The opioid crisis in North Dakota is a real battle. One North Dakota entrepreneur who is in recovery from pain medication says her drug dealers were her doctors.
“My doctors, the emergency room doctors. My primary doctor was my drug dealer and um, I got whatever I wanted…and I know it had a lot to do with the way I look. I had a doctor even write that in my notes. And he said,’ Pam is a very smart and attractive woman and I just want to give her whatever she wants,'” said Emmil.
Meet Pam Emmil, owner of Driven Diva Planner and Driven Diva Designs. On the outside, she showed no sign of struggling with her pain pills. On the inside was a different story.
“Growing up I always felt different and I thought it was because I was adopted. I felt different from my brothers. My brothers were very academically smart and I was not,” said Emmil.
Pam grew up in what she calls a “normal” home. But after several traumatic experiences with a family member, she began to mask her pain by drinking alcohol.
“I would lie, I would cheat, I would steal, I would drink, I didn’t understand what I was doing,” said Emmil.
This continued from high school into her late 30s when she was diagnosed with Melanoma skin cancer. It was then her drug of choice became pain pills. The new ‘normal’ for Pam was frequent trips to the ER or walk-in clinics. This is how her daughter, Courtney, remembers her mom. Always sick. Always going to the doctor.
“It was just very normal for me to, like, drive her to the emergency room more than once, twice a week,” said Courtney Emmil.
After many years of being in and out of the hospitals for cancer, shingles, nerve damage and more, it got to the point where Pam was arrested for altering her morphine prescription.
“He gave it to me on a Friday and said, ‘Don’t fill it until Monday,’ and me, being the impulsive Pam that I am, I was at the drug store, grocery store where I fill my prescriptions, getting some candy for my office and tried to fill my prescription and I altered the prescription to make it look like it could have been filled that day. And the cops came and I ended up getting arrested and I had a felony charge on me and it was, like, what just happened,” said Emmil.
After years of using pain medication to mask her emotional pain, Pam’s husband told her she needed help. They learned about Ideal Option, a medical facility in Bismarck that helps people get off of opioids by offering buprenorphine, a prescription medicine used to treat adults who are addicted to opioid drugs as part of a treatment program that also includes behavioral therapy. Pam’s been taking it since she got sober two years ago.
“By the grace of God, Ideal Options opened in Bismarck February 21st of 2018, and I was their very first patient at 8:30 in the morning… and the doctors were amazing. They treated me like a human being,” said Emmil.
“Our goal is for a person to be comfortable and to have cravings controlled and they should take it at a dose that makes them comfortable for as long as it helps them,” said Jane Sveen, a physician assistant at Ideal Option.
As an entrepreneur, Pam says it’s important to have all the right things in place in order to keep her life and business moving in a positive direction.
“Trust me, my business has exponentially grown. I can’t keep up with it right now, because I’m clean and sober and I’ve got the faith, and I’ve got the friends, and I’ve got the family. You know I’ve got all the right things now as my trifecta now.. and it feels amazing,” said Emmil.
Meanwhile, daughter Courtney has a special message for children with parents dealing with addiction.
For more recovery stories and resources head to our Road to Recovery page here.