Sobriety and pain meds: At odds with my sponsor, help

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miniminimini
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Sobriety and pain meds: At odds with my sponsor, help

Post by miniminimini »

I want as much TOUGH LOVE and honest as possible, because I am not sure where to turn.

I'm almost 50 and have (had?) 14 years of sobriety from alcohol thanks to AA. Prior to getting sober I did not take any drugs: no pot, no coke, no meth, no prescription meds. My problem was (is) with alcohol.

I suffer from chronic migraines as well as advanced chronic peridontitis (gum disease). Two surgeries (most recent almost four years ago but aggressive scaling has kept bone loss at bay) have happened on my gums.

It's under control with very tight (3 month) visits for DEEP cleaning (under local anes.) Since my last surgery, nerve damage was shot off the charts (I used to tolerate deep scaling with ZERO local - I have a high pain tolerance). Because of the pain after the local wears off, my dentist has always made sure I have norco or vicodin as the suggestion of "go home and have a few glasses of wine" is not feasible. I kept the meds under the control of my partner and took them one day usually on top of 600 mg ibuprofen and salt water.

Never got into trouble until my migraine pain got out of control. I see a neurologist. Tried three preventatives. They are debilitating. Also doing botox.
I got into trouble with a drug called fioricet (it has a barbiturate in it) a couple years ago. They also have given me opiates as a "rescue" as I was having to go to the ER when my migraines did not respond to medication. I rarely get opiate meds (with good reason) from the neurologist (like 10 pills every 6 weeks) but fioricet they gave out like candy.

I misused the barbiturate and came clean to my sponsor. I had to reset my sobriety date, even though I did not drink (I did think about it when I realized I had to start over - alcoholic brain said "wtf if you have to start over might as well drink" but I had enough sobriety to say - no, stop, that's a death sentence.")
Quitting prescription medication has been a cake walk compared to stopping drinking. I was in the habit of taking the barbiturate instead of a triptan because it did not make me tired. Wrong reasons. I overused it and took it too frequently. I am committed not to use it again.

Currently I am having less migraines than ever thanks to botox and a beta blocker, the latest line in a daily preventative. Down to 10 migraines per 6 weeks vs what used to be almost daily. Four ER trips in the last 2 years.

When I came clean to my sponsor, I was told no narcotics, period. My deep cleaning (scaling) is coming up, and despite the commitment to keep the bottle of pills out of my hands, I was told no. Prior to being given pain meds, it was the single worst guaranteed trigger for migraines that would not stop (ie, ER time).
My sponsor is a holistic med fanatic. He won't take a pill for ANYTHING. My partner expressed concern about my scaling appt. and I agreed to cancel it. For those familiar with advanced gum disease, putting off preventative treatment isn't great. FWIW, I take 600 mg ibuprofren and do salt water, but when the Novocain wears off, my dentist would say "you will need a few glasses of wine to get you through the night." Since I cannot drink, they were fine giving me pain medication.

I have had a migraine 24 hours now (I think this one is stress related). I am not taking anything other than ibuprofen and maxalt (a non narcotic, safe triptan med, but I took the max in 24 hours). Going to the dentist for a scaling is a huge migraine trigger (jaw pain/neck pain).

My sponsor's solution is to find holistic relief for my migraines and says don't take ANYTHING narcotic (even if it's in the care of someone else to monitor).
I don't believe much in holistic medicine but I don't want to insult him. But at the same time, I am not going to blow off my sponsor and get medication that will ruin my sobriety date - again.

Since I basically "relapsed" without actually drinking - in that I fully admit I took migraine medication inappropriately - I sort of deserve what is coming. I am going to meetings daily now. I am identifying as a newcomer despite not touching alcohol.

But now, this is happening, and I don't know what to do.

I have a sponsor that does not have gum disease OR migraines so they can say "oh I never have to take pain medication after a routine dentist visit" and "I know people who have very bad headaches and I think I have holistic options for you."

