Life's Journeys: Prescription Drug Addiction
In recovery successfully for 22 years!!!
Personal experience shared
The information shared within this article is from my personal experience. I am not a medical doctor and have no special training in this area. But I have LIVED this hellacious life so I have experienced first hand the horror.
I have been an addict. I have lived this nightmare. I have shared how I climbed out of hell in this article.
There is an old joke that goes something like this:
A man fell in a hole. A priest walked by and the man yelled up.."Can you me?" The priest wrote a prayer on a slip of paper and threw it down to him.
A doctor came by, and the guy in the hole called up to him..."Can you help me?" The doctor wrote a prescription and threw it down to him.
Soon a man came by, a friend of his. The guy yelled, "Can you help me?"
The friend jumped in with him. The guy turned to him and said, "That was dumb...now we are both stuck down here.'
His friend turned to him and said, "I know. But I have been down here before and I know the way out."
That is how I feel and that is why I felt compelled to share this scary, very personal part of my journey with you. I know the way out because I have been there. I hope you find something here that will help you.
Vitamins and aspirin: these are all I take now.
Are you an Addict?
Reading about this may make you uncomfortable because you may be sucked into the world that addiction brings whether it is street drugs or medications that have been prescribed. It is a deceitful world. Before you realize what has happened, you are dependent emotionally and physically to drugs that take over your life. Your downward spiral begins.
You may have fallen into this innocently. It may have been a spur of the moment thing when someone said to you, "You really should try this. It makes you feel...." And you do. And then you find you like the way you felt. You will try more. And that can be the beginning.
Admission . That is the way out of addiction to prescription drugs, any drug. Admitting that you are completely out of control is the way to become a recovering addict. Until you are ready to admit that you have a problem, you will remain in the limbo world, the days of walking around dazed and thinking mainly about the next time you will take more pills.
Denial ....a huge stumbling block
If you are in denial that a problem exists, then no matter what anyone else says or does, you will remain in this hell hole. You can be put in intervention programs, placed in an in-patient facility or receive treatment outside of a facility but they will not work if you have not:
- recognized the problem
- stopped denying that it is a problem
- owned it
- determined drugs control you
- determined you want help
To me, addiction to prescription drugs is a frightening type of addiction because the drugs can be legally obtained and the addiction can be masked easily. I know. I was caught in this nightmare world for more years than I care to admit.
Once you have made the commitment to yourself to become a recovering addict, you have made the admission you are ready to seek help.
It is not easy to accept, own, and quit denying. It is the hurdle, the proverbial mountain you must climb. And you may need to climb it for many years to come afterwards and possibly for the rest of your life.
Having lived through the nightmare of being drug dependent for more than twenty years, I freely admit that the journey out of the abyss that had swallowed my life was far, far more difficult than my descent into it had been. If you are reading this you may know someone who right now is lost inside a world of pills and perhaps shots as one day floats into the next.
Still more rationale for using ....
To begin with anyone who is trapped in this world of hazy days has a unique experience. For those who are addicted to prescription drugs, a whole lot of excuse-making behavior exists.
- The doctor prescribes these meds so I know they are safe.
- My pain is so bad that I cannot function without them.
- My Mother (Father, insert your family member or friend's name) was given these same meds and they are fine.
- My pain is far worse than any you can possibly imagine.
- I tried not taking them but I just could not get through the day without them.
- All I think about is the pain and when it will come again so I take these meds to keep the pain from coming back...it is a preventive measure.
And then if that is not convincing enough sometimes the addict will say:
- You have no idea.
- You just do not understand.
- You try living with this pain with no meds.
- I am totally in control
- I just cannot face the day without them.
- Leave me alone. I know what I am doing!!
My life was stolen
For years my life was lived inside of bottle after bottle after bottle of pain killers. Percodan and percocet were my drugs of choice.. This was a legal addiction. I did not go to a street corner to buy these drugs although I know now that I would have if I could not have gotten them legally.
The reason I became an addict was because of migraines that successfully stole huge chunks of my life away and the part the migraines did not get, the drugs did.
Migraines are the nightmare from hell. No polite way to put it. In this article, my journey into darkness is chronicled. I became an addict over the years. Legal, prescription drugs were readily available.
One day I woke up and knew that I was not living my life. I was not L I V I N G. I was existing in an inescapable haze.. This was 21 years ago.
As a young child, I remember finding my Mother in bed sometimes in the middle of the day, with the curtains drawn, and a cool washcloth over her eyes. She had suffered with migraines since she was a young teenage girl.
When I turned eighteen, I experienced my first migraine. This was the beginning of my journey into darkness...literally and figuratively. As time passed, each migraine increased with great intensity.
More and more intense
By the time I was twenty five, I was missing at least 3 days per month from work because of migraines. The best treatment would be a dark room, silent, and as odorless as possible. Depending on how bad it was, I could be in bed for 3 days. That would be the longest I could manage. I had to 'schedule' the time that I was in bed for the weekend as I was a teacher and a Mother and a wife and could not just 'go to bed.'
