Everyone has their unique history, their personal gripping saga. There are indeed "100 Million Ways" you might have come into your own difficult times with opioid painkillers. We want to hear your story in your own words. And to share with others, with complete anonymity of course. And hear what others like yourself have had to say.
We can often help our stories turn out for the better once we've fully expressed them!
"Share Your Saga" welcomes submissions from caregivers and family members as well, indeed from all those who will have important insights and experiences in the broader zone of suffering that stretches far beyond the immediate user.
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This Month's Featured Saga
SAGA #10: Twisted ankle twists life
I started on Vicodin at 46 years old when I fell and twisted my ankle putting out the trash on a rainy day. I was in so much pain and I told my brother and he had surgery a week prior. He gave me the pills. I got hooked on them after awhile.
Today I am sober and very happy to be that way. I sure don't miss my drug addiction life. The day I got help and went to rehab was the best thing I ever did for myself. I thank god for my sobriety and happiness every day. God is my higher power. I was so happy to turn my will and life over to the care of god.
Thank you for listening!!! Sincerely Barb
SAGA #9: "I was an addict most of my adult life"
I was an addict most of my adult life. Started with alcohol, which I don't really like. Next, marijuana, used sometimes. My drug of choice was meth.
I am a survivor of 18 yrs of domestic abuse, with my boys dad. I used at first to numb my feelings mental isues, that was caused. During this whole time I got norco 10 mg (Vicodin) from my doctor for almost 20 years. Even in recovery I do experience chronic pain.
Finally a day came when i would not get anymore.
During government crack downs on doctors giving them out to patients like M &M candy. I had seven pills left and asked my youngest son to help me go cold turkey. By this time, I was mobility disabled by a neurology quack, two times!
I no longer wanted meth. My ex and I quit cold turkey together from meth. I was 18 years on meth. Anyway, my son and caregiver sat up 48+ hours with me when I got off pills. I had a bottle of whiskey. When my skin felt like it was crawling off me, and I felt like bugs were crawling on me, my mental health issues only intensified. I would take a shot through my home detox, and everything stopped for a while. I never felt drunk; it just helped calm down my body for a while. Today I have 17 years clean.
Don't do what I did. I would rather come off meth a hundred time than experience what the pills had hold of me physically, emotionally, mentally, etc. Pills are vicious to get off of. I have had four back surgeries and then they put me on oxycontin at the hospital and needed skilled rehab to walk again. They sent Oxycontin home with me, which I needed after surgery. Once off, my body remembers the pills and started the crawing, anxious, all over again… Roseann.
COMMENT BY LINDA STRAUSE, PhD:
People with physical pain who also suffer from emotional pain have greater risk for opioid addiction. You are NOT alone! Forms of emotional abuse include anything from name calling, patronizing, character assassination, insults, threats, digital spying and physical abuse. Recovering from opioid use/dependency is exceedingly difficult Holistic, alternatives, and adjunct methods as well as therapy and counseling are highly beneficial for both physical and emotional support.
How do you know if you have an opioid use disorder (OUDs)? Four drug-seeking behaviors:
Loss of control: lose a prescription, self-escalate the dose, run out early, continually call the on-call service or show up at the emergency room for more medication.
Compulsive use: Patients exhibit preoccupation with obtaining the opioid as opposed to focusing on obtaining pain relief
Continued use despite the risk of harm:
Craving: You are having it after your recent surgery. I hope you got your cravings under control. This is worrisome
Some of the alternative and natural methods found to be effective.
Massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic care Not only are these methods used to ease pain, they also have been known to release dopamine-stimulating endorphins, which help pain and improve body function.
Exercise – is always recommended and is personally, my go-to method for managing stress and emotional pain. Disabilities do not make exercise impossible, just different.
Mindfulness and meditation – Meditation, not medication. Mindfulness (a meditation practice that focuses on self-acceptance) is an effective alternative to traditional painkilling drugs. This approach helps individuals spend less time thinking or worrying about their pain, and more time accepting the pain in efforts to reduce its intensity. I know, hard to believe. A recent study of adults with chronic back pain revealed that, over the course of 26 weeks, mindfulness treatments resulted in improvements in back pain and functionality.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Chronic pain can bring about emotional as well as physical tolls on the mind and body. You may know this firsthand, how relentless and extreme the pain can be, how hopeless it can make you feel. This is normal and is what CBT aims to address. CBT teaches coping mechanisms for pain management by helping individuals recognize symptoms, control their perceptions of pain, put their focus elsewhere, and develop strategies to adapt and conquer any negative feelings.
