Part 1: Sometimes We Bring Heartache Upon Ourselves
May 7, 2009 § 10 Comments
There’s a phone message taped to my bedroom mirror. It’s one of those pink “While You Were Out” message sheets that no one ever fills in correctly or completely. It’s dated 5/8/09, 10:50 am.
From: Your Husband
Message: Everything is Fine. I Love You. Your mom will be in on Friday
It’s a little time capsule that I look at each morning as I prepare for work, each night as I go to bed, each time I pass by. Just having it catch my eye reminds me of how the nurse handed me the message when I walked by the front desk. She was an angel, that nurse, with her warm smile and her motherly hugs. She told me that she’d seen my daughter earlier in the day when my husband had dropped off my suitcase and she thought she was beautiful. I nodded and forced a smile, unable to talk about the daughter I was locked away from and she said, “Don’t cry. You don’t have to cry.”
I was at a point in my detox when any kind word, gentle touch, emotional connection at all was met with a total breakdown. Less than 24 hours in to my rehabilitation I was desperate to go home. I’d been broken down in every way, forced to admit that I’d let myself lose control of my own life, escorted to a room with one bed, mustard colored walls, a barred window and a duffel bag full of clothes. I had to give up my phone, my iPod, any connection to anyone outside the hospital, and the physical pain of withdrawal only made my loneliness worse.
I wanted to hold my daughter. I wanted to pet my dog. I wanted to fall asleep in my bed with my arms around my husband who’d been there for me through these worst of times. I wanted to soak in my bathtub, listen to music, watch the Simpsons to help me forget. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t suffer through this rehabilitation in some sort of comfort.
Ironically, I’d checked myself into this particular facility voluntarily. I had grown too tired. I had spent too many hours on the phone waiting for refills, explaining to doctors why I’d gone through 180 percoset in 15 days, making appointments, getting referrals, waiting for nurses to return my calls. I’d climbed far too high on the ladder of tolerance. My back pain, which was unrelenting and vicious had become all but background noise, as I was now taking pills just to be normal. There was no “high”, as I’m sure anyone I know can attest to. I was in a pit of depression, exhaustion, anxiety and pain, wondering when I could take my next pill so that I could perhaps feel like I used to feel ten years ago, if only for an hour or so. I never left the house without my pill bottle and if I forgot, I’d drop everything to go get it.
In a short four years, I’d gone from taking 2-4 Vicodin a day (a habit that I managed pretty well, and without any craving for more) to taking 6-8 Lortab or Norco a day, and then Oxycontin, a whole different nightmare that signaled the beginning of the end. When I no longer could manage my Oxycontin I was taking close to 400 mgs a day, as opposed to the 40 mgs I was prescribed only six months before. Eventually I was wearing a Fentanyl patch, the grand daddy of them all. But even this wasn’t enough, and I took Norco on TOP of it, which my doctor prescribed for breakthrough pain.
I was wearing my last pain patch on the day I called the hospital. I remember I was sitting down by the Chicago river on Wacker drive. It was a hideous day (May 6th), a sort of spitting rain and cold that perfectly illustrated my state of mind. I was on my lunch hour, and when I went back to work, I simply told my boss that I was going to detox and I didn’t know when I’d be back.
The evaluation at the hospital was long and gutwrenching, a detailed history of my back pain and the prescriptions that came with it. I was in the office for two hours before the rehab supervisor told me I could talk with Dr. B. It was his decision as to whether or not I would be admitted. I had finally cried myself into a sort of numbness (I thought) and all I wanted was to rest.
Dr. B strode in wearing his crisp white doctors coat, and only asked me two or three questions before saying,
“I think we can help you.”
I started to tear up again and he said the one thing I’ll always remember no matter how many times I’ve wanted to strangle him since.
“You don’t have to cry. You’re not a bad mother. You’re still a good person.”
Well of course I was. No one ever plans to become dependent on pain medication. No one ever plans to leave their infant daughter for five days while she sorts out her life. No one ever plans to slip on the ice outside their apartment, herniating three discs. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last ten years it’s that sometimes we bring heartache upon ourselves.
Tomorrow Part 2: So, How Did This Happen?