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It’s over!  11

Please forgive the attention seeking crypticness of my previous entry - I was in a strange state of mind. Now, though, I’m out the other side and can fully explain myself.

Regular readers will remember the problems I had with my foot - the ulcer, the pain, the insanity, the hospitalisation and the subsequent recovery. Unfortunately, the healing of the foot wasn’t the end of it: I had become addicted to one of the pain killers I was taking, tramadol. This had become blatantly obvious to me some weeks ago but I was reticent to admit it because I was so happy at the fact that my foot was finally my own again.

I tried just not taking any tramadol one day — I’d been on 8 per day (400mg) at one point — and I quickly discovered what a bad idea that was: mild palpitations, shallow breathing, anxiety, hot and itchy legs and arms. I needed to wean myself off slowly.

I quickly discovered that just three 50mg capsules per day would put off the withdrawal symptoms, so I did that for a few days. After about the fourth day of this new, decisive action I only took two - I got the mild palpitations and shallow breathing but found that I could easily control them if I just relaxed myself, mentally and physically. “Hey,” I thought, “this is going to be easy!” After four or five days on two capsules, the palpitations and breathing now fully under control, I went onto one capsule per day … and that’s when it started getting difficult.

From when I woke up, all throughout the day, the aches and pains would gradually build up until by around early evening, 6 or 7 o’clock, I felt like I was about to come down with flu - I also had a thick head and a phlegmy chest as if I had a cough. I took my single capsule at about 8 o’clock and, within about an hour, virtually all the symptoms had gone. I began to wonder how much of it was a chemical withdrawal and how much was psychosomatic.

This continued for about five days until, on the sixth, I didn’t take any tramadol. On a usual day (in the long and distant past) I’d go to bed somewhere around 11 o’clock, midnight or 1 o’clock in the morning; now, however, I was finding it hard to keep my eyes open after ten so I climbed into bed and lay there waiting for sleep to take me. And I waited. And waited. And waited. Until around 5 in the morning I caved and took a tramadol - my legs were so hot and itchy that I literally couldn’t keep them still for more than about 30 seconds, all my joints ached and my mind was chaotic what with the lack of sleep and the anxiety. Unfortunately, an hour later I still hadn’t got to sleep and the symptoms were only eased slightly so I took another. And, almost as if the tramadol realised it had beaten me, it released its grip and I slipped into sleep.

The next day I felt tired but not much else having had a double dose not long before getting up, so I decided to try again … the same thing happened.

After about four attempts at this strategy I stopped being so bloody minded, admitted temporary defeat and went back to taking one capsule about 8 o’clock in the evening - everything was “fine” for a week.

I thought about it, trying (and failing) not to get depressed about it until I finally decided that what I needed to do was to pay careful attention to my days and then pick one when I was feeling my best physically and mentally, not take any tramadol and just bloody stick it out!

So, I waited. And waited. And waited … until I had another epiphany: I was making excuses as to why I couldn’t do it that night - I was too tired, I was upset, I had a bad back. Did I sub-consciously want to keep taking the tramadol? Sure, when I popped a capsule in and swallowed it down my aches and pains died away and I could sleep peacefully, but my conscious mind rules my body, dammit! I did not want to carry on this way - what if I kept taking them and then one day ran out with no way of getting any quickly? Would I be able to sweat it out without going mad? I certainly couldn’t answer “Yes” with even a little bit of confidence. This had to stop, and now.

The day came: Sunday 14th May, 2006 - I felt good: very few aches and I was in a damn good mood for some reason. I decided that was going to be the day, so I made sure I got myself ready and made a point of moving all the tramadol I had far out of reach of my bed. When bedtime came I had all the usual feelings bit they somehow seemed lessened - I hoped it was because my body had given up reacting to the psychosomatic side of all this. I did all the usual stuff: wished N good night, let Rocco out for a whizz and then put him to bed, checked all the doors were locked, had a whizz myself and climbed into bed - it was midnight.

