Trading One Addiction for Another

“It’s not your body that needs to heal; it’s your mind! You ARE an addict so BE an addict! You’ve got to channel it!”  ~ Trainspotting 2 (Paraphrasing)

“I don’t want to try (insert recovery method) because it just feels like trading one addiction for another.” ~ Many addicts

At least once a week I read an article or listen to a podcast about a new recovery approach. Doctors using pharmaceutical-grade MDMA (Ecstacy) to treat PTSD. Shamans using DMT to “cure” ego. People using Kratom to get off heroin. People using Ibogaine, Iowaska (Ayahuasca) or Eastern Teas to literally purge opiate dependency. Hypnosis, acupressure, ear needles and brain zappers…

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“Didn’t I die from Ibogaine? Or are you just tired and thinking of Iocaine? Inconceivable…”

These non-conventional approaches don’t even delve into the common “replacements” of Suboxone, Methadone, Subutex, and Vivitrol.

(Before you read further, allow me to remind you that I am NOT a doctor and this is NOT medical advice.)

If I am talking to someone who is asking for detox, I have no qualms about them receiving a medically-monitored Suboxone taper to make the detox possible. 

(Other descriptions: bearable, manageable, tolerable, etc.)

If someone says they “need” a Suboxone taper to come off of heroin, I sort of shrug and think, “alright, bro. Whatever can get you away from the needle. But we both know that you don’t NEED it. Detox *CAN be done without anything beyond a toilet and water. Ask anyone currently in jail during their first 72 hours after a heroin charge…”

Can you withdrawal from your withdrawal drug?

Ask anyone in jail during their first 30 days after a high Suboxone or Methadone dosage. If they have the energy to punch you, they probably will.

When I quit heroin, I was focused first on survival and facing reality. “Okay, Dan, you’re really susceptible to excess and codependency. You’re not going to be able to change your brain in a day, but maybe you could focus these tendencies toward healthier pursuits. You just have to commit to realizing that a new addiction is a stepping stone. So, um, close your eyes and spin around three times. Now, spit and whatever it lands on is probably healthier than heroin.”

It didn’t really play out that way, but you get the idea. It has been over 600 days since I had any kind of opiate in my system and if you put Methadone, Subutex, Suboxone and Vivitrol on the table in front of me now, I could only take Vivitrol without getting high as a kite. However, from a harm-reduction standpoint, I’d choose ANY of those four over heroin!

Nevertheless, I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have stopped heroin and struggled with the first three. I know people like to trade their “Subs” for heroin. I know people who have sold their “take home” doses of Methadone for the same.

I have yet to encounter anyone who has sold their Vivitrol for cash or traded it for drugs. Why? Because, like I said, it doesn’t get you high. I’ve talked to a lot of people who are getting their shots every month and stand by the process, but I know others who have their complaints.

I’m delving into Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) because I’m currently engaging in my own experiment with something similar. This isn’t a sales pitch for Vivitrol.

Last night I had an extremely vivid dream about turning around to investigate a noise behind me. There, I discovered a zombie reaching through my open window to claw at the back of my head.

I wasn’t scared, but extremely annoyed that his undead hand was ruining my blinds. Sheesh, a zombie dream with all the annoyance of an excitable dog…

Thanks for that one, Chantix.

I’ve toyed with the idea of quitting smoking since the day I started. It has plauged me more some days than others. I know it’s filthy, smelly, disgusting and well, you know… deadly.

So in March I stopped smoking while I drive (my most chimney-like time.) I invested in a new car and vowed that it would never be tainted with cigarette smoke.

I bought a few vapes. They kept leaking or I lost them.

I installed apps on my phone to quit smoking.

I told myself that every time I craved a cigarette I would drink a 20oz bottle of water. Then, periodically, I’d find myself water-logged and peeing in the backyard… whilst smoking.

Briefly, while I had health insurance, I asked for a 90-day prescription of these little “dream-makers” and I’m back to occasionally bumming a smoke or two from people around me. (Just the way I started.)

The pendulum is swinging noticably and the “reward” of my bad behavior is outweighed by the terrible taste and smell. Oh, yeah… I can smell again.

I understand that Chantix is interacting with my nicotine receptors and doing some science shit. The gum, patches, losenges and all of that other stuff also interacted with the same receptors.

Blue Cross paid $1,500 for these things so I’ll keep trying with the understanding that if the adverse effects become intolerable or I run out, I’ll need to have already amplified the rewards of not smoking… savings on body spray and oxygen. The little things.

Can you quit smoking without Chantix? Yeah, duh, people do it all the time.

Can you quit heroin without any medications? Sure. I did.

Is there such a thing as a “bad” addiction replacement?

This is where I really want to drive this point home. If you are dealing with a life-threatening addiction that was exciting at first but is now going to kill you, you are the bullrider who just got thrown to the dirt.

This is reality, buckaroo. You are locked in that ring. You are vulnerable. Nobody is coming to pull you back on your feet and dust you off. You have to do that yourself but right now you’ve gotta get to safety. That massively angry missile of hooves and horns is looking for you and WILL find you.

That bull is your addiction demon. That railing is true recovery.

Enter the clown.

Meetings, medicine, rehab, exercise, service, writing… do what you can to escape the bull, but recognize the clown. Whether it’s a physical high, compulsive behavior, unhealthy relationship, or natural rush–you cannot sit in the dirt and invite MORE bulls into the ring.

(Yes, there’s such a thing as too much exercise/church/carrot juice..)

We all know that lasting recovery and true happiness come from creating a life worth protecting. You’ve gotta get to that railing to get your bearings, my friend. You’ve gotta get out of the dirt to survive. You’ve gotta cowboy up, get on your feet, and start moving while you have the chance!

Taking advantage of a rodeo clown for survival is fine in my book, but he’s got his own life to live and can’t distract your demons forever.

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*Opiate withdrawal can lead to life-threatening dehydration and other complications, but in the vast majority of cases… you just FEEL like you’re going to die. Other substances such as alcohol and Benzodiazepines (I.E. Xanax, Clonazepam, Lorazepam, Alprazolam, etc.) can lead to life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Just a reminder that this was a discussion about opiates.

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