Life After Morphine

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Cover of "Pain: The Science of Suffering&...

Cover of Pain: The Science of Suffering

Things have been a little disappointing lately. You see, a couple months ago, I decided I was starting to feel good enough that I could afford to remove morphine from my daily medications. So I came up with a plan to taper off of it with my doctor, since I have been taking it long enough for my body to depend on having a lot of opioids in my system and therefore would feel withdrawal when it was taken away. Tapering makes the withdrawal less bad than stopping it all completely, which is so painful it creates unnecessary health risks. I have spent the last two months slowly and agonizingly reducing my dose, living for the day when all the withdrawals would be over and my body could recover and feel healthier than ever before, without the side effects of morphine and with effective breakthrough medication for pain flares..

If I had been thinking, I could have predicted the situation in which I am finding myself. But I wasn’t thinking critically, so much as hopefully (and, sometimes, desperately) about the end of my morphine taper. I think that part of me realized that things would take some time to level out, and I would need to recover from all that pain and stress from putting myself through withdrawals. But I had just a touch of rose-tinted glasses on about my morphine taper. I think I needed to have that hope that things would be better as soon as I got rid of all that morphine in my system.

The self-critical part of me speaks up to say that it COULD have been all sunshine and roses. If only I hadn’t taken vicodin to cope with the withdrawal pain. If only I’d been stronger-willed and stuck it out without breakthrough medication. But you know what? The smart part of me knows that that is a load of horse manure.

Pain management isn’t just about suffering. Pain is only good for us in small doses, in response to discreet events. CRPS is pain gone wrong. Our society has some funny ideas about pain. We seem to believe that experiencing pain makes us better in some way. Stronger, or stronger-willed. It builds character. It is something that we can fight against, and a pure and good person would be able to handle pain without any drugs. Horse manure, I tell you, as I tell myself.

See, they’ve done some studies on this. And it turns out that chronic pain makes your body heal slower. It raises your blood pressure and your heart rate, making you more prone to cardiac problems. It fills your body with stress hormones that reroute the things your body needs to be doing to live longer to put it in fight or flight mode so it can survive an emergency–but it isn’t an emergency. Chronic pain is bad for you, and no beneficial effects of chronic pain have been found.

(Want to know more about this? Read the book Pain: The Science of Suffering by Patrick Wall)

So I took my vicodin, another opioid medication, to cope with the pain that originated from morphine withdrawals but continued with my CRPS (which, as I’ve said before, loves a party). Despite my cultural training, it was the right choice. Now, I’m done with morphine. Forever, I hope. But I’m still taking as many vicodin as my label lets me.

At first, I tried to remove one pill a day. Guess what? Withdrawal agony, of course. But the great thing about vicodin is that you can cut the pills into pieces–morphine is slow-release, and when you cut them you mess up the coating and you get too much early and too little later. It’s okay to cut vicodin, so I tried taking a half away, and finally went down by a quarter of a pill.

I’m finally getting some of my energy back! I still am not feeling all that great the majority of the time, and I think until I get all this opioid medication out of my system for a little while and then get myself more active again, I won’t be feeling all that great. But I cleaned my car, which I’ve needed to do for three or more months. I’m doing training sessions with the dogs again. I folded some laundry. All in the last few days. Things are looking up.

While I’m not skipping through fields of daisies at the moment, this  is a huge improvement over the last couple months. It’s a little disappointing that there is no skipping quite yet, but it’s a perfectly reasonable place to be, cleaning my car and folding laundry. Skipping isn’t entirely off the table, either. Maybe next month.

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8 responses »

  1. You are going down such a difficult trail. So happy to read that you are getting your energy back. Each little accomplishment is a triumph! You are strong. You are brave. You will skip.

  2. So get all this… and agree – societal view of pain is skewed. I also have not found medication to be my answer so walk a tightrope every day trying to manage the physiologic effect of living in constant pain. If long-acting narcotics worked for me and didn’t cause bile ducts to spasm, I would consider…but even when I could tolerate them, they did little for my pain that is mechanical… Hang in there.. Use water tapering if needed with the vicoden. You can dilute and use an eye dropper. I’ve done this with other classees of drugs that caused withdraws. One day at a time… you will get there…. I’m thinking of you ~ R

    • Thank you Robyn! I am finally starting to feel a bit better the last couple days, and it is soooo nice to finally get some energy! Thank you for your water dilution tip; I got a new formulation at my last visit that doesn’t chop as well, so I will most likely need to try this in the next week or so. You keep walking that tightrope and remember with me that all we can do is our best =-)

  3. I can see that you know the path you must take and you appear to be doing amazingly well at it. You are not letting preconceptions dictate how you live or how much pain you need to be but rather using intellect with good research. I know you will succeed.
    Todd

  4. Pingback: The Lost Battle | Stories of The Wandering Feet & Mind

    • I hope you are well too–I am so far behind on everyone’s blogs! But I am finally getting some energy back and enjoying that very much. Nice to catch a break sometimes. =-)

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