Sweet, Sweet Pain Killers?

Sweet, Sweet Pain Killers?

Q: My wife (typically a happy, friendly, hardworking woman, and dedicated mother) was in a car accident about six months ago. She suffered a back injury in the accident and has really struggled to recover. Since the accident, she has been depressed, seemingly unmotivated to do what she needs to do to recover, and has been taking an excess of pain killers (prescribed to her by her doctor for back pain). I am so afraid to say anything to her because she becomes totally irrational and angry and yells at me that I don’t understand or care what she is going through. I’m confused because she has moments of being very happy and cooperative, followed by a drastic switch to anger and aggression. I’m afraid to leave her alone with the kids, but I feel stuck because I am the only one supporting us right now and have to go to work. We are struggling financially due to the loss of her employment and can’t afford daycare, or treatment (if that is what she needs). I have no idea who this crazy person is who is camped out on my couch, and I am totally freaked out for my family. I have been too embarrassed to ask for help or advice from my family or friends. How do I get us through this? 

She:  Oh…sweet pain killers. There are a number of issues to address here. First of all, it is unclear from the information you gave as to the amount of pain killers your wife is taking and whether she is abusing them or just using them as prescribed. From what you say, I am guessing that she is pretty heavy into abusing them. Most likely she hit the perfect storm; a genetic predisposition for addiction, depression due to being in pain and inability to function like she’s used to, and a prescription from a doctor to make it all go away. The mood instability (depression, anger, happiness) is a reflection of whether she is high or entering into withdrawals… not good.

Now let’s talk about the shame that is stopping you from getting help for your wife and for your family (please don’t ignore the long term effect that this may have on your children). Shame is an essential component of addiction- and your shame is turning you into an enabler. You, my friend, are presently a part of the problem and not the solution. Take a deep breath, suck up your pride, and call in whatever support system you have. Your wife needs immediate treatment, and you need help. It’s time to ask….

He: I’m with Jen on this one- your wife may be becoming a junkie. If you walked in on your wife slapping at the veins in her forearm while holding a syringe in her teeth, the behavior that you are describing would seem pretty logical. It’s a little harder to connect those dots when you are talking about a formerly responsible person following a prescribed medication.  But it boils down to the fact that an Opioid is an Opioid regardless of the delivery system.  Whether its black tar heroin or Oxycontin, they both are really effective in blocking out signals of pain to your brain. They are also really effective in blocking out other things- like giving a shit about anything.  I’m sure that she is having an internal struggle about how she needs to get it together, but the pull toward the narcotics may be way too strong and this is likely making her feel wildly out of control. You need to take control and get help for her.

This is such a wide spread epidemic that there are many resources available in just about any community.  You expressed concern about leaving your children alone with her. It’s very unlikely that she would do anything to harm your children, but it’s pretty certain that she will not do much to help them either. You have got to tap into some help from friends and family to assist you with keeping the kids on a normal schedule until things stabilize. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help- this is the primary function of friendship and family.  But until she accepts the help offered, you have to treat her like you would any junkie. Don’t expect her to help herself, don’t believe anything she says, and don’t lose hope- this is not her and she will come back.

Dr. Jen Semmes and Andy Wilson have been (mostly) happily married for nine years (currently happily).  They are the owners of Coastal Counseling therapy center in Carlsbad, California.  Jen holds a license in clinical social work and a doctorate in psychology, and is a therapist at Coastal Counseling. Andy just tries to hold it together.

If you, or anyone you know, has a question for ‘He said, She said’ please send a private message to Coastal Counseling on Facebook or email the question to info@coastalcounselinggroup.com.


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