A STOLEN LIFE

How Opioid Addiction Robbed My Identity 

BY MILLIE WILLIAMS


I’ve just opened my eyes and I’m sick. I slept too late and my withdrawal is kicking in. Nausea, headache, and muscle cramping. I use the bathroom then immediately find my pain meds. My pain is worse today. The opiates no longer work but I’m not sick anymore. This has been my ritual for nearly a decade. I know what some of you might be thinking. That I’m just another drug addict looking for sympathy or making excuses for why I no longer work. Take a moment to read my story because this could be you. 

I worked as a nurse’s assistant for over 20 years. During that time, I had developed chronic back pain related to injuries sustained on the job. Even though I suffered in agony, it was the only job that I knew how to do, and I loved it. Most people in this field suffer, but you can’t allow your employer to know you have pain because, chances are, they will terminate your employment.  

I went through therapy, acupuncture, electric muscle stimulation, steroid injections, and nothing worked. I finally found a pain management doctor and she prescribed Percocet. That made me terribly ill, but I took it anyway. Eventually, my dosage of medicine substantially increased and over time my pain got worse. The pain meds did nothing so I decided to stop taking them. I woke up sick. Stomach cramps, muscle cramps, headache, sweats, cold and clammy skin, diarrhoea. It was horrible. I’ve heard people describe withdrawal as if it was the flu. Well, I’ve had the flu and this felt nothing like it. I knew then I was addicted to my pain meds and I needed them just to work and function. 

I told my doctor I wanted off these toxic pills. She replied, “You will never succeed in getting off them completely. You have been on them too long.” I was a lifer. I tried several ways to stop, but I always had to go back to them. They invade your mind, body, and soul. Without realising it you become a slave to something more powerful than life itself – opiates. I eventually had to stop working all together because my pain was too much. I tried different jobs and even one-on-one patient care, but I just couldn’t do it.  

I became depressed after I stopped working. I receive a monthly cheque from the government, but it isn’t good enough to feed, clothe and house a dog. My wife has been with me almost 12 years and she is my rock. Most of my so-called friends faded away when I stopped working. I can honestly say I have one friend that would do anything for me and two others that run a close second. I love people and I loved being a part of society. I had loads of friends, or so I thought, which can be hard sometimes growing up as a lesbian with a Jehovah’s Witness mother who already doesn’t want you to have “worldly” friends.  

Eventually I found my way and I picked up a camera and am now a photographer after 5 years of practice and, well, more practice. 

I started this article going through self-imposed withdrawal. I have lost my health, my mind, my soul, and my independence. I didn’t know if I would be able to finish this on time or at all, but I need people to know that opioids are the devil. If I could go back in time, I would have never filled my first prescription.  

I know many of you reading this probably think I misused them. And you would be correct. In the first years, I did take more than prescribed. That is the nature of the beast. Then, I would be sick and have to buy them off the streets. However, I stopped that 10 years ago and have taken them as prescribed ever since. As soon as my eyes open, I’m sick until I take my pills. If I want to go on vacation, I have to work around my pill delivery date. I can’t leave the house for too long unless I have my meds because I will start to go through withdrawal without them. What kind of life is that? I’ve been suicidal. What was the answer for that? More meds to help with my depression. 

My body has gotten weaker. I used to be able to walk around a market as long as I had a trolley to hold onto. Now, I can barely do that. I want my life back. I don’t want to die an early death from organ failure or heart attack due to lack of movement. I never leave the house. I never visit family and no one visits me. I am a shell of my former self. There’s nothing left to take but my life. 

I survived cancer and, by God, I will survive this demon. I am writing this as a cautionary tale. I implore anyone reading this who has chronic pain, seek other alternatives. Holistic medicine. Meditation. Do your research before you find yourself like me. 

 

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