Friday, November 23, 2007

Day By Day

Well our first day went as well as I had hoped. It kind of dragged the first part of the day but once we had finished lunch, the rest of the day went along at a nice pace. My nerves are not so much of an issue any more which obviously is a good thing. Right in the middle of all this chaos I decided that lowering my daily dose of methadone would be a great idea. Duh!!!

The first week that I dropped - I went from 80ml to 75ml - didn’t even seem to notice the drop although I somehow managed to go to the clinic each day at approx the same time so I was on a pretty regular 24 hour schedule. Today I didn’t manage to make it to the clinic until just after 6pm and by this time, almost thirty fours hours had elapsed since my previous dose. While I didn’t feel that it was glaringly apparent I was out of kilter, I definitely felt a little off.

I had none of the tell tale typical "withdrawal" side effects but by the time I was finishing up work for the day my body certainly was starting to feel achy all over as well as becoming kind of stiff. My skin also started to become extremely sensitive to near everything. The contractor that arrived to steam clean the bedroom that is to be Sara and Katie’s had been working barely ten minutes - plus I was three rooms removed from the room that he was cleaning - when I could feel my skin start to break out rapidly in hives. I could not get out of our new apartment fast enough. It was most disturbing.

So what we’ve decided would be the smartest thing to do is to go to the clinic each day in the morning before we have to start work. Even though we have yet to move over to the new building, we have started to manage it and currently we are working Monday to Friday 9am until 5pm so we’ve got plenty of time to get our daily dose prior to work. This way also, we’ll have the benefit of the methadone’s full effect I should imagine as well as continuing with a fairly regular schedule.

Plus the last thing that anyone really wants to do after a full day at work is to have to face a crowded forty minute bus ride halfway across town. Much better to get this all finished first thing. No more worries.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bright Beginnings

OK so in just over an hour I am due to start my new job. To say that I am nervous would pretty much be the understatement of the century. Yes, I am definitely excited and extremely grateful that I have a new job to go to considering it has barely been two weeks since I lost my last one. But, still...

I’ve not yet recovered from the fact that very shortly we’re to lose what I have come to consider our home. We’ve been displaced for all intent and purposes. It sickens me and has made me more bitter than anything else has ever done before in my entire life. This alone is something to be sure.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Back to Back Part Deux

So back to what I had started to say about back to backs and everything involved in these kind of things. September is by far the busiest month for apartment buildings and ours was no exception. We had over twenty back to backs. Now, when a new tenant signs their lease and any accompanying paperwork at the Rental Office, their Rental Agent is supposed to advise them if their unit is going to be a back to back unit. They are then supposed to place an additional stamp on their lease with this disclosure which states that the new tenant is fully aware of this fact. The tenant by signing this addendum to their lease, are then essentially agreeing to accept their new unit as potentially incomplete, but that this state will be temporary and will be corrected by the property owner in a timely manner.

Now up until the mess that ended up being caused in September, we went on faith that the Rental Agents were in fact doing their job correctly and that any and all of these types of situations were being handled properly. Can you imagine how you would feel if you showed up for your brand spanking new apartment only to find that everything promised to you had not been fulfilled? Understandably, you would be furious. This is what ended up happening to us in September to almost half of our units. Not that it matters much now because he no longer works for the company, but one of the Agents was neglecting to do this very critical part of the rental process. Not only did he fail to stamp their leases with this addendum, but he didn’t even bother to verbally advise them of this potential situation.

Now, very often, a potential back to back doesn’t always turn out that way. An old tenant can move out days or sometimes weeks before the last day of the month allowing us the opportunity to get in there to get everything completed early. There are also instances when a new tenant does not need the unit on the first of the month which also allows us time to complete everything prior to the new tenant moving in. These situations tend to be exceptions rather rules of course.

Now on the first of September our first set of tenants for the day arrived almost an hour early. They had been scheduled to move into their unit at 8am which is the earliest that we start any move ins anyway but phoned me just after 7am to see if they could start early. I was barely up yet as I had spent most of the night working and had barely had a chance to lie down more than two and a half hours at this point. Now the unit that they were moving into had not been handed over to us until 6pm the following evening which was about five hours later than technically the unit should have been be handed to us.

This unit also required a lot of work as the previous tenants had painted all of their walls different, darker, colors than what is considered standard with this company. Tenants are normally required to return the walls to the colors they had received them in or pay an additional amount to get them painted back to apartment beige! These tenants paid the $300 penalty but this didn’t help us any when the painters needed to put almost three coats of paint on each wall. This ended up really impacting us time wise when it came to us getting this unit into move in condition. Combined with not getting their keys until dinner time, we just weren’t going to get this unit ready for the new tenants no matter what we did. We simply did not have the time available to us.

Now of course, the two girls moving into this unit had not been advised of the fact that they were renting a back to back unit so they were obviously freaking out when they saw that the work had not been completed. They fully expected to be walking into a pristine unit. Both of them were all of nineteen years old at the most and both had brought both sets of parents with them as well. Their fathers were positively the worst. They started yelling and screaming and carrying on without pause. And this my first move in of the weekend! As this was our first September move in with this company, I went and got one of the other Building Managers. I grabbed Jack as he had pretty much given us most of our company training as well as pretty much mentoring us since the start. He for the most part had been above awesome in my books!!!

He explained the situation to them and discovered during this time, that the tenants had not been advised that their unit was a back to back, etc. He asked them what we needed to do today to make them happy and we proceeded to do our best to accommodate any and all of their wishes and believe me these little princesses had many. The icing on the cake just happened to be the fact that the parents were extremely great friends with the owner of the company that I work for and of course, they promised that he would be hearing about what had happened this weekend, etc, etc. Most excellent, n’est pas?

We asked him to refrain from saying anything to the owner until the end of the weekend. If we could complete all of their requests before the start of the work week would they be satisfied enough to let everything go? Absolutely, no problem. We all worked like mad to get everything peachy keen for these two while moving in the other twenty units without much more mishap. Now right from the start, one of the two girls rubbed me the wrong way. She was demanding and condescending and no where near as nice as her room mate. I was soon to learn also, that she had quite the creative imagination and was spiteful enough not to consider the possible ramifications of her actions.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Back to Back

I live in a city that is often referred to as a university town. Why you may wonder is it called something like that? Well, first of all there is a highly regarded university located here as well as one of the provinces first community colleges, the  University of Western Ontario and Fanshawe College respectively. I managed to attend both of these, earning my Bachelor of Arts Honours in History from UWO and my Business Diploma with Marketing major from Fanshawe. Both of these institutions manage to attract a large number of students.

Normally the population of London falls slightly under 400 000. Each September, this population manages to increase by over 10% when approx 40 000 students descend on this city. Incredible. Many of these same students tend to depart the city at the end of their exams some time in May but a few of their numbers do remain behind to enjoy London's very laid back summer.

London also happens to have the distinct advantage of being located almost exactly distance wise between Toronto and Detroit, which just happen to be much larger and livelier metropolises but less than two hours drive away respectively. For many, this is idyllic as one can live in a nice, quiet city most of the time but be barely a stones throw away from any and all crazed entertainment should one desire.

Now, one familiar with the rental biz would know that if a tenant is set to move out on the last day of his lease, which also tends to be the last day of the month, and a new tenant is set to move into the same unit the following day, which generally is the first day of the next month, that this particular situation is called a back to back. Building Managers, as a rule, loathe and despise this situation for a number of reasons, the least of which is the small amount of time remaining to get the unit to move in condition.

Regardless of the time of month or year, before a new tenant is able to move in, certain things have to happen. The unit has to be completely repainted and by this I mean all walls, ceilings, doors and cupboards. Some may only need one coat but some require two. Either the carpet has to be replaced or steam cleaned depending on its state and age. Same goes for the floors in the kitchen, bathroom and entrance. Obviously all appliances must  be spotless and replaced if necessary. Any other repairs need to be completed as well as any cleaning of the unit and balcony. At any given time this is quite a bit of work.

Now the building is not responsible for completing all of these tasks but we are responsible for coordinating them and ensuring that they are all finished in a timely manner. Normally this isn't too difficult to do but in September this can very easily turn into a logistic nightmare as it ended up happening to us this fall when we had to complete twenty three back to backs...


Monday, November 12, 2007

Liquid Lunches - A SHORT STORY

I like to call myself a functioning addict or a responsible junky - an oxymoron if I have ever heard one. You ask what makes me so different or special from other junkies or addicts? Well, nothing really except the amount of work involved. It is much harder to be a functioning addict. You are forced to live two very separate and distinct lives. Your public face is the only face that anyone is allowed to see. no one can be allowed entry into your private world. This you keep very well hidden from view.

No one can know that your half hour lunch is not sitting down at the nearest coffee shop consuming today’s special washed down with a couple of cups of coffee. No, instead you have quickly headed over to the local public library and have locked yourself in one of their bathroom stalls. Once you are safely behind its closed door, you carefully remove a brown eyeglasses case from your purse only you don’t have a spare pair of glasses in it. You place a strip of toilet paper across the back of the toilet bowel and gently place a spoon on it.

