The Dope Sick, The Damned
Sean Beckett, a recovering addict, said the reality of opioid withdrawal keeps people from going cold turkey. It seems obvious, but it’s a reason that makes the most sense.
“It’s like the worst flu you’ve ever had times 100,” he said. “Everything hurts, and fluids are coming out of everything.”
It lasts nearly a week, according to Beckett. Dr. Neal Aulick, an emergency room physician at Ohio Valley Medical Center, said the body experiences a drastic shift in this process. While pain receptors have grown accustomed to little irritation and the body’s ability to pass waste has slowed, the removal of the drug suddenly reintroduces a sense of normalcy — which is initially overbearing.
Substance abuse counselor Carole Ann said some feel as if they might die in this process. She said it’s likely someone will experience a sense of desperation and feel absolutely alone. Though one may regain a clear mind, Ann said this clarity may allow for sensations of shame and guilt attributed to the person’s addiction and its results.
They couldn’t grasp this when high. Sober, they quickly take stock.
Beckett said most addicts know this all awaits them when they decide to get clean. He said such an experience typically lasts about a week, but said after day three or so, it’s possible to take hold of the positive aspects driving this transition and move forward.
This said, Ann added the threat of relapse is a present one. It’s an idea which makes the tribulation of withdrawal seem insane.
Beckett is now an executive assistant with Recovery Point in Huntington, an addiction clinic based on values of peer support and personal accountability.
The program specializes in pairing individuals with mentors, such as Beckett, who have experienced recovery, and places emphasis on a person’s ability to make the right decisions.
Beckett attempted to self-detox four or five times without success. He also tried a typical 28-day program, but checked himself out after two days. He said the system employed at Recovery Point worked for him because he was surrounded by others who knew what he was going through. They could call him out on a mistake or listen to his justified complaints, and he knew their responses were respectable and genuine.
“There is really no return to what life was prior to addiction,” Ann said.
She said addiction’s ultimate theme is loss, due to the usually profound and lifelong consequences. Relationships and family ties are either entirely severed or severely tarnished. She said it’s hard for an addict to regain others’ trust.
The challenge of integrating oneself back into the world at large is overwhelming, in that someone must realize what they’ve been pulled away from, what they may not reclaim and how the majority of people will perceive them, going forth.
Ann said most believe addiction is a matter of choice, but she said it’s really about a lack of freedom. It’s an existence defined by one clear need, with room for few exemptions.