[Throwback Thursday — Originally published November 2013]
This post is directed toward every single person who has ever told me to “just stop taking” my medication. Whether you’ve been where I have, have gone through what I am, or have no idea, you have never been me. So please, stop telling me something when you cannot speak for me, feel what I feel, or know what I know.
I am on Suboxone. In short, Suboxone is a medication to help people get off heroin or other opiates. It is a combination of an opiod medication, and another medication that reverses the effects of opiates. So it helps people get, and stay, off drugs. However, many people view it as a drug itself, and that’s where the line begins to fade.
(In case you don’t know what Suboxone is, don’t simply google it and believe everything you read on suboxone.com. They are a drug company, and their main goal is to make money off of their prescription, so the entire site is pretty much about how to find a doctor and get on the medication. Here is a pretty good site that tells you the specifics, if you’re interested.)
Methadone is another similar drug, but they also vary widely in their dissimilarities. For one, more people on Methadone than Suboxone get a high feeling. For another, many more people on methadone still get high from other drugs. Methadone has more detrimental effects and is typically harder to get off.
For the record, I was on methadone for about six months before I got pregnant with my son, all throughout my pregnancy (the doctor advised me it was safer to stay on–that’s another discussion for another day) and got off when he was four months old. I went through withdrawal for months, and finally couldn’t take it anymore so I relapsed. This is imperative information for you to know if you are interested in understanding why I cannot “just stop taking Suboxone.”
Suboxone is not meant to be a permanent replacement. In order to get on it, you have to go to a doctor specializing in Suboxone treatment. He or she assesses you, makes sure your last dose of whatever drug was at least twelve to twenty-four hours ago, gives you a drug test, a blood test to verify that your liver can handle the medication, and gives you a certain amount of time to seek, and find, adequate counseling for your drug problem. Every doctor differs slightly, but they all do basically the same things.
Mine costs $300 for the first visit, and $100 for every visit after that, just for the doctor visit. The prescription itself is different, but most insurance plans will cover it, though you have to jump through a million hoops in order for them to approve it. Anyway, the second visit is scheduled for two weeks after your first. That’s $400 in the first month, plus prescription and drug test costs if you don’t have insurance (drug tests are $60 in-office, considerably more if you go somewhere else like LabCorp).
After the first two visits, you go back either once even four weeks if you are prescribed one Suboxone a day or less, or every two weeks if you take more than one a day. (As I said, different doctors do it differently. Usually the costs are different, but close to the same, and the amount of time between visits can be different).
I started out on one a day, but soon found myself running out before my four weeks was up, so I upped my prescription to two a day. Though, I only took about one and a half a day. I stayed like that for a few months, and then as soon as possible started weaning myself down as much as I could.
I am now being prescribed one a day, but only taking about three-eights a day. For those of you not math-inclined, that’s a little less than half. During days when I get very little sleep, or feel really horrible, I sometimes take a little more. However, on some days I only take two-eighths, AKA one-fourth.
So, I’ve already gone down a considerable amount. I’ve already accomplished an amazing feat; getting off heroin, getting off methadone, getting off heroin again, and significantly lowering my Suboxone dose. None of those are easy things. So to say that I’m proud of myself is an understatement. And, for a while, everyone close to me was proud as well.
However, things have started to change. I now get bombarded daily with “it’s that medicine that’s causing [whatever mundane thing is bothering me],” (I have a headache. It’s the Suboxone. My foot hurts. It’s the Suboxone. My eye is twitching. It’s the Suboxone. I ate too much ice cream and now my belly feels like crap. It’s the Suboxone. I fell down and scraped my knee. It’s the Suboxone.)
Everything that is wrong with me is Suboxone’s fault. And I’m sorry, I just don’t see it that way.
I think Suboxone saved my life. Scratch that, I know Suboxone saved my life. It saved my son from a world he does not deserve, and I am eternally grateful for it. No, it’s not the best option, the best option would be to not rely on any drug or medication. However, that is not a plausible option for me at the moment.
I am not just sitting on my ass doing absolutely nothing and taking drugs all day.
I am a single mother of a wonderful toddler, in school full-time, and taking care of a household consisting of myself and three males, ages two, twenty-four, and fifty-five. They are all crazy in their own ways, and it pains me to say that since I have moved into this home, my personal life has been going downhill. I love all of them with everything in me, but they don’t seem to realize how much they affect me.
