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Alcohol and Drug Use After a Spinal Cord Injury: Personal Experiences with Paralysis
Q&A: Did you ever self-medicate with alcohol or drugs?
I have had issues with muscle spasms. I’ve been on a max dose of baclofen for a really long time and with also taking a second drug to help with the muscle relaxers. And it helped a little bit, not very much, and my mother actually suggested that I try marijuana. Marijuana is amazing. I can take one hit and I can pick up my leg and I throw it and it just lays there. Whereas if I haven't smoked and I pick up my leg and I throw it, it shakes and shakes and shakes and spasms and huge proponent for medicinal marijuana. It's an awesome muscle relaxer, works better than the eight muscle relaxers I take a day. So, technically, actually, yes, I do self-medicate.
No more than normal teenagers do, I’ll say. Not a big drinker, didn’t take drugs for anything because I didn’t like smoke—people in my family smoke cigarettes, so I was always around it, but it just didn’t appeal to me. Even now, an occasional drinker. When we water ski, we have celebrations, so they’re celebratory, but not for the reasons of “oh, woe is me, let me drink this away.” That just wasn’t my mantra.
Not to help me through it, no. I mean, I probably drank too much when I was younger. After I had him, I had tapered off on the drinking. But I knew that drinking was really a depressant and I didn’t have time to drink particularly coming over here to Shepherd Center. Drinking was the furthest thing that I wanted to be doing. I wanted to be focused every day on being able to help him.
Before my accident I drank, now I won’t. With all the medicines and stuff I’m not even going to chance it.
I drank for a period of time only because it eased the pain. I smoked marijuana for a period of time because I thought, “Yeah, it was okay because it eased the pain.” It took away the pain, it took away, you know, the spasms, you know, it made me feel like, you know, “Hey, I’m ok, it’s alright.” But you know what it did to me?—It gave me bladder infections. You know, the marijuana, you know, granted it was ok, and it took away the spasms, but you know what?—It wasn’t making my body any better.
I turned to drinking, I turned to drugs, I was, I mean, I was like, I was a mess. But then, I looked at my mom, and she was the one, like, she was, mentally, I was killing my mom. Me, it was mentally and physically, but when I looked at my mom and what I was putting her through, I said to myself, "this is enough, I have to do something."
Oh no, I tried as hard as I could to get off the medication. Prior to my injury, I took like a water pill for slightly elevated high blood pressure. As I said, I was very active, I ate healthy, I did all of those things, and then to be on 10 pills three-times-a-day, I couldn’t handle it. I specifically asked my doctor to not put me on narcotics because I know that stuff is habit forming. So even now, I had a doctor’s appointment a week ago, and I’m weaning off the medication. I don’t want to take medication forever.
I don’t do any, no pain medicine. Because, I noticed early on when I was in rehab and the hospital that I was seeing so many people lose their lives, or the pain medicine, they’re taking it and it controls their body. So, the day I walked out, or rolled out of the hospital, I quit taking any pain medicine. So, you know I just try Ibuprofen, or something like that but no narcotics.
No, I actually, I could probably count on my hands how much alcohol I’ve had. No, I couldn’t. I couldn’t imagine myself sitting at home, you know, drinking the day away, or my life away. I couldn’t imagine that.
I did, for a brief period, and I realized that my health was kind of taking a hit because of it. And the irony of the term “self-medication,” and the result of just not feeling at all any better in any way, I realized it really wasn’t helping me. So, I talked to my family about it and we moved forward from there.
Before I was injured—smoked, drank, did all of that. After I was injured, I tried smoking again, marijuana, but it didn't work out for me. Now I've noticed a lot of guys that had lung problems due to their injury can still smoke, and do all that. But for me, it didn't work out, so I looked at it like, basically, I'm not going to force myself to do something like this. I mean, hey it's basically my way out of a habit that I didn't need in the first place. As for drinking, I wasn't an alcoholic or any thing like that, it was more of social drinker, like, if I go to a party or something like that, I might take a drink or two, but I rarely ever get drunk.
Three or four months after my accident I started having neurogenic pain before I had a surgery that ended up eliminating the pain, luckily for me. The amount of prescription narcotics that they were giving me was just incredibly high, and I felt like a zombie all the time. And I look back on it now and at the time I justified it by saying it was the pain that was causing it. But then there was the other part where—I can say this now, I didn't say this at the time—but I didn't want to feel anything, and that medication made it easy for me just to not, to be numb and at the time that's what I wanted; I didn't want to deal with the world and so I just medicated. You know luckily I don't have to do that anymore, so I feel quite grateful.
No, I haven’t, but I grew up in a family of alcoholics. And, when I saw what it did to people, that’s why I never drank.
I grew up with a lot of drinking in the family, and I was able to see that it was destructive from the beginning, but still, I did turn to alcohol. It wasn’t to take the pain away. It wasn’t to forget about the wheelchair. It was honestly to not go face the personal relationship challenges that I was trying to deal with at that time. So, there was a period of probably about a year when I functionally drank too much, yeah. I decided to stop when I finally realized that the situation was not fixable and it was not my fault.
No, I knew before I left Shepherd that I needed depression drugs. The day that I was discharged, I asked for them, I said “I need something because I already know I’m hitting depression.” And I said, “I just really want something.” And they had given me one product, I stayed on it for a few weeks while I was an outpatient, I said, “this isn’t going to be enough.” And so we went to a different, higher level of depression medication, I don’t remember what it was, but I stayed on it for a while but I weaned off of it pretty quickly, probably within six months of discharge. It really just got kind of got me over that really deep depression that you can fall into.
Yes, too much. When I first had the accident, I was on bedrest, and under so much medication through IV. But once I started back getting out with my friends and stuff, I started drinking and smoking heavily like just to be able to numb the pain, the thoughts. So, I stayed smoking marijuana, I stayed drinking liquor, so that right there was—if I went and got with my friends, that’s most likely what I was doing. And that was like a real bad time for me because I would go through that for a whole entire day, but then I would get my mom to go home and sober up it’s like thoughts that was numb, it’s like now you got to deal with them. So, it never just really—it helped me for a couple of hours but that was it. To be honest, the only way I got out of it was God. He told me, I prayed, and he told me “only way out of this is through me. If you want to stop hurting, you want to stop being in pain for good, the only guarantee is through me—weed, liquor temporarily.” And so, when I received that message, I tried and when I tried it works, so I stuck with it.