JUNKe Life

Got to admit it’s getting better…
June 11, 2007, 10:58 am
Filed under: JUNKe life

Actually my life is a lot less chaotic these past couple years.  Even though I’m still using daily, I’m not running around in what’s referred to as “the life” these days.  I attribute my current stability to methadone maintenance.

I’m no longer on methadone maintenance, and haven’t been for about three years.  However, it was methadone maintenance that got me out of “the life” and enabled me to get my life straightened out, so to speak.

What’s so great about methadone maintenance.  Well, it isn’t the methadone.  It’s the maintenance.  Maintenance is being prescribed a daily dose of an opiate (in this case, methadone).  By being able to have one’s habit provided through a doctor’s prescription, one no longer has to scramble to make money, and to score.  Therefore, one is able to removed oneself from the drug scene since one’s reason for being in it in the first place is to find drugs.  Now that  the drugs come from a pharmacy one doesn’t need to hang with other users andealers in order to survive.

Maintenance means getting a dialy opiate drug to feed one’s opiate dependency.  Feeding the dependency is what being addicted is all about.  The imperative to feed one’s dependency is what causes people to sacrifice everything in order to keep that monkey on our backs feed.  Because we know from harsh experience, if we don’t feed it, we suffer big time.

I spent four years on maintenance and through those four years I was able to save some money, get my head back together, and eventually buy a house and move to the country.  It was actually amazing how quickly things started falling back into place when I no longer had to scramble day in and day out for drugs, and spend every damn penny I could beg, borrow and steal (yes, steal) to purchase drugs and super-inflated illicit market prices.

The first thing I purchased was a computer.  I spend a lot of time on it.  Being on the computer was a good way to fill my days when I was first on maintenance.  It gave me something to do and kept me occuppied.  That was important because it is often boredom that returns people to the street.

I spend a fair bit of time in methadone forums, chatting with other people on methadone maintenance.  Not only did I get help from others, but I was able to assist newbies in understanding the process of methadone maintenance and help them to not get frustrated when everything didn’t automatically go right.

Eventually, I went of methadone completely.  That was a big step because I hadn’t been opiate-free in nearly a decade.  In other words, every single day for almost ten years I’d taken some opiate drug – usually injecting morphine or heroin.  So to finally meet a day when I was entirely drug free was a scary, yet very liberating thing.


I went about two years without doing any drugs what-so-ever.  But then one day, while visiting a friend who was using heroin, I decided to give it a try again.  I had no intention of starting to use regularly again.  I just wanted to get high once or twice.  It blew my mind how little heroin I needed to take to get very high.  I mean, one-tenth of what I used to do just to not get sick, now got me extremely high.  So, the little bit I purchased, lasted me way longer than I expected.  Too long as it turns out.  Because I was able to do a little bit each day for six days, and then at the end of those six days, lo and behold, I was wired again.

So for the past two years I’ve been using everyday.  Caught up again in the dependency trap where I have to get some opiates into me or I’ll get very, very sick with withdrawal.  And I’m getting to the age where undergoing withdrawal (never a picnic at the best of times) would be very risky to my health.  So need and fear keep me using.

Luckily, I’m not back in the chaoitic life.  I have my schedule organized.  I score, and I score in bulk, enough to last me until I score again.  When I was penniless in the past, I could never score in bulk, and could never get ahead.  Now I’m able to do so.  Although it is getting a bit harder to keep up as the months go by because my habit keeps getting larger.

There’s a nasty little paradox with opiates and its called tolerance.  You soon are able to tolerate what just weeks ago would have been a dangerously large dose.  Through tolerance you have to keep increasing your dose just to get the same result.  Evenually you become so tolerant that you don’t hardly get high anymore, you just use so as not to get sick.

Along the way I’ve managed two university degress (undergrad and grad), gotten married, fathered a daughter, and gotten divorced.  Today, I’m happily involved with a woman whose my partner in every sense of the word.  We morgage our house together, we raise our children together, we do dope together, we work for drug users rights together.

Its tough maintaining a house and a habit, but it is infinitely easier than the hussle of “the life” and infinitely more rewarding as well.  Oh, and did I say, I intend to stop using again… someday!

2 Comments so far
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Why don’t you go back on methadone?

Comment by Emily

Why don’t I go back on methadone? That’s a good question Emily.

