Submitted by: Susanne Johnson
An injury to my neck brought me down in 2001. Years of medication for pain control followed. I was on Methadone, Norco and all kinds of pain medications over many years. It was crazy. I even shattered my hip while blacking out on pain medication. All of which I took as prescribed and legally. During this time I also suffered from gout, fibromyalgia, arthritis, restless leg syndrome and more. Taking the drugs affected my entire body, as it was initially there to help me.
Surgery wasn’t an option as my spine wasn’t a factor. The hospitals and clinics ran multiple tests on me. They tried nerve blocks, trigger point injections and gradually increased my dosage of opioids. I was prescribed Ambien as well, but stopped taking this on my own very early on. I was waking up just to take a sleeping pill. I knew it was wrong. I was only 38 years of age. I never illegally bought drugs, nor took more than prescribed, but what I took was obviously too much because I blacked out so many times.
I had never had an issue before with alcohol or other forms of addiction. It all started with the prescriptions and there was no turning back.
Because of my constant consumption of those multiple mind-altering drugs, I never drove myself to see my doctor. I always had family taking me. In 2008 I ran out of medication and had to see my doctor a good drive away in California. At the same time, all my options for transportation fell through. I got in the car and drove myself. I was driving this way with family every three months and knew the way well, but that day I got totally disoriented. I felt that something was totally wrong with me. I almost had accidents and thought I would roll over my car any minute. I was totally lost and in severe tunnel vision. I made several 911 calls in multiple counties along the way until I finally pulled over. Law enforcement came and started to do a field sobriety test on me. I was doing better than I thought, yet I couldn’t do some of the tasks because of my physical limitations. The cops took me to the station and I got a night in jail. That night I said to myself “This all is out of control.”
Back home I stopped some of my medications cold turkey. It was a nightmare. I was in pain and had hallucinations. I went to a 40 day residential program, where I got weened off, followed by a one year follow-up, where I went every couple weeks back for a day, a four hour drive by cab each way, every time.
Alcoholism and addiction runs in my family, many are affected. I have a younger sister and I’m happy that she appears to be healthy and doesn’t have a problem.
Today I go regularly to meetings. I Chair and Secretary meetings. I also have an online recovery group on Facebook, which I named ‘Recovery Rocks’, a motto I live by, where I try to help others, which are helpless and hopeless in their disease.
I’m on permanent disability, unfortunately I can’t work or stand all day. I live with my mom, just helping her with anything she needs help with. I was married, but my husband is an addict and alcoholic and I couldn’t live with him together anymore. We were only together a year and a half, then I found out not only he’s drinking and using, but heard he’s also selling drugs, and I don’t need any of this in my life. I pray that he find the help he needs to find relief for himself.
When in treatment I was told ‘Put your trust in us. We know it’s difficult since doctors have failed your trust in the past.’. I believe my story is an example, why people shouldn’t have a stigma attached to addiction. It’s often not someone’s choice or fault to be where they are. I trusted doctors that they do the right thing for me. Maybe they had no other choice, maybe they did. But fact it, that I became an opiate addict over the course of my medical treatment, not because I chose any illegal substances. Most of the time I can live today with over-the-counter medication. I have learned just to deal with my pain. My problem sleeping is affecting my life a lot, but I need to adjust and live my life around it. I had multiple surgeries after my treatment. I managed to get through them on pain medication for short duration and stop as ordered.
Recovery rocks, never give up hope that things can get better. Life happens, but recovery happens too.