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Coming Clean

“I just want them to figure out what’s wrong with you”, my mother whispered over my hospital bed. My eyes were closed and I was drenched in a cold sweat covered with eight heated hospital blankets because I was freezing. I had been vomiting throughout the night with severe abdominal pain that was unrelenting. I didn’t have the energy to double over; I simply laid there on the bathroom floor, my face in a puddle of my own vomit. The muscle cramps felt like all of my muscles were simultaneously being ripped from my bones. I could feel horrible pain deep within my bones. My lips and hands had gone numb and I couldn’t move without being carried. I wanted to die. It had come to the point where I couldn’t even cry anymore and death sounded like a dream. This, however, was not my first hospital visit for these same symptoms. No. I had been in this situation several times before and my beautiful mother was outraged that the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with me. I knew truth, hidden by years of lies and clever ruses to get my fix. I was an addict. A full blown addict! I was taking an excess of 500 mg of morphine and oxycontin a day and nobody knew my dirty little secret not even my own mother.

It started with the onset of my fibromyalgia and my first visit to my new pain doctor. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia at 26 along with a co-diagnosis of osteoarthritis. It was 3 months after the birth of my daughter, my husband deployed, and I could barely move my joints without tear-inducing pain in my hips, neck, and shoulders. Having no idea at the time that I was most likely also still experiencing a decent amount of inflammation from a 39 hour labor, I saw my family doctor. He referred me to several specialist and they all seemed to agree on a diagnoses. It was fibromyalgia and I was told that there was no cure. Feeling hopeless, I immediately scheduled an appointment with a friend’s pain doctor. I had my diagnoses and I was ready to do the hard work of fighting through this. You see, I’ve always been kind of a fighter. The doctor was pleasant and seemed very knowledgeable of what I was going through. He prescribed me some Vicodin and a transdermal pain patch and sent me on my way to come back three months later to report back and get more meds. I began taking the Vicodin immediately, as I was no stranger to this particular opiate. Years prior, while working as a bartender, I was pretty frequently medicated due to the arthritis in my back. It took all my pain away.

These pills became a godsend to me. This was great!!! I was able to care for my newborn and play with my 4 year old son, pain free! I felt guilty about all my physical problems. Unable to perform the tasks that I once completed with ease, I felt robbed of my health at such a young age. I felt incompetent in every way. Even small chores had become impossible for me to accomplish on my own. I felt as if I was more of a burden on my family, rather than blessing, but with my new meds all that went away!

After 5 months, I had built up a tolerance to the vicodin so they switched me to Percocet. This was perfectly fine with me. As long as I was pain free, I probably would have tried anything they offered.

Here’s one thing that a pain doctor won’t tell you…. You’re going to get hooked! Four years later and the pills had become my crutches and both of my legs may as well have been broken.

I couldn’t live, stand, or function without them, at least that’s what my body had me convinced of.

It wasn’t about the pain from my fibromyalgia anymore it was about the pain from withdrawals. 

How did this happen to me? I had always pictured junkies shooting up in dirty public restrooms not the seemingly held together mother of two. How did I become this person? I was all consumed with my fear of withdrawals and each time had proven to be worse and worse. I would be laid up in bed for days whenever I ran out of my meds. It seemed like there was no way out. 

The scariest thing about addiction is that by the time you realize what you’ve gotten into, it’s almost always too late to get out without help. I didn’t think that I could be the person I wanted to be without them. I couldn’t be even a mediocre mother and wife. I was devastated, lost, and in a state of extreme loneliness induced by my lies and determination to keep my addiction a secret. I was ashamed.

At the height of my addiction, I was legally prescribed 180mg of extended release morphine and 160mg of oxycontin a day but my body needed more. My tolerance had reached peak levels. At that time, I may as well have been putting heroin in my body. I began to frequently run out of my meds at the end of each month, my condition steadily declined, and nobody even knew. I had become a master manipulator. My husband began to notice a trend in my monthly hospital visits including many ambulance rides, due to the severity of my condition, and tried to convince me to get help.

But what could he do? What could anybody do really? I didn’t even think there was anything I could do to get out of this hole of darkness. Everything important to me had faded to grey and the only thing I needed was my pills.  At this point, I couldn’t feel happiness, love, warmth or any of the good things in life without them.

This would be my final withdrawal, I told myself every time. I don’t need help, I’m just in pain, I reiterated internally on a daily basis. I was lying to everyone even myself.

Then something happened. My pain doctor lost his practice. Not too hard now, looking back, to see why. My supply had been cut off. I was devastated and panicked by the idea of what was to come for me. How had I gotten in this deep? How was I supposed to survive this?

I slowly began to wean myself off of the pills by buying them on the street and cutting them in half. I sent my children to stay with my mother for a couple weeks and I stocked up on marijuana to smoke to get me through the pain that I knew I was about to feel. A hopelessness that runs through your veins when nothing else matters and you’ve become a shell of yourself. 

A severe opiate withdrawal isn’t something that I would wish on my worst enemy. While the neurotransmitters were recalibrating themselves in my brain, there seemed to always be this little voice whispering how much the dark slumber of death would be so much better. The physical symptoms were only the tip of the iceberg. My head became a nightmare that I thought I would never wake up from. Would this misery ever go away? There were zero moments of contentment through the first three months. Every single second was a struggle.

I knew that I was in a fight for my life and I still had doubts of whether or not I even deserved a life worth living. It took me six months to finally start feeling “normal” and they were the hardest of my life. I knew that no matter what I had to keep fighting for my children to banish these awful drugs from our lives.

That’s exactly what I did. I’m now 2 years clean and the drugs that once orchestrated my life are meaningless to me. There are still days when I want to pop a pill because that was how I coped with life for so long that it is almost second nature. 

I allow those desires, however, to drift out of mind just as easily as they drifted in. Now, I’m different. At 30 years old I’m finally learning all about who I truly am and it’s just like breathing again! Now I’m learning new coping strategies, healthy ones.

 All of the broken relationships that my using destroyed have either been repaired or forgotten and without the beast that was my addiction, I am free. I finally have the amazing family life and career that I’ve always dreamt of and with my pilled fueled blinders off and gone for good, I can finally see color again.