For anyone who knows about migraines, working, trying to carry on, with a migraine is a monumental endeavor. Frequent trips to the restroom were in order. Acting as if I felt 'fine' was required. I could not miss work. I had to suck it up and face each day. Truthfully, now as I tell this, I wonder how on earth I was ever able to do this. How did I go to work and interact with my co-workers and my students with the beast inside of my head?
There was no alternative. Whatever meds the doctors gave me to help me cope with the pain, dulled the pain enough for me to get through the day. The headaches went on for at least a week. A week that I lost time. I just muddled through; my memory is vague about those days.
Looking for answers
As the frequency of migraines increased, my need for stronger, more powerful drugs increased. The quality of my life was spiraling out of control. My whole life was about migraines. When another one would hit, how long it would last, if 'this' headache was another migraine getting ready to begin?
One after another, the migraines rolled in. I had MRI's looking for brain tumors which I knew I did not have as I had had these headaches all of my life. Doctor after doctor tried some new technique. One told me get in the shower and turn the water on as hot as I could stand it and let it beat down on the base of my neck. Which I did. While I enjoyed the hot shower a great deal, the pain did not subside. The doctors meant well but nothing was working.
So I continued to throw more addictive drugs into my system. More and more each time as the last dose did not make the headache go away.
Where am I?
I would travel from my home to some destination and have NO memory of how I got from point A to point B.
Think about that...I had no memory of the drive ..how did I navigate the traffic? the traffic lights? the pedestrians? the bikes along the way?
Addicted, fearful, out of control, and in denial
Gradually, years passed and eventually my whole life was totally consumed with trying to live with migraines. I missed at least one day a week from them as time progressed. (I worried about my job security.) I went from one migraine to the next. As soon as one ended, another began. I fell into a cycle of taking over the counter meds when I felt the slightest twinge of pain in my head. If that did not work, I would reach for one of the prescription drugs I had been given. When they were all gone, and I was almost out of my mind with pain, I would drive to the emergency room.
I would be evaluated and given a shot of Demerol . Someone would then drive me home. I would spend the next few days on my couch with the curtains drawn, in an effort to be rid of the pain.
After a few days, I would emerge and try to pick up where I had left off. There were gaps in my memory as the migraines stole those days. Fear crept in and settled itself in my whole being. How long would it be until the monster reappeared?
Sometime in the next few days, I would see my doctor to get percodan or percocet for what would be coming. The cycle continued. I took them indiscriminately and often would get to a location with no memory of how I got there. My life was now given over to migraines and the drugs.
"I do not have a problem with this. I am in control. Even though I get places and do not know how I got there, I am fine." In denial---absolutely would not admit that my life had been given over to drugs more powerful than my will to resist.
Are you ready to step out of denial?
Are you addicted to prescripiton drugs?
My life was slipping away...
It was difficult to do a good job at work. Although I masked my use so well that no one knew. I knew I was not performing at 100% but no one else did. I was still the same enthusiastic teacher performing my duties with a frenetic pace while hiding my addiction. My performance evaluations were always wonderful, thank God for watching over me.
At home, fortunately my daughter knew how the migraine cycle worked. She would tip around me and would bring me some broth or some ginger ale, anything that would help settle my upset tummy. I felt life slipping away from me though. Time was passing and I was missing out on too much.
One day, I came to an awful realization. I realized I was a drug addict. It was a scary self evaluation. I had always thought of drug addicts as those who lived on the fringes of society barely living. And now I was ONE. I was not living on the fringes literally--- I lived in a home and lead a respectable life. But I was living my live on the edge. One day merging into another with no conscious knowledge of how those days were flowing one into the other.
I was addicted to prescription drugs. And when I was unable to get a refill, I would emergency room hop. For those of you who do not know what that means, it is means going to ER after ER to get a shot and maybe if I was lucky, a new prescription for percodan or percocet.
I was no different from those who were addicted to street drugs, recreational drugs, whatever the term was. I was now dependent on them to get me through the day.
I knew that I was caught in the snare, trapped like an unsuspecting animal who is unable to wrestle free. I believed that I could not get by, could not cope, without living in this gauzy, foggy maze the drugs created.
How addictive substances affect the brain and your life
Compulsive drug use caused addiction which is a complicated disorder. Abused substances share one commonality: repeated use often alters the way the brain functions and how it looks.
- Levels of dopamine in your brain surge when a recreational drug is taken. Your brain likes that feeling and wants it to be repeated.
- Once you are addicted, whatever you are taking becomes as important as eating and drinking; it becomes associated with survival.
- Your ability to think clearly, use good judgment, behavior appropriately, and feel normal are all interrupted and change dramatically.
- The need, whether physical or mental, becomes increasingly stronger and escalates. The desire for them becomes more important than anything else: family, friends, career, even health and happiness.
- It becomes so important that you convince yourself you are fine. You deny you are addicted. And you find ways to rationalize your use for this substance. You often lose track of how much you are taking or using. You do not realize how much it is affecting your life.
Reclaiming my life....
