When I was Addicted to Drugs

I’ve never* had a drink of alcohol not even a sip, ever.  Nor have I ever smoked a “joint” or used any illegal/recreational substances.  I wish I could say that it was all  my own doing that prevented me from walking that path, but if I did it would be a lie.  God (even when I was doing my best to walk as far away from Him as possible) was the spearhead on the ability to say “No” front.  That paired up with my incredibly stubborn determined nature meant that I was able to walk away from more than one opportunity to try one or both of those things.

It was fear that drove my stubborn nature.  I was a shy teenager painfully so, with some serious insecurity issues.   I was/am someone who commits to things fully, with an “all or nothing” type behavioural patters.  I was afraid that the combination of that part of my nature and the desire to feel self-assured would allow me to use alcohol as my liquid confidence in a dangerous way.

What if I tried it and liked it?  What if I couldn’t say “No”?  What if the odd drink for confidence turned into a regular habit to survive?

Little did I know how valid that fear really was….

The year I became pregnant with Bethany was a crazy one.  Corey and I had been married a total of 3 weeks when I started to suspect that I’d gotten pregnant on our honeymoon, by week 4 it was confirmed – we were going to have a baby.

Never did I expect that my pregnancy would turn into the long and painful process that it did and when I was admitted into the hospital at 8 weeks pregnant with debilitating abdominal pains, I was crushed.  I’d imagined pregnancy so differently, days filled with nursery preparation, shopping for maternity clothes and the need for bra’s found outside the juniors department.

That first night in emergency, as I lay on the bed writhing in pain a nurse came in, they’d ordered a pain medication for.  Due to the nature of my pain, the fact that regular Tylenol had done nothing, I was vomiting everything up, I was pregnant (which ruled out a large number of options) and my lethal allergy to morphine, they’d decided a medicine called Dilaudid would be the best choice.

As the first dose of Dilaudid paired with a hefty dose of Gravol flowed through my veins, the smell of windshield washer fluid filled my nose (it’s a weird side effect for me from Gravol IV), I began to feel the first tiny bit of relief I’d felt in over a week.  I was thankful, and finally I slept.

I spent 6 weeks in that hospital while doctors did their best to determine what was happening inside my body.  As each day went by, and my body continued to be riddled with pain I received more medication.

I truly needed it, the pain was overbearing and I had no tools to be able to cope with it.  The 4 hour doses of Gravol and Dilaudid kept me in a foggy state, I don’t remember much of those 6 weeks.  Some of that is due to the ugly emotional stuff left over from a bad relationship before Corey I was processing, while I was dealing with resenting the baby (which I learned later wasn’t about her at all, I love and WANT her) that was causing me all this pain.   The rest of it is simply because narcotics keep your brain in an ever crazy state, the Gravol made me tired and I spent hour upon hour sleeping.

It was awful.

Somewhere along the lines my body began to need the Dilaudid.  As the 4th hour would draw to an end, I’d wake up ready for more.  I didn’t see it like that, I saw that the pain was returning and I needed more help, but it was becoming more than that.

I was really fortunate for the last 3 weeks I was in the hospital the prenatal/baby docs that I’d been assigned took over.  The recognized two things: 1st – that my abdominal pain was probably being cause by the severe scar tissue left in my belly from an infected and oozing appendix when I was kid and 2nd – was that they needed to get me off of that Dilaudid and they needed to do it fast.

It took 2 weeks to slowly work my dosage down, to incorporate a different method of pain management and to prepare me to head home.  It was the longest 2 weeks of my life.  I was having to re-learn how to cope with pain because for 4 weeks something else had been doing the job for me.  I was adjusting to the horrible nausea that comes with pregnancy for me and to emotionally handle the idea of going home.   There were papers to fill out and letters to my bosses.

6 weeks after they first admitted me to the hospital I gingerly walked out the doors to go home.  My body hurt, I was weak (I had lost 15lbs in hospital during that time…I made up for it later gaining 60+lbs with that pregnancy) and I felt weird.  My skin was itchy, my legs felt like there were bugs all over them and I couldn’t sit still.  I didn’t know what would make it better, I didn’t know why it was happening and all I could think about was making it go away.

That first night at home, while I lay in a warm bathtub trying to make the bug crawly feeling go away it dawned on me – I was addicted to a narcotic.

Or at least my body was.  I had spent 4 full weeks and another 2 partial weeks giving my body a heavy duty substance on a regular basis and it had come to expect it.

That moment filled me with horror, how did that happen to me?!!  I don’t do drugs, I’ve never had alcohol and while I made a ton some bad choices I’d always been the “Good Girl”, how could I possibly be addicted to drugs.

I wasn’t mentally addicted to drugs, it wasn’t like heading to a back alley to score but my body had the same auto response of someone hooked on an illegal substance.  If I wasn’t of the nature I am, with the God whom I serve and the family I have watching over me that situation could have easily turned into a very, very bad one.

I made up my mind right then and there I wouldn’t take a narcotic again.  Short of being in the place where I’m dying I will never again allow a narcotic to enter the veins of my body, primarily Dilaudid – and I haven’t.  The idea that I could easily become hooked on it again scares the bejeepers out of me.  If it happened once, it could happen again and I have too much to lose to let that happen.

That experience gave me a new perspective, a rather HUGE wake up call.  I no longer pass the “how could you” or “what a loser” judgement on someone that I shamefully used to pass.  It could have been me, it could be you.  Nobody sets out to get addicted to drugs and ruin their life.   That first beer wasn’t meant to catastrophically change the path of your future forever but it could, and you may not even know it.

