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Newbie --

I am 28 days clean from a vicodin addiction that lasted over two years. Even though it was "only" vicodin and not as strong as the percocet, I was taking as many as 18 pills per day and was completely terrified and miserable. Just like you, each time I got a prescription I would tell myself I would "do better" and wean myself off once and for all. Unfortunately, and there's no getting around this, the addiction is bigger than we are, and we need outside help in some form if we are to get clean. I believe your first step in helping yourself is to speak to someone, anyone, about what first steps you might take to overcome your addition. There are various options. You are not alone, you are not to blame, and you CAN get yourself well. Please don't feel it's hopeless. You do need to decide to take the first step toward recovery, however. From tiny steps come bigger ones, etc. It's not easy, but I have faith you can do it.

Here's what happened to me. About a month ago I went to my regular doctor (I had a few doctors prescribing the meds for me since one would never prescribe enough to support my habit) to tell him yet another b.s. story about how much my back hurt and how I needed another prescription. He started asking about the pain and I blurted out, "My problem is not my back pain. My problem is that I take too much vidodin."

The moment it came out of my mouth, I was overcome with panic that I'd blown my cover -- I couldn't believe how "stupid" I was for opening my mouth. After all, confessing meant the first step toward not taking pills, and that was terrifying. At the same time though, I felt the biggest sense of relief I'd felt in two years. He put me on a schedule of gradual tapering from the vicodin and encouraged me to tell my husband. Let me tell you, I was so frightened to tell my husband about my addiction. I assumed he would be furious and not understanding at all. I don't know your situation, of course, but I learned to my great relief that my spouse had much more room for understanding than I ever would have given him credit for. Anyway, it will be for you to decide whether to tell your spouse right away or not. Perhaps he already knows about the problem?? Anyway...

A friend who is a substance abuse therapist suggested that tapering is sometimes not the easiest way to go and he told me that there are doctors who specialize in helping you detox without checking in to a facility. Inpatient detox was not an option for me because I have young kids. I saw one of these doctors (I'll bet there's at least one in your area) and he was extremely compassionate. He also told me I had to stop the vicodin immediately and he gave me several prescriptions to get me through the withdrawal. One was a chlonodine patch, to combat cravings, anxiety and jitters. The other main prescription was pheno-barbital, which makes you kind of like a zombie but prevents intense withdrawal cravings. He also gave me a sleep aid, another prescription to prevent seizures (which can occur when one detoxes, although I believe it's rare), another for nausea/vomiting and another for diarrhea. I spent 3 days in a fog, but then I realized I didn't need as much of the medicine as prescribed, so with the doctor's approval I cut back on a lot of it. Within ten days I was over 95% of the physical withdrawal. I didn't even need most of the medicine -- I had them on hand "just in case."

The main point is that, after two years, I had overcome the physical withdrawal within less than two weeks. You can do it too -- I have faith in you because one short month ago I felt completely hopeless and now things are under control. I'm still taking it one day at a time -- it's not a piece of cake -- but anything beats the madness of addiction.

In addition to all of this "medical" stuff, I went to an AA meeting right after I confessed to my doctor, just so I could encounter others who had overcome addition. I was surprised and relieved to find many others who had had problems with narcotic pills, not just alcohol. I never though I'd wind up at one of these meetings -- it just wasn't "me", but it's one of the best things I've ever done. The environment is extremely supportive and understanding. You are not alone in your suffering and the people there will help you see this and help you if and when your cravings continue. You may or may not decide staying with their program is right for you -- I still don't know for myself but I'm exploring it -- but in the short-term I think you'll find it helpful. No one has to know you're attending the meeting.

I still have feelings -- psychological and emotional -- of wanting to take vicodin and I imagine it will take awhile for those feelings to go away completely, but I am in so much better a place than I was a month ago that I thought it was important for you to know my story. A month from now, you can be in a much different place than you're in now. I wish you all the best and I hope to learn about your progress.
- Bellgirl

I think you have the best advice already, face the problem now and get off these evil preparations.

I went through a similar experience 18 months ago and I can assure you you won't die and if you get the right additional medication the withdrawal is manageable and for me was only bad for about 5 days.

One point I would stress is that when you are through there is a gap left in your life. This is not just for the physical pain relief but also the psychological need for a "fix".

I fortunately had the luxury of inpatient stay in a private psychiatric clinic (I was admitted for a totally diffrerent reason but they saw my scripts and knew I was in trouble).

That clinic also had an addiction unit dealing with everything from heroin to shoplifting, even chocolate addictions so I was enrolled on their program as well. I had no choice but to "cold turkey" (that or walk out, which would probably not have been allowed) but with several medications to ease the withdrawal I agreed.

Their program relies heavily on the 12 step approach and the objective is to have completed (??) steps 4/5 before leaving. Their program takes 28 days so you can see that a week of detox is only the start, the rest is learning to cope with the psychological effects rather than the physical dependence.

I mention all this because AA/NA and the 12 step programme can "fill the void" for a lot of people.

