"You've got to listen to me! You cannot just stop taking your painkillers. You will experience a huge crash!"
That was the voice of warning from my dad after all three of my surgeries. The first two were C-sections with my sons, happy occasions despite the two recoveries. The third surgery was a little more sobering with an appendiceal cancer diagnosis. That surgery lasted approximately seven hours followed by a ninety minute hot chemo wash and two week stay at Emory. I was told to expect a three to six month recovery time. As I started to feel better, my father again stressed how I needed to be very careful in how I came off my pain medications. He was right, I felt like Superman on the medication, but without it I felt Kryptonite weights wrapped around my body.
"Right now you feel great and ready to get back to being yourself, but if you stop taking your pain medication cold turkey, it will knock you down, fast."
To be transparent, I had an extra incentive to get off the pain pills ASAP, because, well, (okay, this is the part where I sound like my maternal grandmother who would openly discuss bowel issues without hesitation). Anyway, pardon the honesty, but I needed to have a bowel movement and opioid painkillers cause constipation, which creates a pain that painkillers not only can't stop, but make worse. In weighing the scales of what was more painful, I decided to get off the pain pills early. Looking back that intestinal pain was a blessing in disguise because it gave me great motivation in getting off of the painkillers. Thankfully, I had a coach in my father, who knew the ugly side of opiates and had my best interest at heart.
Below is a message that I pray gives hope to those already struggling, and a useful exit strategy for those facing an upcoming surgical procedure followed by an opioid prescription.
* Get a calendar and talk with your doctor and a close family member or friend.
* Decide on a time to wean yourself off of the prescribed pain medications.
* Ask your doctor about cutting pain meds into fourths, and go from one pain pill to three fourths.
* When you feel leveled out (may take several days to a week) cut dosage to one half and try for several days until you feel you can go to one fourth of a pill for several days.
* Once you feel stable, then you can stop taking the prescription.
* Give yourself another two weeks to realize that you may still feel down, with low energy.
* Circle the day that ends that two week period and see how close to "normal" you feel. If still struggling, notify your doctor and share with a friend, so they know to check in on your progress.
One thing to remember is that millions of people pay money to put stress on their muscles in order to get stronger physically. Stop and think about that for a minute. When we go through extreme challenges, something inside of us spiritually has the opportunity to grow stronger and produce deeper roots, so never give up, even when it seems too much.
I also want to personally share that the most painful experiences of my life have caused me to cry out to God for help. Looking back I can see where He met me in some very dark, scary, painful places and delivered me. He also gave me gifts out of those painful places. Most importantly, Jesus Himself identifies with horrific pain and sorrow. He willingly went to the cross on our behalf to save us.
Isaiah 53:5 New King James Version (NKJV)
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
I want to thank my earthly dad for his hard earned advice, and for his pointing me in the direction of our heavenly DAD!
With love and prayers for those dealing with pain,
Stay humble & BOLD!
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105
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