Sampson County, NC
I was an educated woman, raised by a Christian family, working as a teacher, happily married and raising two children. We had a nice home, and I drove a nice car. We spent our evenings at dance and soccer practice and our weekends doing things together as a family. It was the perfect life and nothing could change that. Except, I was wrong: addiction doesn’t care how smart you are or how nice your home is; it just slithers its way into your life like a snake meandering through tall blades of grass.
Even though I grew up the product of divorced parents, I was very loved by my entire family. As an only child, both my parents always made sure I got everything I wanted and had everything I needed. I was a good kid. I never got in trouble, made good grades, graduated in the top 10 percent of my graduating class, got accepted into a good university, and made my family proud. I worked so hard throughout college that I earned my four-year degree in three-and-a-half years and graduated Summa Cum Laude.
The majority of my family members were social drinkers, and it was nothing for my parents to allow me to taste alcohol after I turned 16. I occasionally drank during high school and was known to go to a party or two during college. But, I never caused any trouble or caused my parents any worry.
“No one said anything to me about not taking medication from any other doctor or making sure I took my dosage as prescribed.”
Fast forward five years, I was married to my childhood sweetheart and we had twins. I was working as a teacher and loving every minute I was able to spend with my husband and kids. I had always had problems with numbness and an unusual sense of loss of function in one of my legs, but growing up, my mother always said it was growing pains. Eventually, that abnormal feeling became normal and I didn’t think twice about it. In 2006, I had a regular doctor’s visit one day, and it just happened that I was having a bad day with that funny sensation in my leg and mentioned it to the physician. He immediately ordered an MRI and discovered a tumor growing on my spine. At the time, it had grown to be about the size of a golf ball and was intertwined with the nerves that controlled the function of my bladder and my legs.
Less than three weeks later, I had major surgery to dissect what part of the tumor they could without causing me to loose the ability to control my bladder and the use of my legs. This was the first time I was prescribed any type of pain medication stronger than over-the-counter strength medicine. Following my surgery, I was given Percocet in the beginning and eventually changed to Vicodin. I was on the medication for my entire 12-week recovery, and even had to take some occasionally once I returned to work. Within six months following my surgery, I had made a full recovery and no longer needed anything stronger than the occasional Ibuprofen.
Just two years later, I began to experience intense pain in my lower back. It was affecting my ability to live the life every young mom dreams of living. Thinking it was related to the previous surgery I had, I set up an appointment with the neurosurgeon who scheduled an MRI. He discovered another tumor growing. This time it was growing on my Illiac bone. Because it was a bone tumor, doctors didn’t seem too concerned about it being cancerous or causing any major damage. Other than the intense pain, there wasn’t a pressing need to do surgery. While waiting on surgery, they took me out of work and put me on Vicodin. Following the surgery, I was again prescribed the Vicodin. Getting off the opiate this go-around wasn’t going to be as easy.
Immediately following surgery, I was taking one five-milligram Hydrocodone every four to six hours. Eventually, I was taking two five-milligram Hydrocodone pills every four to six hours. The pain from the surgery was real, and just didn’t seem to be getting any better. At the time, I didn’t know anyone who had suffered from addiction and addiction wasn’t something the doctors discussed. No one said anything to me about not taking medication from any other doctor or making sure I took my dosage as prescribed.
One day, when the two tablets didn’t work, I thought taking a third wouldn’t hurt. When the third tablet didn’t help, I thought taking a fourth wouldn’t hurt. That pattern continued until I could take seven or eight tablets at a time without having any side effects.
I never intended to be an addict. I never had the thought in my head that I was taking the medication to numb any kind of pain or deal with any pressure or stress. I was truly taking the medicine for the pain. Eventually, when I continuously had some half-believable story for the doctor about why my prescription ran out early, he cut me off. The same doctor who began writing the script on a regular basis, and increased the dosage when I expressed my concern for the medicine not working and the pain getting worse, just cut me off.
“I was so far down in addiction, as soon as I left the police station, I called in another prescription. I had never been in trouble with the law.”
That was in 2011 and that was when my addiction truly began. Over the next two years, I shopped around from one doctor and one pain clinic to another. I asked everyone I knew for pain medication. I even took pain medication from family and friends. I lied about my pain. I lied about how much I was using. At one time, I was prescribed 60 milligrams of Hydrocodone a day. A doctor asked me about taking Opana for pain control and at first I didn’t realize what I was getting. Once I learned, I would take two or three Opana at the time, several times a day, in addition to 20 or more 10-milligram Vicodin a day.
I know I overdosed twice. By the grace of God, those overdoses were not to the point my husband knew what was happening and didn’t have to call rescue to attend to me. Both times I became violently sick and threw up what I had ingested. My body (God) saved itself.
Family began catching on to my problem and notified the doctors about what I was doing. The doctors all cut me off. Left with no other options, I thought I would take matters into my own hands and began calling in prescriptions in my name and the names of other family members to local pharmacies. That worked for about two weeks. I was eventually arrested and charged with 12 felonies. Being from a small town, everyone knew me and the deputies and magistrate worked with me and allowed me to sign myself out. I was so far down in addiction, as soon as I left the police station, I called in another prescription. I had never been in trouble with the law. In my 16 years of driving, I had been stopped by the police for speeding one time. I had never broken the law. In fact, I was just the opposite and always made sure I stayed out of trouble.
That forever changed my life. I spent 30 days in a rehab facility. I came home facing up to 15 years of jail time for trafficking. I lost my job and ruined any chances of ever being a teacher again. Eventually, the majority of the felonies were dropped and I was convicted on just two of the felonies. I was sentenced to four days in the local jail and three years of probation. Additionally, I had to complete 120 hours of community service.
“Today, almost six years clean, my life has completely changed.”
Today, almost six years clean, my life has completely changed. I was blessed to get a job with the local newspaper as a writer. It’s what I went to school for, started my career in, and always truly wanted to do. But, my life has changed. Because of the type of felonies I was charged with, they will remain on my criminal record for the rest of my life. I have learned since my journey began that addiction does not discriminate. It will cross social, economic, and gender backgrounds and it doesn’t care who it hurts along the way. If what happened to me can prevent the same thing from happening to someone else, it was worth every step.