Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Suboxone: Addiction, Recovery, And Self-Confidence.

Hi folks, good to be with you again.

I miss writing on this blog. I used to file two or three blogs per week. That was before I got a job—several jobs, actually. I need to earn my daily bread, and I need to take care of my kid, who the other day flipped over head-first, fell on his head and shoulders, and was back-boarded off the soccer field (he’s OK but yes—shocking to watch the trainer test him for paralysis and hear her say, “We have to call an ambulance”). So sometimes the blogging goes by the boards. I’ve been filing a lot on my Facebook page, but you have to be my friend to see it. So, won’t you be my neighbor?

Been teaching writing to university students. An interesting experience: the last time I taught was four months before I got sober. The other day I was sitting in a meeting next to an acquaintance in recovery, a woman sober about two years who just got tenure at one of the universities in town, and I told her I was teaching again. “Teaching sober is AWESOME!” she said. This is someone who does not usually include the word “awesome” in her lexicon.

“I know!!!” I said. I am someone who usually does not speak with multiple exclamation points.

Teaching sober is, in fact, awesome. The best thing about it is that, having practiced Step 10 on a regular basis for four years, I now have a much better sense of what’s my responsibility and what’s not. Which enables me to relate to the kids (they’re kids: they’re just three or four years older than my kid) on a much clearer basis than when my head was wrapped up in films of fentanyl.

In other words, I have more confidence.

The root of the word “confidence” is the Latin fidere: fidelity, trust.

Sober, I can trust myself. At any rate, much more than I could when I was taking drugs.

It is 3 a.m. and I’m writing this because I got up to pee, checked my phone, and this email came in overnight. She is taking drugs to feel self-confident. She wants help.

The drug she is taking is Suboxone. She was using heroin for five months—“five long, brutal months,” she writes, “and even though that’s a short period of time compared to most people, I was really addicted”—and her doctor put her on Suboxone. Her doctor told her taking it for three months would lead to a lower “success rate” than taking it for at least eight. (I’d like to see the data behind the claim, and I’d like to know who financed the studies.) So she took it for a year—along with two antidepressants and a long-acting benzodiazepine.

No idea what kind of doctor she went to, but in fact family doctors and internists, who are generally ignorant about addiction and recovery, can prescribe Suboxone, a long-acting fat-soluble opioid that’s more powerful, milligram for milligram, than heroin. Just as family doctors and internists, who are generally ignorant about mental illness, can prescribe antidepressants—drugs that also change the brain, usually not for the better, according to Robert Whitaker, who wrote a comprehensive and almost universally acclaimed book on the subject of psych meds and mental illness. Any time-frame over six weeks is considered “long-term” treatment by most physicians and researchers, and lots of folks wind up on these drugs indefinitely.

My reader writes,

I have been living with the knowledge for about 18 months that Suboxone is this wonder drug. It turns out I didn’t know too much about it. I kept a couple of the film strips in case I felt like I was going to relapse. One day I took the Suboxone after about three months of being off of it and I felt so high that it scared me… so I tried it again after.

Of course she tried it again. She’s an addict, and she has drugs in her stash.

This person has a job, too. She’s a college student, like my students. She’s studying to be a doctor, “so I could go help people with the problems I had,” she writes. And since starting school in August, she’s been on “a Suboxone binge,” she says.

Not to get high, but because it gives me my confidence back.

She needs confidence. She has to make friends, she writes. “I became socially awkward after my addiction”—as though her addiction is “over”—“and I felt like I needed it to talk to people.” So now she’s back to taking it every day.

Just little, tiny pieces, probably like 1/9th of a pill a day, but I don’t want to take it anymore, and I want my confidence and ability to talk to people back… can you please help me?

I have news for whoever is reading this who thinks that one-ninth of a Suboxone pill isn’t a lot. If it’s one-ninth of an 8mg pill, then that’s almost 1mg of buprenorphine, and that’s roughly equivalent to 30mg morphine. Which ain’t nothin to sneeze at.

This 18-year-old girl (she is 18: she told me) is taking drugs simply because she wants to trust herself. She has a drug that gives her that fleeting feeling of self-trust. She knows it won’t last.

These emails I get from readers feel like silk threads that bind me to folks around the world who are desperate for help with their drug problems. It’s like each of these people is Spider-Man, firing out webs that reach around the world and go straight inside me and attach themselves there. And they pull.

To my reader: your addiction is not “over.” If indeed you were “addicted” to heroin, then you are an addict. Being an addict doesn’t mean you’re a low-life. It means you have an illness, and like anyone who is ill you need to learn to take care of yourself. To do this you must ask for help In Real Life. However scary it might seem.

On the other side of that reality of needing to ask for help is this problem my reader will most likely run into: she may go to her doctor and tell him that she stashed her films and she’s been using again. You know what may happen? He’ll decide she’s a “chronic relapser” and put her back on Suboxone, perhaps at a higher dose, perhaps for a longer time. She is 18. Her brain and central nervous system aren’t really even out of childhood.

She writes, in a voice that is perhaps not self-confident but certainly reaching toward self-awareness,

I don’t want to take it anymore.

“I don’t want to take it anymore.”

The famous scene with Peter Finch from the film, “Network.”

I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.

Reader, there are two ways I might be able to help you. One is to suggest you call Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous and get help from real people who have been through this (and worse). Don’t Take It Anymore.

