“Sometimes the best thing you can do is not think, not wonder, not obsess, not imagine. Just breathe and have faith that everything will work out for the best.”
My rock bottom happened close to the picture of me on the right (our left) at Mt. Rushmore: talk about rock bottom. A couple of days prior to this picture being taken I was truly done with life and had genuinely given up. It was 2001 I believe and I had been searching for a cure for over ten years and been on medication for about the same length of time. I had dropped out of college just to randomly move to Boulder, Colorado with the sole purpose to party non-stop as I was done. I had enough. I had no hope or faith that the physical pain would ever go away and I truly believed I was more of a hassle in the world than a blessing. I hated myself and my invisible illness. I hated everyone that doubted my pain and I was awful to those who wanted to help but just did not know how. I drank tons with friends, road trips to Vegas, and was only “happy” when partying with the group of people I hung out with. I was a nomad traveling around parts of Colorado with no plan and just waiting to die. I am surprised I did not end up using hard drugs to be honest, grateful but mildly shocked. I just watched an episode of Intervention (A&E) that brought me to tears and I had to cover my eyes because the man in the episode had chronic pain and had gone from Percocet to Oxycontin to injecting opioids, smoking opioids and some of the things he said reminded me of my past and my story that it was almost too painful to watch: first time ever fell asleep during an episode of Intervention. I was angry watching the episode. Yes, clearly this young man had an addiction and was literally killing himself with the amount of drugs he was using but the core issue was the pain he faced as a child and the chronic pain that started after he beat leukemia and was the lucky person to receive a donor from a complete stranger: that donor saved his life. Did chronic pain end it? The main reason I do not take opioids for chronic pain is this: I (we) need more and more of the medication to get any pain relief. Our tolerance of the medication goes up rapidly to the point that when at first one is taking one pill to ten pills a day. And the story above is not as uncommon as one may think. I am thankful to A&E for showing the network’s viewers the true devastation of having chronic pain. I started crying when the man featured on this episode said: “I just want to thank the person who gave me a donor and saved my life, but I cannot thank this person because look at me. I did not deserve it. I am a loser and a drug addict who is filled with both physical and emotional pain.” I wanted to just get in the television, hug him and truly tell him that this invisible illness was not his fault and he is not a loser: we are all addicted to something that takes the pain away. I have to finish the episode, I just want to see a happy ending and it is very difficult for me to watch: I could have been this man.
I was just asked to write about the transition from using pain medication to not using pain medication: thank you for asking as this was something I had not thought to write about. I made this transition two times. The first was at my rock bottom: see above and the second was June Seventh, 2012 when I miscarried. The first transition was by far the hardest and I had a ton of medical help given to me from the Pain Rehab Center in Minnesota. Do not go off any drug especially opioids cold turkey: make sure you are ready and have a doctor or someone in the medical field wean you off any medication. This will sound crazy to you but I had never really heard the term chronic pain: it was not well-known fifteen years ago and not one out of hundreds of doctors ever said the term: chronic pain. Maybe this is why I spend a third of my life looking for a cure. When the Mayo Clinic staff told me I had chronic pain and there was a Pain Rehab Center I could enter immediately for a month to accept my condition and learn how to manage it naturally I wanted to run like hell. I am a good crier but this was a moment of severe emotional pain that no amount of tears could express how afraid and lost I felt. I clearly went and I hated it at first. Every day they lowered my medication and the one thing that made me stay was being with twenty other people who had chronic pain. This was the first time someone understood me and I no longer felt crazy. On the weekends one does not attend the PRC and stays at whichever hotel he or she is using. Talk about hell. The ethical dilemma I had at first was killing me: run away or press forward as I knew this could be my last shot at having a life. After about a week or more I slowly began to participate and started listening to the advice given on how to manage pain naturally. A month later I was home practicing the techniques I learned to manage chronic pain without medicine. It was not easy but for some reason it was a hell of a lot easier than spending my days looking for a cure, taking medication, and running away to drink myself to numbness. Practice does not make perfect but it did make permanence. Six months later I was in the groove and I felt good about myself: I was healthy, enjoying the simple pleasures I had enjoyed prior to my accident and I started to love myself. This lasted years and years and then for some reason life stressors/circumstances caused me so much stress and agony that I stopped using the tools I had been using for years to manage pain. The pain got worse, I got more depressed and that self-love vanished. I started taking pain medication again. This time around I hated myself more because I had the knowledge, wisdom and power to know I could and most likely would end up right back where I was in the above picture (the Jessica on the right.) Luckily, this did not last long: probably a year and then I got pregnant and had a miscarriage. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I had a daughter who was one: I wanted her to see the true Jessica and the strength I had. I did not want her to ever have to have the childhood I faced at times and missed living as I was merely surviving. I did not go back to the Mayo Clinic but I did wean myself off the Percocet and slowly life got better and better. I do not know why the second time was easier. Knowledge and wisdom are power and I knew how much happier I would be if I started managing pain naturally again. I bounced back quickly and here I am.
I am not going to lie, withdrawal is a bitch. However a couple of weeks of hell is so much better than a lifetime of hell. I do not know if I answered your question and I am so more than open to share with you anything about my life with chronic pain so please do not hesitate to email me, message me, find me on twitter: I want to help you and if this was not helpful let me know. Do not worry, I will not be offended.