EDITORIAL: IT WORKS FOR ME
I’d been using methadone bought “off the streets” for a long time before I ever went on a program. I always had a bottle as an insurance plan for any time I couldn’t get on for whatever reason – for when I needed to be somewhere, usually work. I actually found I needed very little; a few mLs kept me ok til lunch-time at least, when I could usually get some gear. I saw it purely as a detox aid, a tonic to hold off withdrawal symptoms.
I never wanted to go on a program. To me, that meant going from an undercover user who “passed” in the straight world, to a card-carrying junkie, a fully-licenced fuck up. My use was no-one’s business but my own and I liked it like that.
Then I fell pregnant. I was in love; had a cool warehouse; and had a fabulous career along with 2 great jobs and another 2 that were purely syringe-fillers. I was nearly 40 and 1 of my friends was already on the IVF program regretting her childless state. I couldn’t see a reason to terminate my child.
I was told by a doctor that if I didn’t go on methadone immediately that I wouldn’t be allowed to leave the hospital with my baby. Was that enough of a reason to terminate her? It actually took me about 30 seconds to think it through. Papa don’t preach, I’m keeping my baby.
The alternative was to stop using of course, but I had already failed that one on several occasions, most recently at risk of miscarriage. I knew methadone was addictive, but I also knew I couldn’t be worse off and maybe I’d be better off. Forget four shots a day and four incomes going up my arm.
They call it “liquid handcuffs” but for me the freedom was instant.
It wasn’t just the money, though that was significant enough for me to drop 2 of those jobs and focus on the ones that I liked and fitted with my chosen career. It was that for the first time in a long time I had woken up without being in withdrawal. My habit had got to the point where my wake up shot never made it to morning, so this was a real novelty. The other thing that changed was a massive reduction in the time and energy I spent chasing gear. My depression lifted; I felt lighter. In short, my life was no longer dominated by using. Once the baby came, I knew I could never have looked after a child on a habit.
I became a fan of methadone and I still am. It has given me far more than it ever took away. I’ve been known to say: “Having a baby saved my life.” Maybe that’s true but going on methadone sure helped.
I’m not saying the program wasn’t time consuming and even humiliating at times, but I had lucked into a good GP. I dosed at a private clinic at first then at some great chemists in the community.
Fast forward 17 years and I am still dependent on methadone and the choices it gives me.
I try to do something about the things that don’t work so well with the OTP. For several years I was a consumer rep on a Ministry of Health pharmacotherapy committee and over the last year I have helped train prescribers and dosers. I help my peers understand their rights and responsibilities on the program. I even advocate for people who are having problems.
Methadone is not for everyone, but it is for me.
Would I rather be on heroin on prescription? Darn tootin’ – methadone isn’t a pleasure drug for me, it’s a tool, a treatment – heroin is the one I l love and I’m a faithful old thing.
Do I still use? Yes, I can’t leave it alone, but these days it is more likely to be on my terms, when I say it’s convenient.
Do I believe that the stability I have in my life is at least partly thanks to methadone? Yes. Yes I do.
Some people say they feel stressed about being dependent on the OTP, and it is true that from time to time I worry about nuclear holocaust, spending months withdrawing cold without even a rogue aspirin, while zombies threaten my very existence. I am even a little concerned about the government destabilising and kicking everyone off the program. Or time shifting and I wake up to a twin universe where no-one knows who I am and methadone hasn’t been invented.
But all in all, I’m pretty secure that it will all roll on, that common sense will continue to prevail and the program will remain funded, takeaways and all.
Yeah, I get annoyed by the stigma and discrimination, but I copped worse before I was on it and I’ve learned that people actually despise fat people even more than drug users. The haters can be pretty extreme though. I remember one anti-drug campaigner saying she would rather her son was dead than on methadone. I often wondered how their relationship developed after that public statement. But there are also heaps of fantastic people associated with the program and I have the pleasure of knowing some incredibly amazing OTP doctors, nurses and chemists whom I am proud to call friend.
Methadone and bupe aren’t right for every opiate user. It’s just another choice. There are lots of ways to use and not use, and many roads to treatment. I had travelled a lot of them without finding what I needed, before I eventually got onto methadone. For me, it’s been useful. If I think I don’t need it any more I’ll get off it. But that day isn’t today.