Clean and Sober: Recovery After Suboxone

The opioid trail is a long difficult road. I appreciated Felice Freyer’s article in the Aug. 19 edition of the Boston Globe, which was about getting help for opioid addiction in Massachusetts. I am a person with a Substance Use Disorder in “remission.”  

It took me a long time to get where I am. I’m 72 now, happily married and housed, and just finished detoxing at home from Suboxone.

I was in recovery for various long periods of time, but every now and then I would relapse for one reason or another. The last time was after I had knee surgery and spun totally out of control about 11 years ago after many years of abstinence. I almost lost everything that was precious to me–my wife, my home, my freedom.

So I went to an excellent addictions psychotherapist and went on Suboxone, and for the last ten years it’s helped me stay sober. The thought of using heroin now doesn’t exist, so I am withdrawing from my Suboxone habit — and it is a habit — much better than when I was using on the street.  

I’m in my 50th day of total abstinence from Suboxone. It was a rough withdrawal, but I did it at home because I didn’t want to go to a detox and meet people who are really struggling and may go out. I am totally out of the heroin loop; I only know people who don’t use.

I was actually a IDU (Intravenous Drug User) Counselor at a needle exchange for a year at one point, but it was too much for me and I had to leave because I relapsed. That was in 2004.

I’m no newcomer to the drug world. I started using opiates in 1962 while I was still a senior in high school. That was when you could buy cough syrup with codeine over the counter just by signing your name. I quickly graduated from over the counter highs, and became a New York junkie. Then, after many changes in living areas to kick — which didn’t work — I started the detox cycle.

I guess I’ve been through more than 30 to 40 detoxes but I really wanted to stay abstinent. Like the one fellow in Feyer’s article–part of me wanted to stay clean and part of me wanted to use. It’s a split-mind illness and it talks.

My wife and I live in Belmont here in Massachusetts and I’ve been in Massachusetts since 1989. The first time I entered recovery was in March of 1994 and I stayed off of drugs with the help of meetings and Spare Change News for close to four years–then I has my first relapse. It was silly. I felt bullet proof and shocked myself when I picked up.

When I became a drug counselor a few years later, I realized that I will never be bulletproof. This illness lives in me and will forever. I just became sick of the Suboxone trail, even though it is much better than the street and should still be considered as an option. In my whole ten years on it, I never picked up again.

But that’s over now and a new time has come.

The Suboxone withdrawal is no joke.  It’s long and hard but I was committed. I had to build a new life to really commit to recovery, and it was a long hard road but it is possible. This I know. In Recovery I have many gifts and I don’t want to lose them.

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper's poetry editor.

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