The second is something I think I need to do for all the folks who write in, to me and to forums for drug addicts, saying they can’t quit Suboxone. And that is to write about Suboxone.

If you have a story you want to tell about how Suboxone either helped you or kicked your ass, please email me at guinevere (at) guineveregetssober (dot) com.


  1. G.. Great post hear this same thing to much lately these doctors are to willing to put people on suboxen and methadone what can be called harm reduction these doctors need to be held accountable for their actions just like we are in recovery the addict needs to hit rock bottom and the maintenance of these drugs takes little longer to reach their bottom and also up regulate their intake from the drugs they were taking on the streets hope this young lady finds her way into 12 step program thanks G for writing about this and keeping others informed about this topic

  2. I’m in the same boat… I have only done heroin and other pills a couple of times… but I have been using 8mg Suboxone pills everyday, and if I don’t take it, I can’t get up and go to school, I can’t take care of my daughter, or work… it is very hard to get off of it….

  3. disqus_N812J3s6om

    October 30, 2012 at 12:48 am

    Thank you…
    thank you so much for responding. I came back to this website not expecting a reply…especially not a whole blog! I am only 18 by the way…but I really appreciate the support

  4. Dr. Pamela Peeke, MD

    November 5, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    Thank you for such a compassionate and well–considered response.

    All addictions lead to a shut down in the areas of the brain that govern impulse control and pleasure. Addiction basically blasts dopamine receptors so that the addict needs more and more to feel any pleasure AT ALL. While my specialty is in food addiction, PET scans show the same blank spot in the brain for the obese as for the cocaine addict.

    There is an approach, integrated and holistic, to the allure of substance abuse that is based on foods rich in B6 and activities that stimulate dopamine receptor regeneration. It combines beautifully with 12-step programs and actually works with the hardest cases, the cross-addicted, because the method of food and self-care hits back at any addiction.

    This is emphatically not a pitch against 12-step programs (in fact, one brain-booster is having a community of people who understand the problem), therapy and other tracks toward sobriety. But it IS a tool and there is cutting edge hard science behind it.

    I hope your correspondents can learn to avail themselves of all the other healthy and productive fixes out in the world.

  5. The buprenorphine treatment was definitely a good thing for me. I can, however, understand how it could become the next addiction in the addicts world as well. Lets face it, once we have been in the active phase of addiction, be it with drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, or even shopping anything and everything could potentially be our next addiction unless we continue to keep ourselves in check. It’s walking that constant proverbial tight rope being an addict. First of all, in MY opinion, the person that is struggling with the addiction has to be the one, and the ONLY one that WANTS to be a recovering addict. If that is the case, once again in my opinion, Subutex/Suboxone if used properly can be a good thing.

    Why do I feel this is the case? Well,Here’s my story in a nut shell… I began using Vicodin for Classic Migraine headaches. I didn’t immediately start taking them daily. It was a very gradual thing. At first, I only took them when I needed them. Then years later, began taking them IF I thought I might need them, and then very quickly (in my own mind) as a preventitive – Just in case I got a migraine. After 5 solid years of taking Vicodin and Percocet, I just stopped taking them…. And as anyone that has gone through the INSANITY of trying to “just stop” taking them KNOWS all too well, it’s HELL and I’m sure most of the time leads to failure. I had tried to wean myself off quite a few times with no success, I was seeking counseling to deal with all the underlying issues that I had masked sooo well with the 5 yrs of “dipping out” with opiates. I was beginning to feel like I was STUCK! I was horrified thinking of all symptoms of withdrawl – the stomach issues, the insomnia, the sweats, skin crawling and as if that’s not enough…. then comes the never ending depression. I stayed clean for 2 months and couldn’t deal with my continued stomach issues and depression. I was told by a physician about Buprenorphine treatment and sought it out. I did seriously want to be DONE with the vicious cycle…. I took Subutex for a couple weeks and moved to Suboxone at a very low dose for a little over a year, and then tappered back very slowly. I have been completely off everything now for 8 months and did it successfully without a single withdrawal. I had to RE learn who I was, how to be happy and live without opiates. I felt I was able to re learn everything much easier while not having to go through the horrifying withdrawals at the same time. I have had extenisve therapy and work the steps daily. It is possible to be stronger than your addiction…. I wish those of you who are struggling with opiate addiction to find the help that you need to live a higher quality of life without them!!

  6. would you mind sharing your suboxone taper plan…ive been on a year and a half and im down to 2mgs. This is harder to get off of than the pills.

  7. Hi wannabefree- I will absolutely share my tapering program. I was down to 2mgs/day for about a year before my Dr and I decided it was time. My doctor reduced my 2mg strip by having me cut it to 1 1/2 mg per day for a month. Then down to 1 mg for a month then 1/2 for a month. After that it was down to 1/4 for a month. Then 1/4 every other day for a month. That was the hardest step because of fear. After he explained that the ceiling on the Suboxone and it’s in your system for at least 5 days it sort of put my mind at ease. I did feel a few feelings of withdrawal but VERY minor. Like a little bit of lethargy for a couple days and I’m not sure that’s what it was or not. After every other day, I went to every two days for a month And then every three days for a month. Then I was told to stop. I did and was VERY scared but didn’t have a single issue…..I hope that you find your strength and get yourself off of it as well with your doctors help.

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