I used to be a wonderful, upbeat, empowering woman. Now I sit in bed and struggle to do my homework and the dishes. When I get excited about something, they shoot me down. Nothing is good enough. And when it comes to my father, it’s all Suboxone’s fault.
Now, don’t take this the wrong way. It’s not that I can’t do anything right. My dad is so proud of my Dean’s List certificate he’s planning on getting it framed. He recognizes my past struggles and how I have overcome them, and I am incredibly lucky to have such a supportive father.
But, I am human and emotional, and ever since I was young he has tended to put more emphasis on my disappointments than my achievements. Therefore, I focus more on when he is disappointed than when he is proud. So maybe we’re both at fault, but this runs deeper.
In case you don’t know, withdrawal from opiates sucks. It seriously sucks. There is no better word than sucks, simply.
I tried several times to get off heroin, unsuccessfully because of how bad the sickness was. When I got off methadone, I was too arrogant, too proud, and too eager to start my drug-free life, that I tapered down too quickly. I was so sick, for so long, that it was affecting my parenting, and I wasn’t okay with that. So I started using again.
I’m not using my son as an excuse, don’t take it that way. But, somewhere deep within me, I told myself that my son wasn’t getting the life or attention or care he deserved because I was sick all the time, and if I used I would feel normal again and be able to love him better.
Using was just as bad, if not worse because of the danger I put him in, but I’m not telling you this to convince you I did the right thing or the wrong thing, I’m simply telling you what happened.
I relapsed because I was not strong enough to handle going through withdrawal and raising a child. I wouldn’t have been strong enough even if I didn’t have a child. And you know what? That’s okay. No one tells addicts this: being weak is okay.
No one should expect you to be strong all the time. Addiction is a serious disease that claims many lives and affects even more, and it is incredibly hard to endure and get over. So, I made home horrible mistakes. Mistakes I refuse to make again.
And that’s my point. I have been an addict for long enough, and have gone through enough, and tried plenty of different things. I know myself. I know what I can handle and what I can’t. I am only human, and to expect more from me is unfair.
My father used to do drugs when he was young, but he never got as into them as I did, nor did he spend nearly as much time with hard drugs. He was deemed an alcoholic when I was around two, because instead of socializing he would retire to his room as soon as he got home and drink, and drink. He wasn’t abusive or crazy, he was just nothing. So, he went to counseling and meetings and did everything he could to get sober and be a better father. And, he did.
But, at the same time, he developed a mentality that he is better than me, or at least that’s exactly how he makes it seem.
He abides by the law, so I should. He got sober, so I can. He didn’t need medication, so I don’t. This is very important, too: no two people are alike.
Stop comparing yourself to other people, because they are not you. Especially addicts. One person can use once and never use again. Another person can be addicted for years and successfully quit. Another person will struggle their entire lives. It’s admitting you have a problem (cliche as hell, I know, but true) and trying that matters. None of what other people say or think does. I say this at least once a day (another true cliche): what is right for you may not be what is right for another.
So, my dad doesn’t like me being on medication. And that’s fine, and I understand. But I know myself. I’ve been there before. I take just enough to keep myself sane and functional. I don’t feel anything from it, it does not affect me negatively (other than the cost). I am weaning down at my own pace. I am doing what is best for myself and for my child. I am being safe.
I will not risk another relapse, and going down any faster or getting off altogether before I am ready would be doing just that.
Not only would it immediately affect my life, in that I would feel like crap and more than likely become un-involved in school and my son’s life, and begin another love affair with my bed, but it would highly liken the chance of relapse. I am doing what is best for me, and for my loved ones.
But, it doesn’t help to be hounded daily about how this medication is ruining my life, and being made to feel like a horrible person for taking it, when I know it’s doing the opposite.
So, parents, friends, loved ones of addicts: listen to them. Try to understand. Don’t tell them everything they do wrong, because that will sink them deeper into their hole. Love them, but don’t force your version of love on them.
And addicts: do what you know is right. Sometimes, you will not know what is right, and that’s OK. And Sometimes, you will think you know, when you don’t. Be willing to take advice. But no one knows you better than yourself, and if you truly know something is right, stand up for it.
Stop judging me for living my life the best way I can.