I shouldn’t be alive
This is a story I’ve tried to write for years. It’s cloudy, hurtful, and dark. And though it’s a slight departure from my usual posts it’s something that needs to be read. If even by one person. Please share this one if you share any.
The safety part of this story is something that affects someone you know. You may not know who or how badly, but he or she is out there. I know because I was one of them. Until I found myself outside of my body with my four month old son screaming in his baby rocker beside me. I couldn’t hear him, but I knew he was there. In my chair, I was awake but asleep… and looking at myself from above.
All of that sounds mystical and surreal, but I warned you this story was cloudy. The truth is I don’t remember what was going on. I just remember feelings. And I know my son was screaming. I had overdosed on completely legal, prescription medication. Medication which was designed to be taken for two weeks. I’d been given them daily for nearly four years.
I’ll tell the story of my injuries in a future post, but the long and short of it was that I messed up my foot, knee, and right side of my rib cage while serving in the USAF. It actually ended my career. But that’s not what’s important in this story.
To keep anyone from getting any ideas, I’m not going to tell you what I had taken or how, but suffice it to say that 16 is too many of anything. Then it was dark.
At some point, hours… minutes… seconds later my wife shook some life back into me and pulled me out of the chair. I mumbled something and stumbled to bed, but I should have died. No one, not even she, knew how dark my life was at that moment.
They own you…
I hadn’t been me for years. Because the pills own you. They change you. And unless you’ve been there, you don’t know how powerless you can be. Judge if you want, but you don’t know.
My pills taught me to play games. I wasn’t ballsy enough to find the dark corners of the internet and get more or stronger stuff, so I “strategized.” In those days my wife left for work before I did so I would play possum until she was gone. Then I’d take the sheets off of our bed and divvy up my stockpile. I would put the combinations together based on what I had to do from one day to the next. My rationale was that some days would suck (I would abstain for days at a time), just so I could have one really good day.
On those days I would carry my little pill pouch in the coin pocket of my jeans until just the right moment, then take them all at once. My strategy never worked, and inevitably I would run out before my next appointment with my dealer (doctor).
All of the games were because nothing worked. The pills didn’t work, the games didn’t work, the pain “procedures” didn’t work. Nothing. Until that day outside of my body. That day I made a choice to live, if for nothing else than to see my son grow up.
Don’t follow my example…
I woke up the next morning from my coma and flushed everything I had (yes I know you’re not supposed to do that, save your piety) and quit cold turkey (I also know you’re not supposed to do that). That didn’t end my pain, though.
Truth be told, I still have pain. I still have nerve damage in my rib cage. I still have garbage knees. What I don’t have is tolerance for letting those things rule my life. That’s the only choice any of us have when dealing with pain. You rule it, or you let it rule you.
I made it to the other side
I don’t tell this story to glorify myself. The only reason I made it out was because I was lucky. Stupid and lucky. I quit wrong. I didn’t have a plan. Odds were not in my favor (over 130 people in the US die every day from opioids). And guess what? Almost no one cares.
But some of you reading do. You wouldn’t be reading a safety blog if you didn’t. Know that there is probably someone in your life who is struggling with the same things I was. I hid it well, they likely do too. But there are always signs. If you see them, don’t turn a blind eye. Engage.
You may not get them to stop. The truth is you don’t have that kind of power. But you may help them find their reason. For their sake, I hope you do.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, contact the National Drug Helpline for more information. If you wait for someone else to do it, it may be too late.
Hi. I’m Jason. I’m the author of the book A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit from CRC Press. I’m excited to get to share it with you all and hope it will be as valuable a tool to you as it has been to me. There is no other safety book out there like it. That’s not me being arrogant and assuming you’ll love it. You might not. But at least we’ll be able to have a needed conversation about the change needed in the safety profession. It is available now! Email me at Jason@relentlesssafey.com