Getting Free of Chronic Pain Without Opiates: A Recovering Addict’s Story

My name is Maquire. When I walked into Memorial Hermann Prevention and Recovery Center (PaRC) at 19 years of age, I was in excruciating chronic pain stemming from multiple issues: nephrotic syndrome (a kidney disorder), a broken back, full-body joint pain due to excessive water retention and obesity, an old arm injury that never properly healed, nine years of extensive drug use that included a daily cocktail of cocaine, Xanax®, OxyContin®, morphine and fentanyl patches, followed by smoking marijuana.

I had given up on myself.  I was severely depressed and could not even look at myself in the mirror. Despite the fact that we lost our home and were nearly homeless, I had been stealing hundreds of dollars from my mother on a regular basis just to support my drug addiction.  To top it off, the years of drug abuse had left my body in shambles. I was ready for something new and I turned to Memorial Hermann Prevention and Recover Center (PaRC).

One Day at a Time

When I began treatment, I submitted myself fully to the process. I did everything the counselors recommended, and I never questioned the process. I enrolled in the 30-day residential treatment program followed by two weeks in the partial hospitalization program (PHP), a full-day program very similar to residential treatment except you reside at your home. After that, I completed five weeks in the intensive outpatient program (IOP).

While at PaRC, I attended the required group sessions such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, counseling, and chemical dependency education classes.

“During the first month, I felt myself getting stronger and moving away from addiction, but there was one fear that plagued me – my chronic pain. I had been ‘healing’ myself with opioid cocktails for years and questioned how I was going to deal with my chronic pain without drugs. I needed relief from my pain, but I was terrified to do it without the use of opioids.” — Maquire, a 19-year-old recovering addict.

Treating Pain Without Opiates

Prior to entering recovery, my daily routine at home was to do drugs, lounge in bed or on the couch for more than eight hours a day, take more drugs and smoke weed for my back and joint pain, and then repeat the process the next day. I was very depressed during that time and often had suicidal thoughts.

The Pain Recovery Program  at PaRC became my lifeline.  I met regularly with my treatment team.  I was skeptical when they informed me that I would be taking over-the-counter pain medication instead of the opioid cocktail I was accustomed to. But, I am happy to say I began to experience positive results immediately.

I loved the weekly acupuncture treatment and daily meditation offered through the Pain Recovery Program. While meditating, I was removed from my pain and felt in a place of peace. The acupuncture was something new for me, and I was not sure about letting someone stick needles in the pressure points of my ears, but I have to say, I felt instantly better.  Movement also played a big role in my recovery.  My counselors encouraged me to walk and move daily, assuring me that I would start to feel better. I have to be honest and say that I did not believe them, but I started feeling better the first week in the program. I even went days where I did not feel pain, which had never happened in the past.

“A key focus of the pain recovery program is movement,Before patients come to treatment, they may be in a vicious cycle of lying in bed the majority of the time, which can cause them to feel sad and feel more pain.  Through daily movement and other paint management techniques and treatments, we offer help to break the pain cycle.”  — Traci Gauen, manager, Chemical Dependency Pain Recovery Program, PaRC.

A Survivor

I am proud to say that after three months of intense therapy and daily treatment through the Pain Recovery Program at PaRC, I now have a regular paying job, and I have moved into a sober house. I still have to manage my chronic pain due to my back and nephrology syndrome, but I am managing the pain without the use of opioids.  I am also celebrating more than 130 days of sobriety! If I can do it, I promise that you can too – and PaRC is where you need to be!

More About Pain Recovery

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), pain is a leading cause of disability in the United States, and one of the more common reasons Americans seek medical care. Equally daunting, one out of every four people in the country suffers from pain lasting longer than a day.

At the same time, Americans are dealing with an opioid public health emergency, and yet, a common practice for treating acute and chronic pain is to prescribe the very drugs that have caused the crisis – opioids.

A surprising fact is that people with no history of substance use disorders or drug dependency are highly susceptible to drug dependence when prescribed opioids for pain management.

What about individuals in recovery from substance use who are suffering from acute or chronic pain? How is their pain managed? Are there alternatives to opioids for recovering individuals who could potentially risk sobriety if they use opioids for a diagnosed acute or chronic pain?

The answer is yes.  PaRC’s team of affiliated physicians and specialists evaluate, treat, educate and guide  patients with substance use disorders through the process of pain and addiction recovery without relying on addictive medications.  The goal of the Pain Recovery Program  is to help the patient achieve relief from pain and continue to achieve long-term pain and addiction recovery.

The PRP at PaRC offers many alternatives to opioids for coping with chronic pain. PaRC addresses chronic pain with cognitive, emotional, physical and spiritual coping skills, including:

  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Meditation
  • Physical therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • 12-step support groups such as chronic pain anonymous

For more information about the pain recovery program or to schedule an appointment, call (877) 464-7272 or (713) 939-7272.


  1. What a great story! This patient’s situation was so complicated and really did seem hopeless. Knowing that this patient recovered to become an active, happy, productive member of society thanks to a MH program is really heart warming and inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

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