Pharmaceutical drugs: My story of naive addiction

I have been through a very painful and transformative journey since the end of November of last year. Only four months has passed since this all began on November 20th, the fateful day that I took Zithromax.

I’ve already written several blog posts about my recovery from the horrific side effects of Zithromax, so I’m not going to rehash that part of the journey. I want to relate my unexpected and unintended rehabilitation from pharmaceutical drug abuse.

First of all, I didn’t realize that I even had a problem. I’ve been taking Maxalt and Vicodin for seven years to control headache pain. My headaches began in my early 30s. At first, I used Excedrin Migraine to control the pain, but the headaches were chronic. Eventually, I discussed the problem with my doctor, and we attempted to fix the problem with pharmaceuticals.

He prescribed Maxalt and Vicodin to manage the pain, and we tried three different beta blockers as a preventative measure. The side effects of each beta blocker was worse than the headaches (that’s why we kept trying different beta blockers), and eventually, after the third beta blocker which made me feel miserable, I told my doctor that I didn’t want any more prescription drugs. I told him that I was going to try to clean up my diet (which was terrible — I ate lots of fast food and sugar) and exercise. But I kept the Maxalt and Vicodin to handle the pain. That was seven years ago.

I knew that Vicodin was addictive, so I monitored my use of it. But I still used the Maxalt and Vicodin frequently. Out of every month, I was using the drugs maybe 10 to 15 days out of the 30. Since I wasn’t using the Vicodin every day and I had the blessing of my doctor and the pharmacy, I thought everything was good.

But I won’t lie to you: I did enjoy the high. When you’re stressed out or sad, you get high and everything is okay. You’re okay and the world is okay and you’re happy and everything is going to be alright. I don’t judge people who use drugs. I understand where they are coming from: with drugs, you quit emotionally hurting for a little while. But drugs always always make the problem worse. But I understand the temptation and appeal (and ultimately the illusion and destruction) of drugs.

But that wasn’t me… or so I thought. I was taking my drugs as prescribed by my doctor and condoned by society. Now fast forward to November 20th of last year. By this point in my life, if a doctor gave me a pharmaceutical drug, I quite happily and with trust took it. I had walking pneumonia, so I took the prescribed Zithromax.

The pain is truly indescribable. I can no more describe the pain of an adverse reaction to Zithromax than I can describe the pain of childbirth to you. Only those that have been through it truly understand the intense pain. And after going through such extreme physical and mental pain, I developed a phobia — a true phobia — of pharmaceutical drugs. So I quit taking the Maxalt and Vicodin. I was terrified of them and didn’t know what they would do to my body.

The headaches were so bad. But I was already in such extreme pain from the Zithromax that I just endured all of it. (I say I endured it, but the truth is, for the worst six weeks of my recovery, my husband and my mother carried me. I had lost hope, and I was physically exhausted and in constant pain. They took care of me, held me and encouraged me, and carried me.)

Now, four months later, I’m still recovering. I still have “bad” days, but I’m 90% back to normal. But something has changed. An apathy, that I was completely unaware of, and lack of energy have lifted. My husband noticed it as well. Even though I didn’t take the drugs every day, there was enough of the substance in my system for the apathy to be continuous. I would always choose to play video games or watch TV or surf the internet. I was never motivated to do anything that required any energy.

Also, my headaches have diminished. I still have them and they still are painful, but I don’t have them nearly as frequently and they are not as painful. I understand how difficult it is to give up pain medication though. When a headache comes on, I want the Maxalt and Vicodin so much because it hurts so much. But my phobia kicks in and wins.

Also, I find when I’m stressed out or sad, I crave the Maxalt and Vicodin. I want to get high. I want that feeling that everything is alright with me and the world, and we’re all going to be okay. I didn’t even know I had that craving until I quit taking the drugs. It’s weird when you have something as important as that going on with yourself and you don’t even know it.

There is no lesson to this story. It is simply what it is. But this is such a common story for modern American life that I felt it was worthy of sharing. There is connection, shared experience and truth in this story, and I wish everyone who is wandering this road all the best.

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4 thoughts on “Pharmaceutical drugs: My story of naive addiction”

  1. Thank you for sharing this powerful story. Ever since my ex husband fractured my spine, I have been in extreme anounts of pain ALL THE TIME. So much so, that I have gotten used to it, and can handle a migraine aling with the pain if I am careful not to over exert myself. I take ibuprofen, tylenol, advil, and My dictor prescribes me vicodine. I filled it ine time, 3 years ago. It has had 5 pills taken out of it, for when the oain gets so extreme that I cannot stand it any more.

    I have an addictive personality, or I think I would, if I allowed myself to. So I don’t. I kind of love Xanax, because talk about an amazing high, but I haven’t finished my prescriotuon for it, and don’t plan to.

    This is not an easy road to travel, nor is it easy to talk about. I applaud you being so open and honest about it.

    You will be well. <3

  2. Thanks, Sarah. You told me the story of your ex-husband, but I didn’t realize he had fractured your spine. I’m so glad you have found a beautiful man now. And good luck with the pain! I deal with chronic pain, but not to the degree that you do, and it sucks! But we’ll get through it. We’re strong women. 🙂

  3. You are truly a brave soul Angel. Thank you for sharing. You not only endured this horrible pain but you also had to weave your way through doubtful relatives……concerned, loving, doubtful relatives…..like myself….lol. I am so proud of you and am proud to call you sister. Love you xoxox

  4. You’re so funny, Shannon. You’re completely unaware of the depth of your kindness. You and your father — and this is neither an exaggeration nor false flattery — are two of the kindest, most generous people I know. You take after your father and that’s as deep a compliment as I can give. And all of you guys were there for me while I went through this, including you. And I am grateful to all my relatives, who helped during this difficult time and all other difficult times in my life. You guys are my life.

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