Adam's pill addiction, alcoholism and mental illness

Adam Gump
Tell us about your (or your loved one's) recovery journey. What has been the most rewarding part?

In every single way; with family life, religiously, my care for others now with addiction, my daily life revolves around staying sober and now reaching out trying to help others. I also recently decided to look into pursuing a career in drug counseling and getting out of my construction job. I am a better person in every way today as a sober member of society and I would not take away the hard years. I am one of the lucky ones and want to help others and live without selfishness.

Do you have a message for the Shatterproof community?

If you or a loved one has an addiction please reach out, you are NOT alone. I reached my rock bottom and was fortunate enough to overcome my addiction. Let's come together and help others overcome their addictions. Please.

My name is Adam and this is my story, my 10 year struggle with chronic pain, depression, anxiety and addiction. I will start by explaining what I did that started my back pain which led to pain pills, depression, anxiety and eventually addiction. I just simply over worked it, I started bailing hay and straw at a very young age, worked at a Sod Farm throughout high school, started as a commercial electrician my senior year and also worked at UPS. For the next 6 years I would work for an electrical contractor for 8 hours a day and then go work at UPS for 4-5 hours at night. Both jobs were very labor demanding but I loved it. My 4th year at UPS was in 2003 and my back was bad, I tried physical therapy, cortisone shots, and nerve ablations, chiropractors, and acupuncture (which was a very unique experience). Nothing worked or I should say nothing worked for more than a few weeks. I was left with working two jobs in pain and taking pain medicine to get through my days. I visited a doctor who suggested surgery. I was 24 years old. I opted to have the surgery and so it began, an almost 10 year period that included 8 major back surgeries, over 50 cortisone shots, several nerve ablations, 4 discograms and Lord knows how much pain medicine I was flying through. I was on pain medicine 100% of the time during these 10 years. I was either in pain because I had just had a surgery or in pain because the surgery did not work. I had seen all the pain clinics in Fort Wayne by the end. My marriage through all of this was fading, fading due to my inability to function after work, due to me being “in a cloud” all the time from the pain medicine, due to our poor financial situation from all the doctors, surgeries, pain clinics, etc, and also due to no one including myself knowing what was going on. My wife and I somehow still managed to keep the marriage going although we had other tough times outside of my issues. We did have two beautiful children right in the middle of all this craziness but it was hard for me to perform my fatherly duties. During the first surgery they found that I have Degenerative Disc Disease and Spinal Stenosis on top of a bulged disc from over working it. It was finally clear why I was always in pain. My surgeries included multiple fusions and multiple hardware sets to try to stabilize the discs that were infected (L5-S1 area). After the 5th surgery it was suggested I try a Spinal Cord Neurostimulator, this was a last resort because it would not fix anything, only cover up the pain and they were hesitant to perform this surgery because I was so young. I competed a 2 week trial period with it where I wore the battery/computer unit on a belt and the wires were going through my skin with a stitched up incision. The trial period went well and it seemed to help. This unit created electrical pulses to my nerves which then tricked the nerves into not sending the pain messages to my brain. At age 31, I was preparing to have my 6th back surgery, this surgery was being performed by a different surgeon, one who specialized in Neurostimulators. They placed the unit in my belly and the wires ran from the unit to the top part of my back where they landed them on my nerves, everything was inside of me. This was the first surgery where I did not get cut open at the bottom of my back. I now had had a 6” incision on my lower back, upper back, and belly. I will add that I had complications with all my surgeries where I had to use a catheter for a couple weeks after each one and my incisions were not always healing right, I spent extra time in the hospital with each one. I estimate I spent a month in the hospital between the 8 surgeries. After this 6th surgery something was not right from the start, the incision in my belly was not healing at all and after 3 weeks it was infected, I was heading back to the hospital to have my 7th surgery less than a month after my 6th surgery and this surgery would be to get the stimulator out. They took the battery/computer unit out of my belly but left the wires in. 4 days after this surgery I was ready to leave the hospital but still needed antibiotic treatments to ensure the infection was killed so they left the IV in and I went to the hospital every morning and every evening in the ER for two weeks to receive antibiotic treatments. During the next 10 months, I recovered and healed but was in a lot of pain still. I visited a new surgeon after being scared of the one before him due to my infection. He suggested I try getting the stimulator put back in me since it did seem to help. So I was preparing for my 8th surgery. This time my body accepted and I healed slow but well. After this last surgery I found myself still in a lot of pain even while using the stimulator and still taking pills. I did not understand this and was taking trips all the time to get the stimulator tweaked, during this they would hold a wand over my stomach and be able to adjust the way the stimulator worked, sometimes this helped