Retired police officer Robert “Bob” Bieber was 56 years old when he injured his lower back and was prescribed pain pills so he could go back to work. It was the first step of what would become a 26-year tailspin into the powerful grip of addictive drugs that nearly destroyed his life.
Today at age 82, the Bradenton resident has beaten his dependency on opioids, thanks to the holistic, multi-disciplinary course of treatment he received at Rosomoff Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center at Miami Jewish Health.
“It saved my life,” said Mr. Bieber, who participated in a six-week, inpatient/outpatient program that combined alternative and traditional western medicine. “The injury is still there and the pain is too but it’s about half of what it was. I’m no longer taking opioids. I’m in better shape. It’s pretty simple.”
Overcoming opioid dependency while easing the illness associated with withdrawal, and teaching patients how to regain control of their lives is what Rosomoff is all about.
Mr. Bieber unwittingly became addicted to opioids as pain clinic doctors increased his prescriptions regularly to dull the pain from his back injury. The number of pills and their potency increased while their effectiveness decreased.
“I was taking pills three times a day. They were giving me some for mood and some for pain. Then I was taking five pills and it went up to seven or eight,” Mr. Bieber said. At the time, he was working as an insurance investigator. The job required him to dictate his reports when they were complete but the opioid drugs blurred his mind. Frequently he turned in incomplete reports to the transcriptionist.
“It affected my mind, of course. When I turned in the tape and it was being transcribed, the typist had to turn it back to me,” Mr. Bieber said. “I realized I had to pay more attention but it didn’t get any better. I thought I was just getting old.”
He constantly lost his train of thought and ultimately retired at age 62.
But Mr. Bieber was too young to sit still for long. He was hired by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to work in the control room of the jail, where his job was to open and close the interior doors of the facility upon request.
The job proved challenging because Mr. Bieber had to navigate several boards with buttons that operated all the doors to various parts of the jail. He couldn’t keep track of them. Co-workers labeled the buttons with post-it notes but he constantly got mixed up. Sometimes the situation got tense.
“If a guy is in trouble, you have to get the door open. You have to know what’s happening,” Mr. Bieber said. He lasted six years before he quit.
Holistic Therapies Helped Wean Patient Off Opioids and Regain Control of His Life
His dependency on opioids grew as he was moved from one pain center to another. Then this summer his doctor cut him off, telling him there was nothing more they could do to help. Mr. Bieber got so sick he couldn’t drive, couldn’t leave his home and had difficulty eating. In two months, he lost 30 pounds. At times, Mr. Bieber wondered if he was going to die.
“All the time it felt like someone was behind my eyes, just clawing them. I couldn’t hear sometimes and couldn’t see well. The bright lights blinded me,” Mr. Bieber recalled.
He didn’t have a doctor and couldn’t get to the Veterans Administration clinic because he couldn’t drive. Mr. Bieber was scared and didn’t know what to do. His saving grace came after his insurance adjuster called a case worker who informed him of Rosomoff and asked if he would be willing to travel to Miami for treatment. Rosomoff would arrange transportation and send a van to pick him up.
The decision saved his life.
At Rosomoff, Mr. Bieber followed a strict multi-disciplinary regimen of occupational therapy, physical therapy, biofeedback and massage. Therapists taught him how to sit correctly, stand correctly and lift without causing further injury. He was prescribed medication to ease the debilitating symptoms of withdrawal.
“You find out what you have been doing wrong and with a bad back, it helps tremendously,” Mr. Bieber said.
He also attended daily counseling sessions which helped to brighten his outlook on life.
“It is mind and body. Your mind and body get stronger and you feel that strength,” he said.
Rosomoff Offers Answers That Help Patients Discard Opioids Forever
Shaun Corbett, M.D., Medical Director of Rehabilitation Services and the Rosomoff Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center, got Mr. Bieber moving immediately despite the sickness he was experiencing from opioid withdrawals.
“They don’t feel well and they want to stay in bed and that is the worst thing possible,” Dr. Corbett said. “I have a specialized team to help them manage their pain without using opiates.”
The various treatments Mr. Bieber and other Rosomoff patients receive help them physically, and empower them to think positively.
“They turn negative thoughts into, I can do something, let me help myself be more active and take charge of my healthcare,” Dr. Corbett explained. As the system starts working, patients’ enthusiasm increases.
Mr. Bieber was quiet and withdrawn when he arrived at Rosomoff because he had been secluded at home for years due to chronic pain and powerful medications. By the time he completed his treatment, he’d become very social, always ready with a quick story, a joke or a kind word, Dr. Corbett noted. He referred Mr. Bieber to a senior enrichment program in Bradenton so he could meet people his age and become involved in the community when he returned home.
“I am not a miracle worker, but I do understand chronic pain and the challenges associated with chronic opioid use,” Dr. Corbett said. “By combining western medicine with evidence-based alternative treatments, we have helped thousands of patients get better. Patients can absolutely get better and reclaim their lives through this process, without the use of addictive medications. Miracles, some may say, can and do happen.”[:
To learn more about Rosomoff Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center, call (305) 532-7246.