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Refugee of the Opioid Crisis

Tylenol is a 4-letter-word.

I'm a huge advocate for long term opioid treatment. I have to be—I was on Percocet for 9 years following my fibromyalgia trigger event. I fell down some stairs in October 2009 and I've been in pretty horrific pain 24 hours a day ever since.

We were hearing rumblings about losing our meds back in 2017. I chose to take matters into my own hands. I felt that it would be a not-more-than-3-month break from the meds but fate had other plans. 

I only told two people of my plan. I did my homework. I weaned down. Finally, I took that last pill. 

Here was my big test. If I was addicted, I would be looking at a long period of time being dope sick. If I was only dependent because I needed them? I didn't know what to expect.

Two days. Feeling like the flu. On day 3, I woke up in more pain than I could ever have imagined. I knew it was time to find new pain management, but I also figured that my break—no matter how much I hurt—was going to be good for me.

Fate had other ideas, though. Dad got sick. I had to go back and forth between Denver and Oklahoma City on short notice for a while. 

There were a few short rounds of Percocet after some dental surgery.  No biggie.

Then Dad died. I was numbed. I didn't know how to function either with or without opioids. The waves of grief washed over me like a tsunami with no warning. They still do on occasion. 

After the funeral, life somewhat turned back to normal. My marriage had already been on its deathbed. The final rattle came in December. I was done. He wasn't listening, but I was done. Done with the abuse and the alcoholism. Done with being blamed for everything on the planet that went wrong. 

If I had stayed, my next stop would have been either the hospital or the morgue. We had been living apart because he had some family obligations, so planning my flight to freedom was easier than it could have been. 

Plans change—things got postponed. I broke out in shingles. More Percocet while I suffered. The second that rash was gone, moved forward with my plans to run.

I had already made arrangements as to where I was going, but whenever I asked for a divorce, I was accused of being belligerent. 

And then I was gone. Everything in my 20-year-old Jeep and a U-haul. 

I told him after I had landed. 

He accused me of having a psychotic break. Actually, he still thinks I'm coming back.

I'm not.

It took me close to a year to find a new doctor in my new home. The opioid war is in full blown battle. I have heard the words Tylenol and advice more times than I would like.

Tylenol for chronic pain is like fighting a forest fire with a squirt gun.

Heard them again this week.

I had to go to the ER when my feet began to look like little Patriot deflated footballs and the pain was out of control. They admitted me. In the ER, they medicated me. Once they got me upstairs, it became Percocet—at half the dose I used to be on.

I woke up on day 3 to the doctor telling me that they were discharging me.

She asked me if I had driven myself. I couldn't even walk, yet here I was being asked if I had driven.

I asked if I could have one more pain pill before I left. She told me to make sure I didn't miss my bullshit pain management appointment that was still three weeks away and that Tylenol would be enough.

I was shocked. 

This wonderful saint of a nurse came in. I asked her if she knew I was being discharged. She said, “I heard everything. I already called supervisors to complain. Would you like one pain pill or two?” 

Other than that one woman, I feel like collateral damage, or a refugee, or something.

Chronic pain patients are being ignored. We mean nothing. Our doctors are being punished for trying to help us.

But I still have hope. I have a voice and I'm trying to be heard. 

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Refugee of the Opioid Crisis
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