You grab one white pill out of your baggy and place it in the centre of the spoon. With the end of your lighter, you carefully crush it until it is a fine white powder. Next you rip the packaging off of a new syringe and open your small bottle of sterile water, placing the tip of the syringe in it to draw up 50 units. Carefully you fill the spoon with water.

Lifting the spoon up into the air, you flick your lighter and aim the flame so that it is centered beneath the spoon. The water starts to bubble and the fine powder dissolves. Breaking some cotton off the end of one of the many q-tips you have, you drop it dead centre into the warm liquid. Quickly you suck the liquid out of the spoon into the syringe. Sit back for a second to breathe a sigh of relief. No clumsy accidents. So far, so good. Taking some more toilet paper, you wipe your spoon clean before returning it to its case. You make sure that your small bottle is properly capped and your baggy zipped up tightly. You crumple the syringe’s wrapper up tightly and place it in the case also. You will have to dispose of it later.

Enough time should have passed so that the liquid had cooled. You perch your rear at the edge of the toilet seat making sure your feet are square to the ground. Taking a look at both arms you decide which one to go for this time. The left looks as if it will yield the best results. You tap your forearm a few times and flex your hands. Carefully you remove the cap from your syringe. Taking a deep breath you stick the needle into your skin gently pulling the plunger back a fraction. A rich red floods the barrel. Bulls eye. With as steady a hand possible and a silent plea for them to remain that way, you depress the plunger at a uniform rate until all of the liquid has disappeared.

Bliss. Now not too quickly, you remove the point from your skin, firmly pressing some tissue over the bloody hole. Once the bleeding has stopped, you qrab the point of the needle with your bloodied tissue and twist it until it snaps off. Throwing both into the toilet, you flush them down the drain. You recap your now empty syringe and return it to its place in the eyeglass case. Wrap two elastics around the case and return it to your purse. You certainly can not be too careful. You want no rude surprises should you ever drop purse with contents spilling everywhere. Too big a risk to take for the functioning addict.

You gather your stuff and exit the stall, stopping to wash and dry your hands. Look for your comb to run through your hair. As everything went smoothly, you still have time to freshen your makeup. Touch of lipstick and a brush of powder and you are good to go. With one final glance back at the mirror, you open the bathroom door refreshed and satisfied by your half hour lunch break.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Confessions of a Party Mom

Confessions of a Party Mom

We'd all finished dinner, and we kicked off our shoes and watched as our host showed off his new Technics turntables, a present from his wife. It was his 40th-birthday party, and a group of us had come to stay at his house in Devon. One mum went upstairs to check all the children were asleep. Including my three-year-old, there were 10 children staying, aged from six months to five years. No sooner had we been given the all-clear than two of the five dads got out wraps of cocaine and began chopping out lines on the table. Are we a group of rock stars, DJs and supermodels? No, we're city bankers, lawyers, housewives, entrepreneurs: professional urbanites doing what many parents do on a fairly regular basis. MORE

So rarely do any articles take this particular stance, at least not publicly. I suspect most parents or even adults do not want to leave one with the impression they may be irresponsible or negligent in their parental duties. Simply ones taking of drugs from time to time should not automatically condemn them for all eternity, although in this day and age, this all too often is what actually occurs.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

OXY Part Five

So here is the final installment of the Oxy series from the London Free Press.

I think for a "small" town paper that the series was fine but I think as a whole London needs to start realistically looking at this issue if the stats that they reported are actually accurate.

On a personal note, I don't really have a lot to report. I am doing well both physically and mentally. Am thinking of dropping my methadone dose by 5ml next week as I've been on my current dose of 80ml for close to a year now and am able to go more than a day and a half without feeling badly. I think that it is time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Part Four of Oxycontin Series

Here is the next part of the London Free Press's series on oxycodone.

image This is the clinic that I attend. The male in the photo is Dr Craven who was my first doctor when I initially started. I had to switch to another doctor though when I started my new job this past May as his hours of practice were not working well with my work hours. He was a fantastic doctor none the less, but believe it or not, my current doctor is even better! We're lucky here in London as most of the doctors associated with the clinic are fantastic.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Part Three of Oxycontin Series

Here is the third part of the series that my local paper is running on oxycontin.

London Free Press - Local News - Oxycodone

In Clinic 528, addicts are treated with methadone, Free Press reporter Randy Richmond writes in the third of a five-part series on abuse.

Early morning and a steady path of people make their way to the counter.

Each one stops and takes a sip from a small, plastic medicine cup.

In each cup is methadone, a narcotic you also can buy off the street.

In Clinic 528 on Dundas Street, the methadone is legal.

In here, fire is being used to fight fire, one opioid drug handed out to battle others --plastic cup after plastic cup after plastic cup.

"I remember us thinking maybe we would end up with 350 people here," says Dr. John Craven, associate director of Clinic 528.

It opened on Dundas Street five years ago, after doctors running a smaller clinic and private methadone treatment practices realized the need was growing. Back then, in 2001, the doctors had 120 patients with 80 on a waiting list.

"About three years after opening, I thought things would plateau," Craven says.

"But everybody coming in, still to this day, tells us they know half a dozen other people out there."

About five to seven new people a week come in for treatment, he says. Now there's about 850 in treatment in London and another 180 at Clinic 461 in Woodstock.

More than 80 per cent of clients are addicted to opiate drugs prescribed through doctor's offices, Craven says. The most common are the oxycodone-based drugs, Percocet and OxyContin being the most popular brands.

Methadone replaces those drugs, but comes, supporters say, with a much lower price.

Methadone basically fools the brain into thinking it's getting a far more interesting and powerful opioid than it is, Craven says.

"Methadone is the most boring drug on the face of the earth," he says. "It is useful because it is a lousy drug. It fills up the brain receptors and doesn't do much of anything else. It stops people from going into withdrawal.

By all accounts, the physical withdrawal from opioid painkillers is a nightmare.

That physical dependence starts when the brain becomes used to an opioid. The drug changes the brain's chemistry so it demands more each day to obtain relief or euphoria.

When the drug is taken away, the brain and body rebel. "I would sneeze until I felt like my head would blow off," one told the Free Press.

"You get the runs. You would be on the toilet forever. You feel nauseous. You feel like you want to throw up. You get achy."

A factory worker named Steve, 39, says he tried twice to go through counselling at Addictions Services of Thames Valley, the central outpatient service for addicts in the region.

"I just couldn't do it, cold turkey," Steve says. "I felt like my feet and my hands were going to pop off my body."

He has a good family that he neglected more and more during the two years he was addicted to OxyContin. He spent all his savings on the drugs, lost a girlfriend and gave up his social life. Of all things, it was the repo man that turned him around.

"I had bought a new car and they repossessed it. I woke up one day and my car was gone. I thought, what am I doing?"

His elderly mother drove him to his first appointment last year. Imagine, Steve says, making your mom take you to a methadone clinic because you are an addict. He got clean in 12 days. After a year, he has a new girlfriend and is playing sports again.

"I don't want to say it saved my life. But if I wasn't here, I don't know where I'd be."

Not everyone sees Clinic 528 in such a positive light.

Provincial Conservative Leader John Tory, accompanied by police Chief Murray Faulkner, took a law-and-order tour of London last year and called for the clinic to be moved because it is close to Beal secondary school.

That prompted several London leaders to criticize the clinic's location and the work it does. But the city itself runs a coffeehouse two doors east at William Street that attracts a rough-edged crowd.

Dozens of dealers, users, those trying to kick and other down-and-outers mill on the sidewalk between the clinic and coffee house.

In the middle of the day, you can get several offers to purchase drugs on the sidewalk.

Homeless people make up about seven per cent of Clinic 528's patients, Craven says. Another 15 per cent are "one pay cheque away" from homelessness. The rest are working or in school or homemakers.

In the downstairs waiting area, though, a constant flow of rougher-looking patients come in each day for their methadone.

That's because 'downstairs' is where beginners and long-time addicts who can't get clean get their methadone.

Once someone tests clean for everything but methadone, they move 'upstairs.'

That means they can get 'carries' -- several days worth of methadone at once, and get individual counselling from one of three doctors.

"All I do is prescribe methadone, get them in the door, get their feet on ground, then try to educate them on how they got in this mess in the first place and how to get out of it," Craven says.

A third of his patients are upstairs, a third downstairs trying to get upstairs. "And one third are determined to kill themselves through their addiction," he says.


Upstairs and downstairs patients can meet twice a week in group recovery sessions. Mondays they talk about what they want. Thursdays they listen to a short recording by Craven and mostly stick to that subject.

There are rules here. No interruptions. First names only. A few veterans talk at a recent session about some other rules they'd like to see. No nodding off during session. No opening a bottle of pills for an aspirin.

"How do they know those aren't my triggers,?" says one in exasperation.

