there’s something I have to tell you

Russell Lee, photographer, 1937
Library of Congress Collection

I’ve been doing this blog for almost a year now . . .

and I still haven’t told our whole story.

If I’m ever going to get it all out there, I’m going to have to be more consistent.

More organized.

More brave.

* * * * *

The writer Anne Lamott tweeted this the other day:

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories.

If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.

So, I’ve been thinking about it . . .

And I think I might be able to get away with that in twenty years.

Because I think that there are people who behaved badly in our story who might take offense . . . or worse . . .

But I need to tell you that there is a better way to deal with prescription drug addiction than what we experienced.

And I think that’s really what has to be told in our story.  

Because the more I read about prescription drug addiction, the more I believe that it’s a silent epidemic creeping into our church pews.

And I am convinced that the Church is completely ignorant about the danger and commonality of prescription drug addiction. And completely unprepared to deal with it.

If I never get the chance to write another word on this blog, I have to tell you some things. You just need to know.

I was listening to a popular Christian counseling show on the radio a month or so ago and heard the counselor (a very, very well-known author) actually say that anti-anxiety medications were NOT addictive.

I nearly crashed my car.

Where would he get that kind of mis-information?

It’s taking forever for the medical world to catch up with classifying drugs.

Warnings have just been sounded about Tramadol, the drug Dave was addicted to.

Only the ones that are flat-out addictive: morphine, etc — drugs most of my readers aren’t likely to have laying around the house — are strictly monitored. Most of the time, when people refer to addictive drugs, they mean these.

Meth and heroin are Schedule I drugs — illegal drugs, with no medical purpose.

Aderall and Ritalin are Schedule II drugs, right alongside Morphine and Oxycontin. Highly addictive drugs, referred to as controlled substances.

Some of the most commonly prescribed drugs on the market are NOT controlled substances, but have the potential to be addictive:

Valium

Xanax

Ambien

Tramadol

and

Vicodin — the number one prescribed drug in America —  131.2 million prescriptions in 2010.

An estimated 7 million Americans abuse pharmaceutical drugs. Prescription drugs account for about 75 percent of all drug-related U.S. overdose deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And three of every four deaths from pills involve opioid pain relievers including oxycodone. — Reuters

We are the most medicated country in the world.

There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about Shutting down pharmacies that made the naughty list with NIDA, and drug take back campaigns to get unused prescriptions out of homes.

“Most of us can’t go to our grandmother’s house and find cocaine, marijuana or methamphetamine, but we can find prescription painkillers.” Gil Kerlikowske

But it was a series of legitimate prescriptions that set Dave on the path of addiction.

What about doctors who prescribe and over prescribe?

What about pharmaceutical companies making a killing off our pains?

Is it necessary to prescribe Vicodin to a teenager with a cough?

Anti-anxiety medication — without any real evaluation –to someone who really just needs counseling?

Narcotics to someone who broke a finger? (Need more convincing? Read this.)

I’ve personally experienced this. This jump to prescribe after a five-minute conversation.

And one of these days, I’m going to lose it Erin Brokovich style.

Maybe I already have.

How many times have I had to write “prescription drug addiction” on the children’s family medical history before someone actually refers to that information? Do I have to tattoo it on their foreheads?

DO NOT make the mistake of thinking you and yours could never get addicted to prescription drugs.

**A WORD OF WARNING: If you or anyone you are concerned about is taking a potentially addictive drug, don’t go cold turkey.

You could die. You could become suicidal. 

Get medical help before ditching your legitimately prescribed pills.

I cannot emphasize this enough.

If you don’t believe me, read the fine print on the insert that comes with your medication.

If that doesn’t tell you these drugs are dangerous, I don’t know what would.

Make your voice heard until you find someone who cares.

Dump your doctor for one who will really test you and your kids before prescribing potentially addictive drugs.

And for goodness sake, check your work and medical benefits. 

We found out after Dave was asked to resign that his Christian employer’s benefits included 30 days of leave for rehab.

No one told us.

And there I go.

But these things have to be said.

No matter how sorry anyone is. No matter how much hindsight anyone has now.

You need to know.

We were good people. Seriously. If I told you how good, you would think I was lying.

Let’s just say this: great kids, leaders in high school — at school and at church, leaders in college, leaders in church, leaders in ministry. Not Party-ers. Not drinkers. And chaste. (Yep. There, I said it. Mock away or shake your head in disbelief.)

And yet. And YET. Prescription drug addiction nearly destroyed us.

Take a good, hard look.

This is what’s coming.

Christians have got to be ready

They weren’t ready for us.

And some of them should have behaved better.

12 thoughts on “there’s something I have to tell you

  1. I can almost hear you say: “Can I get an AMEN?” And I would say “Amen!!” 😉 GO Deb GO! I could not be more proud of you for using your voice! May God bless it all.

