“Anne” doesn’t fit the typical stereotype that most of us have about what a drug addict looks like. She appears to be someone who has it all.
She is in her 50s, has a supportive husband, two children in junior high school, lives in a beautiful home in Naperville and has a successful career as a nurse. What differentiates her life from others is that she is also a recovering drug addict.
Anne, like most of us, thought addiction of any kind “would never happen to her.” Her life parallels many of our own lives.
As a new bride, Anne left her family in central Illinois and moved to Naperville 26 years ago. She began her career as a nurse at an area hospital and started a family.
It wasn’t until she woke up one morning with severe shoulder pain that her life would change forever. She went to an orthopedic doctor she knew from the hospital and was diagnosed as having brachial neuritis. The initial course of treatment is traditionally focused on reducing pain, and she was prescribed Vicodin, which is a common way doctors use to treat pain and is not intended for long-term use.
For the next year, she struggled both physically and emotionally as she underwent knee replacement surgery and the loss of both of her parents. Her pain continued, and she went from doctor to doctor to find an answer.
Even with a family history of rheumatoid arthritis, it took a year for the correct diagnosis. Her mother and brother both have it, too.
At work, she was surrounded by professionals who were understanding of her diagnosis and supported her move to a department that did not require a lot of physical movement.
Working with a rheumatologist, she started with the most conservative treatment with the fewest side effects. When the severe pain continued, the treatments became more aggressive and so did the side effects. They were so scary to Anne that she opted to manage her pain with what she knew worked — Vicodin.
By this time, she had built up a tolerance to Vicodin and required a larger dose to find relief from her pain. She had five to six doctors writing prescriptions it, and she was taking more than 200 pills a week. For a long time, she evaded the suspicion of doctors and pharmacists.
Anne was surprised one day to receive a call from her rheumatologist who had noticed through the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) that Anne was receiving Vicodin prescriptions from numerous physicians. In addition to asking Anne to call her primary care physician, the rheumatologist offered to reach out, too.
Anne was both relieved and scared at having been discovered. She knew she was addicted but was afraid of getting treatment. She didn’t know where to go, was filled with shame, afraid of withdrawal, afraid of the pain, afraid of being judged and afraid of what her family would say. With the support of her doctors, she found the courage to get help for her addiction.
Dr. Abdel Fahmy helped her get on the right path to recovery. After going through a painful withdrawal from her drug, Fahmy worked with her to find a drug and dosage that would allow her to live her life again.
He also suggested that she go to Soft Landing Interventions for professional and group counseling. The one-on-one counseling helped her to deal with her individual struggles, and the group counseling allowed her to recognize her own story coming from the mouths of others. The realization that she was not alone in this struggle has been huge in her recovery.
Her biggest challenge in coming clean was telling her family about her addiction.
Anne’s family had no idea she relied on Vicodin to manage pain. Anne led them to believe that RA, not addiction, kept her from interacting with her family. They had paid a high price for her addiction and didn’t even know it.
Anne was not really present in their lives while addicted to Vicodin. She would come home from work and go right to bed. She was unable to attend her kid’s activities. She withdrew from her family and spent a lot of time figuring out how many pills she had left and planning what she needed to do to get her next fix. The road to regaining her family’s trust is long, but one they are all working toward.
Thanks to Soft Landing Interventions, Anne is fully participating in life again. She understands there is potential for relapse, but she is gaining the necessary tools needed for success. If you or someone in your life could benefit from Soft Landing Interventions, they can be reached at 630-261-9220.
Carla Linder-Mayer grew up in Naperville. She and her husband, Mark, have been married since 1977 and raised their three children here. She owns Reality Fitness, 39 ½ W. Jefferson Ave. in Naperville. Contact her at 630-357-7087.Tags: addiction, health