When I wore a younger man’s clothes (to quote Billy Joel), I read a book by the Reverend Jimmy Snow, son of Country & Western singer Hank Snow. The book detailed his life before he became a Christian, and the powerful message was in the very title of the book:
“I Cannot Go Back.”
I first started having back pain in high school, and by the time I was a sophomore I was in the chiropractor’s office once a week. It finally hit me that I was going out on the football field and knocking my spine right back out of place. Couple this with the doctor’s chilling comment about “men in their 50s who still have back problems because of high school football,” and I decided I couldn’t play anymore. Thus, I never again donned the pads; never returned to the sport I so dearly loved.
Since then it’s been all downhill, pain-wise (until a few months ago, but more on that in a moment). I’ve had two major back surgeries, and live in constant pain from degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, severe scoliosis and arthritis in my back, hips and legs.
I’ve been on some type of prescription pain medication since the late 90s; over 20 years. The doctor told me I would “need” the pills, and that dependency was “a given.”
Before I knew it I was taking three hydrocodone and five Tramadol every day.
A few months ago I woke up to find my chronic pain felt about 50% better. I know this to be a “partial divine healing,” but people can believe what they wish. After the pain let up some—it’s still there, but not as bad—I began to back off on my prescribed narcotics. Slowly, but surely.
Christmas break, 2012, I had weaned myself off of hydrocodone, but still took three Tramadol a day. According to my doctor, Tramadol is one of the lowest forms of narcotic pain medication available, so I didn’t think it was a problem.
But it’s still a narcotic. It’s still addictive. And man, am I addicted.
A few times over the last few years, I would get that anxious, sick feeling addicts get if I missed one of my pills. Once, I recall being at my parent’s house for Christmas, and I honestly thought I was coming down with the flu. My sister—who used to be an addict—asked me if I was overdue for a pain pill.
“Actually I am,” I told her. “It’s 2:30 now and I usually take my second Tramadol around 11:00 a.m.”
“Take it, see if you feel better afterward,” she replied. “If so, you’re hooked, brutha. That’s scary.”
I took it and, sure enough, within 30 minutes I felt right as rain.
That’s happened a couple times, and my dependency has always haunted me. Sure, I have a “semi-controlled” addiction, and have a job and a family. I go to church and drive a car and pay bills and everything. I’m not livin’ on the street, rippin’ people off and tryin’ to “score.”
But I’m still an addict, right?
Over the last few months I’ve cut my Tramadol intake from three to one pill a day, which I take first thing in the morning.
Well, I’m here to tell ya, I took my last Tramadol yesterday morning at 6:30 a.m.
I wasn’t feeling too bad at first, but it’s beginning to catch up to me now (it’s 2:00 p.m. as I write this). I have a splitting headache and am exhausted. A little shaky but not too bad.
Man, I just wanna go home and go to bed, though. I’m feeling lousy.
But I’ve come too far to turn back now. I will soon be free of the narcotic which has kept me bound in its scaly grip for so long.
Now THAT’S a glorious word.
Is this like coming off heroin, cocaine or meth? From what I’ve heard, absolutely not, and I wouldn’t sit here and pretend it is. But it’s still my dependency. It’s still my addiction, and I’m determined to be free.
What’s really awesome is this morning, when I went to do my morning devotions, I went to the Bible Gateway website, clicked on the book of Psalms—since David went through way more than I’ll ever go through, and talks much about pain and despair—and basically put my cursor in the middle of the list of books. I closed my eyes and clicked (just a little game I play sometimes), and was sent to the 57th chapter:
“O God, have pity, for I am trusting you! I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until this storm is past. I will cry to the God of heaven who does such wonders for me. He will send down help from heaven to save me because of his love and his faithfulness. Lord, be exalted above the highest heavens! Show your glory high above the earth (Psalms 57:1-3a, emphasis).”
I am a day-and-a-half into my recovery from a two-decade-long dependency on prescription pain medication. I’ve come too far to turn back now.
In the name of Jesus, I declare: