Stepping Stones: My Experience With Methadone

Written by Eliza Player on Tuesday, 03 April 2012. Posted in Voices in Recovery, Methadone

Stepping Stones: My Experience With Methadone

I woke up every morning with the pains of heroin withdrawal.  I spent much of the day sick, puking up poisonous yellow bile.  I lived in a motel, spending every dime on drugs.  The insanity I felt during withdrawal made me feel even more strung out, and I often erupted with bouts of anxiety and desperation.

I screamed, and I cried, and I moaned and groaned…almost every day.  I pulled my hair, and I fought with everyone.  My arms were swollen and covered in bruises, and it seemed like I could not stop throwing up.

I could not take it anymore.  I knew I had to do something.  I had kicked before, numerous times.  I usually lasted the three days of pure physical hell, but then I always seemed to relapse eventually.  Sometimes it was only days before I went back to heroin, and other times I would make it a month or two.  I had kicked it several times in the last year, and I knew that this time just kicking was not the answer.

Looking back on it now, I realize that that was the first time I knew I needed help with my addiction.  There were various occasions I had kicked, thinking that if I could just get through the three days of hell that I would be all right.  I was still convinced that I could do it myself.  Maybe I was still convinced that I had some kind of control over this beast.  Back then; I did not realize that there was a lot more to getting clean than just kicking the physical symptoms.  So, I tried on various occasions to just kick the habit.

Yet, here I was.  Desperate and crazed again, while puking and shitting everywhere.  I knew I could not take this much longer, but I did not know what to do.  I did not even realize what I facing, much less was I conscious of the paths I could chose.

At that point in my life, the thought of going to rehab and getting completely clean was not an option.  It was not something I could afford, first of all.  Back then, I was not aware of any options for cheap or free treatment, nor could I think clearly enough to figure them out.  At that point in my life, I could not imagine a life without drugs.  And I did not want to try.  At that point in my life, I was still naïve enough to think I could just kick heroin, and stop doing it without changing my lifestyle.

And at this point in my life, methadone seemed like my only option.  I could not go on like I had been, and I knew I had to do something.  I also did not think I could face another painful withdrawal, and I honestly did not think I could last through even the three days.  I could not imagine my life without opiates, and I really did not even want to try.   The thought of just one day without opiates was dreadful, and the thought of never, ever doing another opiate again seemed impossible and also terrifying.

I was not ready to get clean back then.  But, I did realize that I needed help with my addiction.  At the time, methadone seemed like the only viable option.  Looking back on it now, though, I realize that when I decided to get on methadone…I had taken the first step.

I realized that my life was out of control, and I knew I could not handle it any longer.  I also realized that I needed help with my addiction, and I was powerless when fighting the battle alone.  By getting on methadone, I was admitting that I had a problem with heroin.

I did not get clean after that first stint with methadone, and my addiction went on for many years after that.  But I do think that the first baby step was taken with methadone.  At least, I finally realized I had a problem that I was powerless to solve.

But, I also knew I was not ready to get clean.  I did not want to give up the warm, sleepy feeling that dope gave me.  I did not want to give up the lulling of my head from a high, or the fluttery eyes I thought were perfection.  And I did not want to give up my friends and my lifestyle.  I could not imagine my life without dope, and at this point I really thought I would take opiates forever.

I would not have considered a thirty-day, or even a 90-day treatment program at this time.  I did not want to do that, and I really did not think it was bad enough to warrant that.  Back then, I thought that going off to rehab was a last resort.  I had yet to exhaust all my options, before I went to rehab.

I doubt I would have even gone to a meeting, if the opportunity presented itself.  I did not think I had a problem with “drugs”, per se, but instead my problem was just heroin.  In those days, there was no chance I would stop using all substances.  It just was not an option in my mind.  Drugs and alcohol were all that I knew.  Honestly if I had gone to treatment then, I would have returned to my using friends because it is all I thought I had.   I was not ready to be cured, not just yet.  I was not ready to give it all up, not just yet.

I have been clean from all opiates for six years now.  Although I think that methadone does have its place, and it is great stepping stone for some addicts.  I also have to say that until I was completely free of opiates, I really did not know what freedom was.  I had to be free of all opiates to really begin to get myself back, and to rebuild my life.

For me, I had to break that habit.  I had to break that habit in order to change my thought patterns.   When I was an addict, I woke up everyday and the first thought in my head was of drugs.  When I was on methadone, that first thought of the day remained the same.  Even in early recovery, I woke every day and my first thoughts were always of getting high.   It takes a while for that to stop.

At first, I really did not even notice as the habit began to break.  I would get all the way out of bed in the morning, and start making breakfast before I thought about dope.  Then, I noticed I would not think about drugs until lunchtime.  Before I realized it, I was sitting down to dinner when my first thought of dope entered my mind.

It was not until I was finally able to wake up, and not immediately think about drugs that I began to feel free.  I had to break the cycle; thinking about drugs from the minute I woke up just seemed to lead to thinking about them all day long.   With methadone, I still got up and took my medicine each day.  With buprenorphine, patients still get up and take their medicine, first thing each day.  The cycle is not broken with any replacement therapies, but they are often the only place to start.

When an addict is stuck so deep in the mire, he cannot often see the top of the mud pit.  At this point for me, a life without drugs was not something I wanted to try, or even thought possible.   Methadone was a good option for me then, and I believe it was the first stepping-stone leading me down the path of recovery. Recovery from opiate addiction is a long and difficult road, often covered in rocky terrain full of various setbacks.  When a life without opiates seems unfathomable and impossible, but the daily grind of addiction also seems just as unbearable, methadone is a good place to begin.

About the Author

Eliza Player

Eliza Player

I have been writing as long as I can remember, even carrying tattered notebooks with me through the streets and strip clubs of New Orleans, in the midst of my heroin addiction. I lived a life saturated in heroin until Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, leaving me to fend for myself, eventually facing my demons and coming face to face with my addiction. I have been clean for five years, and since then I have become a mother, graduated college, and started a writing career. I have a B.A. in Mass Media Communication, with a minor in Journalism. I have also written one published book, Through Both Hell and High Water: A Memoir of Addiction and Hurricane Katrina, which tells the story of those dark days I spent in New Orleans after the storm, battling with addiction amidst a natural disaster. I am the blogger and news curator for RecoveryNowTV, and I love sharing the stories of the world, as well as my own personal journey, with my readers. I hope that my words can touch others out there, struggling with addiction.

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