At this session, they talk about honesty. A regular member, a woman in her 30s, fidgets in her chair. She tells the group she feels ashamed because she trusted a friend and the friend lied.

"Why do you feel ashamed? It's your friend who should feel ashamed," a group member says.

"I'm embarrassed because I want to help people but I can't because I am not recovered yet," the woman says.

"You can't give what you don't have," Craven tells the group. "You have to help yourself first."

Another group member tells them, "My conscience is working overtime now."

That's normal, because during addiction, you can't get emotional about what you do, Craven tells them.

"Don't beat yourself up," a veteran of the clinic says.


After the meeting, the veteran says he's been on methadone for seven years.

There are no deadlines to getting off, Craven says. Only after a year on a regular dosage should anyone even try to taper the amount, he says.

Opioids change the brain chemically and feed a growing hunger of fears, worries, past abuses and guilt.

That is one criticism of methadone treatment: It replaces one addiction with another.

Even those on it worry.

Tom, 34, an out-of-work furniture installer, used to drive by Clinic 528.

Why don't these people just quit? he wondered.

He signed up in February 2006. Three years earlier he hurt his back at work, then spent years battling an addiction to OxyContin. "I tried to quit on my own. It was debilitating. I looked down on these people until it was me."

His daughter saved him. Her grades were failing and she was getting into trouble at school. "I had to get the pills out of my life or I was going to lose my daughter. I think I just barely got away."

It took him six months to move upstairs because he continues to smoke marijuana.

Ironically, the same thing that keeps some people away from the clinic was the thing that made him strong enough to get clean and move up.

"There are some pretty hard tales and some pretty hurting people downstairs," Tom says. "It inspires me to get better."

It took him a year to get his energy back and only now has he begun to call up old friends he left during the addiction years. He's even thinking about going back to work.

"The past year I was content to have not much money. It helped me quit."

It's been a while since he had a craving for the drugs.

"I had a lot of dreams about it that are really where you are going and scoring and going home and doing it. Right now, I don't think I will ever go back. I don't want to ever go back to where I feel that low about myself."

There's just one worry.

"The methadone is a really good painkiller so I wonder how long I am going to be on it. When I am off, I don't know how much of my pain will return."


- Opioid: Drug made from the opium in poppy. Commonly called narcotics or opiates. They are effective painkillers, but can also produce euphoria, making them prone to abuse.

- Oxycodone: An opioid and key ingredient in prescription painkillers such as Percocet, Oxycet, Endocet and OxyContin.

Oxycodone can create addiction and physical dependence.

- Percocet: Contains 5 mg of oxycodone and gives about five hours pain relief. On the street, "percs" refers to both Percocet and generic forms of the drug.

- OxyContin: Contains higher levels of oxycodone, usually 10 mg to 80 mg. It has a time-release coating offering pain relief for 12 hours. Chewed, crushed and snorted, or injected, the time release is bypassed and all the oxycodone is released at once.

- Addiction: When a drug is so central to thoughts, emotions and activities the need to continue its use becomes a compulsion.

- Physical dependence: The body has adapted to the presence of the drug, and withdrawal symptoms occur if use is reduced or stopped.

- How they work: Opioids bind to brain receptors, and over time block those receptors. That forces the brain to require more opioid to produce the same euphoria.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Whats The Story, Morning Glory?

Remember in high school whenever you had to study for that all important exam? What was the first thing that you did in order to prepare yourself for this? If you were, and still are, anything like me then the first thing that you tended to do was anything but study. I’ll never, ever forget how suddenly even the most mundane of chores somehow managed to become mythical in proportion, waiting ever so patiently until they had my undivided attention. Over the years not much in regards to my procrastination skills have managed to change.

Now instead of school, I generally have work related projects competing for my ever diminishing attention span. It seems that whenever I sit down to my computer to complete one of the many never ending stream of projects that the Property Manager keeps sending my way, I find myself very easily distracted away from the task at hand. Like some pathetic sort of sycophantic fan, each day I am compelled to check out one of the many entertainment type gossip blogs. My morning simply can’t start until I’ve managed to get a wee taste of celebrity dirt. I mean, I have to be looking good when held up against comparison, say, to Ms Spear’s current foibles, etc

Now, if I may take the time to wonder aloud how it is possible that she has found herself in this recent set of misdeeds and misadventures. I thought that these type of people generally paid good money to certain types of employees to ensure that this type of stuff stayed very much in the background not front and centre of the public stage. And seriously, how badly messed up are you to allow things to reach this point? I mean even Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, who in a strictly legal sense, lost custody of their newborn for her first three months and technically had to surrender their physical custody of her, all four of them - including Frances’ first nanny - managed to live under the same roof this entire time.

Come on Britney, give your head a very serious shake. If two of the most notorious heroin users were capable of successfully pulling this off, you at the very least could at least make a little bit of an effort to show up for your custody hearings and actually show up on time. My guess would be that this would strengthen your case significantly. Certainly passing a drug test here and there wouldn’t hurt either. Also, what kind of drugs is this chick on anyway that she has allowed herself to become this unglued?

I’ll be the first to admit that the entire drug landscape has most definitely change a lot over the past decade. No where do I find this very apparent then witnessing this change each and every day at my methadone clinic. The general demographic of the typical methadone patient has undergone quite the change here in London, Ontario, Canada from the first time that I started MMT in the summer of 1999 - in fact, in less than a ten year time period.

The number of patients actually at the clinic who are on MMT is 800 compared to the 162 patients back in 1999. Typically, the current wait time to start treatment works out to approx two and a half weeks, whereas the first time, I ended up having to wait almost three months. I ended up lucking out getting in at that time simply because there had been a cancellation on their waitlist. If not for that cancellation, I would have ended up waiting four months before I would have been able to even start MMT. From my experience, when a junkie finally reaches out and starts asking for help, being put on someone’s waitlist is not any kind of solution but rather, an additional problem.

In the years between each MMT, the opiate landscape in this city changed so that what I remember from a decade ago, no longer exists today. While talking to my doctor recently, he mentioned of the 800 patients currently on methadone at the clinic barely a handful had ever seen heroin. Or almost 780 patients - out of 800 - being treated with methadone, were not, by exact definition, heroin addicts. Yes, they were opiate addicts because each and every one of them had issues with narcotic analgesics, but they certainly could not be easily lumped into society’s usual perception of the dirty, disgusting junkie.

Of course, in the end, this is all just semantics. Obviously, the growth of the clinic here in London, Ontario these past tens years is a result of a number of factors occurring simultaneously. Obviously, there is a growing need for this type of facility and from the perspective of a business plan, a need which if operated properly, will also prove to be financially rewarding for any investors i.e. the doctors that decided to expand their much smaller clinic from the previous decade into a clinic requiring considerably more support staff, etc.

Now a clinic of its current size will definitely be much more noticed by John T Public because depending on its location, the influx of nearly 1000 individuals that for the most part walk to the beat of a different drummer would hardly be invisible. Not many would be thrilled to have this particular group doing not much more than loitering near their homes or business each and every day. If it were just the patients of the clinic that the neighborhood had to be concerned about then that would be one thing but inevitably, it is the baggage that accompanies each of these patients that ends up being the biggest concern as generally they have less to lose.

Now if most of the opiate addicts in London, Ontario are not addicted to heroin, what the heck are they doing then? Apparently the majority are hooked hardcore on oxycontin. Or at least so says the five part series that our local paper, the London Free Press, started running in yesterday’s paper. This special report plans on covering all aspects of this addiction and how it is affecting our community as well as what we as a community can and should do to help.

The article from today focused on how oxycontin was doing much more than killing pain for two men while yesterday the series shared the story of one young housewife and mother of two’s battle with this drug.

Following is the introduction article to the series which was written by London Free Press reporter, Randy Richmond, that you should be able to read in its original form here. There was a second article regarding pharmacists and how they feel caught in the middle.

Oxy, part 1

Oxy, Oxygen, M&Ms, 80s, Oxycotton.


The drug sweeping London’s downtown streets, workplaces and suburbs goes by many nicknames.

But it has one effect on police, civic officials, social service and health-care workers, users and those dealing in drug subculture -- alarm.

And it’s ravaging London like few other cities in the province, police say.

A $3.7-million, five-year plan to combat substance abuse will be unveiled at city hall Monday.

"It is the drug of this city right now," said Sgt. David MacDonald, head of one of the police’s two street drug units.

The opioid called oxycodone is so powerful, so easy to get and so hard to kick, it’s fueling crime, ravaging the vulnerable, and turning ordinary middle-class citizens into sellers and buyers.

What makes it tough to tackle is the source. It’s not made in makeshift labs, grown in basements or shipped in from other countries. Most comes from London doctors’ offices, then gets ’diverted’ to the underworld.

