Does Britain have an opioid crisis? Dr Michael Mosely thinks so. In last week’s Horizon programme on BBC 2 he highlighted the dreadful statistics from across the pond in the USA as a warning to us here. He said that in the UK over half a million people are taking opiates like morphine for chronic pain. His claim is that there is evidence that for most of them (he says 90%) the pills are doing no good and can lead to addiction. He also cited the increased danger of accidental overdose – something that happened to me on more than one occasion. I actually stopped breathing once, shortly after putting on a 75mcg patch of Fentanyl and was saved by the presence of a nurse in my home who called the ambulance and got me into hospital. So, I know the stuff he is talking about after 22 years on varying doses of opiates, sometimes up to 5 times what the programme described as ‘dangerous levels’.
But, as my book Through the Storms; a manual for when life hurts covers in one chapter, there is another side to this so-called ‘opioid crisis’. How about ‘a chronic pain epidemic’? Because the problem is that with all this kind of publicity there is a danger of heaping shame and guilt onto sufferers of chronic pain without offering them viable alternatives. Often, it is not their fault that they have been prescribed these drugs by well-meaning doctors, but they are made to feel wretched for needing them. I certainly was at times.
There are research programmes into alternatives to opiate prescribing but they all too often fall into one category or another. Either they are looking into other equally strong but frighteningly powerful drugs, such a gabapentin or similar, or else they are based around well-being. This may all be well and good but, in my case, I don’t think a bit of gardening with friends would have dealt with crushing agony of chronic pancreatitis with recurring acute episodes!
I am so thankful for the temporary relief I received from a spinal neuro stimulator and also for the amazing surgical intervention I finally received at the Newcastle International Transplant unit in 2017. Today, after 22 years of appalling pain, I am largely pain-free and also free of any need for opiates.
There is a scandal surrounding the easy availability of powerful pain killers over the counter in the UK, but in my book I am concerned for the many affected by chronic pain without hope of relief except by means of these potentially dangerous opioids. Government funding should be moved into research into alternatives alongside any public information programmes such as this one.
If you are in pain, and can’t wait for the publication date for my book on Amazon (20th Feb) please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you one by mail and can include an invoice for you to make a bank transfer or send a cheque.
Well, it’s the start of 2020, and thankfully the surge in post over Christmas has now died down enough for normal mail service to be resumed. I pray for every book I send out, and sign them with a real desire that each one will bring help, encouragement and hope to carers and sufferers alike. I also pray that readers whose lives are going just great will get an insight into what it means to keep hoping and trusting even in the toughest of storms.
Today I’m sending a copy out to Canada, and will also gladly send you one wherever you are. Costs are £8.99 plus postage (which in the UK means £1.75 or in Guernsey £1.25). You can also pay in other currencies using PayPal, even if you don’t have an account with them. Contact me on the form at the bottom of the home page or email me at email@example.com. I will also be speaking in churches around the UK in 2020 so might catch up with you then.
2020 has been born with great fanfare. Yet, from the smoke scarred skies of Sydney to the desolated stretches of the Philippines after a typhoon, many will enter the year with trepidation. But, making a new start can be a very real part of ‘hanging in there’ through all kinds of storms. It is remarkable that communities get rebuilt after disasters. Sometimes, the ground seared by fires becomes even more fruitful than it was before the blaze.
What some regard as irreparable, nonredeemable, totally broken down and destroyed, God sees as potential for renewal and recovery. In one biblical image the Almighty is pictured as a potter working some clay on a wheel. The pot being prepared in his hands is marred by some deficiency. There is plenty more clay available, so why bother with this one? But instead of throwing it away, the potter just makes it over again. Something new for his purpose and glory.
To change the metaphor, without the darkness and restrictions of the caterpillar’s earthbound time, or pupa stage, there would never be the beauty and wonder of the butterfly. No matter how dark your pain and suffering seems to you today, please know that God is the master of new starts. He is a redeemer of pain.
I know that for myself. After 22 years of the most appalling agony known to humankind – around a hundred admissions to hospital with attacks of acute pancreatitis and ascending cholangitis – and the searing pain of chronic pancreatitis daily requiring huge doses of opiates, I am free of pain today! If I had cut short my suffering by any artificial means (come on, you know what I’m taking about) I would have caused my loved ones such anguish, and would have missed the developments in research and surgery that led to my deliverance.
You were designed to fly. Don’t give up hope. You too can make a new start in 2020.
