The addiction was to a point now where it had completely consumed my every thought, emotion, and entire existence. I couldn’t live without the pills. In fact I couldn’t do anything without them. They had taken over my entire life. I was failing at every relationship I had and was definitely in jeopardy of losing my job and even my freedom at this point. I had done things that were completely against my good judgment and were illegal. I felt lost and stuck and that there was no way out. I never really thought of killing myself, though I took so many pills that there were many times that I went to bed at night thinking I might not wake up tomorrow and that would be perfectly fine with me. I was beyond depressed and I spent all my time in bed and at home with all the blinds shut. I was high from the moment I woke up till the time I passed out at night, and the further gone I could be, the better. I couldn’t even get out of bed without rolling over to take my pills first. The addiction was ugly. I was running shorter and shorter each month and having to do more in order to just keep myself from getting sick. I couldn’t live like this any longer and I didn’t have any idea how I was going to stop.
I can remember the day as if it was just yesterday. The images and emotions of how I felt that day are very vivid in my mind still today, which is what I believe keeps me from ever going back to that way of life. I was lying in bed and had been sick sweating and shaking from head to toe for 2 days. I had run out of Oxy’s and I couldn’t refill my prescription for another 24 hours. The pain I felt throughout my body was intense. The withdrawals were unbearable. And suddenly, I had an intense feeling that there was just no way I could go on one more second without these pills. And immediately following that thought came another thought that I couldn’t imagine putting another one of these friggin' things in my body ever again. I had no idea what to do, but I did know I needed help. This was the day I surrendered. Step one says "We admitted we were powerless over pills and that our lives had become unmanageable." This was an understatement for me. My life was completely unmanageable! So… I ended up calling an addictionologist and told him I needed help! Just like that… I NEED HELP! I remember him asking me if I could make it to the ER. I told him no way was I going to be able to go sit in the ER. I was way too sick. He must have heard in my voice that I was done, because this same doctor was not this willing to help me months before. He told me to go to the hospital in an hour and that he would have a room reserved for me to be admitted. So… I went! It was hell… but I went. When I got to the hospital, it took them only about an hour from the time I checked in at the desk to the time I was in a bed upstairs in my own room. Thank God, cause I honestly don’t think I could have put up with more than that. The next 5 days I spent in the hospital were filled with shots in my stomach. These are the same shots that someone addicted to heroin receives. I was on such high doses of Oxycontin and had been on it for so long that this was the only way to get me off of them safely. And though the shots were definitely no walk in the park… I would do it that way again to keep the withdrawal symptoms from being so horrific. 5 shots in the stomach the 1st day, then 4 shots the 2nd , 3 the 3rd and so on… I am SO grateful for my addictionologist. I am so grateful that he heard my desperation that day and opted to help me. I honestly think that I would have died had I not gotten help when I did. Since that I day, I have been willing to do whatever it takes to stay clean and sober. I got a sponsor, I made all my follow up visits with my addictionologist and I did service work. I made friends in the fellowship and stayed in the middle…
Today, I have just over 3 years of sobriety and my life couldn’t be better. I have so much to be grateful for in my life. I notice little miracles in my life every day and I have a wonderful relationship with all those that I had thought I ruined while I was active in my addiction. I have a beautiful relationship with my higher power who I choose to call God and he enriches my life on a daily basis in ways I never knew possible.
I think it is so important that you be thorough when you do step 1. You can't do this one half heartedly. Trust me, if you do this deal… you will find a happiness greater than you have ever known. My journey has been a difficult one at times, but I am a better, stronger person because of everything I have gone through. Now I have a purpose in life. I love to help other addicts. There is no bigger gift than to pass on what I have been given.
“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
I grew up in an extended family where sarcasm and judging others was an art form. I prided myself that I could carry a resentment to the grave. All of my resentments were justified. Of course, I was drinking poison hoping the other person would die. Put another way, I was setting myself on fire hoping the other person would die of smoke inhalation. I always assumed the worst intentions of others, and reacted accordingly. Consequently, fear and anxiety were always a large part of my personality. Dishonesty, either overtly or covertly (by omission) was a constant problem. I had unrealistic expectations of myself and others (family, friends, employees, associates). I could walk into a room and take everyone’s inventory. The concept of unconditional acceptance was foreign to me.
My first time in recovery lasted six years. I never got a sponsor and never did the steps. I would do meetings and look for the differences rather than the similarities of everyone else. My attitude was one of controlling everyone and everything. I would never admit to being wrong. I lectured and advised only. Needless to say, even though I didn’t use, I was a “dry drunk”, hanging on by my fingernails. Relapse was inevitable. I went back out for three years.
