Killing More Than Pain, Opioid Painkiller Addiction

Former Opioid Addict Shares Her Story

It often starts with an injury in a car accident, a migraine headache, or a painful medical condition. Our doctor prescribes a pain killer to get us through the worst of the pain. It’s from our doctor, so it must be safe right? But take those pills for two full weeks and you could already be both physically and emotionally dependent on that drug.

“Slowly I noticed when I took them I felt better,” said Phyllis Bauerle. “I felt like I could conquer the world, I wasn’t shy, I felt a part of.”

Phyllis started taking Percocet which contains Acetaminophen and Oxycodone, to stop her migraines.
     
“When I didn’t take them, I felt depressed, lonely, that I wasn’t good enough and so consequently that’s what happens. You start taking them more to feel better and pretty soon emotionally you are addicted,” said Bauerle.

Along with that emotional addiction comes the physical addiction. Phyllis describes it as “worse than the worst flu you’ve ever had.”

“I would have the cramps in the stomach, I would have the sweating, I would have the diarrhea, I would ache all over, shake all over,” said Bauerle. That’s when I became physically addicted. And towards the end if I didn’t have something within two hours, these symptoms would show up again.”

Phyllis has been free of her dependency on painkillers for around 30 years; she’s now an Assistant Program Director at the Keystone Treatment Center in Sioux Falls, helping people who have traveled down the same path. She regularly attends 12 step meetings to this day. She knows all too well the grip opioids can have on a person.      

“I can remember going out at 4 in the morning trying to find some pain medications, that was going to the emergency room, whatever, it was so that I wouldn’t be so miserable,” said Bauerle.

 Opioids are a cruel drug in the sense that after a while they become less and less effective.

“It gets to the point where you don’t have a high at all, you just, just stay, just so you don’t go into horrible withdrawal. Your body adjusts to having that and when it’s not there your body rebels,” said Bauerle.

Phyllis finally hit bottom, her options appeared limited to prison, death or rehab. With the support of her husband she chose rehab.

“I had to take a step back when I went to treatment and take a look, where did I become addicted, where did I become out of control over my addiction, because it is a sneaky silent addiction and you are addicted before you realize it,” said Bauerle.

Matt Walz has helped many people find a way out of their addictions; he says Phyllis is a great example for others.

“I have a lot of respect for folks who go through addiction and they find a new way to live, they find a new way of changing their things about themselves and dealing with their issues and facing reality,” said Walz.

“Just call get some help as soon as possible, life is great again,” said Bauerle. “I was a heartbeat away from death and I look back and think what I would have missed all these years, I would have missed. I wouldn’t give up my clean time for anything.”
     
There are certain things you can look for if you wonder if someone you care about is facing a challenge with opioids.

Are they defensive when you ask about their pain killer use? Do you notice changes to their daily habits and appearance? Maybe they are not as responsible as they used to be. You might notice behavior extremes. They are either energetic or down in the dumps, rarely in between. Do they to go to the emergency room often for various ailments that might require pain medication? If you notice any combination of these, there is a good chance they are struggling with a dependency problem.