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Protecting Yourself Against Temptation In Recovery

by Brian Carberg ❘  

“Allergic” To Prescription Medications

I’m allergic to mind or mood-altering prescription drugs.

Before you start thinking that I’m joking, let me be clear: I’m not. Medical records clearly state that I am allergic to Narcotics and any medications that can be abused.

When I left rehab and started back in life, I realized that 90% of the people I encountered didn’t understand addiction. They went about their business as usual, assuming that people like me just need to “go easy” on stuff.

I remember being clean and sober for less than a week before I received a call from a local CVS pharmacy.

“Mr. Carberg, we have 2 prescriptions waiting for you to pick up.”

My heart skipped a beat when I heard those words. For so long, that phrase made my heart flutter like during a first kiss. I felt the first tinge of temptation. In fact, it was one of the only moments of temptation I’ve encountered.

I pulled into CVS and walked down the aisles I always would. The smiling pharmacist greeted me; I’ll call her Karen.

“Karen, I believe I have 2 prescriptions available for pick up.”

She asked for a little information and then looked me up.

“Yes, you have a 90 day supply of Hydrocodone and Valium.”

I swallowed hard and said the words that would later haunt me.

Karen, I’m a drug addict; and I want to abuse those drugs.

A Scarlet Letter On My File

When I said I was a drug addict, Karen looked at me like I’d grown another head.

She stammered, “I don’t understand.”

“Karen, I need you to mark it in my file. I need you to red flag me; is that something you can do?”

She told me it was, that she would enter it into her system so that every pharmacy would know what I was telling her today.

I’d have a scarlet letter on my file, and I was okay with that. It was worth people looking at me sideways to protect my sobriety.

After that discussion with Karen, I called each major pharmacy chain and outed myself to them as a potential risk.

But I realized I’d only cut off the distribution channel. There were ways around that. I had to go to the source.

I called my primary doctor and scheduled an appointment with him. Serendipitously, he had an opening that same day (come on, we all know how rare that is).

I sat in the waiting room, reading Highlights magazine (Goofus and Gallant to be specific), waiting for them to call my name. I knew that what I was doing would be on my permanent record, that it could flow across state lines and forever taint me. But I held on.

They called my name and took me to the back room. My doctor was quick to see me and commented on my weight loss. I admired this doctor and didn’t want to let him down. More importantly, I couldn’t let myself down.

“Doc, I’m a drug addict; I just got out of rehab.”

He swallowed hard. Then came the questions about where I was getting the pills, how many, etc. I answered every one. The more invasive the question, the deeper I went with the response.

I asked him: “What’s the best way to make sure that I never get these in my hands, even accidentally?”

He paused and thought about it.

You need to be allergic to them. No nurse or doctor will prescribe them to you if you’re allergic.

“I’m allergic, then.”

He put it in my file. Each time since then, I’m reminded that I’m allergic to drugs.

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Is It Worth The Shame?

Is there a hint of shame that comes with doing something like this? Sure there is. But when I compare it to the shame of passing out during Christmas, it’s an easy pick.

Recovery requires the same amount of attention, passion, and focus that it takes to be an active addict. Resourcefulness drove my addiction as I organized a network of drugs, finances, and secrecy. That same resourcefulness needed to be the hallmark of my recovery.

And it is. I’m using what is within me to protect me from myself.

Am I okay with wearing this scarlet letter?

Darn right I am.


About the Author: Brian Carberg, LPC, NCC, BCPC

Brian Carberg is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private counseling practice in Connecticut. He is a National Certified Counselor, a Board Certified Professional Counselor in the American Psychotherapy Association, and holds a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Counseling. He has been assisting people in their healing journeys since 1990, serving as a counselor and supervisor in various Mental Health and Addiction programs. For ten years he worked as a Substance Abuse Counselor and Supervisor in an outpatient treatment program for people addicted to heroin and other opiates. In his current private counseling practice, he thoroughly enjoys assisting clients in all stages of recovery from various addictions. He believes today can be the start of the life you want, if you are willing to do the work.

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