Last year on April 15, the Missoulian ran a front-page story on me and my opioid situation. This is a brief statement about major life changes and some strangers who helped me out during the worst year in my life.
The newspaper story made my phone ring 24 hours a day for nine days. Some were druggies who wanted to help me score. Some were hour-long calls. These strangers were in my situation; in pain, lost and wanting to leave this world. So I talked with them and advised them to stay around. I understood and maybe helped to give a little hope. I still can’t forget some of those calls.
One was from Gary, an addiction professional who made it his mission to find me and help. We talked two or three times a week. He explained what I was going through and gave advice based on this 30 years of experience. I sent him my medical records plus my prescription records since 1996, when I was injured and the morphine was started. He educated me about morphine, how the brain receptors get fired up and all the complicated medical issues involved.
Then he would print out the information and Federal Express it to me. This is the stuff you read five times and it’s still hard to understand.
I was once given 600-700 mg a day of painkillers and was assured it was OK as long as I did all my bloodwork to make sure all of my organs were working right. I could have died in my sleep like so many — 60,000-70,000 — do every year.
My new doctor panicked when she saw my file. My first appointment had six other people in the room. I was seven times over the limit. I was stepped down to 100 mg a day in that year. I was sick for the next two years, and become so weak I couldn’t dress myself.
The doctor’s opinion was that I was running myself down until I was weak and dehydrated. This would cause my episodes of sickness every two to three weeks.
Gary thought, yes, these were all bad problems. But not the main problem.
Now a B-pap machine blows open my air hole with oxygen so I got my oxygen numbers up to 85 percent and my fingers stated working better. I got hungry again, my hair was growing, I had to shave more often.
Then I got sick again. Gary had been right, my step down was so quick my body and brain couldn’t catch up. My doctor couldn’t help me anymore. It was too complicated.
I have a new doctor again. She got me into an addiction program. I didn’t even know it was in Missoula. I have been off morphine for six months. I still get sick during the night and it wakes me up around 5 every morning. My new medication helps with the sickness and some of the pain. The addiction place had never worked with someone like me, but they have heard about my situation.
Withdrawal sickness may never leave me completely. It’s not as bad as it was. Pain comes back bad some days, but I do have some good days. I can do some work again, have some fun and I’m not ready for a "dirt nap" yet.
What about all the people who don’t have family, friends, proper medical help? They are in a dark place and can’t see any way out.
I found the right doctor and found help and Gary saved me. I was lucky.