Prescription Pain Meds…The Rise OR Fall Of A Chronic Pain Patient

This is going to be a pretty controversial topic for most chronic pain patients and chronic pain providers. It’s one that I’ve avoided for awhile now…not because I didn’t want to cause an uproar, not because I didn’t want to upset people, and definitely not because I was scared to. Afterall, if any of you know me you are all well aware that I could care less about how my words affect the majority vote. Sorry all, that’s just how I roll. Lol. Anyway, I avoided this topic out of self preservation. If I write about it and in turn speak about it that means that it really happened. I can’t pretend that it didn’t, and that means my pride gets knocked down a notch. Ouch. If I write, I admit, which means by the end of this blog I should come to terms with the entire event. We’ll see how this goes. Fingers crossed kids.

With that being said, I’ve never been one to fall into addictions. Ever. I smoked. If I wanted to quit I quit cold turkey..No problems. If I started drinking a bit too much, I cut back. No problems. I’ve always known when I was doing something in excess and always knew when it was time to stop or cut back. There’s nothing that I can’t control when it comes to my body..except getting older which is unfortunate. I ultimately control how I feel about my pain. I don’t control the pain itself but I do control how much the pain gets to me. I control how I handle my pain. I control how I come to terms with my pain. I control who sees my pain. I control what I have to do to diminish my pain. I control the extent of my pain. I know, I know, It’s starting to sound like I am in fact saying that I DO control my pain but alas it’s just tricky wording…trust me I‘m exceptionally good at it. I only control the effects of my fellow body inhabitant…I don’t control when it decides to have house parties in my pelvis. Once again, It’s unfortunate. Really. But it’s the way of the world I suppose. And that’s just Inconvenient.

What I’m getting at is as a chronic pain patient you don’t think you’ll ever get addicted to your pain meds. Afterall, they’re there to help you. And they do. A lot. Until they don’t anymore. And you have to take a lot more than you’re supposed to. But for the most part, in our minds that still doesn’t mean we’re addicted. We’ve been on pick a med any med sort of regiment for most of our lives and we’re well aware of the fact that we build up a resistance to anything we take for a long period of time. This is where the lose – lose comes in. Now, some of you may be sitting here saying “No not me, I need to take this many pills“. And some of you may be saying “Oh yea…been there..totally get where she’s going with this” and some of you really may be somewhere in the middle trying to figure out if there’s an issue there or it’s perfectly normal. Don’t worry…you’ll figure it out eventually.

Here’s where my story comes in…because I can rant about the abstract generalized issues with pain meds for pages. The real thing I want to share with you is what happened to me and why I am completely pain med free at this point in the half time show.

When I was first diagnosed I did everything right. Changed my diet, stopped smoking, stopped drinking, stopped having sex. I did everything I had to to give my bladder and other problem areas a chance to regroup and figure out who they wanted to be when they grew up. I also started the meds…which I started taking in the following order:

Elmiron

Hydroxyzine

Nortriptline

Neurontin

Xanax

Vicodin

Percocet

Clonopin

I stayed on Elmiron, Hydroxyzine, Nortriptiline, Xanax and Vicodin primarily for about 2 years and felt almost 80% better than I had felt for the 4 years before that. I took that as a win so I took the rest as needed or cut out completely if I felt they didn’t make a difference to my pain levels. I eventually ran out of Elmiron, felt fine without it and kept it movin. It then left me with Hydroxyzine, Nortriptline, Xanax, and Vic’s. I was doing bladder instills myself once a week as well and had convinced myself that I couldn’t do the self caths without being blown out of my mind. (Notice the start of the self convincing) That forced decision I don’t regret though…for some reason I can’t do them sober. It freaks me out too much.

Anyway, I ended up being well enough to go to work full time, with fully paid medical benefits, doing a job that I absolutely loved. I felt great. It was awesome. Yay…some type of something going my way. At this point you’re probably wondering where the problem is. Because honestly there doesn’t seem like one and there wasn’t… Until the subconscious, self convincing took over.

