Whether you have been in recovery for one day or three decades, taking care of your physical and mental health is non-negotiable, and a visit to the doctor is critical to personal wellness. However, if you are someone battling addiction, the doctor’s office can also be an opportunity to fall into temptation.
Here are five tips to ensure your doctor’s visits have the right focus:
1. Celebrate your recovery – While we think many doctors are knowledgeable about addiction, they’re not. Let them know you don’t use opioids and are seeking alternatives to pain if that’s the issue. If possible they can search for an addiction society of addiction medication certified doc. Remind your doctor of your health achievements in recovery right at the beginning of your visit (remind the nurses, residents or medical students as well if they visit you first). Your recovery was hard earned. It deserves to be protected, celebrated and respected as part of any care plan.
2. Bring a friend or reach out to your recovery supporters – Going to the doctor can be a stress inducing event. If you’re facing a health event that might cause pain or anxiety, having people who understand how that is a risk to your recovery will be important. Having a friend who can help hold your doctor and you accountable to your health goals can be helpful.
3. Ask all of the questions – Self-care includes advocating for yourself. That can be hard in a time-pressured medical office, but the importance of communication with your doctor cannot be understated. Make a list of questions so you don’t forget anything, and prioritize in order of importance. If you don’t get to all of them – follow up with an email or a phone call to get answers. For example:
- If you’re not feeling well, ask about estimated dates for when you should feel normal again and if and when you should come in for a return visit.
- If your doctor offers to prescribe something for you, ask about how it may make you feel, if you have to take all of it, whether or not it is addictive, and whether or not there are other alternatives.
4. What if my doctor wants to prescribe me something that might risk my recovery? – Create a plan with your doctor. This might include things like telling your support network, having someone else dispense the medication for you, a lower dose or limited amount, a disposal device for unused medication, naloxone in case of emergency, and ensuring that check-ins are in place from your recovery support network during and after the duration of these medications.
5. Don’t be afraid to follow up – If you forgot to ask something, follow up with a call or an email for clarification. A pharmacist can also help clarify information about medications and their impact on your recovery. If something seems risky – hold off on filling the prescription and seek a second opinion.