Finding Health After Surgery-Related Opioid Addiction

After struggling to get sober in 2007, Kevin never expected to have to fight for his sobriety again in 2017. But an emergency surgery and extensive medical treatment led to an opioid addiction and a second chance at recovery. Philadelphia-born, Kevin first came to California in the 1990s, fresh out of college and hoping to conquer the music world. Within four years, his dream came true. “I got a record deal and went on to sell a few million records,” he says. “It was fun pop/hip-hop music. The video took off on MTV and all of a sudden I was getting to see the whole world and all these cool places I would never have gone to on my own. It was an unbelievable experience.” Music stardom was fun, but fleeting. He switched gears to build a career in real estate but like so many in that field, Kevin started partying too much and drinking dangerously. He also developed an OxyContin habit. After seeking help from medical professionals, he was prescribed methadone. “I didn’t really have any idea what I was getting myself into,” he recalls. “All I knew was that I took it and I didn’t feel sick.” But when he tried to get off methadone, he couldn’t do it alone. He entered drug rehab. “I originally got sober at the end of 2007,” he says. “That was my introduction to recovery. I totally embraced it. I just jumped into the middle of things. I took direction. I did all the things that people recommend. It was awesome. My life totally changed just like they said it would. That hole inside me started to fill up.” He also met his wife in recovery, while she was working through an eating disorder and depression. Eventually, they built a sober life together. In fact, they had their wedding ceremony at The Women’s Club of the Pacific Palisades, known for multiple daily twelve-step meetings. Their officiant was a friend who at the time had 50 years of sobriety. Most of the more than 200 guests were from the recovery community.

Sinking Back Into Painkiller Addiction

Everything was going great until January 2017, when Kevin suddenly felt a horrible pain in his abdomen and was rushed to the hospital. Physicians found a tear in his colon. He was taken immediately into emergency surgery and spent two months in the hospital recuperating. Kevin was sent home for a while and managed to escape the grip of the abundance of prescribed pain pills. But when he had to return for a second major surgery, everything else fell apart. There was too much pain – and too much pain medicine. Kevin was sinking into painkiller addiction but was too ashamed to ask for help. “I was not telling anyone what was going on with me because of the guilt and the shame of relapsing,” he says. “At that point, I’d been eight years sober and felt I’d failed.” But his friends were not willing to accept that. “When I got out of the hospital it was sort of apparent to a lot of my friends that I just didn’t seem like myself,” he says. “They had a nice, loving intervention with me because they knew the type of person I was before.” “It was classic,” he continues. “I walked into someone’s house and they were all in a circle. I knew immediately what was going on. The truth was I was slightly relieved because I didn’t know how to ask for help. When I first got sober in 2007, I did ask for help. But this second time around, it was harder to ask for help after I’d been involved and active for so many years.”

Finding Hope Again

Friends urged Kevin to reach out to Promises and there he found the supportive environment and people he needed to regain his sobriety. “I was so happy to be there,” he recalls. “I just felt like I was in a safe place. There were people that I could relate to. We all knew that we’d gotten to such a dark place and needed to get out. There were people that were willing to open up and take that leap of faith and I watched the group start to get better. From my own personal experience, there’s nothing more powerful than someone sharing something very honest about themselves and their experience. That’s what gives us the strength to do it ourselves.” Kevin says Promises helped him get his life back, and that the staff and camaraderie with others helped him keep it on track. He participated actively in the outpatient program and stayed connected to ongoing alumni meetings and social events, in addition to going to four or five twelve-step meetings a week. “I started feeling like part of something again,” he says. “I started having hope again. For me, when I lose my hope, I lose my sanity. Even if I’m doing okay, I know I could be doing better if I am taking better care of myself. Checking into Promises gave me hope again.” He also found joy again. “We started laughing again, too, and that’s another important thing,” he says. “Nothing beats the laughter that occurs when we’re getting better.” Today, Kevin says he has gotten past the guilt and shame about relapse. He is no longer embarrassed. Instead, he put all he learned at Promises to work for him in crafting a medical plan that would allow him to avoid problems with painkillers in the future. When he discovered he needed a surgery to fix some of the problems created by his first two surgeries, he mapped out a protocol for staying sober and enlisted his sober friends, recovery community, physicians, and wife to help. “I came through the surgery like a breeze,” he says.

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