Signs of its rise are everywhere:

  • OxyContin, the most popular oxycodone based painkiller, is the most commonly injected drug among needle users in London, recently surpassing heroin.
  • Opioid abuse is rising to one of the top three problems cited by people seeking help at Addiction Services of Thames Valley. In most areas, it is tied with or nearing crack, cocaine and cannabis.
  • In Ingersoll, opioid abuse ranks behind only alcohol, traditionally the No. 1 cited problem among people getting outpatient counselling.
  • The Children’s Aid Society of Middlesex London is seeing more and more parents hooked on OxyContin and other painkillers.
  • In 2004, only 86 police occurrences, such as break-ins and thefts, could be identified as fueled mainly by oxycodone addiction.

By 2006, the number of police occurrences had jumped to 261.

- OxyContin is the drug of choice -- supplanting crack --among sex-trade workers in London, police say, and 100 per cent of the about 80 women working in the sex trade use drugs.

The diversion and rising influence of oxycodone-based prescription drugs is one of the forces prompting the city’s community services boss, Ross Fair, to present a plan to politicians to attack substance abuse in London. The five-year plan rests on four foundations -- improvements in prevention, harm reduction, treatment and enforcement.

Only a large-scale co-ordinated effort will work, Ross says. "Addiction is a big hairy beast."

The city would pay a third of the $3.7-million price tag, the rest coming from Ottawa and Queen’s Park.

The plan would target the most vulnerable first: the homeless, sex-trade workers, street youth.

Key points include:

  • Create a downtown street outreach initiative, with nurses and addiction workers.
  • Expand existing safe haven drop-in programs, such as Mission Services, My Sisters Place, Centre of Hope and AtLohsa, so full day and evening service is available
  • Push senior levels of government for more treatment, and wait-time standards.
  • Increase London police so the force can focus on illegal activities associated with drug dealing and prostitution.

The strategy also has clear targets:

  • Reduce the number of sex- trade workers 50 per cent in three years
  • Cut to zero the number of overdose deaths among homeless.
  • Increase the number of homeless in addiction programs by 200 over five years.

Monday, October 22, 2007


I was having an awful time trying to edit my previous entry so I basically said bugger to it all and decided at the rate that I was going, I might as well just start a second entry concerning my recent site recommendation. Just seemed to be the faster solution. May I say that often times I find the Blogger editor that we use for our entries rather irritating and arbitrary. Whatever. This particular entry spoke to me specifically on many levels.

Prior to me starting back on MMT, I was hooked hardcore to dilaudids and just for me to maintain at a reasonable level, I required at least ten 8mg pills on a daily basis. This certainly doesn't mean that I got them everyday because even at this level, the best price one could hope for was $100 which actually meant for us $200 - there were two active addicts involved in all of this insanity after all. While we did manage to come close most days, at our worst we were still spending on average approx $2600 monthly.

I could have practically written this piece myself the similarities are so eerie. Again I encourage everyone to visit this site. This entry and the previous one will be cross posted to The Write Thought as well - hopefully some time tonight but absolutely tomorrow.


When I get up in the morning, I don’t grab a coffee. I go to the fridge for my 100 ml bottle of methadone. After that my day is just like yours. But I wasn’t always like this. Life was a lot harder, a lot rougher. Every morning I would be sick as / like a dog. I’d crush up a couple of 8mg Dilaudid tablets and boil them in a spoon, then I’d fill a syringe. Tie my arm off and plunge the cure into my arm. And then I was good for … 3 or 4 hours. Wash, rinse, repeat. I couldn’t work.

Dilaudid is illegal unless your Dr. [gives you] a prescription. With a few phone calls you can get them for about $20 each. I used at least 10 a day. 10 to keep the sickness at bay, 10 to 20 more if I wanted to get high, and usually, I did if I had the money. It’s not easy to come up with $500/day for pills/medicine, but its gotta be done - or else the sickness – it’s always there. As soon as the pills begin to wear off, its banging at the door. Cramps, chills, sweats, diarrhea, the shits, nausea, chronic anxiety, insomnia – that’s just the beginning. Soon comes hallucinations and deliria, and unimaginable suffering. It all goes away if you take another pill, just one more. Then there’s methadone, a synthetic opiate, if you can get it. In most cities it’s easy, but not quite so in Charlottetown.

For @ 5 years my life revolves around Dilaudid and Oxycontone, percocil, morphine, codeine, etc. If I had money and pills were available, everything was fine. But I wasn’t always fine. I can’t count how many days I’ve lost to the sickness, how many times I’ve been to the treatment center. And a waste of time that was. They’d give you 2 or 3 mild sedatives a day for 3 days and then try to put you in god’s hands. It didn’t work – after the week, or 2, or 3, was over, I could suffer no longer. Straight to the dealer. It doesn’t help to tell me “everythings gonna be all right. You’ll feel better tomorrow”. Anybody who says / tells you that doesn’t know what this drug is about (why I take it).

But I had always heard about the mainland, where they gave you this drug, methadone, that took away the suffering and made you feel normal, not high, just normal, like I used to be … yeah, like it used to be, I miss those days.

I did the drugs for 5 or 6 years, but and I sat by and watched, as friends and acquaintances died one after another, month by month, because they couldn’t get the help they needed. I’m sure the doctor (at Detox) noticed too, but it didn’t matter [since] we are / they were expendable. But I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t handle the sickness. The detox couldn’t help. They didn’t have a clue. They would have nothing to do with methadone (methadone is addictive. You have to take it every dad or you get sick just like with the drugs, but it’s prescribed to you, you can have ready access to it. You never have to be sick again, you don’t get high on it, but you can live an ordinary life, like anyone else.

Finally, I scraped up some money, packed up my bags, and left for Alberta. All I had was a change of clothes, $500,and enough pills to last me 3 days, it was a gamble, nothing was lined up / set up - I was on my own.

But it worked out. Before 48 hours were up, I was in a doctor’s office getting a prescription for methadone. It was such a relief, such a good feeling. No more days spent looking for drug dealers, no more searching for a private place to inject my drugs, and no more waking up sick – I was human again. I got a job, an apartment, a car, and a normal life.

But I always wanted to come home again. I have children in PEI. What good am I to them if I am 3000 miles away? A few years went by, and I became used to feeling normal again and not needing drugs. I had seen on the internet that PEI was starting a methadone program. This year I came home. It was great. I missed PEI. I could see my kids, my family, my friends every day and I wasn’t sick all the time like I used to be. It was different now. Better. It seemed too good to be true.

It was. Sure I could get methadone now and I felt good … physically – but mentally? When I go to the pharmacy, I don’t go to the counter like anybody else, I go around the back, into the office, where no one can see me. I don’t feel different, but I am. The pharmacists are ashamed of me, or ashamed for me. Does it make a difference? I began to understand / grasp what life must be like for a black person, or these days, an arab, from their perspective. I don’t like it.

And things have changed at the treatment centre. They now have a methadone program – but they still don’t understand – they don’t get it. I came / went there with a perfect record from my doctor in Alberta. I gave urine tests every month, and never once did I fail only once in 4 years. I thought I had proven myself but no. It starts slowly, but within 3 months, for some reason, I realize that I am not like other people. I’m a drug addict, a junkie. I don’t feel like one now, but at the Detox, it is clear that is how they see me. I am a liar, a cheat, a thief, a dirtbag, scum of the earth. I know I’m clean and sober, with the help of methadone, but that doesn’t seem to matter – I’m a liar, a cheat, a thief. I must be if I’m on methadone. In PEI, it seems that only thieves, cheats and liars use methadone. In the rest of Canada, there are factory workers, plumbers and carpenters on meth[adone], as well as lawyers, and even doctors taking methadone!

But, my god, it is different here. I hate myself for having to do this. It didn’t bother me in Alberta, there I was treated like anyone else, but here, no. I’m walking on eggshells every time I go to the pharmacy, or the doctor, especially the doctor, I don’t know what to expect. On one day, I was asked twice for urine tests. Apparently, they thought that as soon as I gave the first sample, I was going to go and get some drugs. I live in constant suspicion and fear, even though I have done no wrong. Its just that I didn’t realize I was a cheat, a liar and a thief and as such I must be closely monitored. I am not on drugs, but they think I am. All drug users, past or present, are liars, cheats and thieves – that’s just how it is in PEI. They’re going to get me, to catch me, it doesn’t matter that I’m not doing anything wrong. It’s who I am I’m a thief, a liar and a cheat…

Check This Site Out! NOW!

I found this amazing site this evening while testing out a new search extension that I had just downloaded and installed to Firefox. I was randomly inputting various searches regarding the topic heroin. The site that I found is entitled mereggie, a.k.a. me, reggie macdonald a true story and its description reads mereggie, the sad true story of reggie macdonald of souris, pei, canada who lived life in the fast lane, involvement with / drug addiction, and subsequent disappearance.

His family is still searching for him or at the very least, hoping for his safe return to them. What he left behind is an unbelievable amount of his personal writings and what we have apparently lost is an incredible talent and voice that for now has been silenced. I've barely touched the surface of this site myself. The only thing preventing me from reading further is my desperate need for sleep at the moment. I dare anyone who visits this site to willingly look away.

mereggie is the true story of Reggie Macdonald.

