At one point in my life, I was taking 52 10mg Percocet a day. Yes, that's right…FIFTY-TWO. And I wasn't washing it down with water either. No siree, I surely wasn't. I had assumed that since it came in a pretty orange bottle with my name and the doctor's name, I wasn't harming anyone. It hadn't dawned on me that since I was basically running out of my prescription in about 2 days, that this was, in fact, a very big problem. Staten Island, as most of us know, is a mecca for opiates (any under rock folks, opiates are painkillers, heroin, methadone (which is a painkiller as well as something that is used for heroin maintenance, which helps with withdrawal symptoms which are very painful….VERY PAINFUL). Upon running out of my prescription, I would begin doctor shopping. And, sadly, this was a very easy thing to do. I would wait in some clinic, tell my stories of woe and walk out with a pretty, light blue piece of paper…in a death grip. I would have given you my car before I would have handed you that piece of paper. Better believe it. After a while, I had pretty much worn out my welcome at every clinic, hospital and doctor's office in Staten Island and much of Brooklyn and New Jersey (yes, even Brooklyn and New Jersey). That's when the illegal purchases started…not to mention the “helping myself” to other peoples pretty orange bottles. I could spot an orange bottle in the bottom of a suitcase, buried under 2 weeks worth of clothes. I could sit down and talk with you for 4 minutes and know exactly where you hide your pills. I would know that if you were a slow talker that your pills would be in an obvious place because you're not the kind of person that likes to scale walls to retrieve your pills and if you spoke with a savvy tone, I'd have to look a little bit…but I'd always find them and I'd always find a way to get to them. So, basically, I became a filthy criminal. Needless to say, when I knew I could no longer afford the $5000.00 a week (yep, that much) I'd need in order to not get sick, I ran to my then girlfriend and told her I'd need a detox. I was depressed, because I knew I was in tremendous pain, but I also wondered if the pain was real or if it was something I was bringing on myself because I had such an enormous addiction, I just couldn't keep up. The percocet (or oxycodone if any of you are wondering what the name on a bottle of a loved one you're worried about really is) took everything away….in the beginning. The physical pain, the emotional pain, the anxiety, the depression….it was like a miracle. At the end, it only intensified all of this. I was worried every day that I wouldn't have enough. I was worried how I was going to get enough to sustain me. I was worried that doctors found me obvious and I was worried about whether or not my regular dealer was out of what I needed. I was worried about how I would get the money…but most of all, I was worried that it didn't worry me me enough for it to not be more important than anything else to get those pills. This addiction started at 25 years of age after my appendix burst. I didn't get real help until I turned 34. Essentially 10 years I was in the self made prison. It was like being behind the bars knowing that the keys were in very close arms reach…and yet I had no intention of grabbing those keys and releasing myself…until I couldn't take it anymore…and tried to end my life. Fortunately, I was unsuccessful. I was close, but failed. Thankfully. I was not a pleasant daisy. I laughed at myself, though, because I always remained very pleasant and polite. If you've ever detoxed off of anything, you'll know certain things aren't out of the question like…well, vomiting without warning, cold sweats that make pneumonia look like a tummy ache, occasionally you're not altogether aware if you have, indeed, peed your pants or if you're just so sick, you feel like you are repeatedly peeing your pants. This is never cute. I stayed in cardiac intensive care for 5 days and although I was pee pants, exorcist type gross, I always said “please” and “thank you” and the most necessary…”I'm sorry”. I begged the doctors at the very worst hospital on the planet (THE WORST….WORST WORST. UTTERLY CLUELESS WHEN IT COMES TO ADDICTION….WORST)To please find me help because I knew when I left there, I'd go running right back to any bottle I could get my hands on. Finally, it was a volunteer (YES, WORST HOSPITAL ON THE PLANET…IT WAS A VOLUNTEER THAT GOT ME AN APPOINTMENT WITH THE HELP THAT SAVED MY LIFE!) I had been offered Suboxone, which in my estimation, is the best medication for anyone suffering with an opiate addiction. However, the doctor told me that Suboxone basically turns off the receptors that react to ingesting opiates. This means, if I'm on Suboxone, I will no longer have any response to opiates. I can take 5 percocet, basically, and feel nothing at all. Think I was all about taking a drug that would shut down my ability to revisit an old friend? I surely was not.
I took it anyway.
Needless to say, I have been opiate free for over 2 years. I'm also Suboxone free. I did learn, however, that after an assault, two of my vertabrae have collapsed onto a vein and it is really quite painful. And by quite painful, I mean, I'd like to kill someone. I have to laugh anytime someone offers me Ibuprofen…because I remember being on pain meds and having someone basically offer me Motrin…and it would anger me beyond repair. “I'm not telling you I'm in horrendous pain, for you to offer me tic tacs. And if the next word out of your mouth is codeine, we're gonna fight because that's basically equal in strength, so don't waste your breath!” Any opiate addict knows that if the doctor you're crying your river to offers you an anti-inflammatory or codeine, they're just begging you to hit them. Anyway, as of Friday, I'm basically unable to turn, move, shower, brush my teeth, etc, without growling. I do it….but I growl.
But I'm not sad, you see. I'm not a circus clown either, but I'm not down. It's somewhat of a relief to know that I do actually have pain. That what I had done, from the get go, was not always about wanting to be high. I went into pain meds, like a lot of people, for the right reasons…but it all went wrong. The point is, maybe you have a really debilitating disorder and you're really depressed about always being in pain. People would never dream of making you feel like a drug addict if they really knew how much you're hurting. Maybe you lie awake at night with tears streaming down your face because the pain is just too much to bear. You try everything to not take any pills…but it just hurts too much. It does. It does hurt and no, you're not crazy. And yes, if people could feel what you feel even for a second, they'd never dream of keeping you from what you need to function. Be smart. If your pills are running out too quickly, be sure, first, that there are no kids in your house. The youngest addict I've met…is nine. Yes, a fourth grader, addicted to fentanyl. Fentanyl is a drug 100 times stronger than morphine and is basically only prescribed to terminally ill patients. The terminally ill are only supposed to take a maximum of 4 Fentanyl pops (they look like lollipops….safe) a day. This child is using 9 a day. Secondly, check your options. If physical therapy is one of your options, try it. The worst case scenario for this is it doesn't help as significantly as you'd like. And third, while yes, it blocks the opiate receptors, Suboxone is also a very effective painkiller. It doesn't make you feel high, but it does help the pain. Yes, I'd like to kill someone that offers me ibuprofen to this day. I admit it. (don't be a smart ass and offer me ibuprofen….it's not clever anymore). I am in pain. True dyed in the wool pain, around the clock. At night, I zap myself with a tens unit on full blast (also another option). But I made it. I'm making it every day without painkillers. The very last day, I saved a search on my computer….it was….”How to shoot up”. I'd never tried heroin in my life, but the pain was getting too much to live with. That could have been the last search I'd ever made on my computer. If you think that nobody understands you, you're very wrong. I'm not here to tell you to stop taking your medication…I'm here to tell you that I understand and that I know how you feel. If you're afraid or questioning what's happening to you, you're not alone. Just stand in front of me if we're talking face to face….damned if I can turn my head to make eye contact. You don't have to do this alone anymore. At the very least, I can try to help you take what you need, when you need it. Someday a family member might be throwing your orange bottles into a trash can…because you're no longer around to take them anymore. Let's do something to change that now….before it's too late.