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Opiate Addiction Recovery. A Reflection on Methadone Maintenance Treatment.

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

Years ago, I served as a therapist for clients receiving treatment at a methadone maintenance treatment center. As it was then as it is now, opiate addiction can ravage lives, the impacts notwithstanding to just the sufferer. Opiates are swift and devastating to the self, cementing psychological negativity, instilling physical damages and expelling pain onto relationships.

I was fortunate to be witness to much change with my then clients. Many successfully tapered off the medication and maintained abstinence, doing so by actively working their recovery. Those who did so did alongside a multitude of changes to their life; for example, changed career to support their internal desire to do something more in alignment with their true self, became an advocate for recovery, quit smoking (often the hardest step in multiple substance recovery), practiced healthy behaviors and implemented positive changes to relationships.

While there have been improvements with our understanding and assumptions about addiction and recovery, much stigma remains. Despite engaging in recovery - which in itself is a tremendous step in the process - most persons in recovery experience spoken and unspoken judgement. It was this judgment which led a group of my then clients to reach out to a newspaper to share and educate. Below is that letter, it still relevant today.


"Letter to the Editor: Methadone treatment an effective way to break the cycle of addiction"

June 13, 2012

To the editor:

I am a daughter. I am your daughter.

I am an athlete. I am a working professional.

I am a wife. I am a mother. I am your mother.

I am a son. I am your son.

I am a father. I am your father.

I am a friend. I am a solider. I am your neighbor. I am a student. I am an animal lover. I am a person of faith.

I am in recovery from an opiate drug addiction.

We are a group of people who are in recovery from an opiate drug addiction with the assistance of methadone treatment. We chose to write this letter to both provide some education about recovery and to give encouragement to those who are presently struggling with an opiate drug addiction. In addition, this letter is geared toward those who have some misconceptions about methadone treatment and who believe in the stigma that can be associated with methadone clinics.

We used to think the same way, until the treatment saved our lives and gave us back the family and friends we once lost because of our addiction.

As active users, we hurt people, stole and numbed our emotions with opiates and other drugs so we could not feel the heartbreak, hate and disappointment we caused our loved one.

No one is more disappointed in an active user than the person is in himself or herself. There comes a point in each addict's life when he or she just doesn't believe life can get better.

All of us who write this letter have struggled with opiate addiction for many years. We have had many failed attempts at sober living. We thought we would never be our true selves again, that our life was destined to be the hell of a drug addiction.

Many of us have tried and failed in every other way to maintain sobriety through sober houses, detox units, Suboxone treatment, cold turkey, outpatient treatment centers, etc. None of these got us to the place we are in now. Today, while recovery is a constant work in progress, methadone treatment is helping us to get our lives back, reconnect with loved ones we hurt and, most importantly, regain our self-worth.

One of the main stigmas of methadone is that the user is just replacing one drug with another.

Methadone is a FDA-approved medication that takes addicts out of the "chase" (getting money for the drug in any way possible) and the chaos that has become their everyday routine. The chase continues because of the physical and psychological nature of the opiate addiction.

The addiction is all-consuming. It becomes your life. You struggle to live with the drug and you struggle to live without the drug.

With methadone, the addict can get back to a normal, everyday life and be a productive member of society.

It's not just the methadone alone that helps one recovery from an opiate addiction. For many, it's also the individual and group counseling that provides an opportunity for one to gain insight and strength.

As one of us said, "I had dreams when I was younger before I started using. I wanted to be a nurse. I never said I wanted to grow up and be a drug addict. I always wanted to make my family proud. Drugs led me to drop out of high school and to lose sight of my dreams. Now, with methadone treatment, I can do all the things I want to do. Now, I'm proud. Now, my parents are proud."

When some people thing of a methadone clinic, they think of lazy good-for-nothing junkies who sleep all day and don't produce or contribute anything.

But those with this misconception have actually witnessed the positive effects of methadone without realizing it. They've seen people functioning while on methadone treatment - plumbers, postal carriers, attorneys and professional athletes. Persons who abuse methadone treatment make it into the local newspapers and television, showcasing the side of addiction most people envision, the side that is the "junkie", the "loser", the "lowest of the low", the "liar", the "manipulator", the "helpless" and the "hopeless". Persons who utilize methadone treatment the right way are not sensational enough to make it into the media. We live our lives like most other people. We take our kids to football and/or dance practice, we wake up at 5 a.m. and go to work, we maintain a busy household, we got to school and we maintain our recovery.

As one of us stated, "I am a mother of three. My children are my life. My main focus is to have their needs met. Before, when I was using, they were not my priority. Now, my children are my priority. I am able to be a good mother because of methadone treatment."

People have to know that there is something out there that works. Addicts ho have lost hope in themselves and people who care about them need to know that it is not too late. Methadone treatment could be their best choice for recovery.

We recognize that many persons reading this letter will continue to believe the stereotypes about methadone treatment and addiction. We hope we were able to inform some, help many, and maybe, change a few minds."


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