A Deadly Secret
Sep 9, 2022
When someone thinks of addiction, they reflexively put a face to the disease. Because of the stigma surrounding this disease, that face doesn’t usually have a job, a family, a proper upbringing.
That’s why I share my recovery story as often as I can – because I had all those things. I had fantastic parents and a great upbringing. I had a fancy job with authority and power. I had a loving husband and young kids.
And yet I also had a deadly secret: I was addicted to pain pills.
Because of health issues, I had several surgeries over the years. With each surgery, I received pain pills. As I continued the cycle – surgery, pain pills, recovery – I noticed my tolerance to the medication was increasing. I needed more and higher doses to get the same effect. It’s not like I’m doing anything illegal. I’m getting these prescriptions from doctors, I told myself as I tossed back another handful of pills.
Before I knew it, the surgeries ended but the need for the pills didn’t. I now needed the pills to get through the day. My walls began to close in on me, as I was running around to different pharmacies and doctors to get what I needed
On the outside, everything looked as it should. I had my job, I had my family, I had everything together. I knew the role I needed to play in order to get what I needed from the next doctor, the next pharmacy, But on the inside, everything was crumbling. I didn’t know what my end game was. I knew I couldn’t continue this path, but I was only thinking about how I could get through the next minute.
My resourcefulness kept me going for a long time. At the end of the day, I didn’t have a moment where everything came crashing down. I didn’t hit rock bottom. I ran out of ways to get what I needed. I realized I had been defeated and needed to wave the white flag. I was tired, I was burnt out, and I was out of ways to get more. So I sat my husband down at our kitchen table and told him everything.
I saw him go through all the same emotions I felt every single day: shock, disappointment, anger, fear, confusion. We agreed I needed treatment, so I checked myself into an Inpatient facility, did the 30 days, came home and thought that was the end of it.
But I relapsed. The stress of being back from treatment and what life looked from here forward sent me into a spiral. I felt like I still had this giant secret that only my husband knew. I checked back into treatment with more fear and shame than I’ve ever had in my entire life.
When I returned home this time, I was cautiously optimistic. In one of my first meetings, a nurse – someone who had lost everything because of her addiction – got up to speak. She said, “Your secrets keep you sick.” I felt like she was speaking to me and only me. I felt like she was telling me not to be ashamed of what I’ve done; rather, be proud of how far I’ve come.
That’s when I knew this couldn’t be a secret any longer. The more people I told, the harder it would be for me to fall back into my addiction. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was call doctors and pharmacies in the area to ask them not to prescribe or fill any prescriptions. I told my parents, my kids, my friends and family. I was expecting the worst, but I received the best: Support. Love. Kindness. Sympathy. I got a tattoo of my sobriety date, so I could look at the date every day and remember my why.
In February, I will celebrate 7 years sober. To this day, I still have a lot of questions, mostly just: How did I not die? I’m not sure I will ever be able to answer this question, but what I do know is that I am still here for a reason. That’s why I work in the addiction treatment industry. I know what life can look like once you get through your addiction. I constantly remind patients (and myself) that you can’t go back and change the beginning. You can only start where you are right now and change the ending. That’s why I do what I do at CleanSlate. I want to give back what’s been given to me – I want to help others change their ending.