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Pain isn’t Failure

After exhausting all other options, my doctor suggested a script. When he said the name of that dreaded narcotic painkiller, I almost puked on the floor of his office.

I have to start by confessing to all of you, there is nothing about writing this that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside (unless wanting to puke counts).

Someone once told me recovery wasn’t always going be sunshine, rainbows, and unicorn farts; and now I know she was right. You see, by writing for Sober Mommies I knew I was going to have to, at some point, admit the horrific truth about myself.
Wait for it…


There. I said it. Can I stop now?

I’m stalling because I’m too scared to get to the real reason for the post.

Pain. Real, damn near unbearable pain. The kind that impaired my ability to parent my toddler and be present in the world. It put strains on all of my relationships and made it difficult to sleep. This pain went on for months. I tried lots of different things suggested to me. I mean lots.

Before I go too far, I guess I should clarify that I mean physical pain, not emotional. I was prepared for the emotional pain I would go through in recovery, but I wasn’t prepared for this.

I hurt. I tried changing my diet, yoga, meditation, herbal supplements, pain management techniques, and then I went to my doctor.

My doctor is aware of my addiction history and is not the kind of doctor willing to throw narcotics at an addict.

We tried some alternatives; and by some, I mean nine different medications over the course of ten months coupled with tests to figure out the root cause. Meanwhile, Mr. Pain and I were going strong. After exhausting all other options, my doctor suggested a script. When he said the name of that dreaded narcotic painkiller, I almost puked on the floor of his office. I knew it would be very short-term and it came with a diagnosis and another non-narcotic daily medication, but UGH.

I felt like a failure in my recovery because I was putting unrealistic expectations on myself based on what I believed I should be able to handle by comparing my recovery to someone else’s. I had precautions lined up just in case I ran into trouble, but I never needed them. I didn’t feel good about having to take the painkiller, which I took as a good sign. If I found myself happy about hurting, I would throw those fucking pills away. I also hurt so badly I never caught a buzz. I almost wanted to suffer in pain longer than I needed to in order to prove something. That I could suffer in recovery.

“Woo Hoo, look at me, I’m in terrible pain, but I’m clean!”

I was so rigid in my own perception that I MUST BE PERFECT AT ALL TIMES that I almost didn’t take care of my own body.

It took a friend to remind me that the rigidity of my thinking was causing me to neglect a suffering addict. Me.

Before this, I had convinced myself that no matter what, I wasn’t going to use drugs IN ANY FORM, FOR ANY REASON. I remembered stories from others about horrible illnesses they went through in recovery with nothing but Motrin. I wanted to be that perfect in my recovery too. Because suffering means a “perfect” recovery, right?

I felt like a fraud. I was also afraid that you would think that everything I write here will forever be tainted; that I would become the recovering addict that blogs here, but doesn’t deserve to. Here’s the thing that is really bothersome about that fear; I know I did what was right for me. I did not compromise my clean time or my recovery one bit. I followed doctor’s orders, took my script only as needed, and stopped when I didn’t need it. So I carry no guilt for filling the prescription in the first place. That doesn’t stop me hearing the voices in my head of Motrin Guy saying “You aren’t really clean!” Or feeling guilty because I don’t feel guilty.

That is what the disease of addiction does to this addict.

It puts strict codes of conduct on me, and when I cannot live up to them, I feel like a FAILURE. I do this with food, cleaning, grades, you name it. Recovery has given me tools keep these thoughts at bay, but holy hell is it a fight for me. I’m trying, and falling short, but falling short isn’t failure, right? Right.

Please understand, I am by no means advocating taking narcotics in recovery*. I was in a place where every option was exhausted, it was a very short-term thing, and I knew I had tremendous support if I needed it. It’s a slippery slope, and many addicts have slid right down that slope to relapse. I had a healthy fear of that relapse.

I’m glad I decided to write this and want to thank Julie, Lauren, Sarah, Tiffany, and Margaret for the support and encouragement to do so.

Sisterhood is a powerful thing.

*The decision to take or discontinue medication is one that should be discussed with your physician.

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  1. Rachel, I have to tell you that I have thought the same thing a million times. I have gone through things that most other people would take pain meds for and I have declined them numerous times and been in tears and pain because of the pressure I put on myself. And certainly, a lot of that is fear. I have never taken a painkiller appropriately…ever. It scares me to even think about the possibility of having them in my home. The one story that always sticks out to me is a man that had a major car accident and had back surgery and leg surgery and took NO narcotics. So, I constantly hold myself to that standard and think, I’ve never had anything like that so I should be able to push through it! I really feel for you, Rachel. I COMPLETELY get it. Thanks for writing this!!!

  2. Rachel I was nervous about reading this. So proud you found the strength and courage to do so.

    I am 150 days sober and had a trying few days slap bang after hospital and start of a new relationship.

    I had to admit I was overtaking pain meds to support my lack of alcohol, and have got appt sorted with an agency to discuss it.

    I was on, diazepam for 15 months and I hated it, I’m an addict. Yesterday I saw my gp as I am going to London, for the weekend and feel raw after an incident my friend went through that I supported her. I’ve asked for 5 2mg to act as a deterrent in case I’m triggered and pick alcohol, pain meds or self harm.

    Yes I felt embarrassed but new it was necessary.

    Wish you could sponsor me xxxx

  3. Oh this is SO ME! Several years ago I was diagnosed with spinal arthritis, 2 bulging discs, and neuropathic pain from a breast reduction gone wrong, and then I started having patches of my skin feel like it’d been dipped in acid. I was sent to a pain specialist, who over time had me on a muscle relaxer, 6 10/325 Norco per day, 5 10mg Methadone per day, and Gabapentin. I didn’t want to become addicted to it. And even though I didn’t abuse my scripts, I did anyway.

    Once I moved to Florida–the laws have changed greatly. I wasn’t able to get a doc here to prescribe them. I took the year of forced detox to do that–detox. It was torture–the withdrawals. But once my body seemed to get through it, I started thinking clear. I finally found a fantastic doctor over a year later and explained the situation. The pain I couldn’t live w/ was the spasms and neuropathy and “acid burns”. So he gave me the muscle relaxer and Gabapentin. And while it doesn’t take care of all the pain from everything, I can at least think around it. I can function.

    And then I busted an eardrum (long story). It was so painful! The er gave me a script for Percocet. I was scared crapless. But I really needed it. I took it as needed, very short term (2 weeks) and I didn’t go through withdrawls.

    Bottom line, you HAVE to take care of yourself. I think you are very aware of your former addiction. And that will be in your favor. Thank you for this post. I feel better about my decision to take the narcotic when I really needed it. I’ve felt guilty for a long time.

  4. It’s pretty crazy that spiral that guilt sends us into, huh? I’m very grateful you could relate. I’m also grateful I can relate to you! Just one “me too” is sometimes all I need to hear to make it all worth it!

  5. Rachel,

    I know this post was not easy to write. I am, once again, amazed by your level of awareness and commitment to recovery. These are just a few reasons I am so happy you are on the Sober Mommies team. Honesty, vulnerability, and trust are not always easy to offer up, and you provided us with all of these things effortlessly in this post. Thank you for your willingness to share your secrets, and the opportunity to identify with your beautiful humanness.

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