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Help for my husband please

dreamer223ddreamer223 Posts: 3
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:59 AM in Chronic Pain
Hello. I am new here and am looking for help for my husband, he's 37. He has chronic low back pain. He has four herniated discs and has had 3 surgeries. His last surgery was in 2007 and the disc was wearing on his spinal cord and almost severed it in half. However after physical therapy to help him walk again he went back to work in the landscaping field. Just this past summer he did stop working and he is trying to get on disability.

He is on valium and hydocodone for pain but they really don't help. He has tried other pain medications but they haven't really helped much either. The problem is he has turned into an alcoholic to help control the pain. He is drinking all the time, he is hiding bottles of vodka from me. He also drinks a lot of beer. His tolerance is very high so he needs more and more. He did have his liver checked last fall and it was fine, thank goodness. But he can't go on like this. I am trying to be supportive of him, I can't understand how he feels but I know he is telling the truth and that the pain is unbearable. I am working two jobs to pay the bills and I do most of the housework. I try very hard to not make him feel guilty about this. But he tells me all the time how worthless he feels. A psychologist is out of the question, every time I have suggested it he rejects it. I can't get him to go to pain management, he thinks they're a bunch of quacks. He tried a chiropractor and that helped for a while but caused another problem, the chiropractor did something to a nerve and was causing his leg to give out on him. After a MRI turned up no new problems, he stopped seeing the chiropractor and that problem has stopped.

Anyway, I am rambling on and I am sorry. I just am not sure what to do to help him. He is sinking into a depression, he tells me I should divorce him. That is the last thing I want to do. Thankfully we don't have children. And lately it is almost impossible to talk to him when he is sober enough to understand me. I am at a total loss as to what to do. Most of our friends don't want to be around him anymore because of the drinking. Neither one of us has family close by. I don't know how to convince him that he needs help. Any thoughts, suggestions? I hope it was all right to post this. Thank you.


  • I too started drinking to kill the pain it works but only for the time that I drank for but that ended up costing me more than I can imagine I was refered to a pain clinic and it did help with the pain of course in my case it was because they gave me better drugs like morphine and oxycontin then so much oxycontin that my surgeon said I was a drunk and a heroin addict

    You have to understand even if you get him to a pain clinic that wont help his drinking problem 99% of the time he may feel better but the urge to drink now may be just too strong. After going to jail a couple times and costing me tons of money and my gf tons of anguish she finally left me. I guess that was what it took for me to put the bottle down and beg my doctors to cut down on my pain meds. I am now over 10 years solber and the pain meds dont mess with my mind any more as I went from 720mg a day to below 200mg a day. The best you can do is seek help for yourself right now and then try to help your husband like anelsen15 said maybe find an alanon group in town or a therapist if you like but to find out about your husbands problem alanon might just open your eyes a bit

    I am sorry to hear your plight but right now you need to take care of you first then your husband. It might sound mean but I think that is what its going to take you cant just give your husband better drugs now and hope he quits drinking if he is drinking that much a day it might just take a little more. As people used to say spare the rod bla bla bla

    sorry again
  • It's so hard to watch the toll chronic pain takes on someone you love. I so agree with all the previous posts and would also add that my son's pain management doctor has been hugely understanding and helpful. The pain is still there all the time, and he can don't a lot of the things he would like, but he can still function thanks to pain management. I wish he didn't have to rely on pain management/medication, but the alternative was wayyyy worse in our experience. I sincerely hope things get better for the both of you. Best of luck!
  • I'm sure you know, but valium, hydrocodone, and alcohol can affect respiratory drive. Consuming the alcohol at whatever dose he does can lead to him not breathing. He would fall asleep and not wake up. I understand that he feels frustrated and might think this helps with the pain, but do you think he is working up to suicide? Just a thought.

