Addiction and Withdrawal (and some other things that’d take away from that dramatic title) (whoops)
Tuesday August 30th 2011, 9:18 pm
Filed under: Friends, Health (Not Cancer), Me, Myself, and Reid, NYC, Sodapopcornculture

FROM THE WRITER, WRITTEN AFTER EVERYTHING ELSE, JUST BECAUSE: I’m sick right now. I have been for what feels like a very long time. Most of August, at least. This is a long entry, because there’s a lot to cover. There’s a lot to say about what’s going on right now. I’m going to try to write shorter entries as soon as possible, in the hopes that I get my groove back. Right now, though, I’m moving even slower than normal due to the aforementioned being sickness. Now, onto things I wrote before now.

* * *

I’m giving up the day rating system because, frankly, I don’t like rating things with numbers. For me, when rating things, the values of numbers feel arbitrary while the values of words feel exact. And to all those equation-huggers out there vilifying me as an anti-numeralist and saying I have some sort of anti-numbers agenda, let me be perfectly clear: this has nothing to do with my anti-math campaign. Just like our traditional Roman alphabet, numbers should be used to rate things on blogs–just not my blog. Look, I love using numbers for all kinds of stuff, like… ranking things! Yeah!

Now let’s see where we left off…

Ah yes, rebound headaches and New York City.

I made it to NYC for the first time in nearly a year!, albeit while having continuous rebound headaches. I spent most of my time in a hotel room, with the lights off and the air conditioner turned way up (up, of course, being the direction one turns an air conditioner so that it will make the temperature go down), just trying hard to sleep. Which was all well and good but, believe it or not, wasn’t the highlight of my trip.

I was able to attend Wes’s bachelor party and join some good friends in celebration. Wes and I grew up together in Colorado, and he moved out to NYC after college. At some point early on in Wes’s life in NYC, Paul Syracuse and I inadvertently matched him up with Paul’s friend Emily, another transplant to NYC. Wes and Emily will be getting married soon in Emily’s homestate of Iowa. Due to the intermixing of these various social networks, I got to celebrate with some friends I grew up with in Colorado and some friends I’d made in NYC. It was really great having guys from these different groups of friends, many of whom are normally so scattered to the four corners of the world, in the same place at the same time. It was nice catching up with people I don’t get to see all that often, and it was fun hanging out with everyone. I was glad I toughed it out for the party. Not the whole party, but for a good chunk of it. Not a big chunk, but definitely a good chunk. Yep, a chunk of the party that lasted exactly as long as I was able to tough it out with migraine-strength headaches. I made it through dinner. But still! It was great.

I did only a few other things whilst in NYC, when my head would allow. Matt Gallo and I saw Will, BTTM’s stage director, performing his sketch comedy play phenomenon, Dystopia Gardens, which was just reviewed by the New York Times. I saw Spider-man with Jason, Reiman, and a surprisingly at capacity-looking audience. And I got some ice cream. By the time I was leaving, my rebound headaches were much less frequent. This in no way stopped them from getting in the way of things I wanted to be doing, but it was certainly a nice feeling knowing they were on their way out.

How would I rate the trip? On the one hand, 1) there were tons of people I didn’t get to see that I would’ve liked to have seen; 2) my hotel was hosting a creepy child beauty pageant (is there any other kind besides creepy?), for which “parents” bred intricate ballroom gowns with little girls inside them, who had been trained to sit, fetch, and bark “America The Beautiful;” and, 3) I was plagued by rebound headaches. On the other hand, Spider-man didn’t fall on me. I therefore consider the trip a success.

After I returned home and took a few days to recover from traveling, I finally began the wean off the one medication, more than any other, that I’d been waiting years to stop taking: methadone. Methadone is popularly known as an anti-addictive drug to help people get off extremely addictive and deadly opiates like heroin. It’s also a very powerful pain-reliever. When I was in the hospital for all those many, many months in 2008, I was put on a tremendous number of pain medications to help with my tremendous amount of pain. Among them, (you guessed it… probably) methadone, which I’ve never completely stopped taking.

That isn’t to say I haven’t tried before. From late July ’08 through January ’09, we successfully weaned me down from 80mg of methadone a day to 10mg a day with no trouble. We proceded to the next step of the wean but had to stop when, for the first time in my life, I experienced withdrawal. My docs talked about various other plans to get me completely off the stuff, but it was decided that chemo was hard enough on me as it was and that I was still experiencing chronic pain, so I couldn’t go off it until I was done with chemo. Over the intervening days and weeks and months, as I learned more about methadone and all of its bad side effects, the more I wanted off of it. Eventually, chemo ended and eventually the doctors in charge of my pain medications came up with a new plan to get me off methadone–this time, without withdrawal. My first day on this new plan, when I took the smallest dose of methadone I’ve taken since January ’09, I was almost as happy as the day I finished chemo.

