In 2005, my daily use and addiction to alcohol had become extremely inconvenient.
Translate: I began puking blood.
It became painful to even attempt to drink anything, much less vodka. Since alcohol was never my drug-of-choice (DOC) to begin with, I sought after another way to fill the spiritual void. Painkillers were what I wanted. They were not only my DOC, but my preferred entry into what I can only describe to non-users as "the bliss."
The difficulty with painkillers is you need a prescription. I have ulcerative colitis; it's currently in remission because I'm much healthier today. Back in my using days, I'd visit doctors, seeking to acquire, acquire, acquire. Regularly. They caught on eventually.
That meant that I needed to find another source. For me, that source was tramadol.
At the time, a person could get tramadol fairly easily from a doctor. At that time, it was scheduled in a lower classes of restricted painkillers than Vicodin or Percocet (or much stronger stuff), so physicians had less hesitation to prescribe it. The "bonus" was that an addict could get tramadol also online. Internet pharmacies were begin to bloom and Dan-the-Addict-Man found his source. I could stay flush for a whole month, and no one would know any better.
That didn't work out so well. When a person takes tramadol as recommended, it doesn't "do" anything, at least on my self-imposed euphoria scale. But I had found out (also via the magic of the Internet) that if you take tramadol above the recommended dose, it gave a long-lasting and minor opiate buzz. It did. I finally found it, I thought.
Yes and no. The drug does work this way. However, it also affects the serotonin receptors in your brain; it's an agonist of those receptors. So another inconvenient side-effect is called serotonin syndrome, whose most noticeable repercussion is a grand-mal (tonic-clonic) seizure.
I had seven of them. (I think.) Of course, my solution was to only "be more careful" next time. Because I didn't want to give up my habit!
My two young boys and a friend of mine saw me fall into one such seizure. It's this fact that still bothers me enough that I don't ever want to shut the door on it—my drug use terrified people.
Today, I've found recovery in the power of the Twelve Steps. Hazelden Betty Ford put me on the right path. I work that path in meetings today. I'm one of the lucky ones. I could have died. But now, I share this story to warn others about the risks of drug use.
One daily experience continues to remind me of my past flirtation with death: an email. Nearly every day, in my spam folder for my email, I get this message:
"Daniel, we haven't heard from you in a while. Your prescription is ready to be filled. Click here and order tramadol today!!!"
It's the gift from my past continuing to haunt me. But I've been reborn, made new. Because of that, those ghosts from the past don't scare me. They only remind me that I'm not that person anymore.
Daniel D. Maurer is the author of Sobriety: A Graphic Novel and the co-author of Faraway: A Suburban Boy's Story as a Victim of Sex Trafficking. He writes under his freelance moniker and brand as Dan the Story Man. If you would like to share your own story of transformation on his blog, please contact him! He reads all his mail!