In my last column I began exploring life lessons that I have learned thanks to being disabled, starting with addiction. I have had a 35 years relationship with addiction due to chronic pain caused by trapped nerves left as a result of spinal surgery as a teenager. The pain leads me to regularly take strong pain medication, which are highly addictive This means I have learned the signs of addiction and to be able to admit that the human body is not weak when it succumbs to addiction, thus no one battling it should be ashamed. I previously explained how to spot the early tell take signs of addiction taking grip and that you can take control of your body's need for the substance you are becoming hooked on. All this is fine, but what do you do to shake off the chains of addiction?
Well, knowing you are hooked is vital as is not feeling that you are not strong enough to do anything about it. You can, and it's not as hard as you might think. It's all about working with your body but also being the one in control. The key of any addiction is, as I discussed last time, the pain that you feel when your body requires a top up of what you're becoming hooked on. That pain can be beaten and will end once you have taken control of the addiction. But it never feels like that when it kicks in. The pain from addiction feels like nothing you could win out against, and so you take more of whatever it is your body needs to stop the pain. Thus you begin the spiral of addiction. There is another way. A way that means you can shake the disease of addiction.
It starts with that admission that this pain you are feeling is not real, it is your body crying out due to the addiction. Many people state that cold turkey is the best route, but I disagree. I have always found the slow lessening of your intake of the addictive substance leads to triumph. How do you do such a difficult feat? It stems from your admission that you are addicted and that you are strong enough to take control. You are going to have to feel some discomfort but by slowly cutting down you can also stop the pain being too much to bare. In my case I find myself taking very strong pain killers as per the instructions on my prescription. It can only take a matter of days before the medication causes a physical need for me to keep taking them, and my body starts creating pain all over my body.
This new pain, in places that do not usually hurt, shows me I am on the road to addiction. As soon as the pain the drugs are actually helping with stops, or lessens, I begin lengthening the time between doses of medication. If I take my pills every 4 hours, I stretch that to 5, then 6, at a speed that feels right. Don't rush it, as the pain will win out and you'll slip back. Stick to a speed you feel comfortable with, but make sure you do lengthen the gaps progressively. As you stretch the gaps you will find the rush you get from taking back control better than any you get from giving in.
This method means you slowly learn to fight the addictive pain as it gets slowly less, so the time between doses correlates with the pain decreasing. It can take a few days or a few weeks or even months, but eventually I will be free of my need for medication and the pain will have gone too. I am no longer addicted. Annoyingly I will have to go through this again at least once more in the following year as my real pain flares up, but this repetition of needing strong pain killers, becoming addicted to them and then kicking the addiction has led to me knowing this method really works.
My regular slips back into addiction has also taught me that there is nothing to be ashamed of if you also slip, or even develop another addiction to take the place of the original one. The human body is built to become addicted, and it's not weakness to give in to that. But it is strength to admit that your body is trying to take control and that you will fight back. I have found that using my pulling back slowly technique, you win out without enduring agony. It means if you ever slip again you can be confident that you do not face another hellish withdrawal. It's just a blip, and once you admit that you can put yourself back in the driving seat in no time. You will soon be winning all over again.
So there you go, the first in a series that explores life lessons I have learned thanks to being disabled. I think that after such a serious subject as addiction next time I might deal with... death!