Addiction: Substance Abuse Community
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Avatar universal

The light at the end of the tunnel and other musings

My short story: I had abused Oxycontin for about 6-7 weeks at a dose of about 40mg-80mg a day. Now, I know that doesn't seem that long but it was long enough for me to develop serious depression DURING use, causing me to become increasingly socially withdrawn. I also started to develop withdrawal symptoms when I went more than 12 waking hours without a dose. My sex drive had plummeted to a non-existent level. My work was suffering big time and falling behind. I had been working my schedule AROUND my dealer's availability, which caused me to cut work short some days AND lie to my boss about doctor's appointments, family emergencies, etc. My bank account was disintegrating. My girlfriend started to see a listless melancholy in my eyes. These are ALL signs of a serious problem.

I am now on DAY 6 of Oxy-free life. I know that I may not have used it as long or as hard as some others, but I don't think those facts make my situation any less of a problem. I developed many of the negative characteristics of a junkie, as listed above. After the acute cessation of use, I DID develop some withdrawal symptoms for a little bit.

I did get a little bit of Restless Leg after Day 3, and I spent a night without any sleep at all. I do get intermittent chills throughout the day, and I do suffer some bouts of lethargy. Depression is also still a problem -- although it's intermittent, too. But now on Day 6 just about all of these symptoms are exiting the body and mind, but that's not why I'm writing this post.

I did a lot of thinking this holiday weekend about my drug use and post-use life. I thought a lot about the psychology behind suffering withdrawal symptoms, and why it just seems so hard. I think establishing reference points to PAWS can be beneficial -- i.e., try to think about other things that could conceivably be worse than suffering PAWS (at least the physical symptoms).

I thought about the non-PAWS-related physical pain I've suffered in my life. I've had broken bones, I've gone through stomach flus, full-body flus, suffered badly twisted knees and ankles, gone through multi-day hangovers, broken (yes, broken) my front teeth in an accident, collapsed a lung, and I've suffered a few separated/dislocated shoulder accidents. For many of the incidents above, I can confidently say that they were physically more painful than having restless legs, aching joints, chills, etc. Think of the times you have broken a bone or torn a ligament, how painful is that? I suffered a collapsed lung AND fractured ribs at the same time, and that physical pain was stronger in intensity than any of these aches I've suffered. Hell, I've had some bad flus that have lasted 5-6 days that were much worse than the PAW symptoms -- hot head, chilly sweats, aching spine/lungs/knees/head, puking, diarrhea, etc.

So why do we fear and despise withdrawal symptoms from opiates if we've gone through worse physical pain?

In my opinion, this fear and anxiety for PAWS (at least for me) is psychological. For weeks, months, years, we think about the accumulating guilt that comes with this lonely addiction. We become withdrawn socially. We skirt our engagements and obligations. We spend oodles of money. We lie and lie and lie. We fall behind on work. We turn the phone off when we're getting more drugs. All of these things lead to an ever-growing pile of guilt in our heads, and we know it. The guilt only goes away when we satiate our brain with that quick and intense high, only to be left with that residual depression and guilt when we come down from that high. It is this guilt that leads us to fearing PAWS, in my opinion.

You see, in this world, when you are guilty of something, YOU ARE PUNISHED. You commit a crime, you are punished with incarceration. You break a rule in school, you are suspended. You break something in the house as a child, you are spanked. When you take opiates to escape this real world, you are punished with PAWS. We keep feeling guilty while using these drugs, and we know that when we do get caught -- er, when we finally stop -- we will undoubtedly, inevitably be PUNISHED with joint aches, sleepless nights, depression, anxiety, chills, sweats, diarrhea and other unpleasantries. We deserve it, and that's why we fear and despise withdrawal symptoms so much.

When I broke my bones or separated my shoulder, they were blindingly painful experiences. But I knew that those accidents didn't occur because of my doing. They did not stem from my guilty wrongdoing. They were just a consequence of freakish sports injuries. They were more painful than any of the opiate symptoms I've suffered, but I'd much, MUCH rather break a bone than go through withdrawal symptoms. Why? Because during this whole punishment period, during the whole withdrawal process, I am thinking about how stupid and guilty I was about abusing opiates. When I broke my bone, I was upset but I didn't feel sad or guilty. In fact, I felt positive and hopeful that I'll eventually be back to strength, that my bones will heal stronger. I welcomed physical rehab. But when I went through a 100% sleepless night because of Oxy withdrawal, all I could think about was how I deserved this, how my life has fallen apart because of this drug.

