Jennifer Matesa is a loving wife, a wonderful mother, a celebrated writer. She is also an opioid addict. In her 20s, the painkillers were meant to stave off migraines and fibromyalgia, afflictions that worsened as she entered her 30s. But she quickly discovered that the pills could do more than just relieve her of her physical pain and she found herself chewing Vicodin with breakfast the way other people have coffee. As she writes in a moving essay about her experience:
“My ‘high’ was never the stereotypical sleepiness or so-called ‘nodding out’—it was like a shot of energy making me alert and able to tackle whatever life threw at me with less stress and anxiety. It was the only way I could handle juggling my work, my son, my marriage, and the upkeep of our large three-story house and garden. Without the drugs, I was terrified I’d crack.”
Soon, Vicodin with breakfast turned into putting Fentanyl patches on the roof of her mouth, doctoring dates on her prescriptions, and going into deep withdrawals on days between refills. And, yet, Jennifer’s addiction remained invisible even to her own husband, who knew nothing about the way his wife feared she would disintegrate when the patches ran low and attributed the shivers of withdrawal to the flu. “I was a respectable, high-functioning female,” she says, and, as a high-functioning addict, her illness eluded detection for years.
As for so many, high functionality was a cloak that allowed Jennifer to keep her struggle with addictionhidden from herself, her loved ones, and the world. And, like for so many, that high functionality ultimately delayed her getting the help she needed to heal. If you think you may be struggling with high-functioning addiction, understanding the realities and dangers of this condition is essential to regaining wellness.