In this blog, we are highlighting painkiller addiction with the experience, strength and hope of an ex client who is in recovery from opiate addiction.

I will never forget the first time I tried opiates. People say it is like deep relaxation, being wrapped in a blanket of inner peace, or like a hug from your Mum.

I did not set out to be an addict when I took my first swig of Bacardi age 14, hiding behind a ford fiesta with my friend, Gemma. But for the next 22 years I cycled between using anorexia, bulimia, speed, cocaine, terrible men, workaholism and alcohol to the point of doing those things daily for the last ten years.

I had never meant to cause harm, worry, problems to my family, my friends, my work, strangers or myself but it happened.

I remember my first opiate experience very clearly. I was in A&E, in physical pain from something that would be diagnosed as cancer just a few hours later.  

My usage was ramped up at the time, due to not being able to cope with having just lost one of my parents. I’d been drinking and using other substances before I arrived, because that’s what I did.

Tramadol was prescribed to me and another patient, the other patient started flipping out in reaction to the pill and they had to reverse it. I sat there calm, peaceful and content…for the first time in forever.

Blood tests confirmed cancer and I needed to stay in hospital for the foreseeable future. I was given morphine, which I mixed with the alcohol I snuck out to buy at night - when no one was watching.  

I lay there wondering what all the fuss was about: this was great, I felt invincible because the opiates were treating both my emotional and physical pain and they had erased the grief. Cancer wasn’t really that bad.  

Being in hospital meant no responsibility. I didn’t have to go to work, or worry about paying my bills, nor did I have to meet shady dealers in dark corners because the hospital was providing me with the drug that I now loved more than anything.

And people felt sorry for me, no one was angry at me. I was a cancer patient, and I was bright, upbeat and pleasant thanks to opiate produced endorphins.

I was discharged with a huge bag of my new favourite drug of choice, and I went home to continue my newfound positive outlook on life until things got very dark, and I preferred to be unconscious.

I’d wake up in the morning and take enough to go back to sleep, I’d wake up at lunchtime and take more and lie down again, same in the evening which meant I was constantly out of it.

Until they ran out. Then I panicked. I became very unwell, so I asked for more and said I was in such terrible pain.

I was soon to realise that it may have turned everything off, but it all came back, worse. At first it made everything go away but as it went away, it took everything with it.

For the next couple of years, I had chemo and conned hospital doctors, GPs, pharmacists, dentists and even my dog’s vet out of opiates. My tolerance was ridiculous, and a month’s prescription would be gone in a couple of days.

Then the lies had got worse. I’d ‘lost my prescription on the train’, I’d ‘had my bag stolen with the pills in’, I’d ‘accidentally left them out in the rain and they’d melted.’ (That was a particularly terrible one). The reasons I needed more were becoming increasingly unbelievable.

I remember the anxiety when calling the doctors to make sure they’d filled the prescription, then calling the pharmacy to ensure they’d received it, before asking when I can come and get it – “is it ready right now?”.

Then one day they smelled a rat and cut me off. The horror and sheer panic were excruciating and the withdrawal I was so terrified of, had begun. No one would give me what I needed even when I admitted to being in withdrawal.

It was here that I had to find desperate ways to feel well again, and this meant returning to those shady dealers in the dark corners, this time for opiates.

And then I was back in my comfort zone, nothing around me mattered, but the world was dirty, dangerous and demeaning.

Some hairy and shameful scenarios followed, and I’d found myself searching the internet for quick and easy ways to get clean. I remember wondering if there was such a service as being put to sleep for a few weeks until it was out of my system… It felt too hard.

I tried weed for withdrawals, but it didn’t help that I didn’t like weed, nor did it work. I tried to drink more, but it heightened my anxiety. I tried to lock myself in a room and go through the pain - but I just unlocked the door and let myself out to find more. It was all completely hopeless.

I couldn’t be honest about any of it. People assumed my behaviour and sweaty and sick demeanour was due to cancer, not addiction.

At some point I called The Living Room, I cannot remember how or when, but I do remember turning up for my assessment and them being kind to me.

I sat in group and couldn’t believe all these people were admitting to terrible things, and no one was telling them they are terrible people. Somehow, I began to talk about myself and admit what I had been doing.

They told me I had an illness, the disease of addiction. They told me that underneath my behaviour is trauma which I am trying to escape and that we would work it out and I would be okay. They introduced me to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

I began to feel inspired by this place and the people in it. I chose against Medicated Assistance Treatment, (MAT)  which really works for some people, opting instead for a tapering plan made for me by my GP, supported by the counsellors and group.

I hated Thursdays because it was reduction day, and I would be in withdrawals all over again. By Wednesday I would be feeling better for it all to start again. It took three months to be at zero.

I remember the very first fully clean day. It was the first day in many years that I had not taken a drink or a drug. I was over the moon. This is my sobriety birthday and today I have been clean for 7.5 years. I’m also 7 years in cancer remission. 

I am extremely grateful to The Living Room for helping me into recovery, and for opening my eyes to the nature of my addiction and introducing me to the fellowships. I have had outside trauma therapy which enabled me to work through the underlying stuff and I am a different person because of the help I have had. 

I choose not to take opiates for pain, including childbirth. I refuse to let opiates get their meat hooks into me again.

I don’t believe that everyone who takes opiates will become addicted, but I do think the powerful effect it had on easing my past trauma, and the trauma I was experiencing at the time, was dangerously powerful. I hid behind it not being that bad, because it was legal, and prescribed.

It was the love of my life, my final destination in addiction, and it brought me to my rock bottom.

If you are struggling with a painkiller or prescription drug addiction, we can help. The Living Room offers free, time-unlimited group therapy, for people and their families living with addiction in Hertfordshire. 

Call us on 0300 365 0304 to book an assessment with one of our highly qualified Counsellors or you can self-refer online.

*All names have been changed to protect anonymity.