By the grace of God, I got back into recovery. I have a sponsor, I have done the steps several times. I have taken many sponsees through the steps. I go to meetings on a daily basis. Most importantly, I have totally embraced the spirituality of our program. I take spot check inventories of myself throughout the day. I determine if I am being selfish, dishonest, resentful, or fearful. When I am aware that I am wrong, I try to promptly admit it and make an amends. Often my admission comes later that day or even the next day. Before bedtime, I take a daily inventory to check myself and ask my higher power for strength and forgiveness. If I’ve harmed anyone, I check my motives.
Today, my recovery is my first priority. Without it, I have nothing. Relapse is not an option. Like anything else, practice makes perfect. It has definitely been progress rather than perfection. This is a program of action.
I enjoy a peace and serenity today unlike any time in my past life. This step has given me the gift of humility.
Step 12 – Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry
this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
I believe step 12 is the most important step in maintaining the continuity of the program. I can now sit down with another addict and convey a level of understanding no one else can. I have “Street Cred” and can say to him or her, “ I’ve been there…I understand what you’re feeling”. Because of my experiences, we can now cross self-perceived barriers of communication and can now understand each other in a very special and meaningful way.
The twelfth step in summary is about faith. When I talk to a new addict, I don’t talk about things I believe. I talk about what I know from my experience. Step twelve guarantees a promise that if we take the first eleven steps, we will have a spiritual awakening. I believe though, that each addict experiences their own spiritual awakening, and that no two are alike. It’s a very personal thing, as we are each unique individuals with different experiences in our history. Even though no two will be exactly alike, there is one common theme in that the addict will soon be able to think, believe and feel things he or she couldn’t before.
My own personal message is fairly simple, as I strive to not only “carry” the message, but also “carry out” the message. I know that what other addicts do with it is not my responsibility. I find myself at times, trying to get people to believe who are not yet willing to believe. I know that this is something the individual must do on their own; he or she must go through their own suffering to become willing to change. When I’ve carried the message and the addict relapses or doesn’t respond to our message, I cannot assume responsibility. We must remember that recovery comes through the message and the power of the steps, not from or due to the messenger. We simply cannot wish that he or she knew what we know or we would just teach the tools of recovery by transference. The new addict has to start where we started. I find it helpful to think about my own recovery journey and how I thought in the beginning. The fellow addict has to start wherever he is and go through the steps one-by-one, just as I have.
There have been a few instances when I tried to reach out to an addict, but couldn’t because I don’t always get to choose. I’m glad we don’t always have the right to choose who we get to help, because I might not have been chosen. As a health care provider, I often interact with addicts. My job has been to carry the message and offer my own personal experience, strength and hope. I am always careful though, to remember that I cannot make him or her willing. He/she has to become willing to let go, and I can then say, “This is what worked for me”. I have seen the program work for me in many phases of my life. My faith and knowledge can hopefully enable a fellow addict to believe and experience their own spiritual awakening as a result of the steps.
When I look back at my own life, and in particular, the last 5-10 years, I see that the first eleven steps brought amazing changes in my life and gave me the most powerful spiritual experiences. The steps and program have changed me personally, professionally, and spiritually including behaviors that began long before my pill addiction. I have been challenged to reflect on my own paradigm and goals in life. I am a more mature person and have grown from following the first eleven steps, even further by carrying the message of hope in recovery.
When I see the power of the message being carried out by a fellow addict working a successful program, I receive my own gift of strength and hope in my own recovery. I am continually indebted to those who inspire me to maintain sobriety from pills. It solidifies the promise that the program works if you work it. We all know nothing worth having is easy, and the twelve-step program is no exception. For those own want a better and stronger life, the results are worth the means.
In summary, I must add that the twelfth step is not the end of the program. When an addict works through the steps, he/she in no way completes the requirements and “graduates”. We must continually remind ourselves that recovery is a journey, not a destination. One must always strive to continually carry the message to other addicts. We must seek to re-examine ourselves and our program of recovery as we return to step one principles and re-work through the steps from the beginning. I know that if I personally live by these principles, I will be content and have peace. Most importantly, I will be free from the pills that used to enslave me and make my life miserable.
The first tradition states “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon P.A. unity.” I did not think of this very much until one day I was reading on the Twelve Traditions of AA and the author talked about how he introduced himself in meetings.
I thought about that for quite a while. I would introduce myself as an addict, alcoholic while some in the meetings would reverse it and say they were alcoholic, addicts. There were those too that said they were addicts, those that said they were addicts of everything and then those that said they were Pill addicts.
I was sitting in a Pills Anonymous meeting, where the only requirement for membership was the desire to stop using Pills, declaring that I was also an alcoholic, this was setting myself apart from the others. The guy sitting next to me, that never drank a drop of alcohol in his life, but was a Pill Addict, was different than me. Right from the start. We would always have a hard time identifying with each other because we were different, I said it, I added the “alcoholic” to the mix.
