Opioid addiction and anxiety: Day One brings back joy for man struggling with substance use and mental health issues

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Life changed for Mike after his shoulder surgery, and it wasn’t for the better.

The 60-year-old man was in so much pain after the surgery that his doctor prescribed him Oxycontin, a powerful narcotic that carries with it the risk of addiction. Mike soon found himself addicted to the opioid, taking the pills every two hours instead of every six hours. He said his doctor prescribed the pain killers “like candy” and kept giving him more every time he ran out.

“I felt subdued after taking the pills, the pain didn’t bother me much,” he said. “I realized when I was taking the pills every two hours that I was developing a higher threshold, and that’s when I realized I was in trouble and had to quit.”

Quitting wasn’t easy, but Mike managed to do it on his own. He described the detox process as terrible for about three days and bad for a couple of weeks. Then he started fighting another uphill battle — anxiety.

“I just felt nervous or anxious all the time,” he said. “It was like having a ton of energy and not being able to do anything with it. It was the weirdest feeling. I really didn’t want to do anything.”

Mike didn’t want to go to work, and he lost interested in activities he had enjoyed. He stopped riding his bike, going for walks and hanging out with his friends. He just wanted to stay home and do nothing.

After a couple of years feeling this way, Mike decided he’d had enough. He visited his physician, who referred him to Day One for therapy.

“I didn’t want to feel like that anymore,” he said. “I tried to tough it out, and I couldn’t get over it.”

Mike spent six months in therapy, where he uncovered the source of his anxiety. He realized he had a difficult time saying “no” to people, particularly at work, where he dealt with “terrible” customers and felt intimidated by some people. This led to excessive worrying and frustration for Mike.

“My therapist, Kellie, was excellent,” said Mike, a project manager for an automation company. “She knew how to drag the answers out of things I didn’t want talk about at that time. She helped me get them out in the open and face them, so I can deal with them. I was hiding from things that scared me or frustrated me.”

Day One Clinician Kellie Smith-Tate said Mike made steady progress while in treatment toward his goals and worked hard to minimize anxiety and maintain long term happiness. 

"When I first met Mike, he really struggled to find joy in life due to extreme anxiety and low self-esteem” she said. “He identified several hobbies he once enjoyed but stopped doing as depression and anxiety became unmanageable. Mike has made quite the transformation and has a more positive outlook on life. He was able to implement healthy boundaries, quit smoking cigarettes, learn to say ‘no’ when necessary, and carve out time for self-care." 

Through therapy, Mike learned different coping mechanisms to help him with his anxiety.

“The most important thing is I developed the courage to say ‘no,’” he said. “That did an amazing amount of good. At the same time, I was learning how to do certain breathing techniques that allow you to focus on your breathing and take your mind off other things and think rationally.

“I’m so much better now. I was a mess when I first started seeing Kellie. She fixed me. I deal with things better now. I know every bump in the roadway is not a mountain. They are surmountable.”

Mike said that his life was miserable before coming to Day One, and encouraged others in need of help to seek it.

“Don’t wait,” Mike said. “If you are having issues and can’t fix it yourself, get some help. I waited a long time and shouldn’t have. I’m sorry that I did.”

You can help provide hope and healing to our clients by making a donation. Day One, a program of Oakland Family Services, provides mental health and substance abuse treatment for more than 2,300 people every year.

If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety or a mental health issue, contact Day One.