There is no greater power in the natural world, than man’s desire to be free, for it is our desire that creates within us the will to succeed. Desire and self-will are the Achilles heel of adversity and affliction. While we will never rid the world of tragedy, pain and disappointment, we have within each of us the power to not only live with them but to eventually prevail over them.
It was this strong desire for freedom and self-determination that guided me through the greatest adversity I have ever faced in my life. In the spring of 2011, I quickly came to realize the bondage that drug addiction can place over an individual. From 2011 to the present, my journey down the road of chronic pain, failed surgeries and the prospects of permanent disability has been one with far more valleys than mountaintop celebrations, but more on that later.
With nearly 25 million Americans using illicit drugs, 15 million abusing prescription drugs and the growing number of deaths due to heroin, Congress has taken up and passed The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act in an effort to “solve” the drug crisis. While there are many good ideas in the bill such as removing the restrictions to naloxone, allowing it to be more readily available in case of opioid overdose, we once again see the federal government meddling in affairs best left for individuals to determine.
The bill creates mandates for the states to create treatment options, training and a federal task force all to be funded at a later date with $100 million of taxpayer dollars. This legislation should have been called “No Addict Left Behind” because like its predecessor, No Child Left Behind, this bill is another unfunded mandate upon the states.
If we are to truly address the problems of both illicit and prescription drug abuses, it will take individual responsibility, rescinding regulations, and an internal desire to be free of the bondage of addiction. The idea that the first response to a crisis is to throw more money at it must be laid to rest because no amount of money can buy responsibility and desire.
My personal journey with addiction began in 2011 when I was diagnosed with Tarlov Cyst, which are sacks of spinal fluid that grows among the nerve endings along your spine. The pain had grown so intense that I could no longer stand or sit and I would lay on the floor just in an attempt to alleviate the pain. In the summer of 2011 I was prescribed oxycodone for pain control after traditional medications failed. From the very beginning of this journey I determined that I would stop taking narcotics as soon as possible but my illness progressed and in the Fall of 2011, the pain levels increased and so did the pain medications. By the end of the year, I was taking multiple painkillers and I had lost my ability to walk, sit, stand or move without very intense pain.
Despite my original resistance to opioids and my doctors being cautious with their use, I had become addicted to the drugs. I was not only addicted to opioids but facing the prospect of a high risk surgery that could leave me paralyzed. 2012 brought the darkest days of my life but also my greatest triumphs. From January to March I had three failed surgeries to drain and repair the fluid filled cyst. After more than 60 days in the ICU and three prolonged hospital stays, I was sent home with the prospect that I may never walk again on my own. With increased pain from the surgeries and the spinal fluid now filling the open cavities of my back, I was taking extremely high doses of opioids. My body had already built up a resistance to one painkiller and the doses of the others had to be increased to combat the pain.
In September 2012 I was prescribed Fentanyl patches in addition to the other painkillers to help offer some level of comfort. I can still remember the night that I forgot to put the Fentanyl patch back on and the effect it had my body. For the first time in my life I realized the power of withdrawal symptoms and the bondage these drugs had over me.
I remember laying in bed one night and the feeling of things crawling inside me, my body aching, my muscles cramping, and mind hallucinating. I quickly realized what I done (it only been about an hour) and grabbed the patch and put it on but it was too late. My body was doing everything it could to torment me so I would feed it what it wanted. It was my wife who would hold me down to keep me from overdosing on pills trying to make the withdrawal symptoms stop or burning myself in the tub with hot water in an attempt to make the pain and cramps go away. What seemed like an eternity my body and mind collaborated to torture me until the necessary level of drugs returned to my system. If not for my wife, I would have taken my life that night in an effort to make it stop.
Like many addict, I had that moment when I realized I was no longer in control. There was no program, doctor, or politician that showed me I needed help. Rather, it was finally seeing the power and control the drugs had over me. While my wife, children, and extended family could see it, it took me recognizing the problem it in order to do something about it. I decided that the pain was better than the loss of control of my thoughts and actions. I went to my doctor and began the process of withdrawing from the painkillers.
By God’s grace and my desire and self-determination I am almost free of opioids and the bondage they have over me. The road was difficult and not without its problems but the restoration of my mind is well worth the battle. My journey to rid myself of drug addiction (yes even legal use of drugs is addiction) was one based on individual responsibility and utilizing the gifts given to us by our Creator. I had no need of a government program, a politician to offer a helping hand, or a handout from the taxpayer, I just needed to realize that I was an addict. With the help of my doctors, my family, and my faith I will finish my journey this year and be free of the bondage of drugs, now if I could only be free from my government.