Admitting publicly that you have an addiction is like revealing a dark personal secret, an embarrassing character flaw or weakness. And for men, this has long been strictly taboo. Back in my day, right or wrong, men were to suffer their self-perceived weaknesses in silence! And for most of my life — that’s how I felt too.
So as you may imagine, it was very hard for me to write and post this entry. I began then stopped, added then deleted, had my finger on the publish button then off. For this is my admission to not only living with chronic pain, but my tale of addiction along the way. Up till now, its all been very personal.
Up to now, only family and close friends were aware. — Up to now!
In the end, I decided to tell my tale in hopes that I had a message. Perhaps my story could inspire hope in somebody else? There must be many who could relate to my story and if even one finds some inspiration at all in my tale then it’s the right thing to do. Doesn’t make it any easier — but it’s the right thing to do!
We all have our own personal vices and bad habits. As a species we are very habitual creatures indeed. Unfortunately, a large percentage of us are also addiction-prone as well. Alcohol, gambling, tobacco, food, even addictions you’d not normally consider like love or criminal behavior.
But the most common, the number one on the list today is perhaps also the most deadly — drug addiction. And today that means prescription pain killers in the form of Opioids; Oxycodone, Morphine and Fentanyl to name a few. Today’s unparalleled rise in Opioid addiction is directly associated with its past easy access.
Prescriptions of Opioid based pain Killers have been handed out routinely now for many years and consequently millions are now addicted. And for a long time — that included me!
45 years ago…
During my last year in high school, way back in 75, I suffered what then would become a life-changing injury. I was knocked unconscious during football practice by a big rumbling lineman who while running at full speed, caught me under the chin with his helmet as I was looking up for the ball.
Like a speeding Mac truck he plowed in under my chin and whiplashed my head back further than nature intended it to go. Unbeknownst to me at the time, and inconceivably remaining undiagnosed for most of the rest of my life, he shattered my facet joints high on both sides of my neck.
Soon after, the migraine attacks started happening. My neck muscles tensing, then painfully contracting without letting go and soon driving me to my knees. Then came the migraines. Indescribable even now. Head hung low, sitting on the edge of my bed in total darkness the pain waves pulsating with ever beat of my heart.
During these all too often episodes, I am not ashamed to say that at times I thought of death. Sometimes afraid of it happening — and sometimes wishing for it! Those of you who suffer from these kinds of violent migraines as I do, know all too well of what I speak.
Relief for me, (remember this was back in 75) would come only after my body was drained of energy and surpassed its endurance for pain. Then and only then would I collapse in exhaustion, knocked senseless into sleep. Upon awaking, I was again free as normal until the next time and all too soon it would begin again.
This I would live with, off and on again for some 40 years. As I aged, my symptoms evolved. My neck and shoulder muscles now permanently tense and restricted. The slightest wrong move sending them further into convulsions. And always, the never ending threat of more totally incapacitating migraines.
As a result, today, I can no longer lay flat in bed to sleep, and for some 15 years now I’ve taken to sleeping sitting upright in my easy chair. More than 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep, a rare blessing.
My family doctor sent me for tests, gave me muscle relaxants and pain pills. Pain pills that he never once mentioned, never once warned me that they were horribly addicting! That they would add to my health problems and not fix them! And so for years I remained status quo!
Then one day… It all came to a head.
What happened in between, well, that’s where my story begins …
For years I was addicted to pain killers (Oxycontin) for my chronic nerve condition. My doctor all too eager to prescribe them. While at work (12 hr night shift) I’d crunch them like candy just to get me through the shift, then again at home to let me sleep so I could do it all over again the next night. Pain Killers it seemed, became my closest friend. Always with me, no-matter where I’d go.
I should of realized I was only masking the real issue and not fixing it. You’d think all the doctors and Neurologists I’d seen over the years would of let me in on this little tad of information? You’d think at least one of them would have sat me down and explained to me the harmful side-effects from years of Oxy abuse. But none of them ever did.
“Oh? Your in Pain? Here take these! Still in pain? Here have some more, a little more potent this time!”
