‘I recovered from an OxyContin addiction.’

Kathy Bedard turned to OxyContin to help manage chronic pain’and found relief from her dependence through mindful meditation

'I recovered from an OxyContin addiction.'

Source: Web exclusive: January 2010

Kathy Bedard felt trapped in an unhealthy marriage. In her mid-30s, taking care of two sons, one with autism, she was stunned to learn she was pregnant again. Feeling overwhelmed, the Portland, Ont.-based woman sunk into depression after the birth of her third child, and was prescribed antidepressants.

The drugs helped her cope with the eventual separation from her husband in 2003. However, Bedard began to experience chronic pain throughout her body shortly thereafter. ‘I couldn’t bend. I couldn’t lift anything. I was constantly going to the doctor.’ She endured the pain for a year, until her GP prescribed her a time-released pain reliever called OxyContin in 2005. ‘It totally numbed me. The pain was gone.’

Unfortunately, Bedard discovered that the painkiller (highly addictive when misused) also masked her emotional pain. ‘I started taking more and more. It kept me going.’

The breaking point

Around the six-month mark, Bedard says she looked in the mirror and a stranger stared back at her. ‘I didn’t recognize myself. I was grey and bloated. I was like a robot, just going through the motions.’ She told her doctor she didn’t want to take the pills anymore.

The challenge

To recover from OxyContin addiction and manage her depression.

The plan

Bedard’s counsellor, a social worker at the same clinic as her GP, had encouraged her to try the clinic’s meditation classes to help with her depression. Bedard relied on the soothing practice to help her cope with the withdrawal from OxyContin. ‘I experienced bugs crawling on me. My anxiety attacks worsened. Meditation brought a calm to me, helped me to focus and relax.’

The biggest obstacle

The biggest challenge for Bedard during her addiction and recovery period (she was also living in poverty) was the sense of overwhelming powerless. ‘I felt scared that I was in a hole and that I would never get out.’

The results

Meditation empowered Bedard. ‘The coping skills I learned in mindful meditation showed me that I am in control.’ With the help of her doctor, she felt ready to wean herself off the antidepressants, too. Things began to fall in place for Bedard. She was employed at the same clinic part-time running peer support groups for women and assisting with the classes. And she turned a negative, the loss of her car, into a positive. ‘I knew I had to exercise. For a year I walked everywhere. I love it, and it kept my energy levels up.’ For her community work, including volunteering at an antipoverty coalition, Bedard was awarded the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health 2009 Transforming Lives Award. ‘That was a huge accomplishment for me.’

The tips

Set goals
Bedard sets daily goals, which can be as simple as getting through the day. But she also aims bigger. ‘I would a like a degree in autism and behavioural psychology.’

Pay it forward
‘Without all the experiences I went through, as sad as they were, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Now I can reach other people, and share my story and inspire confidence in others.’ Bedard says this motivation keeps her focused.

Give yourself some TLC
We all need ‘self-care,’ as Bedard puts it. Take a walk. Treat yourself to a haircut. ‘It will help to keep you positive and remember that you can always be worse off.’

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