A few days passed, and the wean was going great. I was having fewer and fewer rebound headaches, but as I said, they were still causing trouble. Like many of my health issues of the past four years, the rebound headaches didn’t have the best timing. They’d pounce on me when there was something I wanted to do, and they were nowhere to be found when there was something I didn’t want to do. At last, they seemed to depart for good, just in time for another pre-wedding celebration: an engagement party for my buddy Loren and his fiance, Laura. They’re great. They’re perfect for each other, and I’m very happy for them. Very happy. That being said, I didn’t know people still had engagement parties, a curiosity which I made a point of asking the happy couple about. They explained that since they are getting married in a year or something, that they were holding… or doing… a sort of a… uhm… I don’t know. I think the whole thing was a brilliant racket to get double the gifts of a normal wedding. Brilliant. Good for you guys! It was a great party, too!

Several days passed. And it started.

Methadone withdrawal. Again. But different this time. Worse. Awful headaches, stomachaches, body pain, sweats, hallucinations, and all sorts of other symptoms. And due to my experience with rebound headaches, I can now only take short acting pain medications eight days a month. There was a about a week before it was clear that I was suffering from withdrawal. And it’s been another week since then. I have no feeling for when it will stop. It’s hard to decide if this day is one of the days I should take a pain reliever, or if I should hold off in case there are worse days ahead when I’ll need it even more. I really don’t want to be in any worse condition than this without some kind of relief.

And, yes, eight days a month. Because I had rebound headaches, that’s my limit on any short acting pain medication, which includes everything from Advil and Tylenol to Percoset and Oxycodone. If I don’t adhere to this for what could be years, I risk triggering the headaches again. And to think, If either of the doctors that put me on 2,400mg of ibuprofen had first asked me if I get many headaches, that would have sent up a red flag. It’s very likely that I wouldn’t have had the rebound headaches and that I wouldn’t have had these restrictions put in place. Rebound headaches are also called medication overuse headaches, and it’s easy to see why when you swallow 2.4 grams of Advil a day continuously for almost two months.

When I’m finally able to tolerate this dose of methadone without signs of withdrawal, I’ll take a breather, and then weaning will continue. I’ll step down to an even lower dose. Withdrawal hurts. It hurts my body and it hurts my mind. Today, I’ve had trouble putting sentences together. Thoughts in my head are all over, but hard to find when I go looking for them. I am, however, finding it particularly easy to hold a conversation with my fan. I’m scared, because I know what going down a dose has done to me this time, and I fear what it will be like next time.

My rebound headaches and my methadone withdrawal share some similarities. The origins of both the headaches and the withdrawal can be traced back to well-intentioned doctors putting me on pain medications for long periods of time (ibuprofen and methadone, respectively). In both cases, I took the medications exactly as directed–to. the. letter. And from each, I wound up with a disease no one can simply go out and catch. Addiction. Addiction, addiction, addiction. I had a healthy respect for addiction’s power before, and a good level of disdain towards it. Now, after spending the better part of a month learning about withdrawal first hand, and knowing I’ll probably be spending at least one more doing the same, my feelings about addiction have all turned to fear.

But don’t let there be any mistake, methadone: I want to kick you for good, more than I want to stop right now and feel better. And believe me, I want to take that little extra dose that I know would make me feel better. I really want to take it. But I won’t. I never asked for you, but you forced me into addiction anyway, and you’ve caused me so much anguish. You may be a big, ferocious beast, methadone, but I’ve fought much bigger and much badder beasts than you. And I’ve slain each and every one of them. No matter what it takes, no matter how long it takes, I’m going to win this. And you will lose.


3 Comments so far
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Yeah! You WILL defeat methadone! *shaking my fist at methadone!*

Comment by Matt Gallo 08.30.11 @ 9:56 pm

I know you can and will overcome this methadone addiction just as you’ve overcome so many other things. Soon enough, methadone will run home crying, never to return.(Serves it right of course.) Hang in there Reid!

Comment by Krista Harris 08.30.11 @ 10:42 pm

Hang in there buddy. You’re going to get through this and when you’re on the other side it’ll all be worth it.

Comment by James Bedell 08.31.11 @ 4:20 am

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