When I was younger, I was appalled at how many pills my mother took. She was extremely ill, emphysema, cancer, osteoporosis. She died at 59, after the doctors mistook an ovarian cyst to be scar tissue. I wish I had known then what I now know. Mary Lou had every symptom of Ovarian cancer, the extreme bloating, constipation, pain and upset stomach. When the doctor came in to the waiting room, I had to be held back by my siblings-the jerk never listened to her, I was there when he did an exam after her complaining: he felt her stomach and abdomen-she was fully clothed, why bother right? I was there when he told her she was “fine, absolutely fine.”
What shocked me, after her death, was the bottles and bottles of Ativan-she took 4 a day, and I thought that to be too much, too addicting, too sedating. Now? I take Ativan daily. As a prn. Ironically, the first time I ever took one was the day of her funeral. Surrounded by friends, I fell asleep on the couch-and didn’t wake up until the following morning. What addict is going to turn that away? It was easier to let the melodic pull of oblivion take me away, to dreamless sleep and few cares, if any.
Today I take 200 mg. of Zoloft, 2 mg. Suboxyne for opiate addiction (down from 8 mg. and let me tell you, it was rough, really rough to taper) and one Trazadone for sleep. My husband thinks this appalling, but I have fought hard to maintain an appearance of normality-in an increasingly abnormal world.
I can tell you that as a nurse, EMT and hospice worker, I could not get into the Suboxyne program soon enough. I was in a dirty city, walking the streets of dilapidated houses, children in various stages of undress, and very scary men, who gathered on street corners to deal their goods, help a friend in “need.” I asked a few of them, but as white on rice as I look? They didn’t touch me with a ten foot pole. Looking back, I think they thought me a cop.
I was working as a private duty nurse, and volunteering at a local hospice. I was starting to face withdrawal from OxyContin, and I didn’t want to be the girl who steals patient’s pills. My cousin by marriage (not a normal person in that family) ran a methadone clinic, and rehab. I had attended that rehab until our fearless leader Tony called me out on missing a class, in front of the entire room. When you quit drinking you are wired out of your mind, so many emotions coming from one heart-it’s maddening and exciting at the same time. I told him off, asked why he allowed drinkers and cokeheads to use in our meetings (was this even remotely fair to the others who were serious about recovery?) and slammed out the door. He wasn’t going to use me as an example when people were slumped in their chairs, or re-dusting the entire room, like the energizer bunny on crack.
Anyway, back to Scott. I called him from my locked car that very day. I told him where I was, and I asked if I could come to the methadone clinic to talk to him. He shut me down, but two minutes later? I heard a commercial about Suboxyne: it has served me well, saved my career and, most likely, my life. My advice to anyone starting the program? Start at a really low milligram, that way you won’t have to detox every time you take a step down. I ended up calling my girlfriend one morning, I literally couldn’t move, I was that weak.
“I can’t take it. Would you please take me to the doctor?”
The good doctor had taken me off, cold turkey. We had argued about my use of cannabis, and I stormed out-only to return a week later, begging for mercy. And, thankfully, that is exactly what I was given.
What I would like to say is, don’t let anyone convince you to go off of any medication you may be taking for your mental health, especially if the plan is working. Do I like having to take meds on a daily basis? NO. But one day, perhaps, the stigma will stop. No matter, because I have come to the point where I just don’t care what others think.
It’s not their body. It’s not their mind. It’s none of their business.