SAF BLOG POSTS
Above is something I had written while going through opioid withdrawals. Didn’t know I wrote it until days later.
It was a Friday before a holiday weekend. I was laying in bed recovering from a recent surgery I had been waiting for for quite some time, 4 years and 11 months to be exact. During that time the VA graciously supplied me with a hefty amount of opioids to deal with the pain in hopes of living a somewhat normal life.
But was that really effective in bringing normalcy to my life? My family’s life? My relationship with my wife or children? Not at all. It did however contribute to me distancing even further away from my responsibility as a husband and father. It pushed me further into a hole and away from who I was meant to be. I was out of touch with my life, never feeling in control and always feeling two steps behind everything I attempted to accomplish. I was drowning.
Laying in that recovery bed in pain I reached for my hydrocodone and realized I didn’t have enough to get me through the weekend. With the 11 appointments I had earlier in the week, we had forgotten to refill my prescription. I called the doctors office to explain the situation, I was still unable to drive during this time so I confirmed that it was okay for my wife to stop by and pick up the meds. They informed us that due to the holiday, they would be closing the office soon. I knew she couldn’t make it there in time so I simply told the nurse not to worry, I’ve been in pain before and would be fine until she can get there Monday morning. At least that’s what I thought.
Fast forward to Sunday night and my wife was changing my bed sheets for the third time. I was going through withdrawals like I had never experienced in my life. I couldn’t stop shaking, sweating, even the attempt of keeping quiet was useless. I was hot and cold, wet and dry, shivering, quivering and crying. I had zero control over my body or thoughts, it was the most miserable feeling I have ever felt. It was the longest weekend of my life. My wife had attempted to get me relief through my primary care at the VA, but since they didn’t do the surgery they denied any assistance. What they did do however, is notate in my records that I had an opioid addiction.
Opioid addiction. Those two words hit me right in the soft spot. When did this happen? How did I allow this to happen? How did I allow myself to become an addict? Do I now fall into that category of Veterans with a drug and/or alcohol addiction?
Did I really have an addiction to prescription meds? Did I become addicted to taking these medications being given to me by my doctors? I didn’t like taking the medication, I didn’t even like the way they made me feel. I felt a constant loss of control. So was I really addicted?
No. Although my body was having severe reactions to the lack of medication and I was going through obvious opioid withdrawals, I was never addicted. I had developed a heavy dependency on the opioids the VA had prescribed me over the years, but in my mind, I was never addicted to them. I hated taking them, I looked for so many different alternatives along the way always having to fall back on the dependency of the medications relieving the pain I was constantly in.
On Monday morning my wife drove me to the doctors office to explain the situation and to give them a visual of how bad of shape I was in. I walked into the office with the intent of never taking another opioid again, however that wasn’t the doctors plan. He could see how bad I was and we started on a weening plan that consisted of still having to take opioids, just a reduced amount and slowly continue to reduce. This plan was supposed to take about 60 days to get me back down to a “safe” level. At this point in time I was taking 120mg of hydrocodone at a time, they consider 90mg an overdose amount. I would have to take 60mg and then another 60mg about 15 minutes later in order to not upset my stomach too much. The crazy thing is, I wasn’t numbing out, I could still function, I could still feel pain. I could take 120mg of hydrocodone and still get around and carry on a normal conversation with you and you would never know that I was under the influence. My tolerance was through the roof.
I wasn’t exactly enthused on the fact that I walked into the doctors office with the intent on never taking another medication again just to walk out and fill another prescription. We started researching other ways to ween from these types of medications. We were in Vancouver, WA at the time so 9 out of 10 suggestions were to utilize cannabis as a way to help. I wasn’t a frequent cannabis user and I didn’t have much expectation of it really assisting with my issue, but as desperate as I was to find an alternative, I gave it a try and here’s what happened.
I felt absolutely zero side effects coming off the opioids, no cold sweats, no shakes, no body aches, and no irate mood swings. I went from 120mg of hydrocodone down to 10mg in 14 days. Two weeks after that I was no longer taking any pain meds. My thought process started to clear up and even though I was still feeling the pain of a botched VA surgery, I was able to cope without the use of pain medication.
Now here’s the tricky part. I also stopped any and all cannabis use. I never went into this to replace one dependency for another. It was a short term alternative to remove all the toxicity that the medications where causing. Based off of my personal experience during this situation I became a huge proponent for medical cannabis as an alternative means from pharmaceuticals. I don’t believe it is a long term solution by any means, you are only suppressing the issue but not really getting to the root of the problem.
So what exactly helped in the long run? Food. That’s right, food. What I was putting into my body wasn’t healthy, so why did I expect my body to be healthy? The majority of so called “foods” in our country are completely and undoubtedly unhealthy. Look around at our society, it’s sad really. We’ve become lazy, dependent, and yes very unhealthy.
"YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT."
The only way to change this, is to change what it is you put in your body. Many people want change, they want to feel healthy, they want to be in shape, but they aren’t willing to put in the work. And why should they when there’s an answer to all their problems in a little pill form. At least that’s what they think, because they aren’t thinking clearly or realistically. If they were, they would realize that if any of those worked, there would have only been one. One brand, one company, one product that fixed the problem. How many different gimmicks have we seen over the years for diets or healthy supplements? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands?
It’s pretty simple really. You want to be healthy, then live healthy. Physically healthy, mentally healthy, and yes spiritually healthy.
You have to be willing to put in a little bit of work, but the outcome is priceless. You can’t put a price on good health. Anyone that has been down that road knows there’s nothing more important at that point in time than their health. People who usually never pray, start. People who never listened before, start. The term “it’s never too late to start” doesn’t apply to everything, and your health is one of those. Everything has a starting point, don’t wait until it’s too late.