Overdose: Help Your Therapist Help You

Accidental overdose can be prevented by helping your helping professionals help you. I clearly recall my first two experiences with a therapist. My first experience was with an older, kindly gentleman. I’d been afraid of my anger one day when I’d shaken my six year old son who had just lit a candle and placed it underneath our infant daughter’s bed. I met with Al for a few sessions when he concluded that I was a fine parent and really had just needed someone to talk to. Immediately following our final therapy session, I went home, took three five milligram valium (about which he’d known nothing) and wrote Al an overly enthusiastic letter about my success with implementing the information I’d just finished reading in a self-help book I’d recently purchased at the local drug store. Little did Al know, I could barely remember what I’d read.

My second experience was just a few years later. I’d been living a nightmare in a bad marriage and had experienced thoughts of ending my life. Out of genuine fear that I might be tempted to act upon these thoughts, I decided to seek professional help. I intuitively realized that the levels of hopelessness and despair to which my mood had been plummeting rendered me in some very real danger. I searched the yellow pages and found a wonderful therapist. He was attentive, supportive and validating. Lord knows, I’d desperately needed to find all three qualities in a hurry. When he suggested an antidepressant medication, I knew that he’d recognized the severity of my emotional state. When he recommended ongoing therapy adding, “I don’t want you brought in here on a slab” for the first time in years, I felt my heart fill with hope. (My hope stemmed from the fact that I knew he’d not only heard, but fully realized my cry for help.) This validation was to carry me through the coming year at a time when I believe I very well might have otherwise reached the end of my rope.

Sadly, there existed a dangerously intrusive element about which I hadn’t told my therapist. That cunning and baffling saboteur was my (as yet undiagnosed) alcoholism and addiction to prescription drugs. Little did he know (and little did I know it mattered) that each evening as I’d ingest my antidepressant, I’d chase it with anywhere from one to four vodka gimlets. Then, of course, were the ongoing prescriptions for Fiorinal I was ingesting every four hours without fail for chronic headaches along with the occasional valium pill for anxiety.

In many ways, I’ve credited that therapist over the years with having been one of the guardian angels who contributed to saving my life. Indeed, he played a critical role in saving this addict from herself in that his compassion came at a time when no one else was able to show me any care and concern. Could I have helped my therapist help me more effectively though? Absolutely. Without informing him of a few of the most imperative pieces of information of all, could he have unknowingly contributed to the catch-22 in which I’d unwittingly become trapped by my addiction? Absolutely. In retrospect, this had been a classic case of the blind leading the blind. He could have known nothing about my addiction. His very sincere compassion provided me the glimpse of the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel I’d needed to go on fighting my exhausting battle with depression. However, needless to say, with my daily ingestion of my liquid central nervous system depressant, alcohol, the antidepressant medication he’d recommended was rendered useless. In a worst case scenario, could this have inadvertently resulted in an accidental overdose? Most definitely!

As for working through the issues he and I talked about, I was literally either too emotionally numb, or too busy riding a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows from my drug use to have been able to make any kind of progress therapeutically. Fortunately, with the searching that my ongoing misery led me to pursue, I finally located another of my guardian angels. This lady (a chemical dependency counselor) performed a merciful intervention on my addiction one morning at 2 A.M. It was that night that my addiction to pills and alcohol was “called out” into the open where it could be clearly identified, confronted and dealt with. Later that same morning, I admitted myself to a residential treatment hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Thirty-three years later, here I am, still sober and extremely grateful. It was my fond memory of that therapist’s compassion for my emotional suffering that inspired me to move forward with my dream of helping other addicts find their way out of the nightmare of addiction. I returned to college not long after having gotten into recovery from addiction, divorced my alcoholic husband who refused to quit drinking and began to experience the richness and joy of a sober life. Don’t misunderstand, it’s not that my battle with addiction was easy, but having received the specialized treatment of my addiction counselor in treatment, I learned that I could face and deal with any problem that I encountered.  It became exceedingly clear to me just how fortunate I am to be alive and to have been spared suffering the agony of having taken anyone else’s life on those small town roads I’d so haphazardly, repeatedly navigated while under the influence.

So . . . . here is where you, the client, must take responsibility for being your own advocate! You absolutely must be totally open with your therapist about every medication you take and the amounts and frequency with which you use mood-altering substances. Don’t take chances with your life. Accidents usually happen because someone has been careless. Know that accidental overdoses are exactly that . . . they’re accidents that happen because someone has been careless in neglecting to research the possible dangers of mixing their prescription medication with another mood-altering substance. Whenever two mood-altering substances are mixed, each intensifies the potency of the other! Any pharmacist will gladly answer any questions you might have about any drugs and/or their interactions with one another. They can also be easily “googled” on the internet. The necessity of taking responsibility for everything we put inside our bodies cannot be overstated.

Don’t take chances with your life.

Make it your business to be in-the-know!                               

(Copyright 1974 – 2014 by JC Fredlund) Copyright 2014 by JC Fredlund (JC Eberhart, Past Pen Name): ©JC Fredlund and JC Fredlund’s Artistry Blog, 1974 – 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to JC Fredlund and the link to http://www.JCFredlund.wordpress.com blog is included with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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