Overcoming an opioid addiction with VA support

Overcoming an opioid addiction with VA support

-My name’s Jerry. I was a veteran
from the U.S. Air Force. I served in 1960 through 1964. I was honorably discharged
at that time. Towards the end of 2011,
I was at my doctor’s appointment and he says, “I’d like for you
to see a cardiologist soon.” I went in the 1st of December
and they did my heart surgery and then everything
started going crazy. January, I developed
a full onset of shingles, which was probably
the worst pain I’ve ever had. It was supposed to last
for a couple weeks. It lasted well over a month, and like I say,
the pain was excruciating. It was just — All I could do was sit
in a chair, watch TV, and cry. They changed my meds at that
time from Valium to oxycodone. And that was lights out for me. I’d wake up in the morning,
take my Oxycodone, and wash it down with vodka. And from then on,
it’s sort of fuzzy. I got addicted to the oxycodone and started standing up
and falling over. At that point, my significant
other and my two sons said, “You need help, Dad.” So, they got me
a private facility. When I got out,
I relapsed almost immediately. I didn’t have the oxycodone, but I was going back
to the vodka and so forth. A neighbor suggested
I go to a facility in Mesa. After 90 days there,
the first day, I relapsed again. I had to stay away five days before I came back
for another 90 days. Same story, different day. The day I got out there,
I relapsed again, ended up in the hospital. Called my significant other,
my life partner — actually, we’ve been
together for 30 years. Called her, and she says, “Don’t
come back till you’re well.” So, I didn’t sleep. I just had thoughts of suicide. I was on the bus riding from
North Phoenix down 7th Street. The bus stopped at a bus stop
right outside the V.A. and I looked over and I said,
“I gotta be in there.” So I got off the bus, went into emergency,
talked to a counselor. And about an hour later,
I was up on D5, which was the psych ward. And I spent 21 days up there. After that, the program went
to 90 days outpatient treatment, which was with groups
down at the V.A., different groups
on different focuses of addiction and alcoholism. And realized that it’s
a disease and it’s treatable, and treat sympt–
you know, treat the disease, learn the coping skills, know when they’re gonna happen
and what triggers you, and adjust your behavior
accordingly. And that was
a tremendous help for me. My partner says — She called me, and she says,
“I think you’re ready.” So I went back to her place, and we’ve been together
since then, for the last probably two years. And we’ve been getting
counseling together. The counseling progressed
to a point of where
she didn’t really feel — and this is a V.A. counselor. She felt that we’d progressed
to the point and most of our issues
were dependent upon working on communication
between the two of us. And that was sorely needed. And we adopted
some techniques and things to help be kindler, gentler
people when we interacted, if you know what I mean. To be where I am today, as far as my attitude
towards alcohol — it’s not even in my mind,
you know, whereas before, every day I couldn’t wait
till 5:00 or 6:00 to start to either
have a drink of Scotch or a drink of wine
or something like that. There is help out there,
and you can get by it.


  1. I was on opioid medication for over ten years that was prescribed by a health care professional at the VA Hospital for my knees and occasional neck and back pain. I have pain medication that still come to my mail box right today because it works for me. I still walk around the house with the help of a cane or a walker.

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