    Unfortunately, there are some PM dr.s that won't treat alcoholics but I hope you can find one and that he will go. He obviously needs help and they are supposed to be the experts in pain med cocktails. There are so many other drugs that help better than hydrocodone. That drug is short acting and in chronic pain usually used only as needed for break thru pain. I would ask the PM dr about being on a long acting or extending release pain med so that he can try to have a more normal routine and not so many pain ups and downs.

    You didn't mention where his pain is. Is it low back or nerve pain in legs? If it is nerve pain, there are so many meds to try like Lyrica, Neurontin, Cymbalta, etc. If those don't work and there isn't a need for a surgery, he might consider a spinal cord stimulator. Ask his dr. if he thinks this is appropriate. Nice thing about it is that you have a trial run with one for 3-5ish days so you can see if it gives him ANY relief.

    He is in a serious state and I can tell you know it. I am not a dr., but if this was my family member I really think he might need to go to an inpatient program to safely detox from alcohol. Alcohol is one of the few drugs that can kill you when you withdraw. Others you are darn uncomfortable but alcohol withdrawals can cause seizures. Now if he goes back and forth, the valium he's taking might be preventing seizures. But he really needs someone medically qualified to monitor this, it can be scary stuff.

    -If it were me, I would ask dr. about an inpatient detox for alcohol. They will give him meds and also give him meds to help with withdrawal. Also, after he is sober, there is a drug alcoholics can take daily that makes them puke and miserable if they drink any alcohol. It used to be called Anabuse, but I do not know if it is still used. But it is NOT safe to detox from alcohol at home.
    -I would ask for PM consult and ask about long acting drugs such as oxycontin, morphine, fentanyl patches, nucenta, etc. I would ask for a short acting pain med for flare-ups and get the PM doc's opinion. Make it clear that the alcohol intake is due to the pain and not some underlying disorder(I assumed there) so the dr knows how much pain he is in. LOL, some of them seem to be quacks, but they do hold the power to write needed prescriptions and there are some good ones out there.
    -I would get a surgical consult to make sure that there was no mechanical issues in the spine that need surgery.
    -If no surgeries to help, then I would consider a spinal cord stimulator trial if he has been thru the nerve pain meds.
    -After those issues addressed and pain is better, I would hope he would be re-evaluated by psych to see if with his pain down he is doing better mentally. It might be that he needs an anti-depressant, too.
    -Support group. Like you said, you cannot understand how he feels, he needs someone outside of the situation to talk to, and YOU need to have a break, too.
    -Tell him that there are many cases with Social Security Disability that having the additional diagnosis of depression helps the claim. Chronic pain and depression go hand in hand. He must see someone to diagnosis and DOCUMENT it. Maybe that is the way you can get him to help: by telling him it will help his disability claim.

    I really hope you both get help soon. And again, if he really wants the disability, tell him that he MUST explore the drinking/depression issues with a professional as that might significantly help his claim.
  • Thank you everyone for the comments. They really helped and have given me a lot to think about. The pain is mostly in his lower back as well as in his hip. Currently he does not have much nerve pain, although has in the past. He also n ever sleeps which is another issue. And his doctor says that there is nothing else that can be done to his back except a fusion, but because of his age he didn't want to do that yet. What ernurse said about telling him that a diagnosis of depression might help his disability claim might work. He's already been denied twice. I'll try that and see. And anymore it's getting really hard to talk to him when he's not out of it. And whatever I do tell him he forgets. I know my frustration is really starting to show, and I know I need to get some help too. Maybe an Alanon group like budda said. Thanks again everyone. I refuse to give up on him.
  • I am sorry I diddnt know your husband had filed for disability yet but as he has and I went thru the same long battle your going to have to tell your husband to dig in this can be a very long process it took me over 4 years to get and I was denied I think twice b4 I needed a lawyer this is a very important step because the next is going in front of an admin law judge and having a small trial. Find a good SSI lawyer they are very cheap depending on how long the process takes mine worked for 2 and 1/2 years and cost me 6500 bucks and she did alot of work I could not do my self my trial took me a whole 15 min and the judge got mad that I was not given my disability earlier but it worked out. There is a reason for the length of time it takes as I waas told as people that are just trying to get free money will most of the times buy 2 years just go back to work or not get a lawyer and fight it took me over 50 thousand to wait that long for any income but did get most of it back in the end
    If you have any questions about this process just pm me I am more than willing to talk or you can just vent that helps some times
  • A pain management doctor, besides being able to hopefully find him a long-acting medication that would help him MUCH, MUCH better than the hydrocodone, would also probably be a boon to his disability case.

