I’ve shared before how I came to be on opioids for chronic pain. My pain levels had basically gotten so high I was almost bedridden. I couldn’t take care of my kids, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t do anything that required walking or standing of any sort. Luckily for me I had been a patient of my doctor for some time before I broached the subject of pain relief. She knew me well by then and had no problem prescribing a low dose of Hydrocodone.
This changed my life.
Last week I went camping with a bunch of teenage girls. I was walking miles and miles every day. I was staking down tents in rainstorms, I was frantically running around trying to stop a tent from flooding, I was playing physical games, and I was sleeping on an uncomfortable cot without my heating pad. I was in a lot of pain, by the end of the week I couldn’t even walk normally because my muscles were so stiff from the pain, but I did it and I had a blast. The reason that I could do it was because I took 1 pain pill each night so I could sleep. Without that pain pill I never would have made it. My pain level would have gotten so high I wouldn’t have been able to sleep, especially in such uncomfortable conditions. I would have lost sleep and as I lost sleep my pain levels would have climbed even higher. Once the painsomnia cycle begins there’s no ending it, it’s an endless cycle of misery that I was able to avoid due to my pain medication.
My camping experience is only one small example of how pain medication has changed my life. Two weeks after my camping trip I’m going on vacation with my family. We’re going to 5 different National Parks and we’re going to do a lot of hiking. I love being outdoors and I love exposing my city kids to nature. I’m still limited in what I can do (I won’t be rock climbing or going on 12 mile hikes anytime soon), but I could never have done even a little of this before pain medication.
Some might consider these activities optional. After all I don’t need to be a camp counselor and I don’t need to go on vacation with my kids. Is it really worth the “risk of addiction” just so I can have fun once in a while? Anyone with common sense would say yes it is. And for those who have no common sense they can read my story and realize I’ve been on the same dose of pain medication since 2014 so clearly I’m not an addict. And for those who have no common sense and no empathy and still think I don’t need pain medication, I would point out that I can actually be a productive citizen when I have access to pain medication. Instead of being bedridden I have a life.
I am exceptionally lucky that I have a doctor with some common sense. She has never told me that pain isn’t that big of a deal and that I should just get over it. She’s actually well aware that constant pain has some serious side effects and there’s no point in keeping me bedridden for the rest of my life just to satisfy some supposed moral standard that pain medication is bad. She realizes that pain medication isn’t bad, it allows millions of people to live normal lives. So why is society so intent on taking that away? Because they buy into the inaccurate myths and hysteria perpetuated by the media and the CDC.
I’m well aware that my time is limited. Any day I could be deprived the life I have by losing access to pain medication. If anything happens to my doctor no other doctor will take me on, I’m screwed just like every other chronic pain patient who is treated like an addict. At any time I could lose my ability to work, play with my kids, socialize with my friends, clean my house, and go on vacation. I live every day with this knowledge. I live every day knowing that I have no control over my own quality of life. It’s a heavy burden, but until there’s a medical cure for my condition it’s all I have.