I slowly began to make myself believe that it was because of the pain meds only that I was feeling so great and was able to go to work. I then had to keep reminding myself that I had to be able to go to work or I would lose my fully paid medical benefits. I then panicked and realized that I couldn’t take the chance of having a bad day and not being able to go to work. So I began to rely solely on the pain meds. As a safety net. Not because I was in pain , per say, but because if I stopped taking them I might relapse and not be able to keep my job! Ahhh what a logical “normal” predicament. So I continued to take them…more than I should. Doubled my doses. Tripled them on important days that I knew I was desperately needed at work for. As a precaution. Because I was protecting my job. And my health. And of course the inevitable happened…my body started to build up a resistance. Now all of you know that there is a limit on how many narcotics can be prescribed and/or refilled in a certain amount of time which is why we all have to ration carefully during a flare. I was aware of this too….and of course I didn’t want to look like a pill head and I also downright refused to start calling other doctors to get more scripts because that would mean I had a problem…and I DIDN’T HAVE A PROBLEM. I was making sure I felt well enough to go to work. Clearly. (sense my disgusting amount of sarcasm here people) So instead of trying to find extra scripts of the vicodin and xanax which were the two biggest culprits of this whole self brainwashing experience, I decided that I needed to heighten their effects by other means, like alcohol. I figured if I drank my vodka with the pills then I would only need my normal dose of pills. I wouldn’t have to double or triple…it would save pills and the issue of running out before I was able to get a refill. Simple Fix. What’s sad is that in the back of my mind…I knew. I knew this was a recipe for disaster and that it could spiral out of control before I ever knew what was happening. I knew this didn’t seem quite right…but every time that “this is not quite right or a good way to be playing this game” thought popped into my head my subconscious reminded me how important it was to be able to go to work. That I had to do this so that I could keep what I have. And I’d take 4 more shots and another 4 vicodin…just in case my bladder decided to act up today.

It went like this for months…with me telling myself the entire time that I needed to do this. It went like this for almost a year before I realized that I was going through a script of vic’s and xannys that should’ve lasted a month in 3 days..and that the bottles of vodka were lining up next to my empty pill bottles and cigarette cartons. It took me actually coming out of my pill stuper one morning to realize that my breakfast before work was a half pack of cigs, 4 1000 mg vics and 3 1mg xanny’s with a baileys coffee chaser. It wasn’t until then that I realized that I was a train wreck and that this probably wasn’t going to end well. It was at this point I also realized it was time to stop…I attempted to cut back. I attempted to go to work and not do my daily routine of handfuls of vic’s and xannys and tried to just chain smoke. The side effects were awful and I always got home and ended up taking enough to put me dangerously close to an OD. Weening myself was not working and I had entirely too much pride to ask for help. I took a medical leave from my job stating that my medical conditions had worsened and that I had to begin weekly treatments out of the state. Went back to my parent’s house in PA and quit every single med that I was on cold turkey knowing that it could kill me and knowing that it was not going to go well. Quitting cold turkey is by far the stupidest thing that someone with that much of a reliance on pain meds can do. Don’t do it. Ever. Trust me. I’m an idiot. And lucky I’m not dead.