I also can't afford to miss work. I feel pretty despondent. And for the first time, really antagonistic about AA, despite it being absolutely instrumental in me stopping drinking.

TL;DR: I was sober from alcohol almost 15 years. I misused prescription pain meds. Now my sponsor says I can't take ANY pain meds for diagnosed conditions, even if I have someone else hold the bottle. I am now avoiding treatments because the pain would be unbearable. Sponsor wants me to try holistic medicine.

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PaigeB
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Re: Sobriety and pain meds: At odds with my sponsor, help

Post by PaigeB »

Difficult lines to draw - I am not good at differentiating right & wrong and it seems to be common amongst us alkies...

I just gave out a white chip for a sponsee who misused prescription medications. She reset her sober date too. I have seen others do it as well. One usually clarifies that she has been clean off alcohol since "whatever date" and off all substances since "recent date".

That being said, I have not had to reset my date. I take pain meds for fibromyalgia. I take them very very carefully and under good consideration. I do not believe that I have misused them at all and neither does my sponsor or my doctor. IT IS possible for this to happen. I cannot say that it can happen after I have misused them, though.

Perhaps this is a moment for prayer and meditation. Holistics might help - you could try it. Maybe the misuse was a one time thing - it is a dangerous experiment though, to try it again. I have these discussions with my sponsor in an open honest & willing manner.

Maybe just do what the sponsor says because it is the "willing to go to any length" thing to do. After all, you do not lose much when you change your date - ego maybe, but not knowledge.

Good luck and much love to you.
Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have - the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them. page 124 BB

miniminimini
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Re: Sobriety and pain meds: At odds with my sponsor, help

Post by miniminimini »

Thank you for your reply. I do appreciate it!

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ezdzit247
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Re: Sobriety and pain meds: At odds with my sponsor, help

Post by ezdzit247 »

miniminimini wrote:
.....I was sober from alcohol almost 15 years. I misused prescription pain meds. Now my sponsor says I can't take ANY pain meds for diagnosed conditions, even if I have someone else hold the bottle. I am now avoiding treatments because the pain would be unbearable. Sponsor wants me to try holistic medicine.
Hi miniminimin and welcome.

Glad you are here and asking for feedback on your situation.

I've been sober for quite a while in AA and, sadly, have known 3 other AA members who died because they allowed themselves to be bullied into not taking their prescription medications by AA sponsors, gurus and/or neurotic control freaks. It's always sad but not surprising to learn there are still AA members like this who completely ignore AA's prohibition about dispensing medical advice, ignore our primary purpose, and totally disregard AA's 3rd Tradition which clearly states the only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking are still around.

If it has been 15 years since your last drink, you are 15 years sober in AA. If you, not your AA sponsor, have thought about this issue and decided you have a problem with prescription drugs in addition to alcohol, then the thing to do is to check out a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and get some feedback from their members. If you decide to join NA too then you can become a double winner as a member of two separate anonymous recovery programs. It is important to remember that no one in AA or NA is qualified or licensed to give medical advice and that it is not only inappropriate for members to engage in this kind of activity, it's also a felony under federal and state laws.

Keep coming back....
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children...to leave the world a better place...to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Brock
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Re: Sobriety and pain meds: At odds with my sponsor, help

Post by Brock »

Welcome to e-AA mini, you are having a hard time of it medically and of course I wish you well. When posts like this come up involving sponsors I try to moderate my reply, in the past I have been guilty of just quoting the only AA approved information I know of which applies to using a sponsor after we complete the steps, it is from the book “Living Sober” and basically says any good sponsor knows when to set a sponsee free. But since many folks choose to continue using sponsors beyond what the program recommends them for I have stopped being judgmental, but when stories like yours surface; and we have had many similar on these forums, it just adds to my anti sponsor feelings. You said for the first time you find yourself antagonistic about AA, those feelings should be directed exclusively to your sponsor, because what he is doing in insisting on sobriety date changes, and giving medical advice are very much discouraged in AA.

