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Addiction, Painkillers, and Retirement: My Mom the Opioid Abuser

my mom the opioid abuser - the problem of opioid abuse and older americans

When I think about addiction, I should reflect on my personal experiences. You see, I’m in recovery. Often I do think about my journey, but when the topic of conversation flutters around Opioid addiction, or I read another news article about the rise of Opioid abuse, I think of my mother.

Addiction Can Suck In Anyone

She is an addict that was in denial for years — more than a decade — about her addiction. She would hoard Vicodin and Hydrocodone, continually ask her doctor for a new script — which was somehow, always granted. She would also attempt to pilfer drugs off my brother whose shoulder and back pain prevented him from being able to work, play basketball, or pick up his two little girls.

She did this openly, too. The denial was so strong that those of us closest to her didn’t bat an eye. Why would we? She’s our mother, our wife — the woman who takes care of us, spoon feeding us assurances about her health and well-being so that we wouldn’t have to worry.

Toxic Opioid Cocktails

She lost her ability to tell us lies in December after she was taken to the hospital for what my father believed was a stroke. Her face was drooping; she was unable to eat or talk. She was in the hospital for three days enduring a battery of tests. That is when we learned our mother was giving herself a deadly cocktail of Ibuprofen and Opioids. Her body was becoming, over time, toxic. She needed a pacemaker. Blood transfusions. Physical therapy.

Seven months later, she still can’t call herself an addict. Her willpower, pride, and shame keep her steadily rocking in the boat of denial. Her unwillingness to admit she has a problem hurts my parents’ relationship. My dad — whose alcoholic mother killed herself in front of him, scarring him for life — can’t trust her.

Her suffering, which needs love and compassion, causes more pain. All because of denial. What I’ve learned is that we who suffer from addiction don’t have to acknowledge our habits. We don’t have to call ourselves an addict to be one. When we are lying, stealing, and manipulating our activities and the people around us, our addiction is in full force. The addiction is making the decisions, not a rational, clean mind and body. The denial is usually the biggest, brightest red flag in our disease. If we continue to deny the fact that we have a problem, we don’t have to face our fears, our emotions, our lives.

Acceptance of Addiction Is the Only Way

Acceptance that one is powerless over Alcohol or Opioids — which, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 21.5 million Americans are — is simply the first step to recovery. I believe one can, and will, continue to be an active or ‘dry’ addict until acceptance becomes a part of one’s daily mantra.

I compare, with as much objectivity as I can, my mother and myself. I see how my acceptance has led to a better, less co-dependent relationship with my husband. He no longer tries to control everything I say or do out of fear of relapse. My father, on the other hand, demands so much control that my mother sometimes can’t breathe without permission.

 Since I admitted I was powerless over alcohol and turned my will over to the world greater than myself, I was able to start working in my dream career again. My family has moved out of my in-laws’ house. I have an army of new friends. I was able to return to running. I have a beautiful daughter, and another on the way, who will not remember, or know, an addicted mother (one day at a time, of course). My mother, however, is retired. She struggles to maintain a social life, resorting to filling her days with Netflix series characters and a slight routine of chores.

It’s Okay to Be an Addict in Recovery

I just want to tell my mother that it’s okay to be an addict. I am an addict. My father is an addict. My brother is an addict. My sister rides that fine line, believing she has control over her alcoholic tendencies. Her denial is so strong that she can love us unconditionally and with boatloads of compassion but struggles to do so with herself. That’s the power of denial and the power of addiction.

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11 thoughts on “Addiction, Painkillers, and Retirement: My Mom the Opioid Abuser

  1. you forgot to mention, does she have a lot of pain?
    I am as bad a she is to an extent. But because of my pain I would rather be dead than live like this. Without the medications I would not have quality of life or even function, it is bad and I mean really bad.

    • Hey Barbara,

      Many people who become addicted to painkillers start out with chronic pain. However, often the pain is compounded and even worse with the withdrawal symptoms coupled with painkiller addiction. Some people find that switching to a different opioid can be effective, such as the harder-to-abuse Suboxone, and even learning simple techniques to avoid abuse if the pain still needs to be mitigated with strong opioids. Speaking to your doctor before entering a treatment program can help learn more about your options, or calling our addiction hotline can help establish what sort of treatment may be best for you.

      • I am on thirteen different medications including opiods prescribed by five different doctors. I myself thought they were all good for my health and well being until I had a subtotal colectomy last year. I watched the commercials on TV regarding the side effects of so many drugs. They were going more damages than good things to my body. It rose a red flag in my thick head. No doctor told me that I shouldn’t be on prescription Prilosec for 20 years

  2. I was eating 50 to 60 pain-pills a day for roughly 3 yrs but had been on them for 20 yrs. Suboxone saved my life, Sept. 15 will be 9 yrs clean from pain-pills. The day I decided to quit, I took a diet pill that put me into detox immediately, this I knew would happen but I thought I would be sick for a few days,not so I was put into an induced coma for 9 days 50/50 chance to survive . Pain-pills are the devil. The hospital woke me up on my 40th birthday.I was in denial just like your mother , good luck .

