“Just one more,” I think to myself. “The pain is really bad, so I have no choice.” That was my mantra. What I tried to convince myself was the truth, time after time. This is how my story begins, my story of addiction. It started innocently enough, I truly was in pain and my normal dosage was not cutting it. Looking back, I realize now that some of that pain was caused by mental anguish too, and taking pain killers for physical pain brought on by mental or emotional pain is a dangerous path to take. At the time I didn’t know any better. All I knew was that I had to stop the pain. As they say, hindsight is 20/20.
I could say my addiction story began at birth, and in a way it did.
I was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (or OI). It is a collagen disorder. Some people with OI don’t produce enough collagen. Others like myself produce enough collagen, but it’s defective and poor in quality. Collagen is used in your entire body so the effects of my OI are widespread. However, one of the most prominent features of OI is that our bone quality is very poor. This is why it is often referred to as brittle bone disorder.
From birth to present day I have broken well over 500 bones. With broken bones often comes the use of pain killers to make the constant fracturing a bit more bearable. I was taking narcotic pain killers well before I could talk. Throughout my childhood, my mom did all she could and then some to insure I got the best of the best. She also limited my use of narcotic drugs when I was broken because she knew the dangers of taking them too often.
As a kid it was no big deal, I broke a lot though! I would wrap or splint it, get an x-ray or cast when needed and take pain killers if needed. Life went on and it didn’t slow me down much! I never relied on pain killers for any lengthy period of time and I had no difficulty stopping them.
But things changed as I got older.
Fast forward to 2005. I had just graduated high school and was on my way to college at Indiana University. At this point I had been through many traumatic accidents that led to multiple fractures and extensive time spent in a cast or bed rest. I also had quite a few major infections that wreaked havoc on my body. So in 2005 merely 18 years of age, I was diagnosed with chronic pain. I required daily narcotics and nerve medications, but I managed it well initially.
Shortly after arriving at college, I got really sick. I went home and spent about a week in the hospital with a very bad kidney infection. I returned to school, stressed about playing catch-up with finals fast approaching. I was also depressed. I later learned a nerve medicine I was on for off label purposes was likely attributing to my depression. In a moment of madness, I left my apartment, headed for campus and withdrew from all my classes. When I returned I panicked. I regretted what I had done, but the need to get out of there was stronger. So I sucked it up and called my mom and told her what I had done. We made plans to move me back home and that was that.
Pre Addiction and Partying
My true struggle began when I returned home from college. I decided all I wanted to do was party. So party I did! I had some fun times, many memories I will cherish forever. I always held the parties at my apartment, and people would bring me alcohol as a gift since I was the hostess. There was always alcohol in my apartment and usually a lot of it.
The parties soon weren’t enough for me, so I started drinking on my own. I had no ambition. Then, I found out I was going to be an aunt! I stopped the drinking alone, but I still had parties although not as many. I still can’t say that this is truly when my problems began, but I should have taken it as a warning sign.
Unfortunately, I didn’t. In 2006, my nephew was born. I know everyone says these kinds of things, but I was truly the happiest Auntie ever. It was love at first sight. I started staying with my brother and his wife to spend as much time with him as I could. Unfortunately my brothers’ marriage was not a happy one. I witnessed this first hand as I stayed with them often.
February 1st 2007. The worst day of my life, and the official beginning of my addiction story. I was woken up abruptly at 8:00 AM by two large men walking into my brother’s house. They went into the bedroom. The word on the back of their shirt read: “Coroner.” I look to my left to see his wife. She was saying something to me, but I heard no sound. My mind just kept repeating “Coroner, Coroner, Coroner.” Slowly my senses returned, and I got into my chair faster than I ever have and flew into the bedroom. There was my brother. Dead.
This is a much longer story, but the short version is that his wife stole my medicine and drugged him. Toxicology confirmed our suspicions. Charges were never filed due to lack of evidence and my family’s main focus was getting custody of my nephew. The night that he died I went home and took 4 times my normal amount of painkillers. I just did not want to feel.
Addiction becomes my social world.
