I Was A D.A.R.E. Officer In Middle School. How Did I Get Addicted?

My name is Sande, I am 38 years old, a mother of 4, and I am a “recovering” addict.

I never planned on becoming addicted to pain medication. I was the picture perfect DARE program officer in my middle school. I went around telling everyone the dangers of drugs and what they could do to you. Fast forward just a few years to when i turned 13 and my whole world turned upside down.

For reasons still unclear to doctors, I woke up one day in severe debilitating pain. That was the last day i would remember having lived in a pain free existence. After much convincing, my parents took me to doctor after doctor. My oral surgeon would prescribe me more and more medication to take the edge off my jaw pain. My regular doctor would prescribe me more for my body pain and stiffness that I would later learn was Fibromyalgia and Arthritis. The problem was, I took them as prescribed. They just never took any away, never checked what meds i was already on, and just upped the dosages and added more intense medications. By the time I was 14, I was already addicted, but I would never admit it because the doctors prescribed them to me. Why would they make me become addicted?

By the time I was 15, I hated myself and my life. I felt so numb to the world around me. I had this insane notion that I had to be the perfect child for my parents and for my friends, so they could never know my pain. I hid my pain and depression from them at all cost. I began to cut and burn myself to feel anything inside me, but on the outside I was smiling. In 2003, after the birth of my third child, my addiction would come to a head. I was taking meds to wake up, go to sleep, take a shower, do anything. I added liquor into the equation because it made everything work better. I was up to taking so many pain meds that it was unbelievable. Those pills made me be the person everyone expected me to be, but they hid the deep dangers in my mind. I soon added cocaine to the equation because it helped me not be sleepy from all the opiates and narcotics. In 2004, i tried to take my own life. None knew my pain. I was falling asleep at the wheel, falling asleep cooking, falling asleep everywhere. I wanted it all to end.

Being Baker Acted was a wake up call to me. You see, they don’t care if you have a chronic pain disease in rehab, you still don’t get pain meds. I had to learn the very hard and very long way how to try and manage my pain in ways that do not involve drugs.

I cannot say that my road to “recovery” has been easy at all. I have chronic pain diseases that will get worse with time, and become more unmanageable. There are days that I can barely move, but I still do not run to pain meds. There are days, however, that I simply have no choice. This is why I use the term “recovery.” For me, and many more like me, recovery is a process and a change of mentality. I cannot simply avoid pain meds for the rest of my life, but I can choose to only take them when needed. Does that make me a lesser “recovering” addict? I’d like to think it doesn’t. I never turned to drugs to get high, have fun, or just forget. I turned to drugs to see what normal people felt. To not experience pain 24/7. My recovery in many ways is so much more complicated. It is the constant battle of willpower over pain and guilt from needed relief. I truly believe that there is hope for people like me, but it starts with Big Pharma.

There are so many ways that people can find pain relief through new treatments, therapies, and supplements. However, unless a change is made in the mindset of people, those will never be available to people like me. Taking away hope for chronic pain sufferers is simply not the answer. We deserve a chance at living. A chance to live life to the fullest. A chance to live life out of misery. My hope is that policies and regulations can change so that way more people like me can find their voice, find their relief, and find their RECOVERY…