When Linda P. was prescribed Percocet to relieve her debilitating migraine headaches, the powerful opioid drug quickly became her go-to remedy for all of life's struggles. Listen in as Linda tells host William C. Moyers why shame kept her trapped in addiction for years until she was able to ask for help. Linda also discusses why a medication-assisted treatment program along with a combination of inpatient and outpatient rehab proved the best path for her in finding lasting freedom from opioid addiction. Read the podcast transcript below, listen and subscribe on iTunes or Google Play. 00:00:01 William Moyers Hello and welcome to Let's Talk, a series of podcasts produced by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation on issues related to substance use prevention, research, treatment and recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. My name is William Moyers, I'm your host and I've worked at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation for 23 years now. I also am an alum, I was a patient there in 1989 and again in 1991 and so I know intimately these issues professionally and I know them personally. Today we have a story of hope—a story of hope that comes to us from a fellow traveler, Linda P., who lives in the metropolitan Twin Cities area. Linda, welcome. 00:00:45 Linda P. Thank you. 00:00:46 William Moyers Thanks for joining us and for bringing your story of hope, help and healing to our audiences today. Tell us a little bit about why you're here. 00:00:54 Linda P. Well that's a good question. I'm—I'm just here really to give back to an organization that gave me my life back. 00:01:01 William Moyers What do you mean we gave you your life back, what happened? 00:01:04 Linda P. I was a very hopeless addict for many years and I felt like there was no way out and I really didn’t think that I would ever have my life back. 00:01:15 William Moyers But Linda you're a nurse, you're a smart woman, you're a young woman, you're 29 years old now. You have a college education, you have a supportive family, right? 00:01:26 Linda P. Yep. 00:01:27 William Moyers What happened to you? 00:01:28 Linda P. Basically I—I had graduated school—well before that, I really had a lot of trauma growing up. 00:01:36 William Moyers You did? 00:01:37 Linda P. I haven't always gone into all the details but in a nutshell, in my teen years my dad had gotten into Nigerian scam email if anyone's heard of that. Where they email you, say that there's a Prince in Africa that has a fortune and if you help him, you're gonna get millions of dollars. So my dad fell for it and my family lost everything they ever had. I was in my very early teens at this time, and I had actually right before that started kinda been taken out of school against my will to be homeschooled. 'Cause my older sister wanted to be homeschooled. So, it was kinda the perfect storm— 00:02:21 William Moyers Yes. 00:02:22 Linda P. —of being home while all this trauma was going on. My—I was watching my family lose everything. It went on for many years, unfortunately. During that time, you know, my—my mom had left for a little bit and I just felt extremely alone and isolated and—and my older sisters, you know, had all kind of moved off. So it was like this pressure cooker of dysfunction really and—and trauma. And I ended up putting myself back in school when I was 16, even though that's not what my family members wanted me to do. 00:02:58 William Moyers Right. 00:02:59 Linda P. But it was the right thing for me to do and it took a lot of courage definitely. So yeah, I fought really hard and, but I think all those years of trauma kind of set me up. So then I had fought my way through college, which was really hard to do with the, you know, limited education I had had. And during that time, I had started to get really bad migraine headaches. And I had started working at my first job and— 00:03:33 William Moyers As a nurse? 00:03:34 Linda P. Yes—my first job as a nurse. And one of my co-workers who I was friends with and I trusted said that you know she had a history of really bad migraines too and that she had gone to this doctor that really helped her. She, you know, highly recommended him to me and thought that he would be able to help me too and I trusted her, I didn't really know anything more than that. 00:03:58 William Moyers Why not? 00:03:59 Linda P. Yep. And so, we actually went together my first visit on a day off, we both had a day off. And I just, you know, had kind of told him my history, it wasn't very in-depth at all and next thing I knew I had a prescription for 60 Percocet. 