The author has written much about his binge-eating addiction, but not so much about the pills — until now.
Mood music for this post: “I Don’t Like the Drugs But the Drugs Like Me” by Marilyn Manson:
A fellow addict in OA recently asked me how pills fit into my overall haze before I found recovery. She asked because when sharing my story I mention how taking Prednisone as a kid for Crohn’s Disease started me down the road to a food obsession.
Truth is, I never think of pills as part of my core problems in the past. But in hindsight, they certainly do play a role.
In addition to the mental pain I’ve had my share of physical pain. Migraines have been a frequent companion. So has back pain.
A lot of my troubles on those fronts were in my head; anxiety attacks and depression made me feel all kinds of aches and pains, including migraines and sensations in the chest I was convinced were heart attacks. They weren’t, but I could believe just about anything when the fear and anxiety took over.
The back pain was very real. One time in 2003 paramedics had to cart me from my house because I was in so much pain that I couldn’t get off the sofa in our third-floor loft. I spent much of that week out of work and on the couch. The OCD and depression were already starting me on the deepest slide of my life and I was missing a lot of work anyway, but that’s the only time I can remember taking a ride in the back of an ambulance.
I would spent a lot of time incapacitated from lower-back pain, and one specialist after another would fail to pinpoint the problem until I found a chiropractor who within a day had pinpointed the source of my problem to three rogue vertebrae in the mid-back that kept closing shut on the nerves that are threaded through the middle. The pain would collect in my lower back, which left other doctors looking in the wrong place.
Since then, I go to the chiropractor every other week. He mashes the vertebrae back into place with his elbow and it’s all good from there.
But during the worst of the back pain I was on all kinds of pain medication. And naturally, they were addicting.
The doctors had me trying so many things I can’t remember most of the names, though one was Celebrex and another was Flexeril. The former was basically the equivalent of four Advils and the latter was a muscle relaxer. Taken together, they send you to la-la land.
At one point, I was on those two pills and a third, the name of which I can’t remember. I’d drive to work before taking them, because I noticed that when taken together with coffee, the mixture was buzz the hell out of me. It was a functional buzz that allowed me to do my work, but like all buzz-inducing fixes I found I needed it long after the drugs stopped working on the back pain.
I gave myself what in hindsight was an amusing panic attack once when, during a morning of house cleaning, I thought it would be an excellent idea to make the best of having to do chores by downing a Celebrex with two glasses of wine. I was buzzing nicely by the time I was scrubbing the counter in the upstairs bathroom. Then I remembered that there had been recent news reports about Celebrex carrying a heart-attack risk.
I freaked out, convinced I was going to be found dead on my bedroom floor. Erin was at her friend Sherri’s house at the time, and I called over there, remembering that Sherri is a nurse. I told Erin what I did and she asked Sherri for an opinion. Sherri said I’d be fine and to get back to cleaning. That’s what I did.
After going on Prozac I had some surgery on my throat to control snoring that was fed more by my obesity than my any problem in the throat. They gave me Vicodin do get through it and I would lie on the couch in bliss while under it’s spell. But I learned something that week: Pain meds can screw with the Prozac and keep the latter drug from working.
That led to a couple bad months of depression that took me into the Christmas season, which always screws with my head without chemical help.
I often wonder how much of the pain was depression induced — in my head, as my father-in-law might say. The reason is that in recovery I haven’t needed any of those pills.
In fact, one day I decided to clean out the cabinet where we keep most of our medication and I found several bottles of the pills I had been given for back pain. One of them had morphine in it, and when I chose to stop taking that one I remember lying on the couch in agony with withdrawal (and that was only after a couple weeks of taking it). The pills I found were mostly expired. Throwing them in the trash was a wonderful thing. It was like breaking out of a cage I never thought I’d be able to leave.
Today I only take one drug: Prozac. Yes, it works for me, though I believe it wouldn’t be working as well had I not gone through all the therapy and development of coping tools first.
Which sort of summarizes the big lesson for me: You can fill the hole in your soul with all the food, booze and pills you can get your hands on and the numbing part feels nice at first. But then you learn that nothing can dull pain that starts in the soul for long.
The only way out is to take the fight directly to the source of that hole.