For as long as I can remember, I was plagued with chronic urinary tract and kidney infections. Growing up in a small town, my mom and I would venture into the local family practitioner’s office almost weekly. The doctor would write me a prescription for an antibiotic and send us on our way, without any answers. Essentially we were treating the symptoms but never curing the ailment. Much like my addiction, I remember the pain eroding my quality of life. I’d spend hours crying, running into the bathroom, and begging for relief. One day I went for my routine office visit and I was greeted by a fill in doctor. Anxiously annoyed, I updated the doctor on my medical history. He quickly realized that my frequent visits warranted further investigation. Finally someone validated my pain. Recommendations for a visit to a specialist resulted in a diagnosis: Interstitial Cystitis. A painful bladder disease proven to interrupt everyday activities with chronic pain and inconvenient side effects, IC became me. Then came the treatment. I remember the urologist writing me a prescription for Oxycodone and sending me home. No warning or further instruction was given, only a future appointment scheduled for a follow up.
My prescription would last the duration of the month, until the symptoms seemed to persist. Looking back, I think this was a delusion that I reveled in. I didn’t mind being the “sick girl.” After all, who would argue excusable days home from work, empathy from seemingly uninterested family members, and pity gifts from friends? I noticed I started taking my prescription as a preventative remedy for my pain and making sure to never miss an appointment with my specialist. This continued for a while, until my mom passed away unexpectedly. The night my mom entered the hospital, I was out of my medicine and suddenly I was emotionally pained. My first thought was to call the local drug dealer, so I did. He met me with a bag full of oblivion and I indulged. I had arrived. Temporarily curing my chronic pain, opiates came to the rescue. With the aid of my beloved opiates, I felt like superwoman conquering the grueling task of comforting my family.
It wasn’t long before chaos ensued. My addiction propelled my chronic pain and vice versa. I was stuck in a cycle that eventually led to my downfall. Visiting my specialist multiple times a month, I vividly remember him telling me “Now don’t get hooked on these sweetheart.” It was too late. Our farewell always ended with me grinning ear to ear with my prescription in hand. I had mastered the art of true manipulation yet I was completely oblivious. The truth is, I had no idea the dark journey I was about to embark on. I believed addiction was an unfortunate lack of self control that those people struggled with. As my addiction progressed I always needed more and I was enslaved to a disease I refused to acknowledge. Much like my undiagnosed IC, I was faced with untreated alcoholism. Uneducated on the effects of opiates on my body, I continued to numb grief until desperation found me. My life was completely unmanageable.
Eventually, my prescription wouldn’t last for more than two days and I’d hit the streets.Often times, I’d visit my doctor every other week with my hand out, waiting for a refill. It’s important to note, this particular specialist was part of a popular family practice in my hometown. Looking back now, I was ignorant to how accessible narcotics are. I assumed only the crooked “self pay” doctors were handing out unlimited prescriptions, but as it turned out all I needed was a chronic pain diagnosis. I believe there is a prevalent communication barrier between the education of the disease of addiction amongst patients navigating through chronic pain.
My consequences eventually led to me off a slave to King Opiates, he had had me by the throat, dragging me into the trenches. I found a stronger, more expensive, but much more convenient solution. Oxycontin had the ability to obliterate not only physical but emotional pain as well. Oblivious and numb, I finally felt like I had arrived. A warmness came over me, and it was off to the races. I’d lie, steal, cheat, and do just about anything and everything to come across my next fix. I became the type of person I always hated. Opiates ruled my life and I was submissive to every step along the way. I finally backed myself into a corner, and there was no one to save me. I was sitting in a cold jail cell, painfully detoxing and wondering how I got there.
I finally received a new diagnosis, one I gratefully accepted. I was an addict, to the core of my being. The same way I sought out answers for my medical condition, I exhausted all seemingly redemptive solutions while seeking reprieve in any mood/mind altering substance. What kind of a mother chooses drugs over their child? I walked into a dual diagnosis treatment center and I was educated on the disease of addiction. I was able to finally step outside of my victim mentality and accept that I was plagued with a chronic spiritual malady. My chronic addiction mirrored my chronic pain in a way that was beneficially tangible. My chronic pain wasn’t going anywhere, nor was my addiction, I had to find a treatment plan to manage the symptoms effectively. I dove head first, soaking up every experience other addict endured. Rather than comparing myself, I found a way to relate. I took the suggestions of other addicts that were struggling with the same pain I had endured. It wasn’t until I welcomed treatment for the symptoms of my addiction, that I was able to taste true freedom. Surprisingly enough, the symptoms of my bladder disease have subsided as well. When I decided to get sober, I also decided to make better choices: mentally, physically, and spiritually. Healthy living requires discipline but reaps immeasurable benefits. Mind, body, and soul… recovery is an all encompassing gift that demands to be received.
Crystal Hampton is a 37-year-old avid writer from South Florida. She loves snuggling with her teacup Yorkie Gator and boyfriend Adam. She works for a digital marketing company that advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.
MS- Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis
B.Ed.- Bachelors in Elementary Education