DAVID : “ I WAS SO RELIEVED”
I grew up on a Christmas tree farm in Iowa. I had a great childhood. My uncle and I did a lot of farming together and it was really good. I developed a strong work ethic, working hard and spending time outside. When I went to college, I changed majors a couple times but finally settled on horticulture, then I started my own landscaping business. I worked all the time, but everything was good.
Then I had a bad accident at work. I was in the hospital for weeks and in a wheelchair for months. I was having surgery about once every six months because they would fix something and then find something else.
I had so much pain from it all. From the beginning, they were giving me opioids. At first, the pills worked, but then I found that one pill didn’t help, so I took two. I’d run out before I was due for a refill so I’d find ways to get more. I couldn’t stop taking them because I’d feel so awful from the withdrawal symptoms. I was spending thousands of dollars to buy pills.
In the back of my mind, I knew that something was wrong. I knew I was addicted. Your body and your mind switch into this animal instinct to protect yourself. You’ll find ways to try to get the pills. That’s all you can think about. I knew things were bad, but I didn’t know how to get out of it.
My family did an intervention. I wasn’t mad about that. My wife, dad, brother and a friend were there. I wasn’t upset they did this — I was so relieved.
My biggest fear wasn’t about getting treatment: It was about letting everyone down. So I stopped taking the opioids cold turkey. It was the most miserable seven days of my life. I didn’t understand at the time that I could have gotten help for the withdrawal symptoms.
Treatment helped me get over my worries of letting people down. It helped me with lots of things. I stayed in the program because I wanted to prove to my family that I could do it. My family and friends were very supportive. I don’t know if I’d be here today without that support.
I understand what would happen if I relapsed. There are little temptations every day, but I don’t let them take over. I know that I can only control me. I’ve had more surgeries since I got sober, but I find other ways to deal with pain. I’d rather deal with pain than go through all that again.
My advice to others is get treatment. If you find yourself getting off track, get help again. Go to the meetings you should go to. Do what your treatment program counselors tell you to do. I’ve been sober a long time and I plan to stay that way. I’ve come a long way.
DAVID’S WIFE: “ I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND ADDICTION LIKE I DO NOW”
David and I got married about three years after his accident. I knew he was taking pain pills on and off, but I didn’t know how much or what he was doing to get them.
Then I realized he had become addicted. I knew this because he couldn’t wait until the next time he could take them. His behavior changed from the man I thought I knew. He wanted to just lie down all the time and he didn’t want to spend time with our family.
He was so good at acting like he had things under control. I just had no idea. I kept thinking everything was going well. But we always seemed short of money and I didn’t know where the money was going. One day I went to the bank and asked for a printout of our account. My son and I went through it together and we could see a bunch of ATM withdrawals, like $400 here and there on the same day. I knew then things were very bad.
We decided to do an intervention. We said, “David, we know what you are doing. We know you are taking pills.” Amazingly, he said, “Yes, I am.” He seemed relieved that it was out in the open! He said, “I don’t want to live like this anymore.”
I was bawling. I felt betrayed, lied to. I felt sick with this terrible feeling in my gut and I cried a lot. I didn’t understand addiction like I do now.
Our family doctor said to go to the ER. This was a long while ago and back then, people at the ERs didn’t know what to do with people like my husband.
They just sent us home with a few suggestions and a pamphlet. That was a very bad day. We felt like we just had no hope.
But David’s dad didn’t give up. He did lots of research and found a treatment program for David. This treatment program was the best thing ever. My daughter and I went to therapy too. David has been sober ever since. I have no doubt of that. We never gave up. Going through something like this makes you appreciate the small things in life. David has come a long way. We’ve all come a long way.
This article is an excerpt from Ending The Crisis Mayo Clinic’s Guide to Opioid Addiction and Safe Opioid Use
Ending the Crisis
An authoritative guide to understanding the current opioid crisis in America and how it can be solved.Shop Now