living sober after chronic pain

We have a lot of high-profile guests on this show, but many of our listeners love to hear real stories from real people who battled drugs and alcohol and came out on the other side.

Corey Burgess is one of those real people. She has been an avid SHAIR listener since she got out of treatment in August of 2016. She had a few relapses since then, but she was thrilled to officially celebrate one year of sobriety this past June and would love to share her story of recovery from her addiction to alcohol and prescription painkillers.

CLEAN DATE: June 13th, 2017

Listen to Corey’s Story

Here are a few highlights from our interview. To get the full story please join us on the podcast now!

Corey was given her first script of Oxycontins at the age of twelve. This was in the early 2000s when drugs like Oxycontin were believed to be miracle drugs. Corey suffered from the crippling disease of scoliosis and was given open scripts for many different addictive opioid drugs throughout her childhood.

This was dangerous considering she comes from a long line of addiction that spans at least three to four generations. She grew up in a small town and thought getting intoxicated was what people did. She realizes now that what she thought was normal growing up was not normal, like driving her drunk dad home when she was eight years old.

Corey fell into depression at a young age. She was an only child who had to watch her mom go through cancer. Corey recognizes now how traumatic it was and how her emotional sobriety went downhill at that time. She dreamt of suicide, but she didn’t attempt it only because her mom told her how grateful she was to have her around.

I think that really that’s where my battle started.

Corey wasn’t helped by the fact that she is six feet tall. Her height made her feel awkward and very self-conscious in school. As she got into freshman year, she learned that drugs numbed that uncomfortable feeling. She also discovered that people liked her more if she had drugs and that she could even sell them.

Over the next year, Corey’s pain got worse. She woke up in tears and had to take more and more painkillers. When she went for surgery, she experienced dire complications. She was already addicted, and the doctors just kept giving her more drugs. Corey remembers being on a morphine pump that would allow her to dose herself every seven minutes. She kept an eye glued to the clock and pressed that button every seven minutes whether she needed the morphine or not. The doctors told her parents they would deal with addiction later, but they never did.

Corey went back to school with a brace and a feeding tube. Her self-confidence sunk again, and depression engulfed her. She did recover, but she lived in a college town with a thriving party culture and alcohol began to take over as the love of her life.

She graduated high school on honor roll and started junior college. She wanted to be a doctor, inspired by the ones who helped her, but when she met her husband her priorities changed. She got married at the age of 18 and moved two states away. For a time, drinking and drugs took the backseat.

As they both got into their careers, Corey and her husband drank at home. They tried to limit it, but she didn’t do so well. She was in an unhealthy work environment that stressed her out to the point of making her sick. She blew off steam by partying with her husband and his coworkers and riding motorcycles.

Corey soon decided to take a break from her bad work situation to get into a healthier mental state. This plan backfired. She had nothing to do all day, so she drank from morning till night. Her drinking buddy would meet her at the park to walk their dogs, bringing vodka in their water bottles. Drinking was taking over her life, and Corey soon got kicked out of her first bar. Her husband was catching on and suggested she needed to go back to school or get work.

But before she could get herself together, she had a serious motorcycle accident. She shattered her leg, broke her pelvis, and injured her vertebrae. She was given loads of painkillers again. When she got home, she couldn’t do anything for herself. Her mom flew up to take care of her. Her drinking buddy would come over and hand her a handful of pills and a drink. That’s how she spent the next 9 months recovering.

In my mind, I still wasn’t an addict.

After healing from her injuries, Corey decided to go to massage to school to help people like her with chronic pain. She’d wake up shaking, not realizing that it was withdrawal. Her husband was keeping a close eye on her. He put lines on the liquor bottles, but she’d drink them and refill them with water. She hid alcohol all over the house. They’d try to have dry days, but there was always an excuse to drink.

Corey began to have anxiety attacks. She thought drinking helped her anxiety, but it was the opposite. She was in such an unhealthy place, her mom flew in again to help, but Corey still didn’t ask for the help she truly needed.

You can’t help me if I don’t tell you what I need help with.

One night after Corey had been drinking all day, her husband was on his way home and she knew she had to make dinner. She was nearly in blackout mode, and as she was cutting chicken breast, she almost cut off her thumb. Luckily, she had the presence of mind to call 911. She left the house barefoot and went to the ER to get stiches. When her husband was notified, he insisted that the staff do a blood alcohol test. The results came back that her blood alcohol level was .34

Corey was sent to detox and then to a 30-day treatment. While she was gone, her husband cleaned all the alcohol from the house. After she was released she felt great and at 6 months sober, she stopped taking her anti-depressants. This was a huge mistake.

Corey relapsed. She was not recognizing that even though she felt good and had built up sober time, she was still a sick person. She never worked on her emotional sobriety and developing a relationship with her higher power.

After my last relapse, there were divorce papers on the table.

Corey finally committed herself to doing the work she needed to do. It hasn’t been easy for her and she has gone through rough spots, but she is here today and can tell somebody that she knows what they’ve been through.

What kept Corey from getting clean?

Being boring.

Corey didn’t think she’d be able to be fun being sober.

That aha moment

Corey found out that a friend she went to school with had nine years of sobriety. This person grew up in the same town, surrounded by the same places, people, and things. She thought:

If she can do it, I can do it.

Best suggestion

Look for the similarities. We’re all sick.

Corey says that when we’re in addict mode, we are always looking for the differences. Once we go beyond that, we can see how much alike we all are.

Suggestion for Newcomer

Don’t give up.

Corey wanted to give up after relapse. She just didn’t think she could do it, but she kept going to meetings and she kept working on herself.

She used to roll her eyes at AA clichés, like “keep coming back.” Now she is one of those people who repeats them.


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Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.