I had never believed that pain med withdrawal was that serious. I knew about DT’s and coming off of a crack binge…I’d seen what that can do to people. But I never thought that coming off of a year long pill parade would be comparable. What a wake up call that was. I was used to spending the majority of my time in the bathroom trying to take a piss properly. But laying on the floor shaking uncontrollably, dry heaving for hours until I though my head would explode, and not being able to hold my own body fluids in was not something I was used it. It was not something I was ok with and it was something at the time I was pretty sure was going to kill me. It took days for the headache to break….and weeks for the shaking to stop. It’s been almost 3 years since I’ve been off every single pain med I’ve ever taken and I still have to stay away from narcotics at all costs. I still sometimes really really really really REALLY want one..and convince myself that I really really really REALLY need one. I don’t. Ever. But I do keep them in the house. They are hidden…given to my roommates and hidden in places I couldn’t find them. I won’t throw them out…mostly as a reminder that I‘ve been clean for this long. Somewhat as a pathetic cushion…because somewhere in the back of my head I still believe that if I’m in a serious flare I may need one. Bullshit. There goes that subconscious brainwashing again…and again this is why they’re hidden. What’s funny is through all of my pill parade I was trying to prevent my bladder pain and my sexual pain. I went through withdrawal and felt some of the worst pain of my life and my IC still didn’t relapse. It was all for nothing. It was all to mask my fears of how to live without pain because it was something I wasn’t used to. It was to mask the fact that I knew I had created a bullshit cushion just so that I could hide. But, I see this now. It’s not something I could’ve seen then if someone had put it in a pill form and shoved up my ass. I was completely blinded by my crusade. I regret that it took so long to realize that it was a total useless crusade but I’m happy I went through it. At least now I know that anything in this world is addicting and our minds are so amazing we can formulate anything we need to to make ourselves believe what we need to to do what we want to do. It’s fascinating…And terrifying all at the same time.

As a side note here people…just as another precaution…and please believe this is not me pushing the blame on anyone but myself because I am totally aware that I was the one pouring those pills into my hand and putting my hand to my mouth…I know I was the one who swallowed those pills and chased them with that drink…but enabling is a common occurrence that I just want to touch on slightly. I was living with my boyfriend who just so happened to be a doctor during this entire time…not once did he pull me aside and say that he thought I had a problem…if anything he encouraged me to take as many as I needed to feel how I needed to feel to do what I needed to do. He’d even have my meds set out on the table for me when I got home from work next to my dinner. Holy Enabler. Needless to say, once I got clean, the doctor and I also quit cold turkey. This also goes to show just how much the medical community relies on their meds. It’s scary and a total scheme to keep us coming back for me so we spend more money. But, that’s another rant to come on another day.

Moral of this rant is…that there’s a severely fine line. A lot of us truly can’t function without the meds. I genuinely understand that and believe that. But there are a lot of us too that have just fallen into the habit of taking them so that our pain doesn’t come back or to help us hide from the damage these conditions have done to our livelihoods. There are always other options. There are always alternatives. There are always people that have been through it too…find them…and figure out where that line is drawn. Don’t cross it and if you are tempted to…kill the temptation immediately. It’s not worth it.

 

BOOM….Things Change!

Boom started as a sound….then an image, a being, an ever stubborn, prideful Aries and a man. Boom became a fear and a friend and was then seen as an ever-ready spontaneous individual who would most always be a part of my life in some way shape or form… whether in arguemental, we will debate about this until our faces turn blue and we fall over in the middle of the street, mode or in the typical Hi, I’m Tali and I care too much about what you’re doing with your life and your actions and will badger you to death sort of mode. Regardless of the intent, that sound was always there and sound has always been one of the most important aspects of my life. Boom is a constant surprise and astonishment. Boom is Boom. Boom is crazy. Boom makes me want to put my own head in the microwave. Boom is with me the perfect example of how I make other people feel. Completely psycho, annoyed, overwhelmed, and murderous. Boom is something I never thought would become a part of me. Well not become a part of me that I wouldn’t try to cut out and kill anyway…but alas, even sometimes I don’t see things coming until they’re already in front of my face ..

I guess it’s safe to say that If it wasn’t for mind altering prescription meds and a lot of alcohol we most definitely would never have pursued anything in the sense of a relationship or even a friend on friend vacation fling. What’s funny is that this trip had started as a way to celebrate a birthday and reclaim my original status with my crew and ended in a very confusing jumble of thoughts, emotions, feelings, and headaches that would surely not be easily forgotten. If someone had asked me if I thought I would have a life changing experience in New Jersey that weekend I probably would’ve lent them some of my xanax and requested that they take half the bottle and find an ounce of intelligence. Nothing about this trip screamed Run!!! Don’t do it or you’ll find yourself in a place that you’re no longer used to being in. Nothing about this trip told me that I would possibly find the person that I should probably be with for the rest of my life one drunken night on scratchy hotel sheets with best friends in the bed on the other side of the room and surely nothing about this trip can be counted as a regret. Regret does not factor in here at all..not even a little and not even on my crazy days where I blame Clonopins and Paffe Catron for causing me happiness infused grief this far down the line. This trip started something that even I can’t find the proper words to explain…and for me to not find words is an astonishing thing. I ALWAYS have a word…or words for everything. Always.

