"I Think She's Addicted to Prescription Medication"

Listen in as one real-life couple works through a major crisis in their relationship with the help of a marriage therapist.
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THE COUPLE

Abby: 48, office manager
Joe: 50, construction worker, part-time event planner
Married: 25 years
Kids: Ashley, 21, and Rose, 19

THE COUNSELOR

Robin Newman, Huntington, New York

THE BACKGROUND

Ever since she had cancer surgery, Abby has been moody and suspicious. Joe thinks Abby's behavior is related to the pain meds she's been taking. Abby says Joe is totally unsympathetic.

JOE

Abby had ovarian cancer and she says she's still in pain and needs her pills. I'm not so sure. Her doctor told her to cut back on her drugs, but then I caught her looking through my gym bag for an old prescription of mine. I'm no expert, but I think she's out of control. If she's not addicted now, she will be soon unless she gets a handle on this.

ABBY

Seriously, do I look like a drug addict? Joe doesn't get it. Two years ago I had a malignant tumor in my ovary. It was a terrifying experience. I was in a lot of pain after the hysterectomy, so my doctor gave me Vicodin. It helps but I'm still not pain-free. The doctor thinks there might have been some nerve damage during the surgery. That's why I still take the pills. But I don't take that many and I don't feel high, so there's no way I'm addicted. Besides, the doctor wouldn't have prescribed this medication if it wasn't safe. Joe makes it sound like I'm shooting heroin.

I was able to go back to work six weeks after my surgery, but with the after effects of the operation, chemo, and radiation, I still don't feel great. The pain pills really help me cope and carry on with my life. So when the doctor told me it was time to taper off them and refused to renew my prescription, I panicked.

Then I remembered that Joe had taken painkillers when he tore his ACL recently. I scrounged around in his gym bag and discovered a half-used bottle of Vicodin. When I finished those, a woman I work with said she could get them for me.

JOE

Abby claims she's taking "only a few pills." Try ten a day -- and the recommended dose is six a day, max. I can't believe she started buying prescription drugs on the black market. We're not that kind of people, or at least I didn't think we were.

ABBY

Oh please, that's an awful thing to say. It's not like I'm a criminal or something. I'm grateful that my friend at work realized I was suffering and wanted to help. I wish I could get that kind of empathy from Joe.

JOE

Look, I can't imagine the hell that Abby's been through. When I first heard the news about the cancer, I broke down. Considering what she's dealing with, I feel like a jerk complaining. But living with her is not easy. She has these wild personality swings. I married a sweet, happy woman, but now there are times when she's a raging bitch.

Abby takes everything I do the wrong way: If I sit down on the couch and turn on a baseball game when I get home, she thinks it means I don't want to spend time with her even though she used to love to watch games with me. She also has this totally irrational idea that I'm having an affair with my boss. Maybe she's worried I'm cheating because she and I never have sex anymore, but that's Abby's choice, not mine. It's not like I have the time or energy to have an affair -- I'm physically exhausted! I leave before 6 a.m. for the construction site. Then at 4 p.m. I go to my second job at an event-planning company and start setting up tents, tables, and chairs. Instead of accusing me of being unfaithful to her, Abby should be thanking me for what I'm doing to put our daughters through college, and for all the extra grocery shopping, cleaning, and cooking I do when she's not feeling well.

ABBY

Why is he surprised that I get nasty sometimes? I'm stressed because I'm so afraid that the cancer will come back. I admit that I have zero interest in sex these days. It's just not on my radar anymore. Joe and I have definitely been arguing a lot -- mostly about his boss, Nancy. She calls his cell at all hours and often asks him to work late. Joe is charming and I'm used to women flirting with him, but Nancy really bugs me. I just don't trust her. When I say that, Joe calls me crazy. He does help out when I'm feeling really terrible, but I can tell he doesn't want to be with me because when he comes home, he walks into the den, turns on the baseball game, and zones out. I might as well be invisible.

JOE

I never know who I'm going to meet when I get home -- the nice Abby or the one who snaps and snarls. Obviously the pills are a huge problem. The other night I found Abby passed out on the floor in the den and she couldn't remember how she got there. That scared the hell out of me.

ABBY

I think I was just really tired. It was getting late and Joe still wasn't home, so I poured myself a glass of wine and turned on the TV. The next morning, Joe told me I'd blacked out and gave me an ultimatum: Stop the medication or he'd move out. He also insisted we get counseling.

JOE

She's really in denial. I told her I wouldn't tell our daughters about the Vicodin problem, but unless she gets help now, I will. I really love Abby but I'll move out -- for her sake if not mine.

ABBY

I'm glad we're getting counseling. I love Joe and I hate the fighting. Maybe talking to a therapist will help him understand that I'm under a lot of stress. And if taking a pill makes me feel better, then don't I deserve that?

Continued on page 2:  The Counselor's Turn

 

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