No matter how many days, months or years go by in stable, medication assisted recovery it’s important to remember that triggers remain & that the underlying temptations and urges resulting from our struggle with opiate use never completely go away. A fight with our husband/wife or partner, a death in the family, stress with our family or kids, frustration dealing with the clinic system —- any number of things has the possibility to conjure up old desires to just “make it go away” or long for that “quick fix” that was seemingly able to solve all our problems during our days of active drug use. And it’s easy for us, for me at least, to get lost in a daze of daydreaming about how nice it would be to feel the warmth of that rush as all my problems fade away once again. How nice it would be…
But then more memories come back as well. The days when there was no money, no pills, no heroin, no “friends” to help me out… the days when I was writhing in withdrawals thinking of Heaven in a desperation so great that in those moments it often felt like death might be the only way to escape the misery. I start to remember all the difficult times where my chronic metabolic disorder, my pain killer and heroin addiction, caused me to make choices between honoring a friendship and my word or doing what it took to keep me well. The days where I had to make a choice between paying my phone bill, or even eating, or getting that one pill to try to keep me well. I remember the days when the warm rush and getting high were a thing of the past because my struggle day in and day out was to simply be well, to stay out of withdrawals. Getting high was not even a realistic possibility because my tolerance and opiate use had become so high….
And so I ultimately come back around to my solid ground. I snap out of it and realize that my recovery is one of the most precious things that I have, and I thank God that I walked into the methadone clinic all those years ago - originally for all the wrong reasons - and ended up finding an amazing life of recovery as a result.
But I think it’s important to have these discussion and to not stick our heads in the sand. We need to confront the fact that many of us in long term, stable recovery can still have moments of weakness when we’d like nothing more than a big bag of China White to pump into our veins… That is part of the chronic nature of this disease. We can treat it effectively, and thank God for the research of Doctors Dole, Nyswander and Kreek decades ago, but we can’t cure it. It doesn’t mean I’m weak in my recovery because I have moments of weakness; It shows strength in my recovery that I am able to realize that I’m not a bad person because these thoughts and feelings can still conjure up but that I recognize it is because I’m dealing with a chronic, relapsing disease. We need to be prepared for these thoughts and feelings and desires. We need to know that for some of us, for many of us, they will still come up from time to time when the going gets tough, or maybe for no reason at all, and we need to talk about it and confront it head on.
Living The Methadone Life isn’t always honey and roses. It isn’t always easy. We are still flawed individuals that are struggling with a chronic and relapsing metabolic disorder despite being patients of what the National Institutes of Health (NIH) refers to as the “gold standard treatment.” But a basic understanding of the disease we’re dealing with helps us to know that doesn’t mean we aren’t strong in our recovery or our desire to remain abstinent from illicit drugs. Talking about it helps us know we’re not alone and that there are others dealing with the same thing.
Hang in there, brothers and sisters, and keep on keeping on. While we have an amazing tool and medication to aid our recovery we also still need to realize we’ll never cure this disease, but through peer support, psychosocial support and continuing to take our medication on a daily basis we can keep it at bay and have a life just as amazing as those individuals who were lucky enough to never deal with a chronic relapsing disease of the brain.