My Story: I Was Accused of Being an Addict

My Story: I Was Accused of Being an Addict

Angelika Byczkowski

Angelika Byczkowski

By Angelika Byczkowski

Below is a letter I wrote to a very good friend who had accused me of being an addict:

Dear Friend,

As I was lying awake in bed with excruciating head pain again at 3 AM, waiting for my pain medication to take effect, I couldn’t stop thinking about what you said to me yesterday: “I think you’re an addict.” Calling me an addict just because I treat my pain with opioids is simply cruel.

How desperately I wish I were “just an addict”.

Then I could simply stop taking these pills and go on to live a normal life. You have no idea how much I hate being dependent on doctors and drugs, how eagerly I’d put this medicinal nightmare behind me. But I can’t.

When you say I’m an addict, it tells me you have no understanding or compassion for the disaster that my life has become. You make light of the monster that has stolen my life from me, that has taken my tough self and turned it to mush, that makes want to crawl into bed and stay there, that makes me seriously question the value of living.

I don’t know how I can explain myself when you doubt this essential element of my existence.

Yes, I take my pain medication “to feel better”, but I feel better because the pain is lessened, not because I get some euphoric “high”. Anyone would feel bliss when long-standing pain is reduced, when the barrier to the enjoyment of life is lifted even temporarily.

I recently spent time with a relative who has the same kind of pain I do, but is not taking medication. Nothing else can relieve her pain, not even lying down, so her suffering was obvious and her misery affected everyone else around her.

With her ceaseless pain, she can barely drive, can’t clean house, can’t walk the dog, can’t garden, can’t tolerate standing or sitting still to socialize. She lies awake with pain like I do, but without pain medication she gets hardly any sleep at all, and that only adds to the misery.

I can’t believe you’d want me to live like that.

I realize I can never prove my pain and will have to spend the rest of my life dealing with people like you, who think I’m an addict. I even have a medical diagnosis for what’s causing my pain, but since it’s invisible, you still refuse to believe it’s serious enough to require medication.

It’s terribly demeaning that you imagine I’ve “chosen” to live like this.

It’s like trying to live with one foot nailed to the floor, not just for me, but for many others too. Just because you’re lucky enough to have a healthy, strong, and resilient body, you choose to believe everyone else has the same resources and luck. You can’t even imagine what kind of physical misery is possible, but I live it every day.

I could send you dozens of scientific articles I’ve collected to prove my point about the severity of pain arising from my condition and the danger of leaving it uncontrolled in the long term, but I know you don’t want to hear about it–your mind is made up and seems to be firmly shut on this topic.

How convenient to write off a friend’s suffering as a self-induced “addiction”.

It’s emotionally painful for me to around people who insist that I’m making up or exaggerating the pain I have to live with. Already beaten down by my circumstances, I’m exceptionally vulnerable to emotional pain as well.

I start questioning the value of living like this, and that starts me on a downward spiral of depression. With pain grinding away at my emotional resilience, I lack the strength to defend myself against your accusations and end up feeling that our friendship is doomed.

So, does telling you how I feel about being called an addict make any difference at all?  I guess I’ll find out if you do it again – please don’t.

—-

The result of this letter? Addiction was never mentioned again.

Angelika is a contributor to the National Pain Report who blogs about chronic pain and illness at EDSinfo.wordpress.com.

Follow on Twitter:

@NatPainReport

@ZipCyzk

Authored by: Angelika Byczkowski

There are 57 comments for this article
  1. Jean Price at 5:52 pm

    AJ…I’m certainly not “irked” that you would have compassion for addicts, and I seriously think we all do! Especially as people, as individuals who hurt too!! Their lives are imprisoned in a manner of speaking, just as ours are also! Yet for different reasons. What I’ve written…and others here too… isn’t so much meant to be against addicts and it is FOR support of those in physical pain. The only issue anyone might have is in thinking our situation has been made worse by those who are addicted to drugs…yet addiction is only a part of the situation…the government set up the rules with enough reasons of its own! Like money! So if I’ve somehow given you the impression that all addicts are bad or should be considered less than someone in pain, I’m sorry. It was not intended. I do have a high value for laws, yet it’s the deed NOT the person which I have trouble with.

  2. AJ at 3:17 am

    It depends on who we believe, The Journal of the American Medical Association or Maia – an addictions writer for the opinion section (she posted a link to the study with her article which was nice, although it’s quite complicated and takes a lot of time to decipher correctly).

    The article I had posted was about Floridian addicts where there were pill mills and pain clinics galore, but recently had been getting pressure by the DEA so were essentially shut down. The result was that the pill addicts turned to heroin; cheaper and now easier to get.

    Tim, your nephew sounds like a real winner. I don’t blame you for being sore. I might have misunderstood what you meant by addicts “riding on your coat tails”. Do you mean ones that lie to doctors about being in pain in order to get their pills?

    Jean, I don’t think either number is accurate (one too high and one too low). Too much of any similar location, age, race, etc. will play a part in the validity of any study. And then there is the vested interest of the researcher or reporter which might deliberately skew the numbers. Is it safe to agree that there is a big problem and the only real “winners” are the billion $ profiteers?

    I’m sorry if it irks you or anyone else that I sympathize with addicts (generally), regardless of how they got that way. Especially those that were and remain decent citizens, and are stuck with desperate longing for relief but are damned if they do OR don’t. Choosing not to suffer means lying to a doctor or

    But I also know what pain feels like and am grateful I don’t have to suffer with it regularly. I have heartfelt compassion for all with CP and sincerely pray you all find relief.

    ExpressScripts is how I get my prescriptions. It’s through insurance and the doctor can call or fax them in (even opiate pain meds). I have BCBS, Highmark. They prefer it because it’s much cheaper. AND there is no pharmacologist present to give a glaring look or offer a harsh opinion which some of you might appreciate.

    Again, good luck.

  3. Tim Mason at 3:24 pm

    AJ. Copy and paste it into your browser.
    I am not an addict but I do not like addicts riding the coattail of chronic pain patients in their quest for better treatment.
    People taking opioids without a legitimate prescription is what has caused chronic pain sufferers so many problems.
    When I think of an addict I see my nephew. He stole my fathers monthly supply of kalanopen (300 tables) just to get high. He broke into my mothers home and stole her oxycodone. My mother was suffering from cancer pain and my father had Parkinson’s disease.
    I was home two days from the hospital after having two back surgeries in one week and he came by and asked to “borrow” some pain medication.
    He has been in and out of an addiction center just to keep from going to prison for theft. I year ago he crashed his car high on snorted pills. He sent the 4 people in the care he hit to the hospital. They were permanently injured.
    He got arrested yesterday for possession of controlled substances X2 and public intoxication.
    He has lost every job that the family and other have went out on a limb to get him.
    He is just 30.

  4. Jean Price at 1:27 pm

    AJ…it’s a big red flag to me that they didn’t designate the legitimacy of the “prescription” meds when saying such a high percentage of heroin users started with prescription meds!! And it makes the whole article suspect to me regarding other information and statistics! That’s exactly the kind of misleading information and untruths we are up against as people with persistent physical pain who use prescription medications conscientiously!! The number given in this article is so far off the truth when we look at people who were prescribed pain medication for pain who then became addicted and turn to heroin. As I said earlier, the statistics on that vary…2-4% mostly is what I’ve seen, and one article I read said it was around 14%….so a huge difference from their 75%!!!! And sadly, the agencies involved in this witchhunt would like people to think that’s the reality with pain medications when it definitely IS NOT! What this ends up doing is pulling the rug out from under roughly 84-98% of all people with moderate to severe, daily, persistent pain who take opioids pain medication to be more functional! This isn’t logical…and it’s not good medical care…but it will bring in the money for rehab facilities who jump on the band wagon, dismissing the issue of pain and looking at the problem as a “opioid use disorder”! God help us all!!

