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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Your Dying Spouse 227 - Addicted

We're linked with Messy Marriage's From Messes To Messages, a compendium of really good marriage resources. Please visit!

First - my wife is the featured employee in her company's newsletter. If you'd like to learn about this remarkable lady, please click here. (The company for which she works, Southwest Re, offers reinsurance for cars, RVs, and a whole lot of other things. To learn more about them, please visit their website. It's a great company, and Barbara has found a home there.)

Now, on to addiction.

No one wants to be an addict, dear Caregiver, but if your terminally ill husband or wife has been on narcotic pain meds for any period of time, chances are that you are dealing with exactly that.

Please note that I am neither a doctor nor a pharmacologist nor a psychologist. I'm just a dude who's gone through the cycle of physical addiction, several times.

The cause is well-understood - one takes pain meds to control pain (no, duh?) and as the body gets used to the chemical changes they impart (blocking the pain receptors) the effect lessens. Thus, the need for a higher dosage.

And, obviously, as the illness takes its toll, pain gets worse, and dosage has to be increased.

What happens is that the body gets used to the old dosage, and makes allowances for what is, really, something of a poison. Effectiveness diminishes, but as the dosage is ramped up the side-effects become worse.

And the side-effects are pretty terrible. One develops a need for the next 'hit'. I remember counting the hours, then the minutes until my next does. Pain would be going past any mental boundary I could set up, and yet...the clock ticked on. Slowly.

I lived from dose to dose. In between, I was a different person. I knew who I was, and who I was supposed to be, but there was a gauze curtain too thick to penetrate that kept me away from that. I made decisions that, in undrugged reflection, left me aghast. My tongue was loosed, and I said things that should never have been said.

That is the reality of opioid addiction. You're not yourself. And at some level, you know it.

People react differently; some try to wean themselves off pain meds completely, when they hate what they're becoming; the pain is better than the loss of self-respect, at least for awhile. Or they quit cold-turkey, and go through a withdrawal process that's nothing short of hell on earth (which is what I've done, several times).

Some simply accept the need for medication and accept the changes that go with it.

And some, unfortunately, develop a need for ever-increasing dosages, and if left to themselves may mix medications, or use pain meds with alcohol, all for a stronger effect. I can't blame them; I've been so far down that I would have done anything to lift the weight of pain, even for a short time. When I had insurance these episodes led me to the ER, and I so looked forward to that first quiet soothing rush of IV morphine or demerol hitting my nervous system.

It's a tough road for the caregiver; you have to gauge where your mate is, psychologically and physically, and sometimes you have to steo in, whether it's talking the patient out of quitting cold-turkey, or keeping the medicine under lock and key so that extra pills can't be quietly slipped away.

But wherever you are in this, dear caregiver, don't do it alone. Talk (privately, if necessary) to your spouse's doctor, and by all means either work with a counselor, support group, or trusted friend who's walked this road.

Much to my surprise, I decided to participate in a '31 Days' blogging exercise; rather than interrupt the flow of this post, I have another blog established, "Starting The Day With Grace". The focus is a grace quote from someone you might not expect (like, say Ariel Sharon) and a short commentary.

And now that October's over...I'm going to keep it going.  I hope you'll join me.

Marley update...he's in danger from the county authorities and NEEDS HELP TO BE SAVED.


He's up over 200,000 signatures, but the local authorities are now actively planning to kill him. They've removed him from the official ownership of his family. They think that we'll give up and go away. We won't.

If you have a moment, I'd like to ask you to visit Change.org to consider a petition to free a 'death row dog' who has been separated from his family for ten months over a misunderstanding. Marley was saved from Afghanistan by a US serviceman; please help make sure this story doesn't end in needless tragedy! Marley's gotten a lot of support...but he still needs our help.

If you can, please do leave a comment. I am trying to answer all, and I am failing, but please know this - I read and treasure each one.

Below are my recent releases on Kindle -please excuse their presence in the body of the blog. I haven't the energy to get them up as 'buttons' in the sidebar. You can click on the covers to go to the Amazon links.


  1. Wow. Now I really want to meet Barbara. What an interview! We have so many common interests. And you bought her a violin?! Best husband ever, Andrew. I hope she learns to make it sing!
    I never thought of pain medicine as poison but it makes a lot of sense.
    I learned that my body has a placebo response to hydrocodone when my first daughter was born. I just didn't know that it had different names. They offered loratab to supplement my 8 hour ibuprofen (my wonderdrug). Well, it didn't do anything.
    When I was experiencing pregnancy pain in a severe way halfway through my last daughter's pregnancy, they tried to let me have Vicodin. Same thing. Nothing happened.

    But, my sister is the opposite. She had no reaction whatsoever to oxycodone (Percocet). I, however, was so appreciative of its direct nerve targeting after having a tooth pulled with local (wisdom tooth after that third baby came).

    But enough about drugs and if they work or don't. Thank you for sharing your joy in the midst of great suffering.
    Barbara is shining in that interview and I know the love you have poured into her is part of her stamina.
    Congratulations on being a couple that works through ALL your vows. You shine bright!

    1. Tammy, thanks so much! Barb always wanted to learn to play the violin - she's taken lesson, but with the pressure of work had to stop. She'll get back to it.

      Thanks so much for sharing your and your sister's experiences with pain meds. I'm lucky in comparison - most of them do work on me.

      For what it's worth, a doctor told Barb that what I am going through is like childbirth that never, ever ends, same level of pain. Obviously I can't speak to that (though I have assisted at birthings). But today was up in the 'ghastly' realm.

      Barb does shine. I'm so proud of her.

      Love back, from both of us.

  2. This is an aspect of opioid addiction that I have not considered. Here in coastal Maine the problem is devastating.
    Thanks for putting the spot light on that great wife!

    1. It's pretty bad in New Mexico, too, Michele. Thanks so much for the kind thoughts for Barbara - she really appreciates it!

  3. So powerful and vulnerable, Andrew! I can't imagine being in your shoes and not getting hooked on painkillers. When my shingles first hit I didn't want to take the painkiller the dr prescribed me because I'd just seen a show that talked about a woman who got hooked on this very same painkiller and she ended up killing her husband to hide her addiction! So I didn't take it until my sis in law who's a nurse told me that if I used it like prescribed, I'd be fine. But it's surely not something to mess with and especially challenging for the caretaker. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Beth, your sister's right - taking pain meds exactly a directed is safe, and wise, because pain itself does bad things to both body and soul.

      In a long-term situation it can be pretty difficult, because the effect does wear off and meds have to be changed...and during that changeover withdrawal can start. It's really, really awful, and the temptation to got back to the old regime can be very tempting.

      Thanks so much for being here - and you are in my prayers.

  4. Guess what? My hubs is his company's MVP for the month of November!!! How about that. I love Barb! But I knew I would.

    1. Congratulations! And I passed on your comment to Barb. She's thrilled.

  5. Good to get to know Barb in this interview! Thank you for sharing...

    As for addictions...can't say "I know of what you speak"; though there have been times I've been given something for pain that really made me feel "loopy" and I said "no more!" I can handle pain, to an extent; but don't want that feeling!

    Still praying and sending hugs to you both...congrats to Barb!

    And, for clarification...since I had to create a new blog, my "name" shows up as BarbaraL; I can't even remember what it was before!!! But it is I from "Scrapper123.blogspot.com"; now from "journeyingthroughhardtimes.blogspot.com"

    1. Barbara, I'm so glad you enjoyed meeting Barbara (That feels weird to write...)

      I hate that loopy feeling, too. Pain is easier. At least I'm still me.

      Thanks so much for the prayers and hugs! And I am going to your new site now.