  3. I am with Barbara, I have chronic pain and without my meds I would be dead, by suicide, the pain can be that bad. I do not take any of my meds to get “high”, I take them to take the edge off of my pain. For some reason I have bad days, very bad days, due to the weather or doing something that will make the pain worse. I had a very good doctor and we talked a lot about opioids. My concern was where do I go from here? We tried other meds but would have a very bad adverse reaction. There is a big difference between an hibutia user and an addict, I am not chasing a high.

  4. I have AIDS,Over 30 years now the old HIV Drugs made me a cripple in sever pain from neropathy. The drug addicts OWINGS have made it very tuff on me with my new Dr. Dropping me of fear of law suits. My new Dr. Cutting my pain meds in half.I am agree at all this bull I have to go through!

  5. I agree that yes there are those who are addicts and all they do is Chase that high. But myself has had back problems since I was a teenager. I was told at school when they ( used) to do the scoliosis testing in P.E. class that they didn’t think that I had scoliosis but they sent me home with a note that I needed further testing and unfortunately my mom ignored that note. I then moved on after high school and became a CNA for a nursing home with disabled and elderly people. One of my patients had fallen out of his wheelchair onto the floor. I then called in the nurse STAT, who then checked out the patient and took his vitals. Afterwards we put a gate belt around this man who could not bare any weight of his own. He weighed 400+lbs. By doing this I ended up herniated my low back. I was then on L& I at home. They did x-rays which didn’t really show anything because I didn’t break a bone. It took them 2 years to finally decide to send me for an MRI and low and behold I had herniated and bulging discs. I then had back surgery in 1993. Which was an L-4, L-5, S-1 discectomy. I went through theropy and everything and still had not gone back to work. Then I had to have surgery again in 1996 for the same thing as it was a failed surgery. So then this time it was a lamenectomy. And of course theropy again and all that stuff. But it was still not any better. I was in a car accident in 2006 an started to see a chiropractor. I explained everything that I had been through to him. As he worked on me he learned that he could not even get my back to crack at all and when pushing on it I hurt like hell. He then sent me for an MRI again and with the help of a doctor who was a friend of his. I then learned that I had Scheuermanns disease of the spine. My whole spine is degenerate and my spinal canal is very narrow which has caused my spinal cord to flatten and has caused impingement on my nerves. Because I have numbness and tingling and burning pain in arms and legs. And this only gets worse with age. I have been on chronic pain meds for almost 20 years now. This could have been cured as a teenager by putting me in a brace that is special. So my life has been very hard. And I’m currently homeless and sleeping in a suburban. I’ve NEVER been a drinker or a drug user but I need my pain meds so that I can get around and try to keep as active as possible because everything I do, stand, walk, sit for to long kills me in pain. I also don’t believe that when a doctor has you on such kinds of pain meds that they need to do the proper thing if they are going to take you off of them. I was taking 30mg morphine 3 times a day and then they cut me off cold turkey because I had THC in my system which I had my medical marijuana license at the time and only used it for going to sleep because I had been tried on many sleeping meds which either mad me feel like crap or like a hangover the next day. One week after being cut off like that and not tapered down off them, I then started having seizures, very badly and now have to take seizure medication since 2007. I was put back on the pain medication and about 6 years later my seizures stopped. But that’s because I have a wonderful doctor that knows better than cut someone off like that cold turkey. And it’s really sad that all the junkies have mad it so hard for those who accually need them. Not everyone is an addict. Then to boot I’m fighting for SSI which I have been paid twice for without continuing benefits. But it makes me sick that all the drug addicts and alcoholics are receiving a social security check and they screwed themselves up. Versus a person such as myself born with a disability and has to fight tooth and nail and be homeless. WHAT KIND OF WORLD DO I LIVE IN???????

    • don’t give up, contact your state senator and representative for help to get your ssi check also it depends on which state you live in as to how hard it is to get

  6. I also am an addict,it all started with surgery’s 17 of them the doctors put me on pain pills lots of them.At first i t was for pain but then it turned into chasing, the high,I admit now I liked the feeling it gave me .I lost everything my children, husband
    and my friends and family.My life was a mess, I tried six times to get clean in treatment but failed finally a friend recommended methadone treatment,it worked I have been on it for 14 years and my life is manageable ,I am clean sober and happy .

  7. with all the talk about getting addicted to pain pills, it is a problem, but there are people who are in a lot of pain, and they feel guilty just for taking the medication as prescribed. So how does a person know if they are abusing their medication if they are taking it as prescribed and only getting from one doctor

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