The following is my tip to everyone going through the depression and anxiety of withdrawing from opiates, and it's a difficult task. Ready? What you have to do in order to get past this is.... YOU MUST FORGIVE YOURSELF. You must forgive yourself for all of this. You made a mistake, but you have to accept it and be stronger for this mishap. You have to forgive yourself for letting your life get to this point. I know that once I started forgiving myself for getting myself into all of this, everything started to appear brighter. The physical symptoms were more bearable. Don't think of these withdrawal symptoms as your body's way of punishing you!!! Rather, think of these physical symptoms as the last tiny little remnants of the Evil Drug leaving your body, clawing, scratching, scraping your body on its way to the exit. This Devil is leaving your body, and it's doing everything in its power to cling on to you before YOU PUSH IT OUT FOREVER. This is not the drug punishing you -- this is you punishing the drug. Make it leave the body and never come back. Of course it's not leaving without a fight. But you will win this fight. There's this saying at my gym: When the weight feels like it's pushing you through the floor.... PUSH IT THROUGH THE ROOF! When the residual opiates are leaving your body, trying to physically hurt you on its way out... squeeze the last remainders of the drug THE F--- OUT!
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Avatar universal

Again, this is Day 6 for me, and while the 1st two days were a cinch, the 3rd-5th days were a little tough physically. I welcomed it as a challenge: Me vs. the Drug. I feel like I've beaten the worst of the withdrawal symptoms, and it started with me forgiving myself and empowering myself with the mentality to KILL this drug. I've been working out regularly, eating better, my sex drive has come back (yay), and I have even smiled quite a bit. Today felt like the first day I had full control of MY LIFE. Imagine that -- CONTROL of life. I woke up, jogged 3 miles, lifted weights for an hour, washed my car, got my hair cut, and even wrote a legal brief I had been putting off for weeks (thanks to my Oxy high at work). I'm not going to mislead, however. I do get some tiny stretches of depression, but I remind myself that it's chemical and it is NOT because my life is lonely or not filled with joy. The brain needs time to heal. The depression is not your life manifesting itself into sadness into your brain. Rather, the brain is chemically imbalanced when it goes through depression. Just remember, the depression is not your fault.

On a related note, during my drug use I became increasingly sad and distraught at work. I realized today that it wasn't because I hated my job, but because this drug addiction had taken my work over. I started falling behind at work. I started becoming paranoid that coworkers knew about my addiction. I started becoming more withdrawn with coworkers. With those feelings, I started putting more work off. The more I put work off, the lower my self esteem was. The lower my self esteem was, the less work I did. And around she goes. I realized today that I DO love my job, but I must take control of it. I could not keep putting off work. I had been getting "A Case of the Mondays" just about everyday because I felt useless, guilty, insecure, and paranoid. But tomorrow is a new day where I can take control of my job, and where I can feel like I'm contributing to society.

Avatar universal
Also, I want to say that there is a lot of joy in this world. There is a lot of innocence in this world, even though we may feel like after such drug use this world is dark, lonely, and filled with corruption.

Yesterday, I took my cousin to the movies. He's 11 and autistic, and has real troubles forming sentences without slurring. There were two rather precocious things he said that really touched me, that really reminded me that I should not live my life in a fog. First, I asked him if he was excited to watch Ice Age. Let me say that his parents (my aunt and uncle) are good parents, but don't really have the financial means to give him a normal childhood. Also, because he's autistic, I think his parents feel like it's ok to not give him that childhood. Back to his answer to, "Are you excited for the movie?" He said, slightly slurring, "Yes. I am so excited, I am so happy. Thank you for this. Thank you...for my life." He may not fully understand the impact of his words, but it brought tears to my eyes. This kid, who has a far more deprived childhood than I ever had, was so thankful for his life. His LIFE. With his words, I realized it was time for me to realize that MY LIFE should be lived vigorously, joyously and most importantly, FREELY.