I can only recommend it as an "approach" because I don't read the "black book" or attend many meetings these days but when I get complacent I go back and remind myself where I started from. More important is that when I need to then I know where to find people who will listen without criticising and who can give sound empirical advice.

I need opioid medication for neuritic problems and fought for a year without but now am back on them but I keep them for when I really need, not when I might want them. In addition my Doctor keeps a very close watch and changes the choice of medication regularly (that is the one thing I blame the profession for, leaving me unchecked on automatic repeat prescriptions for so long until I ended up in a mess!).

I also research and am not afraid to tell them when I think they are not giving me the best treatment.

I hope that helps, stick in there and the results are worth it - take my word for it.

BTW my dependency problems started with post-operative medication after a back problem, only "post-operative" in this case lasted 10 YEARS! How many times have we heard that story?

Hi Verylucky,

Thanks again, for all the great advice! As far as coming clean with my doctor, I am to scared to do that. I worry that he will cut me off of the meds in a snap, and just let me go through withdrawl, because he doesn't care. I have asked him before, how do I get of these pills when I feel better, and he has said to me on several occasions,"you just stop taking them and go through the withdrawl, you will be uncomfortable, but it has never killed anyone yet." My doctor is not a very compassionate doctor and never has been. So to be honest with you, that is the reason why I haven't come clean yet with my doctor, because it scares the sh** out of me. If you could suggest something on this, I would appreciate it, because I would like to tell him.

I hope you don't mind me asking you a few questions. You had mentioned in your post that going cold turkey rarely works for anyone, why is this? Is it because the withdrawls are that bad? You also had suggested either try tapering or inpatient detox, which one do you think would be better/easier? I think after reading your post, there is no way that I would be able to go cold turkey if you couldn't do it. I am a wimp when it comes to pain and being sick, and I will be the first to admit it. So if you are as tough as you say you are, and the withdrawls beat your a**, well thats enough to scare me from going cold turkey so I guess I will rule that way OUT!

You also had mentioned in your post that you went through inpatient, so if you don't mind me asking, can you tell me what they did for you and what you went through when you were going through detox? Such as what did they give you, ow long the program was and ect....

Also, you had mentioned that my body would crave and obsess over the drugs after I quit. I was under the assumption that once they were out of my system, I would be okay, is this not true? I feel so stupid asking you these questions, but this is all new to me, and I want to be prepared.

So I think what is being said is, not only do I have to get through the withdrawls, but I also have to go through the cravings? How long does this last?

One last thing, you had mentioned AA/NA. Please correct me if I am wrong, it seems to me that what you are saying is, AA is better then NA? I was under the assumption that AA was for acoholics, and NA was for drug users, could you please clarify this for me. Does AA give better support then NA? I will wait for you to post back to me on this. Geeeez, I feel so stupid! I am so sorry for asking you all of these questions.

Again Lucky, thank you so much for all the great information. I hope that with all this great advice that you have giving me, I will able to go through this process and know what is going to happen to me as I go through it.

I wish you the best in all that you do, and please take care of yourself. Thank you for taking the time and helping me. I am very grateful for your help.

Take Care,
Don't ever hesitate to ask questions of other addicts. I consider it a privilege and part of my 12th step work in sharing my experience, strength and hope.

As far as coming clean with your doc is concerned, I would be scared too if that was my doc's attitude. I personally think it is unethical, immoral and a violation of the hypocratic oath for a doctor to give you narcotics for an extended period of time and then say you have to "tough it out" to get clean. That is total bullsh*t. Call around and see if you can't find an addictionologist or at least a general practitioner that has some understanding of addiction and see if they will help you taper if you choose that route. If you have any treatment centers in your area (most larger hospitals have them), that would probably be a good place to start.

As far as me saying that cold turkey rarely works, I kinda wish I hadn't been so strong in that statement. You will see people on here all the time that have been able to get thru the W/Ds. However, my experience is that they are the exception as opposed to the rule. In my opinion, that is because the pain and depression is so intense that the thought of a little pill relieving the suffering is just too big a temptation to overcome when you hit the 2nd, 3rd or 4th day. I know it was for me. I would get to the point where I would just give in an say to myself that it was better to be addicted than to try and live that way.

I think I've really overstated the severity of W/Ds to you as well. Don't get me wrong, they are bad but they won't kill you unless you are also withdrawing from benzos (valium, etc.). It really is a humbling experience for me (which is good) to think that I can bench press a Mack truck but a little pill that weighs only fractions of an ounce could whip me.

I think the inpatient form of detox was the best for me because if I was in a controlled setting then I couldn't leave to get the drugs that I would crave so badly during the first few days of withdrawals. The typical inpatient stay is usually between 4-7 days. Up until a few years ago, they really took a medieval approach about detoxing and, basically, just made you suffer thru them as a "reminder" of what you had done to yourself. I think most places are much more sympathetic nowadays and they will at least give you some clonodine which is a blood pressure medication that will take some of the edge off but you will not be comfortable by any means. Some facilities even go so far as to give you benzos to help with the anxiety and sleep aids such as ambien.