In early December 2005, Reggie left home, while under the apparent effect of crystal meth and disappeared, and despite a country wide search could not be found.

Reggie led a troubled life dealing with drug addiction and the lingering effects on his personal and professional life. Shortly after he disappeared, his family found hundreds of pages of his writings which shed light on his struggles. Reggie had hoped to become a writer and that his life story would have a positive impact on someone, and so with this site, we present his writings.

Read the writing called Methadone, which describes the awful existence of a heroin addict on methadone. If this doesn't want to make you avoid drugs, then I am surprised. For more harrowing tales that might lead one to avoid drugs, read the Iceland, Kidnapped! and other readings.

If you are intrigued, read on - you can start with Reg's intro to his story .... more details will be added over the next few months ...

While Reg was very articulate and a very good writer, at times his perspective is very harsh, most likely affected by his addiction. We hope that his writings are viewed in that context, as the views Reg often expressed are not the views of his family.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Material World

Before I even begin, you know what I'm not terribly crazy about when it comes to blogging? Well, of course you don't, so let me tell you! I absolutely tremble with fear and cringe in horror whenever I get to the point where I have to title my post. For the most part, I never really know what to call any of my entries. I am clueless.

On very rare occassions, I'll have a brief flash of absolute brilliance where everything just seems to fall into place, but these moments honestly tend to be fairly rare. Pretty much what I end up doing is relying on song titles from one of my three favourite bands. This would be called cheating and this would be correct, but I absolutely, without fail, find this method the less stressful route of all.

I'm not sure why I used an old Madonna title for today's entry as she's not one of my three favourites, nor do I expect this title to be even remotely relative to what I plan on actually writing. Yet for whatever reason, this is the title I want to use. Oh the logic of the female.

Well after Thanksgibving's relatively stressfree visit with my Mother, I decided to push my luck some more and attempt to meet her this week for a couple of hours of shopping. Just the girls. Surprise, surprise. Again we managed to spend two and a half hours in each other's company without resorting to any sort of schoolyard type behaviour. Neither one of us resorted to past behaviours and were able to treat the other with a level of respect and decency I'm not at all familiar with when dealing with my Mother.

Maybe she has finally grown up which would be absolutely divine, because I never really did care for the near two years of us not communitcating. It was an enforced silence eventually initiated by myself as a means of survival and self preservation. If I could have handled it any other way believe me, I would have but after 41 years of doing it her way with no success, my options had pretty much run out. Again, I'll go into all of the graphic details at a later time as I simply don't have enough time right now nor do I have the fortitude to start what I know will be an entry of near epic proportions. One day very soon though.

Anyway, we met to do a bit of light shopping and eating. On the weekend she showed me what she really wanted for Christmas and where I could get it. She wanted a two slice fancy toaster from Superstore as hers was near dead and this particular toaster would match the majority of her current kitchen appliances. I didn't care if Christmas was like ten weeks away still. If this is what she really wanted I decided that the smartest thing to do would be to grap it as fast as I could while they were still in stock as well as while I had the funds availablre. This is so not like me as I'm one of those terrible day before present shoppers. I'm sure many of us recovering as well as current addicts are also as we all know how well us addicts are with financial planning and planning in general - we are but only if there is dope involved!

Weird buying appliances and clothing at a grocery store - bought Sara and Katie each a tshirt and tank top from their JOE line of clothing - and absolutely no groceries but hey, it was definitely something new to try! We had a bit of lunch there and then went across the street to a Shoppers Drug Mart because my Mother wanted to buy me a foundation that she knows I like but would never be so extravagant and actually buy it for myself - the foundation and powdered compact that she got me to put away until Christmas was $67 with tax. Insane, n'est pas? She called this one dead correct.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Mommy Dearest

I managed to get through Thanksgiving dinner at my mother’s, an event that pretty much had filled me with an amount of dread that defies description. I did this only for my daughter and for no one else. If it wasn’t so important to her, then I would have extended my best and offered some reasonably plausible excuse to explain my absence.

I managed to avoid my mother for near eighteen months - until eleven months ago - but no longer. My daughter was too upset by this and I felt that I wasn’t being fair to her so last November, I did my best to bury the proverbial hatchet. I don’t want to go into great detail right now about how we managed to get to where we are today but I very briefly let me tell you a story which I feel perfectly illustrates my mother’s character as well as helping you to understand what has pretty much been her life long treatment of me, her only daughter.

In 2002, my father was diagnosed with cancer and after his first month of radiation and chemo, he found that he could no longer drive himself to the hospital so he asked me if I could. Now this meant taking him five days a week there and back for approx five months. I didn’t mind doing it although obviously it greatly impacted my life as well as my family’s. Just before Christmas, my father finished with all of his radiation and chemo treatments.

Christmas that year was nice although we knew that my father wasn’t going to get any better regardless of his treatments. By the third week of January I had returned to work full time and tried to settle into a new routine. Less than a week after I was back at work, my father was admitted to the hospital for what ultimately turned out to be the rest of his life. I visited every day which was hard.

I was juggling a new job, my family’s needs plus the demands of my mother. I knew that this was incredibly hard on her. Here was her life partner, a man that had looked after her now since 1956 and she the same. The were truly a magnificent couple and loved each other until the very end. It has always been sad though that my mother was incapable of bringing this beautiful and precious piece over into other areas of her life, her treatment of me in particular. This has always been very much a mystery to me.

To illustrate, when my father finally passed away the second week of March I was overwhelmed with so many different emotions but more than anything else, I felt so very, very tired. The last week of his life, I had spent every night sleeping beside my father in a bed that his nurses had put together for me. The one thing that I wanted to be excused from was having to take my mother to the funeral home the day after his death. Jim and I had taken her there prior to make all the arrangements. I figured as my brother had only visited him twice the whole time he was in hospital, that he and his wife could look after this.

At the time, I didn’t think too much about making this request but for months after, every place that I happened to take my mother whenever she was offered condolences, she told everyone what a rock my brother had been to her and how she wouldn’t have known what to do had he not looked after everything the day after my father’s passing.

No mention of what I had done for five months nor the three months he spent in the hospital, nothing at all, and all of this in front of me, and not just on one occasion, but multiple times.

That pretty much says it all. I could easily go on but I’m not of the mind right now to rehash feelings of bitterness no matter how much she manages to annoy.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Stomach Aches

I’ve no idea what has been bothering my stomach for the past ten days but I am very much growing weary of it. About two weeks ago, the girls came home from school with what appeared to be fall colds. They were sneezing and coughing and generally feeling kind of icky. Of course, I presumed that I would soon follow as I always seem to catch whatever it is that they bring home. I wasn’t wrong. I had this cold about a week and a half ago and I was generally miserable and whiney about the whole thing.

While the cold itself seems to have disappeared, my stomach has not recovered and in fact, seems to be getting worse. Jim says that it is the methadone causing my discomfort and he is probably correct as anytime he is on methadone, he has a terrible battle with the way it affects his stomach. Me, I’ve been oh so lucky so far. Not this time I guess. I doubt that I need to go into graphic detail as I’m sure that anyone remotely familiar with methadone and its potential side affects will know exactly what I am talking about.

I feel yuck though, so there. The only up side to any of this is that it is the Thanksgiving weekend in Canada and Jim and I actually have the whole weekend off, which means that neither one of us is due back to work until Tuesday at 8am!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Beth Alvarado - How I Quit Heroin and Other Toxic Substances

How I Quit Heroin and Other Toxic Substances
Imagine turning your head and holding your arm out, as if for a blood test. You feel a slight prick, you loosen the tie, and then suddenly this warmth floods up, you feel a rush that begins at the base of your spine and surges up until it explodes in your head, like light. Then, for hours, you float in a bubble of warmth and well-being; dreams as vivid as movies drift before your eyes. This is why people like heroin.

Imagine you no longer feel like an ordinary girl, bland and vulnerable, but like a girl who is daring, an outsider, a risk-taker, one of the guys. This is why I tried it in the first place.

But why is a question junkies never ask. They know why. The question for a junkie, is why not? You have to have a very good reason to give up that rush. After all, you’ve come to love the ritual, even the smell of sulfur, the flame beneath the spoon. You love the liquid lightning that fills your veins and blossoms in your head. You love the dreams, more brilliant with color than anything you’ve seen in life: a car so red its edges are silver in the sunlight, poppies exploding into color, again and again and again, orange, purple, vermilion, the dark velvety center. And then the psychic numbness that envelops you for hours, where you have no worries, no fears, no anxieties, no guilt, no other desires.

So why is not the question. You may as well ask why people have sex—which, as we all know, can have as deadly side-effects as heroin.

