About five or six years ago, I stood in an emergency room doubled over in pain waiting for a doctor to come tell me what was wrong. The pain in my stomach began a few days earlier and got worse. My insides were in knots, tugged every which way to the point where I couldn’t stand or even sit up straight. The only relief I had was to bend over at the waist and only then the pain didn’t really subside it just became more bearable.
Finally, after seeing several nurses, a doctor administered a common and uncomfortable test for internal bleeding. He returned with a prognosis. First he had a simple question: “Have you been taking any prescription pain medications? Codeine, vicodin or anything like that?”
I was too ashamed to admit it so I lied before he told me I had an ulcer in my stomach – possibly several – and prescribed me some medicine to get rid of it. I didn’t even know what an ulcer was. I just knew I shouldn’t have any in my mid-20s. There I was with several ulcers because I made the decision to sip lean nearly every day for a few years.
That was the first time addiction became a real concern in my life. It didn’t stop me from going home that night and pouring up more Promethazine and Codeine cough syrup into soda and drinking it until I fell asleep. But it was the first realization that this had become a problem. Actually quitting the destructive drug was several years away. It took even more time from looking back and saying “What the f*ck was I doing?” to myself. However, at that moment I had acknowledged for an instant that this had become a problem.
Prescription medications can ruin lives just as bad or worse than street drugs. It’s no fun being itchy all night because of the side effects of drinking prescription cough medicine like water. Or being so dehydrated in the morning that you can barely get out of bed to drive your daughter to school, something I affectionately referred to as a “Lean over.” There were the ulcers, the mood swings, the withdrawals when I dared to go a few days without some syrup.
It didn’t matter, though. It only added more trips to the doctor to convince them I had a cough, and the joy of a score when the doctor either bought it and handed out a prescription or simply couldn’t give two shits and gave me the medicine without even looking at me.