  5. AJ at 2:44 am

    Tim, nothing was said about heroin addicts in the article from the link you sent. Nothing about a “myth” either. I did notice your comment though. For the record, I didn’t say that chronic pain sufferers were the ones likely to get addicted. Below is a link to an article describing what I meant, although it’s not the very one that I had seen.

    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/may/25/opioid-epidemic-prescription-painkillers-heroin-addiction

    “The Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry noted a shift toward greater use by white people from affluent backgrounds and said that most were drawn to heroin after becoming addicted to opioid painkillers.”

    “The 2014 study reported that 75% of those on heroin said they came to it via prescription opioids.”

    “If there is a heroin epidemic, nine out of 10 heroin users start with prescription opiates.”

    I noticed that it doesn’t say if it was their own prescriptions or if they were in legitimate pain. In any case, it tells me that the “system” is too lackadaisical when it comes to pain pills and that something needs to be done or it will continue to get worse.

    I got addicted shortly following the birth of my last child. I was in pain and had been legitimately prescribed. Long story but the gist is: I didn’t doctor-shop or move on to heroin; but still, it was hell for years after stopping. I got and stayed clean despite how much I suffered emotionally. Even when I didn’t want to live anymore, I stayed clean because of my responsibility and love for my kids.

  6. Tim Mason at 12:52 pm

    AJ. Check out this informative link about the myth of heroin and drug abuse in general.
    The percentage of adults and elderly people with pain rarely become addicted to their medications.
    www://washingtonpost.com/opinions/fice-myths-about-heroin/2016/2016/03/04/

  7. AJ at 7:31 am

    Tim, I applaud [most of] your comment and would like to add to it.

    The insanity of addiction is made even worse by the supposed “rehabilitation” methods which teach that addiction is a real “disease” that cannot be controlled (like diabetes), and that addicts lack the power of choice regarding using. The overwhelmingly popular method of treatment is the 12 steps and then group meetings for life. However, that is nothing but quack faith healing nonsense; – the first step is getting addicts to believe that they are powerless over drugs/alcohol. So instead of supporting a sense of empowerment and attempting to increase self-efficacy, they teach addicts that they can’t – but “God can”. 12 steps groups have a horrid success rate which is lower than spontaneous remission, and they teach the exact opposite of what is needed.

    I disagree with what you said about the addicts choice to get more of what they obtain “illegally”. The entire point of my posts was to nicely say that simply being addicted is wrongly stigmatized as characteristically immoral, which somehow means they are sinful and with poor personality traits. This thread is half-full of support of this false injustice, which is inaccurate and unfair, especially considering that one of the arguments is that you are wrongly labeled as an “addict”.

    I totally get and empathize with the anger and frustration over the lack of respect and understanding that people face in regards to pain medication. I have been there and have actually been denied real medical examination and treatment because of the mere assumption that I was drug seeking.

    And I agree that the problem has risen from some addicts (or thieves) stealing/conniving/abusing the pharmaceutical system. Those people share in the responsibility, but it is ultimately the fault of the doctors, etc., that are actually mistreating honest patients without knowing the facts (or caring to find them out first). They might be right some or most of the time, just as you are; but when they are wrong (just like people that treat all addicts as responsible for the actions of some), they are doing exactly what is being done to them. Degrading and stigmatizing people wrongly.

    It would be nice to be known as the individual we all are, and not be based because of a label. More and more people these days become addicted to pain medication through no fault of their own and simply following doctors instructions is often the cause. Not all move on to street drugs or doctor shopping, but when reality strikes – out comes the label and bias. There are also alcohol and other kinds “addicts” to consider. An addicted persons choice not to use is often similar to someone in pain choosing not to get relief from their medication. Not all, of course. Being “dope sick” is only the half of it. It is horrible to endure, but it’s the months and years following with severe depression/anxiety which is most agonizing.

    *Regarding what I said about heroin addiction in another post; I was talking about heroin addicts independently, not other addictions, and ones getting addicting in more recent years (during this pharma opiate boom). In other words, most current heroin addicts use heroin after becoming addicted using a prescription opiate.

  8. Tim Mason at 6:06 pm

    The single highest risk for addiction is Youth. Getting “High” when young is considered “mental masturbation”. The physical effect of suddenly stopping opioids is nausea. You will often hear an addict say he/she is drug sick. For them, the remedy for stopping the nausea is more of whatever they have obtained illegally.
    They alone are responsible for their behavior.
    No man is alive that does not take responsibility for his future.

  9. Jean Price at 8:39 am

    AJ…interesting perspective you have offered us! Some of the information I would disagree with, yet some is very insightful. As for people taking legally prescribed pain medication and becoming addicted…the statistics of course vary…the ones I’ve seen most often are only 2-4%, although, I have seen as high as 14%…so I’m thinking your number is way off base. (Most people who take pain medication for pain don’t want to take it…but they want to function! So if their pain ends, they’d be more than happy to stop the pills!!). And even opioids don’t get rid of all the pain, by any means! It just takes the edge off enough so getting out of bed and caring for yourself is possible. One thing I totally agree with you about is the issue of addiction being pain….a different kind of pain, but definitely those who are addicted hurt! Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually!! A few probably even also physically at first and definitely physically latter down the road as their health deteriorates!!! Choosing to COPE with their type of pain by escaping that hurt or dulling it by using a substance/behavior is what addiction is!! Pain control!! And there are lots of types of addiction…both substance and behavior addictions….drugs, alcohol, food, shopping, sex, anger, sugar, salt…WHATEVER dulls the emotional and mental pain!! The rule of thumb is….when the pain of USING becomes MORE than the pain of NOT USING…an addicted person will chose to make a life change and lay down their addiction. Like us, you most likely didn’t chose what happened in life to start your mental and emotional pain. We didn’t chose our illness or injuries causing physical pain either. But the HUGE difference here is three fold. FIRST—you chose something illegal to use as a COPING tool…we didn’t!! You see drug addicts mostly use illegal drugs obtained illegally ON THE STREETS or possibly deceitfully by stealing them or taking them from a friend, and of course some even deceive doctors, lying and tricking them into giving them pills!!! But those in physical pain chose to legally seek a physician’s care for help COPING with (legitimate) physical pain and they obtain legally prescribed pain medications honestly through a PHARMACY…and also have scheduled follow ups. SECOND—An addict’s GOAL is to ESCAPE the reality of their life, denying their pain, some also wanting to achieve a high, to feel “good” or for entertainment. A person with pain has the GOAL of FUNCTIONING better in life, accepting their pain is real and wanting to lessen it to help them care for themselves, their families, even work and be more productive. They do not want (or receive!) a high feeling…just a reduction in pain. And for the THIRD—if you chose to work hard and face your mental and spiritual pain, you can CHOOSE to stop it!! Yet for someone with daily physical pain, no matter how much work or how much insight or how much help they receive, they CANNOT CHOOSE to stop the pain!! The best they can do is receive appropriate treatment to lessen it. That’s what opioids are for many, as PART of their care…not the only thing, just a necessary part. Because drug addiction…your issue… is such big problem in our country, then life limiting, daily, moderate to severe pain…our problem…has lost an important tool to help pain, the legal opioids we have been using for decades to treat pain successfully. It makes little sense, doesn’t it? Our agencies and health care providers have chosen to fix your problem by denying help for ours!! And YES, we are angry…at them, and sadly at you too…if people didn’t deceive doctors, sell their legal drugs on the street, overdose, and add to our national “crisis” on addiction/overdoses, then we likely wouldn’t face what we are facing now…because the agencies who are denying us pain medication would have no chance of making this trumped up war on opioids!! So, you may not deserve the anger, but this is what’s behind it!! You didn’t create these rules, the agencies did! But they were created, in a sense with your help!! And the help of all those who use drugs illegally! Sad, isn’t it!? You don’t get what you need, and neither do we. However, certain individuals are getting lots of money from this! So, it’s not likely to change anytime soon, and how do we fight it, those of us in pain…when we are seen not as patients who need medication, but rather as addicts looking for drugs, like you may have done before. You’re right, though…we both need help!! And compassion and support. Pain, like addiction, is a family disease too. So our families suffer as I imagine yours might have, too! My prayers are for us ALL! And for a return to common sense with our government agencies and health care providers.