Natural and botanical based products, such as cannabis. Cannabis can be an effective treatment for pain, greatly reduces the chance of dependence, and eliminates the risk of fatal overdose compared to opioid-based medications.
Find purpose – Even with disabilities you can volunteer phone time. Check out CareCareers.com. You have many experiences and insights for others going through what you went through.
Please let us know what works for you.
SAGA #8: "I haven't spent a day of my adulthood experiencing the feeling of sobriety"
It started on my 20th birthday party when I met a man that was an oxycontin dealer. I had never tried an oxy before. His name was Stephen and we took an immediate interest in each other. I started spending all my time with him and he was feeding me pill after pill. After a few years, I joined a methadone clinic and left Stephen. Stephen ended up on heroin and overdosed a few years ago.
The feeling of sobriety
Now, here I am, almost 40 years old and I still wonder what it is like to be an adult drug free and without the need of a substance. It's been so long since my childhood, that I can't remember what it feels like being sober. Please take a lesson from me: The methadone clinic has really helped me, however, it is considered the MOST DIFFICULT drug to detox (ask any rehab center). It is much easier to get help with the opioid pills that you are currently taking and forget joining the methadone clinic.
Take my advice. I wish someone would have warned me.
LINDA STRAUSE'S COMMENT: "Dope, dopamine and sobriety"
The human body is truly amazing. We release an array of hormones, molecules that are produced in one location and act somewhere else, that help keep our body in synchrony. Like a beautiful orchestra, our hormones communicate with our cells to maintain homeostasis, a balance in overall health and well-being.
Opioids, such as oxycontin (oxycodone), result in an increase in the production of the hormone dopamine. It holds the prize position as a “reward drug”. Dopamine is released when your brain receives or is expecting a reward. When you come to associate a certain activity with pleasure, the mere anticipation may be enough to raise dopamine levels. When you cross something off your “to-do list” you feel good because some dopamine has been released. When you are sad, you may send text messages to friends. With each text reply, dopamine is released, and you feel better. Soon, even the sound of a text message makes you feel better.
Unfortunately, dopamine is also addictive. Whether alcohol, gambling, opioids, or your cell phone, you feel good when you get a hit of dopamine. But dopamine is a selfish chemical. The feelings don’t last so we find ourselves seeking another dopamine release. The release of dopamine is strong and the resulting pleasure addictive. Being aware of this ‘reality’ early on may help individuals to develop skills to avoid the cycle of abuse.
A good exercise is to practice the release of another hormone called oxytocin, our “love hormone”. It is a happy chemical released through physical contact, human touch, and in-person communication. The simple touch on a friend’s shoulder or sharing a saga can result in relaxation. Call it sobriety. Try it and please let me know how it feels.
Saga #7: I'm a Junkie by Accident?!!
I was 25 when I finally got pregnant. My husband being of 32 and getting ready for hip replacement after I gave birth and the purchase of a new home both of us working full time put a lot of stress on our life's.
Fast forward to 1999. My son is 4 years old. Me, I'm working 45+ hours a week at a supermarket (Hey, don't knock, it I put 20 years in and collect full pension in less than 4 years) My husband's hips were a successful replacement surgery. We had a home based business a full time job each. We tagged- teamed our asses to give our son the best we could give him. Me coming from a poor family, I was raised by the system.
"Begging for a 'bullet to the brain'"
Skip to February 2001. I had seen my PCP for back issues and did the healthy approach. Worked for a bit then it became worse. I stopped drinking at 21 after my first and last DWI. I quit smoking pot and cigarettes as soon as I found out I was pregnant. Around May 2001 I was seen by a pain management specialist that would have me begging for a bullet to the brain 2 1/2 years later. I was seeing him once a month for OxyContin 30 and 10 mg perks, with no aspirin for break through pain. He was also having me get injections in my spine 4-5 times a year maybe more. I was so stoned—pain free but STONED.
In those 2 1/2 years I felt I could get everything done and if I had a day off during the week. My husband worked, my son was at school. I started chewing on those OxyContins in the am and by 3 pm I'd have 90 mg in my system (chewed on not swallowed whole). My home would be immaculate; the laundry washed folded and put away. I would prep dinner and a snack for my son after school. Husband would come home exhausted from leaving home at 7 am from a full-time job, and then continue with our part-time home business. We would eat at about 7:30 8:00 At night. All of us showering and prepping for the next day from hell. I would pass out and hear nothing and get a solid 8 hours, sleeping well. i
Eventually it became time to take time off work due to the condition of my back. Heck, disability for 5 months with intense injections. I would be up for days strung out on OxyContin and Percocet. Before my back started to feel better this doctor took me off perks and gave me the 3 day patch of Fentanyl. Two weeks later I find myself in the ER BEGGING FOR MORE BECAUSE I WAS IN A LOT OF PAIN, right?