For too many years, my life was a blur. I lived in a perpetual fog of pain and drugs. I began to wonder if I would ever escape. Was this how my life would be forever??
This descent into darkness occurred and I had not realized it was happening. Years slipped by and my life was given over more and more to a cycle of disquietude and imbalance. In place of the joy I once felt there was none. Angst and dismay crept in and took over my body and mind.
There came a point at which I knew I could no longer live my life in this haze of drugs and uncertainty. I made an appointment with a doctor who was known for not eagerly dispensing pain medications. I explained the entire sordid story to him and simply asked, 'Can you help me? I can no longer exist like this. I am no longer alive.'
I had gone to the right doctor. He told me of the use of beta blockers to help prevent the cycle of migraines. Beta blockers reduce heart rate and lower blood pressure which of course will help those who suffer with migraines. I began that day taking Inderal and took it for 17 years.
Taking Inderal changed my life. Within a few months I noticed a marked drop in the number of migraines I was having. I had fewer and fewer as the months progressed and within three years I was having maybe one migraine every few months. A HUGE difference.
Non drug pain treatment
There are a number of non-drug pain treatments you can try:
- Relaxation---imagery, go to your happy place, visualization
- Heat, Cold
- Self hypnosis tapes specifically dealing with pain
Further explantions of things you can try can be read at the lnk below
This doctor also prescribed Imetrex which is a self-injectable drug to use at the initial onset of a migraine. I was not able to use it as I had an adverse reaction to it. However, it may be something you wish to inquire about when you seek help if you suffer from migraines.
I was given prescription pain killers that were not addictive for those times when I did have one. I began a long standing romance with ice packs. I found that if I took the pain meds and placed a huge bag of ice on my head and found a quiet dark room to snuggle up in for a while sometimes the headache would go away within hours.
Two years ago, I was weaned off of the Inderal and take no meds for migraines except over the counter drugs. I may have two migraines a YEAR....what a difference. Because migraines were passed along genetically in our family, I think the reason I have so few now is that at my age. My Mother began to have fewer of them as you aged. I feel so blessed not to have that albatross in my life any longer.
I still use ice packs, over the counter meds, and massage therapy to manage the pain but the need for these is much less frequent.
I am not pain free. I have had two serious injuries to my back which cause chronic continuous insidious pain, day in and day out. However, I have learned to bite the bullet. I have that pain way way way back in the recesses of my brain. I use ice on my back during the day and a heating pad at night. No drugs. Ever.
Massage therapy works for migraines and back pain.
You can live with the pain; it is all about making choices.
I know there are others who have been caught in the same web I was entangled in at one time. It is a scary, lonely place to be.
Migraines came in and took my life. That is what pain does. Whatever pain you have, you know. Unwanted, uninvited.
Why all of this talk about migraines? Why would you be even remotely interested if you do not suffer from them? Because chronic, relentless pain is chronic relentless pain. The addiction is the same. You have pain. You want it to end. Too soon you are an addict. There is no pretty word for it. Today when I go to a new doctor I tell that person that I am a recovering addict so that I am not accidentally given some narcotic.
Living with pain...
Pain will become the focal point of your life if it is frequent. It is so easy to get caught in the painkiller cycle. Once you are in it the way out is an intervention. You must do the intervention. Take a long hard look at yourself.
- Are you being sucked into that tunnel of darkness in which I found myself?
- Are you in denial? Do you think you can manage the drugs without seeking an alternative way to manage your pain?
- Are you taking more and more of your pain killers and still not feeling the relief ?
- Do you lose track of how many pain killers you have taken?
- Do you find yourself at a location and not recall how you got there?
If you are answering the questions honestly, and the answer is 'yes' to any of them, then you need to seek help. I used to say out loud to myself before I became free of my drug dependency...'I want my life back!!!' I guess I did not want it back enough at that time. If I had really wanted it back, I would have gotten real about the condition I was in and gone for help sooner. I masked my addiction well. No one knew. No one.
Choosing to live drug free..
Chronic pain is a descent into hell. It rapidly takes over your whole life. It claims your waking moments. Your whole day is consumed with trying to make the pain go away, to alleviate it in some way. That is how you become addicted. But the good news is you do not have to stay in that place.
You can live with the pain. It is about choosing to be stronger than it is. It is NOT easy. But it is the way to freedom and the way to reclaiming your life.
There is hope. You can escape the addiction. Talk to your doctor. Together you can develop a pain management plan.
Take the little poll that is included with this article. If you find you are answering that you think you may be in trouble, seek help.
The migraines are mangeable now but I still have chronic back pain 24/7---365. I have had two serious injuries and as a result have relentless pain. But I refuse to let the pill addiction back into my life...so I put it as far away from my conscious mind as possible and go forth. It is always there. But as I have said, I have chosen not to allow anything to control my life any longer. We all have different pain thresholds but it is really about choice. Choosing to life drug free or not.
I have been there and done that so I truly understand if you are caught in this nightmare of pill addiction . You can find your way out of it. I have been drug free since 1995 and I am so thankful.
© 2012 Patricia Scott