  10. AJ at 8:14 pm

    I forgot to mention that during a few emergency room visits for legitimate pain, I was offered and given morphine and dilaudid. This occurred after I specifically told them I was an addict (one time I left a treatment center for emergency gall bladder surgery), and I didn’t need pain management. Incidentally, both times it was when a nurse was actually standing before me with the IV opiate that I broke down and accepted it. It’s crazy how some places/people dish it out unnecessarily to people that may not need it or want it, and others are abusive and refrain from giving it out for people in dire need of relief.

    Often times people become addicted by simply following doctors orders regarding meds. I’ve recently learned that most (upwards of 70&) heroin addicts find themselves addicted by way of that course. The drug war *epidemic should strive to keep people from becoming addicted by limiting doctors to avoid over prescribing. Pain meds have their place, no doubt, and should be available to those in need. People with a known illness and suffering (whether addicted or not, imo) should not be denied relief. It’s quite odd that some addicts get blamed and [edit] upon by the very doctors that which over prescribed them to begin with. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that chronic pain sufferers have experienced the same thing.

    Be well, and good luck to you all.

  11. AJ at 1:42 pm

    I’m surprised at the initial letter and comments which followed. They contribute to the stigma of addiction that keeps addicts facing undeserved character traits, just as being accused of being an addict is incorrect and offensive to you. Addiction is an illness just as powerful and debilitating as illnesses that cause severe/chronic pain. As kindred sufferers, I’d of thought there would be compassion and understanding instead of accusatory insults to large groups of people from different walks of life .

    Being an addict doesn’t mean that one is a liar, cheater, thief, manipulator, etc. and on and on. Having been previously been addicted myself, I repeatedly had to face attacks on my character which were completely false. Ironically, when denying the charges and refusing to admit to untrue and specific defects, I was accused of being a liar and stuck up.

    Addicts become addicted for different reasons and as much as a chronic pain sufferer, most do not choose their fate. Often they find themselves in such a position after doing no wrong, as it is the substance which is addicting. After using a substance for any reason, including a legitimate one, the brain changes (similar to the brain experiencing pain that cannot be controlled). It doesn’t change the personality, but causes emotional and mental turmoil to live without it. The addict isn’t seeking a high, regardless if they once were; they seek relief, as physical pain sufferers do. It’s just a different kind of pain.

    This isn’t about who is hurting more, but having empathy for one another as humans as well as sharing a kindred spirit. Yes, fight against being wrongfully accused (of illegitimate drug seekers) because it is discriminatory and wrong; but please don’t unjustly contribute to labeling addict sufferers, since they often endure the same injustice as you do.

  12. Tim Mason at 9:14 am

    I befriended one of my pain management doctors I had two years ago. We had a lot in common. The big thing we had in common was that we were both boaters. He could afford to keep his craft docked but his “ship” had been in the shop and he asked me to return it to the lake for because he had never learned to back a rig into the lake.
    He was really an honest down to earth guy. The docs that write prescriptions for controlled substances have many tools in their tool box by which to detect the “fakers”.
    One of his was his cameras. He is a great photographer. I asked him about his monitoring of the parking lot and he told me that he could see people walking fine in the parking lot. Some were even carrying a walker or cane but when they got into his office they behaved much differently. He watched the same people leave his office and had seen some at a very fast gait.
    The reason he installed the video camera was for his on safety and the safety of his own patients leaving with prescriptions or samples.
    There is an obvious body language and facial expressions that people are not even aware of. A trained eye can spot them.
    I am not saying anyone posting here is a faker. Anyone that goes to great lengths to find there way here are indeed in pain.

  13. Sheryl Donnell at 9:54 pm

    Gale Janess and others who don’t understand the difference between addiction and dependence, one more time.

    Dependence is when your body is used to a medication and needs to be weaned off of it like anti depressants, anti convulsions, and about 100 other classes of medication.

    Addiction is constantly craving higher and higher doses of a medication, not for therapeutic reasons but to seek out a high or euphoria. Addicts will do anything to seek that high. They will steal money or medicine or lie to doctors or buy illegal drugs and take their chances.

    That is the difference once and for all. Please print this and tape it everywhere. I am so tired of the ignorance (in the true sense meaning uneducated) in our own community. Everytime I read a post where someone like Gale says we are all addicts I want to scream. I am no more an addict than a mildly depressed man king his prescribed medication. I am really tired of being treated like I am an addict who is faking my level of pain.

  14. Janette Marsh at 4:49 pm

    I have SLE Lupus, Degenerative Disc Disease, Bone Spurs on the base of my neck, Severe Migraines and in the last 3 months have acquired a problem with my feet burning like fire constantly! I have sat and watched so many people at doctor offices, ER’s and Urgent Cares walk out smiling from “fooling” the doctor with a false medical condition and was giving narcotic pain meds! I have become so frustrated that I refrain from even going to the doctor anymore! I’m disgusted with being looked at as if my condition is not that bad only because the doctor does not specialize in the Lupus Research field! I’ve sat in tears because of pain while even family members laugh about the strong narcotics they are being prescribed for nothing! I get so disgusted that I just want to give up! Even my primary doctor gives me the runaround making comments like “well you’ve came this far without them no need in starting now”!! Some people would possibly wish the pain on the doctors and/or the falsely prescribed patients but not I, I continue to fight my battle day to day which consists of a very boring non productive life! No job no driving no socializing! But I will survive somehow!

  15. Melanie Ross at 4:12 am

    Amen! It could not have been said more accurately or more succinctly. Thank you so much for your brilliant words! It feels like a variation on Prohibition – similar also to when marijuana was used medically until 1936, until some wise-ass decided that it was time to make it illegal!

  16. Tracey at 2:43 pm

    I wanted to add something – there is a huge difference between physical dependence and addiction. Physical dependence merely indicates that one has taken a medication for so long that their bodies (and even brains) have adapted to that medication. This means that one should be slowly tapered or weaned down (usually under the guidance of a doctor) in the case that they do not need the medication anymore or have to go off of it for some reason.

    This is no different than a patient who has depression and has to rely on an anti-depressant to balance out the chemical imbalances within their brain or a patient who has a seizure disorder and has to rely on an anti-convulsant to keep from having seizures. All three medications (opioids, anti-depressants, and anti-convulsants) are capable of causing physical dependence.

    This is not necessarily a bad thing if one has a lifelong chronic illness (mental or physical), but it can be dangerous to go off any of the three medications without being slowly tapered down. Many patients with depression and seizure disorder end up having to take their medication for the rest of their lives. How is that any different than a patient with 24/7 pain that relies on a prescription opioid to keep their pain decreased to a tolerable level so that they can function and have some quality of life?

    Untreated depression can completely interfere with any quality of life, just as untreated chronic pain. Both can suck the life out of the one who is suffering. Our society would never state that one who takes an anti-depressant for depression or an anti-seizure medication for a seizure disorder is “addicted” to their medication, so why should we have to put up with that stigma?

