24 Hours of CoMPLeTe aNd uTTeR HeLL

Five years ago I fell in our restaurant and fractured my tailbone. It has been quite a journey ever since. I’m what they call an extreme addict. An extreme addict thinks like this: if 80mg of OxyContin feels this good, then 160mg would feel twice as good! An extreme addict never considers that maybe they will hurt themselves or possibly, even kill themselves. They have no concept of too much of anything they love. These are the people you hear about overdosing and dying. My addiction was so intense, so deep…that the only way for me to function for the rest of my life, the Doctor told me, would be for me to be on methadone.

Do you know anything at all about methadone? There are things you can easily learn about methadone just by going online and doing a little research. There are other things, however, you learn from being on it. Some of these things, such as the experience I’m about to share with you, are the hard lessons you learn that make you realize how fragile life really is. One lesson I have heard many people talk about in the methadone clinic is how if you’re ever having withdrawals from skipping doses (such as if you don’t have money for treatment or you can’t get a ride to the clinic for some reason) and someone offers you suboxone or subutex: do not take it, or you will immediately go into severe withdrawals and for the next two to three days you will feel worse than you’ve ever felt in your life. Anyone who has ever taken opiates for any period of time knows that when you stop taking them, be prepared for misery and total discomfort. One thing about methadone that is very different than any other opiate, is its half-life. Half-life is the amount of time it takes for half of the medicine to be out of your system; Heroin has an extremely rapid half-life, 2-8 minutes for intravenous users and up to 20 minutes for intranasal users; Dilaudid is 2.5 hours; Vicodin, Norco, OxyContin, and Percocet have a half life of 3 1/2-4 hours. Methadone, however, has a half-life of 24-36 hours. That’s up to a day and a half.  What’s wonderful about methadone, say–compared to when I was taking OxyContin and I was popping those suckers every couple hours–you only take it once a day. Methadone is the best way to kick a pill habit, because it’s not pills you take–it’s a liquid you drink. My biggest question since I first got on methadone has been this: how bad are the withdrawals from methadone? Withdrawals are the wide range of symptoms a person experiences who dramatically increases or stops opiates after using them for a prolonged period of time. The worst withdrawals I ever experienced were coming off of OxyContin three years ago. Anyone who thinks Norco withdrawals are bad would be absolutely shocked by OxyContin withdrawals but methadone withdrawals, well…that’s just something else entirely.

I have been on methadone now for 14 months. I have quickly gone down in my dose since last December because I don’t want to be on it anymore, but if I’m going to be on it, I want to be on as little as possible. Plus, I have whats called a split dose, which means I take part of my dose at home later in the day because I have had blood tests done which have determined that I am a “rapid metabolizer”, meaning that my body processes and gets rid of the methadone faster than most people. The last three months I have been working, though–so I have gotten into the habit of missing a day’s dose–how long it takes for a person to start feeling methadone withdrawals varies; some people can’t handle missing a day’s dose because the withdrawals are so bad. For me, though–I have comfortably missed two days dose. So I don’t know why yesterday was any different. My little boy has had a horrible case of stomach flu, and I didn’t want to leave him. That was the biggest mistake of my life. This is my story of pure hell on earth.

Yesterday started like any other Tuesday. I woke up in a fantastic mood and was very cheerful all morning. About 9:30 I remembered I had missed the clinic the previous two days and that I needed to get in there. While my 18 year-old son was getting dressed and making his coffee, I started to feel slightly nauseous. I was so relieved I was going. I’m not sure what happened between the time my son was getting ready to go and the time we arrived at the clinic, but I felt so incredibly bad when we got there that when I stepped out of the truck, I fell down to the ground because my legs had fallen asleep and I didn’t realize it. I made it inside, and was shocked to see the line: UTTERLY UNIMAGINABLE at the state I was in, but I tried to keep calm. Every single day for the past two to three months it has been so fast getting dosed–I go in, give them my number, and then almost immediately they buzz me in, this was the first time in months that it was so busy; there were about 12 people in line at the dosing room. And it was the one time I needed my fees graced until I get paid Friday, which meant that there is only one person who can do it–Sharon, and she was on lunch break. I couldn’t dose until that was resolved, and all I could think of was how my body was feeling worse by the minute. A woman sat next to me not lookin too good herself…I asked her if she had missed any, she said it had been two days for her as well. She didn’t look miserable at all, she just looked mad. My skin was crawling, as if there were tiny bugs crawling all over my arms and legs….and my heart was pounding so fast I thought it would pound out of my chest. My breathing had slowed to a very slight breath…almost as if I were near death. I looked at my phone–five minutes had passed. I went up to the counter and asked if there was anyone else at all who could grace me just so I could go ahead and dose, and Sharon could fix it when she gets back. The new girl said, “Sharon is the only one”. How stupid is that. One person to fix a problem like that. What if “Sharon” died? What if Sharon didn’t show up one day to her shift? They’re gonna sit there and tell me that Sharon is the “all-powerful”, like some think of God? I wanted to scream I was so frustrated. I sat back down and was getting more and more frustrated…I was just about to start sobbing when I looked up and there she was. Sharon. She walked right up to me and said, “3202 you’re good until Friday”…                                                                                                   Hallelujah! I was more excited than I’d been in a while. I headed to the dosing room, and the Nurse on Duty was *Shirley*, she’s a very nice, caring woman who started working there around the beginning of the year. She could immediately see that I was not well. She said, “Jennifer, are you okay?” It was all I could do plop my whole torso down on the counter in front of her and start bawling my eyes out, telling her how I had missed two days and she knew too, I had before, what was different about this? She said, “Let’s get you dosed, and you’ll get to feeling better”. I drank it, knowing that soon I would feel better. She gave me my afternoon dose, I locked it up, and I left. I was hopeful that by the time we got home, I would be on my way to feeling normal again.

