When I was a child, I knew what drugs were. I knew what Heroin was, not because I was a child of a junkie, or because I knew people that used it. My mother smoked marijuana with her friends, but not hard drugs. But I had a friend, my mother’s friends son, who’s father overdosed on Heroin when we were 10, he walked into the restroom to see him on the floor, almost dead. His dad survived. My friend was devastated, a part of him now irreparably broken, and I remember thinking “Why would someone do that? Why would they hurt their child in that way? I’ll never do drugs, especially Heroin.”
3 year later, I had surgery. I was prescribed a low dose of Vicodin, hydrocodone. Then another surgery, with a higher dose, then another, then some Percocet, then another, then some Morphine. I was only 16 at that point, having no idea that the ‘medicine’ I was taking around the clock, set by an alarm, was actually, essentially, heroin in disguise of a pretty white ‘cure’. I didn’t run out, and I don’t know if I was addicted. I had not experienced withdrawal. Never once did a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, anyone, explain the risks of taking these drugs.
Then came the car accident. I owned a sweet 1966 Ford Mustang, that I rebuilt myself (It had a straight 6 that I replaced with a 289 w/a 4 barrel carb, pearl white with two tone pony print interior-if you’re interested), and I was not paying attention, made a turn and was t-boned by a car going 45 mph, hit on the passenger side. I wasn’t wearing a seat belt and went straight out the window and landed on, of all things, a police cruiser. I was airlifted to the local university hospital. My appendix had burst and my cecum (little organ at the bottom of your intestines) had become detached. Super fun. I lost a ton of blood and had 2 transfusions. And of course, major surgery.
Somehow, 4 months later, I got pregnant at 17. I immediately stopped taking the medication with no side effects that I remember. After he was born, I was told not only did my original disease not go away as was expected, but in fact, was worse. So, more surgery, more pills. Stronger pills. For the next 2.5 years I took the medication on and off, I never really thought about it being something for recreational use until some of my ‘friends’ starting asking to have a few. So I’d get them and at that point I was on Soma for my back and abdominal muscle spasms, Percocet for Chronic abdominal pain and Valium for anxiety and to help me sleep, (I weighed all of 100 lbs-so crazy they gave me that much) and we would all party.
It’s a wonder that I was able to function as well as I did, which was not well at all. Luckily, by that time I had met my now husband and so my son had a very sober person to help raise him. For all we knew, mommy was sick. It became so very easy to hide behind my illness and a prescription pad.
Then, I got pregnant with my daughter at 20. She was more than a miracle because the doctor I had at the time not only prescribed Vicodin, but encouraged its use all without telling me the risks. At this point, I kind of had an idea that this stuff wasn’t good, the way I acted on it wasn’t me, so I took a lot less and eventually none, so she was born not addicted and without drugs in her system. Thankfully.
When she was born they told me that the only way I could be possibly cured was ny having a hysterectomy, which was fine with me because to be honest, I wanted one child and got two, one of each. The fact that it would “cure” my pain, that I wouldn’t need anymore medicine everyday, I was all for it. So I went home and nursed her for 3 weeks before I had surgery. My doctor and I opted for a partial hysterectomy, taking the Left ovary and tube, uterus and cervix. So, cured, right?
Nope. I was left with severe abdominal pain, and more medication, and I experienced withdrawal for the first time. I was supposed to refill my medicine on Saturday. It was Friday and I decided to wait until Monday. I thought 2 or 3 days without it wouldn’t kill me, right? Well, it didn’t kill me, but by midnight on Friday I wanted to die. I thought I was getting the worst flu ever. I thought that I was just sick, and the restlessness in my legs must have just been part of it. So come Monday, I was banging down the door to my doctor’s office thinking he would give me antibiotics or put me in the hospital because I was sure I was dying. He took me in right away, and he explained to me, with a chuckle in his voice, that because I had been on opiate medication for so long, I had become “Chemically dependent”. Never once did he say addicted. I has to look up what ‘opiate’ meant. He gave me a shot in his office of something opiate, and then he gave me a prescription with refills and told me it was vitally important to take them as prescribed and not miss a dose, and especially not miss a refill. He said that this was something I would likely be taking for the rest of my life and that it something I needed to accept, just like that I would never have more children. It was presented as fact. Oh, and he gave me some Xanax, which I had never had, said it was better than Valium, and more Soma. So, I was good, right?