    Addiction involves the compulsive, often uncontrollable, craving of a specific substance. It involves the use and misuse of a substance for the sole purpose of achieving a “high,” (non-legitimate medicinal reasons). It involves constantly consuming more and more of a substance to keep achieving the same “high” as was achieved in the beginning.

    After a period of time, the addict’s brain and body adapts to the substance (much like physical dependence), but unlike physical dependence with a prescription medication in a standard, safe medical setting, an addict will (usually subconsciously) consume more and more due to that compulsive craving and the need to achieve the same high as in the beginning.

    Nothing becomes more important than the substance they are addicted to. A pill, a drink, a plant does not “cause” addiction. The abused substance is merely the symptom of something much bigger and more complex. Physical dependence can happen without addiction, just as addiction can happen without physical dependence.

    Addiction is a mental health disorder (or disease) associated with genetic predisposition, untreated mental illness, emotional distress, traumatic experiences, learning poor coping skills as a young child, and/or other environmental factors that can cause stress, sadness, grief, anger, etc. While addiction can stem from the initial *choice* to experiment, no one *consciously* decides to become an addict.

    Addicts usually don’t realize they’re addicted (compulsive cravings) until that addiction actually starts to negatively interfere in their lives (and even after that, it can be very difficult to make the decision to detox and remain sober). Some begin self-medicating in an effort to numb their emotional pain, while others have developed personality disorders and/or mental illness that can cause them to become involved in extremely risky activities, such as experimenting with alcohol and/or drugs.

    With all of that being said, both sets of patients, one set afflicted with addiction and the other set afflicted with constant physical pain that requires long-term opioid therapy experience negative stigma from society. This should not happen, as both sets of patients are human and deserve compassion. (For the record, I don’t think Angelika meant anything personal against addicts or even meant to assume addicts weren’t struggling).

  17. Jean Price at 9:42 am

    Pharmacist Steve….yes they have our backs…and they’re stabbing us with a vengeance!! (I’m assuming your statements were said in jest/as sarcasm, since that’s the way I took it.) So sad it’s not a laughing matter. There has to be some core issue here, so what is it? No one could do this good a job of squashing people unintentionally! I know money and power and politics are part of it, but what’s the core of this crusade? What’s their plan? It begs the question of why, and why again! What are they hoping to achieve? It can’t be really about just addiction, because they really aren’t that stupid, are they. And it’s not about opioids and overdoses or deaths, because their statistics are skewed and false. And they have to know that! So what is the real issue?? Insanity comes to mind! Serious insanity of those in power…absolutely corrupted! Anyone have a better idea?! Anyone able to make any real sense of all of this?! In my heart, I know God is bigger than the CDC, the DEA, and all our government. But my head is trying to make sense of this and for the life of me….I cannot! I must be missing something. I must not have all the facts. I must also be sane and have a healthy helping of common sense….which certainly isn’t that common these days, is it!?

  18. Tracey at 7:55 am

    Bravo on your response! I don’t know of one chronic pain patient who has not been accused of being an “addict” or a “drug seeker” at least once in their life. Many of us know what it’s like getting *the look* from those that work in a pharmacy, nurses, and even doctors. Don’t even get me started on how horrible most of us are treated if we ever (God forbid) are in horrific pain and go to the ER.

    Over 20 years ago, before I was a chronic pain patient, I was treated as a “drug seeker” from our local ER. This “stereotyping” on behalf of this dr. almost killed me, as I had an ectopic pregnancy rupture within my right tube and ovarian cysts rupture on my right ovary. I was bleeding internally. ER dr. sent me home that night and told to visit my doctor the next day because of her own prejudice.

    By the next morning, I was back in that same ER literally being prepped for emergency surgery while signing papers. I was in stage 4 hypovolemic shock. I literally can’t even describe the pain, other than it felt like someone was stabbing me over and over in my diaphragm (blood had settled around it and was irritating it, which made it extremely difficult for me to breath). I could not lie flat, yet my body was involuntarily contracting because of the pain.

    I was extremely confused, breathing extremely shallow breaths, could not understand what was going on, could not communicate in any way. Surgeon removed my right ovary and tube, as both were extremely damaged, and gave me blood. He said I had bled almost half of my body’s blood supply into my abdomen and would have never made it had I waited just a little longer. This prejudice among so many ER doctors can literally cost people their lives.

  19. Pharmacist Steve at 6:07 am

    Everyone with chronic pain should take cold comfort that the system it taking “addict/junkie” out if the conversation. Everyone taking a opiate for > 90 days – for illegal and illegal reasons – are now being labeled as having a “opiate use disorder” and if you die – for any reason with opiates in your system – your death will be labeled as a ” opiate related death” which will cover all “unintentional/accidental” or suicides and your death will not require the system to expend resources to investigate your death. Toxicology will finalize the cause of your death. The anti-opiate groups and the Feds have got your back 🙁

  20. Angelika at 3:34 pm

    Wow, I’m overwhelmed by your responses – thank you so much for your support and the many additional examples you’ve given.

    As I mentioned at the end, after he received this letter, my friend never mentioned addiction (or the letter) again. I know he still believes I’m an addict and I can’t change that, but we all have a right to our opinions. My only demand is that he not say it.

    And his opinion isn’t nearly as important as his behavior, which has become quite accommodating over the years. He helps me when I say I need it and puts up with my flakiness. He and I are like family by now, so I can’t just walk away – and I wouldn’t even want to. You can never make new “old friends” 🙂

    Those of you that pointed out my insensitive attitude toward addiction, I agree with you. I realized it as I was writing it, but in this case, with this person, it communicated what I wanted it to.

    I do understand the seriousness of addiction and I know it’s not nearly as simple as I stated but I was trying to point out, in words my friend understands, that my real problem, pain, will still be there even if I stop taking opioids.

    So I apologize to the people who are suffering from addiction, for minimizing the difficulty and complexity of your struggle. Mea culpa.

    How I wish both groups of us, pain patients and drug abusers, could get effective treatment for what ails us, unhindered by the rampant moralizing, politicizing, and criminalizing of our actions.

  21. Jean Price at 2:32 pm

    Some of these comments make we think the writers are in attack mode instead of trying to understanding Angelika’s issues here of what happened. This was a friend of hers. It was a big betrayal…so I’m sure she understands alcohol abuse and addiction are big issues too but this wasn’t what her story was about! And when you point this up, how about a little diplomacy, a little lighter finger shaking?! It’s great to see everyone’s compassionate side toward addiction and alcohol abuse, as I mentioned earlier…but I think the author was trying to make a point to her friend and she was really hurting both physically and emotionally and not as likely to be politically correct. We can never really walk in another person’s shoes, the best we can do is walk along side and not judge them and not abandon them. Especially one who walks in pain…as we all do.

  22. Kurt WG Matthies at 3:24 pm

    Hi Angelika,

    Thank you for your letter. Many people who live in pain and use opioid pain medications have been accused, at one time or another, of being addicted to their medication. Opioids cause dependence, and with dependence and pain can come pseudo-addictive behavior. I believe that it requires special medical training to understand the difference between addictive, and pseudo-addictive behavior, and I hope that with the National Pain Initiative, physicians will receive this training.

    I too was accused of exhibiting addictive behavior in the early 1990s, and my doctor ordered me into a 28-day Addiction Recovery Unit (ARU). Going into an ARU is like committing yourself to jail for four weeks. You’re not allowed out of the unit, and your behavior is controlled every hour of the day.

    During my internment, I learned about my “disease” of addiction and how the 12-step program can help me be “happy, joyous, and free” if I abstained from drugs and “worked my program.”

    I spent two years w/o pain meds working my program — reading the Narcotics Anonymous Blue Book, finding a sponsor, working my steps, going to NA meetings, and standing up to say “My name is Kurt and I’m an addict.”

