Life can play the cruelest tricks on you. One day you can be a devoted wife and mother of three; the next you can be a desperate drug addict forsaking everything in the pursuit of your next fix. The worst part is, you’ll never see it coming. Thanks, in part, to a hasty and ill-advised diagnosis, painkiller addiction is part of my life and always will be going forward. I wake up in the morning with the knowledge that I’m an addict and go to bed with this thought, no matter how well the day went. These are the deals we make when we want a quick fix for pain relief.

When I was 47 years old, I was hit by a drunk-driver. There were nights early on in my recovery, where I wish he would have killed me; because the damage he did in my life was, at times, worse than death. I was in the hospital for four weeks, two of which were spent worrying about whether or not I was ever going to walk again. Despite all of that, the nightmare was just beginning. I told myself I would do “whatever it took” to walk out of the hospital on my own two feet—“whatever it takes” is a dangerous and absolutist phrase that can get you into trouble.

I left the hospital with a bottle of OxyContin and a prescription for another when I ran out. I started to heal very quickly and pretty soon with physical therapy and these pain pills, and thought that I needed them to keep getting better, so I kept taking them well past when I needed them and they became a crutch. By the time I felt I was ready to stop taking them, it was too late and, no matter what I did, I just couldn’t stop. I was growing more and more hostile toward my husband and for about four months, my marriage was in serious jeopardy.

I went into treatment on my 49th birthday because I wanted to make my 50th extra special. I wasn’t sure my body could handle detox-not only because of my age but also because of the accident-but my doctors helped through every muscle ache, every bout of stomach pain and every minute of the process. It was hard to stay optimistic in the thick of withdrawal, but after I knew that I was going to be OK. I also went to counseling with my husband for the beating our marriage took from my addiction. It’s helped more than I ever through it would.

I said before that I live daily with the notion that I’m a recovering addict and always will be; but that’s as far as my wallowing goes. I was addicted to painkillers in the past, but I refuse to let that define me. How can anyone expect to move forward in their lives if they’re constantly thinking about the trauma of their past? I’ve worked very hard to move on and will continue to do so.