Daughter Recalls How Chronic Pain Led to her Mother’s Death
Prescribed to millions of Americans on a daily basis, narcotic pain medications can be remarkably effective for treating acute and chronic pain. However, these potent prescriptions also carry a huge potential for abuse that can easily lead to addiction, overdose, and death. In fact, in 2015 in the United States there were 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain pills.
My mother joined the list of 2005 statistics when she died. How did my wholesome cookie-baking mother that loved children and was so good to everyone around her, die of a drug overdose? She didn’t go to bars and drink. Her image was not that of a typical drug addict or party-goer. You rarely heard foul words come out of her mouth. Really, she was just a friendly woman that could talk to strangers as if she had known them forever and got her kicks from the small things in life, such as the gentle coos from a baby or funny animals videos.
How Did my Mom Become a Drug Addict?
About seven years before her death, my mother was prescribed Vicodin for chronic pain that was caused by an extra vertebrae in her spine and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Because she also had extreme obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), like everything else she was passionate about, when she began to like pain pills, she did not just like them a little – she liked them a lot.
Vicodin. Percocet. Darvocet. It did not take long before these medications took a stronghold in her life. Over the course of her disease, the addiction progressively got worse. A few years into the habit, no longer was she just treating the pain caused by her medical conditions, rather she was relieving the widespread body aches, pain, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms that accompanied her opioid withdrawal. During the last two years of her life, she would barely leave her bed if she did not have medication.
Drug Rehab: A Final Attempt to Reclaim Her Life
Everything came to a pinnacle when her dealer moved several states away. Because all the local doctors had cut her off and emergency rooms were reluctant to give her any opioids, she had lost all connections to painkillers. Fed up with the agony brought on by the addictive lifestyle, she went to an inpatient rehab. Our family had hope for a renewed life.
After two weeks in rehab, she returned home, but she was not alone. A new “best friend” she made in rehab, a young woman in her late twenties, came to stay in our home with her for the first week. Her and my mother were supposed to go to meetings together and sponsor each other for sobriety – but that’s not what happened. In actuality, this young woman had become my mom’s new connection.
First Experience with Morphine was Her Last
Morphine. That was the drug that took my mother’s life. Something she had never taken before. Turns out, when someone has sleep apnea, they can not take morphine because it greatly reduces respirations. My mother had undiagnosed sleep apnea.
The events of that last day she was alive have been hard, to say the very least, for me to come to terms with. Before my work shift that Friday afternoon, I learned this woman had money being wired to her. I called my dad crying and told him that I knew mom and her were going to get drugs. I wanted to call off work and be there to stop it.
Therapists, dad, everyone kept telling me I had to let go and not be the parent of her anymore. I was encouraged, go to work – do not worry about a thing and that Dad would take care of it. I came home that night at 10 pm and she was already in bed. My dad told me that he took care of the issue and the woman would be gone in the morning. I never went to her room and checked on her that night, a decision that has brought about much regret at times. I went to sleep feeling good like this was all taken care of.
My mother had morphine in her system when she went to sleep that caused her respirations to become so shallow, she died somewhere around 2 am. My father was the one to find her, lying in the same bed he slept in with her the night before, cold and blue.
I was at college that morning when a policeman came with the news and escorted me home. By the time I made it back home, the woman that was staying with my mom was gone and it was only my dad who was there.
Twelve years have passed since that moment that forever changed my life. During this time, comfort has been found in different ways. When I look at the cremation diamond ring I had made from her ashes, I sense a deeper connection, knowing that a physical piece of her is with me at all times. The custom wooden urn I had made serves as a lasting reminder on my mantle of her life and memory.
If You’ve Lost a Loved One to Drugs or Alcohol – You’re Not Alone
In this past decade, it’s been heartbreaking to see this opioid crisis in the United States spiral out of control. Each year, the number of opioid-related deaths increase.
It took a long time for me to openly discuss the manner in which my mother died. I was embarrassed for her. People that knew her, and knew her well, were in utter shock that this happened, as she just didn’t fit the description of someone with a drug habit.
Today I am sharing this story to provide comfort and solace to others that have lost a loved one to a drug or alcohol overdose. You are not alone. It’s not your fault. Instead of hiding in the shadows with shame about the way my mother died, today I stand proud of the kind woman she was and use her untimely death to help spread awareness about the dangers of drug and alcohol addiction.