Feelings and Fentanyl

It’s been over a week since I was released from the hospital. Generally, I’m feeling much better. I’m still a little weaker than normal, a fact I was reminded of by a short hike yesterday.

While I was in the hospital I had some strong feelings. Feelings that I haven’t had in a long time. Old feelings that no longer serve me. And yet there they were. Gnawing at me from the inside.

I had a lot of support from friends and family during my hospital stay. I had text messages, phone calls, flowers from friends across the country, tweets, and in person visitors. I felt lifted up. Supported.

And I felt unworthy. I felt that I didn’t deserve the support that I was getting. I felt like I was too much of a burden for folks. Not because anyone made me feel that way — everyone attempted to make me feel the opposite actually — but my own self talk told me that I didn’t deserve the love and support I was receiving.

It’s been suggested to me that I wouldn’t stand for a stranger talking to me the way my internal speaker does.

It’s true. I’d tell anyone who told me the things my own mind says to me to fuck right off. And yet, when I’m in a foul mood, or when things aren’t going very well, my internal dialogue goes straight for the jugular.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. Some might call this “alcoholic thinking,” but my experience tells me that nearly everyone has these internal doubts. I believe it’s part of the human condition rather than a feature of my addiction.

The difference between me and someone who hasn’t suffered through an addiction is how we have addressed those thoughts. I used to cover them up with a heavy salve of alcohol. And it worked for a while, until it didn’t. And when it didn’t, it was terrible.

It was terrible because it just made the self doubt, the self hatred, worse. I knew that I was fucking up my life and the lives of the people who I loved the most, and I was powerless to stop it. Until I wasn’t.

When I made the decision to get sober and acknowledged that I was powerless over alcohol, I reclaimed some measure of power. I may be powerless over alcohol, but alcohol no longer holds power over me.

Some may argue that this is delusional thinking, that it’s is my disease talking, but I know it to be true. I know that I don’t ever want to be where I was again and that I’ll go to any lengths to avoid it. I also know that i can’t live my life in fear.

After I woke up from surgery in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), the nurse offered me pain medication. At first, before the anesthesia wore off, I said I was fine. But as the anesthesia left my body, the pain became real. It was a 10. I asked what they would give me.


I looked at the nurse and said, “I’m kinda scared of Fentanyl.”

Before I could go on she said, “that’s because of what you read.”

“No, it’s because of what I’ve seen. I’m in recovery. I don’t want to get addicted to Fentanyl.”

The nurse assured me that they would not let me get addicted to Fentanyl. She told me that they could give me micro-doses and that they would stop giving me any once I said the pain was better. And she told me that once I was out of the PACU I would not be given any more. They couldn’t give it to me in my room.

I was never into opioids or opiates. Frankly, they always just made me tired. I never enjoyed a high from an narcotic in my life. I knew this in my bones.

I had a decision to make. Agony or Fentanyl. Trust in modern medicine or not. Trust my own previous experiences with opioids and opiates or buy into the stories and fear that I’ve heard so many times in the rooms.

I chose Fentanyl.

They gave me three micro-doses and the pain subsided. I was in the hospital for another two nights and didn’t need any more narcotic pain killers. In fact, by the next morning I didn’t even need Toradol, a NSAID similar to Ibuprofen delivered intravenously.

I never had any cravings and don’t believe that I was negatively impacted by accepting the Fentanyl. It served an immediate medical need, and the dosage was supervised. I did not feel high — I just didn’t feel the pain. The drug did its job.

Would I do it again in a similar situation? Probably.

That said, I understand that others in recovery might choose differently. I also understand that for others it would have represented a huge challenge and possibly led to a relapse.

As for the thoughts of being unworthy, I’ve begun processing those in therapy. I don’t know that I’ll every rid myself if the negative self talk, but I do recognize it when it’s happening and can call bullshit on it in the moment. It’s progress.

I’m grateful that for me, my experience with Fentanyl was not a problem and didn’t lead me to a relapse.

I believe addiction and recovery exist on spectrums. That’s why no two stories are identical. There are many paths up the mountain.

8 responses to “Feelings and Fentanyl”

  1. Love the vulnerability of this post, Damien. So glad your energy is coming back. Your body is still repairing! It occurred to me that part of your identity is wrapped up in your ability to support others in their time of need, and while you were receiving support you probably didn’t feel like you were fulfilling the need to others. Maybe? Just a hunch… But we definitely all fall into that slippery slope/tornado of self doubt. hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! This is definitely part of it. One of my self perceived roles is to be the rock — the person who is steady and dependable. I’m a fixer. I’ve been exploring this in therapy.

      It’s why I was working to be of service to others from my hospital bed as I mentioned in my last post. And it’s also why I get so antsy and have a hard time slowing myself down and taking the time I need to rest and recover.


  2. Damien, we all go through those feelings you experienced… it’s tough having people give a $#!+ about us. You’ll get better, though.

    And don’t sweat the pain meds. I’ve had two freebies (last one was 24 years ago) and they’re not a big deal unless you find yourself dwelling on any aspect of them. If you do, work a 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th and call your sponsor in the morning. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jim. WRT the pain meds, I’m not overly concerned about it. I wrote this post primarily to share my experience with it because I’ve heard so many people talk about refusing medications out of a place of fear. I think that it’s important for people to also hear the stories of people in recovery who accepted professional medical advice to take the medications in a medical situation and who took them as directed with no issues. That said, I recognize this is only my experience and I believe that it’s a personal decision we all get to make when/if the time arises.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Hugs! Lol
    I am glad you are you!
    When I am sick, or have had an operation, my moods definitely go low. I now know how important exercise is to my mental and emotional health.
    And I have had pain meds, no problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for openly sharing about your experience taking pain meds in the hospital. I’ve always wondered (been afraid) of what it would be like. And yes, I agree those feelings of self doubt are part of being human. Better to feel and acknowledge them than push them away. I hope you are feeling better and stronger all around.

    Liked by 1 person

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