I felt my body go into a cold sweat
He'll no, I was jonesing (craving) for anything. Crying and begging worked for a few times until you hit all the ERs in your county. My pain doctor had dropped me during my next visit. I felt my body go into a cold sweat and thinking, "Now WTF AM I GOING TO DO? Well he went through the speech of how I was addicted to very strong narcotics and was too young to be having all this pain. I looked at him and wanted to knock him the fxxx out. However, I got him to treat me for 2 more months to slowly take me off all pain meds.
The first month flew by and on my last visit he scripted 1/2 of my pills and took away my patch. I was already in withdrawal and all I did was sleep and get high on whatever. Guess what? I end up in ER and it was like someone dropped a house on me. They refused to give me anything and I found myself in total fullblown withdrawal. Breakdown: Have baby. Buy house. Buy business. Work ass off. Get a bit older. Back problems. See pain doctor who was the one who turned me on to this fantastic life altering fxxxxxd way of living all doped up for 2 1/2 years!
My son knew what was happening
You know, not one of my friends, co workers, family or husband noticed I was a full blow addict. You know who noticed and paid attention to everting I did??? My son, who is now watching his mom being drivin to the hospital in an ambulence! I fell asleep and started to have seizures. My husband called and he said the look on my son's face was blank and he was pale. He knew what was happening. The adults didn't. I was in detox for almost 3 weeks. My son drew pictures for daddy to bring to me. You know, I know my son's heart was crushed, yet too young to know and understand everything, so he drew pictures of me sleeping on the floor or couch. One picture had broken hearts around me sleeping. Talk about destroying your life, I now I've just destroyed my little man's life!
The mental imagery that must of gone through his head at such a young age. Eight year olds don't know how to express those feelings. However, god must have whispered get a paper and pencil. I have a folder of hand-drawn pictures he drew, and as I got better his art work became more cheerful and light. The first week his art was dark and depressing and made me feel like I didn't deserve this little man; he deserved better.
Getting the poison out of my system and changing my thought process, which took more like 3 years, not 3 weeks. We, as in, my family friends, eventually found out that my pain management doctor was bleeding my prime insurance company for almost $1.2 million in payments and procedures. He knew what he was doing from the day he graduated from Harvard: Make your patients feel better, knowing the narcotics lie to your body saying, "GET ME SIME IF THAT GOOG STUFF 'CAUSE YOUR BACK IS THROBBING@!!!
In the end I went through 3 hard months of extreme PHYSICAL THERAPY and it was around the same time this new machine came on market. It would decompress your spine by pulling and stretching it. Sounds like the old torture chamber in a castle, no? Yes, same concept; however, it takes months to decompress, as in the dungeon you'd be drawn in half. Such a medieval torture device, updated and I mean updated a lot. It put me back together and my back hurt no more.
I know now that towards the end of my downfall I knew I was addicted, but never admitted it and hid it pretty well from others. The one person I didn't fool was my son. The one who watched me deteriorate day after day but didn't know how to put it into words. In the end I'm 51, off pills, no more pain pills for me, please. No narcotics. My husband never took pain pills prior to hip replacement. He would smoke pot like I smoked my Marlboros. He now gets Vicodin for knee pain until it's replaced; however, 30 pills lasts him 2-3 months. I've had 2 surgeries after all that and the surgeons would give me enough narcotics meds for 3-4 days .NO REFILLS , NO BULLSHIT.
My son is now 26 and is a mechanic in a minor league , an extreme flag football coach for his team. He left a game one time and was pulled over because the guys were smoking a joint and my son said, "Yes, we were smoking and pot and we shared this joint, after playing 2 games of football back to back. We are hurting badly. I don't drink and drive and I refuse to take pain meds and wil never take them." I guess whatever he told the officer was what he experienced when he was younger, watching his mom. He came home and told me what took place.Turned out my son gave the officer and a few others permission to search the truck. Three other officers showed up and by then he said they looked around a bit while he and his buds sat and chatted with the the fourth cop. I don't want to sound as if the cops were being jerks, but it's when you see 4 big dudes in a truck you call for back up. Lol. Turned out the officer complimented the boys for being upfront and told them next time smoke when you get home because that could get you a DWI.