The only real precautions I took was in refusing their offers of increased dosage strength. Over the many years of my addiction, the potency always stayed the mid-level same. Not that I couldn’t of gotten stronger pills if I wanted? — All I had to do was ask!
Then one day, it all came crashing down. While at work, my neck and shoulder muscles froze painfully in contraction and unaware at the time how serious this would become, it would take over a year before they eased their way back to what I today consider normal. Normal being a permanently muscle strained and mobility restricting neck. Oh, and add in an occasional exploding migraine to boot!
So now, I find myself out of work, depressed, and on disability. Okay I said, your days of popping pills and just trying to get by are obviously over. It’s time to find out exactly what’s wrong here and get it fixed!
But as I was about to find out — that was easier said than done!
I DON’T BELIEVE YOU!
When the multiple MRI’s, CAT scans, Xrays and Ultra sound tests came back and were inconclusive, another issue arose. My family doctor decided — I was faking it! “Sure there are anomalies showing in your MRI’s, but nothing to indicate what your telling me.” he told me one dark and troubling appointment. “But you believe me don’t you Doc?” I said. He didn’t answer. ” You can’t believe I’m just making this all up?” Again, no answer.
His silence was as surprising to me as it was horrifying in its conclusions. We have had a lifetime relationship, a good one too in my opinion but now? Now my family doctor didn’t believe me anymore! Didn’t believe in my pain! So why the hell has he been prescribing me these bloody addicting pain killers for so many years in the first place? Has he got shares in the effing company or what?
Oh I wanted to lash out, to express my unbelievable horror at these sudden turn of events. He was calling me a liar, a faker and I wasn’t going to just sit there and take it! But I did! I counted to ten, somehow gained back my run-away emotions and calmly stated “Your wrong!” Then I got up and left, angry and defiant.
My next appointment with him was stoic, quick and to the point. I asked him to refer me to a Pain Clinic, he said he would, I said goodbye. At this point as you could image I felt defeated, depressed, abandoned, angry, hurt and a thousand other emotions all at the same time. But I also felt a renewed sense of determination. I would find someone else to diagnose my issues then come back and rub it in his unbelieving face.
And one day I got lucky! Not right of way mind you. Before that I had to endure two more Neurologists who also let me down. Unable to diagnose my ailment but only too happy then to shoot me up with Botox at $250 a pop. Or freeze the surrounding muscles with injections temporarily relieving (for a few hours) but not fixing what’s causing my pain. Or try to bump-up my already addicted Pain killer habit.
It took awhile before my request for inclusion into a pain clinic was accepted. How it works is your request is faxed to multiple facilities and when and if an opening comes available, they answer back with their acceptance. Eventually that call came and I got accepted by a pain clinic. At the time, I was totally unaware that my luck had just changed. That my persistence had finally payed off!
THE PAIN CLINIC SAVIOR
It was a renown pain clinic that had just turned public after years catering privately to only those who could pay. I knew after my very first counsel appointment that this, if any, was the place that could help me.
She talked about how they were going to assign me a “team” of doctors, dedicated to finding and treating my condition. She talked about chronic pain and the many related seminars that would be made available to me. She went on with other “Too Good to be True” patient availabilities and overall patient commitments.
But it was the last thing she said to me that I remember most. “No matter what anybody has told you in the past about your chronic pain condition” she said, — “we know its real! We believe you! In our experience all chronic pain has a source. All we have to do is find yours and that process will start at your very next appointment.” It was all I could do to hold back the tears.
And so after just 1 examination! They pin-pointed my problem. One examination and I was diagnosed! Where years of testing from my family doctor and multiple so-called specialists couldn’t or didn’t want to go the extra mile in diagnosing my issue. Or in my family doctors case, simply a throw up of his hands and “I can’t find anything wrong with you? You must be faking!”
In retrospect, to find my issue, the Pain Clinic medical staff did have to needle-camera their way into my body to see what they could see. But nobody else thought about this procedure for me? Not my family Doctor, nor the many Neurologists I’d seen? Oh, they were more than happy to charge me for their ever ongoing appointments, but not so interested in the challenge when basic testing couldn’t find the cause of my issues.
