I was working for a company that does commercials for Disney. I was standing there with my camera and the pain really got worse—I could only stand still for a few seconds before I’d need to shift positions because of the pain. By the evening, I was lying on the sidewalk. I drove home, got out of the car, went down on all fours, and I didn’t walk again for probably a week-and-a-half.
My doctor made a house call and saw me in such a state that he gave me something for the pain. I suspect it was OxyContin, but I don’t know. I started a long procession of my body healing itself to a degree, but maintained the opioids that my doctor had started me on.
About six months after I had the initial episode with the back, I got rear-ended. I was just at the point where I was kind of getting off of the drugs, and that didn’t help. I took a little time off, but unfortunately as a freelancer, you don’t have a lot of opportunity to phone up the boss and say, “I won’t be in for a month.”
I’ve tried so many different things for my pain. People say, “Have you tried acupuncture?” Yeah. “Well, they couldn’t have done it right.” No, I have had three different people stick me with pins and needles which I hate, and it didn’t do anything. I’ve had two different kinds of laser therapy. I had doctors and friends say I had to try marijuana. I got the vaporizer and it did nothing for my pain. The only thing I never tried is hypnosis. To this day I am not sure why I didn’t give it a shot.
My doctor sent me to a pain specialist. He said, “I am going to remain your GP, but for this particular aspect of your health care, I want you to go see this doctor.” He is a terrific doctor. I love the guy. And I understand why he wanted to give me up to somebody who could write prescriptions freer than what he could.
About four years ago, doctors started to be under a lot of pressure from the government about opioids. I think doctors in Canada right now are running scared.
I am now seeing a terrific pain specialist and she has done marvellous things with me. She runs you through a battery of tests—the clinic has a psychologist, physiotherapists and mindfulness classes. I feel so much better. But it’s primarily to do with the opioids. I have tried virtually everything there is out there, and opioids work for me.
She has been instrumental in putting me back together again. I don’t have to fight her for drugs and I think that’s amazing. Every two months, at a minimum, I see her for a drug renewal. She gives me a 30-day prescription and one repeat. She will ask me, “Michael, how are you? Are you OK with the drugs? Do you need more? Do you need less?” I find that is so different from the GP, where he is saying to himself, “I think I’ve got to pull my overall prescription writing back.”
I’ve been stable on my dose for a year-and-a-half now. I’ve never been buzzed by the stuff. There’s a history in my family of alcoholism. I can honestly say I have never been drunk in my life. I saw what happened to my family. I’ve always been very conscious of the fact that these things can get away on you really quick.
I think everybody can understand acute pain. But when you talk about chronic pain, a lot of people don’t get it. They don’t really understand that at two in the morning, you are up walking around because you can’t get relief from the pain.
Opioids are pain reducers, not pain killers. You’ve got pain at a seven, and they take it down to a three. It’s still there, but you can deal with it. With pain there’s always that little hope that maybe something will come along next week; that they will have some sort of new treatment.
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