My son saw first hand, what pills can destroy
My son and his friends made 4 new friends because they chatted for a bit with the cops had some laughs and he told them the reason why he won't take any narcotics for pain was his mom. His friends knew about my addiction. I will always think of that experience as god's way or a higher power having me become the crazed pill popping and stoned again for that day when he was pulled over for smoking weed....for pain. Could have been those officers pulling a few dead boys out of a twisted truck because they were so pumped on pills and lost control of car. My son saw first hand, at such a young age, what pills can destroy in such a short time. He hated even hearing someone saying, "Hey, know anyone that can get me):!/);$. Well, you get the idea.
In the very end the doctor lost his license (I know I wasn't his only patient). So, I became an accidental junkie but my son is alive because of it. Sounds crazy? It was bat shit crazy! I pray for all who struggle with any type of addiction. Lives are changed forever because of addiction, some for the good, some not so good. GOD BLESS
Saga #6: "I can't remember what it feels like being sober."
Now, here I am, almost 40 years old and I still wonder what it is like to be an adult drug free and without the need of a substance. It's been so long since my childhood, that I can't remember what it feels like being sober. Please take a lesson from me- the methadone clinic has really helped me, however, it is considered the MOST DIFFICULT drug to detox (ask any rehab center).
It is much easier to get help with the opioid pills that you are currently taking and forget joining the methadone clinic. Take my advice. I wish someone would have warned me.,
Saga #5: "I did some pretty bad things..."
I became an addict after I broke by arm and elbow falling off a mountain side while skiing in Colorado. I was prescribed Vicodin. I had never been a big drug taker at all but I actually found that it made life's stress go away. Now coincidentally, I also manage a CVS pharmacy so it was easy for me to refill the prescription. When the prescription ended I found that I wanted more and since I underststood how our Inventory worked, I was able to take a few bottles.
I found myself taking it a lot. My husband started telling me that I was different, "out of it," and seemed "totally off my game." He asked me about the Vicodin and I told him that my arm was still hurt even after the cast had come off. I won't tell everything that happened, but I did some pretty bad things including cheating on my husband.
I eventually began going to NA meetings and went cold turkey. It was hard. I was sick, I was moody and I knew it was because I was addicted. But I beat it and you can too. It's your life, no one else's...do not let yourself become addicted. I realized it was not who I am or want to be and I'm sure you know that's true of you too. Good Luck! ,
Saga #4: "Addiction Has Been Kicking My Ass"
Addiction has been kicking my ass as I have become physically dependent on opiates. Now a days it’s kinda depressing since I don’t get high I just get by. I wake up sick every single day and until I get my daily fix I’m worthless.
Crazy how just a line of heroin, makes me feel good and I start cleaning the house, working, etc. however if I don’t get my daily fix I’m in bed all day with cold sweats and the WD is terrible.
I know addiction runs in my genes and I can’t help it sometimes. Opiates are great and all but they have taken control of my life. I am a slave to this. It tears me up financially and ruins all my relationships. I consider quitting every day. But I’m not In denial. I can’t quit. I tried several times kicking, but it finds me anywhere I go. I can’t go on vacation. I can’t even leave my city.
Saga #3: "What About My Liver?"
I am 27 years old. I've been taking hydros daily since 2016. I’ve taken short breaks here and there (like a month max). For a long time, I was only taking 5 mg every 4 waking hrs. In the past two years, I've gotten up to taking 20 mg every 4-6 hrs.
I've never had any problems. No constipation or shit like that. But I am wondering if there are any other health consequences I should be worried about? For example, is all this acetaminophen gonna hurt my liver?
Saga #2: "Looking for Closure: "My dad just passed away from a fentanyl overdose"
I don't know if this is allowed to post in here, I checked the rules but I guess I'll finish it.
Recently my dad passed away from a fentanyl overdose. He was a good man, sober for 18 years, and just recently was dealing with his first relapse in a really long time. Unfortunately whoever sold to him had laced heroin and either didn't know or didn't tell him. But I guess what I'm wondering is, was it painful? Was it long? Did he suffer? I can't really find anything about exactly how long it takes to OD on fentanyl or I guess the pain level of having that happen. Maybe someone would know?
"Was he just lying there, knowing he was dying?"
I'm sorry if this is insensitive I just need to know. Not like exactly in detail what he went through, but more just like: Was he lying there for 45 minutes knowing he was dying? or did he just die?
I just feel like I need to know what it was like for me to start to get some closure. We're not telling people how he died, we're saying it was a heart attack as not a lot of people know he was struggling with his addiction again and my dad was a very private person so he probably wouldn't have wanted everyone to know. but because we're saying it was a heart attack everyone keeps saying to me "well atleast he didn't suffer" and "atleast he probably just laid down to go to sleep and passed away" but I know that's not what happened and I feel like I need some insight into what actually happened.
