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[ Opinion ]

Methadone saved my life, It could save yours too

      I’m  on Methadone. I’m in recovery. I am a loving mom of two amazing kids.

I’m a daughter, a sister and an aunt. I’m loyal, respectful, and caring l have never really spoken about Methadone. This was fear based, fear of what people would think.

Yet , while I realized that while  I had been preaching to and encouraging others to speak up, with their heads held high, I was doing the opposite. I have talked about the importance of educating others, through stories of personal struggles. I believe in bringing awareness and eradicating the negative stigma surrounding Addiction, through connection and openness.

Divulging that I’m on Methadone, comes with some hesitancy, and inner resistance. It’s not because I’m ashamed, or I believe it’s wrong, (In fact, I couldn’t disagree more.) I struggled with it, as I worried others would judge me, and the validity of my recovery would be questioned. With the opioid epidemic, at its peak, and as we continue to lose our family members, our children and our neighbors, I have decided that giving my personal experience, and success may help others, to find other avenues of treatment, than the abstinence route. I’ve decided it needn’t matter what others think. Although, it is human nature to want to be accepted, I’m clean this is what matters. I have already won. Yet, If I can help someone even just one who’s struggling, by sharing my story it’s a bonus, and this was all worth it.

I take my recovery seriously, and put forth my best effort everyday. It’s not easy. Methadone indeed helps with the cravings of opiates. However, it doesn’t ward off other drugs that I have struggled with. I think the hardest aspect of it all , the judgement and beliefs within the addict community itself.

When I say the word judgment, I am not implying that I am being outright disrespected. . (Although this sometimes does happen.) What I mean by judgement is, that others beliefs side with the idea that I am not really clean,. Many think that the use of harm reduction medications are a crutch, and those who take them, haven’t experienced TRUE recovery   When I have seen other addicts be upfront and honest in an AA or NA meeting, I’ve heard the grumbles, the whispers. The worst is the facial expression, that reads of pity and sadness. I hear the words “Just keep coming” in a sad tone, of worry and tragedy. Never has my experience, been one of happiness and celebratory

Many times when I’ve been asked to share my story. (my experience strength and hope) I have felt torn, whether to be open about Methadone.

My closest friends and sponsors haven’t suggested I lie, but instead have advised me to OMIT that part of my story, ( In other words, just don’t talk about it and skip that part)

So, begrudgingly I followed this guidance and advice. It never felt right. I felt angry at myself, for not following my gut, and even more, myself heart.

Methadone is and has been a significant part of why I’m in recovery today. It’s part of MY experience and has been an integral part of my treatment.

I’ve been on Methadone maintenance for 10 years. For 8 of those years, I was clean.

. This isn’t to say that every addict should stay on maintenance for years, yet this is just my personal story and experience.

Before Methadone, I was close to death, in and out of treatment programs from ages 15 to 22. Heavily addicted by the end of 16 years old. The pills had stopped working long ago at that point.

At 17 , I was introduced to heroin. I didn’t seek it but it found me, and I chased it from that point on. I’ll spare the details of my drug abuse, I can sum it up in a few words lonliness, hopelessness, despair, and complete emptiness.

I overdosed numerous times, many that I skirted on the edge of death with and very well should have died.

Every time I was revived, and given life back, I would leave the hospital, and go get high. It was nothing short of insanity. Addiction, made it hard to see any hope or future and many times wished for an early death .

Things changed at 19 years old. I came to find out I was pregnant. I went to detox where I was offered to go on Methadone, as withdrawals can potentially cause stress on the baby. I still thought I could do this on my own, with no Methadone.

I remained clean but worried for months if I had harmed the baby.

I was so grateful when she was born a healthy 7lb 10oz.

Life was supposed to be great from that point forward,. I wish I could say we lived “happily ever after” However, I relapsed before her second birthday I had picked up right where I left off.

This time, going into a program, wasn’t really an option. I also had a case with DCF that was filed by my therapist , I told her about my relapse. She like most therapists, was a mandated reporter. I started to research different treatment methods that would be best for my daughter and me.

I had looked in Suboxone, but 10 years ago, it wasn’t as widely available like it is now. I didn’t have the time to be put on a waiting list, for months. I knew I would lose my daughter. So I chose to begin Methadone. I was warned by many not to join. Friends told me about the nightmare experiences they endured. I can honestly say I am so glad I ignored them.

  I want to state that when taking Methadone correctly, there is no high ,or euphoria.. If taken appropriately, at the therapeutic level , it’s extremely difficult, almost impossible to get high off of other opioids and cravings to use aren’t there.

There was truth to some of their nightmare stories.

One being that methadone is typically referred to as “liquid handcuffs” this is because, we patients, have to go into the clinic daily every morning, to be dosed.  This can be extremely inconvenient. However for myself, I found it it a small price to pay to be clean and in recovery.

 Also, once a patient has been clean for more than a year, patients can get (what is called) takehomes. My clinic only offers 6 , but other clinics offer 14 days worth. This means, I only go in once a week. As far as I’m concerned, it may be Liquid handcuffs but I was a full out cuffed and shackled prisoner of Heroin, times 10 for many years.

Also, methadone or Suboxone alone, can’t attain recovery, I guess I should say, it didn’t for me. Methadone only works on opiate addiction. In my case cocaine was a serious addiction of mine. However, going to groups, therapy, and other support systems, I worked a program and abstained from other drugs. I

Many ask me why I don’t taper now that I’m doing so well. This is aligned with the belief that methadone should only be used to stabilize, and then slowly taper off.

This works great for some addicts. They slowly taper off and are able to stay clean. Currently , this is not my goal. Will it be in the future? Perhaps. I am certainly not closed to the idea of tapering off. In fact, I did taper quite a bit a few years ago, and relapsed after 7 years clean. Once again, almost lost my kids and my life.

Right now my life is at its most stable. I love waking up and have my kids by my side. I love going on Vacations, in the summer, and celebrating the holidays and birthdays.Which I had missed many of, while using. I love just being present in their lives.

I’m so fortunate, and grateful.

Many addicts who have walked the same path as me weren’t as fortunate, and have lost their lives. I try to remind myself, daily that it could be my kids mourning.

I hear the angst and gut wrenching pain in their loved ones voices, and bewildered and shocked facial expressions at wakes and funerals.

Recovery is not “one size fits all. We addicts all have our own story of addiction, and we all have our own story in recovery.

I want others to know that there is always hope. If one route to Clean and Sober doesn’t work, there are alternative paths. Do not close your mind and shut them out, it may just save your life.