For me the whole basis on which the program functions, is that I was able to come in and identify with a room full of people, who had experiences similar to my own where alcohol was concerned, in other areas they were quite different, some richer some poorer some smarter and so on, and where the expensive psychiatrist had failed to help me these folks did, because they had experiences similar to mine, I believed they were qualified to help. For me a change of date due to barbiturate use is entirely a personal judgment call, and telling someone to not take medication recommended by a qualified doctor is not only playing doctor, but playing the role of a doctor so great that he is qualified to say the doctor who prescribed your medication is talking S***, sponsors like that are a blight on the fellowship.

I wish you the very best, I wish you would follow your own mind where resetting your date is concerned, that you follow your doctor’s advice, since from your writing there is no doubt you are aware of the danger and are able to use the drugs responsibly, most of all I wish you would consider giving this so called sponsor a kick up the backside.
"Good morning, this is your Higher Power speaking. I will not be needing your help today."

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whipping post
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Re: Sobriety and pain meds: At odds with my sponsor, help

Post by whipping post »

I agree with Brock on this. On all points.

Db1105
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Re: Sobriety and pain meds: At odds with my sponsor, help

Post by Db1105 »

I suggest that you read AAWS's pamphlet 'Questions and Answers on Sponsorship'. You can find it online at http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/p-15_Q&AonSpon.pdf.

That said, anyone giving medical advise without a medical degree and licenses in the fellowship indicates that they have major issues. That's not what Alcoholics Anonymous is about. We deal with alcoholism, period. Medical issues should be dealt with a medical professional.

Yes, I've seen people relapse after taking narcotics to deal with medical issues. Most people in recovery I've seen just followed doctor's direction taking medication and continuing their recovery journey. We have the tools to deal with taking medication in recovery. Dealing with intense pain doesn't have be an issues, that can be sobriety threatening in itself.

My only suggestion is to find someone else to sponsor you, if you still need one. Otherwise just have someone to talk to while you deal with your medical issue. Sponsorship is not about taking someone though their opinions, it's about guiding another recovering alcoholic through the steps and fellowship.

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ezdzit247
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Re: Sobriety and pain meds: At odds with my sponsor, help

Post by ezdzit247 »

I agree with Brock and Db1105 on all points.
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children...to leave the world a better place...to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Re: Sobriety and pain meds: At odds with my sponsor, help

Post by Duke »

I also endorse Brock's thoughts on this topic. I sponsor a lot of folks and they all know the first rule is to fire me immediately if I start telling them what to do or giving unsolicited advice. One life is plenty for me to live.

I have to tell you Brock, you've got me asking people with years of sobriety who ask me to be their sponsor to tell me why they think they need one. I tell them I'm happy to talk with them whenever and wherever, but if they want someone to tell them what to do, I'm not their guy.
"If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.", Mother Teresa

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Re: Sobriety and pain meds: At odds with my sponsor, help

Post by Godisfaithful »

Thank you for the great replies here. I have struggled with finding a sponsor that does not want to rule my life as well. Thank you for the reminder a sponsor is only for leading one through the steps of AA; not giving advice, above all not giving advice better taken from a doctor WHO UNDERSTANDS ALCOHOLISM. Thanks all

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PaigeB
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Re: Sobriety and pain meds: At odds with my sponsor, help

Post by PaigeB »

I wrote earlier:
Maybe just do what the sponsor says because it is the "willing to go to any length" thing to do. After all, you do not lose much when you change your date - ego maybe, but not knowledge.
I was ONLY referring to changing your sobriety date here... not medications. Medications are to be discussed with a doctor &/or a pharmacist. And I did not mean to imply holistics as an answer, only as something any person can try.

Sorry if I created any confusion :oops:
Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have - the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them. page 124 BB

miniminimini
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Re: Sobriety and pain meds: At odds with my sponsor, help

Post by miniminimini »

First of all, THANK YOU, you all have been amazing. Wow. What eye openers. This advice and insight has been just spot on. I have so much to think about. I wanted to shine the light on a few things and I hope those that have contributed give a follow up opinion.