OK, here’s a couple of reasons why its a problem for me going back on methadone:

1) every junkie subscribes to a bit (a lot) of magical thinking. By that I mean we believe we’ll be able to get things under control by our own efforts. The old standard – “starting tomorrow I’m going to cut back and taper myself off this drug”. I too subscribe to that magical thinking. I’m constantly coming up with taper plans which I’m certain I can follow and which I believe will get me off of this drug within two months.” In fact, the higher I get, the more I subscribe to the idea that starting tomorrow I’ll begin cutting back and successfully wean myself off.

2) I live a long way in the country. Methadone access can be difficult at the best of times, but when one lives rurally it is very problematic. Because one is required to do observed ingestion of methadone for the first six months to a year of starting a maintenance program, this would mean I would have to get to the providing pharmacy every single day for a year at minimum. Well, that pharmacy is 50km distance from my front door. That’s a 100km round trip to drink my methadone dose every single day for at least a year (roughly 60 miles in American mileage). If I complied with the program well and didn’t give dirty piss tests, I would qualify for a take home dose after six months. So that would mean, six days a week I’d have to get to the pharmacy, and one day I could drink my dose at home. Eventually, over a long, long time, I could work up to full carries, and only have to go to the pharmacy once per week, and I’d get six take home doses.

That sort of daily compliance is tough, but manageable in the city, where one could even walk to a clinic or pharmacy that dispenses methadone, but for us country folks it makes it almost impossible to go on a methadone maintenance program. I mean, driving a round trip of 100km ever single day for for pretty much a couple of years, well, that just isn’t something that seems all that realistic. And its ironic, I moved this far in the country to distance myself from the drug scene. But now that I’ve started using again, it makes it almost impossible to get treatment, in this case, methadone.

3) Methadone can have some pretty unpleasant side effects. For me, its weight gain that is the major one. Last time I went on methadone I ballooned up over 60lbs within the first four months of being on the program. I’d had a steady adult weight of about 190lbs for twenty years, and then suddenly, after four months on methadone, I was a heavy 252lbs. That was horrible. Not only is that sort of weight gain a health hazard by itself, but it does a major hit on one’s sense of self-esteem. I couldn’t even recognize myself. When I looked at my arm it didn’t seem like my own arm because I had a twenty year image in my mind of what my arm appeared like, and the puffy, bloated appendage in front of my eyes just didn’t seem like mine. This extreme weight gain is a real problem. For women who’ve always had body image issues, it causes them to quit treatment. Or worse, to start taking cocaine or speed in order to cut the weight. Even guys have real body issues, and I found being heavy was a real blow to my well-being. I talked with other guys at the clinic and they said, for example, that they had never worn a t-shirt in summer ever since they’d been on methadone. They were that embarrassed of their weight gain.

It has taken me five years to work down from 252 to 220 and I can’t seem to get any lower. It is as if methadone has permanently altered my physical appearance. And worse than that, it has robbed me of my physical activeness. I used to run, shoot hops a lot, and rip around on a bike. Since methadone, I just don’t do those things anymore. In fact, when my weight was its highest, I could hardly walk without hurting myself. Why? Because my muscular skeletal system had 20 years of adulthood to get used to being a certain weight. All my muscles and tendons were developed to carry a 190lb frame. When suddenly I was 252lbs just walking would strain my tendons and in other ways be a major hardship. I’m not kidding! It was completely awful!
Because of that, I am very reticent to go back on a long term methadone program.

So, to summarize that long rap, because of those problems with methadone, I keep searching for any solution other than going back on methadone. And in fact, its those problems which is why drug user activists fight for the option of doctor’s being able to prescribe morphine (or heroin) maintenance for us. Why should we be forced onto one particular drug – with all its accompanying difficulties and side effects – when it would be so easy for a doctor just to prescribe us the drug we are using. Because it is the maintenance which is critical, not the drug one is maintained on. Getting an opiate everyday is what matters, not whether it is methadone. It is maintenance itself which is of principle importance.

I’ve used morphine for years with no side effects – in particular, I don’t gain weight. Why should I be forced onto a drug I react badly too? However, I want to emphasize, that I’m not digging my heals into the ground on that point of principle. It truly is those three points I’ve described above which makes going back on methadone difficult and not particularly appealing at this point. And I say that, even knowing that methadone (well, maintenance really) essentially saved my life when I went on it seven years ago.

Comment by opiated

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