but it never lasted. I found myself turning the stimulator up so high that I could not walk because I was being shocked too hard. (I do strongly believe that these stimulators are an excellent thing to try, I was just in a spot that I did not realize I was in) I started to rely on the pills more and more and use the stimulator less and less. I fell into depression and anxiety deeper and deeper, missing work, taking to many pills, not sleeping well at all, feeling alone in this battle I was in and I had become an addict both emotionally and physically addicted to the pain medication. There were lots of times I laid on the couch in so much pain crying and not wanting to be in this world anymore. I had Faith in the Lord but I also thought that this was just how it was supposed to be for me even though I did not understand why. I would think well why would the Lord take away a kid from their parents? Well It happens and this is happening too, I did not understand it but it was happening. My mind/body would wake me up at night every hour craving more drugs to take the pain away, it got to the point where the pills were not working at all and I would resort into taking more of my anxiety pills than prescribed just to pass out. The pain pill I was on was OxyContin and I called it “the devil” and for a good reason. I wanted to get off of the devil so I decided to quit cold turkey, not a good idea. I took the week off work and paced around the house and garage for 4 days in shock, throwing up, not eating, not sleeping, my wife kept the kids away and only had them around to sleep in their beds at night. I prayed a lot during this time and I also cried more than ever but crying did make me feel better at least. One day my sister called and gave me Bible verses over the phone and asked me to write them down. I have attached those from that day, I had them laminated last year. You can tell by my handwriting that I was in shock. Those verses I wrote down gave me hope to keep going and I constantly found myself looking at them and reading them and realizing “My sister has so much love for me” and it really gave me the push to keep going. I lasted 4 days and looking back I am surprised I did not last longer because during this period I was not in a lot of pain and that was because my body was in such shock from quitting the Oxy, but that was very uncomfortable in itself and I was looking for a way out. I am a very lucky man to be here today because I could have died from that shock, I was after all on the heaviest dose of Oxy than I had heard of. I ended up finding a way out and buying some extra strength Vicodin off a drug dealer friend of a friend and that Vicodin stopped the withdrawal. I was now off the devil but still on pills and still in pain. Months went by and my marriage had failed completely, my life was a wreck and by this time I was going through a divorce and living alone in an apartment, I made the best of the situation when I had my kids but was not myself by any means. Looking back it is incredible to think how I must have been around my kids. I do believe they were young enough to hopefully not remember it all. I thought no one understood what I was going through except maybe other patients of chronic pain that I would see in the waiting rooms. I was the unhappiest I had ever been and did not want anything to do with this world but those kids and amazing people like my sister gave me a reason to not give up and everyone needs a reason to keep going on whether it be a friend, relative, spouse, the Lord, a reason to keep fighting and fighting. I must say my Parents were awesome the whole time as were my Brothers but it was my Sister and the kids that seemed to get through to me the most, not enough yet to get me out of the hell I felt I was in but enough to keep me going and that’s all I needed at the time. It was now late June 2012 and I prayed and prayed that something would change and one night while not sleeping I prayed at my bedside like I had never prayed before and cried and cried asking him to please help me and get me out of this. After praying I put in my headphones and went for a walk around town, it was early in the morning like 4 am and I listened to some of my favorites and I do not remember exactly what went through my head to make me think of it but I do remember thinking “maybe it’s the pills that are creating the pain and my body is all healed but the pills have complete control over all this” I started to research this that morning while taking more pills, especially more anxiety pills I remember and I did find some articles backing up the theory. I believe I finally got a couple hours of sleep that morning and I got in my car to go get something (I was heavily medicated) not sure where I went but on the way back to my apartment I ran straight into the back of a FedEx truck, I remember being really scared and knowing I should not have been driving so I did not stop and went to my apartment which was only halfway across town. The local cop that was on duty at the time was right behind me. He asked if I knew what I just did and said you are messed up on something. He gave me a breathalyzer and I was clean for alcohol. He then said “Gump, I do not know what you are on and do not care but if I see this car move today I will arrest you.” I realized that I was getting off the hook because he said the FedEx truck did not want to press charges or turn in a claim because nothing happened to the truck. Wow what a time I was having. I went up to my apartment then came back down and started walking outside. I knew at this time that if I did not get help I would not make it much longer before I was either dead or in jail. I remembered the whole "is the medication the driving force behind the pain?" and I knew it was the driving force behind me being really messed up so I then looked up “most beautiful rehabs in the