    But my life wasn’t happy, joyous, and free.

    I came to realize that I was not an addict, but I was trying real hard to convince myself that my need for opioid-based pain medications was due to addiction. But the facts remained — the pain did not go away and my quality of life became intolerable due to severe pain.

    Their was a silver lining in these two years of misery — I began to study spine disease, pain, and pain medicine. This is how I discovered the emerging field of interventional pain medicine, found myself a pain center that practiced integrative pain management, and began my treatment journey of discovering what modalities work to manage the pain of my chronic degenerative spine disease.

    Working this program of pain management made my life tolerable again, and I’ve been doing it since 1995.

    Yes, there is a thing called opioid addiction that destroys lives and families. You don’t have to shoot heroin to be a dope addict — addiction can be maintained with the same opioid-based medications used to treat pain.

    Yet, for people who live with daily intractable pain, ie, chronic pain, non-treatment with opioid-based pain medication can also destroy lives and families.

    There is a big difference between appropriate use of these medications prescribed by a skilled physician as part of a treatment plan to manage chronic pain, and inappropriate abuse of these medications to develop and maintain an addiction.

    Why is this distinction so difficult for many Americans to understand?

  23. Linda Albrecht at 2:56 pm

    I have suffered with RSD/CRPS (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy/Complex Regional Pain Syndrome for over 10 years. I experienced all of the pitfalls of being a chronic pain patient, such as being treated like a criminal by health professionals, pharmacists, etc., difficulty in getting pain meds, scorn and lack of empathy from friends and family, etc. I love it when people say to me “You always look good whenever I see you” — because that is the ONLY time I leave my house, the remainder of the time I am bedridden!

    I felt so alone, depressed and in such incredible pain, I simply could not take it anymore. Two years ago I put a gun in my mouth. I did die and was without oxygen (EMS was called by neighbor who heard the gunshot) for so long that the doctors told my sister the possibility was extremely high that I would be brain dead or have significant deficit. Due to my actions, my friends and sister finally gained some empathy for my painful condition. Unfortunately, many of the nurses treating me in the hospital, knowing I tried to take my own life due to inability to deal with the pain, had the audacity to complain to the doctors (and to me when I was conscious and could not defend myself due to tracheotomy) about my getting pain medication! In addition, the female cop who came to the hospital to take a police report regarding my suicide attempt, insisted my attempt was the result of being addicted to pain meds, despite the fact that both my family and my suicide note stated I could no longer live with the pain and the difficulty in getting the pain meds needed to obtain some relief.

    I also broke my arm recently, and was not given anything for pain due to the fact I am currently on pain meds. It did not matter that I was suffering from additional excruciating pain (especially when the maneuvered the bone to set it in cast). The pain was so bad that other ER patients kept asking what they could do to help.me, and when they set the bone my screams could be heard throughout the ER and I begged them to give me something via I.V. at least until the pain spike went down, but was given nothing but an apology from the doctors who stated their hands were tied since I have a 50 mg Fentanyl patch, which comes nowhere near to covering the RSD pain in addition to a broken bone being set!

  24. Lisa at 11:06 am

    Jennifer Burch,

    Shame on you for saying, “For the last 20 years, I have been saying that I wish I drank alcohol so I could stop drinking and feel better.”

    It’s hypocritical that you expect others to educate themselves about your chronic illness, be understanding and compassionate, yet you downplay alcoholism like it’s nothing at all either through your own ignorance of the disease, your own lack of compassion, or both.

    If you can’t educate yourself about a fellow chronic illness such as alcoholism/addiction, and even acknowledge the suffering it brings (let alone have compassion for those afflicted), why do you think anyone should do the same for you? Is it because you feel that alcoholics/addicts “deserve” their suffering – they brought it on themselves, perhaps?

    Maybe you just don’t know anything about alcoholism/addiction. I’d recommend, however, that next time you educate yourself on it before stating you wish you could develop the illness. No alcoholic in the history of the world – or a loved one of an alcoholic, for that matter – has ever stated that they’d wished for the disease. And I’m quite certain you wouldn’t appreciate someone saying that wished they’d acquire your illness (for whatever bizarre reason someone would want to do that.)

    For anyone else…it is a DISEASE, PEOPLE. Please see the comments that ginbug posted previously. I couldn’t have explained addiction, stigma (LOVE the Type 2 Diabetes analogy!), it’s relationship with chronic pain, and who’s REALLY to blame for all this mess better…Thanks, ginbug!

  25. Sheripay at 9:12 am

    There is a real difference in our bodies being dependent upon opioids or being addictive to opioids I was on OxyContin for over 11years. I took them as prescribed and never abused them. It did help with my overall pain. Two years ago the doctors, in my small town, decided to no longer prescribe opioids. Other than having no pain relief, I had no problem mentally coming off. I did not experience a “high” while taking them. The meds went to the pain.

  26. Brenda waddell at 6:24 am

    We all have been treated unfairly! So tired of living in pain and then to be publicly humiliation of being accused of being a drug addict by your drug store cvs!

  27. Gale Jenness at 1:12 am

    I do understand how you feel and I also go through the same issues with some people. But first thing you need to understand is like I, you are an addict if you’ve been on this drug for any length of time. Your body is now addicted to the drug and like I, if you stop taking it you will go through withdrawals. Why? Cause you are addicted!
    But the difference you and I are really taljing about is a mental addiction! No, we don’t want to take this drug and if our bodies would allow us to stop taking this drug we both would do it in a heart beat! But you and I both know if we stop taking these meds our pain level will increase so high we’d wish we were dead! Not be able to do anything else but suffer in pain! Plus now we also have to add the withdrawls on top of the pain! So we’re forced to take this drug being there’s no other options available to control our pain. I know this cause I’ve tried everything else that’s available to help lower my pain and nothing else works! So don’t take someone saying your an addict as a insult or in any other negative way! Truth is you are addicted. Just like I am! You nor I asked for this though and the only benefit we get from taking it is to lower our pain level. We don’t take it to get high or screwed up in the head, nor do we take anywhere near enough of this drug to get high in the first place. We both use it as a medicine, not as a recreational drug use and that’s the difference in the type of addicts you and I along with many other pain suffers are! Like you, I too would dearly love to stop taking this drug. In fact I have tried on many different occasions to stop taking this drug, but after a day the pain was unbearable and I had to resume taking this pain medication as much as I hated to take it! If people want to call me an addict or say I’m just a baby or any other negativity towards me, let them go ahead. But let’s see them take a pocket knife and keep stabbing themselves over and over and never stopping! Or hook themselves up to electricity and let it shocked them for the rest of their lives! Have them go thru even something close to the pain we’re in and have them know it will never stop or get any better till they take this drug! Then let’s see who becomes an addict?

  28. Jean Price at 4:55 pm

    Interesting that so many have supported the struggles of addiction and those addicted…and rightfully so! Pain isn’t the only thing that robs people of their lives. Wishing for what may be thought of as a lesser evil is usually jumping from the frying pan into the fire,,,and it’s a good thing God doesn’t let that happen! This says to me that pain has not taken away the compassion and ability to look at others’ demons and that’s remarkable, really. I do applaud all of you who held up that addiction is a health issue of consequence too and although we don’t like being classified as addicts, we don’t need to throw them under the bus out of our own frustrations. Yes, addiction and addicts have impacted pain care treatment denials, yet it’s not the addicts asking for this…it’s our politically and ethically challenged government systems with a taste for power and money. They just picked an easy target, or so they think. Only we can prove them wrong!

