when medical professionals refuse to take addiction recovery seriously

When a recovering addict tells you repeatedly that what you are offering is his poison, there has to be a way to make sure you don’t hand him a death sentence in a tiny paper cup.

A couple of weeks back, I sat in an emergency room for nine hours, working on my book, and journaling the day.

There’s a protocol for when you are over 40 and say you have chest pain. We’ve been there before and it’s always been something else, just like it was this time. It’s just what they do.

It was surreal, really. In addition to the number of times Dave was asked if he wanted something for his pain (after repeatedly saying he would not because he was recovering from prescription drug addiction — 8 years clean), we heard the ER doc give the guy next door Dave’s former drug of choice Tramadol (plus Percocet for good measure) for his pain and send him merrily on his way.

I overheard the entire transaction loud and clear and if I was not the reserved, shy person I am, I’d have given him a piece of my mind. I was reading this framed document on the wall of Dave’s room during the exchange and the irony was palpable (you don’t need to read it all, the point is that there are guidelines to provide the “safest, most appropriate pain relief for patients and to prevent the misuse of prescription pain medications”):

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I get that an ER is a crazy place. I have friends who are ER nurses, friends who’ve been the doctor on duty, family who have worked the desk. I know, too, that the prescription drug epidemic is unreal and there are multiple ideologies out there for treatment. I get that.

But when a recovering addict tells you repeatedly that what you are offering to him might as well be poison, there has to be a way to make sure you don’t hand him a death sentence in a tiny paper cup.

Dave and I discussed for hours afterward what could be done to prevent a recovering addict from being barraged over nine hours with, “I can give you something for your pain” as though they were being tested by Satan in the wilderness. Our answer was, there’s a whiteboard in the room, there’s a chart outside the room: WRITE IT DOWN.

It’s as deadly serious as any allergy or any other underlying condition and for the love of decent medical care, something has to be done to stop the madness.

And believe me, this was NOT the first time we’ve had this experience. When you look like a nice enough person, very few people take “I’m a recovering prescription drug addict” seriously. I have watched this happen over, and over, and over.

Today’s news hits the importance of this message out of the park. So much so, that it prompted Dave to write on Facebook about his recent experience:

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Heartbreaking and important that you read this.

The Young Woman Whose Addiction Story Touched Obama’s Heart Has Died
As someone in recovery (8+ years clean), this story hits far too close to home. I recently had some health issues that required a trip to the ER. I told everyone at the start that I was in recovery for pain pill addiction and could not have narcotics or pain medication.

I told the triage team, the primary nurse, the tech in the ER and the techs in the nuclear medicine area, and the ER doctor. I told everyone. An in spite of this, I was asked if I needed “something for the pain” on SIX DIFFERENT OCCASIONS. [actually, it was seven]

I know they were attempting to be compassionate and helpful, but it could have been tragic.
Thank goodness I had Deborah Beddoe sitting with me to help keep me accountable, as well as tools from my recovery work to keep me from saying, “yes”. It is an incredible temptation at the best of times and more difficult when vulnerable.

Let’s support any law, best practice or system that helps avoid this and helps someone in recovery who might be just barely hanging on. A color coded card on the door. A bold note in the chart. A software solution. Or maybe just continuing to take recovery seriously.
I’m still clean, alive and thankful for every day. I want that for everyone who struggles with addiction and I believe we have an opportunity to help those who have chosen to address their issue by refusing to add unnecessary temptation.

— Dave Beddoe

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By the way, the ER doc never did quite figure out what was wrong with Dave.  Turns out he may have had some sort of virus…jury is still out on that one.

But I can’t forget the last thing the doc said to him when he released Dave, “You know, the way I’d treat this is to give you something for the pain, but…”

Number 7. Giving him one last chance to say please.

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Friends, please share this message. And if you want to wander over to Facebook and follow Enduring and After or Jackson’s Light (written by a woman in our community who lost her teenage son to a prescription drug and is shouting this message from the rooftops) for news updates you can read share about the prescription drug addiction epidemic, please do.

