Kevin began taking opiates in his teenage years after a dirt bike accident. His doctor continually upped his dose, even after he became addicted. He spoke about poor and incredible treatment he received from doctors, and why he was able to recover, when so many of his friends were not.
“I was in a dirt bike accident when I was 16. My shoulder was broken in a bunch of pieces. I saw a specialist in Winnipeg and I’ve had five surgeries to date. I never went to a doctor about the pain for a whole year after I got injured, but after a while I couldn’t handle it anymore. I got put on Percocets. Then it was a myriad of opiates, benzos, and anti-anxiety drugs. The opiates were for the pain, and the others were for the stress and anxiety because of my addiction to the opiates. I never had any anxiety or depression before. I was an outgoing kid, an athlete. I played double A hockey till I was 20 years old. Pretty much around 20 was when things started to get really bad.”
“I was so hooked on opiates! My doctor didn’t know how to deal with me so he kept prescribing and prescribing. He started giving me Demorol shots every 48 hours. And I was on a Fentanyl patch and swallowing hydromorphs at the same time. The nurses at the hospital started saying ‘This isn’t right.’ So he stopped giving me those injections. But there was no going back. It was like something flipped in my brain. If it wasn’t going into my arm I was not happy. I would freak. I would go to the hospital and stomp my feet and they would give me Ativan and all that. Over the years it was a learned behaviour – if I stomped my feet I would get what I wanted. This went on for ten solid years.”
I got all those drugs from the same doctor. He cared about me a lot, but he didn’t know how to deal with me.
“I truly believe that he wanted to help me and just didn’t know how. I’ve been struggling for a long time with anger towards him, but I have let it go. I have accepted that I played a big role in my addiction.”
“There has to be a plan before starting opiates. For me there was no plan. My doctor knew I was injured, and it was ‘We’re going to put you on these.’ It wasn’t like, ‘You are going to go on them for two weeks and then we are going to assess.’ It was, ‘Here’s 120 Percs and every month you will be getting them.’ Once I started getting hooked, after four days I had gone through 120 Percs. So, instead of him saying, ‘You’ve got a problem’, it was like ‘Well, we’re going to put you on Oxys and then we’re going to put you on a patch because if you are on a patch you are not going to eat 100 pills a day.’ But even on the patch I was still getting 120 Percs for breakthrough pain, and going for Demerol shots. Things kind of spiralled. I think he truly believed that he could get me to a point where it would end. But that stuff often doesn’t end.”
“I was finally ready to quit because I thought to myself, ‘Jesus Christ, before I know it, I am going to be 50, if I am not dead. I’ll be looking back at a whole life time of nothing but abusing opiates.’”
“No matter how much I used, I felt terrible about myself. When you are shooting morphine, you shouldn’t be crying. When you are crying that is your first sign that this is not working!”
I wanted my life back. I knew that it would be up to me, but I would need some help.
“I got a new doctor, which was a miracle. I went to her and said, ‘Listen, I want to get off. I am in pain from my shoulder, but I am not in enough pain that I have to take 500 mg of morphine every day.’ She weaned me down. And I moved back to my parents’ place. After I came off opiates, I had a massive psychosis and depression for a year. I wanted to put an ax through my head. I wanted to shoot myself in the head. It’s so hard to describe. It was hell, man.”
“My parents have a lot of experience with addiction. My aunt was a heavy pill user; she ended up dying because of it. From the time my dad was a kid until the present day he has witnessed heavy alcohol abuse. My grandpa died when he was 58 from booze. So, my parents never threw me out because they knew what I was going through. I thank God that I have parents that understood that. I’ve got a lot of friends whose parents just don’t get it. They say, ‘Why can’t you get off? Why are you doing this?’ Well, it’s a disease! It’s like cancer or diabetes.”
“I had an apartment on the other side of town. When I decided to quit this time around, I couldn’t stay there. I could not be alone for one second of the day. That’s how bad it was for the first year. I kept my apartment in the hopes that I could go back there. After the first year coming off, I tried to go back. I spent a night there, but it was too much because of what I had done in that place for years. There were no memories of anything other than hard drug abuse, not to mention that when you look out your window there’s a boarded up building and every single person around you is impoverished and drug addicted. I couldn’t look at it anymore. So, my parents let me move back in here, which was great. Because when I look out the window here, there’s positive stuff to see.”
“They didn’t treat me very well in the emergency department. I don’t know how many places you know where a guy will walk in and say, ‘Listen, I am going to kill myself’ and there is no observation, no nothing. My parents brought me there because I was going to kill myself and the doctor told them, ‘You’re out of touch.’ That was the worst thing that I ever heard or witnessed. She more or less told my parents that they didn’t know nothing about raising me, and that led to my drug abuse. The only person that was out of touch that night was the doctor.”
I am telling her I am going to kill myself and she says, ‘Well, here’s some Ativan and go home.
“Every time I went to the hospital because I wanted to kill myself, that was the answer. Drug this kid up so he doesn’t bug us, and send him out the door.’
“The anger my dad has towards the system is worse than the anger I have. I have let it go because I know that I played a big part.”
“The people who are addicted around town, they cannot believe that I managed to get off. I don’t hang out with them but I see them daily. I go to counselling twice a week and I’ve got to walk down where they are all hanging out. My heart breaks that they are there because a lot of these guys I love and care about.”
“They are good people. They are very, very good people. They are just sick right? They need help and a lot of them are in poverty. They don’t have moms and dads like I had, to take them in.”
What was it about your second doctor that got you on the right road?
“She had a lot of empathy and a lot of compassion for what I was going through. Over the years, she was just always there. Whenever I was in a bad way, she’d make things better, whether that was just a chat. Despite all the anger that I have about the system, I know there are good doctors! She goes above and beyond. The whole time that I was on my parent’s floor anxious and depressed, she would call me regularly just to make sure I was alright.”
“Right now, I am so happy where I am. I can’t even tell you how good I feel right now. My goal in life is mental health. I used to think, ‘Oh, I don’t have money. I don’t have this. I don’t have that’. Without your mental health, you’re nothing; you’re just a crumbly mess. Every day I try as hard as I can to keep good things in my head space. I am slowly but surely getting rid of the bad.”