How Painkillers Tested My Marriage, and How We Won

Painkillers and Withdrawal | Substance Abuse | Find Addiction Rehabs | Man in withdrawal struggling with detox symptomsHis eyes shuttered closed again, and he slowly slumped back against the headboard of our bed, his head went limp against the pillow. He sat that way for a few moments as I watched, dumbstruck and in disbelief. He must have taken painkillers again while I was in the kitchen.

Not this. No way. Not again.

“Chris!” I snapped, my worry and anxiety evident in my voice. “Why are you sleeping?”

His head jerked up sharply; his eyes blinked slowly to adjust to the dim light in our bedroom. He had fallen asleep in the midst of our discussion, once again.

“I’m not sleeping,” he mumbled, unable to make eye contact as his eyelids fluttered closed again. “I’m just sleepy.”

Less than three minutes passed, and he slumped over. I shook him, but he didn’t even budge as when I tried to awaken him. I called 911.


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Painkillers Were Stealing Away My Husband

Addiction is a crushing ailment. The unyielding power that a brown plastic bottle full of pills holds over the person I married never ceases to shock me. Painkillers had caused a lot more pain and many more questions than they answered.

Why can’t he just—one time–t be honest with me?

Is he getting high again?

Where did the pills come from?

Will he stop using if I stop the nagging?

Why can’t I help him?

Thoughts pinged rapid-fire through my mind every time Chris came home high again. He would tell lies about it for a week, then break down again after another week. The endless cycle of tearful apologies and promised to swear off the painkillers started all over. He could not even have a short conversation without passing out.

After my own participation in Al-Anon, I understood why he used like he did, that there was nothing I could have personally done to break the cycle. It’s a disease. He would not stop it until he was ready to do the hard work of getting sober.

But he never wanted to put in the necessary work. I could hardly blame him. The bitter taste of alcohol and the joy of a buzz were easy to miss, that’s for sure. But painkillers were easier to take and gave a high, unlike any other high. I knew it would not be easy to fight addiction from my personal battles, and opioids are even more difficult to give up.

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Addiction Is Not A Battle To Fight Alone

It never fully ended. The thoughts and what if’s overcame me. I liked to think about him coming home and tossing his pill bottle into the trash can, and then embracing me, reassuring me that this time he’s done. He wants help, and he wants to fight his demons. He won’t ever come home again with that same rant, saying he’s sorry and promising to quit. I wanted to hear him say that he wanted to give up the pills and admit that he couldn’t do it alone. I wanted to hear that he’s felt as alone as I have in this messy situation.

That last bit had a tiny kernel of reality in it. Chris tells me that trying to get sober alone felt like an overwhelming almost impossible task. He tells me he had no one who understood how he felt and that he felt lonely and wrongfully accused. He couldn’t comprehend why we did not understand. Nor did he know why we refused to just let him be. That’s the dilemma, I guess. He felt alone, but he wanted to be left alone—along with the little pill bottle filled with of painkillers–for the rest of his life.

With over 1,000 Americans admitted to hospitals every day due to prescription painkiller overdose, I always worried that Chris might be next.

Opioids Won’t Steal My Marriage

Painkiller Addiction | Marriage and Addiction | Find Addiction Rehabs | Man fading away in metaphor for addictionWithout professional help, many individuals who struggle with addictions are released and clutching their bottles of painkillers as soon as they arrive home from the rehab clinic or hospital. I knew I had to act quickly.

After his fourth relapse, I finally got Chris to enter rehab. I knew he could only get the help he needed with the support of doctors and nurses, as well as other users like him. It wasn’t a popular choice, but an intervention helped get the message across. He finally saw that he wasn’t alone, and choosing to be alone would be his own doing.

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He spent ninety days in the inpatient rehabilitation center, learning about how prescription painkillers, alcohol, and all other drugs chemically change the brain. He finally understood that they rewired the dopamine receptors and had destroyed his contentment with his daily routine and sober life.

During rehab, Chris learned coping skills to manage his cravings and help to avoid relapse. He met a community of other struggling people aiming for sobriety. Together they still attend 12-step meetings and support each other.

As the spouse of a person with an addiction, the struggle I see my loved one walk through feels impossible to comprehend. However, when you guide them to seeking the help they so desperately need, you see a miraculous change in your life.

Inpatient rehabilitation helped Chris learn to live his life clean and sober. He will celebrate his nine month sober anniversary in two weeks.

As for me, I’m also healing. The effects of my husband’s addiction ran deeper than just the painkillers that he relied on for so long. Rehab changed our lives. I’m no longer anticipating another evening of Chris nodding off high on opiates. I am truly grateful for his sobriety.

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