  29. marty at 3:58 am

    I think it’s almost impossible to people without some sort of “chronic” pain to fully understand. I feel I was guilty of it myself up until 5 years ago. I worked for half my life with Fibro and Lupus among other things and frankly couldn’t understand why so many others couldn’t do the same. I had kids to support. I was in pain daily but didn’t give up. I learned ways to live with it. Then 5 years ago other things happened along with what I already dealt with. New hips, a back that was shot and no surgery would help. a few other surgeries etc. Thankfully I was close to retirement age and thankfully I have no one that questions the pan I am in that makes me have to take pain medicine now just to barely function because they have watched me suffer and then of course there is my age which no matter what any one says is a big factor. But yes I was guilty myself at one time of doubting many. I couldn’t fully understand how if I could find other ways to deal with my pain why others couldn’t. Some just can’t and no matter what, your friend has never been in your shoes.

  30. Soyong S at 7:12 pm

    I totally understand how you feel and really admire your courage in standing up for yourself! I’ve had chronic & severe fibromyalgia since 2004, but it took 10 so called specialists & w years before being diagnosed. I’ve been injured at a job & forced to work 8 more hours & literally had to cry & beg to go to urgent care. I was rear ended while recovering & when I went back to work, I was forced to do the very thing that injured me, even though it was hazardous! A year later in 2012, I was almost killed in a car accident which caused sciatica in my right leg & while recovering from that, my ex, who intentionally caused that accident, & denied it for 2 years, kicked open the car door while I was driving, sending my car into a spin. To avoid hitting an electric pole, pedestrians, & oncoming traffic, I wrenched the steering wheel as hard as I could. The n3xt day at work, I fell on my face 3 times with no warning. My rheumatologist at the time did a physical examination & said all my lower disc# are impacted. No health care & not on any assistance or disability, I couldn’t afford him anymore & had to rely on an internal medicine dr That I’ve seen since around 2007. I’ve been under chronic stress for over a year & he hired a new receptionist who would understand me perfectly until I gave her my name, then bc it isn’t a common name, she would tell me she didn’t understand my English. I’ve been a citizen for 34 years & don’t even speak a secondary language! I’ve had some upper respiratory infection since new years eve this year & been scared to see my Dr bc of this woman. Mid Feb I finally see him & don’t complain ; he tells me not to wait so long next time & writes me a script for antibiotics. After a week from finishing them & no improvement, I call to let the Dr know I’m still sick. I’ve been on 3 rounds of antibiotics & still coughing, hard to breathe, etc. I call 2 weeks ago to let them know its been 4 months of extra suffering & the receptionist puts another lady on the line who proceeds to tell at me so severely for “complaining”she causes a PTSD flashback. The nurse did the same last November & that’s the only time in 9 yrs I complain. This lady after realizing I appreciate my Dr & don’t want to stop seeing him, ends up calling me back immediately after I hang up in the midst of my flashback & says they refuse to have me as a patient & to call the next day! I do, despite having anxiety attacks & she tells me she told my Dr I called Him racist! She tells me to find a new Dr & now I’m so much more sick, I have no clue, strength or courage on what to do. I wish I had spoken up like you did bc now I am afraid I will literally die from the pain & whatever is causing me to cough, etc. Typing this comment has drained me, but I wanted to let you know how proud I am of you. I hope that helps you somewhat. God bless!

  31. ginbug at 5:24 pm

    I understand EXACTLY how the writer feels as I too, have been accused & rarely meet those that have not, but I have a real problem w/ how this letter is worded!

    1st let me tell you that I have worked w/ pain patients for over 20yrs., have a back round in psychology AND addiction AND also happen to be a life long chronic pain patient(45yrs.) so I can see the good, bad, & down right ugly on all sides of these issues.

    In your letter, not only do you down play the severity of addiction that also happens to be a chronic illness,(that can cause just as much suffering as chronic pain, especially if the disease of addiction started due to chronic pain) you also further stigmatize those that suffer it!

    To say that, “if it were ONLY addiction, you could just SIMPLY stop taking the pills & have a NORMAL life” shows that you clearly have no idea of what being an addict actually is & there is NOTHING simple about addiction!!
    Look, I get it, we are being made to suffer because people are abusing a drug we badly need; but I implore EVERYONE reading this to stop & think about who is really to blame here & it is NOT addicts!
    NO ONE EVER WANTS to become an addict, but what started out as a choice, developed into an illness & for most, is no longer a choice!

    When someone develops heart disease or type 2 diabetes from poor diet CHOICES, do we treat them & stigmatize them the way we do addicts? Then why do we do it to addicts?
    CPP’s, more than any other group, knows how it feels to be judged, abused, & stigmatized, & should be the very last people to treat others that are suffering a LEGIT & REAL illness this way!!

    YES, things MUST change, YES, it is unfair to punish the many for the few, but the “change” needs to come from inside out & NOT at the expense of our fellow human beings that also need & deserve the SAME care, compassion & empathy that EVERY person suffering a severe, life changing & debilitating disease/condition should get!!

    Look at your letter again after actually learning about & meeting those that suffer addiction & you will then clearly see that YOU, YOURSELF are doing the SAME hurtful, uneducated, & stigmatizing judgment that people like your friend, does to US!!

    The ONLY way through all this “muck” is to work TOGETHER as we are on different sides of the SAME coin!! ONLY then, will we see REAL progress & benefit on BOTH sides!!!

  32. Phyllis Griffiths at 5:02 pm

    It is fashionable these days to call anyone using opiate pain control an addict. Those calling names often cannot live without their huge cups of caffeinated beverages at hand, their booze or their nicotine delivery devices, even their weed. But for those of us who struggle just to find temporary relief from physical agony- never getting total release from it, ever- we get hit with the label of addict and the disdain that all addicts are given. It is not a compassionate world that we live in.

  33. Tim Mason at 4:18 pm

    Angelika, Please refer to the following proverb of wisdom when thinking of your “friend”.
    Knowledge is, indeed, that which, next to virtue, truly and essentially raises one man above another. I quote the following here for you. I think it applies to all the folks we meet on our pathway of life and pain.
    Addison—The Guardian. Letter of Alexander to Aristotle. No. 111. 1
    There are four kinds of people, three of which are to be avoided and the fourth cultivated: those who don’t know that they don’t know; those who know that they don’t know; those who don’t know that they know; and those who know that they know.
    Anon. Rendering of the Arab Proverb.

  34. elisabeth villano at 3:00 pm

    I am in a similar situation but , its with the doctors. They know the pain I’m suffering day in and day out. Starting with cluster migraines, fibromyalgia, and now whole other bunch of other symptoms they can’t figure out. About 4 yrs ago the doctors in nc took me off my pain meds and decided to put me on suped up nsaid. Fybro is NOT a flamatory disease . I ended up with 5 ulcers an inflamed stomach, inflamed esophagus, hiatel hernia, gerd, which after showing symptoms of pain and nausea in my stomach (NAME OF CLINIC DELETED BY STAFF)DIDNT EVEN Look into what was wrong with my stomach. I had to go to (NAME OF HOSPTIAL DELETED BY STAFF) hospital and they took action fast. Soooo not only did my pain get so bad they screwed up my stomach I can’t eat or drink coffee or live like I used too. The GI Dr thought I had chrohns disease that how bad my stomach was. I still suffer. I still have no pain relief and am back in ny. Pain management doctors say they don’t give pain meds!!!! Wth are they for!!! I have no quality of life I can barely get out of bed its a chore to shower and cook .its a chore to want to live for what the pain is just getting worse the older I get I’m 47 and idk what to do anymore…hopeless

  35. Annette Roberts at 2:55 pm

    You are a bigger person than me to continue having a relationship with this friend. I would have cut it off with the words they spoke. Kudos to you!

