, as well as the pain itself. Then it all started to become a crutch, and it would make me not want to do the things that I used to love to do. But what was it that stopped me from doing those things? Was it the pain? The meds? Or both?

Before my hospital trip, that question was starting to get answered when I kept thinking of a line from a song:

You should worry 'bout the day That the pain, it goes away You know, I miss mine sometimes

Miss it? There was no way in the world that I would ever miss this pain. Ever! And thank God I was starting to see it for what it really was. The pain specialist who recommended the chronic pain program to me said the pain meds I was taking were actually contributing to the pain itself. He explained this to me in detail, and it started to make some sense. It's just that I couldn't get myself to try taking a lesser amount of meds, because it went against everything that I was told by other doctors up to that point. I really needed something that would truly help me believe this new information. I really needed to wake up.

... and I did.

Never in my life have I had an awakening like the one I had this year. I'd listened to No Line at least a dozen or so times before I went into the hospital. But it wasn't until I was actually there in my room one night, sitting on the bed and reading an e-mail from my wife, that this moment happened. I need to share what she wrote so you'll hopefully get it:

"Honey, I was reading lyrics and the song 'Moment of Surrender' reminded me of what you are going through on some level. One thing I know is that love believes in you John and I do, too. I love you honey. I pray that God gives you everything you need. I love you so much. I am amazed by you and am so honored to walk with you through life."

I'm really glad a nurse didn't decide to come into my room right at this point. I don't think that I would have been able to talk. So after I of course composed myself, I put my ear buds in and listened to this song again, but it was really for the first time. Between the e-mail and song, my moment of surrender hit me hard. But it was the good kind of hard.

All the while, I was detoxifying my body of some pretty strong stuff. I was no drug addict; I was just drug dependant. But there's a very fine line between those two things, and sometimes no line at all. About the seventh or eighth day into the program, I was beginning to think more clearly. My thoughts were new and fresh, and my body was getting back. Not begging anymore, but actually getting back to what I was made to do. I was made to live. And I was being released from control.

I know there are a few different U2 song lyrics that could have fit this slot for me at any given time in the last few years....

If I could throw this lifeless Lifeline to the wind

Innocent and in a sense I am

Sweet the sin Bitter the taste in my mouth

Oh Lord, if I had anything anything at all I'd give it to you I'd give it to you

Really? Anything at all? All right then, it's yours.

It's been a little over a month now that I've been home from the hospital. It's been quite a journey, and a pretty difficult one at that. But I'm happy to say that it was very successful. I met all of my goals with the pain management, and oh yeah, I'm not taking any type of opiates anymore, either.

When I think about vision over visibility, I think it's actually better having the vision. Visibility can be so deceiving because we often rely on only what we think we know and see. But vision to me has way more to do with what we hope for, what we dream about, what we believe, and what we know is true. As each day passes, I'm getting stronger and stronger. Physically, mentally, and yeah, even spiritually. To me, they're all connected anyway. One of the main things I've noticed since I've been home from the hospital is that I really look forward to things. Whether it's next year, next month, tomorrow, or five minutes from now, I see it all as a new beginning. With U2 tickets in hand, and hope for the future, my vision has really gotten better. As one guy said: "Here's to the future. Dream up the kind of world you want to live in. Dream out loud."

As I look back over the years, I remember always wanting to get off the drugs. I just never really wanted to take the chance. The drugs would make me count down until the pain would stop, but as I mentioned earlier, it never really did. So I finally just took that chance, and because I did, the pain has now stopped. It's just that the eyes still hurt and the headaches are still there. But I can live with that.

...I mean really live!

© @U2/Tuohy, 2009.