During withdrawals you will experience deep muscle pain. I can't really describe the pain other than to say that it was so deep in my body that I couldn't massage where it was. You will also probably experience hot/cold sweats, restless legs (you just can't get comfortable), elevated blood pressure, lethargy (I felt like I was carrying a ton of bricks around on my back), slight fever, insomnia (which lasted a month for me) and, worst of all, depression. All of these symptoms can be managed with the right meds - valium, mega vitamins, clonodine, etc.-- and exercise. Gosh, I know I'm not painting a pretty picture but I'm telling you exactly what I experienced. I hope others will chime in and let you know their experiences (hopefully, some of those will be a little less dire than what I've told you).

Now, for the craving issue. Technically, the cravings actually go away after you are detoxed because your body is no longer needing the narcotics to function. However, the mental obsession will kick in after you have detoxed. This is when you think about the pills non-stop and is why you need to stay in touch with others that have been thru the same thing (i.e. AA/NA meetings). The mental obsession part (a lot of people, including myself, call it craving but the professionals say it is purely mental after detoxing) can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to years but they always get less and less frequent and less powerful the further you get from your last pill.

I really don't advocate AA over NA but have found that there is usually much more sobriety in the AA meetings so those are usually the ones I prefer because I like to hear the people that have been clean for 5, 10, 15 and more years share their experience, strength and hope. It is rare to find an NA meeting where you have that much clean time. I don't think that is because one is better than the other but more a function of the fact that AA has been around for so much longer than NA. Lots of addicts go to AA meetings only. Up until a few years ago, there were some AA meetings that wouldn't allow narcotics to be discussed. Those meetings, thank goodness, are few and far between now.

I think I've touched on just about everything you asked. If not (or if you have any additional questions), please ask away. I was very serious when I said I consider it a privilege to share my experience -- in fact, it helps me stay clean to do so. Also, if there are others out there that can add to what I've told Creeky, please drop a line.

Take care,
Hi Creeky -

I'm so glad my response was helpful to you. One thing I'm learning is that it helps me in my own recovery to be able to help others who are suffering from something similar. So in helping you, I am also helping myself - thanks for that!

I am eager to help you find a doctor who could help you detox on an outpatient basis. I don't know what city or part of the country you live in, but I have a close friend who is a therapist specializing in substance abuse (How strange is that? He and I spent our college years drinking quarts of tequila together, dropping acid, taking quaaludes and other mind-altering substances too numerous to mention. Fortunately for him, he stopped the madness years ago.). He is the one who suggested a doctor to me, since we both live in the same city. I am going to ask him how you might find someone in your area. If you want to be more specific about where you live, I can give him that information. But if you prefer not to (totally understandable and your call), maybe he can still help. I feel pretty sure he'll have at least one or two suggestions for how to proceed.

The main thing I want you to know is that you are going to be okay. I can feel how relieved you are, as I was, to find the support of everyone on this site. There are many others out there who understand! Just your communicating is the first step toward recovery. Remember as I said before, from tiny steps come bigger ones.

Yes, I feel a tremendous sense of relief at being over the physical withdrawal. You asked about the positive and negative feelings I have on my road to recovery. The positives are abundant. I am no longer compelled to swallow pills all day, to watch the clock agonizing over when I could take my next "dose," to compulsively count pills and plan how to scam the next doctor into giving me more, to lie to my husband about why I'm too tired to have sex or even engage in intelligent conversation after 9 pm, to feel the mind-blowing guilt and shame of losing patience with my beautiful children for no good reason...I could go on. That part of the insanity is OVER. It will be over for you soon too because you are committed to getting well.
Sobriety is a tremendous, serene relief.

The negatives are undeniable but they pale in comparison. It would sound crazy to a non-addict, but a part of me misses the vicodin! I can't believe it's true, but my addicted, irrational side wishes at times that I could just go back to taking a pill or two once in awhile just for fun. The fact that those days are over sometimes makes me sad. This is the most puzzling part for me, and one which I need to be extremely careful about. I have friends who take vicodin on occasion recreationally, and I know the time will come when someone will offer me a couple of pills just to get silly and relax -- or an unknowing doctor or dentist will offer to prescribe them for me. I know I have to stay on my toes always to avoid succumbing to the temptation. That's how it is with addicts. And that's why the AA meetings have been really helpful. I understand that it would NOT be okay for me to take even one vicodin a year or two from now. It's a slippery slope toward relapse. So that's one negative. Another is that I still have some trouble sleeping at night. I have trouble falling asleep and don't always sleep through without waking. This is a pain, because I love to sleep and need my rest to keep up with my three kids -- but others tell me it definitely gets better. Resuming a normal sleep pattern is often one of the most time-consuming parts of overcoming physical addiction to narcotics.

It's late and I'm pretty tired (I'm in NY right now visiting family and it's almost 1:00 am) so I'm sure I've left out some things. When I think of them I'll post again. For now I'll just say that the positives FAR outweigh the negatives. I have my life back, not to mention my self-esteem. I am a clear-thinking, capable, devoted mother, spouse, daughter and friend once again. You will be too. Let me know if you have more questions. God bless you.
- Bellgirl

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