00:04:18 William Moyers So you go home with these 60 Percocet and with a real sense of hope that maybe you could overcome these migraines, which are debilitating. You start to take the Percocet— 00:04:26 Linda P. Yep. 00:04:27 William Moyers Did you know they were addictive? 00:04:28 Linda P. You know, I—in the back of my mind I think I—I did know but I for some, you know, I really just didn't think it would happen to me. And I thought I would only need 'em for just a short amount of time— 00:04:41 William Moyers Right. 00:04:42 Linda P. And I'd be off them well before, you know, I thought you had to be on these pills for a long, long time before— 00:04:48 William Moyers And they worked! 00:04:49 Linda P. Yeah, absolutely! 00:04:50 William Moyers So the migraines went away. 00:04:51 Linda P. The migraines went away and— 00:04:53 William Moyers But not the problem. 00:04:54 Linda P. Right. And— 00:04:55 William Moyers What happened? 00:04:55 Linda P. Well, I realized that I kind of functioned better all around when I was on them. 00:05:00 William Moyers Why—did you just—how did they make you feel? 00:05:03 Linda P. They made me feel the opposite of what I think a lot of people feel. Normal people, I—never made me tired or sleepy or anything like that, it was the opposite. It was like having ten cups of coffee but I wasn't jittery, you know. I was just engaged and wanted—wanted to do everything. And so I was already working as a nurse and then I wanted to go back and further my education. So I was working full-time, I was commuting an hour away to school, I was taking night classes, staying up late, studying, taking tests, repeating that. And that's kind of a hard thing to sustain. But, you know, I—when I had pills, it—it was easy. 00:05:47 William Moyers When did you cross that divide between your use of Percocet, opiates and the realization that you had a problem? 00:05:57 Linda P. When I would run out, you know, that's you know—that's— 00:06:00 William Moyers Why, 'cause you'd start craving? 00:06:01 Linda P. Yeah and—and then, I just didn't have the motivation to do anything 'cause I felt sick. Very quickly. I— 00:06:10 William Moyers From withdrawal. 00:06:11 Linda P. Mmm-hmm. And I don't think I realized that it was withdrawal to be honest, at first. 00:06:16 William Moyers So I don't want you to get too detailed or share anything that you wouldn't feel comfortable sharing, but had you had other drug or alcohol experiences that sort of gave you that same sense that you might be in trouble? Or was this really the first time you found yourself in the grip of something that you couldn't— 00:06:31 Linda P. Absolutely it was the first time. Yeah. 00:06:32 William Moyers Really. 00:06:33 Linda P. Yeah. I had done a little bit of experience—experimenting with drinking and— 00:06:38 William Moyers Sure. 00:06:39 Linda P. Marijuana and— 00:06:40 William Moyers Wasn't your thing. 00:06:41 Linda P. —In teen and very early twenties and it was definitely not my thing. But when I met opiates it was instant. 00:06:48 William Moyers So, tell me about the day you reached out for help. 00:06:52 Linda P. Yes, so it was a long time coming I would say. I definitely knew that I was in a bad place and—and nobody else knew what I was going through. Just basically that co-worker that had turned me on to that doctor, but she was kind of struggling herself. She didn't really know what I was going through, and really no one else knew. And I was in denial of thinking that I could kick it on my own, which I tried, and tried, and tried so many times. And there just comes a point after trying to do it so long on your own and having no success that you really just feel like a failure and like it's never gonna happen for you. And— 00:07:37 William Moyers But you didn't give up. 00:07:38 Linda P. Yeah. 00:07:39 William Moyers You got help. 00:07:39 Linda P. Yep. Exactly. So— 00:07:40 William Moyers What was that like, getting help? You're a nurse, you're a smart woman, you're young, you're motivated, but you needed help. What was that like? 00:07:48 Linda P. I—it was really liberating and amazing— 00:07:50 William Moyers Aaah. 00:07:52 Linda P. I had basically finally come out to my fiancé and told him how bad things really were. And when I opened up to him, he was just amazing and really supported me getting help. Which was something I used to tell people in inpatient that I used to like fantasize about going to treatment. [Moyers laughs] It's really something I wanted to do for so long. 00:08:14 William Moyers Wow. That's interesting. 