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Freedom at Last!Hello Everyone! I’ve actually never been on a forum like this, but I have a story to tell that I hope provides at least one person with strength, support, and hope.
First let me say that I am a 55 year old married, female, retired, with 3 adult children - daughter 27 y.o. and twin boys that are 25. I lived and worked in corporate America for 30 years in Denver, CO and recently moved to my heaven on earth, rural Citrus County, FL.
When I was still working full-time, at age 45, I went to my primary care physician, who I trusted and had been seeing for 20 years, and told her my plight of back pain problems that I had tried what I thought was everything to correct: PT, acupuncture, NSAIDS, yoga, working out, creams, weird machines, etc….and nothing worked. She referred me to a pain mgmt doctor and off I went, hoping this would be the solution.
The doctor she referred me to was fully booked and I was offered a sooner appt with a new doctor on their staff so I took that and went and saw him. After seeing me for virtually minutes, I walked out of the office with 360 mgs of various forms of oxy and other opiates. This was 10 years ago, there was no “opiate epidemic”, & I was VERY naive about drugs. I got the script filled and SHAZAM! Wow! I felt great! This was the answer to all my problems! This new doctor quickly left the practice that I was originally referred to and I was one of his first patients on his books. His practice seemed to thrive, but I was always “special” and one of his long term clients.
Fast forward 6 years. During the 6th year on opiates the Federal Government passed some law that freaked my pain doctor out! He needed to cut down my amount and fast! So in very few months I was now on 140 mgs and needless to say, I was not doing well. I started to run out of pills every month a week early and learned about the pain of withdrawal very quickly.
But I didn’t know what to do and it honestly took me a while to realize I was “addicted”. I went through withdrawal every month for at least a week for 2 years! I finally realized I was addicted and much later told my husband. He tried to help any way he could, hiding my pills, which I would ALWAYS find and end up back in the same crappy position.
Without going into all the gory details, in Feb of 2017 my husband and kids all knew I had a problem and thought I needed to go to a rehab. I highly disagreed, but trying to call their bluff, I made a call, and I am not exaggerating when I tell you in no less than 3 hours later I was at the airport bound for a rehab in Las Vegas, NV. I was basically shell shocked most of the time I was there. I certainly knew nothing about rehab! But I learned real quick! I fought my way though for 3 weeks. And let me tell you this…...1) I learned more about illegal drugs when I was there than I had EVER known before, 2) I met some AMAZING people! Smart, so intelligent, kind, and most of them had just never been given a good chance in life, & 3) no one goes to rehab just one time. To my surprise I met people who had been in rehab 4, 8, 14 times? Holy crap! Are you kidding me? Many of the counselors there informed me if I didn’t do exactly what they said I would end up back in Denver on the streets with a needle in my arm! That’s encouraging, right? I will also add that everyone seemed to get better, I always still felt pretty crappy, but when I was allowed to go home in 3 weeks, I was outta there!!!
I came home already enrolled in a 6 month IOP program and at their urging begrudgingly started looking for an NA meeting. The first week I went to the counselor at the IOP I still wasn’t feeling well, in fact, I was feeling worse. My husband thought he was going to have to take me to the ER. I called my new counselor and he sent me to their on-staff doctor. I went to see her and she immediately explained, “you are still going through major withdrawal!” She did a few tests, blood pressure, etc…., and wrote me a script for something that would apparently help. I’m sure you know where this is going, but at the time, I didn’t, and I went and got the script filled. I received it, put the little orange film under my tongue and in no less than 30 minutes, I felt great! It's a miracle!!!!! Hallelujah!
I thought I had experienced the greatest recovery from opiates and I was finally on my way! For a few weeks. The more I went to counseling and the more I went to the NA group that I ended up loving, loving the people, doing service, and even being the group service rep before I moved, I learned that the little orange film, I knew now was called Suboxone, was also an opiate. What the? Am I going to be addicted to this now?
I went to a number of doctors and every time told I them I thought I needed to get off the subs. All of their responses were always the same, “Oh no! You need to be on this at least 5 years if not for the rest of your life!” NA was telling me get off, the dr’s were telling me stay on, and I was pretty much just confused about what I was supposed to do.
After all, I have pain issues, now 10 years later, that have gotten worse, new issues, etc….What am I supposed to do?
In March 2018, after I had my 1 year “clean” celebration in CO, I moved to FL. My dream had come true! I had a pool in the back, palm trees in the front and I was loving it! But again, I had to find a new sub doctor now. What a nightmare this is! Always being handcuffed to the doctor and the drug! But I found a doctor and I went. And the first appt, he talked to me for mere seconds, doubled my sub script and off I went. What the F? Why am I taking more now? I think I need to get off. But can I now?
I went through this for another 5 months in FL, until one day I had just had ENOUGH! My husband travels and was out of town for another week, I took my last dose, ripped up the script, and went cold turkey off 16 mg per day of suboxone. Holy shit! I barely remember the first week except feeling like complete crap and calling NA meetings all day and all night for inspiration. I prayed constantly, surrendered it over my Higher Power, and tried to survive. By Day 8, I had to haul my butt out of bed (which I had gained 50 lbs since rehab and had NEVER been this heavy), get dressed, put makeup on , and go get my husband, 1 hour away, at the airport in Tampa. Besides leaving an hour earlier than I was supposed to due to the brain fog, I made it, I told him what I had done, and he drove home. And now my husband, who is always supportive, was home to help me do the little things that were like moving boulders to me!
