Pills for Breakfast: Why I Love My Doctor

Pills for Breakfast: Why I Love My Doctor

People are always asking me why I drive two hours, one-way for a doctor. I mean, it’s not like I live in the middle of South Dakota (anymore) — there are plenty of other doctors right here in Illinois, some of whom are even in my hometown.

The only way I can explain it is to tell you that I drive two hours, one-way to see the most amazing doctor I’ve ever had because over the last two years I have seen so many of the worst doctors I’ve ever had.

And, if I had been a patient of one of those doctors, I probably would have ended up in the hospital instead of Black Friday shopping at the mall with my little sister.

It all started because I was up for a refill on my super strong pain pills, which the federal government has decided are so potent that I am required to get a written prescription for it every single month lest I become Pablo Escobar.

bigstock-healthcare-medical-and-future-50084171Usually this just means that my doctor mails me the prescription, because we both agree that a four-hour round trip for a piece of paper in 2014 is ridiculous.

But this month, my doctor decided to mail the prescription directly to the pharmacy instead. Something about how if a carrier goes postal, or someone robs the mailman, then I won’t have any issues because they can just re-send it to the pharmacy — something they couldn’t do if they sent it directly to me.

And since my doctor is basically my “dealer” and therefore holds all the power in our relationship, I said, “Fine. Whatever.”

Except, like a week went by, and the pharmacy kept telling me they never got the prescription in the mail. I assumed it was because of the Thanksgiving holiday messing up the mail schedule, but by Friday I was completely out of all my pain drugs and was starting to go into withdrawal.

In other words, I was literally thinking about killing myself by downing a bottle of sleeping pills. Seriously, that’s how quickly things can devolve when you suffer from non-stop chronic pain.

And the pharmacist was all, “Yeah, no, they can’t call in a morphine prescription. Sorry.”

In the olden days (a couple months ago) my doctor could have just called in a hydrocodone prescription to hold me over. But alas, the federal government has deemed that drug too hardcore as well, and now a written prescription is required for it too.

And so, as I was trying to decide whether I would attempt to live off unhealthy amounts of Advil for the next few days or just kill myself, I thought maybe I should give my doctor a call and just check to make sure there’s really nothing he could do.

In the back of my mind, I kept trying to remind myself that my amazing doctor had always come through for me before, and that I had no reason to doubt him now.

I mean, he’s so amazing, that if I ever run out of pain pills early, instead of pointing me toward a drug rehab center, he actually asks why I came up short and then tries to figure out a solution so it doesn’t happen again next month.

And, during appointments, instead of staring blankly at a screen typing everything I say without listening to a single word, he actually listens to me and all my stupid questions, and even engages in a two-way conversation. There’s usually even eye contact! Crazy, right?

He’s also the kind of doctor who, when I showed up at his office after three endless days of insane breakthrough pain, instead of handing me some Aleve and a pain specialist referral to get something stronger, he actually gave me a pain medication shot right there on the exam table.

As it turns out, he’s also the kind of doctor who’s able to order a 3-day emergency prescription of morphine over the phone, so that I can make it through the next few days without dying.

The relief that flooded my heart and soul when I found out that I was wasn’t going to have go through hell, agony, withdrawal and a pain spike waiting for the postman is hard to explain.

I mean, I didn’t even know emergency prescriptions were a thing that could be done. Luckily, because I have an amazing doctor though, I didn’t need to — he was already on it.

I still don’t actually have the full prescription because it turns out that my local, small town pharmacy requires doctors to send prescriptions to a P.O. Box instead of their main address. However, my doctor’s nurse knew nothing about this, so now the prescription is probably on its way back to Wisconsin with “Return to Sender” stamped on it in big red letters.

But, the nurse told me today that they’ve sent another prescription, this time to the right address, and in the meantime, they’ve also sent in another 3-day emergency prescription to hold me over.

I can tell you from all of my experiences from horrific doctors, that most of them would have just shrugged their shoulders in that situation, and silently judged me for being a druggie, and told me to wait for the mailman like a good little patient — withdrawal and pain spikes be damned. Or, they would have insisted that I get in the car and make the 2-hour drive to Wisconisn right then and there to pick it up myself, despite the fact that without pain meds a drive like that would have left me for dead for like a week.

So, when people ask me why I drive four hours, round-trip to see doctor, I just nod my head, smile and say, “Well, he’s the best there is,” and leave it at that.

Because I know in my heart that he cares about me, and that’s more important than proximity any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Crystal Lindell

Crystal Lindell

Crystal Lindell is a journalist who lives in Byron, Illinois. She loves Taco Bell, watching “Burn Notice” episodes on Netflix and Snicker’s Bites. She has had pain in her right ribs since February 2013. It is currently undiagnosed.