I was sixteen when I started. Thin, thin, always dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt, hair long and wild, I imagined I was a bohemian. The rules didn’t apply to me. I didn’t have to attend school to get A’s and B’s. The year was 1970. Janis was still alive, I think, maybe even Morrison and Hendrix. The Civil Rights Bill was six years old. Watts had burned, so had Newark. John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy had all been killed. Vietnam was old news. The Cold War was simply a part of the landscape. We wanted out. Sometimes it seemed as if the world were falling apart. The center was not holding. We were kids, living in the borderlands of Arizona, in a town ringed by missiles. We couldn’t imagine a future. Instead, we shot dope. We ran it across the border. We were falling from idealism to despair. I’d fallen. Needle to the vein. My blond boyfriend from West Texas was threatening suicide and planes like dark predators were circling overhead.

By May of my twentieth year, I had not only grown up, I felt old. I had quit using every toxic substance I’d ever tried. This includes pot, hallucinogens, cocaine, speed and alcohol, none of which required any effort at all to quit, as well as the two that caused me difficulty, heroin and tobacco. I could claim that this makes me an expert, not only on addiction but on recovery, but I am ambivalent about everything: what constitutes addiction, whether physical addiction leads to psychological or visa versa, and whether or not people can be “cured.” Whether addiction is a disease—or a symptom. Part of me believes I was never addicted to anything—and that may be true. I started smoking at fourteen, for instance. Can I really say, that at twenty, I was addicted to nicotine? Likewise, even though I started using heroin at sixteen, I abstained for my entire senior year in high school—instead popping several Percodan every few hours. (My boyfriend, true to his Texan roots, was a Cowboy, but of the Drugstore variety.) Since I used opiates daily for only a few years of my life, was I truly an addict? Perhaps I was on the road to addiction and mercifully waylaid.

I have proof, at least, of physical need: I was cranky as hell whenever I tried to give up smoking and felt withdrawals whenever I tried to quit heroin. Yet physical withdrawals are simply the most obvious manifestation. Addiction is the absence of choice. To illustrate, when I was sixteen, I was sitting in a park when I realized I was out of cigarettes. Upon discovering that fact, I really wanted one—which meant I would have to stand up, walk a block home, scrounge for thirty-five cents (yes, thirty-five), walk two blocks to the discount store, and buy the cigarettes. (This not only gives you an idea of how lazy—or stoned—I was but of the oppressiveness of summer heat in Tucson.) At any rate, I realized that if I quit smoking, I could choose not to take the walk. What liberation! Ever since then, addiction, for me, has meant that a substance compels me to consume it. If I feel like I have to have it—even if, physically, I don’t—then I am addicted.

In some fundamental way, then, it makes little difference if the precious amber liquid is scotch in a glass or heroin in a syringe, if escape comes in a vial of cocaine or is provided by little pills in a prescription bottle. The underlying desire is the same. Perhaps each of us, given the right (or wrong) substance and the right (or wrong) set of circumstances, is a potential addict. After all, you don’t have to be an asthmatic to suffer an asthma attack; you simply have to be exposed to something that will trigger the reaction. And you never know what that something might be.

For this reason, I’ve never blamed my family. My parents were as typical of their WWII generation, with its alcohol use and repression, as I am of the Vietnam generation, with our drug use and penchant for openness. To be fair, my father would never have considered a few highballs a “problem” and my mother would insist that a stiff upper lip is an admirable quality. When I was coming of age, we thought psychedelics would liberate our minds. It never occurred to us that cocaine was dangerous; it certainly wasn’t thought to be addictive. And heroin? Well, they had lied to us about the dangers of every other drug, why should we believe them about this one?

But we should have. And perhaps because we didn’t, the Vietnam War helped spawn a heroin epidemic—at least that’s what they called it when use crossed the border from the ghettos and the barrios into the suburbs. Ironically, my husband, who is Mexican-American, didn’t use when he lived in the barrio; it was only later, after his parents moved the family into a white neighborhood, that he hung out with anyone who was doing drugs heavier than marijuana. All the guys we knew coming back from Nam were strung-out on China white. In the four years I was shooting dope, sixteen people I knew died of drug overdoses. Sixteen people just like me. Middle-class, white. Children of doctors, lawyers, and restaurant owners.

Heroin is pernicious, but whether that’s due to inherent properties of the drug or to the black market lifestyle, we may never know. I don’t suppose there are enough independently wealthy junkies for an accurate survey; I do suppose that bootleggers during Prohibition led equally unhealthy lives. At any rate, according to my brother-in-law, who has been in prison on drug charges three times and who is still on methadone maintenance, many of the (mostly white, middle-class) addicts we knew frequent the same clinic he does, still addicted nearly thirty years later. Only four of us, my husband and myself included, were able to quit in time to make “normal” lives for ourselves. Statistics are equally frightening: only one out of thirty-five addicts will stay clean and sober; some relapse after ten or fifteen years; most become alcoholics; in one study, of the 10% who had “recovered,” half were counted as not relapsing only because they had died. Death as a cure—imagine that! I fit the profile of the addict most likely to stay clean: young, female, addicted for under five years.

This suggests that the longer one uses, the more fierce the psychological addiction, yet we also assume that psychological factors—childhood trauma, history of family dependency, unhealthy living situations, poverty, etc.—make some of us more vulnerable in the first place. A chicken or the egg sort of cycle. Some research indicates that people who get addicted to opiates may already have a deficiency of dopamine in their brains, which predisposes them to addiction to substances like heroin. But whether you’re predisposed or not, if you use heroin with any regularity, you will get addicted because heroin takes over a natural function of brain chemistry: it replaces dopamine. When the heroin stops, no dopamine, your nerves are screaming. Physical addiction is simple. If you don’t do it, you experience pain; since you did it in the first place to alleviate or avoid pain, you just do it again. Basic Pavlovian theory. You know what cures you.

On the other hand, people who have abused drugs like metham-phetamine or cocaine, which stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain, are always left with a need to have that center stimulated. (Ecstasy, as I understand it, like Prozac, increases the amounts of serotonin in the brain and thus causes changes in brain chemistry, at least temporarily.) In other words, even when there is no physiological predisposition to addiction and no physical dependency, because the drug itself causes changes in the brain, those changes can create a strong psychological addiction—in the case of cocaine, to anything that will stimulate the pleasure center. Even sex. So far as I know, cocaine is not physically addictive, only psychologically, but, hey, monkeys will give up food, water, and sex for cocaine. Monkeys will die for cocaine.

No big surprise there. People die for cocaine. I once met a real estate developer who had lost everything, and he had quite a bit to lose, to that white powder. He said, “Cocaine is God’s way of telling you you make too much money.”

But back to the monkeys with monkeys on their backs: monkeys who have unlimited access to heroin gradually level out their use. They still eat, they still sleep, they still have sex. They simply do enough heroin to keep from going through withdrawals. This experiment, which I read about in the Stanford Alumna Magazine, was published in the mid-eighties, when cocaine was thought of as nose candy, something one might indulge in at cocktail parties. (Please pause for a moment to consider what that target audience might have been doing in its spare time.) Whatever else the experiment’s purpose, it did prove that there is no “just” to psychological addiction.

Physical addiction, no matter to what substance, seems to be the least of an addicts problems. There’s methadone for the junkie, Nicorette gum for the smoker. Drunks, speed freaks, crack heads and their brethren coke heads have no choice but to go cold, I guess—although researchers are experimenting with new drugs which affect serotonin levels and seem to reduce the addicts cravings. But even if you have to take the old-fashioned route and go cold, your body gets over it. People do kick. Some stay clean for years before going back. It’s the psychological pull, the craving, that’s so hard to overcome.

For some people, of course, addiction is a symptom of an underlying disease, clinically known as a dual disorder. For example, many schizophrenics or manic-depressives are addicts; prior to being diagnosed, they used (and became addicted to) illicit drugs in an attempt to balance out a brain chemistry that was naturally out of whack or had been thrown out by trauma. For the rest of us, though, the question is how do you liberate yourself from desire so intense it rules your life? I can answer only for myself.


I found this article while I was surfing the internet the other day. I think that I did a search for “heroin addiction” at LookSmart’s FURL site. This was just one of the many links my search produced. Normally before reprinting an article, especially an article of such personal and sensitive nature, I attempt to contact the website that the article originated from. Unfortunately when I got to the web site that stores this piece of writing, I could not find any sort of contact info. I’m hoping that perhaps someone from sporkpress might stumble across this entry and contact me. Until I am told otherwise, I plan on keeping the link and this portion of her article online for others to read as I think that it is an important one as well as one that many of us most definitely will be able to relate.

It’s Not a Habit…

I started methadone August of 1999. By then I was a solid year and a half into a pretty heavy opiate addiction. It had started with dilaudid but as soon as we were able we had moved on to heroin. We live in a funny city. While it is reasonably large with close to half a million, it is near impossible to find heroin here. Except for a time in the 1970's - so I have been told - it is one drug that does not seem welcome. Very white collar town so there is lots of pot and cocaine. Crack has had some effect as has speed but not like those other two. Because this is also very much a university and college town, there is also lots of ecstasy and its ilk. By the time I had even given a dilaudid a try, I was about two years deep into a large coke and speed habit. Funny can't even remember what that was like but I know that we were using every day and had been for a long time. Then along came a little yellow pill and it was as if nothing else existed. It was wondrous and it didn't take long to develop a tolerance for it. Thank heavens we knew someone that could get us heroin. He was out of town three out of the seven days and he happened to be working in a place that was literally drowning in it so every Thursday night right after getting off his bus, he would drop by our place with our weekly package. Sunday night we would wave him goodbye as his bus left town, our money in his pocket. This went on for over a year.