With that being said, I found a part of me in New Jersey that I never thought existed. I had only ever seen Boom as a strong, conceited (almost too arrogant, which I hate more than anything in the world), funny, and witty guy who didn’t believe in romance, or love or , soul mates, or a meaning of life, or being happy with someone else, who was an absolute blast to be around. Many wonderful debates and conversations took place over the years before that fateful night in New Jersey that made me truly appreciate his intelligence and ability to jump right in on those politically incorrect topics that most other people in the world shy away from. IT was always a pleasure to see him when the crew got together and was always nice to kind of keep in touch when I turned into a total pansy and ran away from my problems back to PA. It was nice, I enjoyed it, I missed them, and him, but nothing really jumped out and slapped me in the face telling me that I was really missing an attraction here or even a minor infatuation. Apparently nothing slapped him in the face either considering he had no idea we would end up like this either. Funny thing is, everyone else seemed to know….or have an inkling. For how un-oblivious we are we were totally oblivious and blind on this one. Thank you Clonopin for all your help. I will write you a thank you note in the future. Regardless of how I saw him before that trip nothing can explain how I saw him after that first initial night.

Instead of waking up the next morning rolling over and having the only panic attack I woke up laying on his chest wondering..hmm I don’t remember going to bed last night. How exactly did I end up in this bed? And jeez Tal, all over Boom? Really? Oh well wake up get ready, get some drinks. The initial dialogue went something along these lines…
Morning kids! Morning Boom. Morning Tal here I am..oh shit. I can’t walk …. I slowly stopped talking and threw my next thoughts right back into the silent part of my brain…I HAD SEX LAST NIGHT. And in that moment little 5 second flash backs of the night before slowly crept back into comprehendible memory. Ok I had sex…finally. Cool. Ok I can deal…who here did I have sex with JESUS CHRIST IT WAS BOOM. Fuck…really? Did this just happen? Apparently. Well it must’ve been an ok thing since we slept in the same bed and woke up un-awkward Wonderful Tal, You should know better than sleeping with best friends. Dumb….I repeat Dumb. And the last thought that went through my head that morning about that situation was well, at least it was only a one time thing. Shake it off and have fun.

Which we did. It wasn’t until later that night that I realized that maybe just maybe there might possibly kind of sort of one in a million year chance sort of thing be something here. Maybe this wasn’t going to be a one time thing and maybe just maybe I can have a fake relationship with a best friend which is the most genius invention in the world. He was being nicer than I’ve ever seen him in the entire history of me knowing him and I wasn’t freaking out and the fact that he was touching me in front of the crew. Something was wrong…and I should’ve picked up on it then..Something was wrong because for once we got something Right.

After the Jersey trip I thought it would be a wrap. No more flings with best friends would be a great idea. It wasn’t until my birthday and I realized something was still going on…somewhere. Maybe not in my mind and probably not in his but somewhere, something was setting us up for a surprise. A few weeks later I went in for my birthday and spent most of my time with him….and exactly one week after my birthday I moved back to NYC on a whim and haven’t left his side yet. Funny how things work out, and funny how sometimes your life gets to be the butt of the universe’s jokes. I’m amused as well universe…keep it up.

I often wonder if his thought process that morning was similar. Maybe when he gets here later I’ll ask him. Afterall, it’s been 7 months now and all Clonopins and alcohol aside I think we’ll be just fine for a long time to come. Unless we kill each other first due to our ever-growing frustration and attraction to each other which in our demented relationship is just a turn on anyway.