It's OK to Admit If You Think You Have a Painkiller Addiction
Addiction is one of those things we do not think of when we are living in excruciating, constant pain. I have to give you some background for things to make sense. I have two food allergies, and unbeknownst to us (myself and my family) almost four years ago, they were what were causing my knock-down migraines.
Prior to this knowledge, I was taking substantial amounts of narcotic and non-narcotic painkillers to deal with the consistent searing pain I lived with on an everyday basis. I was essentially poisoning myself by eating the things I was, but I was unaware. So I would wake up in the morning, take my pills, hope to not throw up, and get my day started.
I had to get ready in utter darkness and silence. Once I was able to slowly transition to living in the light, I would put on my darkest sunglasses (even when it was not sunny) and make my way out into the land of the living. I continued this cycle for almost two years while I was in college. I would struggle. When I flipped into a particularly bad batch of migraines, I would miss class for a week or more. I could not sleep enough, could not eat, could not be in the light, and was constantly nauseous. I would only eat enough to take painkillers and sleep.
Then I found the proverbial light in the form of an alternative medicine neurologist who changed my diet radically, and I was given a new sense of purpose. I was able to go out and do things with my friends without feeling like death half way through. I had energy, vigor, and felt happier. I cried less and loved a whole lot more. But there was one problem: I was still taking painkillers.
I think people who realize they have a problem go one of two ways. One: We seek the help we need and try to take corrective steps to put ourselves in a better place. Two: While we realize there is a problem, but we cannot seem to take that first step to recovery. I hovered between One and Two. I knew I had become addicted to the things that made my earlier life livable despite the immense pain. But I also knew if I continued down this path, it could lead me into something like a heroin addiction.
So I made a decision. I decided one morning, after running critically low on painkillers, that I was done. I was not going to take any more pills than what were necessary. I stopped cold turkey, contrary to what normal detox procedures said for narcotics addictions. I had typical symptoms of withdrawal. Nausea, vomiting, temperature regulation issues, wanting to sleep it off, and not wanting to eat, the shakiness. But after two or three days, I felt like a new (or at least renewed) person.
Addiction is who I am. It is as chronic as any other chronic illness. I resist urges every day. I have chosen to work towards a life that is sober of all kinds of substances, and I have not taken a pill willingly in over three years. But each day is a step. It takes long term commitment to want to be better.
This is not some anti-drug and anti-narcotic push from someone who “saw the light.” This is me saying, I understand. I get the pain you are in. The urge to self-medicate can often be excessively strong, and it will win on occasion. But we always have to move forward. It is within human nature to have to take steps backward, but we should always have that forward momentum.
Of all the things I have learned in my short life, I have learned it is OK to ask for help. Asking for help, no matter for what cause, symptom, or affliction is OK. Humans can fault. We have earned that right. So earn your right. Fault.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, head here for resources. You can also text 741741 from anywhere in the USA to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.
Editor’s note: This post is based off an individual’s experience. Please see a professional for medication and/or addiction recovery guidance. It’s also important to remember many pain patients do continue to responsibly use prescribed medication for their conditions without developing an addiction.
Stock photo by Kwangmoozaa