Suboxone Saved My Life
I grew up believing the lies of addiction stigma. Addiction only happens to bad people. If someone gets hooked on drugs, they can just decide to stop whenever they want. People who come from stable homes don’t need to worry about addiction. Dangerous drugs are sold on the streets by scary-looking dealers.
I didn’t have anything to worry about. After all, I wasn’t abused as a child or abandoned by my parents. I got good grades in school, graduated from college (twice), landed a great job, and had a wonderful group of friends. I wasn’t in danger of getting hooked on drugs.
Looking back, I was embarrassingly naïve.
A Common Path to Addiction
My addiction story begins like so many others: I started taking opioid painkillers for a legitimate injury. After my third refill of Vicodin, I noticed something. Despite very clear instructions to take one pill every four to six hours, taking two at a time gave me an intoxicating surge of energy. I felt like the Hulk. I’d wake up early on the weekends, down a few pills at one time and turn into a house-cleaning machine. When the energy wore off, I’d take a few more pills and get to work in my garden or hike a few miles.
What I didn’t pay attention to – or maybe what I chose to ignore – was the increasing number of pills I needed to maintain my high. I went from taking two Vicodin at a time to eight at a time. I was running through a 30-day prescription in under a week.
Around the same time, stories began to hit the news about the rampant abuse of hydrocodone painkillers in the South. Suddenly, my doctor was hesitant to write prescriptions for medications like Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab, or Norco. Instead, he suggested I try this new painkiller. He said, according to his pharmaceutical salesman, it wasn’t nearly as addictive as Vicodin.
That’s how I was introduced to OxyContin.
In a matter of months, I lost my job, pushed all my real friends away, destroyed the tiny bit of trust my family had left in me, went into massive debt, and established a firm hate for myself. I no longer spent quality time with the love of my life and one remaining soul who still loved me without judgement – my dog, Barley. I was a shell of the woman I used to be. Every waking second of every day was consumed by one thing: avoiding withdrawal at all costs.
I didn’t realize I’d set myself up for a battle – a fight where the winner takes all and the “prize” was my life.
Welcome to Rock Bottom
I eventually ran out of money and could no longer afford to feed my addiction. It was a fork in the road, and I had to make a decision. I could continue down the same path and end up in jail or the morgue. Or I could finally admit I was in over my head and ask for help.
I chose to seek help. But I’d tried to quit pills on my own a hundred times – and I failed a hundred times. I just couldn’t make it through the withdrawals. The physical part of withdrawal was horrible, but the mental torture was just as bad. Going through the same process one more time scared me to death. I could not fail again. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I wanted my life back, and I wanted to feel genuine happiness again. This time had to be different.
I’d somehow managed to get – and keep – a job waiting tables around this same time. A girl at work (who happened to be in early recovery) recognized all the signs of my addiction, and she asked if I’d considered trying Suboxone in an outpatient medication assisted treatment (MAT) program. I’d never even heard of Suboxone or MAT, but I wanted to know more.
I read everything I could find online about Suboxone and the types of therapy used in MAT. It almost sounded too good to be true – medication to prevent the agony of withdrawal, counseling to uncover and address the root causes of my addiction, and treatment provided in an outpatient, office-based setting.
I had absolutely nothing to lose, so I made an appointment. And it was the best decision I ever made.
My Experience With Suboxone
Up to the point of my first appointment, my mind was obsessed with avoiding the gut-wrenching withdrawal symptoms of opioid addiction. I had almost convinced myself that the Suboxone wouldn’t work – that no matter what, I’d still find myself curled up in a ball on my bed sweating and freezing at the same time, running to the bathroom every five minutes, my bones aching with every step I took.
But once I started Suboxone, my whole mindset changed.
Suboxone actually prevented the sickness of withdrawal, and that amazed me. The absence of withdrawal symptoms allowed me the time and peace of mind to work through the events that sparked my addiction. For the first time in almost two years, I felt my own emotions instead of avoiding and numbing them.
I never felt high or impaired while taking Suboxone. Once the OxyContin fog lifted, my mind cleared up. I started making sober, informed decisions. I’ll never understand why people say you can’t be sober while on Suboxone. (I also wonder how many of the people who perpetuate that stigma have personally used Suboxone to get sober?) On the proper dosage and taken as prescribed, you don’t feel mentally or physically altered in the slightest. Sure the medication can be abused…but doesn’t that apply to most things in life? Sugar can be abused. Love can be abused. Making money can be abused. Collecting stamps can even be abused. But if you’re serious about getting sober, abusing your medication isn’t in the game plan and it certainly isn’t on your to-do list.
With the help of Suboxone, my fear turned into hope.
Once I opened up to my counselor, a floodgate of feelings poured out. I had to relearn how to sit with my own emotions and work through them in a healthy way. I had to stop blaming everyone else for the poor decisions I made. I had to make amends with the loved ones I’d hurt – and I had to accept that some people weren’t willing to accept or trust my apologies just yet. I had to take responsibility for my addiction and promise myself I’d do whatever it takes to succeed in recovery.
For me, one of the best things about going through a MAT program was the outpatient office setting. It gave me the ability to enter recovery while still living at home. I didn’t need to pay thousands of dollars to move into a treatment center and put my life on hold for months. Like most medical offices, my provider was open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm. I could make convenient appointments and go into his office for counseling sessions, drug screens, and new Suboxone prescriptions.
I went to work every day, paid my bills, and took care of my responsibilities. I played an active role in my own recovery, and that gave me a sense of pride. My clinical support team set me up with the tools to live addiction-free, but at the end of every single day, it was up to me to do the work.
I was in the MAT program and on Suboxone for a little over 18 months. I slowly tapered off Suboxone and had no problems.
Life in Recovery
Today, I’ve been clean and sober for over eight and a half years. I worked hard to rebuild my life and repair my relationships. It took time to earn back the trust of my loved ones. But once they saw I was serious and my sober time kept increasing, they came around and supported me in ways I never could have imagined. I’m a success story, thanks to Suboxone, counseling, and a support team that cheered me on every step of the way.
There is no one-size-fits-all addiction treatment. What worked for me may not work for someone else – and that’s okay! Our recovery journeys are all different. That’s why it’s so important to have a personalized treatment plan and a dedicated support team that helps us eliminate as many obstacles as possible.
If you’re struggling with an opioid addiction, there are treatment options available. Outpatient addiction treatment combining Suboxone and counseling is known as the gold standard treatment for a reason: it works. You don’t have to spend the rest of your life shackled by addiction.
Choose to be a success story.