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What I Need to Tell Every New Doctor Because of My Addiction Recovery

I am 12 years sober. No alcohol, illegal drugs or misuse of prescription drugs in 12 years. There have been many different actions that have helped me remain sober — support groups, mental health therapy, changing my playground and playmates. One of the biggest things, in the last five years, has been telling each and every doctor that I am in recovery.

All of my doctors are at the same hospital. It is a large, nationally ranked teaching hospital in my hometown. When you open up my chart, I am flagged: “Cannot be given prescription medication refill of narcotics without appointment or discussion with a primary doctor.” My primary doctor put that flag on my chart after I told her I was struggling in recovery and was afraid I would use a recently broken ankle to get pain medications.

On top of that flag, I have told every new doctor for my pain medications, my psychiatric meds… any and all doctors, “I am in recovery. I can’t be given refills on any narcotics without an appointment.” When I got a new doctor for my anxiety medications, the first thing I said to her was, “I cannot be given narcotics for any reason.”

Doctors are often surprised when I start conversations like this. Since being diagnosed with a chronic illness two and a half years ago, I’ve told multiple doctors. When they thought I needed to be on the liver transplant list, the transplant doctor — who was was highly ranked — said, “I have to talk to your primary doctor before I give you a refill on medications.” My family and I said, “yes.”

This is a difficult conversation, and I have anxiety telling people something so personal, but the chance of being looked down upon is not as important as the chance to guard myself. The idea of putting one more wall between me and relapse is worth anything and everything. So, I tell every new doctor: “I’m in recovery. I can’t be given a narcotics refill without a discussion with my primary health doctor or an appointment.”

Getty Images photo via sarinyapinngam.