I can’t remember when it was I fell asleep (can anyone?) but I saw 4 o’clock come and go. When I woke up in the morning, I still felt all the symptoms, but they were still lessened. I was ecstatic: I’d done it! I was free!

Unfortunately, by early that evening I’d come to realise that it wasn’t going to be that easy: I still had all the symptoms and, even though they were milder, having had them for longer than usual was taking its toll.

Monday night was the same as Sunday night, Monday morning the same as Sunday morning.

Tuesday: the same. I felt fucking terrible. I had purposely avoided looking up anything about addiction and coming off tramadol for fear of reading something that would scare me off trying to quit and I was now fighting an even bigger urge to do so - I started now and had to finish.

Yesterday, Wednesday, came and I still felt the same - I was beginning to sink into a depression. But then, around early evening (which had seemingly become a significant time of the day!) I could feel all the aches, pains and flu-type feelings slowly washing away. I tried desperately not to be happy incase is was only temporary, but by bedtime I felt much better. And for the first time in what seemed like months I fell almost straight to sleep.

And so, this morning, I woke up and … felt absolutely fine. In fact, I was better than fine: I felt bloody brilliant! Was it finally over? So it seemed.

Now, at just after 7 o’clock in the evening, I still feel great with my physical feelings being lifted by the elation that’s swirling through my mind.

* a quick re-read through what’s been written so far *

That all sounds quite dramatic and, to be honest, it was. Most of it was in my mind and part of the struggle was trying to not let on to those around me that I was going through it all - N was obviously aware of it but she quickly learned to steer clear for a while: I wasn’t exactly in a jolly mood.

So, that’s it: that’s why I wasn’t well and, now that it’s over, I’m feel better than I have for a long, long time. Having my foot healed was a red letter day for sure, but I had unending help from doctors and nurses. This was me and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m feeling damn proud of myself.

Thanks for reading, and please send congratulatory cash c/o Timothy Griffin …



Looks like I should’ve heeded Nicola’s advice


Whoah! Timmy! Glad you are this strong! People quickly overlook just how addictive meds can be and doctors themselves sometimes brush it off, saying there is no real problem it’s all in the head. The bastards… Some of it reminds me when I quit smoking. I had tried many times but simply needed doses of nicotine, the stress was unbearable, I would literally panic. Then, over twelve years ago, it worked! I still had weird feelings, felt like I was catching the flu or throat bug, had a very hard time concentrating and keeping focus on things, etc. but I knew this time was it because I could uhm… I might be lacking the vocabulary now… But I could step out of myself and kinda like watch myself through a glass ceiling. I would look at myself like I was a lab experiment or a lab rat of some kind. I was going through all the withdrawal symptoms, yet I felt detached in a very strange way. I was giddy and laughed a lot like I had smoked some hash. Well, I did sometimes but… well you know. ;^) So all in all you are a real champion, Tim! And I am so glad you came out of it. God only knows of the long-term side effects those damn pills could bring to someone. - MHC

Congratulations Tim! I still get very angry that our doctors don’t better prepare us for this. A few years ago my doc had me on mega doses of morphine. (Over 600mg per day and I weigh very little). I kept asking when I could start reducing the dose since it made me feel really horrible. The nurse would always say, “When your pain is better dear, not until then. Then we’ll help you off it together.” The actuality was that one day the pharmacy said I couldn’t have anymore. My doc had over prescribed and I had exceeded some beurocratic limit. Freaking out a bit I called my doctor who then treated me like some crack-head. I tried to explain that I was the one who had begged to get off the stuff for weeks, that it was his office that insisted I stay on the high doses. He hung up on me. So I got to go cold turkey. NOT FUN. During “the badness” I called again and got the nurse. “Dear you never should have gone cold-turkey, you could end up in the hospital with seizures!” she scolded. Grrrrr……… Glad to hear you made it through and are feeling yourself again :) - Gimpy Mumpy