It started to get quite expensive as all habits tend to but this one also felt different. Where before, I may have been a bit of a bitch if I couldn't get blow or speed, I could get by at least but not this time. When I was without I hurt, I felt sick, I was in severe pain. I couldn't or wouldn't want to go to work and I had always prided myself on never letting any of my vices interfere with work and to be honest, life in general. Suddenly I had become single minded, nothing else mattered but not feeling sick anymore. I had to have a hit no matter what. Came close to bankrupting us. Sad but at least we had a house to sell to get us out of debt. And selling this one, our favourite, meant that we still had two others left although they were nowhere near as nice and they were in a much rougher part of town but that didn't seem to concern us so much anymore. We moved. We had to. We had someone else very important in our life now that very much needed to be accommodated. I had never lied before but suddenly I found myself doing just that. When my family doctor confronted me I couldn't admit it at first. I was every which way of denial until I couldn't take it anymore. This drug eventually wears you down, strips you of every vestige of dignity and self respect. I fessed up and when he started talking about getting us into a methadone program, I pretty much said yes just to humour him plus he said that as soon as we were on the list, he would be able to help us out and get us from having to buy our dope on the street at ridiculous prices.

I had never actually intended to follow thru with the methadone. The moment we were accepted our doctor wrote us each a prescription for 30 dilaudid a week. It was as if we had hit the jackpot. Between us we had 60 pills that would normally have cost us almost $20 each - quite a savings. He said that he could keep us supplied until we reached a high enough methadone dose that could sustain us on its own. I figured that we would ride this out as long as we could. Looked like it would be at least eight weeks that we could get our prescription and I figured that was long enough for us to get our finances back in order. We would in theory save a lot by not having to buy opiods for a two month period. As it was we were spending about $700/week and that was barely keeping us from getting sick so I knew that we were living on borrowed time if we continued spending at that rate. We were long overdue for a financial break.

But a funny thing happened while we going to methadone. It started working. I stopped grieving for any of the others. I went a day without a hit, then two and then a week. A week turned into a month and then two and three and we were still going. Suddenly two years had passed and I no longer did anything except for my methadone. I didn't even drink anymore. I forgot about heroin and dilaudid and morphine - oxys had yet to make their appearance but that was only a matter of time. The methadone made me so very tired though even if it did seem to work a small miracle. I would start to nod off at the worst possible time something I rarely did while addicted to the others. I needed to stay awake. So before we knew it we were back doing speed but this time we vowed that we would keep our spending under control and we did for a long time. Speed wasn't the same anyway now that we were on meth. Yes, you could kind of feel it but you never felt as if you were way out there. Oh well, it was still better than nothing. And we were spending about half of what we used to spend on the other.

Suddenly twenty seven months had passed. We were starting to get tired of the daily grind of having to grab our methadone. Yes, for the most part normalcy had returned to our lives. We fell into our own little routine. Gone were the hours upon hours dedicated to finding that one hit that would take away the pain. I could go back to work full time, we both could. Methadone gave our life structure once again. My credit card debts were now paid off. We had sold the other two houses and purchased a three story apartment building. Our self confidence and esteem had returned. We didn't want or need methadone any more. It was time to say goodbye. I had two weeks vacation at Christmas 2001 but a week before my vacation started I got a terrible flu. I was down to about 20mg of methadone a day. I felt so sick that I just didn't feel like grabbing my methadone one day and the next and the day after that. I just stopped going and when my flu ended, any withdrawal that I may have been going thru had also ended. It was hard to tell one from the other so I kept telling myself that there was no withdrawal just crappy flu symptoms.

Fast forward three and a half years. I am once again severely dependent on that little yellow pill. Well now it is the little white pill. No more #4s for us, we now need #8s. We are back spending ridiculous amounts of money and are consumed by abject fear whenever we find that we have run out or that none of our dealers is holding. It is no longer pleasant. But what of the intervening three years you ask? Well that is obviously a story for another day...TO BE CONTINUED

Then Of Course It Must Be True

I’m not exactly sure when the dynamics of my relationship with my daughter actually changed but this much I do know, it is not remotely the same and for this, I am pretty devastated. We’ve always been fairly close and I’ve been lucky enough to have been allowed to enjoyed her company on many occasions. While she tends to be a social creature by nature, hanging out with groups of friends most days, there are many a weekend night that she has ignored her friend’s pleas to go out to spend a quiet evening with her mother. Plus, I’ve never had to prompt her to do this as she is more than happy to do this all on her own.

I am fairly certain that this most recent, ugly behaviour of hers is also very much a direct result of my prior treatment of her. Right now, more than ever, I am also very much aware of the high cost that is just now resulting due to my previous excessive over-indulgence of  her every whim basically.  In the past, I’ve been guilty of spoiling her rather excessively and would most likely still be spoiling her except for the fact that she now seems to have developed a serious attitude that no matter what I attempt to do doesn’t matter cause then this gives her the   . Obviously, this was very much driven by my guilt over my selfishness with my opiate addiction and the cost of it on this family

Monday, October 01, 2007

Black Dog On My Shoulder - A Short Story

OK, lying in bed watching the second hand slowly tick by. Come on, come on you think. Almost eight in the morning. Banks will be open soon and that cheque that has been on hold for the last week should now have cleared. About bloody time. You are not even sure how you have managed to make it through these past two days.

Throwing the covers back you put two unsteady feet onto the floor. Your muscles tighten then twitch. You are now dancing on your toes into the bathroom. Looking in the mirror you shudder. Last night's makeup is now streaked across your face. It takes ever effort to run the water. You make a feeble attempt to make yourself more presentable but who are you really fooling? Do you honestly care? No, you just need to get to the bank. Look down to see what you are wearing. OK, your shirt has definitely seen better days but the slightly ripped cutoffs will do. A bra wouldn't hurt but that just sounds like too much work and you have places to go. Now.

OK, where did you put the keys yesterday before you fell into that restless sleep willing the next day to arrive quickly? Think. Think. You were angry and sore and feeling tremendously sorry for yourself that you put them...?? Right, tossed them at the old man who now is sleeping deeply and not worth the trouble of waking up because he certainly won't be of any help and this would not be the best time to argue. You can easily tell by glancing around the bedroom that it has been a couple of days without. The laundry that you frantically started the last time you were feeling normal has not been put away. Instead all of the hours spent sorting, folding, piling have been for naught. Soon to be dirty laundry again is strewn from the en suite bathroom door out into the hall. Stumbling across it, you shake pieces to see if your keys will suddenly free themselves. Hah! There they are. You scoop them up in your hand, tripping head first out your bedroom door.

You pull your aching body into your vehicle. Before you even have the keys in the ignition, you are throwing your car into forward and screaming down the now busy street. The morning rush hour is upon you and your frustration starts to build. Don't even have a smoke to drag on. Broke, remember? Quickly, quickly, get to the bank before the lineup becomes unbearable. As you reach the top of the incline, you can see the green and white sign to the left indicating the bank's parking lot. Flipping your turn signal so it flashes left you manoeuvre your car into the left hand turning lane and quickly scream into the parking lot narrowly avoiding the oncoming cars. Barely stopping to shove the car in park and remove the keys from the ignition, you are bounding up the steps two at a time.

Struggling to open the heavy bank door, you slide on through and immediately take your place at the end of the line. Tap, tap, tap your foot goes. You can barely contain your legs from shaking so you try to distract by withdrawing your wallet from your purse, aimless flipping through it looking for your bank card. Finally it is your turn and you thrust your card into the face of the smiling teller. You mumble the amount that you want to withdraw and silently keep counting to ten in your mind so that you don't end up losing what precious little sanity you have left.

"Anything else that we can do for you today, Ms S?" the teller asks in a grating voice. You look at her and silently shake your head not trusting your own voice. You practically snatch the stack of $20 bills from her hand and shove it carelessly into your purse. Throwing it over your shoulder you rush out the glass doors jumping once again into your vehicle. Halfway there. Mission almost complete. Another twenty minutes of this annoying traffic and you will be in a much calmer, peaceful space.

You push down on your accelerator risking the chance of being stopped for speeding. Willing to take this chance today so tired and sore your body. Finally you are in front of your dealers house. You park your vehicle and bound up her front steps, knocking loudly on her door. Usually asleep at this time, she absolutely promised that she would make an exception and wake up for today's visit. No answer. Frantic you knock a little louder and a little louder again until you finally hear her dog barking. You hear some shuffling behind the door and the sequential unlocking of enough locks to protect Fort Knox. She waves me in. I quickly close the door behind me, locking all the locks abruptly. I stagger up the stairs behind her tossing a pile of twenty dollar bills on her bed in front of her. She counts them, puts them in her wallet and then counts out the required amount, dropping each pill carefully into a small, clear baggy.

