One of the things I learned about my alcohol addiction is that I was and am chemically dependent. In other words, alcohol isn’t the only chemical that messes me up. Painkillers also do that. How do I know? I learned it by accident.
“Have you been taking some kind of medicine lately, George?” The psychiatric nurse who worked for me asked me that one day after a staff meeting.
“Yes,” I replied, reaching into a pocket and showing her the empty bottle. “I just finished these about an hour ago, why?”
“You’ve been really strange lately. You shouldn’t be taking these, because you’re chemically dependent.”
That was on a Friday afternoon. I learned over the weekend what she was talking about. For two days, my emotions were all over the place. On Saturday morning I got a call from a member of my staff. She was in tears, having just received word that her father had died. My response? “Cackle, cackle cackle!” I burst into giggles and guffaws, and I could not stop myself. It was the same scenario that I’d experienced with alcohol: inappropriate responses to situations and the inability to control my emotions. Withdrawal symptoms are no fun, and I sure was having them. They didn’t throw me into a relapse, but they sure did scare the bejasus out of me.
I had told my physician about my addiction, so thought he would know what to prescribe and what not to prescribe. But he didn’t, and this is (or was 7-10 years ago) fairly typical. Don’t assume, as I did, that your physician won’t prescribe a medication that could trigger your addiction. The reason was and may still be that physicians received very little education about addiction. I recall one neurologist and pain management specialist who told me that Oxycontin and Oxycodone were not addictive. Interesting, given the fact that all the information I’d been reading said they were highly addictive. He went on my list of physicians not to refer people to.