Tim, that all sounds like hell … I’m sure it will serve as a warning for many of us. Like MHC said, it shows how strong you are that you just stuck it out. Glad you posted this when you did - I was on the verge of phoning your mother! Love as always, Sue xxx - Sue Horne

Jeez, Tim, I’m glad it was you and not me! I’ve got tramadol in my medicine cabinet but have not dared to take any because I knew only too well the dangers (my pain is nowhere near as bad as yours). Thanks for sharing this with us - you’ve got more guts than most. - charlesdawson

Thank you all for the compliments - I will gracefully accept them as I am still feeling proud of myself. * head swells … again * MHC: it really makes me angry when people who don’t smoke say to those who do "Just give up!" with no idea how difficult it can be. Nice one for doing it - N went cold turkey 17 months ago and it was tough but she did it. Miss Mumpy: that business with the morphine sounded terrible - the fact that you voiced your fears, were ignored and then got berated by the nurse makes it even more despicable. I don’t think I’d be able to be that strong! Sue: thanks missus! I finished the Harry Potter book you bought me when I was in the hospital (The Half-Blood Prince) and am now eagerly waiting for the seventh one … Charles: I don’t think my pain was particularly bad, I’m just not used to it so I couldn’t cope without help! - Timmargh

Its hard to break these things, but think all those who do give up. You are fighting it, it shows a lot about your character. Keep at it , we are all rooting for you. - bert

A good friend of ours’s wife developed MS and she realised at one point that she had become addicted to anti depressants. And from his account that it was worse than being addicted to heroin, am glad i’ve never been prescribed anything of the prozac ilk. But back to Tim, when i read the first couple of paragraphs on the preview in the main page i was fearing the worse and was glad to get to the end where it has a happy ending. I’d like to hope that I’d be strong given such scenarios, but a big well done to you. I have two addictions, one which i should really give up (smoking) the other is one that most think isn’t a problem in that it doesn’t really affect anyone else (alcohol). I’ve been a smoker (3 to 10 a day) for the best part of 11 years, and while I did give up for a year or so it affected my drinking and I didn’t enjoy my drunkenness as much. As for my alcohol, i reckon i haven’t not had a drink for more than a week for nearly 10 years but nobody tells me I should stop drinking (because you can’t have passive drinking). I probably should give up smoking and moderate my drinking more. - stonysleep

Thanks Bert, Stony. Stony: I’m no psychiatrist but the first step is admitting that you do have an addiction. Of course, only give up if you want to - no one should do something just because people tell them to unless it’s adversely affecting others. - Timmargh

Good work Tim, I was a bit worried about that, hense why I’m here now. What you describe as the lead up to addiction is fascinating, sounds very much like how I’m with cigarettes at the moment. Because of the voices (Whosaidthat?) my mind gets utterly mucked, and I’ve started smoking again because a) I smoked before and it reminds me of good times with friends b) Because I read that smoking actually -can- help with schizophrenia and c) Because it does allieviate the voices, and clears my head for the very short period that it lasts. Problem being of course is it bloody stinks. I don’t particularly mind being a light smoker, but it’s not a nice route to go down and I’d rather I didn’t smoke at all. Excellent read again Timbo - Grix

My man, my brother, I hear you. Took me 3 spine operations to turn me from a guy who suffered pretty intense pain 3/yr. to a disabled guy w/24/7/365 heavy duty chronic pain. I’m 47 w/ a great wife and 4 kids who deserve better. I hate the med’s; I hate the stim. I’d love to chat w/ you, cause I not quitting. Things, bad as they can be are still good in my life. I ride the rollercoaster: goodtimes/bad times, but since I’ve started blogging. I’ve met some beautiful people. The little things in my life are a daily inspiration. Did I really just spell that? Please drop me a note if you’re of a mind. I’d like to get to know you, Colin - Colin

Comments on this entry are closed because it seems to be a target for spammers. Feel free to email if you want to say anything. - Timmargh