country.” I called the 800 number and remember talking and sharing my story with a gentlemen that was so understanding and I’m thinking “wow this is awesome it’s like he has been through this” and he told me I needed help immediately and I was comfortable with that. He asked me how soon I could get to the Indianapolis Airport and I told him. He asked for my insurance information and said he would call me right back. 20-30 minutes later he called me back and said your flight leaves out of Indy in 6 hours. I told him I could not drive and could not let my car move or I would get arrested. He asked if I knew someone that could drive me and I said yes my ex sister in law. I knew she did not have a car at the time but there was still the car not supposed to move thing so I called the police and they met me at my apartment and I called my ex sister in law and she met us there and I took off to Indy. I was dropped off 1 ½ hours early and hugged my ex sister in law good bye and told her thanks and that she could drive my car for the next 5 weeks. I was in the air to FL and don’t remember much until I was in FL. By this time I was going through heavy withdrawal and was in bad shape but I was checked into detox and they immediately took my vitals and then gave me medicine to relax me. I spent the next week in detox safely coming off of the drugs that I had been on for 10 years and learning to live without them. It was a very tough week emotionally but I was not alone, in fact, I had 50 other people in there with me going through the same thing and the most incredible thing happened to me: 2 days into detox my pain went completely away, 100%. This scared me at first because I was not used to not having pain and could not stop thinking about “what if it comes back?” but the pain stayed away and did not come back, I felt like a true miracle had happened and could not believe that what I had hoped was going on was going on, the pain medicine and anxiety medicine was creating my pain. I learned that week that my body had healed itself finally from all the trauma of all the surgeries and my mind and body was trying to tell me something and it accomplished that. After the full week in detox I had made new friends, friends that had been addicted to pills, alcohol, and a lot of them very heavy drugs. We learned to laugh together and be sober together. We were then moved to a campus were we would spend the next 4 weeks together with addicts (I am and will always be an addict) that had been there already. There was 4 guys to a house and 4 girls to a house, 2 per room, 2 rooms in the house. Each person had his/her own queen size bed, got $75.00/week allowance for food, we shared a kitchen together were we cooked are own food. We shared a living room that had nice furniture and a huge big screen TV and we spent 9-10 hours a day attending classes off campus, learning how to live sober and we also learned Yoga, Meditation, and how to cope with our feelings. I learned that for me writing a diary helped so I wrote a lot. We had breaks during the day where we could spend an hour at the beach or an hour at the gym, some days could do both. At the end of each day we would relax around picnic tables or swim in the pool that was on campus. We would often spend the last hour watching tv shows. Every Sunday we all cooked on grills that were also on campus and ate as a community. During these 4 weeks we would go to AA meetings and NA meetings and they were very eye opening. I missed my kids tremendously during my time in FL and that was the hardest part of it all. I was allowed to call them twice a day, we had hours were we could call and it was the happiest but also the saddest parts of my day because my then 4 and 6 year old would ask me when I am coming home and their Mom had a calendar for them to keep track. I remember my 6 year old crying so hard saying Daddy I can’t wait that long. It was so hard but I knew they needed a healthy Daddy so I pushed through it. My 4 year old was not as conscious about the time frame I was down there so she did not take it as hard until the 2nd-3rd week then she missed her Daddy. The whole time we told them Daddy was in FL working, boy will I ever have a story to tell them when they are all grown up. I made it through the 5 weeks and left for home the first week of August. My parents were meeting me at the Indianapolis Airport but what I did not know was that my boy was going to be with them. I will always remember standing at the top of some stairs at the airport and looking down, there was my Mom, Dad and my 6 year old son. Dawson, my son, was crying but smiling and I lost it, I had tears of joy flowing out and hugging my son after not seeing him for 5 weeks was an amazing feeling. I was driven to Busco to my ex-wife’s house to see my daughter and as soon as we hit the driveway she was running and smiling with her hands out to hug me. I was home. I was sober. My pain was gone. I was back to the Adam that everyone missed so much. I am about 7 weeks away from being 2 years clean. I have not been in pain during the last 2 years. I am grateful. I want to share my story and hopefully help others realize that there is a way out and maybe what you are going through can be stopped. I pray for people who are in situations like I was in and I pray they find peace. I have told a little bit of my story to a couple people that needed help but have never typed my story out in full. I hope and pray that my story can help you realize that there is lots of life out there to live and lots to look forward to. Please keep Faith and know that you are not alone, you are never alone, and you just need to reach out. I am available to talk to if you would like. I want to help and be there for you if you need someone that has went through similar experiences with chronic pain, depression, anxiety and addiction. Tonight I will say a special prayer for you.

