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[ Opinion ]

Methadone Makes My Long Term Recovery Possible

My alarm clock belted out at 6 a.m. I awoke from my slumber, threw my shoes on and headed to my local methadone clinic located just two miles away. I have made this trip for most of the past nine years. Seven of those years I remained clean, with the help of this medication. 

Early on I learned just how how stigmatizing methadone treatment was and still is. This prohibited me from sharing this personal choice I made. For years I’ve omitted it in meetings, to avoid controversial heated debates that I have had to defend myself from. I’m not ashamed of being on methadone. I know there were plenty of moments in my life that I was made to feel ashamed. The most memorable and undoubtedly most painful moments lie within the pregnancy and birth to my beautiful son, who was born methadone-dependent. I spent 9 months being judged, and being made to feel guilty, It was a black cloud that loomed over this pivotal moment in my life. A moment where joy, and unconditional love should be at their peak.

I’m choosing to write about methadone now , because opioid addiction is killing our loved ones, and if there is potential for other treatment forms to recover, then they should be explored. The negative stigma prevents many heroin addicts from seeking help, especially in harm reduction treatments, such as suboxone and methadone. We are made to feel as though we weren’t strong enough, to just abstain from drugs. A notion that  portrays us as weak.  This is the exact type of mentality is KILLING addicts.  I can almost guarantee that comments on this article will be primarily negative, as people don’t understand that for myself it’s a matter of life or death bottom line.

I’m not saying methadone is right for everyone that’s been addicted to opiates, but I do believe that it is worth looking into if everything else has failed. I have witnessed this medication transform lives, including mine. I’m here to share my experience I had overdosed many times. By luck and luck alone, I was always with someone, and thankfully these individuals thought best to dial 911. How many more times was I going to test the bounds of this lucky streak? I’m sure many more, until inevitably running out of luck. I also believe if I hadn’t gone on methadone that I would have intentionally killed myself, through overdosing. I had attempted once before, and woke up, realizing my plan had failed. It scares me to even relive these moments. 

The most recent statistics show that the success rate of abstinence is 5 to 10%, while methadone and other harm reduction medications (like suboxone) have a success rate of 50-60%. I’m not stating that addicts can’t be successful with traditional abstinence. I have seen many of my friends succeed, by following a 12 Step program, such as Narcotics Anonymous. I believe people can get clean anywhere at anytime. However, I could not have sustained recovery at this junction in my life. I had a two year old daughter and I was so fearful of losing custody of her. I also feared she lose me due to a fatal overdose. I knew I had to do something different. I no longer wanted to risk these potentially life shattering outcomes that so many addicted moms and their children face.

When I went on Methadone in 2007 it was nothing what the critics portrayed. I didn’t get high, I wasn’t nodding all over the place. For the first time in my life I felt normal. I could get out of bed. I could take my daughter to the park. Things I had only dreamed of while still in active addiction. Methadone gave me a chance and also gave my children a mother.

Yes I would be lying if I were to say I didn’t get frustrated by the limitations methadone has put on me. I cannot travel to locations that don’t have a clinic. Yet then I think to myself, about the risk benefit factor, and it’s clear for me to see that there are sacrifices that I need to make in order to stay clean. This is true for many diseases, that need daily care such as dialysis and chemotherapy. I am willing to do whatever I may need to do, to stay clean for one more day.

Methadone has allowed me the opportunity to raise my children. Of course I have had set backs, but far fewer than what I could have. There are downsides, one of the biggest is having to report to the clinic daily. Holidays and snowstorms included.  For me, methadone means living my life clean in recovery. I can’t help but think about how many amazing people I’ve known that have died to this cunning and baffling disease. How many family members and friends  would still be able to hold the one they love.

In times like these, we should be utilizing all different types of treatments and solutions. Recovery is not a one size fits all. I’m tired of burying so many friends. I’m tired of my Facebook newsfeed showing links to obituaries.  It’s time for the addiction communities to also back methadone and suboxone as well. I can’t tell you how much stigma lies within our own kind. Addicts don’t want to come forward in fear of being shunned by other addicts. This is one of the saddest aspects of those who have chosen methadone like myself. We are judged, even within the halls of AA and NA. Why?  I don’t understand why we shoot down what is working for others. 

It’s time to stand together, whatever helps someone get and stay clean, is a success in my eyes.  I’m thankful for methadone, it has allowed me to LIVE.