Nope. After the most painful surgery up to then, the hysterectomy that was supposed to ‘cure me, (oh yes, it gets worse), I was on more medicine then ever, NOT cured, and having some major issues with my abdominal muscles, abdominal distention and starting losing weight like crazy. So I wen to to a gastro-internologist, who operated on the fringes of what is acceptable, and he convinced me to have a tube inserted into my actual stomach. A g-tube, that when it was placed, they couldn’t even sedate me, so I was awake for it. He said it would relieve the pressure and I could supplement my food intake by shooting up a vitamin mix. Sounds super cool, right? Wrong. It was the most painful experience of my life, and at that point I was so grateful for legal heroin, aka Dilaudid 8mg x6/day. Plus all the other stuff. Can I just say, it’s a miracle I didn’t die from an accidental overdose? I shouldn’t have EVER been given the amount of medicine I was being given. After an excruciating few months, I walked into his office and told him, in no uncertain terms, I wanted it OUT. Now, I did say that either he was going to take it out or I was going to, but I was under the influence of very strong narcotics and extreme duress. So instead of scheduling surgery, like an ethical doctor would have done, he told me to sit back, take a deep breath and hold either side of the chair. He proceeded to put one leg up on the chair for support and rip the tube and both inner and outer plugs from my left abdominal flank that the skin had healed over, from my body. I passed out. When I came to, my husband was carrying me to the emergency room at the hospital that was right next door, thankfully. All I remember is them giving me a ton of drugs and hearing the head ER doctor calling over to the GI and asking if what I was saying was true, and that he was personally going to report him to the medical board, and asking how could he do that to a person. Apparently, after ripping out the tube he told my husband to just apply pressure to the gaping wound in my stomach with some cheap gauze. My husband said if he hadn’t been so worried about me he would have laid that doctor out.
Anyway, at this point, my husband, who is the most amazing Man, Father, Partner and Lover I could ever even imagine having, I am so grateful for him, decided that what I was taking was not only not helping, but making me worse and even killing me. At the very least, killing my spirit. So, he confronted me, and at first I was mad. Then I was pissed. Then, I started to listen, I started to realize that he was right. I didn’t need all of this medicine to life a normal life, in fact, my life has become anything but normal. I didn’t have much of a relationship with my beautiful, amazing children, I was wasting away and it was totally unnecessary.
I would like to say that I got sober immediately. I would like to say that I only had to go to rehab once, that I have been clean for years. However, it’s never that easy, is it?
It took many more years of trying everything from Methadone maintenance, Suboxone maintenance, Subutex step down, cold turkey many, many times, on purpose and not, and using all the meds like clonidine, loperimide, etc etc for me to realize that when you are done, you are just done. You do whatever it takes, you find a way to make it through that ten days of hell to get to the other side of it. The other side, the side without the poison, it’s beautiful. So beautiful, I can’t even put it into words. Food tastes better, relationships get stronger, life gets better and the grass si greener. I find myself just looking at the sky and thinking that I am so grateful that I can see it with such clarity, appreciate it with a gratitude that I can’t really describe.
Now, don’t get me twisted. This is freaking hard. All the the emotions, all of the amends and repairing the years of damage that I have caused, gaining the trust of the people who mean the most to me. Sometimes, it feels like I’ll never be able to completely forgive myself for all that I have done, that I will never be able to not look back and mourn the precious time that I lost with my incredible family, but I know that now, I am able to live in the moment. I can just leave and take off for however long I want and not have to worry about when the last time I was I took a certain medicine, how long I have until I get sick, how many I have, when I can get more, have to take some with me, panic when I am out later than I had planned. I am no longer a slave to the bottle, the chalky substance that controlled every single aspect of my life is no longer in control.
I don’t know if I would have ever been a drug addict if I had never been a sick child, there is something called pseudo-addiction that is defined as when a persons pain is controlled, the no longer exhibit the traits of a true addict. I feel that described me better than an an addict, but then Io remember getting high, and taking more than I should have, nodding out talking to my child, missing holidays because I was too doped up to go to family functions, my husband telling the family the kids I was just “too sick to play, or to go to the park with them” So yes, I identify a drug addict, however it started, my fault or not, it doesn’t matter.
Regardless, drugs ruined my life, they turned me into a slave, and almost killed me. I am now clean and can honestly say that I am truly happy, the serotonin and dopamine I receive now doesn’t have to come from an outside source. Sometimes I still struggle, I still have pain sometimes so bad I can’t get out of bed, and sometimes I do think that just taking a pill would make the physical pain go away, but at what cost? Once seems too many, and a thousand is never enough. I have learned to cope in other ways, and I am still learning every day that I am clean. Like a butterfly cosign out of a cocoon. When I detoxed for the last time, I remember thinking that a caterpillar can’t be comfortable in a cocoon and the discomfort i felt was necessary. Or that it was like healing from another surgery, something I had no choice but to go through. It was hell, but easy at the same time. I was ready. I was done.
I am healthier than I have ever been, physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. I have a true sense of clarity that I never imagined was possible. I am not ashamed of my story but I don’t go shouting it from the rooftops. It’s just PART of my story, it doesn’t have to be all of it anymore. I am no longer a slave to big pharma, I am no longer sick. I am able to experience life, love, loss, and apply coping skills I never learned before. Life is hard, but it’s beautiful now that I am clean.
And it feels amazing.