It became very apparent to me that if this deal was going to work for me, I had to stop setting myself apart, starting with a little PA unity. I started introducing myself as “a Pill Addict”. After a couple of meetings someone came to me after the meeting and asked me if I stopped thinking I was an alcoholic. I said no, but we were in a Pills meeting and my alcoholism was getting in the way of PA unity. The very next meeting, that person started introducing them self as “a Pill Addict”. A couple of weeks later, one of the meeting old timers (like there are any real old-timers in PA) came over and asked why the change in the introduction, we told her and now she is “a Pill Addict”.
I’ve talked about it at a couple of meetings, but for the most part I think it goes right over most people’s heads, but it was way over my head for quite some time. We, or I should say I, have been “different”, “unique” all of my life, I was “different”, and “unique” when I got to these rooms so why would anyone else not be.
For now I will continue my quiet campaign for PA unity, introducing myself as a “Pill Addict”, talking about it whenever the first Tradition is the topic and quietly answering questions about my introduction. I hope I don’t get jaded and crass to the point where I pound my fist and yell we are in a Pills Anonymous meeting why is everyone saying they are alcoholic. Many of us have “other addictions” and for one reason or another could not find a home in the “other anonymous” meetings, for that I will forever be grateful. Because that is why we have PA today. Someone could not find a home in one of the other meetings. Some say it was Dr. Paul O, some say it wasn’t, but I say Thank You, because now I have a home. I am a Pill Addict and PA is my home… Welcome Home!
When I came into the world of recovery I had no idea what to expect. After 13 very long and painful days in a detoxification facility I entered a 30 day drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. I had no reasonable understanding of what an addict was. In truth, I wasn’t sure what I was, I just knew I wanted to be different. While in rehab we were encouraged to attend off campus 12 step meetings and I gingerly tried a few here and there. I met some other pill addicts in rehab and they were all a-buzz about Pills Anonymous. I, myself, was not ready to fall into that comfortable niche because I was not done abusing pills. I attended a few PA meetings, but everything sounded so familiar and so hopeful and I was not ready for that yet.
Not more than 3 months out of rehab I had a relapse. I say relapse like it was subtle or gentle; like it was something less than pitiful and destructive. My last day of drug abuse I was so frightened of what was happening to me that I ran to the nearest emergency room and promptly (and very dramatically) fell apart. They promptly (and not so dramatically) transferred me to a psychiatric ward where I spent 24 hours being evaluated.
The next morning my husband showed up to sign me out and much to my amazement he was angry and said he didn’t care what I did as long as I didn’t do it around him or my daughter anymore. In essence I was banned from home. During that long night and even longer ride home that morning I contemplated my future. My husband graciously guaranteed provision and I could live anywhere I chose; just not at home with him. I could do whatever I wanted, but I wasn’t going to drag my family through the pain anymore. “It’s not because I don’t love you” he said, “I just can’t watch you do this anymore”.
Do what? Live? This was how I knew to live. It felt dark and dreary, but it’s what I knew... how to get to the next oblivion. I also knew that there were people out there like me who were happy. Okay, they looked happy, but were they really?
With our daughter sent to live with my Mother and Father-in-Law I was left with some time to plan my next step. My first step was to come to a Pills Anonymous meeting. I walked in late and they were laughing and having a good time. “They’re laughing at you” my brain raced. “They know you’re worthless and lost. They KNOW!” Reality check! What they were doing was recovering and sharing. They were walking through their joys and sorrows together. They had what I wanted. AND they let me come in.
I was sincerely welcomed. I was introduced to everyone and specifically to other women. I was given the locations of another PA meeting and I attended that one too. In my haze of self absorption I was asked to read preambles and traditions and I had no idea how much the Third Tradition would really mean to me until months later.
When I came to meetings I was not always happy. In fact I was usually unhappy and felt it only logical that my stubbornness was an asset. I brought my PA friends my pain. I brought them my drama. I brought myself the way I was and they always let me come in. I heard a lot of “Keep Coming Back” and thought it was personal praise. I was so important that they wanted me to come back! Ego and all, I was always allowed in. The only requirement for membership was a desire to stop abusing…. That was it, and I definitely had that. And gradually I brought my happiness and triumphs over addiction.
I lived in a half-way house for women for nine months of my sobriety. The house had random drug tests and mandatory 12 step meeting each day; a true blessing in disguise for me. At home with my husband there were requirements for me to be allowed to stay. Everywhere I looked I felt like there were monstrous requirements for me to maintain. Everywhere but Pills Anonymous.
I passed a lot of judgment on others and if it had been up to me alone, there are many people I would not have allowed into PA. I wanted it all for myself for fear of losing my progress. Exclusive rights and membership! I am certain that this is why the Third Tradition exists. With people like me in charge there would be no successes in pill addiction recovery. With people like me in charge I would end up being the only member, and that my friends would be VERY bad!