Adam J. Gump

August, 1st 2017, still pill clean, alcohol problem, surgery coming up:

I am now 4 years clean from pain pills and 5 months sober from alcohol. 2 years ago I began drinking socially and with my addictive personality I found myself drinking more and more. On nights I had my kids I would stay under control and drink 3-4 beers while they were awake but then when I laid them to bed I would go to the freezer and pull out vodka or whiskey and mix up 3 strong drinks at once, I would start on one of the drinks and put the other 2 in the freezer and drink them too, all within an hour, I would repeat this sometimes 2-3 times a night until I passed out from too much alcohol. I would repeat this most nights and still make it to work but I was exhausted, I could not live like this and expect to stay alive long, I had just heard the news that a woman I would have graduated with but she moved to a different school our freshman year had passed away from boozing vodka too hard. This scared me. I continued to drink though and somehow managed to find my current fiancée and best friend. She was and is great to me and helped me stopped the alcohol. I stopped cold turkey after crying in the shower one morning and praying to God to help me find the strength. I am now 5 months sober from alcohol and for the first time I am sober from everything.
Today I went and visited a Neurosurgeon and in 13 days I am going to have the last chapter of all of this closed, he is going to take out the spinal cord neurostimulator that I have not used in almost 4 years. The wires that are implanted in my upper back bother me and tug and pull on my skin, the battery is just sitting in my belly not being used or charged, it is time to get all of this out of me and be done 100% with this. Besides the tugging of the skin from the wires I have no discomfort and could keep the system in me but psychologically I need this out of me to move on and move past everything. Having this system in me does limit me to some activities so there is another reason.
My fiancé and I talked to the Neurosurgeon today about me being on pain medicine after this major surgery and I am scared, absolutely, but this time I will be on the medicine because I will be in actual pain from being cut open. My fiancée will monitor my pain medicine usage closely and I am confident I will be able to drop the pain medicine a week or so after the surgery. The pain medicine for surgery pain will be nothing like high dose of oxycontin that I was taking too much of.

I pray that in writing this that I have no more updates from coming off of substances and that I live this sober life day by day and try not to take the days for granted. I am an addict and an alcoholic but I can choose every morning after waking up to not drink and to not fall back into pain pill addiction. I am a very strong and confident 38 year old who has a wonderful career, relationship with the best woman, strong support system from family and I have God backing me up. I am happy, I am free and I will always fight for this wonderful sober life.

Adam Gump.

9-12-17, surgery a success, I am clean, family member in trouble with alcohol dependence:

My surgery was 23 days ago and I am doing very well. I have full mobility and am in no pain. I was given Vicodin after my surgery and my fiancé did monitor it closely and I was able to stop the Vicodin 4 days after the procedure. I now have the computer, battery and wires out of me and feel great. The last chapter is closed. I have been sober from alcohol for 6 months and 1 week and sober from pain pill addiction (I successfully used the Vicodin for the surgery pain only, and was able to stop it with no issues) for 4 years, 1 month. Next spring I plan on playing softball since I now can and I am very excited about it. I am an addict and an alcoholic and I will continue to take my sobriety day by day.

2 weeks ago a family member of mine enrolled into a treatment facility for a month long program for alcohol dependency. This has affected me tremendously and made it hard to sleep and concentrate having someone close to me go through some of what I went through. My whole family is supportive of this family member but they also do not understand addiction and mental illness. For instance, one family member has invited the person to come live with them after treatment is over when their spouse drinks alcohol on a regular basis…well how is that going to work? It’s NOT. Another family member continues to drink every day and doesn’t seem to mind that 2 of his close family members have now been to long term treatment. Why are we so selfish as a society? Why is it so hard to stop some of your daily life to help someone in need? If a direct family member is in a crisis situation how is it fair to say “I care about the person and hope the person gets better soon, I love that person” but yet not change anything about your life to help the person? It is NOT fair. If we can’t come together as a family and do whatever it takes to prepare for the family member’s after care when the treatment is over then what are we doing calling ourselves a family? I had a vision when I was in my 5 week program 4 years ago in FL that when I came back my brothers and father would stop drinking to support me who had just undergone intense treatment for narcotic dependence but that was not the case, not at all. They continued to drink and every time I was around my direct family there was alcohol…so it was very easy for me to pick up the bottle and begin drinking and that is exactly what I did and I quickly became an alcoholic as you read earlier in this story. Now one of those family members is in a facility being treated for alcoholism and mental disorders and do you think the other family members who drink everyday have stopped so they can be of more support to him when he gets out then they were for me? NO.

DO NOT take addiction and mental disorders lightly. If you or a loved one is dealing with addiction PLEASE stop what you are doing and reach out. You just might save a life or your own life. Do not ignore the situation because you are ignorant or struggle to understand addiction and mental disorders, get help, learn, read up about it and reach out. DO NOT EVER take addiction and mental disorders lightly, especially when they are together.

If you need guidance on what step to take first or just want to talk please feel free to reach out to me. I am here.

Adam Gump