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.
WE ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!
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.