Crystal writes about it on her blog, The Only Certainty is Bad Grammar.

The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that!  It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.

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I don’t want to come across as uncaring, because as a chronic pain suffer, I do care, but the author of this article probably needs to read up a bit about the long term implications (or lack thereof) of opioid use. Her quote “And so, as I was trying to decide whether I would attempt to live off unhealthy amounts of Advil for the next few days or just kill myself,” tells me she doesn’t understand the powerful aspects of opioids versus “Advil” and probably more importantly, that thoughts of suicide may be a serious psychological condition that certainly should be addressed by her doctor before continuing use of opioids, in fact its part of the protocol before prescribing, yes?

Also, to those (commenter mark maginn), who mention the “enemy” of long term opioid use, Kolodny in particular, does in fact “talk to those of us who use these medicines to good effect and don’t become addicted” he supports responsible opioid prescribing, (right there in the name). One thing he also knows that many addicts will never admit to being addicted, not saying that is you mark maginn), however your statement “opioid medicines for long term use by pain patients works well” says a lot as it is simply not supported by the science, just your opinion as an opioid user, probably not a objective source for data collection. Sorry, do not want to come across as harsh, but if those who truly want a way to reduce their pain in the safest way, they should support scientific scrutiny, it is after all, the way medical science progresses.

Julie Bloodworth

Your story has warmed my heart. I too, am one of the lucky few who have been Blessed with an amazing doctor. But to be a patient of a doctor amazing doctor, you have to be ready and willing to “pay” for seeing them – like your 4 hour round trip.
My cost is going in super late and getting home as late/early as 4:30 am. I’m given an appt. date, however they call me when the doctor is leaving the hospital and heading to his office – 8:00pm is EARLY. But regardless of the time, or how many people are after me, he totally focuses on me, he actually listens, and wants to know how things are affecting me. When my surgeon’s office dragged their feet about setting up my latest nerve block (they have a pain doctor in their office) with a Anesthesiologist/Radiologist that I had had the best results with, I called my amazing dr. and he had my appt. set up – I’m having it on Dec. 9th (Wish me well guys – I could use Positive Energy) right away, the other doctor’s office had screwed around for 4 – FOUR months.
So I don’t mind going to the doctor at 11:30 pm and coming home at 4:30 am – he is worth it. The truly sad part is that there are less and less physicians like this. About 12 years ago I went to a “pain clinic” who recommended nerve blocks and if you had them done, they would prescribe meds that kept me from killing myself. They tried to perform a nerve block at L5-S1 and BROKE THE NEEDLE OFF IN MY BACK and told me that it was MY fault because my muscles tensed up too much. Then they actually thought they were going to stick me again. When I said no and went home, I got a letter in the mail a week later dismissing me as a Non-Compliant patient. The 1st of 3 dumps before my amazing doctor.

Kurt W.G. Matthies

Doc Anonymous is so right.

Thanks Doc — great point. We must cherish and protect our pain doctors, but we must also work within the system.

Give them documentation — pain diaries, research that supports your functional improvements from opioid therapy. Keep our urine clean of contaminants. We must learn to rotate opioids for maintaining efficacy, and stay at absolute minimum doses, especially when asking for breakthru medication increases — these push tolerance.

For CPers (and pain doctors alike) it seems safer to be involved in a multi-modal treatment system. This is a current standard of practice in today’s pain environment. Find a pain psychologist. Do the PT. Try alternative treatments — it all adds validity to your chart, giving your doctor greater latitude in treatment.

The other big issue we have today is the OIH conundrum that sets arbitrary maximum limits on opioid therapy — makes it very difficult for those of us who are highly tolerant to opioid to get relief. Until pain science resolves this “loophole” there will be much suffering.


The NP I see at my pain management Dr’s office, is awesome like your Dr. I have built a great relationship with her. I know how lucky I am!


