How Methadone Saved My Life

By Chelsie Charmed 01/21/16

Methadone is not a magic solution but it has helped me work through major emotional issues.

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Chelsie Charmed
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I’ve been on methadone for nearly a decade—yes you read that right, a decade. And while I’m getting ready to say goodbye to that part of my life, I’m also overwhelmed with gratitude for everything it’s given me. However, this wasn’t always the case.

In the years since I started taking methadone I often wondered if I did the right thing. Some people said I took the easy way out, and sometimes, I wondered if they were right. 

At the time, it wasn't even a decision. In my mind there was no other option. I tried to quit over and over again. I tried slowly reducing my intake of painkillers, but nothing worked. Everything seemed so hopeless. 

Methadone was like being offered a life ring while drowning in a sea of pain and misery. Having been in physical pain every day from withdrawal, I instinctively grabbed on for dear life. My mind was so clouded by the pain that the famous fight-or-flight instinct kicked in. 

After dealing with the pain for so long, I didn’t have the strength to keep fighting it. I got a chance at a pain-free existence and I took it. Some people call me weak for running away from the physical pain, but I see it as taking an opportunity to change my life. I wasn’t about to turn away the first flicker of hope I’d seen amidst the overwhelming darkness that had engulfed my life.

This sudden reprieve from the physical pain enabled me to finally start dealing with my emotional pain. Something I couldn’t do with the muscle aches, sweats and shakes following me everywhere, ready to drown any coherent thought if I went without taking painkillers. 

The withdrawals made it impossible to feel anything except the physical pain, and if I took painkillers to take away my withdrawals, I was too numb to feel my emotional pain. Either way, I could never get ahead, or deal with the emotional pain that fueled my addiction. 

My emotional pain was bad enough without the added misery my addiction was causing. The more I messed up my life by doing stupid things to feed my addiction, the more I wanted to get messed up to forget about it. For years, my life consisted of this repeating and never-ending vicious cycle.

Without methadone and the chance to heal my emotional pain, the only future I saw was one of a life barely worth living. One where I hurt the people I love and where an overdose was the likely outcome. That’s how I saw my life before I started methadone. Suicidal thoughts were no stranger to me. I had no hope of my pain ever ending, and trust me, a life without hope is a miserable one.

Methadone was by no means a magic solution. I wasn’t ruled by my body anymore, but my mind still needed healing. The amount of effort needed to heal my emotional issues surprised me. It was just as painful as dealing with the physical pain, if not more.

It was no wonder I had never been able to overcome both at the same time. With the withdrawals always kicking in before the emotional pain, I had no idea how much damage I was hiding under all those drugs. Once I stopped worrying about getting opiates to manage the physical withdrawals, I started binging on cocaine to minimize my emotional distress.

It took me a little over a year to learn how to deal with my pain and stop using. Methadone only fixed the physical part of the problem. I had to heal the emotional trauma and fix my way of thinking on my own. No amount of medication could do that for me, but at least now I had the opportunity to deal with all my psychological problems without being overwhelmed by withdrawals.

I struggled with my recovery because I missed the distraction hustling and getting high gave me from my own inner turmoil. Even though this lifestyle was exhausting it was also thrilling. The first couple of months after I quit using cocaine, I had a hard time finding interesting distractions to help balance all the negative with something positive.

It was like going from seeing life with a crystal clear HD focus to watching it on a black and white TV screen and the signal was fuzzy. Nothing seemed interesting. With time, the mental fog gradually dissipated, but I often missed that sense of belonging I got with other addicts over our common goal and struggles. Being isolated was a big struggle for me. Painful memories would come rushing back whenever I had too much time on my hands. 

There are some things we need to remember so that we can grow and learn from them, but some memories have no other purpose than to make us feel bad about ourselves. These toxic memories had a tendency of creeping up on me, and even more so when I was trying to sleep. 

Night time is when things get really quiet and the thoughts have a chance to come flooding in. My mind made going to bed almost unbearable, which felt like a curse since sleep was a peaceful release from the torment I would put myself through.

I’d start to toss and turn, remembering the awful things I did and the awful things that were done to me. I’d replay them in my head over and over again like a broken record. I’d imagine every possible scenario and what could have been done differently. The "what ifs" plagued my nocturnal contemplative trance.

The emotional pain got me into more trouble than the physical withdrawals ever did. That being the case, even if I could have managed to get over the physical withdrawals without methadone, I doubt I would have stopped using. The emotional pain would have led me back to drugs and I can’t imagine going through the physical withdrawals multiple times while trying to deal with my emotional issues.

Methadone gave me the opportunity to get back up after a relapse and try to deal with the emotional pain without worrying about physical withdrawals every time. I wouldn’t have tried as many times as I did if I knew I had to deal with physical pain along with the emotional pain every time. On methadone, I never stopped trying to get better because the pain didn’t seem insurmountable.

Methadone gave me the chance to work through my major emotional issues that had only gotten worse during my addiction. Feelings of abandonment, violence, addicted parents, and having too much responsibility forced on me at a young age caused so much damage in my life. 

Similar to dominoes, one painful event led to another until the trail of dominoes overlapping each other were so complex, I didn’t see how I could have unraveled them without the clear mind methadone provided for me.

I needed something that would relieve my physical pain long enough for me to deal with all my emotional pain, and methadone did that for me. Granted it took me longer than I thought it would—10 years to be exact—but I was able to get more out of life than I ever dreamed possible. It worked for me when nothing else did.

Being withdrawal-free didn’t just give me the opportunity to deal with my emotional trauma, it also gave me a chance to build a life that provided incentive for me to keep fighting through all the ugly internal psychological stuff and live drug-free. I was able to finish high school, apply for a bachelor's in psychology, and find my passion for writing about addiction. 

It wasn’t some kind of miraculous cure, it worked because I was finally able to focus on healing myself and changing my life. Now, after a decade of ups and downs, I’m finally ready to deal with the physical withdrawals and taper off methadone. Thanks to my methadone doctor and a slow supervised taper this experience will be a lot less painful than when I had tried to do it on my own with painkillers.

Chelsie Charmed, is a freelance writer, recovering addict and psychology major. She spends much of her time writing a weekly blog in the hopes of helping people achieve a happy life in recovery. She wishes to inspire compassion in the community for those struggling with addiction. She's a fierce believer in harm reduction and holistic healing. If she isn’t writing or reading in her spare time, she can be found pondering life’s great mysteries. 

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chelsea charmed.jpg

Chelsie Charmed, is a freelance writer, recovering addict and psychology major. She spends much of her time writing a weekly blog in the hopes of helping people achieve a happy life in recovery. She wishes to inspire compassion in the community for those struggling with addiction. She's a fierce believer in harm reduction and holistic healing. If she isn’t writing or reading in her spare time, she can be found pondering life’s great mysteries. Follow Chelsie onTwitter.

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