So the next time you pass someone on the street strung out, please think of me.  Remember a woman who’s life now shows no signs of where she’s been or who she could have become thanks to the grace of God (with a little or a lot of a stubborn nature) and then see them with my eyes.  They are someone’s son or daughter, they had bigger dreams than that for their life and what they really need now, more than our judgement is our compassion and our prayers.

*please know there is NO judgement passed on whether or not you choose to have a drink recreationally.  Just because I don’t doesn’t mean I look down on it, the choice I made was for me, not for you!*

15 thoughts on “When I was Addicted to Drugs

  1. Oh, {hugs}!!! Thank you for sharing this with all of us. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to share. I think it is so very important to share stories like this. It can be cathartic and therapeutic, but can also help others who are in the same situation.

    Big hugs from Manitoulin Island 🙂 xoxo
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  2. Wow. This must have been a life altering realization—

    I tend not to judge these things. Drugs are powerful. Alcohol is powerful. And addiction even more powerful. At the right time in ones life (or wrong time), it really can happen to anyone.

  3. This is an AMAZING post to inform folks, addiction doesn’t just happen to some loser out there. I applaud you for shedding light on perscription medications and the risk they present to us all. I’m going to share this on all of my networks, THIS is truly a miracle that CAN happen for all of us.
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  4. Thanks for sharing your story Ashley! I can totally relate to this on a few differently levels actually & I’m realizing how much we have in common.

    Coming off the pain meds is something they don’t prepare you enough for. I was in the hospital for only 3 days on heavy doses of morphine after an emergency major surgery. The ‘crawly’ feeling you describe is all too familiar. I also had the need to stretch my entire body violently every minute or so. It’s a terrible feeling!

    I’m glad you came through okay and that you’re able to share your story today!
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  5. Thanks for sharing your story, Ashley! My husband has been on many narcotics because of his chronic back pain and he told me that one of the reasons he lived for years in misery and pain was because when he told somebody after his accident that he was taking a narcotic daily, they accused him of being a “junkie.” It took me years to convince him that it’s not possible for that to happen to him since the definition of being addicted is your body “needing” the drug even though the pain that made it necessary is gone. Chronic pain means that he’s always going to require pain relief, though he still tries to limit what he takes as much as possible.
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  6. I think it is truly wonderful that you have written your story to share with others because there are MANY people out there who have had similar experiences!

    It is so true that addiction is not something that people consciously make!

    I can’t even imagine going through that while pregnant, you poor thing! I just want to reach through this computer screen and give you a great, big hug!
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  7. Thanks for sharing, and how awesome that you recognized sooner rather then later. I recently had surgery and was in the hospital for a week, I was pumped up on pain killers, by day 4 I said to the nurse, I do not want anymore pills. I could feel my body wanting them, but I did not like how they made me feel, so I requested no more pills, it was too hard on my body. The nurse was surprised, but little did she know that I’ve dealt with a Mother addicted to pills my entire life. The pain was nothing compared to that. When you watch the show “Intervention” you virtually are seeing my mom. I knew if I did not say no to more pills I could easily end up like my Mom. As much as I love my Mom, I have successfully broken the cycle within my family and I am so proud of that.

    Thanks for your story, it really does help people. I know we are meant to go through things in life, it creates wisdom, and knowledge and gives us the ability to help people who may struggle through similar challenges. So thank you!

    Take Care and Be Well
    Shelley Harris, CPCC
    Certified Coach & Mentor

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    I lost my mom due to addiction (alcohol) but she was also abused her medication (mainly for anxiety). So, I know this situation all too well.

    And I, like you, was leery of drinking or trying drugs. I did “experiment” and socially drank here and there but after my mom passed, I couldn’t do it anymore. My stomach would get upset just taking a sip.

    I am also on medication for anxiety. The first time I quit Paxil cold turkey and had no issues. Shortly after I found out I was pregnant with our first child. A few months after his birth I went back on and a few years later switched to Celexa. I tried going off of that one so that we could try for another baby. It did not go well at all and I was weaning. The withdrawals were horrible. Especially the brain/body shocks. Unfortunately, I had to go back on and when I did get pregnant with my second, I had to stay on meds (on a low dose) but still I was scared for the baby growing inside me. I still worry this day about it. But he is healthy.

    Just wanted to pop by and say thank you for giving a voice to situations like these. It’s so important. *hugs*
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  9. I am so glad you wrote this post. After my car accident my doctor gave me Percocet, which I didn’t want to take but I had a dislocated shoulder, cracked tailbones, abrasions all over. We totaled our van when a driver ran a red and hit me on my side. Thankfully my kids were okay. I was reading your post and you talk about the bug crawly think and omg it brought me back. Just hearing the word percocet and my body and brain go into lapping (like a craving) it’s horrible. Hubs took the pills from me because it was ruining our marriage, me being a parent and my relationships with people I loved. When I climbed into the garbage can to retrieve them, I sat in the bottom of the can and wailed like a baby asking for help.

    Nobody thinks it can happen to them but it truly can. You are brave for sharing this. Thank you again <3

  10. What an amazing story. I drink occasionally (though hardly ever more than 2, as I’m stubborn like you and afraid of losing control of myself) but I’ve never done hard drugs and I refused pain medication even in labour. However, as you say, there are other reasons that we become addicted to drugs. A friend of mine recently told me her story of dealing with post-partum depression – and how she tried to give up her anti-depressant a few years ago and had a terrible physical reaction to that. She hates being on the drug now, but it helped her during a hard time in her life. I guess that’s what I dislike about most drugs – they help in one way, but they usually have a side effect of some sort (sooner or later). (I also got pregnant on my honeymoon, btw!) Thanks for sharing your story.
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