I am delighted and thrilled to announce that my book Painkiller Addict: From Wreckage To Redemption won The Big Red Read Prize for Non Fiction 2013 last night.
I was there to receive the honour and to give thanks to those people from London libraries who read and voted for my memoir.
It was a sobering moment (excuse the pun), realising that my story is one which needed to be told and is being read and connected with by others out there.
It also made me reflect on the week that I was asked to comment on the tragic and untimely death of a Hastings woman who overdosed on Oxycodone.
Kerry Anne Novis, just 25 years old, was taking eight times the maximum daily amount of the drug, all on prescription from her GP and was found dead in her bed by her husband.
That made me shiver. That made me realise if I did not before, that by the grace of God or the fates I am still here, able to tell my story of severe illness, addiction and tentative recovery.
I was taking almost 10 times the daily dose of fentanyl, again all prescribed by my doctor.
I was writing love letters to my boyfriend, family and friends and leaving them under my pillow at night in case I OD-ed in my sleep.
I was trapped in the dark and desperate pit of active addiction, where my body craved the strong opiate painkiller relentessly, mercilessly, while my mind was twisted in horror at being unable to stop taking them.
It was a demonic place – and one which did not lead to recovery for this woman who was also in terrible physical pain, as it does not for many thousands of addicts in the UK and round the world daily.
What feelings did I have then, on learning I had won this fantastic award for my book?
In one short moment I realised that even though awards don’t stop my pancreatic pain or fatigue and they don’t stop the feelings of wanting to escape disability, illness or the frustration they cause, the prize tells me that people want to read my story, they connect with my pain and my struggles because they may be in pain or struggling themselves.
It also tells me that it is time to talk about addiction to prescription drugs, and I include sleeping tablets, anti-depressants and tranquillisers as well as painkillers like Oxycontin, Oxycodone and fentanyl as well.
It is time to ‘come clean’ about the abuse of these potent drugs by patients, who like myself find themselves with long-term chronic and/or acute conditions, and how GPs have, until now, colluded with this dependency by writing repeat prescriptions over many years.
It is time we as a society talked openly about this problem – and it is time we created a solid, structured support system for patients to help them into recovery while providing other ways of managing pain.
It is a scandal of our times that there are too few NHS detox beds or state-funded rehab places – and Kerry’s death shows us that in the harshest way possible.
So receiving The Big Red Read Prize for Non Fiction was an emotional and inspiring end to a week blighted by the death of yet another addict – and I accept it in the name of all those out there who are yet to find recovery, with pride and with the knowledge that in some small way my book may plant a seed for change.