I am alive today in part because of the Third Tradition. My acceptance of the first three steps is paramount to faith in a power greater than myself: my God. Acceptance and Faith are at the core of my sobriety, but it is that Third Tradition that allows people like me in the door and consistently welcomes us back. In the first days of sobriety it seemed like an insurmountable requirement, but today I know that desire was the only thing I had for a while. Today I have deep gratitude for that succinctly laid out tradition. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using pills.
Tradition Five: “Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the prescription drug addict who still suffers.”
Although I had admitted I was an alcoholic and had managed not to take a drink in years, I continued taking the pills.
My home life as a child was chaotic and abusive. Growing up amongst two alcoholic parents, I never felt safe and lived in a constant state of fear. I had my first panic attack at the age of 19 and at 25, was diagnosed with panic disorder and social phobia. Shortly thereafter, my doctor prescribed to me the benzodiazepine tranquilizer Xanax (alprazolam), which I came to believe was the miracle drug. It completely calmed me down and took away all my anxiety. It now allowed me to do things which I had come to avoid, such as flying and public speaking.
When I was medicated, I would think, “Wow, this is how normal people must feel.” While I still occasionally attended 12-step meetings, I didn’t have a sponsor and never worked the steps. I still considered myself a recovering alcoholic, even though I was still taking mind-altering substances and not being honest with myself. As the years went by, the more psychologically dependent I became on the pills. Although I wasn’t yet taking them daily, I wouldn’t leave my house without them. I had a stash of them in pretty little pill boxes in my purse and in every room and closet. I would count them, even when I still had large quantities left. I began to fear that my doctor would one day cut me off and then what would I do? How would I survive? I gradually became more and more anxious and was now also depressed. Strangely, I also began having bouts of agoraphobia, as well. Unfortunately, what I didn’t know at the time was it was actually the pills that were causing me to feel this way, not my natural state of being. I began taking more pills to feel better – which was now every day. Within seven weeks of taking Xanax daily, as prescribed by my doctor, I was now physically dependent on the drug. Since I had experienced withdrawal from alcohol in the past, I had a hunch I was in trouble when my last dose of Xanax began to produce intense withdrawal symptoms within 4 hours, stronger and much more unusual than I had ever experienced. I don’t believe I ever completely comprehended what physical dependence really meant until it had its grip on me with this prescription drug. When I drank, sure I would feel shaky the next day and it usually took me a few days to get back to feeling “normal” again. However, the duration and severity that drug dependence from sedatives create is a beast of its own uniqueness. What I didn’t know was how long the withdrawal was going to last and it was a good thing I didn’t. Not only did I encounter a wide range of physical symptoms, but it was actually what this drug did to my mind which made me hit my bottom. Because I refused to take another dose, I quickly became mentally unstable and had to check myself into a psychiatric ward. I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. I felt as if I was now living in a heavy fog - some sort of my own bizarre bubble, barely able to function. I was having auditory and visual hallucinations. My memory had become temporarily disabled and I was unable to write a legible sentence. I was hypersensitive to light and sound and tinnitus had taken over, so loud and persistent it was almost unbearable. My perception was now completely distorted, as I felt I was viewing life looking out a window, but knowing I was still looking through my eyes. Then the periods of mania came, which quickly shifted to uncontrollable tears and panic. After the first couple days in the unit, I refused to take any more pills to stabilize me, as nothing was helping. I would not advise anyone to stop taking sedatives cold turkey as I did, but my thought was psych meds such as these were what got me here. The period of my withdrawal was a staggering 18 months.
I was so lucky to find the program of Pills Anonymous, which has become my anchor throughout my recovery from the living hell I experienced in mind, body and spirit due to the effects of this dangerous drug addiction. My friends, other prescription drug addicts in this program, served as a warm blanket to me at a time when I literally felt I was losing my mind. Before discovering Pills Anonymous, I was living in my own world of an arcane darkness that seemed endless, completely disconnected from myself and my higher power, longing for the life I once knew, due to the occurrence of rapid changes and depletion in my brain chemistry caused by what I once believed was a “miracle drug”. PA embraced me and reassured me that I wasn’t alone and there was hope. I now attend meetings regularly, have a sponsor and work the 12-steps. I also work with other prescription drug addicts on a daily basis, which helps me greatly. There was a time not so long ago that I believed I would never feel peace again. I am living proof there is recovery and serenity to be found in this program. My depression is now a distant memory and my panic attacks have almost completely abated. My life today is so much better than I could have ever imagined. I am no longer dependent on mind-altering substances and no longer live in fear. I am forever grateful and couldn’t have made it without the support of Pills Anonymous.