As I write this you may have been finishing off your Christmas shopping – or perhaps you haven’t even started yet! Office parties and ‘works do’s’ are mostly behind us and the countdown to Christmas itself is well and truly on. But – how do you cope with this festive season when you’re hurting? Maybe in physical pain, or mental turmoil, or possibly in the sharp pangs of recent bereavement. Mind you, the nostalgia factor of this time of the year tends to pull the scab off even old bereavements and makes being alone so utterly raw.
Well I’ve been there. In fact, due to an abscess under a back molar, I’m reliving it at the moment! Several Christmas seasons are seared into my memory for enduring pain and even being in hospital when all around were so jolly. My ‘ho, ho, ho’ became a cry of ‘no, no, no’ many times over the last two decades. So, here’s my 5 ways to survive Christmas in pain:
Keep it Simple. Christmas does not have to rule you. Never mind the expectations of others, go easy on yourself. An ancient proverb (from the Bible actually) advises ‘make level paths for your feet’. Be honest with those around you about your own needs, and be honest with yourself too.
Keep it Reasonable. Going into serious debt is no fun and certainly no way to enjoy any season, let alone Christmas. Nor is it reasonable to party into the early hours when your body is craving rest or your heart is breaking. Being reasonable certainly doesn’t have to be expensive or turn you into Ebeneezer Scrooge. Know your own limits and stick to them.
Keep Looking Ahead. You might call this ‘having hope’. For a Christian hope is based on the character of God and his promises. But whether or not you follow Christ, remember that Christmas Day is just another day on the calendar and will soon pass. And – New Year is coming! Yay! I love New Year. Like stepping out onto the snow the morning after a blizzard, 2020 will give us all a chance to start over and make our mark.
Keep Focused. The Bible says that there are only three things that really matter in life: faith, hope and love, and that the greatest of these is love. Love came down that first Christmas and because of that we can lean back on the knowledge that we are loved. Focus on those facts and the pain will become less dominating. Hold onto loving and being loved and the loss will ease. Tinsel will tatter, and lights will fade, but love goes on for ever.
Keep Being Grateful. We are alive today, and this day may be all we’ve got, so let’s grab it and live! When gratitude becomes our attitude amazing resources of strength and endurance can be found like lost coins down the side of your settee. In the words of the old song ‘Just one day at a time’ will see us through this challenging Christmas season.
Christmas can be such a stressful time for folk who are in pain or facing chronic challenges of all kinds. I know about that. During the 22 years of my battle with appalling pain from chronic and recurring acute pancreatitis I had several Christmases in hospitals. Two of them were in London, where it was so hard to be away from family and friends. One was in Guernsey where, after leading Christmas Day worship, I was too ill to eat anything and was admitted via A&E to the ward with an acute attack. It added insult to injury when one nurse suggested I had probably overdone it at the dinner table or on the bottle! Grrr. I hadn’t even got that far!
But I discovered then, as I know now, that Christmas peace and joy are not dependent on our circumstances. They come from our relationships. Loving and being loved are fundamental to them both. Knowing that God’s love for me led Him to give His only son Jesus for me sustained me through those tough seasons, and still does today.
It gives me real joy to sign books for friends and contacts who have ordered one or more to be sent to them at this time. I can mail them anywhere in the UK at £8.99 plus £1.75 p&p. One friend just asked me for 11 copies and another for 5 – to give away as gifts. I not only sign each one, I also pray that each one will be a real source of help and encouragement to the reader.
May you find peace and joy this Christmas and in the New Year!
I was so excited to receive my own stock of the new book last Friday. It is due to be published in February but the publishers (Instant Apostle) said that I could have a supply in time for Christmas. I sold over 100 copies on Sunday alone! Now the orders are coming in thick and fast and it is a joy to be able to sign them and send them out as quickly as I can. People are buying them to read themselves, and also to give to their friends at Christmas. One person I know in the Bristol area thanked me for the book and asked for six more! Apparently he knows folk who are going through storms of all sorts and feels it would make great gifts to help and encourage them.
Do contact me via the form below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to receive a signed copy. This book took two and a half years to write but was twenty two years in the making. My storm lasted for more than two decades – and do you know what? You get through one storm and there’s another one on the way! In the Channel Isles we have just been through Storm Atiyah and now Storm Brendan is threatening. So the principles and lessons I have learnt in the last twenty two years are now helping me with the latest icy blasts. Whether you’re facing chronic pain, terminal illness, bereavement, divorce, debt or whatever your storm may be, I hope that my book can help you.