Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Making of A Junkie

Are Junkies born, or made?

Me, I suffer from Chronic Pain. I have since I had the first of three accidents-a fall down a flight of stairs-in 1979. But, as opiates were soon the only effective method of pain control, I soon had the 'addict' label lurking over my head. One doctor, an orthopedic specialist, admitting that I was not getting better, used the fact to stop giving me opiates and muscle relaxers. Well, that made sense. Since there was no getting better, there should be no feeling better.

Still, I kept trying. I went to different doctors; I never got anything stronger than Percocet and that, not for the chronic symptoms-only when I had an acute condition, did I get that rare chance at relief.

I hit my late 30's. I wasn't getting any younger. And I felt even older than I was.

Sometime after my 40th birthday, I saw a chance at relief; some doctors left their prescription pads unattended, I began to notice.

Do I have to describe the next step?

But this isn't 'the Making of a Criminal'. So, I skip to almost a year later. After I've been caught.

My court-appointed lawyer advises me to check into my local hospital's detox. I have to wait; he says to make sure that I don't go in 'clean'. I make it, all right.

By then, I've accepted the 'addict' label. Fortunate for me, since I'm going to be attending two to three Alcoholics Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous meetings a day. Of course, that's where you intrdouce yourself by your first name, and say I'm an alcoholic(addict). Plus, classes by the 'addiction specialist' doctor, ans similarly-trained nurses.

The first three days, I'm on methadone. Not for pain, but for detox purposes. I feel a sense of unreality; a kind of spaciness, I want to succeed; but, somehow, I know that I won't.

Throughout, I get the feeling that there's a difference between myself and the other patients- I'm not better, or more deserving, or even less of a drug fiend; still, I know that drugs will never be eliminated from my life. I get an inkling of what I mean, when I hear myself ask the doctor, using a thought process that I'm just beginning to reclaim, if I can go on methadone maintenance indefinitely; he refuses angrily. Later, he will say that he'll think abut it, but it's never brought up again.

For the most part,I get along with the others...we all ourselves 'the junkies'. One thing they can't understand, though-two are even angered by it; whenever we are told to 'talk of the pain' that is exactly what I talk about-the actual, physical, pain, that I have, every day, and probably always will. In turn, they speak about getting high...well, I've used alcohol, of course, and marijuana, for that purpose...and, yes, some of the opiates I've been taking have that effect, sometimes-but I don't have that overwhelming, impulsive need to get high....just as they don't have the overwhelming, impulsive need to take painkillers, when the have an ache or pain.

My name is Legend. I am a Chronic Pain Sufferer.

But, I get ahead of myself.

I ask the doctor to prescribe Tylenol for me, so that I can get rid of some of the pain; he agrees, but keeps putting it off. Soon, I also have a case of the flu, along with a hacking cough; It is so bad, that even my fellow inpatients, and the nurses, sympathize; yet, the doc is slow in writing the script.

But, during one of my requests, at the nurses' station(where all meds are handed out) I hear a term, now used quite often, for the very first time; drug-seeking behavior!

Some kinds of junkies have to be made; and I'm one of them.

Now, I know, and so does everyone else, that I'm not going to get any opiates, or remotely similar drugs, there; yet, it has been necessary to put me through the paces...already, I strongly suspected some of the doctors that I'd consulted, of knowing how bad my pain was, and letting me wear the mantle of an addict, was the 'kinder' approach-especially in the early 1980's, when I was still in my early 30's...Better for me to think that I was in danger of having some uncontrollable, impulsive, disease, than to know that relief is out there, but no doctor is going to give it to me, as I needed it. Doctors just weren't that stupid, they couldn't be. Well, I guess it's not for me to know.

So, 'drug-seeking behavior' safely pointed out, I was given my(non-narcotic, of course) cough medicine, and regular Tylenol; by this time, my stay is nearly over. I'm even accepting things more, and tell one of the NA group leaders that "I'm just starting to think I'll make it."

Well, I don't, but that's another story. We skip ahead to a time after I've done my prison time, but before I'm free to live as I choose; I have a new Parole Officer, and, even though I'm required to attend a 'drug-free' rehab, outpatient, she notices that I'm in pain-and insists that I see a pain specialist!

Well, hat's when the Hallelujah Chorus comes in-but I've had to go through all of this-just to be told what I already knew-I'm In Chronic Pain.

For those who have never been to jail or prison, or under the threat-there are few people, outside of libertarians and other ex-cons, who will accept you, especially as a group; as I mentioned in my previous post, no, not even Chronic Pain Sufferers, as a group, will give universal acceptance. I'm usually regarded as someone who 'acted outside the box', endangering other Chronic Painer's status with the law, and the medical community. I don't see my crime as something I needed to do, or couldn't have done without-but it did put me in a place where I had no right to judge addicts for using drugs. Something I think we should all think about, when we're living through hard times, with insufficient medicine and other relief.


thefrogpryncess said...

I applaud your honesty and the bravery it took to put this "out there" where others can read and comment on it.

Legend said...

Thanks. I just took what had happened to me, and tried to put it to good use. Nice to hear from a 'pryncess'

Payne Hertz said...

Hey, Legend.

Like I said on the group, I think it takes a lot of guts to put something like this out on the web. Your story is a powerful lesson to anyone with the self-honesty and integrity to listen that behind every "drug-seeker" there is a real person with thoughts and feelings and hopes and dreams who has often been driven to break the rules of the barbaric drug control system in this country out of a very human and very natural desire to escape the torture of chronic pain. People need to remember that were it not for this system, "drug-seeking" wouldn't exist, as it is a a behavior arising entirely from the fact that one group of people controls the supply of needed pain medications in our society, and that group has historically been largely indifferent if not hostile to the needs of the people it was appointed to play gatekeeper over. So long as the gate exists, and some people are denied entry, there will be gate crashers. I blame the gate and its keepers, not the crashers.

You should check out the Drug Law Blog. I put a link to it on my blog. It has a lot to say about the human cost of the War on Drugs.

I look forward to seeing your blog evolve over time. I am glad that a lot of us are finally getting our message out there. With any luck, some of this will bear some fruit. said...

You KNOW how much I admire your honesty Legend. I have caught more unitigated hell from so called chronic pain "brothers and sisters" than from anyone else.
As I was stating earlier, why are they even worrying about script forgery or doctor shopping?
They've taken care of the former with the new prescription pads, and the latter in many states, with computerized systems which allow them to see what you've received from whom and when.
Soon, the "ceiling dose" legislation will be permanent in this state, and they have plans for many more. It would seem that they have all of the bases covered and could relax on this!

Lacy said...

Well written article.