As time went by I withdrew from my friends. My addiction was getting worse, and in order to not run out of meds to0 soon before I could get them filled again, I started abusing Benadryl. At times, I would take 15 to 20 of these at one time. I would crush my pain pills and snort them that way I could make them last longer. The whole time though, I truly was in so much physical pain, I just did not realize that it was brought on by emotional anguish.
In the summer of 2007, I nearly went into kidney failure due to a kidney stone. It was very painful and took a total of 3 surgeries to correct the damage done. It was very painful and the doctor put me on a huge dose of pain killers. For a while I took them correctly, the dose was so high that I was high nonstop. It didn’t take long though that my tolerance built up and I was back to snorting them to make them last.
Most of my friends stopped coming around. My cousin and longtime friend tried to confront me and tell me I had a problem after I had stolen some Xanax from her. I told her she was crazy, and that she had no clue how much pain I was in. We had a big falling out and didn’t speak for many months. The pain part was true, but deep down I knew I was spiraling. My caregiver at the time was the only person that kept me going. She caught on to what I was doing as she would find pills scattered about. She confronted me on it several times but I gave my rehearsed answers “My body hurts so bad, I have to.” It wasn’t long until I learned how to smoke pills. I didn’t even think twice about how dangerous all of this was. It was just about the next high at this point.
Would I admit I had an addiction?
In the summer of 2008 pretty much everyone had had it with me. Not that I can blame them. It was at that time my friend from high school started bringing her kids over almost daily to swim and play with my nephew. The constant company meant I could only get high at night, which was a big turning point for me.
One night, right as I was about to light up one of my pills, my friend Julie called me. Julie had OI just like me only slightly less severe. We were talking and she told me she was in recovery from addiction. It was just so out of the blue and it took me aback. I immediately started to explain what I had been doing for the past year and a half. Julie flat out told me, “Erin, you are an addict but it’s okay, you can make things right.” She shared more of her story with me and then she had to let me go. I hung up the phone and immediately went to bed. I did not take or smoke any of my medicines.
The next day I told my mom I think I am an addict. She agreed. There was a lot of talking and crying. It took some time but I slowly tapered off of the drugs. Once I was fully off of them, it felt good. Then, I got injured. I can’t remember exactly what happened but I broke something and I had to start taking the medicines again. I maintained and stayed at my prescribed dose though since I did not have control of my medicine. Other trusted people would dispense them to me. Everything was fine at first, but then I started to want the high again, so I manipulated whomever I had to and would get stocks of my medicine built up. This whole routine went on for a good 5 years, I would get clean, get hurt, and then relapse. I even ventured into other, harder drugs.
Julie would help me and get me through various relapses. It was so hard, because I truly did have physical pain, a lot of it. My spine is so curved that 3 of my vertebrae are constantly crushed. I just did not recognize that there was a lot of emotional trauma that I think caused me to want to go overboard. It took some time but I finally started confronting my mental anguish. As I worked through that, my cravings faded and I was able to control my pain without abusing my medicines.
In 2011 Julie passed away due to lung issues that arose during what was supposed to be a short and simple finger surgery. When I learned of her passing, I vowed I would never abuse my medicines again. I am happy to say that I have kept that vow.
Living with my addiction.
Here’s the thing though, what do we do when the medicines we need to live our day to day life cause us to have an addiction? I still take medicines as prescribed. Technically though, I am still an addict. Physically at least. I might not mentally crave them (although at times that happens), but physically If I were to just stop taking them it would be very dangerous. I know some people have found alternative things that work, and believe me I have tried. I have had no success in finding a replacement. So here I am, 2015 and still living my addiction story. I am not a junkie, I do not abuse, but I do still have an addiction. One day I hope to truly be free of the medicines. I’m not sure if it will ever happen, and if it doesn’t that’s ok too, because I am in a good place now. It would be so nice though, to not have to need the one thing that came close to ruining my life.
If you believe you are suffering from addiction or have a loved one with a disability who is, please reach out and find help. There is help out there if you want it. You can have your life back, even if you still require the medicines to live your daily life.
Leave me your comments or questions here and I will reply.
Erin Renae Reid is 28 years old with Osteogenesis Imperfecta type 3. She was born and raised in Indiana. Her hobbies include gaming, all things technology, and animals especially her two dogs!
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