When Mary Young had to take pain pills after foot surgery, it felt like a chore.
A real estate agent in San Diego, she usually spent 10 hours a day on her feet. One day in 2005, a bone in the ball of her left foot split in half. She was on crutches for three months, reaching four times a day for bottles of oxycodone and Vicodin, which contains hydrocodone.
“When I took the last pill of my prescription, I didn’t think anything of it,” said Young, now 45. “If anything, I was happy to be done with it.”
Four months later, a friend asked her for a ride to the pharmacy so she could get her Vicodin prescription.
“Hearing the word ‘Vicodin,’ I don’t know why but I felt like fireworks erupted in my brain,” Young said.
“Yes, but can I have one?” she asked her friend. The friend handed her a small white tablet that Young took home. Sitting in her living room, she swallowed it and soon felt euphoria.
“It was a feeling I wanted to chase,” she said. “It only took one pill.”
The friend, who wasn’t feeling any relief from her medication, willingly handed over as many as Young asked for. At the height of Young’s addiction, she was siphoning 20 a day from her friend, who suffered from stomach pain.
For six years, Young kept getting Vicodin from her friend. She says she could not have functioned without it. When she traveled, she worried about running out. When out with friends, she wouldn’t drink, fearing she could “lose the high.” At night, she would count how many she had, and if it didn’t add up to 20 for the next day, she drove to her friend’s and picked up more.
Finally, visiting family in West Des Moines, Iowa, she decided to move home and go to a recovery center. She has been in recovery for nearly a decade.
“Sometimes I look back and feel so much shame for lying to my friends and family, keeping my addiction under wraps,” she said. “I used to be so confident, but my self-esteem is now at zero. I’m still working toward building back the trust of my family — as well as my own.”