Overcoming 10.5 Months of Opioids is Not Easy
As a result of a chiropractic injury, I spent 10.5 months on opioids and the results of having been off them for almost four months now still afflict me.
On Friday the 13th, May, 2016, I went to what was then an unlicensed chiropractor operating in Mesquite, Texas. I did not know this at the time of treatment. I went in complaining of upper back pain. The man noted that my SI joint was out, too, and said he was going to make adjustments to my upper, middle and lower back. The next day, I was in so much pain, I could not drive to my daughter’s mother’s house to take pictures of the twins in their prom dresses. I returned on Monday, May 16 thinking my SI was out again and the pain was from that. It was not. The problem was from the treatments to my lower back.
A few weeks later, barely able to walk more than 20 yards without being in excruciating pain that required me to stop walking, I went to my PCP. She put me on hydrocodone and muscle relaxers. Nothing worked. I did PT. After three visits, the therapist said not to come back until after I’d had an epidural. This meant getting an MRI, seeing a spine surgeon, and a pain management doctor. The pain guy switched me off hydrocodone onto Nucynta. It didn’t work either. A month later I had a three-level laminectomy in my lower lumbar. This led to more meds and instead of stopping the pain, made it manifest in both legs, not just one.
My spine doctor wanted to do a fusion. But I also had a hernia he wanted repaired before he would operate again. In September 2016, I had two hernias fixed. Seeking a second opinion about spinal surgery, I went to a neurosurgeon who didn’t want me to have one and instead said we should test other options. This led to my being on Percocet and other meds.
Finally, in March of this year, the neurosurgeon put in a pain stimulator in my spinal column and buried a battery pack in my right hip.
In April, I took my last Percocet, having weaned from three per day to one-half.
It’s now mid-July and I’m still suffering the consequences of having been on mind-altering drugs for almost 11 months.
My sleep schedule is so erratic I have a hard time functioning. The Sleep Cycle app shows that my sleep is a mess. Naps are part of my day because I’m so tired constantly. Even with walking and a proper diet, I’m struggling to function.
I understand the need for opioids or pain-relieving drugs. The pain I’ve endured the past 14 months has been horrific. But the long-term impact of the meds is something I did not expect. I would like to be able to get a sound night of sleep. I would like to be fully functional again at normal hours of the day. But that’s not happening. When I saw my sleep doctor back in April he said it could take months for my brain to recalibrate. MONTHS. He was not kidding.
I have been walking in the mornings to get my brain used to seeing sunlight first thing in the day. By noon, most days, however, I am asleep again, sleeping more soundly than I did all night. This is a vicious cycle and I post this so that others can see the impact it can have.
I was lucky. I was determined to not become an addict of opioids. There are thousands of others who are not as strong-willed and who succumb to the need for meds. Some people are known to do dumb things so that doctors will be compelled to give them more—have you heard of these people who break bones in their hand with a hammer so they can get more opioids?
I cannot imagine getting to that point, but what I do know is what I continue to experience having been on these meds for so long. They have an impact on your mind that does not go away overnight. The opioid epidemic is real and it’s a problem that many people face.
And at this writing, I have yet to find an answer for the impact it has had on my brain.