STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. - Victoria Stopp has spent years writing her story, about what it's like to live in the shadow of pain.
"It's a scary place to be," Stopp says. "It can feel really hopeless at times."
The 38-year old Agnes Scott College graduate was injured 10 years ago, as a young emergency medical technician in the back of an ambulance.
"My patient was screaming for help; he was in a lot of pain," Stopp says. "I was in my 20's, and I was a fairly new EMT. I wanted to help him. And I thought it was an okay time to stand."
The patient, she says, was begging her to turn him on his side.
"And I was leaning over to help him, and our driver took off," Stopp says. "I got thrown into the back of the ambulance."
Stopp says she was diagnosed with 3 herniated discs in her lower neck. That led to more back problems, and, eventually, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. The more doctors she visited, the more prescriptions she was given.
"These doctors were not trying to hook me on pills," Stopp says. "There was no scam or scheme to it, but they ran out of options."
So, medication like opioid pain pills became the only tool left, Stopp says. In her memoir "Hurting Like Hell, Living with Gusto, My Battle with Chronic Pain," Stopp writes she finally reached her breaking point, not on opioids, but on another pain medication with many side effects.
"I almost burned my house down," she says. "And, that was when I was, like, 'No, I can't do this anymore.'"
She began trying alternative pain treatments: chiropractic work, acupuncture, massage.
She stopped eating sugar and processed foods, hoping to reduce inflammation in her body, which can trigger pain.
Instead, she switched to fresh, whole foods.
"At first, I was very grumpy," Stopp says. "But, fairly quickly, some normal aches and pains disappeared."
Stopp has also tried yoga, stretching, and core body work to strengthen the muscles that support her spine.
"And about a month ago, I was approved for medical marijuana. And that's been a huge difference-maker," she says.
It's taken a lot of trial and error, but Victoria Stopp feels better than she has in years, which is why she wanted to share her story.
"I hope people can read that book and get some hope from it," she says.