The second thing he said was just as touching, although I don't know if it applies to getting over drugs. After the movie, he put the 3D glasses in his pocket to bring home. The 3D glasses are supposed to remain with the theater to be recycled, but he took them anyway. I let him. As we left, I told him "You know, those glasses may not work on your TV. It only works on these movies." He said, "I know, but sometimes you just have to try." I was taken aback. Here I was, trying to ruin all innocence of a child, and he retorts with that! It reminded me that there's a lot of good and innocence in this world. You just have to find it.

Lastly, our bodies are fully equipped to deal with the ups and downs of life. A lot of us resorted to drugs when we were stressed, coping with a lost loved one, lonely, etc. Those are the obvious downs. But drugs are not the answer. These are just obstacles, and these obstacles make up our life. We must learn to deal with adversity, negativity, painful moments soberly.... just like our bodies were made to. We must overcome these hard times under our own strength and not behind a cloud of opiates. I lost my father when I was 22, and I dealt with it soberly. Although I still miss him and experienced sadness with his death, I never became as DEPRESSED as I do at times with my depression. I took Oxy to deal with work stress, and honestly there were times during my Oxy use where I felt a ton more depressed with my job than I ever did with my dad's passing. That's just not right! I dealt with my father's death the right way, with sobriety. That gave me strength now to live everyday without him while still missing him. With my job stress, I took drugs and never found a way to soberly deal with it. That made me feel less and less powerful, more and more insecure, and consequently depressed.

These obstacles make up our lives. That is what makes life so great, wonderful, etc. When we hurdle these obstacles, we can subsequently enjoy the natural highs of life.

Like I said, our bodies are equipped to enjoy life, there's no need to medicate in order to be happy (save for the chemically depressed people, bipolars etc.) When we're hungry, we can eat the delicious foods in this world. When we are, um, horny... we have sex. When we finish a jog, we get runner's high. When we want to laugh, we watch TV. When are tired, sometimes a nap can be even better than any high.

Our bodies are equipped to enjoy life. Let's not damage the equipment by abusing drugs.

These posts are all a long way of saying....there is light at the end of the tunnel. My tunnel may seem shorter than others (because I only used Oxies for less than 2 months), but there were times I wondered if there was any light. There is! And oh boy.... is it bright!
Avatar universal
Nicely said,   I’m right behind you on day 3 off oxys, I understand the work situation, about the loss of motivation the low self esteem, the isolation from co-workers and especially the paranoia of the co-workers thinking I was high…. I know they knew, but, slowly as I’ve weaned down before I quit, I have gained some credibility with my coworkers. Like you I’ve worked so hard to get into a career that is honorable and helpful to others, if I continue the road to nowhere that is exactly where I will end up. Day 1 was horrid, Day 2 was bad, so today Day 3, not as bad, and I went swimming, I socialized with people and went to an AA meeting… today, Im just sneezing, and runny nose and light headed. I’m with you…. This has now become more of a challenge or actually an experiment for me to kick its butt and get thru this because I can. Thanks for saying it all better than I could. You are an inspiration to us quitters!! Keep us posted.
Avatar universal
Oh, and this song totally made me feel stronger:


Michael Jackson "Man in the Mirror"

Yeah, yeah, not the best role model but the words still ring true to me.
917008 tn?1251223979
Thoughtful, articulate, and inspiring.

Avatar universal
I gotta say, Guts, Persistance, Focus, Determination, and knowing that the light at the end of the tunnel isn't a train headed toward you, it's the Freedom Train that we all want to ride on for the rest of our lives!!

Good reading guys, keep it up! :)

Ella  .........  been on this train since Feb. 16th and  I gotta ticket to ride!!
736475 tn?1281259327
beware that the circle of light at the end of you tunnel isn't a freight train headed for you
Avatar universal
THANK YOU FOR THAT!!! I think we all need to follow your advice. awesome post!!  thanks
980052 tn?1262967079
WELL SAID!! (or written)
Avatar universal
You made my actually cry...in a good way. Thank you. I feel better already. I honestly do.
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