Thats the thing, its not like we wanted our lives like this? Did we, did any of us want back problems or any other kind of ailment, did any of us think when we agreed to surgery, oh crap this may change my life. No none of us did, we all had this pipe dream that our bodies would get better and lead a normal life. I mean when I got this RSD or CRPS in my back and my leg, I thought that was bad enough than crohns to jump on top and COPD. Its like we didn’t ask for this and they make it like were the problems. Were the ones that made them rich, and have sent their kids to colleges to become doctors. Us were wasting away wanting to work, or on disabilty and the only thing that helps us have a halfway normal life they want to take away and say ohh your bad. Sorry could go on for hours. 🙁


Crystal sounds like you have a good doc too, I have a great PM him and their practice follow everything by the book. For the Doc, I understand and my PM has told me about that about how the govt tries to get involved in peoples treatment and he said the funny thing their not even doctors. Which is asinine and to me if they were looking at patients records should be a Hippa violation. And he said he’s seen patients that are never going to get better, that all you can do is give them a better quality of life. Which I’m sure you have too. I can understand if a General Practioner is giving away Hydrocodone like candy, yes they need to be stopped, but the doctors that are trained in pain and also know how to spot the fakers, should be left alone. It gets to the point of you think someone would have back surgery and them say oh ya, once your released from the hospital. Take advil. People would raise hell, on this, or any treatment that involves a long healing time. I got crohns and back pain and wonderful mix, because one of the things for 8 years I did what the doctors told me take n-saids and that about helped destroy my GI system. I know the medical system has failed on me, why they need to make legislation and or make drugs where they cannot be abused but at the same time if the patient is in pain, not to undertreat them, where what happens the person gets to the point of wanting to kill themselves because no one will listen. I know what diminishing returns means in medicine and I would love to be off pain meds for good. It means the medicine will quit working in time. My doctor has found a new treatment that may have that day come. Why? because I’m scared to death of another crohns surgery. Why the legalization of marijuana for pain would make total sense because it would give people a alternate then to go down the narcotics highway.

Doc Anonymous

Good article. However, it has become increasingly perilous for doctors to prescribe opioids for chronic pain patients. I fear that the Ms. Lindell’s good doctor will be targeted by regulators both state and federal. I am now retired but I had a practice of all chronic pain patients when I was in practice. I was targeted by those regulators as were several other local doctors who were willing to provide chronic prescriptions for controlled medications. The message has not been lost on other doctors in the community: Treat chronic pain with chronic opioids and run the risk of costly and career ending sanctions. (Note that the targeted doctors are often older and in solo practice so that “retirement” becomes more “palatable”!)

The issue needs further exposure. And what is really needed is a much better scientific understanding of the electronic abnormalities in the nervous system that are causing chronic pain. Instead federal funding wends its way to police actions that prevent doctors from prescribing appropriately and to organizations that support the Dr. Kolodny’s of the world.

Kurt W.G. Matthies

Sounds like you have a wonderful pain doc.

Cherish and protect him, Crystal — they are becoming an endangered species!

Two historical trends have combined to make people with pain criminals. 1st, the racist War on Drugs and second the hysteria around people with pain, non-cancerous or end of life pain, but chronic abysmal pain that turns us into the “undead.” I’m so happy you’ve found a doctor that will treat you as a human being struggling with one of life’s worst burdens.

However, there is a large and ever growing movement spear headed by Andrew Kolodny and his Physicians for Responsible Opioid Proscribing, PROP, that is chipping away at the rights of pain patients to one form of treatment, opioid pain medicine.

While this medicine should not be thought of as the alpha and omega of pain treatment, opioid medicines for long term use by pain patients works well. However, according to PROP long term use is done to the detriment of pain patients. What’s remarkable about this is that PROP or researchers seem unwilling to talk to those of us who use these medicines to good effect and don’t become addicted.

What Crystal and many others of us experience is the blow back from organized resistance to these medicines and doctors who have faced the dreaded knock on the door from the DEA.

It may be a cold day in hell before people like Kolodny ever sit down to talk with those of us who use these medicines effectively and are not, as the hysterical press would have us believe, addicted to these medicine, giving family members and friends our much needed medicine or selling it
for profit.

Just this week Al Jazeera American ran a story entitled “Opioid Wars” that featured the ever present huckster, Kolodny & others excoriating pharma and by association, people with pain, as being behind the epidemic of drug addiction and now the rising rates of addiction to heroin. All blamed on “prescription drugs.

This terribly one-sided report from a usually trusted news source is an example of how groups like PROP have affected the conversation about pain care and opioid medicines in particular. Not once in this report was there an interview with either a patient or doctor using these medicines well.

We have to fight back against this one-sided story by telling our stories as often as we can. We also need to send our stories to our state and Federal legislators to combat this “anti-science” barrage of one-sided, stilted reportage.


All drs can do the 3 day emergency call in for Schedule II meds, but very, very few ever would. I doubt if the majority of chronic pain patients are even aware this can be done. The dr still has to supply the written and signed rx to the pharmacist within seven days. But, this is the responsibility of the dr not the patient. I understand why you drive 2 hrs one way to see this dr.

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