successfully quitting...

Monday, February 7, 2011 7:20 PM Posted by Rebecca
Today marks my 6 week anniversary! I can't believe I really have gotten so far with so few complications. Thanks again for all the encouragement and prayers. I know I'm blessed to have so much support.

I am very happy to say that my pain really seems to be going down quickly over the last week. I still have significant pain in my left shoulder, and where my rib hump used to be, as well as both legs. However, that pain is coming and going, and I never seem to hurt all over at the same time anymore. The pain seems to take turns visiting those different areas throughout the day, and to me that is a huge improvement from constant pain, everywhere.

I have learned from my other surgeries the importance of keeping track of how much medicine I'm taking, and have developed a game plan for getting off the pain killers. It worked with the last 3 operations, and it seems to be working well with this surgery as well. One of my biggest fears has been that I would get hooked to the heavy painkillers, especially since I have been on them after each of my surgeries for months at a time. I do have one thing that helps me every time: SIDE EFFECTS. If there is a possible side effect from a drug, I am sure to get it. The worst one for me is the stomach discomfort/constipation (I know eww, gross! Sorry if that's too much information!). So, while the pain meds help reduce my pain, they usually give me pain in my stomach that is almost as bad as my pain from the surgery.

Anyway, here is how I have gotten drug free before:
1. I keep a detailed list of what I'm taking, including any supplements, gas relief pills, and even allergy medications. This is helpful for two reasons. One, the drugs cause me to forget things all the time. If I didn't write down when and how much I took, I could easily over-medicate out of simple forgetfulness. Two, I know exactly when to take my next dose. I usually set an alarm so that I don't take it too soon, or go too long without my pill, which can lead to letting the pain get out of control. In the first few weeks when I had trouble eating, we also kept track of what I ate, when I went to the bathroom, and when I threw up. (Again, sorry if that's too much information! All that stuff really matters though post-op, especially when you're trying to get your body on the right track!)
2. I also keep track of my pills by setting out the day's worth of medicine in a weekly pill organizer. This has saved me a lot of time, and kept me from over/under medicating especially when my head was so foggy from the drugs. Once a day I put my all my pills into the organizer, by following what I actually took (according to what is written in my notebook) the day before. (Fun fact: I needed TWO 7 day pill organizers for the first 3 weeks post-op to keep track of my 14 different doses each day!)
3. As my pain decreases as I recover, I try to push my doses further and further apart. In other words, if my prescription says "take every 2 to 4 hours," I set my alarm for 2 hours, and when it goes off, I try to wait for another 30 minutes before I actually take it. If I'm able to push it back successfully for somewhere between day or two or up to a week (depending on how much pain I'm in), I then push it back another 30 minutes and so on. It really helps having that mental goal, because if I don't have something to work for in mind, I may keep taking more medicine than I need, for a longer amount of time than necessary. I don't try to go for more than 30 minutes at a time, because if I get ahead of myself, my pain could get out of control and set the process back. However, I have found that at night, if I sleep through a dose (ie, don't wake up when the alarm goes off) two nights in a row, that usually means I can jump ahead to however long I was able to sleep. Like when I started sleeping through my alarm that woke me up at 1 a.m. to take my dose every 4 hours. I went from taking my oxycodone every 4 hours, to every 6 hours because I was able to sleep 6 hours without needing a pain pill.
4. Once I get the dose as far apart as possible, I then try cutting the pill in half. For example, over the last week I was successful in pushing my oxycodone dose to 1 every 6 hours. So, a few days ago I started cutting them in half. I didn't seem to have increased pain after taking the smaller dose, which meant I was ready to take the half dose instead of the full one. NOTE: Always check with your doctor before cutting ANY pills in half. Not every pill is made the same way, and you can really get sick if you take something incorrectly. 
5. After taking a half dose for somewhere between a week and a few days, I call my doctor and ask for a different drug altogether. I usually ask for whatever is the next level down as far as strength. I again set a goal of maybe a week or two at that dose level, and then start cutting them in half, and so on.

This method really seems to work for me, and I get minimal withdrawal symptoms. I wanted to get off the oxy as soon as I could, especially since it made my stomach hurt pretty much all day, every day (even when taken at the lowest dose, every 6 hours). So, I'm excited to say I'm off oxycodone at 6 weeks post-op! I am now taking hydrocodone, 1 every 6 hours. Hydrocodone is not nearly as strong as oxycodone, and it doesn't seem to bother my stomach quite as much. I'm giving myself a week or two at this level of hydrocodone, and then I'll start cutting them in half. I am relieved to have gotten off the oxycodone already, and am looking forward to when I can get off the pain killers altogether! But like I said, I don't push myself too hard. I remind myself frequently that my body has gone through a total rearrangement, and it is going to take a long time before the pain is gone completely. For now I am happy with not having horrible stomach pain on top of the back pain, and with the knowledge I'm on my way to being drug free. =)

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