  36. Lisa at 2:22 pm

    Angelika,

    I applaud your courage in standing up to your ignorant, insensitive friend. I sincerely hope that this individual learned about invisible, chronic pain and will be much less judgmental of others’ suffering in the future.

    I, too, suffer from chronic pain that is treated with opioids. I very regularly experience the symptoms you describe in your letter (excrutiating head pain) as well, and understand all too well how horribly life-altering that pain is.
    I couldn’t function or survive without opioids, either, and have also been misjudged as an addict at times just for needing to take opioids to relieve pain. I know how awful all of it is and I empathize.

    However, I was taken aback and very disappointed by your statements regarding addiction. You said you “wish you were JUST an addict,” and that if so, you could “simply stop taking these pills and go on to live a normal life…” Huh?

    Addiction is a disease, and sufferers deserve to be treated with the same respect that you yourself are asking to be treated with regarding your legitimate medical condition(s.) There are many battling both chronic pain and addiction who would tell you their addiction battle is just as tough as dealing with chronic pain. It simply wouldn’t be addiction if one could just “simply stop taking these pills and go on to live a normal life!”

    Angelika, you’re rightfully upset with your friend for her lack of compassion and understanding. However, by being so dismissive and minimizing the seriousness of addiction, you’re doing nearly the same thing to addicts that your friend is doing to you.

    I fully realize your comments were made in a letter to a friend, so it’s not as though you were intentionally laying out your thoughts on addiction. Still, your words give me the idea that you don’t believe addiction is a “big deal,” let alone an actual disease. If this was the conclusion I came to while reading your letter, I wonder what impression your friend got?
    I hope all parties involved understand how serious all chronic illness and pain is.

  37. Paula Sorrentino at 1:52 pm

    Thank you so much for writing the letter I have wanted to write so many times but haven’t been able to find the right words..you said everything that each one of us living in pain have wanted to say to one friend, family member, or stranger that doesn’t know what we live with on a day to day basis

  38. Pingback: Accusations of Addiction | EDS Info (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome)
  39. JoDawn at 1:07 pm

    My heart breaks for what your friend, and so many people, accuse you (us) of being. I know when I have a “good day”, I am positively uphoric. And on those days I take FEWER meds.
    I wish more people would realize that. Maybe, because of your writing, more will.
    God bless.

  40. Toni P. at 12:21 pm

    This post really described how most of us chronic pain sufferers feel. We would love to be free of drs and their rude looks or comments or disbelief. Having to beg for renewels or go take drug tests then pay out of pocket for them ($300). We would love to not have this stigma that our government has put us under. All they would have to do is before giving pain meds, give a drug test and that would tell them so much. Instead, we suffer and I am afraid will suffer more as time goes along and we are made to go to pain clinics even for the lowest of pain meds. The saddest part I have found besides the fact that no one cares you hurt, is that the costs of these appts. therapy and tests are awful! I cannot afford 20% out of pocket to get 1/3 of an MRI on my spine done for $850! We matter and sadly this society now does not seem to understand or agree.

  41. Cynthia Farrell at 11:55 am

    You have written my life, my story. I haven’t taken prescription pain medication for years. But I can no longer take the pain, the being closeted with this demon that has stolen huge chunks of my life. Stolen my marriage, my relationship with my children, my profession, my friends, my joy. There is a definite progression of unrelenting pain. First Pain. Then Eternal Frustration. Then Depression. Then Despair. Then Devastation. Then Resignation. The recent War on Opiod Addiction, has placed more barriers between the Pain Patient and some kind of relief, some salvation. And on we go.

  42. Sheryl Donnell at 11:33 am

    My BFF of 30 plus years abandoned me when I developed CRPS. She’s an attorney and fights claims against people with my disease. She couldn’t reconcile her work position with me. I was and am devastated until this day. She decided that I was faking or was an addict. I don’t really know. Either way, that kind of pain never goes away. We were as bonded as sisters. Her family was my family and vice versa. The rest of her family is still in touch with me too. I wish I had taken the time to write her a letter like this three years ago.

  43. Jean Price at 10:42 am

    Angelika…you answered one question I had about your poignant letter, I had wondered if you sent it! This must have been a friend you were very reluctant to let go of, because I doubt you would have taken the time and energy and revisited the emotional pain she elicited otherwise. And likewise, she must have wanted to keep you as a friend, too…since she never brought up the “A” word again! You have so clearly described something others go through also, often unstated but equally as evident and as damaging to relationships. I think the core issue of this is support, or really lack of! I’ve found few people really know how to give appropriate support. Think of the many phrases people tend to use with any sick person, the bereaved, the disappointed, and the forlorn. Phrases like: I know exactly how you feel; it’s God’s will; why don’t you go to a new doctor; at least he didn’t suffer; at least you got to say goodbye; God needed another angel in heaven; you’ll have other children; you can get a new dog; someone will come along that’s right for you if you just look; he would have never been right if he’d survived; I hurt every morning after I exercise too; you can always run again for that office next year; no wonder you hurt, you baked a cake; cheer up and things will get better; you should rest more; you should be more active; you shouldn’t take so many medications; maybe you need a new medicine; it’s better this way…and many other empty, unsupportive offerings that are mostly designed to make the person saying them feel better!! And that’s the issue! People have a really hard time allowing someone else to hurt, to grieve, to be sad, to be any thing other than in a mood they can deal with. They don’t understand how abusive these trite statements are, nor do they understand the best support they could give would be saying something like…i can’t imagine what you’re going through or I don’t know how you’re managing, this must be so hard! When someone gives appropriate support, the person in need can usually find their own hope…but shoving hope down someone’s throat rarely helps..it really makes things worse! And so does stating the obvious when someone is hurting! They may see this later, but not because someone told them so and not now! Few people are good listeners, also. Most want to “fix” you instead…and you’re not really broken, you just need to talk or to vent. It isn’t that people are unkind, it’s more just the human condition and appropriate support is something that I think has to be learned. You probably did your friend a favor, teaching her about invisible pain and setting a boundary for your self. Often if we tell people we just need to vent or to talk, it helps to give them an idea of what we need from them. Otherwise, they try to “help”, usually with unhelpful ideas or phrases that leave us cold. I don’t think think any of us would understand chronic pain if we hadn’t lived it! And expecting others to relate probably isn’t realistic….yet we can teach them and those who will listen and learn are often a godsend.

    There is something we used to teach patients, and I’ve used this process several times myself. It helps clarify what we’re upset about sometimes. You write three letter, but unlike yours these AREN’T meant to EVER be sent. They are sacred and for your eyes only. You write, (not type!) on paper—not paying attention to grammar or punctuation or sentence structure, and you write three pages nonstop. If you get stuck, you just keep writing something even if it’s writing you don’t know what to write! The first letter is to the person or the problem (pain, humiliation, whatever is bothering you). The next day you write the second letter to God about the person or the problem, not mincing any words in either. Rant or rave or cuss, whatever. The third day, you write a letter to yourself as if it’s from God! Just start writing and you’d be surprised how easy even the third one is. On day four, you read each letter then have some type of ritual to destroy them, since they aren’t meant for anyone but you to see and they’re not meant to keep. And that’s important!! You can read the prior letter before each day if that helps to focus on the current day’s writing. For some reason, three pages and writing by hand are important. So if you try this, I’d suggest setting out thee pieces of paper and just start writing. You can cross out words, but try not to reread it as you’re writing. It can stop the flow of what you’re needing to say. Often you’ll see an uncontrollable goal, or something you want to let go of, or even something you want to do come out of this. In your letter, Angelika, you made several very important statements…yet the one I think is so true of all of us is that when we live with physical pain, we are very vulnerable to emotional pain! And although we can’t stop the physical pain, there are many ways to end the emotional pain we often feel over happenings or people’s hurtful words. I think it’s important to keep as healthy of a mind and emotional state as we can…sometimes it’s all we can depend on!