    I'm currently on my second leg of diability appeals, and my lawyer said basically " the more specialists you're seeing, the better" because it's that much more documentation on your condition.

    Hopefully you can use that as impetus to get him to see a proper pain physician, and it will serve three purposes...one to get him on a stable pain regimen, which will two, hopefully lead him to a path where he is not self-medicating with the alcohol that is just fueling this depression, and three will help with the disability process.

    You don't mention why he thinks pain doctors are "quacks"... Did he have a bad experience with one? Sometimes it is hard to find one that will actually do anything beyond injections, so do a bit of research, and hopefully you will find a doctor empathetic to his pain that will offer a multi-modal approach that can include a variety of potential helpful treatments.
  • i think the previous posters had some great advice. def need a disability lawyer, one that is certified to handle ssd claims.

    the biggest thing i was told for the disability is that your hubby is receiving continuous care from someone or more. pain mgmt is a great thing maybe they can help get him detoxed if they already suspect drinking, they don't get the pain and how hard it is to live with. I am not condoning the drinking but geez he needs some continuity of care from a doc. that mix is a dangerous thing and clearly scary and frustrating for you!!!

    you might want to go to alanon or a psychologist to have some help dealing with this.

    pls take care of you too, you deserve it!!!
    >:D< >:D<
  • Just curious - why won't they do a fusion if that's a recommended treatment? 37 is not too young for a fusion, sorry. They prefer to try other methods, sure, but it is an option. But it's a personal choice on if he wants to take the risk.

    Granted, the risks are scary but the fact that he is withdrawing from so much, showing signs of addiction, and wanting to file for disability before trying a fusion tells me that maybe he should reconsider the fusion.

    1 - you need to get help. You should not carry this burden alone. If you do not have a trusted family or friend, please seek help of al-anon or nar-anon. I know this is a bit outside the box but I'm certain they can send you to the right help. Or, talk to your physician about getting YOU Help. This will put a lot of stress on you and guilt. You need a 3rd party to help take some of that on.

    2 - What does he want to do next? Just file for disability and hope for the best? Have you asked him what his plan is? If he says "I don't know", then can you suggest that you work with the doctor to put a plan together? I think the most daunting thing is not being able to get out of the immediate pain. A plan is key.
    For example, when does he think it's right to get a fusion? Why is he not considering that? How much more does his world need to fold in before the risks with fusion do not outweigh the risks of his life closing in on him?

    3 - I totally understand not wanting to see a psychologist/phychiatrist. Sadly, I have denied them myself b/c of the stigma about them. This being the case, I'm trying to offer suggestions based on what I think someone like me might try. Has he tried a Physiatrist that is willing to do other tests to help pinpoint his issues?

    4 - You can be supportive. The one thing my husband did for me is he is supportive in that he tells me he will stil love me even if I can't walk (and yes, have some mornings where that is a huge fear) and that others do not fully understand my pain. He confirms that I'm not crazy. On the flip side, he gently reminds me that I would be crazy to think that I'm a 'whimp' just because I call the doctor. he said "so what if they see you and the MRI says nothing is really wrong. you are clearly in pain so start with the MRI and if that doesn't work, we'll follow the steps to see if we can find you relief at night". It's frustrating to 'fight' the system where they make you go through steps you know/feel are a waste of time. But my husband encourages me to make those calls and go meet the doctor with me if I want. He doesn't always go but I knwo if I needed him hed' be there.
    So can you encourage him to keep in contact with the doctor and try another doctor if things aren't going well.

