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How a UTI ruined my life
When I look back on it now, I understand how it happened. It's an odd feeling to realize you were a part of a conspiracy. One that was big, sweeping, and involving millions. Funny, I’ve never been lonelier.
I know I am responsible for my actions. The decisions I made and things I did were all me. But, along the way, there were situations where I, and countless others, were exploited and used, led closer and closer to death. For many, death was or will be a reality. Somehow, so far, I have escaped.
It started with a urinary tract infection. A goddamn UTI. At 8 months pregnant, I was prescribed oxycodone for a UTI.
"Is this safe? For the baby,?" I asked my doctor, a Chinese ob-gyn with a really thick accent and a lisp. He assured me the baby was finished developing and that it's only risky during the first trimester or two. I never thought another thing about it. At 25, I still believed doctors knew what they were talking about and always told the truth. Later I wondered why in the hell would a doctor prescribe oxycodone for something that could be handled with antibiotics and Tylenol? This was 2002.
Of course, we now know that Big Pharma, with the help of our government, was pushing these opiates on us from behind the lab coats of physicians, cautioning them that good doctors don’t let their patients hurt when the responsible thing to do is to treat pain with these harmless medications. Percocet, Lortab, Norco, OxyContin. All harmless.
So that’s how it started, and it started immediately. I knew instantly that I’d found the solution, I just didn’t understand what was happening or what the consequences would be. In the beginning, I didn’t equate this new solution with addiction. I was just happy to feel good for a change. I would say within a month, and without realizing it, I was a full-blown addict. I had been given a few refills for the UTI, and then the baby was born, so I got pain meds in the hospital. I went home with another oxycodone prescription. I remember being confused and offended when I wasn’t given another refill by the ob-gyn and was told I had to see a family physician for future problems.
And it just kind progressed from there. I complained about back pain. I got pills. The thing is, I actually did have back pain and lots of other pain, I just didn’t realize why for the longest time. I didn’t know what withdrawal felt like or that I was in it. I didn’t know anyone else who was doing what I was doing.
I don’t really know how long the “light” pill phase lasted, I just know I was headed to class at my local community college one evening and had to turn around and go home because I was sick. Earlier that day, I put my son in his car seat, strapped him in, and went to go break in a random house with him in the car. I hadn’t planned it and don’t remember why I chose the house I did; it was just a blur or like being underwater. On the way home (the door was locked), it was like I was coming out of a dream. Anyway, without opiates, I was feeling awful and it was after I turned around and headed home from class that it hit me.
Oh God, I’m an addict.
You see, I knew what addiction was from watching alcoholics in my family. I knew that it was forever. I just didn’t think of it in terms of other things, like prescribed pills. And I never thought I would be one. I can’t explain that feeling, but it was the same one I felt the day, as a young child, when I woke up from a nap on the lap of a family friend and realized he was touching me in a bad place. It’s that feeling where something inside you breaks and you know it can’t be fixed.
Sometime later, during another withdrawal, I thought I was going crazy and dying all at once. This one involved both opiates and benzos, which I had been stealing from my then-husband to help the near constant withdrawal symptoms. Never having come off them before, I sincerely thought I was losing my mind and got so scared I called 911. In the hospital, I decided I needed mental health help because I still thought I was going crazy. I had blood and urine taken so they had to have known I was dirty, but no one confronted me. Anyway, the only way to get into behavioral health was to say I was thinking of hurting myself, so I did. That’s how I met Dr. P.
As soon as I got to Behavioral Health they took more blood and urine. Knowing what I know now, drugs were still present in my system. I was there probably 24 hours before I saw the doctor.
After spending a day without shoelaces and only smoking in a cage where you light your cigarette from a car lighter type thing built into the wall, I was ready to get the hell out and go home. Dr. P was friendly as he looked over my chart and asked me questions. It took about 10 minutes. I was released that afternoon with prescriptions for benzos, barbiturates and probably some SSRIs. I was also instructed to visit Dr. P every other week to go over my feelings and tweak medications. The benzos were strong and I was able to mix those with the barbiturates and not be so sick.
This was before you heard about pill mills in the news, but that’s what Dr. P’s office was, and it occurs to me now that he probably did rotations at behavioral health to pick up new customers. I continued to see him for a few years and the waiting rooms were filled with other people just like me. Everyone paid cash. Dr. P would hit on me, and I would flirt back to get what I needed. After a while, I didn’t take his pills anymore. They stopped working and I needed other things. But I was able to sell the pills to get what I needed and that’s when They came. They never wanted me. They wanted Dr. P and figured I was an easy choice since I had a lot to lose. Little did they know that, by that time, I had all but lost everything.
I found out later that years before I ever met him, Dr. P had been on probation for shady practitioner stuff, but he was able to smooth it all out enough to be waiting on me in the hospital that day.
Anyway, selling those pills is how I wound up a felon. Funny, he was able to go on practicing, yet I will never work in my chosen profession again. And my ob-gyn? He can just chalk it up to being misled by Purdue and the federal government.
I attended a Narcan workshop a few days ago and a doctor spoke to us before the demonstration about how all of this got started.
“We’re, first and foremost, supposed to do no harm. But we hurt people unintentionally,” he said, and something in me turned over. Up until that moment, I had no idea how badly I needed to hear those words.
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