 

dear friend who is up late, online, and searching for answers

There’s exponentially more information online now, and experts to chat with at all hours…but I think, more than anything, we just want to know we’re not alone: Someone like me has been through what I’m going through and she survived.

I was never a chat room sort of gal — which is a shame because if I had been, I might’ve found someone to talk to late at night when the quiet house amplified the voices in my head. Instead, I searched endlessly for answers.

I still search, but with less desperation and mainly when I’m worried about my own health issues. I nearly always regret those sorts of searches…not super helpful for inducing sleep…my mind always goes to the worst and the internet freely offers it.

Anyway, I ask a lot of questions in real life now — about things I never would have years ago:

Is this normal?

What would you do?

How can I know for sure?

What if he doesn’t?

What if it’s true?

The answers aren’t always reassuring, but they’re offered by people who know me and care. People don’t always have the right answer either. But I care less now about getting the exact right answer than I do about having someone who will listen to my fears and not dismiss them as silly or faithless.

One real life – around the corner – in your kitchen – on the phone – friend is worth more than a thousand far away. That’s a proverb of sorts.

Trouble is, she’s not always awake when you are. And sometimes, there are things you don’t even dare to ask her…

Who did we ask before Google? Oh yeah, Jeeves…but who before that? I know my answer: Nobody. I kept the hardest questions to myself and they weighed heavy on my heart and mind and kept me awake for hours into the night.

I remember the first time I searched for Tramadol forums online. My first search, more than a decade ago, yielded sellers with ridiculous pages packed with search words. You had to hunt for a page that offered actual help and conversation — maybe you’ve experienced that, too. What I found eventually were conversations that held the beginnings of warnings about the power of this prescription drug. Even people breaking free from heroin recounted near-death experiences of withdrawal from Tramadol. Page after page was filled with harrowing stories of this new drug. I found nothing at all to encourage me.

There’s exponentially more information online now, and experts to chat with at all hours…but I think, more than anything, we just want to know we’re not alone: Someone like me has been through what I’m going through and she survived.

I wonder, dear friend who is up late, online, and searching for answers if that’s what you want, too? Maybe underneath the impulse to click and scroll for facts and knowledge, what you really want to know is: is it going to be okay?

And you know, just like I do, nobody has that answer. Not really. But you click, and scroll, and read and repeat til you are exhausted enough to finally sleep.

* * * * *

Two weeks ago, I was writing the story of our life together — Dave’s and mine — going back a long way. It was almost our 24th anniversary and that, combined with a revived passion to get the whole story down on paper made me feel especially reflective. Our story spans decades now: years of migraine headaches, years of addiction, years of recovery…years and years of feeling alone in suffering and in shame.

Right now, maybe all your deepest questions are unanswered — unspoken. Maybe you only see despair, discouragement, darkness.

I think so many times it’s only in the looking back that you really see.

We sang a song at church the other day, and it hit me all at once and nearly knocked me down. I got home and opened my notebook and across the page where I’d meticulously graphed the details of our history together — all the unspoken troubles behind the smiling faces in a gazillion photographs from 24 years– I wrote this line:

Never once did we ever walk alone.

Oh friend, I know that’s not the answer you came looking for, but it’s probably the most true and honest answer I can give. Whatever it is, however lonely it feels, you aren’t walking by yourself. Not really. Not ever.

Whether it’s worry rendering you sleepless, or fear, or anger, or hurt, or grief, or confusion — whatever it is, whatever you are suffering, God is with you even when it doesn’t feel like He’s answering your questions.

My prayer for you tonight is rest. And peace that passes understanding. Someday, you will look down from a mountain, not up from this valley, but you need strength for the journey. He provides for you, even in your sleep. *

Here’s a song for you — a lullaby — to remind you: you’re not alone.

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 *Psalm 127:2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.