A Teachable Moment

As addicts in recovery,we learn about ourselves. That’s what each of the steps in the program of NA are about. We gain inner knowledge as we move forward. We grow… and our recovery belongs to us alone. Nobody can tell you how to live your life in recovery. We will receive guidance along the way, but it is our decision to get clean and STAY clean. I emphasize this… I make a conscious and deliberate choice to stay clean one day, sometimes one hour or one moment at a time.

When I first got clean after 15 or more years of hard core drugging, it was recommended that I go on Suboxone. This was to ease my withdrawal, assist with chronic pain management, curb my craving for drugs, etc. I was also referred to an IOP program at SFRC.

I was told to meet with a therapist once a week in the beginning, and establish ongoing appointments with both her, and the Primary Care Physician on a regular basis. This required me to commute back and forth from the city I live in to Santa Fe, and back again home on a weekly basis. Now, in addition, I was also required to do this in order to meet obligations for work due to a Fitness-For-Duty filed against me by the supervisor. This has been a major part of my life during the past year, and has continually depleted my PTO (Paid Time Off, sick and vacation) leave balances. In addition, I have also had many unsavory experiences at this outpatient Suboxone program. BUT, I HAVE TO SAY THAT THE THERAPIST WAS AMAZING. I DID receive a lot of help from her, and was able to address most of my underlying issues with her.  I would recommend her to anyone.

I am not saying that the outpatient Suboxone programs are not useful, however, in my case they have been more of a hindrance than a help. I have been accused of lying about being clean on many occasions, because the tests they use to check your urine for drugs are not reliable. I have argued with the Primary Care Physician, and in her absence, a “Physician’s Assistant” who also did not believe me when I had positive test results for things I did not use. I got sick and tired and quite fed up frankly of having to defend myself for something I did not do. The Physician’s Assistant told me “you are not allowed to use ANY drugs in recovery and that INCLUDES Over-the-Counter medications.”  This came up because I had been very sick with the flu, and also had an allergic reaction (we think to new laundry detergent) that caused me to break out in hives.  I could not work because the itching was intolerable and the doctor where I live recommended that I take Benadryl, which also helped relieve my congestion and Theraflu which helped my flu symptoms.  This led to a false positive for Fentanyl, Oxycontin and I don’t know what else because she wouldn’t tell me.  Instead, she ordered me to go have a more extensive drug test at the lab and told me to do it immediately.  Even though she was late in seeing me, and even though it was 5:55 p.m., I drove to the nearest lab to try and it was, of course, closed.  I went to another location by the hospital, and it too was closed.  When I did get to the lab in my town and did the test, it required me to fill two separate cups.  I was told that I would be billed for the cost.  I was angry and wrote an email to their “Intake/Billing Specialist” who has no medical training, but is responsible for vital statistics, like getting your UA, taking vital signs (like BP, pulse, oxygen), and giving you a Breathalyzer test for alcohol.  She evidently showed my email to the PA who then instructed her to reply back to me.  She replied to my personal email the same day, even though she had my work email AND MY PHONE NUMBER.  Her reply email basically stated that I “needed to find another provider since I was obviously not happy with the program”  and that the provider had called in a final prescription to my local pharmacy to allow me to have time to secure another provider.  I was never given the results of my extra testing, and was told they had still not received the results back from the laboratory six days later.  I made an unnecessary trip there because the provider was supposedly not there, even though I was scheduled to meet her and took off from work just to do so.

The end result was that I decided I no longer needed to be on Suboxone as a medication, nor did I need to continue with an IOP program. I am very disappointed in this particular organization, because they claim in their Vision or Mission Statement to treat their patients with respect. That has not been the case for me.  I have spoken with many of the patients there in the same IOP who claimed they had similar experiences.  The place is disorganized, the staffing is inadequate, and the treatment is marginal at best.

I plan to continue my sobriety, or staying clean, simply because I made a commitment to do so. My life has changed for the better and this is one more thing I will just give up to my HP to handle.  I am in the process of enrolling in school for another master’s degree, but this time in Addiction Counseling.

If I were to pursue this education, it would cost me close to $30,000. The bottom line is that I am going to go back to school and spending that money out of my own pocket at the same time.  I am also trying to keep the only Narcotics Anonymous meeting there is alive in Los Alamos, so then why would I use?

I don’t want to discourage others from using Suboxone, or from going to an Outpatient therapy program. I am just encouraging you to please first do the research and homework you need in order to make an informed decision for yourself and not let someone tell you how to be in recovery.

We had a discussion about using medications in recovery at our last meeting.  There is an IP (Informational Pamphlet) in NA that addressed this topic and it is continuously discussed at the highest level of the organization.  I think, that it’s an individual choice about what you believe about recovery/sobriety.  After all, isn’t the use of anything potentially harmful if you abuse it???  The point is…I got well and stopped using it –there was no need to continue its use.  I only used it for a couple of days and then it stayed in my system and caused the false positive that led to my dismissal from the IOP.  I want to do better than that.  Once I get my degree and a license, I plan to treat others the best that I can and certainly better than I have been treated along the way.

I feel positive about not needing to take the Suboxone anymore just like I did not need the cold and flu medications anymore.  But what does it mean that I would take OTCs when needed and not take any prescribed narcotics ever again?

I want to know what you think.  Please talk to me.

Peace, love and blessings…to all of you….

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