Lisa is an addict. Originally from Georgia USA, she now lives in Yorkshire. She didn’t know it at the time, but her experience of opiate addiction started at just 23 and wiped out her 20s.
My experience of opioids started in Georgia. I know the healthcare system* in the USA is completely different (I love the NHS by the way! Who wouldn’t? It’s free…compared to the USA). The reason I share my story is that regardless of how you access opiates, if you’re an addict, like I am, these drugs are very dangerous.
The problem was, I didn’t know I was an addict at the time. I had an ingrown toenail and was prescribed Oxycodone for 90 days. Crazy right? The USA is very different from the UK, but I quickly realised that the feeling it gave me mirrored all the good stuff about being drunk, but with none of the side effects. No hangover, no smell and felt like a warm blanket wrapped round me all the time.
It’s a really attractive high and I was completely functional – for a while.
Within nine months I was showing drug seeking behaviour. I said things like I had a crushed nail that needed to be removed, I was visiting all sorts of doctors (much easier to do of course in the USA, where we pay per visit) just to get hold of more opioids.
Within two years of that first prescription I was buying opioids illegally. I was also drinking. So the opioid high wasn’t enough – I was clearly an addict. I now recognise I had been drinking excessively and uncontrollably in my early 20s, but at the time I just thought I was ‘partying’. I was a white collar drunk, holding down a good job – it didn’t feel like a problem then. The opioids accelerated my addictive behaviour and I was well and truly hooked.
I worked in financial services through my 20s and met and married my Yorkshire husband. We had a long-distance relationship and so it was easier to hide the worst parts of my addictions.
As an addict I have a mental and physical obsession. My story is about the extreme end of opioid addiction and the biggest battle will always be the mental side.
By 29 I had lost a lot of weight, was eating poorly. I’d sold everything I owned, like my jewellery, just to get more opioids. I was really in deep. My dad said he’d pay for me to go into a residential rehab programme. I did it, but only because I had no other choice. My husband was in the UK, I had no money and I wanted my dad off my back.
The withdrawal was awful.
All of the things you expect for a drug addict. Coming off opiates was hideous. I relapsed, because I wasn’t really ready or had accepted the full extent of my problem. I did go back to rehab but this time for me and over the next 22 months I plugged in, I listened, I was ready to change. I was still married and my husband had moved to the USA and was supportive of me during this time.
At 31 we fell pregnant with my son. It was scary to re-enter the world away from the security of rehab. Being pregnant gave me the incentive I needed to stay sober. We moved back to the UK and I love it here. I gave birth naturally to avoid any drugs.
One of my biggest fears is having to go to hospital and needing to take painkillers. My rule is not to leave the hospital with any kind of opiate pain medication if it ever came to that.
There are long-term consequences that I live with too. Opiates can make you badly constipated. So bad you need to be hospitalised! I still live today with poor liver function, stomach issues, IBS and my short-term memory is dreadful. And because my pain receptors are so messed up, my pain threshold is ruined, so little things hurt more.
I’m now 39, I love Yorkshire and the life we have here. It doesn’t really matter how I accessed opiates, I was always an addict and wanted to share my story for those that find themselves at the far end of the scale.
You can follow Lisa @YorkshirePeach on TikTok and Instagram
*There is no NHS in America. It is a largely private healthcare system.