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Cold Turkey

Created by Kelsie Hayes

Cold Turkey

I never thought I'd have a problem like this. The truth is it can happen to anyone. The stem of my addiction begins with an injury I had suffered in an automobile accident. I had been living with chronic pain, arthritis, and thoracic outlet syndrome in my shoulder. I was young and had been given numerous prescription pain relievers/anti-inflammatory pills/narcotics. My junior year of high school things had gotten really bad with the TOS and pain, I'd have spasms and numbness from the shoulder injury. I was given percocet, and after taking it the first time I was thrilled with the results. My pain was almost gone, I felt incredibly happy, I could do things again more comfortably.
I would take the percocet in the morning, before school. I'd get all giddy and then have periods where I would be really mellow and crash. But I loved it. Before I knew it, I started taking it to school and taking it before after school practices. I became sneaky -- I wasn't very comfortable talking about my injuries with my friends, they wouldn't understand. I'd go into the bathroom and take it and then progressed to quickly taking it around people completely unnoticed. This was only a few months. I would start asking for more percocet, telling my mom I needed it. She saw what was happening, told me I was getting addicted, and said ""That's not gonna be you. You're not getting addicted."" She took the percocet and hid it. When she was out of the house one day, I searched but couldn't find it.
Soon enough the pain was back and horrible so I was at the doctor again. He gave me a new prescription -- nucynta, supposedly a mild yet effective painkiller. So I took it and was happy I was tolerating it well (many other previous narcotics made me sick.) I took it on an as-needed basis, which went from a few times a day to every day over time. I was still a junior in high school, and the nucynta continued all the way through senior year.
It wasn't becoming a problem until the end of senior year. I started to have trouble with friendships, was still hurting, and nervously trying to prepare for college. Around this time I started taking the medication every day out of reliance and the feeling that I needed it. I had started stashing and hiding extra pills all around my room. The last month of school I realized that I had a dependency problem, and feared it may already have been an addiction. So, I grabbed my friend who I had some problems/drama with, put that aside and said I needed to talk to her. We went into the bathroom, and I told her about the nucynta. She was shocked, and didn't know what to tell me to do. Frustrated, I decided to keep the problem to myself, let it go.
Summer came and passed, it was a nice summer. I started my freshman year of college, proudly bringing the prescriptions along. I had a metal bucket of prescriptions that I'd hide in a drawer. My roommate didn't pry or ask questions I don't think she knew yet. I'd take the nucynta everyday, it had become a crutch for me. I started loosing my self confidence, I was having a hard time adjusting to college, I was getting bullied online and verbally, my relationship was failing, I was getting depressed again.
With the bullying and friendship problems, and college adjustment trouble, I'd run back to my room and take more of the nucynta. I needed it. When I didn't have it I'd feel so sick. I'd think about it all day and night, looking forward to when I could take it next. If I was somewhere or with a friend, I'd leave to go take the pills. It was my life. Later in the semester, I lost some friendships and had been rejected by my S.O. Soon after I learned he was gay. I felt I was at rock bottom.
I did research and confirmed I did have an addiction problem. I'd lost sleep thinking about how I'd handle it and how to tell my mom. One day I just snapped. I got so nervous I sat down and my whole body was shaking I called my mom and told her how addicted I was. And I was surprised because she was calm and said, ""Okay. It's gonna be okay."" I told her next time I was home I wanted her to take and hide the nucynta.
Immediately she said she was already gathering her car keys and purse and getting ready to come down to my college. I think I had my friends come over, I honestly can't remember. With an addiction, my life was all a blur. My mom came into my dorm then, no one else there, and I handed her all the pills. ""Take them, take all of them."" She did.
The next thing was that I was at the doctor and I told him everything. He told me that I should ween myself off them because that was the best way for my body to stop. He also said that because it was a new medication that it hadn't been out enough to know about addiction and that he'd make note. He also gave me a lot of good advice -- told me about his own childhood injury and challenges that followed. He said he was uncomfortable to talk about it too. But he said that to heal, you have to talk about it, for your own healing. I was skeptical.
I got back to my dorm and decided that I was gonna stop cold turkey. I did. I never was so sick in my life -- hot sweats, cold, mood swings, vomiting, fever, stomach aches, insomnia, dizziness, loss of appetite, etc. It was hell. I'd lay in my bed all night and cry. My whole body ached. I missed the pills. I'd sob and sob. I looked a wreck, I was getting thinner and pale. I'd be coughing and loosing my voice. It was the strangest time of my life. Everyone thought I was ""sick"" and I lied saying that it was ""a bad case of the flu"" and that ""I never had my flu shot."" It lasted for a while, days just bled into days.
But then it was the second semester and I started feeling so alive, so happy, so ambitious, so concerned and passionate. I was clean and learning how to live again. I started to discover my identity, something that had been clouded and obscured by pain and pills for years.
And then I started talking about my story to people other than my doctor or mom. I'd never told my mom what withdrawal was like -- seeing it was hard enough. I talked about it on a service trip to my peers, then to the new friends I had made the next year. I really had felt better, talking about it does heal you more than you could expect. You start hearing other people's stories -- rape, drugs and alcohol abuse, etc.
On my 19th birthday, my mom gave me the nucynta and percocet that she had hidden for so long. We got out a big container and dissolved them all in water and flushed them all down the toilet. I slowly found old stashed pills I had hidden in my room and flushed them right away. My one year came and my mom and sister went out for a fancy lunch and shopping downtown. Quitting cold turkey, even though it was hard, was the best decision I have ever made. Getting clean meant starting to learn how to live again -- but living life to the fullest.

Partners for Hope raise critical funds on behalf Partnership to End Addiction – the nation’s leading organization dedicated to addiction prevention, treatment and recovery. Every dollar raised on behalf of the Partnership* will help ensure free, personalized family support resources, including our national helpline, peer-to-peer parent coaching, customized online tools and community education programs, can reach those who need them most. Please consider donating to this fundraiser and sharing this page.

*Donations made to Partnership to End Addiction are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. All contributions are fully tax-deductible, as no goods or services are provided in consideration in whole, or in part, of any contribution to this nonprofit organization.  EIN: 52-1736502

Guest Book


1. Megan Fritz
Congratulations on three years in recovery! Thank you for sharing your story with us!
2. Julie
Thanks for sharing your story, Kelsie -- congrats on your recovery!
3. Megan Fritz
Congratulations on three years in recovery! Thank you for sharing your story with us!
4. Julie
Thanks for sharing your story, Kelsie -- congrats on your recovery!