by Stephani Morris
I am a 31-year-old single mother to a beautiful 8-year-old boy.
In 2016, I worked at a gym, competed in fitness competitions, was working to get my nursing degree, had experience working at Georgetown Medical School, worked in a local hospital as well as a doctor’s office. To top off my own successes, which I soon learned meant nothing, my son was diagnosed in 2015 with high-functioning Autism.
With the help of my family, I helped him get the therapy he needed, volunteered at his school, coached his sports, volunteered on his field trips, lobbied for rights for parents falling victim to the school system. On the surface, you would say I was a well-adjusted, all American “single mother” who loved her son.
On April 25, 2017, on my way home from an overnight shift at the gym, a deer ran out in front of me and I flipped my car three times. and lost consciousness. The left side of my head was embedded with glass from my driver’s window. The windshield had broken areas where my forehead hit. My car landed upright and I was able to walk away from the car accident.
I got to the hospital where I was diagnosed with fracture at T1, L3 and L4. My right hip was partially out. The steering wheel hit my abdomen so many times it perforated into my abdominal wall and I had to have surgery a month after the accident to clear out scar tissue. I lost partial peripheral vision in my left eye and couldn’t move my head left to right even by two degrees. I was sent home the first night after my accident after many rounds of IV dilaudid and a prescription for Percocet. The next morning, when I couldn’t even get out of bed, my mother took me right back to the hospital.
I spent just shy of five days in the local hospital–IV pain meds every 45 minutes, oral pain meds in between and I don’t remember anything. I was sent home with a combination of Percocet, norco 10/325, as well as varying patches to help address the pain. I started physical therapy, no longer had a job to return to. Much of my care was dependent on my insurance ability to pay.
I had physical therapy three days a week, aqua therapy once a week, chiropractor twice a week. I had to find people to drive me because of the amount of opioids. I could barely take care of myself, let alone drive. I used to be independent and people turned to me for help and guidance. Now, here I was no better than a teenager begging people for rides to doctor’s appointments.
Every time I tried to take less medication, I felt worse. I was taking a pain killer every 3.5 hours. That is not including the muscle relaxers that I used in between my doses. I slept more than I was awake and had to take the Zofran to counteract the side effects. With every pill I took, I felt like I was losing a part of my soul. My son begged me to go on walks, begged me to go out, and the only thing I could do was be present but drugged.
I first knew I had an issue when I went to my ex-boyfriend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner in 2017 and don’t remember who was there or what was said. I remember waking up on Christmas day and calling my mother asking her to come get my son for our family dinner at my aunt’s because I had taken so many pain meds because I overdid it the night before cleaning, cooking, and wrapping.
The part that scared me was how empty I was
The more I took to address physical pain, the less feeling I had. I couldn’t feel the rain on my face, I couldn’t feel sadness. As a mother, I couldn’t even feel my son give me a hug.
There were so many days, and I say this with absolute transparency, that if I didn’t wake up I felt like my son would be better off. What kind of son would want a mother that couldn’t wake up in the morning without putting a pill in her mouth? There were times I knew in my heart that I overdosed, and all the times that I snapped out of it, felt a sense of shame, regret, and disappointment.
No one believes this opioid addiction can happen to the “normal person”
Everyone thinks that when you admit you are an addict, you got high behind a bar in a back alley somewhere. That mindset is what is killing more people today than anything else. I got high at my son’s soccer game. I got high at Thanksgiving dinner. I got high in the parking lot before work. I got high in the church bathroom. Only differences are these:
1. I didn’t get caught.
2. I didn’t die.
3. When you look at me, you would have never seen it coming.
Once I came to know that I needed help, things changed
From the end of August 2018 up until October 2018 I began researching what type of resources were available to me. My doctor gave me the option of methadone or suboxone, which was not the right treatment for me.
I started looking into rehabs and knew that I had to go far enough away from Michigan to give it a chance. Whether it was God, fate, or my last ounce of fight, I boarded a plane for Fort Lauderdale, Florida on October 9, 2018. I said goodbye to my son, family, and decided to make one last go at trying to get my life back.
During my time in south Florida I worked with professionals who scanned my brain (called Quantitative Neural Imaging) and showed areas impacted by my accident and my opiate addiction, and we developed a treatment plan.
Those images as well as medical reports show how my treatment improved the neural connectivity in my brain. I see chiropractors 3 times a week. I do meditating, yoga, work with a trainer so I can strengthen my mind and my body.
I am 145 days clean today and going back home to Michigan.
The biggest lesson that I have learned is that nowhere in Medical treatment should there ever be a desirable “quick fix solution.” Long term opioid use, prescription, and over-prescribing is partially the reason why I got addicted.
Is pain real? ABSOLUTLEY. Do I feel pain right now as I am typing this to you, you betcha. But the way I view pain now changes how my body interprets and perceives the degree of pain I feel.
I have lost more people to this epidemic and have been on the phone all hours, talking to people struggling mentally, physically, and emotionally and connect them to outreach coordinators across the map. I have had to personally resuscitate people I have found outside gas stations.
I am scared enough of this epidemic to recognize that those people I help are no different than me, but I am knowledgeable enough to realize that taking ANY kind of substance could land me on the side of the road. Each of us that suffer are just one Narcan dose away from death, including me.
My son doesn’t need to bury his mom at age eight.