I have decided to tell my story about addiction to pain killers and how they affected my life.
On July 24th, 2014 I made a decision to change my life. I decided to quit pain killers that I’d been taking since 2002. It was a tough decision because I didn’t know if I could survive without them. I still don’t know if I can, but the side effects caused by the pain killers were destroying my body within.
Actually the decision had been made about 6 months before that I would be off them by Summer, so I started working with my doctor to formulate a plan to slowly get off them.
I started by slowly reducing the amount of pain killer I was taking. At the time I started I was taking 12 mg’s of Suboxone sublinguals a day. I was on Suboxone, because I had been on Methadone for about 8 months and I was tired of the way they made me feel.
Before Methadone I was on Hydrocodone 10/650 and I was taking up to 8 a day. The effectiveness started to fall off and I didn’t want to take more. It was a constant battle also to find a doctor who would prescribe the amount of Hydrocodone I needed to get through the day.
My first experience with Hydrocodone was due to a back injury I sustained in 1993 while vacuuming my truck. I don’t know what happened but when I reach down to start I felt a pain in my back that would not go away.
I went to a doctor who performed x-ray’s and an MRI. Afterwards he gave me a prescription for Hydrocodone and some physical therapy. At that time I didn’t take them very long and was back to normal shortly after.
Then in 1994 I had to have a surgery to correct a hiatal hernia. I had always had bad acid reflux and tried many different medications that could not stop the acid reflux. I ended up having an upper G.I. and it revealed the hiatal hernia. I was scheduled for surgery the next month.
It was a rough surgery and afterwards I was prescribed Hydrocodone. I again didn’t take them to long and was off them in a couple of weeks.
I started working for the Texas Department of Corrections in 1995. It was a great job that was exciting at times and boring at other times. It was going to be my career. In 1996 I found myself in the middle of a fight between two gangs while feeding chow and was fighting for my life. I ended up tearing my ACL and had to have surgery. I had also re-aggravated my back.
Again I found myself back on Hydrocodone 10/650’s and I was starting to like the way they made me feel. They made it so much easier to get through a 12 hour shift with the back pain. I knew there was something really wrong with my back but MRI’s only showed some mild spondylolisthesis, the forward displacement of a vertebra. Nothing showed in the area of where I was having the back pain, in the lower L4-L5 area.
At that time I had a doctor who would give me 120 pills a month. That let me take 4 a day. That was enough for a while, then I started to have to take more to get through the day. So the raised me to 180 a month, to take 6 a day.
That helped for a while but as I began to get used to them they seemed to not work as well, making me need more. It’s a vicious cycle. I was then prescribed 240 a month, allowing me to take 8 a day. At that point I still didn’t understand I was addicted to pain killers. I thought I had a legitimate reason to be taking so many pills.
One thing you must understand about me, before I didn’t have an addictive personality. I never drank or did any drugs before. I still don’t drink to this day. I had lost my dad to drugs and a construction accident when I was 3 years old. He came back from Vietnam all messed up. I knew I wasn’t going to turn out that way, so I stayed away from drinking. My mother remarried when I was 5 and her and my step dad were drinkers. The alcohol made them different people, violent towards each other. I made it my mission not to follow in their footsteps.
A turning point in my life came in 1998 when my doctor told me he could no longer prescribe me the pills any longer and told me I had to stop taking them once I ran out. So I had to go through my first detox cold turkey. It was very rough. But I survived.
I had a new outlook on life without the pills, no more worrying about taking a pill every 3 hours.
In 1999 I was told I my girlfriend was pregnant and she had a girl in October. Things were going great. I got married in 2002 and during our honeymoon, I started having problems eating. The food was not going down my esophagus, it was getting stuck.
After we got back from our honeymoon, I went back to the doctor who performed my hiatal hernia surgery and he scheduled me for another upper G. I. and saw that I had a sticture, Benign esophageal stricture is a narrowing of the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach) that causes swallowing difficulties. Benign means that it is not caused by cancer of esophagus.
So they tried inflated a balloon to try to force open the stricture. Then they sent me on my way, but I kept having problems getting food down. I ended up having 7 of those procedures done to no relief.
The only other option was to have surgery. I went in for surgery and what was supposed to be a 4 hour procedure turned into a 12 hour operation. They tried to go in through the same incision as the first hiatal hernia operation, but after cutting me open they found tow much scar tissue to cut away and called in a heart surgeon to open my chest through the side to do the procedure.
This surgery liked to kill me, I woke up in recovery wishing I had never woken up again. The pain from having my stomach opened up 8 inches, and a 12 inch incision through my left side of my chest under my arm was over whelming.
I had two chest tubes and a couple of other holes in my abdomen with tubes coming out. It was unreal. I spent 39 days in the hospital, with much of that time in the ICU.
Again, I was on Hydrocodone to deal with the pain. It took me a long time to recover from this surgery and I will never have it again, no matter if I have another esophageal stricture.
Fortunately this doctor would not let me stay on the pain killers for long. He cut me off pretty quick, even if I did still have pain.
I eventually recovered and went back to work. Then in 2005 while working in Minnesota for a body guard service, my partner and I were on the way to our station we were to patrol. It was starting to snow and my partner was driving up a hill, and at the top of the hill was a wreck and he did not see it in time to slow down and we hit the wrecked vehicle. I was bending down at the time and did not brace my self for the force of the impact. While I was wearing a seat belt, there was slack in it as I had been bent over. Just as I was raising up we hit and I slammed into the windshield, causing head trauma, a shoulder injury, and a back injury.
I was treated at a local hospital and released, but I could not fly back home due to the head injury. I had to wait two weeks to get clearance from the doctor to fly back home to Texas. During that two weeks they gave me pain killers that I had never had and they were much more powerful than hydrocodone, called Dilaudid. I liked those way to much and luckily, when I got mack to Texas the doctor I was seeing would not prescribe those, but he did prescribe hydrocodone. So for the next two years I stayed on hydrocodone.
Finally I started to get tired of being on the pills and wanted my back fixed. I had always stayed away from back surgery due to the previous surgeries I had. But enough was enough.
I had surgery in 2007. They did a fusion of my L4-L5, plus they found bone fragments from a broken vertebra that never showed up in any MRI’s or x-rays. They also put a mesh cage around the fusion and a battery pack to stimulate bone growth. I have no idea why, that’s above my pay grade.
The only problem was the surgery did not fix the pain. So the cycle goes on. Two months later I had surgery to repair my shoulder. I still today have pain in both my back and shoulder. I guess I have bad luck with surgeries.
In 2008 I decided to get off the pills and try methadone. That required me to get up every morning at 4am and drive 30 miles to a methadone clinic to receive that days dose. I knew I would not be doing that very long.
I soon found a doctor who said Suboxone would help me and I would not have the high feeling. So I jumped at the chance to make that change. But I soon found out that the Suboxone was putting my intestines to sleep and I could not go to the bathroom very much. I had to take laxatives just to be able to go, but I was not willing to give up taking pain medications.
That all changed one day after having bad stomach pains and I had to go to the hospital. They took x-rays of my abdomen and found my intestines were becoming impacted. This was due to the Suboxone putting my intestines to sleep. They stopped moving. I was horrified at the thought of having to have a colostomy bag for the rest of my life.
I went to see my doctor and told him I wanted off the Suboxone. So I started to slowly wean myself off the powerful pain killer.
Over the next few weeks I will write about my detox starting from day one through the current day. Getting off this stuff even when you wean yourself off is not easy and very painful. I took notes each day to be able to be able to blog about this in hopes of helping others who have just started taking pain killers and what they are up against if they continue to take them.