I’m a pretty normal mom – not quite basic, not terribly unique. I have three kids, two dogs, and a minivan. I’m a lot like you, a lot like a lot of moms.
The difference is that I’m on painkillers when I parent.
I’m obsessed with true crime, I love tacos, and I really like wearing stretchy pants.
I help my kids with their homework, I make grocery lists, and I attend my kids’ school functions, concerts, and recitals.
The thing is, I take painkillers because I suffer from chronic, overwhelming, intractable pain.
At any given moment, 20 percent of the population of the US is experiencing chronic pain. Whether due to injuries, accidents, illnesses, or other issues, chronic pain is a very real problem that is felt much more than it’s discussed.
Some people experience pain until they heal, some people never quite heal fully, and some people just hurt all the time. I’m part of that last group.
In my case, I’ve been diagnosed with autoimmune disorders that attack the healthy cells and tissues in my body, causing inflammation and irreversible damage.
There is no cure.
I can manage some symptoms with various medications and lifestyle changes in an attempt to keep the progression at a slower pace, but I cannot stop my body from attacking itself, cannot undo what has already been done.
Because of this, I’m always in pain, and I depend upon the daily use of painkillers. Opiates. Prescription drugs.
I depend Sometimes, when I’m snuggling my kids during a movie or emailing a teacher about an upcoming project, I’m high.
Conversely, sometimes when I miss an important event or can’t make an appearance where you’d expect to see me, it’s because I’m in too much pain to leave the bed.
I’m more affected by not taking painkillers than I am when I take them.
I don’t drive – it’s not safe. The pain means I can’t shower every day, even when I’m taking my meds. Sometimes I hurt too much to let my kids sit next to me, or even hug me.
If made to choose between skipping snuggles or being stoned, any parent would choose to feel loopy. I’d miss out on more without the help of opiates.
I choose painkillers so that I can still parent, so that I can still function.
I’m never so affected by medication that I’m not fully present. The doses that I depend upon are high enough to take the edge off the pain, but low enough that I’m not dangerous.
I remember everything, but I am tired.
Sometimes my ears are warm and there’s a rushing sound that makes it difficult to hear everything, but I’m never not in control of myself, never a danger to others.
Given the gross misunderstandings of addiction and pain medication, painkillers are a dirty secret, a shameful drug.
Government regulations and public opinion have made the lives of chronic pain patients much more difficult than necessary – it’s harder to get treatment, it’s harder to maintain treatment.
We’re seen as seekers, not patients.
I can’t share about my struggles with pain, not publicly. I’d be judged, and so would my kids.
I can dominate while watching Jeopardy! on painkillers.
I can read, cook, mediate my kids’ arguments, even write this post while on painkillers.
I can function at very high levels while taking the medication that is necessary to maintain any quality of life, but I can’t pass a drug test.
I take precautions to keep my pain medication away from my kids.
I keep count of the pills and speak honestly and openly about the dangers of abusing such medications.
Again, I don’t drive. I don’t take responsibility for anyone else’s children when I’m alone.
I take great care not to put anyone in danger, including myself… but still society judges me.
We live in a time where countless posts and shirts declare that mommy needs wine to make it through the day. Holiday? Wine.
In laws visiting? Wine.
Birthday party? Wine.
No one would question my ability to parent if I joked about enjoying a glass of Prosecco after a trying day with quarreling kids and mountains of laundry, but if I’m honest about needing an opiate to bring my pain level down enough to join my kids on the couch I’m suddenly shady, dangerous, maybe even criminal.
I’m a good mom. I’m a good friend, a good wife.
I spend weeks finding the perfect holiday gifts, hours wrapping them gorgeously. I keep in touch with others, check up on those who I know are struggling. I craft. I create.
I plan my kids’ parties and playdates, stay on top of their appointments and and deadlines. I listen to problems, guard secrets, and offer advice.
I am a fully functional, contributing, good person and parent… and I do it all on painkillers.