Wednesday, April 20, 2005
April 25, 1994 / April 25, 2005
Methadone is a rigorously well-tested medication that is safe and efficacious for the treatment of narcotic withdrawal and dependence. For more than 30 years this synthetic narcotic has been used to treat opioid addiction. Heroin releases an excess of dopamine in the body and causes users to need an opiate continuously occupying the opioid receptor in the brain. Methadone occupies this receptor and is the stabilizing factor that permits addicts on methadone to change their behavior and to discontinue heroin use.
Due to its stigma, I wasn’t sure if I should write about this. After much thought I decided that the only way to undo a stigma, is to talk about it. When most people hear the word methadone, it conjures up negative images of dirty junkies waiting in line to get their fix of legal dope. While that may be the case for some, for the majority it couldn’t be further from the truth.
In July of 1993 I went on the methadone maintenance program after five failed traditional & non-traditional drug treatment programs. The first year on the program was a little shaky. I was in an abusive relationship with a felon who was even more messed up than me. While I was with him, I got into crack/coke, which threatened my participation in the methadone program. It was during this time that I hit rock bottom. I was living in constant fear and I became suicidal. On April 25, 1994, I was at the end of my rope. When Chuck left our apartment, I made a break for it. I ran next door to the 7-11 and called my Mom. She must have heard the desperation in my voice and twenty minutes later they (Mom & Dad) picked me up. Later she told me that she had plans that day, but something told her to stay home.
The next day, along with my Mom & a Police escort, I went back to the apartment to pick up a few things. Luckily, Chuck wasn’t there. I left 99.5% of my stuff behind and never looked back. Subsequently, a restraining order was taken out on Chuck.
From there, I went into a psych hospital for a few days for the depression and then into my final in-patient treatment program.
Thankfully, the methadone program worked with me throughout all of this.
In May/June of 1994, I came home. Shortly after, my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She had been diagnosed with cancer of the parotid gland when I was 12, but she beat it, or so we thought. I feel this is where my addiction did the most damage. I truly believe that the constant worrying about me brought the cancer back, and I will carry that with me for the rest of my life.
She successfully fought the cancer for five years – longer than doctors predicted. She was able to do so by embracing alternative therapies, while still working with her oncologist. She died in our home on December 04, 1999. She was the best person I will ever know.
For my parents, nothing meant more than family and they passed that down to us. When that value is instilled in a person, it resonates to your core. My parents did everything they could and more for me, and never asked for anything in return. When my mother got sick, that part she instilled in me took hold. Now that it’s just my sister, brother and me, we look out for each other. I know they would do anything for me, as I would for them. If more families had this kind of unconditional love, the world would be a better place.
Even though I consider myself an agnostic, I wonder if something bigger than us was watching over in 1994. Did I get clean in time to be with my mother, and later my father, at the end of their lives?
The reason I am writing today is because another personal life event is about to take place. I have decided that after being on the methadone maintenance program for 12 years, I am ready to move on.
The program did exactly what it was designed to do. It got me off heroin, stabilized me on methadone, which in turn afforded me to live a normal life. Over the last year and a half, I have been steadily decreasing my dose. (Methadone withdrawal is worse than heroin withdrawal. The key is to do it very slowly.) I had them decrease my dose by 1 milligram every 3 weeks. The highest dose I was ever on was 80 milligrams - I am now on 3. (It’s a liquid taken orally once a day.)
Every Monday morning, I’ve driven myself downtown to pick up a week’s worth. When I woke up last Monday, I thought to myself, this is it. When I got there, I told them that I was not coming back. I could keep decreasing down to 0, but I think I can take it from here. I have 30 days to change my mind, but I have no intention on doing so.
When I am done with this week’s doses, I may be uncomfortable and have trouble sleeping, but I’m sure I’ll be ok. If I’m extremely uncomfortable, I can always call my regular doctor to see if he can prescribe me something to get through it.
The first day I will be off it completely is April 25 – (very) coincidentally the same day, 11 years ago, that my Mom & Dad rescued me from hell.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
PS. Someday, Michelle (Motomama) and I are going to write a book about this.