00:08:15 Linda P. Yeah and I just couldn't fathom being able to tell my job that—that's something I needed to do and the thought of that horrified me. So much. 00:08:26 William Moyers Isn't that ironic? That's the shame and the stigma. If you'd had breast cancer or diabetes you wouldn't have thought twice about sharing your challenge with your workplace. 00:08:31 Linda P. Right. Exactly. Yeah, it's so true. 00:08:33 William Moyers But you could in this case. 00:08:35 Linda P. And I felt like every one of my co-workers would find out, I just—I really honestly didn't trust that—that that would be kept secret. So it wasn't until I actually changed jobs and I had only been there for three months, I sat down with my supervisor one day and I just told her the truth. And it was one of the hardest conversations I ever have had in my life. 00:09:02 William Moyers And yet the truth set ya free. 00:09:03 Linda P. Absolutely. It did. 00:09:04 William Moyers And you went to treatment. 00:09:05 Linda P. Yep. Yep. 00:09:06 William Moyers You went to treatment where? 00:09:06 Linda P. I went to Center City for 30 days. 00:09:09 William Moyers Center City being part of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's—that's our main campus. 00:09:12 Linda P. Yeah. Yep. 00:09:13 William Moyers You went there. 00:09:13 Linda P. Yep. 00:09:14 William Moyers And were you with everybody else or were you in a special program there? 00:09:17 Linda P. I was in the healthcare professional program. 00:09:20 William Moyers Why is that—because you're a nurse and what is about nurses and doctors that need in treatment do they just need extra? 00:09:26 Linda P. Well, it's you know I'm probably not gonna be able to phrase this well— 00:09:32 William Moyers That's okay. 00:09:32 Linda P. But there's just so many different facets and people in healthcare really are able to relate to each other so well, too. So it's really great to have those connections and you know there's a lot of the same types of risks too, you know. Some people that luckily I never did but working in places where you have your drug of choice available, you know, that's a huge thing that needs to be addressed. 00:10:00 William Moyers Right. There're licensing issues, where your nurses are licensed healthcare professionals. 00:10:03 Linda P. Yep. All—exactly, yep. 00:10:04 William Moyers So you go to treatment there, you find the solution. Tell us about what that solution for you included because you were one of those millions of people across the country who got caught up in this opioid epidemic. It's a legitimate epidemic, it's killing thousands of people in this country, and even our organization has had to adapt our treatment regimen to address the reality that opiate addiction is very different than it is other addictions. In the sense of that craving. So what did you need to do to overcome your addiction? 00:10:35 Linda P. Yeah, I had been reading about the COR-12 program— 00:10:41 William Moyers Yes. 00:10:41 Linda P. —before I even went in. And I knew that this looked really promising and exciting to me. But basically what I did was, you know, you kind of have those initial few days of detoxing when you go into inpatient and I met with a physician and we kinda talked about where my withdrawals were at and what my options were. And I just remember telling him, you know, you're the professional, I trust you, you know. I want you to do what is gonna give me the best long-term success. I want you to treat me like as if I was your daughter, like what would you recommend, honestly? 00:11:15 William Moyers Mmm. Nice. 00:11:17 Linda P. And I was already open to the idea of medication-assisted treatment. 00:11:21 William Moyers Suboxone? 00:11:22 Linda P. Yep. And he decided that that was a good course for me to—to start on and I don't know that I could have been as engaged— 00:11:32 William Moyers Right. 00:11:32 Linda P. —with inpatient as I was if it weren't for that. 00:11:34 William Moyers Did you have any hesitancy or did you have any shame around the fact that you needed to use a medication to boost your recovery? 00:11:42 Linda P. You know, honestly I didn't— 00:11:44 William Moyers Good for you. 00:11:44 Linda P. —because I had tried it so many times on my own without it. 00:11:46 William Moyers Yeah. 00:11:47 Linda P. And knew where that was gonna get me. 00:11:49 William Moyers [laughs] Yeah. 00:11:50 Linda P. So I didn't need to go down that road again. 