Popping Pills

“Judy” was participating in a long-term residential drug treatment program, and was three months into a six-month scheduled stay. He had sustained an injury to her right knee, which required a surgical intervention. The surgery, which was supposed to fix the problem, only made her life worse, as her mobility and the accompanying pain made routine movement a painful experience. She needed more and more of the prescription pain medication in order to manage her pain, and soon her life began to spiral out of control.

Soon, Judy was visiting several doctors to get pain medication prescriptions. While insurance would normally pay for a reasonable amount of the needed medicine, Judy had to come up with cleaver schemes to pay for hers. She began to steal things from her own house, and even slid to the point where she robbed her own children. She had been to some treatment for her knee, but the drug addiction had crept up behind her. She didn’t see it coming. Although she knew what she was doing was wrong, it didn’t matter, because she would rationalize everything. Soon there was no reason to any of her actions, other than she needed the drugs to feel normal. Her marriage was beginning to suffer, but even that didn’t stop her.

Judy said there was some attempt to curb her need for the prescription meds, but the treatment was ineffective no long-term management skills were learned. By the time she left town to check into long-term rehab, the husband was filing for divorce and telling their two children that “mommy didn’t love us anymore.” What might have made matters worse is the fact that the husband was a law enforcement officer, and certainly having a drug addict for a wife would not do his career any good. Still he tried to be supportive, but by this time the fabric of their marriage had been ripped apart.

While working the 12-Step program, Judy rediscovered her spiritual side and began an intense study of her faith. She had been raised a Lutheran, but other than attending church at Christmas and Easter, there was no commitment by either Judy or her husband. She attended a Tuesday night Bible study at the treatment facility. The sessions were open forum and presided over by a local non0denominational pastor. The pastor had no set agenda, but tried to get to know each person and find out what was going on in their life. It was in those studies that Judy began to see herself in the real light of day, and saw the destruction of her marriage and family relationships.

The 12-Step process calls for the addict to turn their will over to God, as they understand Him. During the next month an amazing transformation took place, as Judy was no longer a victim of drug addiction, but took responsibility for her actions and started to really work the program with a new seriousness and energy. She began to bring others to the Bible studies and organized a weekly communion service for the residents.

Her knee pain persisted and one day the treatment staff decided to take her over to a local physician for examination. After his exam he quickly said he could help her and wrote a prescription. “Oh no,” she said. “I’m an addict and I can’t have prescription pain medication. Is there something else you can offer me?” The honestly must have thrown him off course. He paused for a few moments then what came out of his mouth astonished her. “I have a 16 year-old son who has been smoking marijuana. I fear that he will try something else. Do you think you could talk to him for me?”

At that moment, a role reversal took place, as a helpless addict who wanted relief from pain, was suddenly an expert on drug addiction and someone who could help this doctor with his son. You can’t script this. Judy agreed to talk to the boy. The next few weeks saw more positive change. Judy was more herself, more confident and managing her daily affairs well. The encounter with the doctor had put everything into perspective for her, as she realized that her experiences, no matter how destructive and painful, could be used to help somebody else. That doctor put his son’s life in her hands.

About a month after the doctor visit, Judy was released and went into another treatment facility closer to her home. When she left she had no idea what would happen to her marriage, if she would be allowed to see her kids, or if there was any shred of a normal life waiting for her, but through her experiences, she discovered herself.

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