Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

I’m Not A Unicorn.

It’s been a long time, dudes!! The New York Post is running a story today about middle-aged women and addiction to prescription painkillers. The reporter was looking for a middle-aged middle-class white chick to talk about this, and guess who she found.

The online headline says I was a “perfect mom and wife,” but I was not a perfect mom and wife inside my addiction. I was a lot less than that.

And as always with newspaper stories, some things didn’t make it in:

  • That my son (who is now 18) knows about my addiction, is my biggest supporter in recovery, and has always had my back (read here, and here, and here, where I told him about my addiction)
  • That both my parents were addicted to legal substances and died because of their abuses of those substances.
  • That I do not hold my doctor responsible for my addiction, but I do hold her responsible for failing to screen me for risk of addiction before giving me drugs like pure hydrocodone and morphine and fentanyl, and for failing to recognize my addiction and respond with compassion and treatment, not judgment and punishment.

The biggest thing that didn’t make it in is my main reason for talking to the Post. (I mean, the Post is famous for Page Six, right? but if it had been the New York Times or Pro Publica or the Kalamazoo Gazette, my motive would have been the same.)

I talked to this reporter because there are other reporters out there (here is one example; there are many others) saying that once you’re addicted to opioids, you may as well resign yourself to taking drugs for the rest of your life.


(It’s hard to find an edgy unicorn image. They’re usually pink and lavender and sparkly. This black tattoo-design is cool. I’ve been thinking about getting a tattoo—maybe I’ll ask Cara to put this somewhere on my skin)

I am, however, not a unicorn. I know so many people, including many many women, who no longer cop heroin or snort Oxy. And they don’t take methadone or Suboxone, either.

But in some public health circles, it is said that there is no “proof” that we can actually do this. Nobody (except the tens of thousands of people who live opiate-free today) has “proven” that abstinence from opioids is possible—that human beings can choose to live drug-free and actually for-real carry out that choice.

There does exist, however, some evidence that people who are addicted to painkillers or heroin stay off street drugs and stop injecting if they take other opioids. (A lot of the research is driven by the desire to find a way to control the spread of HIV infection through needles.) So indefinite maintenance with these drugs—possibly for a lifetime—is now touted as the “evidence-based standard of treatment” for illnesses like the one I have, no matter what your circumstances.

I’m very cool with anyone who chooses to take drugs for life. If you WANT to drink methadone or suck on bupe films forever to keep from shooting or copping, it doesn’t matter to me. I considered it myself at one point. I have no problem with it, and I will not bristle at you in comments sections.

It’s unfortunate that a lot of people who choose maintenance say the way I do recovery—and the way so many other people I know who have long-term abstinence from opiates do recovery—is not “evidence-based” and therefore is sentimental, stupid, unscientific, or dangerous.

I will bristle at that. (I will still not judge you, but I will bristle, because you are judging me.)

It’s the people who DON’T WANT to drink methadone or eat bupe that I hear from.

I write and speak to places like the New York Post because I have heard from so many people who want to quit their maintenance meds and can’t find anyone to help them. Including, probably, many people who stand in grocery store lines reading the New York Post.

Let me restate in words of one syllable: they want help and can’t find help. Think about that. They are paying, per month, maybe $400 cash to the “Sub doc” plus whatever it costs them to buy bupe, or they are buying bupe on the street, and they want to quit, and they can’t find help.

I want to demonstrate that help is available. In order to demonstrate this, I’m willing to do hard stuff.

It’s kind of a little bit hard to talk to a total stranger from a newspaper with a circulation of half a million and admit that you took oxy just so you could, like, make breakfast for your family. And that you changed dates on scripts, and that you let people down, including the people you loved and who loved you most, and made super-problematic moral decisions inside your addiction.

But anyone who has been inside addiction and who hopes to get out will know what I’m talking about when they hear these stories. And hopefully they’ll see a light at the end of the long dark tunnel.

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  1. Molly Maureen McConnell Welch-

    December 8, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Thank you for saying this, I was beginning to feel crazy. As a person in long term recovery from heroin (without methadone or Suboxone, although I was on them at one point to no avail) and a student of drug policy I am frustrated by the discourse on opiate addiction. Now that this problem is finally getting national attention, it’s devastating that no one believes in our capacity to recover without these theoretically less harmful drugs. We need more voices like yours. Thank you.

  2. I was on methadone for 7 years. It’s possible to get off. I celebrate 5 years completely sober in June and so worth it xxx

  3. What makes it worth it? tell us.

  4. It’s interesting that you say you were beginning to feel crazy. The people who write about medication maintenance therapy (MMT), aka opioid replacement therapy (ORT), would have their audiences believe that their voices are a minority and that “abstinence-based recovery” is the hegemony.

  5. Cheri Harkleroad

    January 6, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    Thank you so much for your open and honest account of what you experienced through your addiction and into your recovery. It is with your willingness to step out from behind the mask of anonymity that you show an accurate picture of what addiction looks like in this country. Your writing and speaking are chipping away at the stigma and misconceptions surrounding addiction. I commend you for giving a voice to those who have struggled with addiction. Please keep up the amazing work.

  6. Gordon McKendry

    January 16, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    A proven way to abruptly discontinue opiate use is a single dose of Ibogaine, which, because it involves me a hallucinogenic experience, is outlawed by the US drug policy Nazis. But you can obtain Ibogaine treatment outside of the US in quality, medically supervised clinics. Prominent American scientists, such as Dr. Deborah Mash, at the University of Miami, can vouch for the safety and AMAZING efficacy of Ibogaine. There is no painful withdrawals. No need to be on Suboxone (or anything else). You basically get a reset, and then it is up to you to work on your long term recovery.

  7. I came across your article and related to you in so many ways. Im currently still on methadone 57mg and have a 7 yr old son who thank god is healthy and amazing but I had alot of guilt I had to deal with and still go through at times bc I was on the program when he was born. Im in the process of detoxing and I feel that same feeling you described. 8 yrs crept up fast. Im goin to start detox again at my clinic. I too am in nj. Any words of encouragement or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. So happy I came across someone who “made it” off bc of all the negative horror stories you do hear. Thanks for sharing your story and I hope to hear back from you. Congrats on your sobriety!

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