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Injury and Recovery: How to Manage Pain Without Relapse

infographic of options for holistic healing

With summer comes lots of outdoor time via sports, beach fun, camping, grilling, and more. Unfortunately, because of all the activity and focus on fun, injuries abound this time of year. This can put a damper on the summer for anyone, but for someone in recovery who is trying hard to avoid use of all substances, it can also cause some pretty turbulent emotions.

If you are injured in the summer or at any time, you need to think carefully how you will handle your pain management during recovery. This is no small thing. Using any kind of substance, even if medically prescribed, can trigger abuse of the substance and a return to active addiction.

Here are some of the things you need to know to help you figure out the best path forward for you.

Talk to your doctor about your past in addiction. If you are admitted to the emergency room, make it clear to the people who are taking care of you that you want the lowest dose of painkillers as possible due to an addiction history. They know better than almost any other medical professionals just how serious that is and should proceed accordingly.

Discuss a long-term pain management plan before release. Before you leave the emergency room, whether or not you have a script for painkillers in hand, talk to your doctor about your options in pain management with minimal or no medication and get a step-by-step action plan to carry you through. You can always alter it later, but in the event that you begin to feel triggered before you can get to your primary care physician, it is a good idea to have a solid plan available to you.

Learn more about holistic treatment options. There are a number of ways you can ease your pain without taking medications. Learn as much as you can about what these options are and how to make the most of them, make sure they are safe and recommended for your personally, and then make use of them regularly.

Medication may be needed. For serious injuries, it may be necessary to take some amount of pain medication. However, if you are engaging in holistic treatment and taking over-the-counter, nonaddictive pain medications (e.g., ibuprofen, acetaminophen) regularly, you can minimize your dose as much as possible. Additionally, make your doctor aware that you want a stepdown schedule that is as rapid as possible, making sure that the dose of painkillers drops continually until you are free of them completely.

Have an accountability partner. It is a good idea to have someone you trust in sobriety go with you to appointments and assist you with all your pain management. Make sure they hear all the doctor’s recommendations and take notes on holistic pain management, so they can remind you about the specifics later. Also, ask them to check in with you daily regarding how you are sticking to your pain management regiment.

Have someone with no addiction history hold your medications. It can also be helpful if you have someone who supports you in recovery hold your medications and give them to you as needed to ensure that you stick with the dosing schedule and do not misuse the drugs.

Ignore people who undermine your pain management plans. If it is necessary for you to take some dose of painkillers in order to manage extreme pain, do not let anyone tell you that you are no longer sober, or that they knew so-and-so who had a “way worse” injury than you and that person NEVER took a single drug because that’s how committed they were to sobriety. Give yourself permission to ignore every single word. Their opinions have nothing to do with you and what you and your doctor have determined is the best course forward in recovery.

Injury is a huge risk for relapse. If you take painkillers to address an injury, there is a risk that you will abuse the medications and trigger an avalanche of cravings that feel impossible to shut down. If you avoid painkillers because of your sobriety and the pain becomes too overwhelming to bear, you may relapse on anything you can get your hands on just to escape the pain.

As with every part of addiction and recovery, the right choice for you in managing pain is a personal one that is best decided with a medical and treatment team by your side. If you feel that the course you have chosen is not working for you and your sobriety is at risk, do not wait to take action and seek the therapeutic addiction treatment you need.

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