I did start working out every day, at first, just walking inside, and then exercising about 45 minutes in the pool. Which I did every day until Day 21, when my husband left for a short, 2 day trip. I had been having a heck of time sleeping the whole 21 days, restless legs, arms, my ankle? Are you kidding me? But on Day 21-22 I didn’t go to bed until 10 p.m. (I’d been going to bed at like 7:00 pm due to all my “uncomfortableness” and waking up at 7:00 am - ugh! - I’m retired!) and I slept until 9:30 am! (Full disclosure, I am still taking different sleep aids, Advil PM, etc…..but I am cutting them out slowly but surely), woke up and felt pretty “normal”. I had told myself I was going to clean the house the day he was gone and man did I clean the house! I blasted the music and off I went. 2500 sq ft ranch home - floors, rugs, dust, kitchen, furniture, I even ironed! I thought I was cured! 55 years old, Day 22, I told my parents I had heard it took about 30 days, but I was going to be an overachiever! My husband came back on Day 23 and I felt like I took a step backward. I still didn’t have much energy and still just didn’t feel “normal”.
I began reaching out to my CO NA friends who were all so happy I was finally off the subs, I have an amazing support system from friends and family, but I really just felt like I needed to talk to someone who “gets it.” I knew I had a friend in CO that knew an NA contact near me in FL, so I called her. She was also super supportive and put me in contact with this lady up the road, who I spoke to that night and made an appt to go see the following day.
Day 24 - I had to go south to my PCP (I had lost 12 lbs!!!!!) and then an hour north to meet with my new “recovery coach”. The meeting was wonderful, was supposed to last 1 hour and went over 2, and I felt so back in touch with some of the things that I was missing from going to NA. In fact, and this is crazy, that day I drove an hour back home and then my husband drove me 1 ½ hours to my first FL NA meeting. I got home at 10:00 pm and pretty much fell right to sleep.
Day 25 - I went to a noon NA meeting much closer to my house, met my sweet, sweet, dear, supportive friend for lunch, planned a trip to Orlando with her and her husband for November, ran a couple errands and got home about 4:30 p.m. So after two full days of running like crazy, I stayed home today, Day 26, exercised in the pool and starting writing this story.
I’ve begun connecting with friends who I have completely disconnected from for the last 3 years, each and everyone with only happiness and praise when I tell them where and what I’ve been doing! I will definitely continue regular NA meetings, meetings with my coach, and continue to try and heal my body and mind from being on the opiates for the last 10 years!
Quick side note: there is a yellow butterfly that flies back and forth behind my pool cage and has been around the entire 26 days. I call it my angel and honestly, I believe that!
I’m now on Day 27 and let me tell you about the mind fuck this disease and withdrawal will play on you. I woke up this morning feeling like i was back on Day 2. I had a bad nerve kink in my neck/shoulder, I had a ferocious headache, which seems to linger every day, I was back in the freaking bathroom…..to put it bluntly, I felt like shit and I was pissed! If this is my new life, I don’t want it! I called my recovery coach and she talked me down, telling me all the things I know to be true, but just couldn’t accept myself. I laid down, took a 2 hour nap, which I had not been napping at all since week 1, & woke up feeling at least a little better.
Are there still days that I have to use all my energy just to brush my teeth? Yes. Do I know that this too shall pass and that I will recover and become a full, functioning, happy and energetic adult again. Yes. Have I heard many, many stories from people I know personally who have made it through this awful process of withdrawal from opiates? Yes. In fact, one of my favorite and sweet friends from NA CO wrote me yesterday and reinforced that getting off suboxone is a “motherfucker” and I unfortunately, I have to agree. But it does end, I know that, and I just need to find the strength and patience to persevere. There will be good and bad days during this recovery and sooner than later there will more good than bad until the bad subside and the good take over and you begin to look back and forget how horrible all this was.
Which is one of the reasons I am writing this story. I NEVER want to forget this. I don’t want to EVER get complacent about my addiction, this disease, or what I fought for going through this. It’s why I will continue going to NA meetings and listen to the stories from people just starting recovery. It’s why I will continue to work as hard as I can to protect myself from doctors that don’t have my best interest at heart. It’s why I will continue to be an advocate for myself, when no one else will be!
But the point of this whole, drawn out story is this ….. if I can do this, an old mom at 55 years old, anyone can do this! You can all do this! And you are worth it! Stay strong! I feel like I have almost slayed the beast, walked through the worst of the fire and only have calm waters ahead. Of course, I will continue to live life on life’s terms and surrender to my Higher Power, knowing that whatever comes next is meant to be. All I really have is responsibility to myself and my actions, doing the next right things, and continuing to talk when I need to talk, pay it forward, and enjoy my REAL 27 days of clean time!
Whatever your demon, you are bigger and stronger than it! You are important and there are people who love you and miss you. There is always support somewhere if you just look for it. You are not alone! If you are going through withdrawal currently, thinking about making a jump off of any substance, or just thinking about a new way of life, I hope that this story provides you with some semblance of hope and possibility! After 10 years, the chains are off and I am finally free! And I’ll tell you something, this freedom feels damn good after all I’ve been through. It’s not easy at first, but you WILL get better everyday! Give yourself a break, be kind to yourself, and know that you are one powerful, intelligent, important person! I wish you all the blessings in the world. My gratitude for all that I have been given and walked through is so immense! Your blessings and gratitude await!
Peace, love, happiness, and laughter!
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