Chronic Pain and Opiate Addiction--What Is the Solution?
A Problem Without a Solution
I was addicted to pain medication from a very young age. As a matter of fact I used heroin before I used any other substance, like smokes, pot, or any other drug. There were reasons for this, but it was a love affair of a special kind, for it was not that I just wanted to get high, but it was because I wanted to be free of pain and be able to do the things that others did, but could not/
At the age of about 23 or so, I broke my neck in a horse back riding accident. At the age of 32 I broke it again, playing volleyball. Also due to the fact that all my babies were twelve plus pounds at birth, and due to carrying one of them tilted backward, with his head leaning back towards my spine, and his legs and feet in the front by my stomach, this pregnancy resulted in an injury to my lower back. The way the baby was carried with his weight on my back, caused the ligaments to become stretched and after the birth, they were not able to hold my spine and the muscles straight as they should have. All of this caused me to have a tremendous amount of pain, both in my lower back and in my neck and shoulders,sometimes so severe that I could not stay in any one position for longer than fifteen minutes at a time. If I was standing, I could only stand for ten or so minutes, and would have to sit. After sitting for ten or fifteen minutes, I would have to change positions to laying down or standing again. It was extremely hard to do anything, for everything I did was in ten minute increments.
Due to my pain, my doctors sent me home from the hospital after the births with prescriptions of Percadan, and after about three weeks would lower me down to a lower dose or would give me codiene #4. Even with these pain meds I was still in considerable pain.
When I was introduced to heroin it was like a miracle in my life.; I was able to live in a more normal style, being able to do things for longer periods of time, and also was able to go out and do things like play with my kids in the park, or at the beach. I know that my doctor had suspicions that I was self medicating, but did not mention anything to me about it.
After quite a while, I decided that being all strung out on drugs was not exactly what I wanted for a long term lifestyle, and decided that perhaps after the amount of time that had gone by, I would be able to stop the heroin use.
I thought that I was going to become sick due to the withdrawals, but found out after doing some research that unless you are using the drugs to get high, and over medicating, there was not much withdrawal at all. I asked my doctor about this, and he confirmed that when you only use pain killers to the extent of killing the pain only, you do not have withdrawals. This was encouraging. I detoxed myself down to almost nothing at all, and this is when I realized that regardless of my wishes to quit, or no matter how much I did not want to be a drug user, when I quit using, I was right back to where I started from at the beginning. There was no healing, or relief of the symptoms, and when I got down to where I was not using at all, or was using a very very tiny amount, the pain that I was dealing with previously, was still with me, and there was nothing I could do about it, except either suffer with it everyday, and not really have any quality of life, or go back on some sort of pain killers, whether it be through my doctor, or whether I treated it myself with street drugs, which seemed to work better on the pain that the pills, partially because it was a bit stronger, and partially because it lasted longer by several hours than any pills the doctor gave me.
Am I or Am I Not
So, there was my problem. I either stayed addicted and had a life, or I took myself off of the drugs, and was unable to move, or do anything of any normal nature.
Finally, after about 6 or 8 years of going back and forth between heroin and pills, I discovered a drug that was mainly used for heroin addicts as a maintenance program, and it lasted for about 12 to 18 hours of relief from my pain, and it was called Methadone. Methadone was a very strong drug, much stronger than the heroin, and although I did not know it at the time, the withdrawals were horrible. The sickness after detoxing off of it lasted almost two full months. But I am jumping ahead of myself. The methadone was for the treatment of pain, a miracle for me and my life.; I went on the drug, dispensed by a clinic near y house for about 7 years. It worked on my pain issues, but again it was the same as before. I was either addicted to a substance, or I was in pain constantly.
I wish I could tell you that I found an answer to this problem, but unfortunately I have not. I am now in my 50's and am still going in the same circles as I was when I started. I have accepted the fact that I will always be addicted to some sort of pain medication. There is no solution, but this is what I wanted to say to all those persons who find it very easy to criticize those who are addicted to heroin or other pain meds. Sometimes there just is not any other answer to the problem of pain. If I decide to get off the drugs, my quality of life goes from near normal to someone who almost cannot get out of bed to do the most basic things for myself. This is no way to live. Yet I found that unless I did I had no other solution.
I also found that there are people in this world who find it impossible to not judge me and cannot keep their opinions to themselves, and almost cannot help themselves from pointing their fingers at me. They spread rumours that I was no good, and that due to my addiction problems that I was just a junky. This story got spread to my boss, people at my church, and even through the cub scouts, who I was a leader for at my sons school. It was terrible, and that in itself, went a long way to ruining my reputation and my life. People didn't look at me the same, and didn't trust me with their children anymore.
The society that we live in today, has found that all those people who are addicted to drugs are weak, have no strength of will, and just did not want to stop the drugs. My family members made me feel like I have no will to quit, and that I am using my pain as an excuse. Many others I have come in contact with, as soon as they found out that I use pain killers, would end friendships, telling others that because of my addiction that I steal, and all sorts of other stigmas that go along with the stereotyped junky stories that are labeled to me.
Maybe someday I will find a permanent solution to this stigma of addiction that carries a black cloud over my head. Maybe I never will, but all I can do is to try to live my life as best as I can, in an honest and normal fashion. Maybe someday, others will live, and let live.