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This is a long read but if you're struggling with opiate withdrawal my story might help.
I was first prescribed codeine after dental surgery, nothing much came of it but I knew I liked the feeling.
The second time was after I broke my thumb. Coincidentally I was also going through some upheaval in my life, and I discovered very quickly that the codeine soothed this just as much as my injury.
For the several years that followed, I would buy a pack of codeine here and there to soothe my anxiety. This escalated to daily use of between 60-150 nurofen plus pills before I even knew what was happening.
I had a local pharmacy that would supply me with two packets per day without fail. There were three others who would supply me with one packet if not daily, then every other day.
I was both amazed and relieved that it was actually that easy, but I guess in their eyes I was a customer in corporate wear who drove a nice car, had a good job and was always polite and friendly.
I actually couldn't tell you how many times I tried to stop, I'd get anywhere up to 3-4 days and bust when the diarrhoea, night sweats, insomnia, exhaustion and RLS got too bad. In my mind I needed to function in life and was getting life done on pills.
Eventually I went overseas for a wedding. I stocked up over the week prior and smuggled 11 packets in various checked and carry on luggage so as not to arouse suspicion going through customs. I even conned my doctor into giving me a note saying I needed it for back pain just in case. Despite all this preparation, I ran out halfway though my holiday and was forced into detoxing as I was unable to get any more until I got home.
In the departure lounge coming home I was ready to tear my skin from my body and after a 7 hour flight delay, my scrambled brain decided the only thing for it was Valium. The whole packet of Valium. I don't remember clearing customs when I got home, what I do remember is waking up after I passed out behind the wheel driving home from the airport and had comletely wrecked my car. I was lucky to be alive, but that wasn't the first time my life was put at risk that week.
I was able to get my hands on more pills the following day, but by then I was so unwell from the detox that I couldn't keep them down.
Two days later I was hospitalised. My body had shut down to the point that I was at serious risk of heart failure (I am a 35 year old woman) and needed to be fed potassium 24 hours a day through an intravenous drip for a week so that my muscle function could return to minimum levels.
The next 2 weeks were unequivocally the worst days of my life. Every symptom of withdrawal there is, I had. The insomnia, the night sweats (on the odd occasion that I did achieve R.E.M. sleep), RLS, anxiety and of course the one you never seem to hear about; the exhaustion. I couldn't even do the dishes without needing to lie down afterwards.
Then it started to get better.
After 2 weeks I could perform my job and get most things done. I was sleeping and eating more.
After 3 weeks I was functioning almost normally day to day.
After 5 weeks the night sweats and RLS stopped.
I won't lie, there where many moments during that time when I was convinced things wouldn't get better. But they did and my life has been a daily blessing ever since.
That was 13 months ago and I have never looked back, and for what they're worth, these are the things that helped me through:
- TELL SOMEONE. You need someone to keep you accountable, but most importantly (and I can't emphasise this enough) you need someone to acknowledge and celebrate your milestones. When someone loses weight or quits smoking, everyone tells you how great you're doing. That won't happen here, most people will have no idea what you've achieved, so you need trusted loved ones to cheer you on.
- DRINK PLENTY OF WATER. If you can, drink water with dissolvable electrolytes in it. As much as possible. Your body needs to heal and this is a great foundation.
- MAKE HEALTHY MEALS. I know you're exhausted and cooking anything is a drain, but if you make something like a healthy soup (no canned stuff, you're body will not thank you for that) you can make a lot of it at once and just heat up a bowl as you need it.
- BE KIND AND PATIENT WITH YOURSELF. This is difficult, and that's ok. Have a cry, ask for a hug. Your cheerleaders will be more than happy to oblige.
Good luck and don't give up, you've got this xx
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