Lung shaped pool of pills with hand sticking out

Painful Truth

There’s a topic I usually don’t talk about because it was hard to come to terms with it. I found courage and strength to talk about this because I don’t feel alone anymore. I now know that I am not the only person with cystic fibrosis who has gone through this: I was addicted to pain medication.

Those words used to bring me shame and embarrassment, but now it only helps me go forward. They helped me realize that I can get through anything because I am stronger than I ever realized.

Having cystic fibrosis is hard because it comes with so many different challenges. Part of that challenge is that CF equals pain. Pain can come from so many different origins like chest pain, painful breathing, arthritis, joint pain, neuropathy, fibromyalgia, migraines, sinus pain, scars, surgeries, and more.

Taking pain medications for cystic fibrosis

I know pain, and I know that I can tolerate a good amount of pain. When my pain started to get worse, it became my "normal." I knew nothing more than I was going to wake up in pain, just like I fell asleep in pain. I began taking pain medications to help with it and to function; pain can get so bad that it hurts to walk, hurts to breathe, hurts to cough and the list goes on and on. It’s hard to live like that.

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Over time, the pain pills got stronger and, with that, so did my need for them. It got to a point where I could not function without the medicine. It helped me feel normal by numbing my body. I could take pain pills and not feel all day, which--to me--was a miracle. I could walk and my joints wouldn’t hurt so much that I couldn’t walk.

I was able to feel like a different person, a person who wasn’t crying inside from pain. My outside was this normal not-sick girl, and all the while I was numb inside because I didn’t want to feel pain anymore. Inside I was hurting.

Realizing I had a problem

I knew I had a problem when I was popping pain pills without anyone knowing what I was doing. I could take pills in front of family and they were none-the-wiser because I’ve been taking so many medications for my cystic fibrosis, I could easily hide a pain pill in with the bunch.

I knew I was addicted because whenever I stopped, I felt sick. I trembled, became sweaty, and I developed a different pain: a pain that my body needed more pain medication.

Getting help

When I confronted the fact that I needed help from this, I sought help and--thankfully--got help. Withdrawal was one of the hardest things that I ever had to face. I felt like my body was trying to kill me. I was sweaty as if I had this awful fever, but I was also cold beyond anything. Being cold and not being able to find warmth even with 2 coats and 4 comforters over me was awful. I vomited so much that keeping water down was a challenge.

It was a horrible, horrible experience and one I’ll never forget. But, here I am, I made it!

Now I avoid pain medications

I suffer a lot from pain and a lot of people can tell me, "Take something!" but I won’t. I won’t take anything unless I am crying because I can’t take it. I am extremely careful with what medicine I am taking now because I don’t want to take a step backward.

It’s an ongoing battle because I am in so much pain every day, but I am grateful to be feeling pain now. To me, feeling it is a lot better than numbing myself to it.

I can’t hide from my CF; it’s always going to be there. I have lived with it my whole life and I am finally okay with who I am having CF. No matter what pains I feel and how awful I feel every day because of my struggles with my health, I am so grateful to still be here and be alive. Because now, through pain, I can smile--because I am stronger now.

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