Sitting in a chair at Four Rivers in Sherman Friday, Bryan Nicholson, 53, shook his head and seemed to fight back tears as he talked about all he has lost to his addiction to opioid pain relievers and other substances.
Nicholson was a patient at DiamondBack Pain and Wellness Center for years and says he is not surprised the doctor has found himself in hot water with federal law enforcement and prosecutors.
Earlier this month a federal grand jury returned indictments against Howard Gregg Diamond, charging him with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of controlled substances, money laundering and aiding and abetting, possession with intent to distribute and distribution of controlled substances, and health care fraud. Diamond has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Nicholson said he has known Diamond since 2003.
“I had back surgery in 2003,” Nicholson said. “I went to Dr. Diamond and he checked the nerve damage that was in my leg.”
Nicholson went to a chiropractor and got an adjustment. Then, in 2004, he got hurt again and went to see Dr. Brent Belvin, who was an associate of Diamond's. Belvin eventually left the practice, and Nicholson began seeing Diamond.
Nicholson said when he saw Belvin, the doctor would come in and do a range of motion tests and talk to him about the pain and its sources. Diamond did that too, at first. But then, Nicholson said, something changed. By 2007, Diamond, Nicholson said, wasn't listening to him.
“I started out on Lortab 5/500, but over the years the pain that was going into my head telling me that I was hurting, so I got into that little thing of having to take pain medication,” he said.
He started waking up in the middle of the night and counting to see how many hours it had been since he had his last dose. If the bottle said he could take the medicine every six hours, he took it at the sixth hour regardless of his pain or lack of pain.
Over the years the prescriptions progressed all of the way up to the point that he was taking 30 mg Oxycodone and Fentanyl pain patches and Ambien CR. The two former are opioid pain medications and the latter is a sedative often prescribed as a sleep aid. He was also taking a muscle relaxer at the same time. In all, Diamond was prescribing five medications for Nicholson, he said. He said he pleaded with Diamond to cut the dose of the sleeping medication.
“That cocktail right there was really bad for me,” Nicholson said. He said the sleep medication made him sleep walk and other things. His wife and children started telling him about things that he did that he didn't remember. He said he totaled three cars while on the medication.
By April in 2014, the situation was so dire that he and his wife went in and talked to Diamond and told him about the problems Nicholson was having with the medication.
“I told him I could not take the Ambien CR,” Nicholson said.
Sleep-driving and performing other activities without memory of them is listed as a rare side effect of Ambien CR.
“I got told there must be something else wrong with me because that Ambien CR would not do that. And that was by Dr. Diamond,” Nicholson said. But, Diamond did agree to cut the medicine down.
However, Nicholson said either the nurse didn't note the change in dosage or the pharmacy missed the change because he kept getting the Ambien CR.
Then in May, Nicholson said, he woke up in the hospital and he didn't know how he had gotten there. “I tried to call my wife and see what had happened and she hung up on me three times,” he said. “Finally she yelled at me, 'You tried to kill me!'”
Over time, he would find out from family members who were there that he called his wife into the bedroom and told her he had to get help with the way he was feeling. He said he wanted to find a place to go right then. She told him she didn't have time for that discussion right then.
“She told me and told me that I had said so many times and never would do it, but I didn't remember ever telling her that before,” he said.
She went back into living the room after their discussion.
“I walked into the living room with my son's .30-06 and shot at her,” Nicholson said in a voice that seemed to drip with sadness.
Grayson County court records show he was eventually sentenced to SAFP and ten years probation for the aggravated assault family violence charge that resulted from the incident. As a condition of that probation, he can not contact his children. Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facility is an intensive therapeutic program for those who are sentenced by a judge as a condition of probation or parole.
“Needless to say, I lost everything. I lost the woman that I love. My daughter and son didn't want to talk to me,” he said.
But that wasn't the only loss Nicholson has experienced as the result of opioids. He said his father was a addicted to Tylenol with Codeine #4 while Nicholson was a child.
“I never told myself I was going to grow up and be like my daddy,” he said. But he did.
He said his father was arrested on the day that they were trying to get him into a program. The elder Nicholson had gone into a pharmacy to try to get a refill and the pharmacy called the police. Bryan Nicholson and another family member showed up at the pharmacy just in time to see him being led away by police.
The last time Bryan Nicholson talked to his dad, his dad told him, “You killed me, have a good life.”
That night, he hung himself in the Collin County Jail. But even that is not the end of what Bryan Nicholson has lost to the drugs.
His brother, also a Diamond client, had a heart attack and died. “My family won't tell me if it was related to the drugs,” Nicholson said. Then his sister tried to kill herself with prescription medications.
He said people say that addiction can be hereditary, and he believes it is in his family.
However, he isn't blaming other people for his problems. He realizes he made choices along the way that resulted in his run-ins with the law and his trouble with the other people in his life. Grayson County court records show that he has arrests going back to 1981 and charges that range from an attempt to acquire controlled substance fraud in 1981 and burglary of a building to numerous motor vehicle violations like driving with no license or insurance to failure to appear and theft by check in 1996.
From that point on, he only had traffic violations until the incident with the gun in 2014.
“I got forced, as a kid, into going into drug stores to pass forged prescriptions for my father. That's how come I had a record as a kid. That's how come my criminal record started as a kid. That's all because of opioids,” he said.
Now that he is clean, Nicholson said if he could do it all over again, he would never taken that first pain pill.
He eventually found out that the pain he was feeling was from not having the medication at the point needed to quieten his system, not a physical pain.
“I hurt now, I hurt every day,” Nicholson said, “But it is not to the point that I need that kind of medication.”
And he would love to be able to tell other people not to touch them either.
“It isn't worth it,” he said.
Nicholson acknowledged that he had problems before he ever met Diamond including an addiction to methamphetamine and a troubled childhood.
“I knew I was addicted (at some point),” he said and added that he didn't tell Diamond that. He also never told Diamond about the methamphetamine addiction, and he never asked Diamond for help kicking his addiction.