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As the American Idol machine reboards its Magic Karaoke Spaceship and lifts off into the ether, perhaps the hardest part of it all comes in knowing that with it flies away the show's trusty center judge, Paula Abdul. Sure, she'll return when the entire sadomasochistic process begins anew in January, but for those of us who greedily relied upon her zonked-out, indecipherable energies being beamed to us twice a week through our TVs, there is little sweetness to our parting sorrow. Abdul recently opened up to OK! magazine, educating their readers about the excruciating physical conditions that led to a reliance on prescription painkillers:

"I have four titanium plates in my neck. I've had 14 surgeries over the years. I had an operation the same evening as the first season finale of American Idol," she says. "It can come and go at any time, but I no longer have the intense nerve pain that is associated with RSD, thank God."

Abdul — who says she was hit by a drunk driver in 1987 and injured in an emergency plane landing in the early '90s — says she is treated with anti-inflammatory medications and has massage and acupuncture treatments for her pain.

"If I appear exhausted on television, it's because I am!" she says. "I have a lot of sleepless nights because I'm in so much pain. I was taking far more medication on earlier seasons (of 'American Idol'), and nobody said anything. I try to say something and I stumble, and that's what people have picked up on. I'm not polished."

When asked how she responds to claims that her behavior during Idol is sometimes bizarre, Abdul replies:

"I'm sick of it. I've never been drunk. I don't do recreational drugs. It's defamation of character."

Abdul seemed more lucid than ever in Idol's sixth season, offering concrete critiques and only falling once—a minor tumble that broke her nose just hours before the finale, involving her cherished Chihuahua, Vicodin Tulip. We must therefore concur that the very suggestion that her at times erratic behavior—punctuated by the occasional mid-sentence power nap—could have been caused by anything other than on-the-job fatigue is a truly preposterous and mean-spirited notion.