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I’m addicted, but am I an addict?

on 31 August, 2014

As many of you know, I deal with a chronic migraine/headache issue. Its been going on almost my entire adult life. It originally was bad enough to send me to to a doctor – the first of MANY – when I was 24 years old. I still believed it had something to do with the viral meningitis that hospitalized me for more than ten days the year before. But that is not the intent of this post.

I’ve been under one particular neurologist’s care now for about five years. Every month, I have to take a paper prescription to the pharmacy to be filled. I take a narcotic that is highly addictive and a powerful pain killer. Some days even it doesn’t work on the pain that is a constant in my head that reminds me that I am not “normal“.

I was reading another blog when I stumbled over a post in which the writer admitted that she had fallen for the rush and the relief brought about by drugs. And that her spiraling downward had caused her to step back and take a good hard look at her life. And she got help to overcome her addiction.

Which made me think… I’m addicted, but am I an addict?

Okay, so let me explain and maybe answer my own question. Technically, an addict is defined as:

Addiction is the continued repetition of a behavior despite adverse consequences,[1] or a neurological impairment leading to such behaviors.[2]

So, “officially” I am an addict. But the usual association with this word is usually negative and has to do with “a person who is addicted to a particular substance, typically an illegal drug.” So, a bad addict. Someone who gets their “fix” and then zones out from the world in a derelict building on a stained mattress amid vermin in some huge crumbling neighborhood in some urban center.

But if I am being seen and managed by a health care official, it is different, right? I have heard my doc mention in passing that it might be time to start thinking about slowing down or even stopping this drug. And a little panic starts to build in me and the first thought that hits me is that I will have to find another way to manage this chronic pain. And I don’t want to think about it. These past five or so years have been some of the most productive and enjoyable years of my life.

I’ve had days where I was determined to prove to myself that I am not an addict and have skipped the first couple of doses in an attempt to prove something to myself. But then the pressure behind my eyes and forehead starts building and then it hurts behind my whole face and not long after that, I am nauseous and my skin is painful to touch and keeping my eyes open to the light feels like someone is sticking pins in them. Sounds boom through my head and I can’t seem to hold my head up anymore.

So, at the point it is a choice between trying to catch up the pills or head to a dark, quiet, cool place. Or both.

So, does that mean I am feeling the results of withdrawal or the lack of the medication has allowed the chronic pain to resurface? Or a little of both. Or a whole fuckin’ lot of both?

I come from a family that has a history of addictions of all kinds. I know that I am prone to addictive behavior, generally speaking for me it has been shopping. I have that kind of personality that can’t do anything a little or even in moderation, but it seems it is all or nothing. You might see it in my hobbies – once I think I want to try something, its gung ho. Like when I decided I was going to be a quilter and the very first quilt I attempted to do was a millennium quilt – meaning 2,000 pieces to celebrate the change of the century. But even a challenge such as that was amped up to include 2,000 different fabrics. Nothing in moderation for this girl.

(Although I have become a prolific quilter in the years since, having completed some 400 to 500 quilts in the past 15 years, that particular quilt was never finished.)

I could recite two dozen things I’ve done with the same results. Sometimes it is good, but usually, it is just expensive.

Okay, so you see I have an addictive personality, so does it make it worse to be taking an opioid that is known for its addictive quality? Am I just tempting fate? Or is it, as I have come to know over three decades that it is a drug that allows me to feel like I don’t have to live with the debilitating pain of chronic headaches/migraines? That, to some extent, I can be a “normal” person?

I’m addicted, but am I an addict?

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