I pocket them and casually look around her room. I know that she hates anyone to do anything at her place but decide that I can't wait so I mumble something about having to go to the bathroom before I head out promising that it is only the toilet that I need and nothing else. I race down the stairs and lock the bathroom door behind me, frantically searching through my purse for everything that I need. Quickly crush my pills in the spoon that I have laid on the back of her toilet, draw up sufficient amount of water through my syringe and fire it into the center of my spoon. I search through all of my pockets until my lighter is located and then quickly set fire to the underneath of the spoon. Just as the liquid comes to a boil, I remove the flame from the spoon. Stirring the now dissolved mixture, I then proceed to drop a filter into its center and quickly suck up all of the dope until the filter squeaks that there is no more left.

I sit down on the edge of the bathtub and lightly tab my forearm looking for that sweet spot. Located. With as steady a hand as I can muster, I line the syringe up with my arm and gently jab it into my skin. Drawing back on the plunger, I see the barrel fill with crimson color. With measured speed, I depress the plunger until there is nothing left in the syringe and gently remove it from underneath my skin. A small drop of blood forms as I drop my head forward, sighing. My breathing slows to barely a whisper. Raising my head, I inhale deeply while at the same time throwing everything into the top of my purse. I run my arm under water, flush the toilet and quickly exit the bathroom happy now that the last three days are all but a faint memory.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


I came across another article today on the web that I thought was fairly interesting and also most probably pretty relevant for a good few of us. Personally, I have found that MMT has been fairly effective for me in eliminating my cravings or urges, once I'm on a stable dose of course. Now, this is not to suggest in any way that MMT helps eliminate the desire to do dope, cause I don't think that this ever really does go away once you've been insane enough to taste it but then that is an entirely different ball of wax, so to speak. This desire ends up being more of a psychological one anyway rather than a true physical one. While a good solid dose of willpower should be enough to keep one's desire in check, personally I need any help that I can get with the other. It's just too tangible and real and all where as the other is the opposite.

Anyway, on to the article...

Habits and urges go hand in hand. In fact, many people in the throes of an addictive behavior problem, whether it is overeating, drug use or alcohol abuse, claim that they derive no pleasure from their habit--that it is nothing but the relentless craving that fuels ongoing addictive behavior. What is usually most difficult for people when changing a bad habit is coping with the sometimes relentless urges. The initial days of a habit kicking plan can be exhausting as urges dominate thinking and interfere with daily routine. Many people give up change efforts because they feel that there is not way they can function without their habit as the urges interfere too much with quality of life.

It is important to remember that urges, in and of themselves, are normal. We experience craving in varying degrees every day. And because your habit has been important to you for a long time, it may be unreasonable to expect urges to vanish completely. What is hoped is that you will come to experience urges with less frequency and that when they are experienced you will be able to react in a way that avoids relapse.

The "three Ds" can be helpful in coping with urges and craving, whether these urges are related to alcohol or drug use, overeating , tobacco use or any habit you are attempting to change. The Ds stand for Decatastrophizing, Disputing Expectancies and Distracting.

Especially early on in your change efforts, craving can seem excruciating. Your daily routine has been altered by the elimination of an important part of life and now you can't get your mind off it. Everything you see reminds you of your habit. If you smoke, every room you enter may bring to mind the image of a cigarette and associated pleasure. The inability to satisfy the urge can lead to frustration and inner statements like, "I can't stand this!" or "There is no way I will be able to live without giving in. I'll just go crazy!" Statements like this can be overwhelming. So much so that people often give up efforts.

As is the case with anxiety, catastrophic thoughts can lead to a great deal of arousal which can, in turn, make things seem worse than they are. If you believe that you are completely out of control, your emotions will follow. What is important to remember is that urges are normal and typically decline in intensity as you continue implementing change. To combat catastrophic reactions to urges it is important to remind yourself of times in the past when you have successfully changed habits (think now, we all have done so at least once or twice!). Do you still experience urges? If so, are they as intense as during the initial phase of your change efforts? Probably not, right? Furthermore, think about other people you have known who have undergone significant change. Do they seem haunted by urges such that they cannot function? If not, who is to say that you cannot accomplish that also?

Try to take some of the power away from a black and white adjective like "horrible" or "unbearable." Belief in horrible extremes only makes you feel worse. Just how unbearable is your urge right now? To accurately answer this you may need to conjure images of what other types of suffering reported as unbearable are like. Is this as unbearable as getting stabbed in the stomach? Or better still, what have you endured which was worse than your current urge? Was that unbearable? If so, does it follow that your urge is less than unbearable and perhaps only "very uncomfortable."

Disputing Expectancies
Craving is, in essence, the activation of expectancies. Beck and his colleagues (Cognitive Therapy of Substance Abuse, 1993, Guilford Publications) believe that there are three beliefs associated with "the acute decision to engage in substance abuse." They are Anticipatory, such as "I'm gonna be Mr. Wonderful after one line." Relief Oriented, such as "I won't have to think about work if I drink this bottle of wine." and Facilitative or Permissive, such as , " I've been good all week, I'm entitled to an evening high." Though Beck and his colleagues presented these fundamental beliefs in reference to substance abuse problems, it is this author's contention that these beliefs can function in any habit urge.

Since we rarely think about distant consequences when craving, bring them to mind deliberately. Bring to mind the negative emotions which may be experienced at a later time due to engaging in your habit. Urges are "myopic" in that they can only see advantages. You must shed some light on your craving in order to effectively control it. Ask yourself questions like:

* How will I feel later if I give in to my urges?"
* What consequences might I suffer if I give in?"
* Will the negatives outweigh the positives in the long run if I give in?"

Another way to cope with urges is to imagine that someone very close to you is voicing the very urge you are experiencing. How would you go about convincing them not go give in. Sometimes distancing ourselves from our urges is imperative before you can subject them to any scrutiny.

Your ability to conjure vivid images can be used in your favor when you experience craving. In the presence of a strong urge, try to imagine a very negative outcome. The more negatively graphic the better. The more true to your life the better. For example, if you have a problem with alcohol and experience a strong urge to walk down to the convince store and buy a bottle of Vodka, imagine the worst hangover possible. Imagine vomiting all morning. Better still--imagine someone very important dropping by, someone you really want to impress, and seeing you in that condition. It is amazing how powerful our own imagination can be in fueling and impeding behavior. Use it to your advantage in your habit change efforts!

Some urges are so relentless that talking back to them is insufficient. You still can't get your mind off your habit. Good old fashioned distraction is sometimes the only medicine that can pull your thoughts away. Distraction can be cognitive, in the form of some mental exercises, or behavioral, in the form of activity. Certainly the latter is going to be the most effective, in that urges tend to occur in environments with are the same or similar to those in which the habit occurred in the past. If you are trying to quit smoking, and you have previously smoked at in your office all day, being in your office is going to elicit a strong drive to light up. Certainly if possible, taking your work into a conference room, or taking a break and walking outside will often be enough to decrease the urge to a manageable level. You must evaluate your schedule and determine which situations evoke the most intense craving and create as much flexibility as possible so that you can "escape" if necessary--especially in the initial days of your change efforts.

Cognitive distraction can be very powerful. Certainly imagery has been used as a means of helping stressed people learn to relax. You too can use imagery to take your mind off an urge which is dominating consciousness. Conjuring a pleasant place like a beach or on a raft in a lake can help you not only take your mind off the urge but relax as well.

However, "relaxing" images are not helpful for everyone. Some find that if they relax when craving they will only want it more. This makes sense as we have discussed that many habits are associated with relaxation and pleasure, and evoking these feelings in places previously associated with your habit can strengthen urges tremendously. I recommend that you find some mental task that will be very difficult to finish but which is interesting and consuming that you can activate in response to an urge. I like to refer to these as Mental Tapes. Some examples of tapes which have been helpful are:

* Writing the perfect epic novel or screenplay.
* Planning the perfect vacation.
* Creating the ideal money-making business
* Interpreting a dream from the night before
* Picking an acquaintance and trying to "figure them out."

Certainly what you choose will depend on your interests, but the key is to make it something that will be easy and perhaps interesting and fun to do. Choosing to think about all the mistakes you've made this year and how you could have done things differently is not going to prove a good distraction tape as it won't be enjoyable. In fact it may increase the power of your urge, especially if stress has precipitated your habit in the past.

It is sometimes best to try one urge control technique at a time so that you don't get overwhelmed. These techniques work, but they also require a great deal of mental energy and conscious effort. The aim here is not to make change excruciating or extraordinarily taxing, but to provide you with some tools which you can add to your armory at a your own pace.

Robert Westermeyer, Ph.D.