Nicki Hari is 50 years old, and a working mum of two teenage boys. Seven years ago, life started over for Nicki, when her prescription drug recovery began. With treatment and support, she faced up to her 20-year addiction to medications including codeine, tramadol, sleeping pills and dihydrocodeine. Today, Nicki speaks out publicly about prescription drug addiction – to raise awareness of the dangers and to give others hope that there is a solution.
“When I was using prescription drugs, all I was concentrating on was getting my next fix, my next medication,” Nicki says. “In recovery, I’m able to be there for my children in a physical, emotional and spiritual way. I can deal with things that come up in our family because I don’t feel crappy all the time.
“My kids were quite young when I first came into recovery. Being able to give them help and support has been the most incredible gift. In recovery, I’ve been able to get them up for school, make breakfast, listen to what’s going on for them. We have good conversations about choices they’re making in life. I am able to support them with their important decisions. It didn’t all come overnight because it takes time to repair relationships after 20 years of opioid addiction. But as I got better, I was more and more able to be present with my children.
“My boys are 18 and 19 now. Today, I have a normal mother-son relationship with both of them. I feel that I understand them and they understand me. Before recovery, I was always trying to compensate. I’d often buy them things out of guilt because I wasn’t able to be there for them.
“The thing about prescription drug recovery is this – it’s not actually about stopping the drugs, it’s about learning how to stay stopped. That’s the real battle. Rehab taught me how to do that. It’s about having a very good support network around you. Today, I have great family, friends and colleagues – and it’s also been very helpful for me to be around other people in addiction recovery.”
“When I detoxed from opioids, everything started to change for me. I could see opioid addiction for what it really was. I became aware of the terrible effects these drugs were having on me, the hold they had over my life. Most of the pain that I experienced in my 20-year addiction was actually down to opioid withdrawal. The drugs I was taking to reduce my pain were actually the cause of my suffering.
“I was first prescribed painkillers after operations including knee surgery. Today, in addiction recovery, I don’t tend to have pains in my knees or back anymore. On the occasions I do, I know where the pain is coming from and I understand how to take care of myself.”
“My head is clear today. That horrible fogginess has lifted. I make rational decisions now because I’m not acting out of guilt or confusion or fear. I make decisions based on what is right for me, for my kids, and in society. My thought process is so much better in recovery and I trust my judgment now.
“In my addiction, I was always suffering from physical ailments too. My family would say to me that I was always ill. I used to get horrible flu-like symptoms and hangovers from the drugs. I couldn’t understand it at the time – but in recovery, I can see clearly that it was the effects of opioid addiction. Today, I’m incredibly grateful to be free of those debilitating symptoms.”
“A year into my prescription drug recovery, I saw an advert for a job in the addiction industry. They were looking for someone who was a recovering addict, who had been in recovery for at least a year. I contacted them and I got the job.
“I’ve really grown with the role. Six years on, I’m working with UK Addiction Treatment Group as an admissions counsellor. I speak to people at the point they decide to get help. I am proud of what I do because I am able to give people support, encouragement and hope every day that there is a solution to addiction. I always tell people that there is a life without drugs, opioids, painkillers or whatever else they are addicted to – alcohol, illegal drugs or gambling, for example. If they want recovery, they can have it. There are many addiction treatment options available and there’s community support too.
“I didn’t go to college or university to learn about addiction. I’m able to draw on everything I’ve learned through my personal encounters with addiction and prescription drug recovery. I can identify with people who are still suffering from an addiction and with their family members too. I know how addiction can make a person feel and the effects it can have on the people who love them.”
“I started speaking out publicly about prescription drug addiction and recovery a few years ago. It took me a little while to find the confidence to do this because I’d tried to hide my addiction for so long when I was using opioids. As I got further into my recovery, however, the shame began to lift. I really wanted to do something to raise awareness because people don’t speak about it enough. Addiction to prescription drugs is such a taboo in society – and yet it affects so many people. Often, people try to hide what’s really going on, just like I did – they don’t tell anyone what they’re going through.
“The first time I spoke out publicly was on LBC radio. I’m an average working mum and I think a lot of people could relate to my story. I started to realise that people desperately needed to hear about this. The more I spoke openly about my addiction and recovery, the more people would contact me saying they had the same problem.
“With prescription medication, often people find it hard to identify as an addict – I know I did. After all, it’s their GP or another health professional who has prescribed them the pills. Often, they were never warned about the dangers of addiction. So I think when people hear someone a bit like them, saying this happened to me, it can help to break through the denial.”
“I enjoy cooking for my family in the evenings and seeing my friends. I enjoy waking up early in the morning, going out into the fresh air. It’s such a relief not to be thinking in the school holidays, ‘great, this is an excuse to stay in bed all day’. Just being able to get up each day, make breakfast and keep the house tidy – they’re such simple things but they feel incredible to me.
“I’m present and I notice things now too. The other day, for example, I was outside and I saw the beautiful colours in the trees. I would never have noticed that in addiction. There’s a blind that comes down in the throes of the illness – everything is so dark all the time. In recovery, the world is bright again.”
7. “I accept what’s happened in the past and I live for today”
“I also have complete acceptance that I can’t change my past. There are choices I have today about my present and my future. I understand the consequences of making the wrong choices. That awareness is vital for my recovery.”
“My friends staged an intervention. They drove me to see a psychiatrist who diagnosed opioid addiction. The following week, I went into a residential rehab for 28 days. I had a drug detox and intensive therapy, including group and 1-2-1 counselling.
“After rehab, I went to a lot of NA meetings. I stuck with the winners – the people who really wanted recovery for themselves and put the work in. They really supported me through the tough times and weak moments, until I had enough courage to believe in myself.
“Working in the addiction industry also helps me to keep on my recovery programme. I hear every day about how addiction destroys people’s lives and affects families, which reminds me that I never want to go back to that myself.”
“You’re not alone. There is help. You don’t have to suffer in silence. Picking up the phone and making the first call is a breakthrough. It’s the beginning of accepting that you have an issue with prescription meds. Once the denial starts to lift, you’re open to the process of getting help. There’s a brand new life in recovery waiting for you.”
If you’re ready to take the first step towards addiction recovery, there is help available. To speak to an admissions counsellor at UKAT, please get in touch</a> by phone, email or live chat today.
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