Here we go:

1) Make no mistake, I DID abuse prescription medication. On and off for a few years, while taking chips (for staying off alcohol), and I wanted to come clean about that. This was not a grey area. Does this change your POV? I thought I was clear but went back and wanted to make sure I was.

2) After reading about "singleness of purpose' and not feeling good about sharing the nature of my slip with the AA groups I have been going to, I went to an NA meeting, and it scared me. I don't want to be judgmental. Sobriety is sobriety. I can learn from anyone. But I know someone who was addicted to pain meds and ended up on heroin after going to NA and hooking up with the wrong people and encountering a time of weakness. Surrounded by heroin and coke and meth addicts I just felt totally out of place. I feel as though, when going "by the book" (or traditions) this is where I am supposed to bring my 'slip' issue (since I did not drink), and it terrifies me and also makes me feel incredibly out of place.

3) You are all right about my sponsor and the inappropriateness of giving medical advice. This person is also my best friend in sobriety. BEST friend. This makes it especially troublesome. How to deal with it. I have to meditate on it, and pray. I just don't know.

4) In talking with my spouse, my family, in addition to the sponsor, they were all in agreement: seeing a neurologist AND my dentist so soon (about 10 days) after coming clean about my prescription drug misuse appears to be a risk for relapse if I accept narcotic pain medication for migraines (and dental work, intense dental work, is my biggest trigger) it's why I scheduled my neuro appt. one day apart from my scaling at the dentist - so I did not have to get medication from BOTH places, and my neurologist only gives me ten pills per 6-8 weeks). I canceled both appts for later this week as a result. Aggressive gum disease is progressive. Waiting weeks or months could be the difference between needing gum surgery to repair deep pockets, which, not only is hugely expensive but more importantly DOES require pain meds - a few days of it, vs. one day. To me it was a no brainer so long as I left the pill bottle out of my house for the comfort of all involved AND my own will power (truth be told., I am not having that much trouble with cravings or issues, I feel like my misuse of medication - specifically fioricet which is a barbiturate - was more of a "F*** it' thing - like when I eat too much chocolate, and a desire to take a medication that did NOT knock me out like triptans do. It would be on and off so I never got dependent on them from a physical POV which I am grateful for, I read the withdrawal background and it is terrifying.

5) Right now, my path is this, if I go "by the book": Go to NA. No doctor or dentist for the foreseeable future. If my sponsor has their way, no medication period (I have not even told this person about my low dose of Wellbutrin and will not). This is an incredibly bleak plan for me. I do not feel connected to NA, but I know I have not tried more meetings. It could be denial or judgment. I was feeling VERY good about the AA meetings I reconnected with in my attempt to "get back into the middle of the herd" but got sideways glances and saw the shifting of discomfort when explaining why I identified as a newcomer. I did not slip on alcohol and am still 14+ years sober from liquor.

No one is in my corner on this - at all. Spouse, family, sponsor. I do feel ganged up on; but I remember feeling that back when I first got sober. Perhaps all these feelings, anger, resentment are related to people calling me on my S***, and I have to accept that reality.

Do these points change the viewpoint of any of those who were so kind to give a fantastic set of feedback?

Thank you.

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Brock
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Re: Sobriety and pain meds: At odds with my sponsor, help

Post by Brock »

Thanks for coming back with more information mini, your questions raise a couple more issues, it is a pleasure to attempt to answer from my own experience and perspective, your posts have been educational and helped me and I expect others since we were able to discuss the sponsorship responsibilities.

1) The misuse of the prescription and the question of taking chips I don’t think I can change my mind, you took the chips because you didn’t consider it a slip at the time, I don’t see why you would change your mind. For me the main thing is how I feel not what others say or feel, perhaps if under the influence of the drugs you did things which made it clear you were intoxicated, the sort of things drunk people do, I might consider saying it’s a slip. I don’t want to be rude or suggest you stop taking advice but I believe this is a decision for you only, if you are a believer then maybe you and God, and then say it’s over tell others matter closed no more discussion. I am a bit of a “wicked” fellow sometimes, but if I were in your shoes and somebody told me the drugs constituted a slip, I would ask to be shown where they saw that in the literature, and maybe ask whether our joint founder Bill Wilson changed his date after his experiments with LSD, which of course he didn’t.

