Dan decided to manage his pain and be medication free.
I was born with a mild form of cerebral palsy. It means I have a weakness on the left-hand side of my body. It never stopped me enjoying sport or working as a pub landlord.
In around 2008 I started to experience pain in my legs. I visited the GP who prescribed Co-codamol, taking one or two, as and when needed. A year later, the problem was worse. I was just coping at work on crutches and was taking the maximum dose.
I progressed to tramadol. In a year, I was taking the maximum dose. Again.
Eventually, I had to give up work. It was impossible to manage the pain and work in an environment where I was on my feet for up to 12 hours a day.Each time I increased the type of opioid I was taking, the pain would reduce for a while, creep back up and I would continually increase the dose. The pain always came back in time, only worse!
I thought I’d hit the jackpot when I moved to morphine. I’d been in a wheelchair and could walk again – brilliant! But, the same thing happened. After just a few months, the pain increased and before I knew it, I was now taking the maximum dose of Morphine and working my way through 600ml of Oramorph. Every. Single. Day.
I think my body became immune to its effects. Anyone who did not know me, wouldn’t have realised the amount of opioid medication I was taking. Mentally I could completely function.
Breaking point came in October 2019. The pain had been so unbearable at times I had asked doctors to sever my spine. I’d rather live without the use of my legs than in the excruciating daily pain. I was staring 40 in the face, I was maxing out on opioids that weren’t touching the pain. There was nowhere else to go. Something had to change!
I decided I would rather live with and manage the pain and be medication free.
I knew coming off this huge amount of medication would be bad. I was terrified! I spoke to my mum and cried. I needed the support of my family if I was to succeed. I went to see my GP thinking I’d have to go into some sort of rehab. I was referred to the pain management service, and together with the pharmacist we created a plan to slowly reduce the amount of opioid medication I was taking.
I requested daily and weekly prescriptions. I did not want a month in advance again. I needed to know the supply was limited! Each time I reduced the quantity, I’d experience shaking, sweating, anxiety – all the things you think of when you think about withdrawal. I had to be resilient and mentally tough, knowing the end goal was to be medication free. I probably pushed faster than the medical professionals would have liked but I needed to get to the end.
I still had the red-hot pain in my legs, but mentally I felt better. I started in October 2019 and was finally clean of opioids by March 2020.
It was such a mental high to know I was no longer physically addicted.
When I look back now, I realise I was constantly clock watching for my next dose. Holidays, weekends and Christmas my first thought was to ensure I had enough meds to get me through. I’d take my evening dose an hour early, and pretend I’d go to bed early. Opioids were all consuming!
I have a 16-year-old son. In the dark moments of withdrawal, I would focus my thoughts on him to help me get past the worst.
Today, I’m back in the world of work and volunteer for Cancer Research. I am always in pain. But I cope. Sometimes it’s only a one, other times up to a seven or eight. It’s definitely no worse and I believe it’s actually better. I take hot baths, they help. I also find driving distracts my mind from the pain. I try not to have routine, to help keep my brain on the back foot. I’m walking, albeit with a crutch for distance and love nothing better than to get out in the Yorkshire countryside!
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