Episode 2 – What Is Addiction?
What is addiction? Breaking down our brain’s behaviors.
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. On my medical file, it says 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 two prescriptions waiting for you to pick up.”
My heart skipped a beat, hearing those words for the first time in awhile. 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 temptations 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 two 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.”
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When I said I was a drug addict, Karen looked at me like I’d filed for divorce and thrown up on her new blouse all at once.
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, could flow across state lines and forever taint me. But I held onto the reality that I needed to cut off the possibility of falling.
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—but 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 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 and each time since then, I’m reminded that I’m allergic to drugs.
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 took to be an active addict. Resourcefulness drove my addiction, organizing a network of drugs, finances and secrecy. That resourcefulness needed to be the hallmark of my recovery.
And it is. I’m using what is within me to protect myself from myself.
Am I okay with wearing this scarlet letter?
Darn right I am. It’s that serious.
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