The Threat of Painkiller Addiction

Mom's Introduction

The subject of painkiller addiction is one of the few drug addiction topics I did have some familiarity with prior to learning about my daughter's problems. Over the last 15 years, I have learned of several friends, employees, acquaintances ...many different individuals who have had problems with prescription drug addiction. 

I have actually never taken anything stronger than a Tylenol or Advil ever in my life and therefore don't have personal experience about what it feels like to take them or to want them and not take them. I have, however, personally seen painkiller addiction negatively impact the lives of those who are addicted to them.

For this reason, I was very against my daughter taking any prescription medications for pain when she had to have her wisdom teeth removed. I assume if it was so easy for non-addictive personalities to develop a painkiller addiction, then it would certainly be risky for a person in recovery.

Besides, I assumed it went without saying that no doctor would even consider prescribing painkillers for a person in recovery. I also thought ...What support group? What counselor? What mentor would "allow" her to take painkillers?

Unfortunately, I was totally wrong and my concerns and warnings about painkiller addiction were ignored by everyone and a new problem developed. The following entries from Rae's journal which she is sharing with me and with you best describe what she is experiencing.

Rae's Recovery Journal

It’s been a really long time since I’ve written anything. Sam and I do a gratitude list together every morning, so that’s why I haven’t been writing in a journal as much.

I got my wisdom teeth out today and I’m currently in excruciating pain. I’m really happy that Sam took the day off to take care of me, and I’m grateful that I finally have my wisdom teeth out because I was in a lot of pain from them for several weeks.

It’s also really great to have so much support from my friends and family. Taking Percocet is scary, I guess it's normal to have worries about painkiller addiction, but at this point I don’t really feel like I have much of a choice because of the pain. Hopefully I won’t have to take it much longer.

Sam is making sure I don’t take too much and I don’t want to mess things up. I am super happy lately and I love being sober, so I know I will be okay.


I have been having a really difficult time staying sober since I got my wisdom teeth out. After taking Vicodin and Percocet, I can’t stop thinking about how good it makes me feel and I am worried about painkiller addiction.

Even when the painkillers makes me feel kind of sick, they still give me one of the best feelings in the entire world. It’s a feeling that nothing in sobriety could ever compare to, no matter how happy I am. It's easy to understand how painkiller addiction happens so easily to so many people.

Thinking about this also makes me start thinking about doing other drugs, like cocaine or even having a drink.

Again, there is nothing in sobriety that could ever compare to the high of these drugs. The way it makes me feel is something that I will never feel again, and I miss it. I miss it enough that I’m considering throwing away 9 ½ months of sobriety and everything else good in my life.

I know getting high comes with bad consequences and eventually misery, but I don’t care. I just love the high so much I can’t explain. I have mixed feelings though obviously because I love my life today and I love being sober.

But I love the high and I just want to run away from life, and all of the responsibilities that I have. I want it so badly that I’m close to tears, but I’m trying to hold on and wait it out, because I know that I’ve never been this happy before in my life.

I know that if I use, it won’t just be once. And I don’t want to just use once. I want to get high and keep getting high, but I want all of the good things in my life that I have today.

I’m grateful for what I have, and I’m trying to keep that in the front of my thoughts. It’s so easy for me to convince myself that it’s okay to get high, and that I will get back to where I am now even if I use a few times.

But I am asking for help. Please help me stay sober and please help me remember how good my life is today.


Almost 2 weeks later, and still all I can think about is getting high. I’ve been super anxious lately and that definitely triggers my cravings. But I’ve been wanting to use since I got my wisdom teeth out.

I’m going to meetings, writing, talking to my sponsor and other sober people, being honest, trying to pray, going to my outpatient group…nothing helps. I’m still just trying to do the right thing and wait it out, but it gets harder every day. 

Mom's Thoughts:

I am in no way trying to say "I told you so." There would be no pleasure in that. I wish I had been wrong. I wish she could have taken the painkillers without any thoughts whatsoever of a painkiller addiction such as Percocet addiction or Vicodin addiction. 

I saw how much pain she was in. It went on for weeks prior to the oral surgery and it went on for over a week after the surgery.

She was very brave also. She took as little as possible and she flushed the Vicodin she was taking prior to the surgery down the toilet before the script ran out. She and Sam videotaped it and we were all proud.

After the surgery, she stopped the Percocet early and got rid of the script the doctor pushed at her at her recheck, so I thought everything would be fine. But when I read about the agony she is going through, it breaks my heart. I'm not very good at feeling helpless.

I feel very angry at the doctor. I called him before he gave her anything and told him she was in recovery. I thought he would be very reluctant to prescribe anything stronger than Advil. I'm sure he, of all people, knows all about painkiller addiction.

I feel very angry that I couldn't "make" her not take the painkillers. I knew about painkiller addiction and was very frightened of it. I feel very angry that I can't "make" her feel good. I find it very frustrating that her brain has been "rewired" again by taking the painkillers, making her feel these horrible cravings.

And I feel very frustrated that I don't know how to help. I listen, I encourage, I try to lighten her load, I pray and show all the love a Mother could to her child, I lie awake and think and think about her pain and try to think of ways I can take it away. Most of all, I try to stay calm and try to live one day at a time, or actually one moment at a time. 

August 15, 2010 - Mom's Thoughts Continued

1 week after my daughter wrote the above entry dated 7/29, she suffered a relapse. The cravings which seemed to have been brought on by the painkillers got the best of her. My worst fears brought on by my knowledge of painkiller addiction came true. Fortunately, she told a friend on the very first day and told Sam 3 days later. She stopped using drugs and admitted herself to inpatient rehab. I am very proud of her.

This experience was far worse than the first time I learned of her drug abuse. I saw my daughter almost kill herself this time. I saw the demon within drugs take over her brain and destroy her willpower and I saw her experience things while on drugs and during detox that no one should ever have to go through.

I also learned once again, even more this time, that I cannot solve her problems. I have read and read and attended meetings and talked to counselors and read some more and, in despair, I have learned that no one can help her except herself. That is a difficult thing for a Mom to accept.

I have learned that all I and the rest of her family can do is work on our own actions and thoughts. All the begging or nagging or threatening or insisting in the world isn't going to make an addict stay sober. In fact, those very things can actually be damaging and interfere with sobriety.

I am struggling to keep my own emotions under check ...struggling to function and go on with my own life. I am reading, talking, learning, reading, writing ...trying to help myself be the kind of person that will in turn help my daughter. And I am again living one day at a time or less. 

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