    Perhaps he just needs to meet the right doctor to give him hope on reduced pain.

    I just suspect that the back pain/issues are only a part of a bigger depression issue.

    I hope some of this helps.
  • One other thing...on the plan.
    I suggest it because it was so important for me to have control. Sounds like your husband has lost control and is not sure he'll ever get it back.

    Having a game plan helped me make decisions on revision surgery or fusion.

    Having a game plan when a new pain arose has helped me set thresholds. I talk them through with my husband.

    I also asked him to log my medication (or I would tell him when I was taking something) because my surgeon told me if I started increasing prescription meds, it was a sign something was wrong - either I was becoming dependent on them OR it might be time for the next 'step' in my plan.

    Anyhow...just more food for thought.
  • Everyone's posts have been very helpful. Today I was able to talk him into seeing a pain management clinic because it would look good for his disability claim. He still doesn't think they can help him, he has had several doctors in the past who think he's lieing and that he is just trying to get more drugs. Of course that isn't the case. And a friend of ours had a bad experience at a pain management clinic but her situation was completely different.

    In terms of the fusion, his orthopedist thinks that he should wait until his 50's for a fusion because it would put more pressure on the discs above and cause them to herniate. And after 3 back surgeries he doesn't want to go through anymore. I totally disagree with him and am hoping to convince him otherwise. Unfortunately my husband still thinks that he is managing things fine and that I am exaggerating everything.

    Hopefully once I get him to the pain management doctor things will begin to improve. And my doctor has put me on an anti-depressant which has helped somewhat. I do want to look into an al-anon group or something similar as well. Thanks again for all the support and advice. I appreciate it.
  • On the Fusion, perhaps it is time to get another opinion.

    He is between a rock and a hard place.

    Current doctor advising against fusion but does the current doctor realize what your husband is losing by waiting?

    He's losing a job, he's losing control (e.g. becoming dependent on narcotics to manage his pain so he can get through a day)

    I would strongly suggest you get another opinion.
    I'll PM you.
  • Where do I start,,,,

    1st look after yourself.

    What surgery did he have?

    I gave up self employed job of 15 years due to slipped disc in neck & bone spurs,lower back pain L5/S1,leg pain, muscle spasms etc,backwards and forwards to hospital for numerous tests,ended up at pain clinic for past 12 years MRI said too early to do anything,So ended up with nerve blocks and nerve denervations,this helped sometimes not others,referred to spinal surgeon 8 months ago,he said surgery was my best option (treat the problem not mask it I was told) so I had fusion 7 weeks ago so far going really well best thing I've done,only problem is I should have gone to a spinal unit 12 years ago now 48 would have been 36 and not loosing that part of my life to pain.Pain clinics are good but not always a permanent cure sounds to me your husband needs a second or third opinion on the MRI findings.

    As for alcohol he needs a detox,can you persuade one of his friends or a relative who he would listen to,to talk to him it might be better for someone other than you to help here and take this responsibility away from just you on your own,I'm thinking is there anything he would love to do with you or friends to get him out of this rut.,focus his mind elsewhere without him realising.

    A few years back I had severe depression and I can tell you I would not listen to my wife,it sounds bad but I had no thoughts for myself at all as I had lost my job and my world was collapsing around me always in pain and on medication,I was in my own little world I did not care at all about anything not even the children entered my mind.My turning point was when I nearly crashed my car miles away from home on purpose,it shook me up.I ended up with the police calling my home and I was booked into see the doctor,It saved my life,I was helped and have not looked back,it shouldn't have got that far though looking back.

    My fusion is the best thing I feel like a weight is being slowly lifted, it has not cured the spasms just relieved some lower back pain.early days though.

    hope you make some sense out of that lot.

    I wish you all the best


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