In 2018, an average of one Oklahoman died each day due to an opioid overdose.
Opioids include illegal drugs such as heroin and fentanyl, but are also legally prescribed by doctors as pain relievers in drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine.
Tinker Air Force Base employee Randy Jack was preparing to go through surgery for a torn rotator cuff when he was prescribed Lortab to manage pain while he waited to be scheduled for surgery, as well as during his recovery.
Jack ended up having to go through yet another surgery when doctors discovered a 100% tear they didn’t notice during the first scan, which meant more time on opioid pain relievers while waiting to be scheduled for surgery as well as post-surgery recovery time.
“I was on opioids for an extended period of time,” Jack said. “The second surgery is when I think the hook was set and I got addicted to them. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to start eating painkillers. It was very subtle and, before I knew it, I was over the edge.”
Jack’s doctor started him out with a 7.5 mg prescription, but the next thing he knew the dosage was being raised to 10 mg and then he started getting migraines that doctors attributed to neck damage, meaning more opioids for pain relief.
“Eventually I progressed up to Percocet. I was on them for 13 years, but the last four or five years was probably the worst for me because I used to be pretty proud,” Jack said. “I walked with my head up and the last years I could tell I would be walking through the building looking at nothing but the floor.”
Jack got to the point where he was taking 240 pills a month.
“When I didn’t have them it was brutal. I would get a prescription for 120 pills in 15 days and they’d be gone in a week,” he said. “When you’re out of medication and you have to go a week before you can get your prescription renewed, it’s a brutal week. Back in the old days, my dad would’ve said, ‘just rub some dirt in it,’ but it’s not that easy once that gets a hold of your mind. It had a hold on my mind and it had a tight hold.”
Jack said he was out of medication when his wife came home from work one night and told him that it was time to do something.
“She said, ‘I think it’s time that you do something,’ and that was the first time that I admitted out loud that I had a problem and it felt like 1,000 pounds were lifted off of me,” Jack said.
His wife immediately started making phone calls and eventually contacted the Oklahoma Employee Assistance Program. With their assistance he found a rehab facility that took his insurance and told him they would pay for his flight and stay at the facility in Southern California.
“I never got into a position where I had a bad relationship with any of my kids, they just all knew and deep down wanted me to do something, but they just weren’t going to confront me about it.”
Jack spent 30 days in the rehab facility.
“The thing that I feared the most was withdrawls,” Jack said. “When I got there I told the doctor that I thought that if I could get past the withdrawls I can leave it alone.”
The doctor gave him a four-day prescription of Suboxone and Jack said he started feeling increasingly better each day of his treatment, attending AA meetings nightly, going to the gym, participating in discussions and meeting other men working to overcome their various addictions.
“It’s one of those things that if you’re not ready to quit, you’re wasting your time going to rehab,” Jack said. “It was a nice environment. It’s easy to sit down and throw all your feelings out on the table because everybody in there knows what you’re going through.”
During a phone call with his wife after his first week at the facility, she asked him how his withdrawals were going.
“I told her I was feeling fine and she told me, ‘you have someone sitting right next to me who’s going through withdraws,’ and she was talking about my granddaughter having withdrawls because her papa wasn’t there, and it was like driving a stake right through my heart,” Jack said. “I was more than determined when I got on that airplane to go to California that I was done and there was no going back. I’ve got five grandkids and three grown children, and my grandkids deserve to have me around. ”
Since leaving rehab, Jack has been sober for more than a year and said he has absolutely no desire to use any kind of opioids.
“I had a great support system and home when I went out there and I still have it today. Life is good right now. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner,” Jack said. “My main goal is for people to know that you can have a good life after addiction. You can overcome the addiction and you can have a great normal life and I’m walking proof of that.”
If you or someone you know needs addiction treatment you can contact Air Force Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment at 582-6605. Civilian Tinker employees can contact the Oklahoma Employee Assistance Program at 947-7576.