But I digress. What I can say, is without lucking into the care of the good people and Medical staff at McMasters De-Groote Pain Clinic, I’d probably still be sitting home depressed in constant pain and chewing Oxycontin like they were candy. And having nobody left to believe in my pain.
Not that I’m cured now. Even modern science can’t fix what issues have befallen me and my body over the years. I will forever now have to live with chronic pain. But I now know (for the first time) what’s causing my pain. I’m now receiving modern day procedures and getting counsel in coping and living with my incurable condition. But most of all, I’d found someone who believes me, believes in me!
And that my friend, in itself, was worth my long and emotional journey.
Reborn in my new-found diagnosis and new attitude that I claimed (in-part) as personal persistence and a will to never give up, I decided I wasn’t finished yet. So without any medical help, without asking for help from those that fostered my addiction in the first place — I’ve beat it on my own!
Oh I’ll always need some pain medicine. But I no-longer pop them like candy. From 15 or so a day during the very apex of my addiction, I’m now down to one, sometimes a half a pill per day! After more than 15 years of addiction — I’m finally in control.
My story perhaps, is not so unheard of? Oxycontin addiction has been a growing concern everywhere, in fact its classified as a National health crisis in a lot of countries today. People are dying from overdosing not just in my country but in many others. I myself have lost a Nephew in relationship to this evil drug.
How many of you have been touched by this addiction? Someone in your family? A relation? A friend?
Pain Killer addiction has become so prevalent worldwide, that it would not surprise me at all to learn that some of you reading this post right now are currently experiencing the evil throes of opioid addiction. It’s okay! There’s no shame! Millions upon Millions are in the same leaking boat as you are. I too spent many years on that vast and lonely sea of addiction. I know how hard it can be.
I’ve been there — on the floor curled-up in a fetal position suffering the horrible DT’s involved with abstinence. I’ve experienced the frightening uncertainty of not knowing if my prescription would last till its refill date. I understand the self-loathing and desperation. I know what its like!
A MESSAGE OF HOPE
So from someone who has been there. Someone who has gone through the trials and tribulations of chronic pain and addiction and suffered the insufficient medical status quo? What is my message? What is my advice?
NEVER GIVE UP!
For Chronic Pain — Endure the negativity, move on to the next doctor, the next specialist, the next Pain Clinic until you find someone who believes in you. Take control of who you see. If and when your not satisfied, switch to a different one! Take control of your path in the search for final diagnosis and never give up!
When you become disillusioned, hopeless or angry, use these emotions to fuel your will to go on. I may never have succeeded without the anger and resentment I felt toward both my family doctor and the many Neurologists who plainly gave up on me. Use emotion to carry you on.
For Addiction — Find that personal spark within you, some strong related emotion inside that will carry your want, carry your self-determination through the long and hard road ahead. This, you must do yourself! Nobody can do this but you! This will be your ultimate gift to yourself! My message is, there IS hope! You do have the power inside of you, the strength, the want, to wean yourself off these horribly addicting drugs.
I am living proof that it can be done!
But start today! Start your journey to a better life NOW! Not tomorrow, not next week, but NOW! Addiction is in your mind as well as your body and give it anytime to ponder, any delay, and it WILL best you! It will deceive and lie to you and dissuade your intelligent decision to be rid of it. Don’t give it any time to work its evil in your mind, start now and right this minute!
You do have the inner-power to break free!
I know it can be done because I’ve done it!
And I truly believe, that you can too!
” I’m not telling you it is going to be easy, I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” — Anonymous
RECOMMENDED: If you are seriously troubled with chronic pain and seek more information, or perhaps just reader kinship with the trials and tribulations chronic pain causes in your life — Check out Nikki @ brainlessblogger.net A blog dedicated to chronic pain as she herself suffers.
Her post — Chronic pain paradox: Talk about it? Keep quiet? is remarkably relatable, honest to a fault and in my opinion, an anthem to chronic pain sufferers everywhere!