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I Avoided Medication Assisted Recovery Until I Couldn’t

When I was actively using drugs, there was nothing more terrifying to me than the idea of getting on methadone. I was not opposed to being an addict, but I couldn’t imagine being “chained to the clinic” or having to go every single day. Afraid of being on the clinic forever, I avoided it at all costs.

I knew people who had been on medication-assisted recovery for five to ten years or longer and their lives had not improved—so I did not see it as a way out of active addiction. In my vastly under-informed opinion, it was just a way to work the system and get your buzz for free. Somehow, injecting myself in my fingers and toes with a syringe I found in an alley in Boston’s Chinatown meant I was above a government-subsidized high. Subsidized, because I had no health insurance and got free care from the state due to my chronic homelessness. Clearly, I was under the impression I had it all together.

Somehow, injecting myself in my fingers and toes with a syringe I found in an alley in Boston’s Chinatown meant I was above a government-subsidized high.

But then I became pregnant and could not get sober. My downward spiral was faster than it had been in years and it was out of control. I made many attempts to detox with little to no success. I continued to refuse medication-assisted recovery at the prenatal appointments I did manage to attend, even though the clinic was designed to help pregnant women find recovery.

Until they laid it out—they told me if I got on Subutex or methadone, I’d have a better chance at being able to keep my son. I have no idea if this true, but I agreed to try it because I wanted to keep my son once he was born.

I attempted to get on Subutex first but because of some red tape and paperwork, I ended up with methadone instead. I was still fighting it internally, but outwardly I agreed. I was hospitalized for a few days to get set in a dose and then I began attending the outpatient clinic.

I didn’t believe it would work and I was terrified of being sick or of being on methadone forever. I handed in urine samples with bags of drugs I had “tucked” (hidden inside my vagina) because I was so afraid of the whole situation.

I did not get sober right away. I continued to use up until I was seven months pregnant—12 days before my son was born. I did not raise my dose very high, in fear of not being able to come down eventually. I shot dope every single day those first couple months, using just so I could get up and go to the clinic.

You know what? The nurses didn’t judge me. The counselor was kind to me. I attended a mom group as part of my treatment. Other women shared their experiences with me. When Sam was born and I was terrified they would take him, that counselor and those women were there for me.

I stayed sober for the 12 days before he was born.

I stayed sober for the 12 days before he was born. Once I cleared up and was only on methadone, I started paying attention. I gained weight.

I delivered at 130 lbs. I looked like I was dead—but I could participate in my own life and my son’s. I took the clinic’s suggestions and attended 12 step and went to long-term treatment even though my son was in the NICU and couldn’t come with me right away.

I moved home to my subsidized apartment for chronically homeless folk and started going to more 12 step and therapy. I knew I didn’t want to continue the long journey into town on public transportation every day. My son needed lots of medical care and it was exhausting. I found some friends in recovery and quietly told them my situation. I asked for help and support in getting off methadone.

I also started coming off my dose and that was hard. It was very difficult to get my dose decreased, and I would have to ‘put in’ and wait for approval every single time. I did learn that right after you have a baby, they can do a few quick decreases and I took advantage of those.

It was a slower process than I would have liked, for sure. Many times, I was frustrated, angry, and confused at the system. I leaned heavily on my mom group, the case managers and the new support network I found near my home.  I was doing some work on myself through 12 step and I was kind of ashamed I was on medication. Some people judge others for that or say you aren’t clean or sober if you are on medication-assisted recovery. So, I stayed away from those people. I worked hard. I did all my appointments, kept custody of my kids, got my DCF case closed.

Methadone helped me build a bridge between using life and mom-in-recovery life.

Methadone helped me build a bridge between using life and mom-in-recovery life.  I continued going to the clinic and appointments. I was proud the first time I passed in a urine sample that only had methadone in it. I was proud the first time I woke up and hadn’t stuck a needle in me or my unborn child in over 24 hours. Those are the freedoms I gained from attempting methadone. For me, the need to use was filled by this med until I could heal enough to not want to be on it anymore. I also learned so many stigmas aren’t true, I just needed to be clear enough to learn to be open-minded.

Some people are on methadone or Suboxone or whatever for years and are super successful and amazing moms, partners and employees. Some people use it for a short time (like me) and find other ways to stay sober. I have friends both on meds and off. It doesn’t matter what someone else’s recovery path is. What matters is what works for you. Recovery is such a personal journey.

The 11 months I spent on methadone taught me so much. It broke through so many stigmas and untrue ideas that I had about medication-assisted recovery. I got to smash my own ideas and achieve my own goals. I was not on the clinic “forever”. And so what if I was? Taking that chance allowed me to build the foundation for a beautiful life. I wouldn’t change anything about my experience, and I hope that if I ever needed the clinic again, that I would not hesitate to ask for help.

Fuck what you heard. Try everything until you find what works for you.

Sober Mommies Contributor Nicole St. Pierre

Nicole is an East Coast mama in long-term recovery. A survivor of all the things, she is a fierce advocate for women, loves the “f-word,” practices kindness, and loves patchwork. Nicole is a newly single mom living north of Boston with her two sons.

One Comment on “I Avoided Medication Assisted Recovery Until I Couldn’t

  1. This is amazing! Thank you for sharing this! I too struggled with being in recovery (with being on Subutex ie MAT) but here I am 2 1/2 years later living a wonderful and fulfilled life with my fiancé, 2 children, dog and 2 fish! Thank you again for sharing this!

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