The Pain of Yesterday Becomes the Addiction of Today

The word pain spelled in brass tacks.

I worked as an airplane mechanic for 23 years before ascending to a senior administrative position within my company; my blue collars followed me right into my executive career. Every day I was reminded of the sometimes back-breaking physical labor I had to go to through to get to where I was. My chronic pain wasn’t the occasional twinge of discomfort; it was like someone was weighing me down heavily with barbed wire.

I started OxyContin for my chronic pain when I was 49 years old. I’d resisted the urge to do so through two should operations and countless oral surgeries; but the older I got, the less inclined I felt to fight it anymore. I needed something to just get me through the day, and I didn’t think there was any chance of getting addicted at my age. I knew not to take the whole bottle. The thing about addiction is, however, what you know and what you do often exist in direct conflict. It took about four months for these pills completely dominate my life and nearly jeopardize everything I’d worked for throughout my career.

I didn’t even realize it was happening until one day, I discovered that I needed the pills to function. I’d lost about fifteen pounds, I was always breathing heavy, I began to get uncomfortable in fully-lit spaces and always kept the lights off in my office. To make matters worse, my pain was not going away anymore, not even a little at a time. It was always there, and so I began taking more pills. Then one day, during a particularly bad month, at work, I had what amounted to a nervous breakdown in the middle of a meeting. I threw everyone out of my office and just sat there and contemplated either resignation or suicide.

My colleague, incidentally the guy who stuck his neck out to get me this position, took me to dinner that night and told me about an executive OxyContin addiction treatment program in South Florida. At first I tried to deny my addiction and act indignant at the accusation, but there was no fooling him—there never was. So he said he’d square it with the rest of our team and keep feeding me all the work I could handle. He drove me back to my house, watched as I packed a bag and drove me to the airport the next morning, bright and early.

I never expected to last. I was almost fifty years and had no interest in hearing anybody tell me what was wrong with my life; however I kept thinking about my friend and all the strings he had to pull to get me in here and felt a sense of obligation to him. The more I stayed, the more I wanted to keep staying. I began to meet each challenge with more and more strength, until I felt like I could do anything. I even got treatment for hyperalgesia and sound advice for managing my pain going forward. I’ve been back to work for a year now, without a single slip up.

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