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  2. I have loved reading your blog as my story has so many parallels to yours. It can be hard living in Christian community where no one else is a drug addict, struggles with sexual purity, has trouble in their marriage…or so it seems as none of those topics are ever talked about openly. I look forward to reading about your “whole” story when you are ready to share it. I admire your courage!

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  3. Absolutely. 100% in agreement. Over medicated, under counseled, poorly educated and sadly addicted are words that describe a large population of the population that I see from our vantage point there is little we can do…dept of health considers pain the “5th vital sign” and not addressing it leaves room for lawsuits, hospitals are pursuing “customer satisfaction” nationally which makes an ER feel like a fast food chain (“would you like to supersize that and add fries to your order?”), and society at large wants a quick “fix” to whatever problem is/has emerged who believe they must have a diagnosis and a pill to treat it.. (speaking in generalities here). We see people for an acute few hours of their life, there’s no continuity of care because we are not designed to function as a PMD and what’s left is a overwhelming problems that is spreading like the plague. We are generally forbidden from calling anyone obese, promiscuous or addicted because its considered judgemental. We are able to help the emergent and acutely ill, but the rest are lost in the system with out real help and direction.
    ER nurse (15 years)

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    1. Your perspective as a nurse is a huge contribution to this post. Thank you!

      It’s true. We are an “on demand” society now and want instant fixes. Not only that, but like you said it’s our “right.” And if I say my pain is a ten, then that’s what you have to go on.

      I don’t think I did the links in this post correctly (I have so much to learn about blogs) but the last link was to this article which is an interesting commentary on our “fast fix” society: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/09/america-prescription-drug-addiction.

      Drug manufacturers need to take a great deal of heat for not adequately researching and appropriately marketing a few now-notorious drugs like tramadol. And I sincerely hope that happens. And, I think the nationwide prescription system they’re pushing for in Kentucky is also a good thing. It would be very helpful for an ER to be able to look someone up and see where and when they’ve gotten prescriptions — and they should be able to deny prescriptions for the same reason insurance would: beyond the limit. Seems like it would cut down the “doctor shopping.” If they can make a system to monitor Sudafed, they can certainly do it with any drug. It’s definitely a complex issue. Because as we limit access, the black market grows…

      Meanwhile, we have to take control of our own health and be vigilant. Knowing what the highly addictive drugs are and asking for an alternative is a good thing. Not allowing our teenage boys to be given Oxycontin is a good thing.

      Melinda, I’m glad you stick it out in the ER in spite of it all. Thank you!!

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  4. dear goodness. this hits REALLY close to home. I just discovered 2 months ago that my husband had been hiding an addiction to opiates (ie. oxycodone, percocet). His profession allowed him access so we were never hit financially. Though the reprecussions could have been devestating should he have been caught at his job. I had no idea. None. I was devestated when I discovered what was going on. Mostly because of the lying…really lying because of ommission. We too are really good people. Seriously, my hubby is the golden child:) We are very involved in our church and have an active faith. We were able to wean his use ourselves and he finally quit with non severe withdrawals. (he was not using a large amount by the time I discovered it). I am reading Beth Moore’s “When Godly People Do UnGodly Things”. That has been very, very helpful for me. I also am reading a fantastic read by Cindy Beall called “HEaling your Marriage when Trust has been broken”. It’s based on affairs, but in a way it is the same break of trust. I wish I could have found your blog a few months ago. It would have made me feel that I wasn’t alone.

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    1. Thank you for reading and for sharing your experience, I really appreciate that you commented and told your story.

      While I pray that this is really the end of addiction for your husband, opiate addiction is a terribly powerful thing and I think your husband really should get professional help. If he was taking pills that weren’t prescribed to him, he was seeking something. Talking to a counselor would be a very good thing. And a twelve step program to keep him on the right track so that you don’t have to. I didn’t even talk about Oxycontin in this post, because it needs it’s own post — it’s that bad.

      About seven years ago, after Dave went through rehab I got a letter from a friend of a friend who cautioned me about believing my husband was done with pills after his first round of rehab. I was optimistic about Dave’s recovery. And I didn’t pull the letter out again until three years later when I was at the end of my rope and desperately needed her advice.

      I’ve been fine-tuning a post about our many attempts at getting Dave off pills and I will post it soon. Every time I helped Dave get off pills I was sure it was going to be the last time. Confident that if God loved me, we wouldn’t go back there. If God loved Dave, He’d keep watch over him and keep him from temptation.

      Even though I was warned that most addicts relapse six times before full recovery, I was sure Dave was going to be different. He wasn’t. I had no idea how powerful pills really were. In fact, I am still amazed at what “good” people will do to get them once they are hooked. And how hard it is to break that bond. Too often, like for Dave, it takes hitting rock-bottom.

      I will be praying that your husband’s addiction is truly over. I DO believe that can happen. We are celebrating 4 1/2 years now of Dave being clean from pills after being told the odds of his recovery were 1 in 10.

      Deb

      PS. I will look up those books. Thank you for mentioning them.

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