A Message from a Recovered Addict: Life Can Be Better, Even Amazing

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This article was kindly donated to MyAddiction.com by Guinevere, owner of the popular blog Guinevere Gets Sober.

When I got sober four years ago, I had no work. So it’s a blessing now that I’ve come far enough in my recovery to be teaching at the university where I used to work. The other day I was sitting in a recovery meeting next to a woman sober about two years who just got tenure at one of the universities here, and I told her I was teaching again. “Teaching sober is AWESOME!” she said. This is someone who does not usually include the word “awesome” in her lexicon.

“I know!!!” I said. I am someone who usually does not speak with multiple exclamation points.

Teaching sober is, in fact, awesome. The best thing about it is that, having practiced Step 10 on a regular basis for four years, I now have a much better sense of what’s my responsibility and what’s not. Which enables me to relate to the students on a much clearer basis than when my head was wrapped up in films of fentanyl.

In other words, I have more confidence.

The root of the word “confidence” is the Latin fidere: fidelity, trust.

Sober, I can trust myself. At any rate, much more than I could when I was taking drugs.

It is 3 a.m. and I’m writing this because I got up to pee and received a troubling email overnight from a reader of my popular blog about addiction and recovery, Guinevere Gets Sober. The writer is taking drugs to feel self-confident. She wants help.

The drug she is taking is Suboxone. She was using heroin for five months—“five long, brutal months,” she writes, “and even though that’s a short period of time compared to most people, I was really addicted”—and her doctor put her on Suboxone. Her doctor told her that taking it for three months would lead to a “lower success rate” than taking it for at least eight. (I’d like to see the data behind that claim, and I’d like to know who financed the studies.) So she took it for a year—along with two antidepressants and a long-acting benzodiazepine.

No idea what kind of doctor she went to, but in fact family doctors and internists, who are generally ignorant about addiction and recovery, can prescribe Suboxone, a long-acting fat-soluble opioid that binds more powerfully to the opioid receptors than heroin. Suboxone kicks heroin’s ass right off the mu receptors. And family doctors and internists, who are generally ignorant about mental illness, can also prescribe antidepressants—drugs that also change the brain, usually not for the better, according to Robert Whitaker, who wrote a comprehensive and almost universally acclaimed book on the subject of psych meds and mental illness. Any time-frame over six weeks is considered “long-term” treatment by most physicians and researchers, and lots of folks wind up on these drugs indefinitely.

My reader writes,

I have been living with the knowledge for about 18 months that Suboxone is this wonder drug. It turns out I didn’t know too much about it. I kept a couple of the film strips in case I felt like I was going to relapse. One day I took the Suboxone after about three months of being off of it and I felt so high that it scared me… so I tried it again after.

Of course she tried it again. She’s an addict, and she has drugs in her stash.

This person has a job, too. She’s a college student, like my students. She’s studying to be a doctor, “so I could go help people with the problems I had,” she writes. And since starting school in August, she’s been on “a Suboxone binge,” she says.

Not to get high, but because it gives me my confidence back.

She needs confidence. She has to make friends, she writes. “I became socially awkward after my addiction”—as though her addiction is “over”—“and I felt like I needed it to talk to people.” So now she’s back to taking it every day.

Just little, tiny pieces, probably like 1/9th of a pill a day, but I don’t want to take it anymore, and I want my confidence and ability to talk to people back… can you please help me?

I have news for whoever is reading this who thinks that one-ninth of a Suboxone pill isn't a lot. If it's one-ninth of an 8mg pill, then that's almost 1mg of buprenorphine, and that's roughly equivalent to 30mg morphine. Which ain’t nothin to sneeze at.

This 18- or 19- or 20-year-old girl is taking drugs simply because she wants to trust herself. She has a drug that gives her that fleeting feeling of self-trust. She knows it won't last.

These emails I get from readers of my blog feel like silk threads that bind me to the folks around the world who are desperate for help with their drug problems. It’s like each of these people is Spider-Man, firing out webs that reach around the world and go straight inside me and attach themselves there. And they pull.

To my reader: your addiction is not “over.” If indeed you were “addicted” to heroin, then you are an addict. Being an addict doesn’t mean you’re a low-life. (Read this column to see what I mean.) It means you have an illness, and like anyone who is ill you need to learn to take care of yourself. To do this you must ask for help In Real Life. However scary it might seem.

On the other side of that reality of needing to ask for help is this problem my reader will most likely run into: she may go to her doctor and tell him that she stashed some “film-strips” and that she’s been using again. You know what may happen? He’ll decide she’s a “chronic relapser” and put her back on Suboxone, perhaps at a higher dose, and tell her she needs to be on it indefinitely.

She writes, in a voice that is perhaps not self-confident but certainly reaching toward self-awareness,

I don’t want to take it anymore.

“I don’t want to take it anymore.”

I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.

Reader, there are two ways I might be able to help you. One is to suggest you call Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, and/or another program of recovery, and get help from real people who have been through this (and worse). Don’t Take It Anymore.

The second is something I think I need to do for all the folks who write in, to me and to forums for drug-addicts, saying they can’t quit Suboxone. And that is to write about Suboxone.

If you have a story you want to tell about how Suboxone either helped you or kicked your ass, please email me at guinevere@guineveregetssober.com.

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