The year was 2012. I was going to stay with my boyfriend’s family for the first time, and as we flew down the highway toward Houston, my excitement was overshadowed by a sense of foreboding.
Do I have enough pills until I can refill? I’m gonna have to do that right away, maybe even before we get to Houston. I hope there aren’t any issues refilling my prescription.
Thoughts raced through my head, refusing to settle. I hadn’t been able to refill my prescription for Vicodin before leaving for our road trip, and it was causing me all sorts of anxiety.
OK, I’m for sure gonna have to refill before we get to Houston. I can’t be all weird when I meet the rest of Chris’s family, and I need those pills!
So, we stopped at Walmart to refill my prescription. Thankfully, there wasn’t an issue refilling it, but something seemed off when they handed it back.
“Uh, are you sure these are the 10-milligram tablets?” They didn’t look right. For one thing, they were green, and the pills I received were always blue. They were also smaller in size, much smaller.
“Yes, these are 10 milligrams. Just like your prescription said.” The pharmacist told me, motioning the next customer over.
“But they look a lot different than the pills I usually get, are you sure these are the right ones?”
“Yes. Trust me, I know what I’m doing. Next!” The pharmacist turned away, a clear dismissal.
I should’ve pressed harder. Because the pills weren’t the right dose, not even close. The next 2 weeks were full of crippling anxiety, constant panic attacks, extreme paranoia, and an overall slightly crazy impression of me left on my boyfriend's family.
After returning home and seeing my doctor, I discovered that the pharmacist in Texas had given me a dose half the amount of my normal dose. The reason those pills didn’t look right was that they weren’t right, and my body was going through severe withdrawals.
I had been taking Vicodin for about a year and a half at this point. I didn’t think too much about it. It was just something I did to function. Since the pills were prescribed because of surgery on my spine, I figured I’d need to keep taking the pills until my back didn’t hurt anymore.
Then my doctor gave me the right dose of opioids, the dose my body was used to. As I popped a pill into my mouth, all was right within minutes. The pains went away, my mind settled, and all I felt was relief.
Until I didn’t.
I began thinking. How much did I depend on these drugs? Did I make sure I always had them on me? Not just in my purse, but in my pocket if necessary? Did I make sure I had multiple alarms set on my phone so that I’d never miss a dose?
More alarmingly, did I take extra when I felt I needed it? Did I have a few doctors I could see, so that when one didn’t want to give me a refill, I could go to another for it?
The answer to all these questions was yes. Yes, I relied on Vicodin. Yes, I felt I needed it to live a normal life. And yes, I did whatever I could to make sure I had enough at all times.
But the pain I felt during those 2 weeks with my boyfriend's family was the same type of pain I associated with my spinal surgery. Yet my doctor told me all the problems I experienced were caused by withdrawals.
I thought I was fine taking opioids continually, and I explained away my need for the drugs with the pain from my spinal surgery as an excuse.
But now, I learned that pain wasn’t a factor anymore. And suddenly, I didn’t have an excuse for my opioid use.
Yet despite knowing this, I couldn’t let my need for the pills go. I realized that my opioid use wasn’t needed, but at this point, I was addicted to the drugs. I couldn’t let them go.
I didn’t know how.
All I knew was that I never wanted to feel the way I felt during those 2 weeks with my boyfriend’s family again, and for the time being, continuing to take opioids at the correct dose ensured that I wouldn’t.
I knew it was a problem, but I figured I’d address it at a later point in my life. For now, I just wanted to function normally – as normally as I could, anyway.
That’s the problem with opioids. When you take them, you feel that you need them to function.
And that right there is why these drugs are so addictive.
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