15,000. Give or take a few is the number of opioid pills I’ve taken. I had a diagnosis and a reason. The political climate isn’t favorable towards the opioid industry. Those of us who manage pain on a regular, daily basis find relief and solace in the form of those geometrically, constructed chemicals. Little did I understand the impact those 15,000 pills would have on my entire life. Neither, my doctor nor myself, understood that the drug I was taking was addictive when she prescribed it for pain. However, now gazing 21 years at the future, the medical community knows that the small dose I took acted as an opiate.
I was offered a couple of choices this summer. I could remain on the drug and go to a pain management clinic or I could try to live without it. I chose the latter. I wish I had known sooner the impact that choice would make ricocheting through my life.
Pain has been a constant companion. I fake being well. I’m really good at it. Decades of solitude and platitudes taught me to hone my skills. The basic fear of my personality I’ve discovered is of being deprived and in pain. My fear became my reality for decades. In every life, major markers exist. I can recall certain events in my life with clarity because they forever changed me and the course of my life. The day I woke up sick. The day I got a diagnosis. The day I quit opioids.
One day I was healthy and the next, I woke to pain accompanied by fever and barely able to move. I stymied doctor after doctor. None could figure out the source of my pain. I remained in that unanswered, mind-battling state for a year and a half. Finally, I received a diagnosis. I was relieved and, dare I say, joyful. To have a diagnosis- Heck! Any diagnosis was preferable to the not knowing. My doctor began a round of treatment to fit my particular disease. A short time later, she added the opioid because the pain persisted. Two pills a day every morning and every evening. The new normal. No one told me or warned me that I would have a brain fog that grew steadily worse each year. Or that this inhibiting drug would begin to change my personality and suppress my responses. I lost my effervescence and zest for life.
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country … For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Hebrews 11:8-10
What does any of this story have to do with faith? Everything. During the time of not knowing, I turned and trusted in God to deliver me and to help me find joy in a life of constant pain and difficulty with no answers. Like Abraham, I was called to enter into a time of traveling with God until I came to the place to which He called me. My faith grew exponentially during that time. I fully relied on His strength to carry me through the valley of the shadow of death. Following the diagnosis, I praised Him for an answer and He carried me into a new journey of learning, growing, studying, and sharing His word. I did it through the pain, the bone-weary fatigue, the setbacks, and the comebacks with tears hoping for healing to which He responded; “No”. He reminded me that His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). That girl lived her life serving the Lord with hardship. She had many questions, doubts, hurts, and much was forgiven and healed. She served cheerfully and joyfully with physical and mental difficulties.
Today, I’m on a new journey with God. He carried me through the crucible of withdrawal buoyed by the prayers of some in my church family. Powerful prayers. I’m three months off of opiates and I’m the same yet different. I have new prayers and new horizons.
“How do you pick up the threads of an old life … when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back.” Frodo Baggins -The Return of the King movie
I’ve been talking with someone to help me sort everything out and integrate my old life with my new future. She says it’s as if I’ve awakened from a decades long coma. I thought that my personality had shifted but actually the light just got turned on. The person I’ve been for decades wasn’t exactly me. She was asleep. The person I’m becoming is the me I was decades ago before I woke up sick and in pain. I don’t exactly remember her. Many things I’ve thought about myself aren’t true and I’m having to relearn and rediscover who I am. I’m searching for myself. Those 15,000 pills changed me and how I saw and perceived myself in the world. I don’t know what the future holds. My diagnosis hasn’t gone away. I still have pain. I’m only managing it differently. But this one thing I do know – God is good all the time. I can build my life on that truth.