Monday, January 14, 2013

Life Story Part 9: Past Drugs, Present Condition, Future Diagnosis

At the suggestion of Courtney, I have been writing my life stories. I actually am almost done and let me tell you, things get pretty vulnerable. And it has been really hard to write the hard stuff. To revisit hasn't been pleasant. But once I got through the tough stuff, I have felt awesome. You should try this life story writing business. It's pretty telling. 

Life Story Part 1 HERE

Life Story Part 2 HERE

Life Story Part 3 HERE

Life Story Part 4 HERE

Life Story Part 5 HERE

Life Story Part 6 HERE

Life Story Part 7 HERE

Life Story Part 8 HERE

Life Story Part 9: Past Drugs, Present Condition, Future Diagnosis
As Ethan healed from surgery, he had to take a lot of pain medication. He had already built a tolerance to what he was taking before surgery, so to feel pain relief after, he had to take massive doses of serious drugs.

When we moved to Utah, he needed to find a good pain management doctor and it just so happened that our bishop in our new ward was one. He offered to treat Ethan and we were happy to have a doctor that knew our situation. Dr. Tipton was a kind, broad-shouldered man. He had a quiet, calm demeanor and respected Ethan’s situation. A lot of doctors and pharmacists are very jaded. They are used to people seeking drugs and lying to them. Dr. Tipton was nothing but respectful to Ethan, and we were very grateful for that.

About a year after surgery, Ethan’s drug side effects were outweighing the benefits. The sleepless nights, the dry mouth, constipation, loss of libido, increased pain levels- it was all becoming a burden. Ethan spoke to Dr. Tipton about a withdrawal off the drugs. The doctor was all for it, but he warned Ethan of how hard it would be. He told Ethan that he had never had a patient that was taking as much as he was. Ethan said he was ready and got a referral to a doctor’s office that would help him withdraw. We met with those doctors and they gave us the dirty details of how hard this was going to be. Ethan was terrified, but ready and committed.

On the morning of the withdrawal, Ethan started feeling the symptoms. Sweaty and restless. He was to take an opiate blocker throughout the day to minimize his withdrawal symptoms and then stay on that drug as long as he wanted, months or even years. I drove him to his doctor’s office so they could start administering the drug. On the way there, he sat in the passenger seat, rocking back and forth, sweating and restless. I kept thinking, “I am too young for this. I should be at home with my babies, folding laundry and making dinner. “ Nevertheless, I once again had to suck it up.

Ethan’s withdrawal was as bad as we thought it would be and more. I was freshly pregnant with Violet and incredibly tired and sick. Ethan was under heavy, intense withdrawals for about 2 weeks, and during that time, we didn’t want the boys to see him. So Jack and Van didn’t, for the entire duration of the heavy portion of the withdrawal. I kept them busy and away from Daddy, which was incredibly sad and hard. They didn’t understand and just wanted to see their dad.

After about a month of withdrawals, Ethan was having little relief. He didn’t sleep, couldn’t eat and couldn’t stop moving. His restlessness wouldn’t not subside. He was better off than he was at the beginning, but not even close to being comfortable. He started talking about going back on his drugs so he could find some relief. I tried to be as supportive as possible and let him make his own decisions, trusting that he knew what was best. We went back into his doctor and talked about going back on the drugs. Ethan and his doctor decided that he would slowly take his pain meds he was taking before and then he would try another withdrawal later. I was completely devastated. We had already come this far, why throw all that away? After the doctor’s appointment, I drove home alone and called my sister Megan. I sobbed to her over the phone. She listened. It was already too much to bear and now he wanted to take steps backwards.

Ethan ended up not taking the drugs again and decided to continue his withdrawal. I would say he wasn’t feeling “normal” for about 3 months. After that, he was comfortable and grateful he had done it. But those three months were horrible. Having Ethan come out of his drug-induced fog was glorious. He was back. And everyone around us could see it. The drugs didn’t put him on an emotional rollercoaster, they just kept him at a steady middle ground. He was never extremely happy or extremely sad. Conversations with him were never deep emotional talks and nothing was ever laugh-out-loud funny. He was mellow and seemed like he wasn't “all there”. But once he was off of everything, it was like I was seeing an old friend. As it is now, Ethan has a hard time talking about those drug years. When we watch movies where people withdraw from drugs, like “Ray” or “Walk The Line”, he is all too familiar with it and has a hard time watching it. My husband has been through some difficult things in life, but he says that nothing comes close to withdrawing off of opiates.

I often think about all of Ethan’s foot problems and drug withdrawal and I feel so grateful for what it did for our relationship. I learned what real compassion is. I learned to be gentle in my judgements of him and other people. I grew to love him more than I could have otherwise. I learned to stop being such a pansy and put on my big-girl pants. I watched him choose to endure pain, make tough choices, rarely complain and try very hard to see a light at the end. His faith is exemplary. We look at his foot pain and drugs as something we have conquered. It is often used as a reference point. “If we can do THAT, we can certainly do THIS.”

Ethan’s foot surgery was very invasive and left huge scars on his left foot, but sadly, it didn’t work the way our doctor had wanted. Hearing the news of that was shattering. At Ethan’s post-op appointment, Dr. Rhim gazed at the x-rays and shook her head. She apologized for it not working and even told us to not pay for the surgery. She gave Ethan an eventual diagnosis of a wheelchair later in life. While I have come to peace with that, Ethan hasn’t and he still claims he will never do it, no matter how painful his feet become. Whatever he chooses, I trust him. I have seen him do hard things and I know he can do them again and again.

*If you or someone you know is thinking of quitting and withdrawing off of opiates, please know you can contact us and we would be happy to answer questions or give you a big vote of confidence. We have been there, it is horrible and it’s horrible going into the unknown. But Ethan especially wanted me to say that it is possible. Feel free to contact us.


  1. Oh, Whitney! This one made me tear up. I mean, I've heard this story before, but reading it like this is different somehow. Reading the lessons you learned and the things you both have conquered is incredible! You both are amazing, and I admire your strength and ability to overcome such obstacles.

  2. I eagerly wait for the next installment every time you post. You are amazing, and Ethan is amazing. Everyone has a story, this is what I have found, but not everyone shares their story. I know you will be helping many by sharing yours!

    Love ya!

    maybe...just maybe I will share our "story" some day. For's just not time.

  3. You are amazing! What a difficult circumstance. Although I realize why we don't go around wearing labels on ourselves about what we've been through, I wish that we could all have this level of understanding and compassion for each other realizing that we've all been through something! I think there is a lot of mercy in those big trials when they help us realize that if we can conquer that, we can conquer anything. Thank you for sharing your story. It is an incredible example of strength. I want to ask if it's hard for you- when I write like this they're always the posts that take the longest!

  4. How did you decide to or how were you strong enough to not let the evil r word in? Mean resentment? I have a problem with that sometimes when Ty goes through a hard time. I hate that about myself. Also I want to hear more about being self employed! I don't think most people get it...