The story below was recently submitted by a life-long resident of the New River Valley, who wishes to remain anonymous. “Amelia” says she was compelled to come forward with her story because she thought it might help others who are secretly battling similar issues. She also wanted to do her part to help end the stigma associated with the disease of addiction.

“My parents were hard workers. They both worked full-time and provided most what I needed and some of what I wanted. Neither of them used drugs of any kind – they didn’t even drink alcohol – they just smoked a lot. They were good people.

I was always passive and got bullied in school pretty hard until about tenth grade. I eventually passed my state boards and became a nurse. I was also an EMT at one point. I loved health care and spent twenty years taking care of others. It was my passion.

I gave lots of pain meds over that time, but never once thought about judging people. I also never considered that I would eventually begin taking those same medications, or the difficulty I would have in trying to live without them.

I’ve had multiple health issues over the course of my life, including a bout with cancer and nearly a dozen surgeries. Each health complication or surgery obviously required a certain amount of pain medication. I would go through something, get through that, and boom! – something else would happen and I would start taking meds again.

It was continuous and it finally hooked me. I had acquired a taste for the pain medications and I gradually got to the point that I felt I needed them just to cope…just to live.
They became a source of happiness. If I took one, I had energy. The happy aura. So sweet and nice.

After you take them long enough, you build up a tolerance. So, in your mind, you think you need another. I was running out of medication before my prescription was due. Then once you’re out, you go through symptoms of withdrawl – which I unfortunately experienced many, many times.

It’s sickening. You become depressed. You feel like hell and the devil has come to your house. You keep saying to yourself, ‘No. I’m not gonna go back to the doctor and get more. I’m done.’ But then comes time to refill the prescription. You think you can control yourself and how many pills you take, but you take one and the cycle continues for another month – if it doesn’t kill you.

I still have health issues, but the family doctor I had relied on to write my prescriptions throughout my 16-year-long battle retired – which was a blessing in disguise, I guess you could say. Fortunately, the doctors I see now are much more aware of the potential dangers of pain medication.

I’ve gone without taking any pain pills for two years now. I quit cold turkey. What scares me is that I am at a point where I need to have another surgery and will likely be prescribed pain meds once again.

I’ve tried pot twice in my life. I’ve never shot up. I’ve never even tried cocaine, meth or fentanyl. It’s just those pills…those damned pills.

This is my story. I’m normal. I’m a mom, a granny, a wife. Addiction affects all of those around you because they see the struggle every day when you are using. It seriously is a demon. It controls your mind. Addiction is so real. It’s ugly and it does not discriminate.

I have close friends that have also taken meds and become hooked – including other people who devoted their lives to the medical profession. I’ve also had friends who took too many pills and stopped breathing.

I don’t know how many nights I’ve went to bed wondering why God never took me. He left me here for a reason, I guess. I think now it was because I was needed to care for my aging parents, who both became ill and eventually passed away.

Terms like “pill head” are so judgmental. I can’t understand why an addiction to pain medicine is viewed differently from someone who drinks alcohol or uses tobacco reguarly, or even eats too much. Addiction – no matter what your ‘drug of choice’ may be – is pure hell.

I’m not making any excuses. None. I’m guilty of abusing medications, but I’m also a good person and I’m as normal as most. Unfortunately, I have a chronic disease – on top of my other health conditions – that has debilitated my whole life.”

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If you are struggling with addiction, contact NRVCS at 961-8400 to get connected with services.