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Kirby: No one journeys out of addiction alone

Published November 12, 2013 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Next week, the Family Counseling Center will honor me with their Community of Hope Award. I'm more than a little worried. Any minute they're going to figure out that they got the wrong guy.

When the center's Executive Director David Loden informed me I was being honored for providing a ray of hope to the community, I was smack in the middle of a hopeless addiction. Hope to me then was 80 milligrams of crushed oxycodone.

I became addicted to oxycodone the way a lot of other addicts do: It was legally prescribed for legitimate pain.

About a year ago, my right shoulder started to come apart in a spectacularly agonizing manner. The choice was simple: take drugs and be able to work or stay off drugs and spend the day on the floor in a fetal position.

I went to Gregory Daynes, my primary care physician, who put me on a pain regimen. We talked about the long-term effects while I waited for tests, diagnoses and a surgery date nearly half a year out.

It was obvious to both Greg and me that at some point I would become physically dependant on the drug and have to detox.

As the pain increased, so did the amount of oxycodone needed to manage it. By the time the surgery rolled around, I was already addicted.

Oxycodone got me through the recovery from surgery (easily the most painful I've ever experienced) and through the scar tissue-popping fun of physical therapy. But the worst day was still to come.

By the time I admitted that I needed to get off it, I was taking more than the prescribed amount just to be able to function. But I was also still lucid enough to know that I didn't want to spend the rest of my life feeding a habit.

Back to Doc Daynes. He was a bit shocked by where I had allowed myself to go, but laid out a program to gradually wean me off the drug.

I tried. Really, I did. I just couldn't get past a certain level. So I dumped them and went cold turkey. It was like volunteering for a nightmare.

I spent more than a week with a horrible case of the flu while simultaneously being covered in scorpions. I wanted to tear off my own skin. Or yours.

Here's the thing. My addiction was lightweight compared with people who spend years addicted to heroin, crystal meth and cocaine. After what I went through, I have no idea where people like that find the courage to unhook.

Here's another thing, maybe the most important one. Nobody does this on their own. Thanks to people who care about me, especially my wife, daughters, Sonny and Doc Daynes, I am 33 days clean.

It helped that I had those people for emotional support when I unhooked but it also helped that I could afford to pay for it. A lot of Utahns can't get professional help with their problems because they live at or below the poverty line.

Which brings us back to hope and the Family Counseling Center. For years the nonprofit group has provided help at low or no cost to Utahns who otherwise might not have a glimmer of hope. Check them out at familycounselingcenterutah.com

Next Tuesday I'll be getting an award that the Family Counseling Center should be giving itself.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.