Simply being in recovery from substance use disorder doesn’t mean that life’s circumstances stop. People who have been in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction can and do sometimes require surgery for other illnesses or issues. With the right planning, it’s possible to navigate the post-surgical period with adequate pain relief and minimize the risk of relapse.
Recovery Doesn’t Mean No Pain Relief
Some people in the recovery community believe that if a person gives up drugs (especially if they were addicted to opioids), they have to go through the rest of their life without taking anything stronger than Tylenol. This idea that somehow an addicted person isn’t “allowed” to have pain relief after medical procedures or injury isn’t just unfair, it’s false.
Be Honest with the Medical Team
No one should have to suffer an inordinate amount of pain after surgery because of past substance abuse and fear of a relapse. The best way to avoid that type of situation is to be candid with your doctor about all aspects of your past drug use and abuse.
Don’t worry about saying anything to your surgeon or the nursing staff that they will find shocking or disturbing. They will appreciate your honesty. Be sure to tell your medical team if you are relatively new to recovery; if you are in your first year or two, you may need some extra monitoring and support from your medical team.
Expect to be Monitored Closely While in Hospital
While in the hospital, the medical team will monitor your condition to ensure that you are kept comfortable following the surgery. They will also be looking for signs of a possible relapse, such as anxiety, cravings, and continuing to ask for pain relief after the pain should have subsided.
Tell your Doctor About your Support Team
Before your procedure, you should talk to your doctor about a plan for continuing to heal from your surgery at home. If the surgeon usually prescribes opioid painkillers following a particular surgery, they may be able to offer an alternative or to set limitations that help you manage the medication without becoming dependent on it.
To help your surgeon help you, be honest about your living arrangement and whether you have someone available to administer your pain medication as prescribed. This person could be a trusted family member, friend, or your 12-step group sponsor.
Designate Someone to Take Charge of your Medication
The person who is going to administer your medication after surgery must be someone you can trust implicitly to follow the doctor’s instructions. If you find that you need more pain relief than you are getting from the pain medication that has been prescribed, your support person will help you contact your doctor or get you to the Emergency Room to ensure that you are healing well following your procedure.
Get Extra Support if Necessary
The days and weeks following surgery can make anyone feel vulnerable. The time spent recovering one’s physical health can bring up feelings that may be challenging to deal with. Rather than trying to squelch them, it’s best to understand that some extra support may be needed and to plan for it in advance.
- If you are going to a 12-step program, reach out to your sponsor before the surgery. Make arrangements to keep in touch during your stay in the hospital and afterward.
- Find out about 12-step meetings you can attend online or by phone if you are unable to go out to meetings for a time.
- Get up and moving as soon as you can following your surgery. Physical exercise is good for the body, mind, and spirit.
- Avoid spending large blocks of time alone with nothing to do. Fill your time with enjoyable activities such as reading, doing puzzles or crosswords, going for a short walk, talking to a friend, or watching a television show or movie.
Great Oaks Recovery Continuing Care Program
At Great Oaks Recovery Center in Texas, we understand that our drug and alcohol treatment doesn’t stop when our clients complete their residential program with us. Continuing care is an important part of the full continuum of treatment. Our Facebook page is a source of virtual support, and our alumni can reach out to a staff member by phone for additional help, if necessary. Contact us today to find out more about our services.