Your Pain and Opiates; A Cautionary Tale From Hell by Katherine Christie

So you have sustained a major injury and you are suffering? I do not have all the answers. But I can tell you what happened to me, and maybe my story helps you in some way.

After breaking my back by bursting my T12 vertebrae, effectively severing my spinal cord, I underwent some pretty gruesome surgery. Via a some 20cm long incision through my ribcage at my left side (and after sawing out a rib at the base of my spine for good measure), surgeons delved through my body cavity to attempt to ‘stabilize’ or re-join the parts of my spine. As you may appreciate, that procedure was pretty painful. Recovery was a two year process mostly lying supine in a bed.

Post-surgery I did not want any pain. My life was now incredibly difficult enough without putting on a layer of pain. The medical profession assisting my recovery at the time led me to believe that a pain free life was easily achievable. Take drugs for pain, if you still have pain take more or different drugs. Keep adding or changing or layering until you don’t have pain. Simple. Easy.

After years of significant opiate use the pain was no longer ‘managed’ by taking drugs. The drugs were less effective and I was taking more and more until a whole month’s dose was gone in three weeks, then two weeks, then one. Now what happened in those intervening periods was a special kind of torture.  

And I should also mention over the years in the eyes of the medical profession, I had gone from a genuine post-surgical patient requiring significant opiate pain medication to a drug seeking, low life social pariah. I had spent time on special government pharmaceutical lists as ‘a person to watch’. I would be cross-examined by doctors and some would throw in helpful comments like ‘you are going to kill yourself you know’.  I was still me, but the world had changed. I should have reached a hypothetical line in the sand and had no pain. But that is not what happened. My pain had changed into a consuming neuropathic pain, a world of burning, electric current sensations, stabbing twisting unrelenting, restless phantom pain. And the drugs weren’t working anymore. And I couldn’t sleep.

I, albeit very slowly, came to the realisation that opiate medication quiet firmly had me in its grasp and I was an addict. Now before you visualise me in a ditch, with no teeth and a begging bowl, the truth of the situation was very different. I was working a full time job as a litigation lawyer. I had an online business side project. I had a family home along with a mortgage, a partner and dogs. I had good friends, I went out, I socialised. It wasn’t all roses though, and there were cracks. I was the last one to realise. So off I go to the same medical profession (who told me what drugs to take to start with) for help to withdraw from taking opiates. Help is definitely what I did not get!

The total time from losing my sanity, the failed attempts and relapses, to begin accepting pain as a major partner in my life was at least 12 months. And I did it myself. If you have ever had to withdraw from a drug that has taken hold on you, you will understand when I say going through withdrawals is the loneliest place in the world. I had great friends and family available at various time to just sit and watch the unending retching, shaking and drooling, and to stay on the phone for hours, saying little other than a few gentle words here and there. But really inside your own head you are alone, painfully so.

So, what is my point?  

My advice to you as the injured person is to question everything and everyone, especially your doctors! I am sorry to say, if you have suffered a major injury you will have to suffer to some degree. If you have damaged your nervous system you may just need to start getting used to the idea that pain will now co-pilot your life. Make peace with the idea and try your best to live the best way you can. I am sorry but you cannot just bypass the bad parts! It is the yin and the yang, the light and the dark. And maybe, just maybe, if you are lucky, you will glimpse enlightenment and be grateful for your suffering. 

Contact Katherine via email:

Visit her beautiful shop in Byron Bay called Sweetness Skulls and Light or
Visit her online at:

Katherine Christie

Katherine Christie is the creator of Sweetness Skulls and Light, offering exquisite hand cut crystal skulls, animals and figurines through her shop in Byron Bay and online.

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