00:11:52 William Moyers So what did you find when you were discharged back home, back to the job—presumably you left with under the treatment regimen that included— 00:12:02 Linda P. Yep. 00:12:03 William Moyers —some continued use of a medication. Did you encounter any stigma in the recovery community around your use of Suboxone? 00:12:09 Linda P. As soon as I left inpatient, I left and did outpatient through—through St. Paul, Hazelden St. Paul. 00:12:16 William Moyers Yeah. Nice campus isn't it? 00:12:17 Linda P. Yes. Super nice, it's beautiful. And I loved my group there. So I did that four days a week. To begin with and within the Hazelden community, I, no—I really can't say that I encountered much of any stigma at all. 00:12:31 William Moyers Right. Good. 00:12:32 Linda P. I was actually one of the few opiate addicts in my group. 00:12:36 William Moyers Oh, interesting. 00:12:37 Linda P. Especially well it was all a female group but I had another COR-12 group that was obviously for opiate addicts. 00:12:43 William Moyers Mmm-hmm. 00:12:44 Linda P. So I was surprised and still kind of am that there weren't that many females there, but, but regardless everyone that I met that, you know, knew about it stay—they were very supportive. 00:12:57 William Moyers So this is a story of hope and yours is certainly a hopeful story. Tell us about your life today. 00:13:03 Linda P. My life today is I have my life back. I get to do what I want to do now. I'm not controlled by the drug and when am I gonna get it, and how am I gonna get more, and am I gonna be sick, and can I go out of town? 'Cause I—what if I run out and then I'm gonna be sick, you know. That's—it's really—that's what your life becomes with opiates because you truly become so physically ill when you don't have them. And, you know, towards the later years of my use, I wasn't using to have fun or be productive or any of those reasons why I started. I was using just to function and not be sick. So, to be able to—to live your life as like basically a normal human again, which is something for years I didn't have, it's amazing. 00:13:57 William Moyers What's your message to any women or men or families that will be listening to this podcast and are inspired by your story, what would you like them to know about you and about their situation? 00:14:10 Linda P. One of the things I had said to Teri, the writer for the story, was there's a really good quote. It's one of the worst prisons a person can live in is fear of what other people will think. And I think that is so big when it comes to addiction, and—and getting help, you know. There's so much stigma and—and people are so afraid to let anybody know what's going on. I was deathly afraid for years of letting anybody know, it's a difficult thing. And you're really going out on a limb letting people know what's going on. So, you know I guess my message would be that it's never too late, there's always hope. No matter how many times you've tried and failed on your own, or you know, even people that have—have tried treatment and the first time didn't stick; it's never too late. And there's just so much hope on the other side. 00:14:14 William Moyers Oh Linda that's a powerful story. And you know, hearing you talk about it never being too late—but you're a young woman, so, you're always a proof that it's never too early. 00:15:24 Linda P. Right! Absolutely. 00:15:25 William Moyers You've regained your life at a— 00:15:27 Linda P. Yeah. 00:15:27 William Moyers At an age where you didn't have to waste any more time— 00:15:30 Linda P. Yep. 00:15:31 William Moyers —trying to figure this out. And so you've got your whole life ahead of you. 00:15:33 Linda P. Yeah. 00:15:34 William Moyers We really appreciate your willingness to stand up and speak out and share your story of hope today. Because not only is it inspiring to me, sitting here with you but I know it will be inspiring to the thousands and thousands of women and men and families who will hear this podcast. So, thank you for having the courage to stand up and share your story of hope with us today. 00:15:59 Linda P. Thank you for having me. It really means a lot. 00:16:01 William Moyers You're welcome. This has been another production of Let's Talk, a series of podcasts by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Bringing the messages of hope, health, and healing to you, our constituents. On behalf of our executive producer Lisa Stangl, I'm William Moyers. Thanks for joining us for Let's Talk and make sure to tune in for another edition at another time. Thank you!