Pain vs. Opioid Withdrawal – Can You Tell the Difference? Part 1 of 2
Not so long ago I was in Florida with my family, staying with relatives in a rented condo on the beach. What should have been a nice vacation turned out to be a nightmare for both me and my family.
I was running low on my pain meds, again. This was not new to me by any means. I ran low and often ran out most every month due to taking more than I was prescribed. I simply couldn’t help it. I thought I needed it to avoid back pain. And honestly, I enjoyed the “high” feeling the oxycodone and OxyContin gave me. An added benefit to getting strong pain meds, anti-anxiety medicine and sleeping pills every month from a Nashville pain clinic.
I’m honestly not sure if they thought they were helping me, or if they just wanted me as a recurring monthly patient. one thing’s for sure – I never missed a pain doctor appointment – not once. My pain meds were everything to me when I was addicted.
The family would go down to the beach to take in some sun and swim in the ocean. Most of the time I stayed in the condo watching TV and suffering from lower back pain. Or so I thought.
I had my tens unit with me and kept it on my lower back almost 24/7, convinced it would help with my back pain and just maybe keep me from using too many pain meds. I’m honestly not sure if the tens unit helped or not.
Day five with two more days to go in Florida, I count my pills as I did every morning. That’s how you know you’re addicted by the way – when the first thing you do every morning is count your f’ing pain pills. My back pain is worse than ever and my pill count tells me some really bad news – I’m going to run out of pain meds early, on vacation with my family and in-laws. This is going to suck and suck bad.
I’m already going into withdrawal, whether real or imaginary, I honestly don’t know. Hell, it’s all the same to me.
Once again the family leaves for the beach. I stay back with my tens unit on my back, barely able to sit still, more uncomfortable in my own skin than ever before. All I can think about is running out of pain meds. Withdrawals. Bad withdrawals are on their way toward me. I’m already going into withdrawal, whether real or imaginary I honestly don’t know. Hell, it’s all the same to me.
What I do know is that the pain meds aren’t working lately. My back pain is worse than ever which is how I can justify taking more pills than I’m supposed to.
“This month I won’t take too much. I’ll take less, and even have some left over before my next pain doctor appointment.”
When you’re addicted to opiates, it goes something like this:
You go to your pain doctor and get your refills. You go straight to the pharmacy and leave with full bottles of pills. You feel like you’ve won the f’ing lottery. You’re top of the world because you think to yourself, “I have more than enough now. This month I won’t take too much. I’ll take less, and even have some left over before my next pain doctor appointment”. There’s the lie about your addiction. Even while you’re saying this to yourself you’ve completely forgotten how shitty you felt yesterday having run out of pills and going into full withdrawal. You already know you’re going to run out early. But, you’ve got a full bottle right now and nothing else in life matters.
You take a pill or two. Feel the warmth spread throughout your body like a warm blanket. Relax, you’ve got more than enough to last for weeks. Your motivation comes back. Your personality comes back. You’ve gone from shaking, miserable addict in withdrawals to becoming the nicest person in the world. Thank you pills – You’ve saved me again. I am myself again.
The next couple of weeks are good. You wake up, count your pills, take them as needed, stay motivated, get your work done, spend time with family and sometimes sleep like a baby. These pills are fricken amazing. They take away my back pain, make me feel like Superman, and allow me to go right to sleep when it’s time for bed. What a miracle these things are.
You tell yourself stories of how you’ll fix your pill shortage every time you take a little extra, making the end of the month even worse than it already was.
It’s usually around the beginning of week four that things begin to go sour. Your daily pill count tells you you’re a couple days short. No worries. Sometimes you can convince your doctor you had “ancillary pain” and needed a little extra to get through the day. Other times you can sweet talk the pharmacist, maybe even lying by telling them you’re traveling soon and need your refill early. You tell yourself stories of how you’ll fix your pill shortage every time you take a little extra, making the end of the month even worse than it already was. You know it inside, but you lie to yourself over and over, month after month.
So I’m sitting in the condo, family is at the beach, worried sick about going into withdrawal on vacation. There’s no way I can get an early refill, especially while in another state. This is going to be a rough end to our vacation.
Granny to the rescue.
I notice my grandmother has brought her mini pharmacy with her on the trip. A Tupperware bin filled with an assortment of pills is sitting on top of the refrigerator. I decide it’s time to take a look at her inventory.
Sure enough, Granny has brought some pain meds with her. Not sure why she even has them. They’ve expired months ago, which means she’s not even taking them. Nor, will she notice a few missing, right?
I take a few pills (maybe five or ten?) from each of her bottles. Hydrocodone, oxymorphone and Percocet. Jackpot! I’m saved! Her pills combined with mine will get me home safely without going into withdrawal and even give me a day extra to get back to my pain doctor. Again, I’ve hit the lottery. I have more than enough pills now.
I take off the tens unit and join the family at the beach. All is good again. I’m back to being myself.
Part 2 coming soon…
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