06/30/2010 01:19 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Swapping Out Addictions: Prescription Drugs During Recovery

Numb the pain! Take it away! I can't deal with it! These are the underlying thoughts of addicts while indulging in their addictions. That is the mindset they carry with them into recovery. But, before they go into withdrawal many are given prescription drugs to make the transition easier, i.e.; to take the pain away or make it more tolerable. As a recovering addict I know what comes next. If I can't drink or do illegal drugs, this will do, and I can get it from a doctor. If a doctor writes it on a prescription pad, it must be OK.

Doctors are so specialized these days that often times they only deal with one part of the body, so most of us have many different doctors. For some that's a great thing, while for addicts it can be an invitation to a smorgasbord of colorful pills to keep our pain and fears at bay. However, what is pain, whether physical or emotional, but an indicator that there is a problem? When addicts in recovery are using, or often times abusing, prescription drugs to the same end we used and abused alcohol and illegal drugs, how much better off are we? Changing addictions is like switching seats on the Titanic.

In early recovery I knew a man with over thirty years of sobriety, a man who I though had made it. Then he got hooked on prescription drugs and wound up drunk again. It scared me and taught me a lesson. It can happen to anyone. So what am I to do if I have a legitimate reason for taking mind altering drugs? Soon I will be facing that very situation. I will be going into surgery to have part of my liver removed. I you can bet I'll be needing pain killers for a while. However, I have some safety precautions in place. They are:

• A primary doctor who knows my addiction history, who monitors all other doctors and all prescriptions I take. He is a man with whom I can openly discuss any and all my concerns about drugs.
• One pharmacist who is aware of all drugs I take and will warn me of any drug interactions that might harm me.
• I live by "before I put it in my mouth, I check it out." With the push of a few keys on the computer, I can learn what I need to know about any specific drug and how it could affect me.
• I reveal myself to others who care about me as to what drugs I'm taking. If I have concerns about my ability to control myself, I hand that control over to another.
• When in doubt, I question what I'm being told. After all, it's my body and I am responsible for what I put into it.

For those who wonder if they are becoming addicted to prescription drugs, there are some clear signs. They are:

• Running out of pills before the time to refill
• Lying to get more pills
• A sense of panic when you are getting low on pills
• Taking drugs that are not prescribed for you
• Switching doctors and pharmacists frequently
• Keeping your drug intake secret from those who share your life

I am an alcoholic and addict and I will be an alcoholic and addict until the day I die. If I don't keep something between me and my addictions, I will use again. The thing I keep between me and my addictions is a recovery program that teaches me common sense and brutal honesty. I know myself better than anyone else knows me so how can I place blame on doctors who in reality can only make suggestions about what drugs I should take. If I become a prescription drug addict, whose fault is it? Mine!

Barb Rogers, author of "If I die Before I Wake" A Memoir of Drinking and Recovery, and other books on addiction and recovery can be contacted at