"I just need some insight into what was happening"
Responses are very much appreciated and I did care about my dad a lot so some general sensitivity about the subject would also be appreciated.
Saga #1: "My husband and I started abusing together"
Backstory: My husband and I started abusing pills together from the time we got together. I had used before but off and on. Then came our daughter and I quit cold turkey. We weren’t using much so I had minor wd symptoms. I stayed clean for about 2 years. During these years I suffered from postpartum depression, anxiety, and some psychosis. Also I got diagnosed with bipolar depression and borderline personality disorder. Not to mention my actual physical disabilities involving my back and joints that I can’t even get checked out because the US healthcare system sucks. I was lucky enough to find a nonprofit mental health program to work with. I was in therapy and on medication for my mental health at this time. My world still felt completely out of control though. Then one day my husband brings home a glowing, tiny, blue pill. I had never felt so much excitement. Immediately we cut it up and did half. Instant euphoria. All my mental health problems, family problems melted away. “Husband you have to get more” I said and he did. That was two years ago and I’m now taking 1-2 30mg pills a day.
Now: Although I’ve gone months sometimes clean, the past 6 months have kicked everything into overdrive. I’m in pain everyday. My wd kicks in every morning by 9am unless I miraculously saved something from the day before. Our finances our crumbling. I’ve borrowed money from family (I do pay them back within 2 weeks but still lying to them about the need for the money eats me away not to mention also strains our finances even more).
I don’t know how to function sober. When I’m high I can do all my housework. I can play with my kids. Is it really going to be better to be sober in bed all day in pain? I’ve tried reaching out to a low-income clinic recently but with COVID they won’t let me bring my kids to appointments and I’m a shamed. My husband is the sole bread winner and we really can’t afford for him to take time off as he works out of town usually.
"I don't know how to function sober"
I just called my psychiatrist office since I read online they do also offer substance abuse programs. I kept my questions generic. But will I be flagged as an addict for the rest of my life if I do enter this program? They said they can give shots to help wean off. Does that mean they will take away the klonopin I use for anxiety because it’s a controlled substance? What about when I’m actually able to see a doctor about my physical ailments? Will they then refuse care because I want to take the legal route finally? I’m drowning right now. My anxiety is at an all time peak.
I just don’t know what to do and this is the first place I came across. I hope I didn’t break any rules. If anyone has any knowledge or advice I would appreciate it very much. I’m stuck in this cycle of waiting to go get my pills everyday, my husband bitching about the money I’m spending, my kids not knowing why mom is in such a bad mood or sick until after her run to the “store”. I’ve been in denial for months that I’m an addict. Today I took the first step towards recovery (at least against the illegal side of this addiction). Again any help or encouragement is greatly appreciated.
Meet "Your Saga" Moderator, Linda Strause, PhD
We have asked distinguished professor and clinical research expert Linda Strause, PhD to moderate our "Tell Us Your Story" blog, providing general comments on anonymous posts and drawing connections and conclusions where applicable.
Dr. Strause is a Professor, University of California, San Diego and an advocate for the better understanding of the science and medicine of cannabis. She and her team of cannabis experts at Randy's Club consult with customers and patients from all over the world. They have been integrating medical cannabis since 2010.
Dr. Strause combines over 30 years in clinical research and as a professor of nutrition at UC San Diego, with her personal journey: her husband's diagnosis and death from brain cancer. She has been interviewed by KCBQ and by Dr. Jamie Corron of the Center for Medical Cannabis Education. She was recently selected to be interviewed by Authority Magazine for their series, Women Leaders in Cannabis.
Dr. Strause suggests the brief outline below to help you formulate your personal dependency story
-- but don't feel bound by it.
--Year of birth
--Description of pain that drove you to take opioids (pick a number from 1-10 to describe your typical daily pain – 1 is minimal pain and 10 is maximum pain).
--What pain medication(s) are you currently using?
--Have you tried recovery? If yes, how many times?
--Have you tried medication-assisted treatment with methadone of buprenorphine?
--What else have you tried to decrease the amount of opioids you need to manage your pain?
Your replies will be entirely anonymous. Don't feel limited in terms of the length of your story, although texts may be edited for clarity and brevity.
Thanks for being part of "Share Your Saga."
PLEASE SHARE YOUR ANONYMOUS "SAGA" HERE OR COMMENT ON ANY OF
THE PERSONAL STORIES ABOVE
Special thanks to Nicolas Vita, Co-Founder and CEO of Columbia Care, for his vision and for his support.
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