When I was 18, I broke my thumb by slamming it in a heavy, old door of a TransAm. My mom worked in healthcare all my life, and anytime we had a mishap, we had “backstage passes”. I was in X-ray, thumb in a splint, and a prescription for 30 Vicodin in hand within about an hour or so.
I remember hating how much pain I was in. But more than the pain, I remember the amount of love I felt for my pills.
Fast-forward a few years to my 20s. I party a lot. Use drugs recreationally with all my other friends at the before-they-were-called “hipster” bars. My boyfriend at the time knows a girl who sells big bottles of Percocet. We pretend to not understand why, or at least I pretend to not admit it’s because she has moved on to heroin, but she offers my boyfriend a few to purchase. He does. And the offer stands: if we ever want to buy some Percocet, just for fun, we know where to find her. She just makes sure we know to be very, very careful. This can get us into a lot of trouble. We could get seriously messed up if we don’t keep ourselves in check. Oh, please. Like that would ever happen, I said to him after he told me of their exchange…of illegal transactions and potentially heartfelt warnings. It’s not like I’m some junkie. I just like to take a few pills here and there. I’m not some addict or anything.
I used to take two Percocet for a really fun night. After a while, a very short while, two stopped working so well…
Eight months later I snorted the last 80mg OxyContin leaving the house for work. I was panicking because I didn’t know what I would do–how I would get more pills–for the rest of the day, let alone that night, or tomorrow. I don’t remember “having fun” (getting high) around those times. I remember running out of things around the house to sell, and my boyfriend had long lost his job by then, and I pretended to not know about his stealing/pawning routine he started up again after we got busted a few months earlier.
I just kept telling myself that I wasn’t an addict. Addiction meant putting needles in your arm, living under a bridge, and all of the stigmatized ways the media play it out for us. It wasn’t until I wanted to stop this scrambling after euphoria; my only good feeling in the universe, that the moment I had euphoria it just slipped right through my fingers and vanished. And there I went again having to find it. Over and over. Day and night. I was actually suffering, and I was ready for it to stop. It wasn’t until the sickness-without-it came in and showed me how desperately addicted I was. The physical and emotional pain without my pills was unbearable. The world was so loud. My days decided to become nights without my pills. My nights decided to become days. Withdrawal is so unkind. But, after about a week, it got a little better. And after about a month, I finally got a full night of sleep.
Since then (Fall 2010), I have been prescribed opioids after minor surgeries. After all of this, I think there will always be a tiny part of me that says to myself, “If the instructions say take 1, I wonder how 3 will feel?” My experience of opioid addiction is one I never want to re-live. I will not deprive myself of opioids if I am in pain, but I need to take an extra moment to discern if I am actually in pain, or if I am just looking for a different way to feel for a little while.
Thanks so much for reading this.