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The face of addiction: Jenny’s story

Prescription pain pills
Prescription pain pills

Jenny is a mom of 3 and has had a secret life that she is only now acknowledging. “I would have never thought I was an addict. I mean our bills were paid, food was on the table and my children were doing well in school. God, how wrong I was.” Addiction is many times a dirty little secret but finding the light that will expose it can be the most difficult to revelation to experience. Jenny shares, “I wasn’t even sure if I could be addict and still be working every day. I mean, I thought addicts were people who were homeless and living on handouts. Or they were that person in the family that was always in some sort of trouble, financially or legally. I didn’t know, really”. Addiction has many different faces and being a functional addict is only one.

The Casa Palmera, a drug and addiction rehab facility in Del Mar California, treats people with chemical dependencies. Their website,, explains how there are four stages of addiction. First you have experimentation, then there is regular use, which can lead some people to use their drug of choice on a regular basis but they can stop on their own, they just stop. When a person doesn’t stop, the addiction pattern is followed by risky use and abuse. What this entails is that the person will engage in the use of their drug without regard to the social or legal consequences. The final stage in the addiction process addiction and the absolute dependency of the drug of choice. There are those who would dispute the actual final step in addiction is death.

According to high-functioning addict is a term used to describe an individual who may appear to have a very productive, seemingly manageable, and in some cases an almost idyllic life…on the outside. However, it is as if he/she is living a secret dual-life. That is what Jenny was. To the outside world she was just a working mom with a great family. She had a deadly secret though. An addiction to pain pills that started after having surgery a year before. At first the pills were for a legitimate reason. Then Jenny started just taking one or two with a glass of wine after work to take the edge off. For that moment on, her life she now realizes wasn’t her own. She was sharing it with the pills. “It was an every moment of the day thought, when would I take one, will I be able to refill the prescription, what doctor can I call to get more, then the worse when the prescriptions wouldn’t work anymore who could I buy the pills from?” Jenny remembers.

Where did Jenny get her pills? Surprisingly it wasn’t so difficult. First there were friends. So many people either had the pills themselves, Vicodin, Oxycodone, Tramadol and Percocet or her friends knew someone who wanted to sell a few. When that option was drained she turned to a drug dealer she met through a friend. Her friend was a regular user of marijuana and didn’t see the harm in letting Jenny have his number. Jenny continues,” At first, I would see him every 3 or 4 days. Then it was every 2 days and finally at the end every day. I am not sure why I didn’t just buy enough for a week but only recently I realized I was using more and more so I was running out so often. I knew I was trouble when I actually drove into Philly and tried to buy some pills from a drug dealer on a corner. I had gone from a nice working married mom to being a criminal then endangering my life, the life that I built with my family and most of all I risked losing everything that mattered to me just for those damn pills.” Finally after a year of living moment to moment wondering where the next pill would come from she told her husband. “I was surprised that he knew something was going on but not to the extent of how bad it was. He told me I had been short tempered for a while, that I was more reserved, withdrawn and had stopped doing things I had done before. He told me he didn’t know but felt that he should have. We didn’t have just a problem with me it was now a family problem.”

Jenny checked into a drug rehabilitation program and stayed for 21 days. Then she continued outpatient services and still goes to support group meeting to continue her road to recovery. Jenny goes on, “Let me tell you it was not an easy process. I never thought I would actually feel so sick when I stopped taking the pills. I had the chills, was restless, my body was wrecked with aches and pains. I was so incredibly sick from the medication I had originally dispensed to help me” Jenny’s continued. “Although I am off the pills I have a lot of work to do to repair my relationships. My husband and I are in therapy and I have to address the situation with my children. I wasn’t a good mother for about a year. How do I make up for that?”

Today drug treatment programs like the one Jenny was in are available for those with insurance or the money to pay for it. Unfortunately those who are uninsured or on Medicaid, there are waiting lists. Waiting lists for beds, for treatment and sometimes hope. Meanwhile prisons are continuing to fill with people who are addicted to different forms of drugs. According to, “On Dec. 31, 2012, there were 196,574 sentenced prisoners under federal jurisdiction. Of these, 99,426 were serving time for drug offenses, also On Dec. 31, 2011, there were 1,341,797 sentenced prisoners under state jurisdiction. Of these, 222,738 were serving time for drug offenses, of whom 55,013 were merely convicted for possession.”

Jenny ends her story by answering the question of what should be done about drug addictions, she simply responds, “I have been to hell and back. I wish I had never touched pain meds after my surgery but it was so easy. Doctor after doctors were willing to just refill my script due to my saying I was in pain. Granted there are those in pain who really needed the pills but it shouldn’t be as easy as it was for me. “ When asked if better screening of physician treatment would help “ she answered “it might, but I don’t have the answer, I am an addict who was lucky to find my way back.”


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