  44. Carole Porter at 9:16 am

    So very well said. How sad that we must defend ourselves with friends and family – who is our true enemy here??

  45. Michelle Comfort at 8:57 am

    I have conic almost daily migraines and I know what you are going through and if one of my friends said to me that I was an addict I think I might blow a gasket. Your will to stay calm and to wait and just write a letter is commendable. And I am so very sorry that your supposed friend does not understand the pain that we go through on a daily basis just to get out of bed some days. I have lost a few “friends” I guess they weren’t really my friends if they couldn’t and haven’t stood by me during this very difficult time in my life. I mean I don’t expect a daily phone call by any means but I also don’t expect you to completely from my life either just because I’m not able to attend your cocktail parties or had to reschedule/cancel a few times. True friends don’t get mad or offended by that, they understand and are concerned about their friend’s pain and well being. But I’m sure you are well aware that when you have a chronic disease or condition you definitely find our who truly cares about you and that includes family and friends. And it hurts tremendously when you find out who does not care or understand, or thinks you’re exaggerating or “it’s just a headache,” or what you went through with “you’re an addict,” which had to just be deviating for you to hear. PEOPLE NEED TO GET EDUCATED ABOUT MIGRAINES, CHRONIC MIGRAINES, AND CHRONIC DAILY MIGRAINES! So that they stop hurting their loved ones and friends. Wouldn’t it be nice my friend 💜💜

  46. Bob Schubring at 8:47 am

    Thank you for sharing that, Angelika. I’d love to know if your friend has figured out that there are limits to what you can do…or still wants to believe you could do anything if you “chose” to do it.

    Even healthy people get tired and become sleepy.

    Folks with neuromuscular chronic pain get tired and hurting. I’d like to feel sleepy, but if I push myself past the point of hurting too badly, then I can’t sleep. So I take the minimum dose of ibuprofen that works and I sit on my butt and rest frequently. Yes, I look like a lazy bugger, thanks, but I can choose to ignore insults. I can’t choose to ignore pain, unless I take narcotics. And politicians have chosen for me, that I must not use narcotics, because they expect to score $50 billion in a lawsuit against narcotics producers, and buy some votes by giving the loot away to build things nobody really needs, and it will make them feel less like thieving scoundrels if they can pretend to themselves that they helped us by stealing our medicine and (indirectly) our money, and telling us that if we keep our dosages lower and our pain higher and our health poorer, that we’re healthier because we’re less healthy.

    That’s why I enjoyed reading this letter, Angelika. Even if your friend doubts you have pain, winning the argument and shutting them up, feels better, than suffering in the pain and feeling totally helpless. I get it.

    Let’s hope your friend gets it too, someday.

  47. Sharon at 7:42 am

    Good for you!
    There is nothing worse than TRYING to have some sort of life with 24/7 pain and having no choice but to rely on pain medication so that it’s possible, AND having to deal with friends and family that question you.
    The other extremely frustrating aspect is that most people have no clue that addiction and dependency are two different things!
    People either need to educate themselves if they’re going to comment on this personal journey that we have to live everyday or they need to keep their comments to themselves, pure and simple!

  48. Steve P. at 7:24 am

    Thank you Angelika!

    Your letter echoes with all of us and represents how many of us feel!

    God bless and I wish you relief and understanding in you pain!

  49. Barb Hite at 7:07 am

    Angelica,
    I feel your heart ache, I too are in your shoes but not with a friend but with a few family members. You not only have to wake up at 3am with excruciating pain and nausea and vomiting, and sensitive to light and noise, then you have to deal with family members telling you to push yourself to get up you will feel better. Well it just doesn’t work that way.
    Then this makes your heart hurt so bad! Just because they don’t believe in narcotic pain relief meds. doesn’t mean they don’t work for you. I’m so sick of being labeled an addict not only by family but when I need to go to the ER. The nurse checks you in and labels you for the start. So unfair. God bless you and, and someday I hope all of us will be out of pain and be able to live life,and not just have life to live.

  50. Mark Zibsen MD at 6:50 am

    Your friend collapsed dependence with addiction.
    With media, law enforcement and
    Three letter federal agencies making scapegoats of pain patients, it’s no wonder the brute culture is too.
    Making it our fault that the DEA and the strategies at on drugs is a massage be failure is absurd to those in pain, but
    It is working.
    Pain is an F’N terrorist
    Keeps engaging and educating.
    God bless

  51. HAZZY at 6:08 am

    ACCORDING, TO PEOPLE THAT DO NOT SUFFER WITH CHRONIC PAIN, DO NOT KNOW HOW IT FEELS HURTING DAY,NIGHT AND ALWAYS !!!! WHEN SOMEONE SEE’S YOU TAKE A PAIN PILL, YOU ARE AUTOMATICALLY A DRUG ADDICT, THIS IS UNFAIR AND REDICULOUS !! YOU TRY LIVING WITH CHRONIC PAIN !! IT’S NOT FUN !!!!!

  52. cindy coble at 5:52 am

    love this post…sorry for the swear, but , f*ck yeah! go girl! stand up for yourself, i love it. i’m down to negative [-] 3 friends, due to both my chronic illness, and the poverty that comes along with it. i’ve been accused of being an addict many times, by friends, professionals, even a body worker who refused to work on me because i take opiods. nuts. i can not get out of bed without help. walkers, canes, and pain killers. i used to run marathons. if i am told one more time it’s in my head, i’m going to take a baseball bat to someone else’s. i have numerous diagnoses. what i wouldn’t give to go back to my old life. ugh.

  53. Melanie Ross at 5:36 am

    Wow my heart goes out to you! I don’t know you but I wish I could give you a big hug! I know just what you’re going through. From my own research I’m sure I have fibro – but labs and abdominal CT scan showed nothing. So now doc has surmised that my symptoms are probably all due to stress! (With the underlying message being “if you could just find a way to TAKE CARE of your stress!”)
    Thanks alot, doc!
    And good luck sister – my thoughts are with you…

  54. Jennifer Burch at 5:24 am

    Thank you! Your story touched me so very close to home. For the last 20 years, I have been saying that I wish I drank alcohol so I could stop drinking and feel better. I’ve had CRPS for more than 26 years and I DEPEND on pain meds to just get out of bed. And most days, they don’t even do that for me. I would like to get the “high” that addicts do, but I don’t. Hell! If anyone deserves to feel euphoric or high, I do! So does anyone suffering from chronic pain! Unfortunately, the world has become cruel. Peace be with you…

  55. Maria Molaro at 4:09 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I could have not said it any better. I too suffer everyday with the stigma of being an “addict”. Not by the 2 or 3 people I still have in my life, but by the new doctor I see or the pharmacy that can’t fill my prescription for 8 days. I feel so alone except for the articles I get to read in this forum. The doctor rolls his eyes when he was told I was a “pain management patient for 9 years”! The pharmacy treats me like a “drug seeking junkie”. What do they expect a pain patient to do for the 8 days between running out of medication and filling a new prescription? All I hear about from the doctor and the pharmacy is “the dea this and the dea that”! I am at the end of my rope. The reduction of my meds for months has cost me my job, my car, and I am about to become a homeless person. The dea in my medicine cabinet will be the death of me.

  56. Doug at 3:33 am

    That’s not a friend. If they were a friend they would never call you an addict, even if you were addicted. A true friend worries about how you feel both physically and emotionally. Real friends would never make comments that would hurt your feelings, and absolute friends would stand by your side when you’re hurting or just feeling down.
    That one sounds like a sorry excuse for a human being with absolutely no compassion or common sense who will talk you down behind your back.