2) On this forum we have discussed NA a few times, mainly with reference to dually addicted persons who attend both fellowships. In the first post you mentioned turning your back on the drugs was a cakewalk compared to booze, I had the same experience with cocaine. For many years I drank and smoked coke but that coke habit was very expensive, like you I was able to walk away so much easier from that compared to alcohol. For me this said booze is my problem not drugs and I have no interest in attending NA, if I did go and it made me feel as uncomfortable as it made you; which I suspect it probably would, then that would be the deciding factor, and once again I would endeavor to put it behind me, no more discussion.

3) Of course when a sponsor is also a best friend it’s not going to be easy, perhaps you would consider just showing him the part of the AA leaflet which mentions we take doctor’s advice only, explain that you wish to go “by the book.” If you decide to drop the idea of NA and put this issue of were the drugs a slip or not behind you, and you tell him that, I think any sponsor worth his salt would respect your decision and not bring it up again.

4) Our current forums coordinator Paige mentions a good point from time to time, which is that getting advice from many people can confuse things. This discussion of scheduling your medical work to avoid having two sets of medication makes good sense, the only part I would try to change if I were in your shoes is to not over think the “trigger” part. My mind can play tricks, if I think something bad is going to happen it usually does, so if I expect the drugs to trigger bad feelings they probably will.

5) You say your path now if you “go by the book,” remember no books of the program say go to NA or cancel doctors of any kind, and we all agreed the sponsors idea of no medication was nonsense, (also by the book). You said one thing in this section which to my mind stood out like a beacon shining the path of hope to your future which was – “I did not slip on alcohol and am still 14+ years sober from liquor.” You highlighted and put this in italics well done.

Thanks for giving this retired “oldish” fellow something to write about sorry I went on so long, but in closing I keep thinking of the last words one of our cofounders said to the other –“remember Bill let’s not mess this thing up – keep it simple.” I can’t help but feel that you would be better off with less involvement and advice from well meaning spouse family etc. and try to keep it simple. If you think you did not slip end of story, same with NA, these are in the past tell others the discussion on those matters is over, to my mind that’s part of keeping it simple, you have over 14 years and once you and your God are on good speaking terms forward you go and best of luck.
"Good morning, this is your Higher Power speaking. I will not be needing your help today."

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Spirit Flower
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Re: Sobriety and pain meds: At odds with my sponsor, help

Post by Spirit Flower »

I read something about pills in "As Bill Sees It" page 197 this morning.

(I'm at work so can't quote it).
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ezdzit247
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Re: Sobriety and pain meds: At odds with my sponsor, help

Post by ezdzit247 »

miniminimini wrote:
....Make no mistake, I DID abuse prescription medication. On and off for a few years, while taking chips (for staying off alcohol), and I wanted to come clean about that. This was not a grey area. Does this change your POV? I thought I was clear but went back and wanted to make sure I was...
Hi mini

Nope. I don't know how you define "abuse" of prescription meds, and I am kind of curious about that, but however you personally define the word "abuse" would have no impact on my view regarding the importance of AA members in particular and AA meeting groups in general adhering to AA's 12 Traditions and maintaining AA's singleness of purpose. AA's program is about recovery from alcohol. Period. Everything else--caffeine, nicotine, overeating, sex, drugs, race, religion, politics, etc--is an outside issue according to AA Traditions. If anyone who is sober from alcohol in AA becomes aware of having a problem with any of the foregoing "outside issues", kudos to them. How fortunate for these members that today there are over 100 anonymous 12 Step programs available for help in dealing with any one of these issues, including the "etc" ones.

Keep coming back....
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children...to leave the world a better place...to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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