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long but it was long enough for me to develop serious depression DURING use, causing me to become increasingly socially withdrawn.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!