Without Shame - Revised
Written: February 2014
Slight Revision: June 2014
**Update at the end**
Link to Blog Post: http://lifesjourneybyerin.blogspot.com/2014/06/without-shame-revised.html
I remember a time when my medical chart said "Percocet Intolerance" in bold, right where they mark your allergies. Something changed over the years, I no longer had an intolerance to Percocet - I had an intolerance to life without it.
I've seen your comments and I've heard your conversations so you can read this with anger, with love, with fear or with ignorance.. you can read this with an open mind or you can choose to close your eyes and thus your mind but I write this with no shame as my addiction is part of who I am.
I had two genuine medical conditions that led to prescription pain medication when I was in my mid 20's. I had heard of people who enjoyed taking these same pills for fun but I couldn't see what the fuss was all about. One day though, something changed, why, I don't know but it did. This time when I took my Vicodin I felt not only like the pain went away, but I was on top of the world. I had this amazing energy and my apartment was spotless that afternoon, everyone I encountered was greeted with a cheerful 'hello, how ya doing?' It was the greatest high I could ever describe, all of life's worries were gone and .. my doctor gave it to me so it was completely legal.
Over the next several weeks I was able to take just one pill and feel the same thing every day. I got my refill and life was pretty damn good.
The day finally came that one pill no longer gave me that warm & fuzzy feeling, so I took two and everything was back.
I didn't see that while I was not only killing my physical and my emotional pain, I was also forming a habit that would be much harder to lose than it was to find.
I remember the moment I realized that I was addicted to pain killers. I had an anxiety attack one afternoon because I looked into my bottle and found I only had three pills left. Once I was able to find more, the anxiety was gone. I have lived with anxiety from the time I was a child, no medication or therapy has ever helped and I was taken aback by this, unwilling to face more anxiety.
I went on for 2 more years addicted to opiates. I did a lot I'm not proud of, but I always took care of my son. A day came when I had no money, no pills, and I was about to start withdrawing. I was offered suboxone aka: bupe, which is what doctors use in treatment for opiate addicts to help them to prevent cravings, and keep patients stable while in treatment- It's similar to methadone, only for a different purpose.
I took one tiny piece of it, about the size of a pen tip, and I was ill for hours, sadly though I tried it again, and again, and again. Eventually I was taking suboxone exclusively. It was cheaper than buying Vicodin or Percocet if I couldn't get a script, and one pill lasted me a week or more.
By now I had lost my apartment, my car had been repossessed, and I had moved back to where I grew up in small town, Vermont. For that first year I worked less than part time at the only place I could find a job within walking distance, I was on welfare because of my hours so I had to do community service in order to receive my grant, and my son went to the daycare owned by the wicked witch, I wouldn't realize this until later though.
When I hear about drug testing for welfare recipients I only see the inside of the apartment my son and I shared at that time. I think about what I would have done if my choice would have been to be drug tested or lose what little money I did get. If it wasn't so intimidating, and a promise for help was offered for those who have a problem with addiction, I would be less against it but in my shoes at that time as scared as I was to lose my son anyway and with no offer for resources or support I think I would have had to forfeit my benefits. Think of all the other kids out there who won't have a choice in this matter. It just doesn't make sense. Offering to help does.
After I moved twice more, and finally got a car through the welfare program, life started looking up. I was working full time but I still couldn't escape my addiction. I tried and failed countless times. I was what they call a "functioning addict" able to carry on about life with this secret, as long as I had my medication.
So many times I wanted to ask for help but I was so scared of losing my son. What if I asked for help and they took him away? What if I didn't and somehow someone caught on and they took him away? How could I do this to him? It wasn't fair to him.
I finally got a job where I was working with people who came from many different circumstances. I met a few mothers who told me about their addictions, and they told me with such courage and I felt like such a fraud. Here I was supposed to be helping them, while I couldn't even help myself.
I went to my doctor, she informed me that I would have to go to an inpatient rehab center before she could treat me. I was so discouraged. I finally reached out only to learn that I couldn't even do what they asked. How could I go to rehab? I'm a single mother, and I had just started a new job. I was on a wait list to join a group session, but when they called me I had to turn them down as it was conflict of interest due to the fact that some of my clients were in these groups. Discouraged once again, my chance for treatment finally came and I had to turn it down.
I asked my doctor again a few days later only to be told the same thing; inpatient. Finally I told our head start provider. She gave me the names of a couple counselors, I called one and from there my treatment began.
I've been in treatment for over 3 years now. If I had the opportunity to detox when treatment began, I would have. It has not been easy, but worth it to get back to being myself.
Addiction can happen to anyone.. your pizza guy, your accountant, your mailman, your social worker, your favorite politician, even the cop who pulled you over last week. Addiction isn't particular to anyone no matter their race, gender, social class.. or anything else (despite the contrary).
Once it enters you, it completely takes over. Addiction kidnaps you from your loved ones, steals your money, your body, your mind, and if you're not careful it will steal your life away in the most literal way. My addiction has caused me a lot of pain, but nothing I can't overcome.
I don't blame my addiction on anything in particular, except that if I hadn't had access to the pills in the first place the chances of my coming to rely on them to take away my pain (in both a physical and emotional way) would have been much less.
The big question right now it seems is: why here, why now? Well, my situation like so many others had much to do with dental issues. If Medicaid offered a higher dental amount per year, I would have been able to get root canals instead of extractions therefore not needed all the bottles of Vicodin for pain for both the cause and then the recovery. VHAP offered no dental at all, just saying.
Taking something that enhances your state of mind feels necessary once you experience it once and live in a typically sad state of mind. To feel happy like that in such a short amount of time is indescribable.
I don't claim to have the answers, I just know what happened to me. When I was an addict I had a long list of people on speed dial who I could ask for these meds, therefore the problem is not a small one but we know that already.
I am not ashamed of what happened to me, though I am ashamed of some of the things I did during that time. I can't go back and change that but each day I know that I can be a little bit stronger than the day before, and learn from the mistakes of my past. I am who I am because of my experiences.
If you are keeping the secret of addiction, know this - if there is not one person who you can go to in this world because you are scared, come to me. Even if you aren't sure at first know that I have been there and I can at least help you find resources to help you, I can be a shoulder, or I can just be someone who can relate. Don't hold it inside though. It was such a relief to finally get it out, and I believe that writing this, even with all the time that has passed is helpful to me because I don't have to hide this from anyone. It's not something to be embarrassed about no matter what anyone else thinks.
Thanks for hearing me.
June 2014 / Update:
I am preparing to finally enter inpatient rehab in the coming weeks. Four years ago this month I began treatment for this disease, yet still I rely on this crap every damn day to keep me 'normal' .. keep me sane, free of pain.
I will write an updated post later on, but know that I'm looking forward to meeting the real version of my 'normal' on the other end of the bridge.