We pulled into the garage at home, and my son asked me, “Do you feel any better yet Mom?”  I stopped and thought a minute, sat there absorbing everything…I said, “No, actually…I’m feeling much worse”…. I was now shaking so bad that I couldn’t even stand up on my own and I had to get help to make it into the house. I made it up to my room and climbed on to my bed. I can’t even explain to you how exhausted I felt just after that trek up to my room. It felt like I had climbed Mount Everest–my muscles were sore, my back was sore, my head was killing me. My daughter had her best friend over and they came in to see how I was doing. They had no idea what was going on until that point. My daughter looked at me very peculiarly, she was trying to figure out what was going on…I told her that I missed my dose two days in a row and she, too, said “Mama, haven’t you missed two days before?” I shook my head yes.  I told her that I was just as puzzled as she was. 

What happened next was far worse than anything I have ever experienced in my life. As my daughter and her best friend sat in my room talking to me, I got up to go to the bathroom and when I stepped off my bed, how do I explain this….I stepped down on the floor, but because I didn’t feel my feet, next thing I knew, I was laying flat on my stomach. I lay there crying and sobbing, totally confused about what was happening and embarrassed at my mess-up. My daughter ran over to me and said, “Mama what happened?”                                                                                                                                            I didn’t know, to be honest, what had happened…”I can’t feel my legs”….                                                                                       “What do you mean you can’t feel your legs Mama?”                                                                                                                     “I don’t know how best to explain this….I stood up to walk but it felt like my legs weren’t there”. I looked down and my legs were twisted in such a weird fashion that I knew something was wrong. I tried to lift my right leg to unpin my left one, but I couldn’t move it at all. It was so heavy that I had lost all the feeling in both of my legs. I didn’t know what to do, how long this was going to last, but I waited for a few minutes hoping the numbness would pass and that I could get up and walk into the bathroom. I waited about ten minutes, all the while shaking my legs and  trying to do what one would normally do to get numbness to pass. When I stood up, my feet and legs had gotten even slightly more numb, so that trying to walk was simply impossible. I ached everywhere, I was numb everywhere, and I was scared to move at all. But I was still on the floor and afraid I wouldn’t be able to get up. As I used the muscles in my back, shoulders and arms to pull myself as close to my bathroom as I could, right as I was about to pull myself up so I could hoist myself up onto the toilet, I peed all over the floor, my clothes, and the rug I had laying down under me. I lost it at that point. I knew I was really fucked up. I cried uncontrollably for the next hour, and my son and daughter asked if I needed anything…I did NOT want them seeing me like this, I told them I was fine just so they would leave my room. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom. I just wanted to die at that point. My legs and torso were shaking and jerking uncontrollably…I had never felt this way, ever. It was so much worse than all of the times I ran out of Norco and went days and days without any….and the few times I didn’t have OxyContin for a day or two…I didn’t think anything in the world could be worse than that. But this….this was a nightmare that I couldn’t get out of or see the end of…my legs felt like they had been cut off. It was the worst feeling in the world. I had an epidural with all three of my kids; the epidural left my legs so paralyzed that I could have stabbed them with a knife and I wouldn’t have felt it. That’s what this felt like. Plus, my skin was itching all over; it had graduated from feeling like bugs crawling on it–the itching was much worse. It was like having poison oak all over my body plus all the other symptoms. I wasn’t just shaking anymore, either…it was like I was having a seizure. I was jerking every few seconds. I tried to call my husband, who I’m separated from, and he and I started yelling at each other so I hung up…no help there. I laid there thinking to myself, “how can this possibly get any worse?” As I laid there praying for death, praying for something….anything….to make this feeling go away if just for a few minutes….I remembered six months ago when I met a girl in the clinic who said she had been in jail and they wouldn’t give her methadone in jail, she went into withdrawals for two days and then she got out and went immediately to the clinic. She told me that once your body has gone into withdrawals with methadone, however long you’re experiencing symptoms before you get some methadone in your body, it’s about that much time to get it in  your system and back to normal. So I was going to have another day and a half of this. 

I somehow was able to get my wet clothes off and put clean ones on while laying on the floor. I got myself up on my bed through some miracle I’ll never understand,  and I slept for about the next 24 hours. When  I awoke, I wasn’t feeling 100% by any means but I was feeling a hell of a lot better than I was the day before. I got in to the clinic the next two days without any issues and even today, being three days later, I have been throwing up all day. I’m not sure if it’s from the withdrawals or from my son’s stomach flu, but either way, I feel just awful.

I started this the day after my experience started. I just kept falling asleep while typing. This has been the longest week of my life. It was Tuesday that this started. It’s now Friday night. I can’t believe three days of my life have been wasted. I had no idea it would be like this. I don’t care what the circumstances are, I will never miss another dose of methadone again, so long as I live. I’m supposed to get six take-homes per week so that I only have to go in to the clinic once per week, but because my dose was at one point so high, they were acting all weird about it.

I can’t even tell you how much I regret that I fell in the restaurant that night and fractured my tailbone. You wouldn’t believe the rest of the last five years of my life. It has been one nightmare after another because of painkillers. Since getting on methadone my life has been a lot more stable, but believe me, I would give anything to be able to get off of this, too. I tried for two weeks before getting on methadone to go without anything. It was awful and I will never do it again. If anyone wants any advice about this or has any questions, feel free to leave me a comment and I will answer you, truthfully, honestly, and completely. If I can prevent just one or two people from having to go through any of the nightmare I have, I would be ecstatic. Opiate painkillers and methadone aren’t something you want to mess around with.

Take it from me……

 

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