What do you think of my individualized harm reduction treatment?
It has been several years since I have last written you. I will try to be a brief as possible. What I have experienced in my struggle with drug addiction has been so profound that I may struggle to find the words to translate what has happened.
Several years ago I asked you if what I was using as a treatment for my drug addiction amounted to harm reduction. Previous to my harm reduction program’s start I had spent over 20 years of my life in and out of every sort of treatment program, including many attempts at sobriety in just about every type of 12 step group. Unknown to me for years while having such a hard time ever getting any relief was that I had been suffering from a severe bipolar condition which was what I was trying to treat so poorly with drugs. After an arrest for heroin (I had about a 3-year addiction going) I ended up in drug court in San Francisco. Best thing that ever happened to me.
Of course my finding such a great solution happened by pure mistake. I happened to pick a methadone clinic with a few more forward thinking therapists and doctors working for it. Unlike the young man’s experience with the clinic listed in the letter you use for your “Can I ever get off methadone,” my experience with my clinic was highly helpful. When I started at this clinic I was lucky enough to get a therapist who was willing to go along with my hair-brained idea.
I had reached a point in my addiction were I was really sick of trying to hit a vein and it was getting quite expensive. I was also so sick of failure in 12 step programs. The whole shaming process of becoming a newcomer over and over again was just something I was sick of. I had tried the 15-day detox with methadone a few dozen times so I was familiar with methadone and its shortcomings. I knew that methadone would not be enough to deal with my drug cravings. So to fill the gap I picked the least harmful drug to use along with a methadone regime. I also decided to cut out of my life EVERYONE who used hard drugs. Since alcohol also is a bad idea with methadone I have restricted its use to a couple beers a year.
My therapist decided to give it a try with two conditions. First I was to see her for two hours a week of therapy. Second I was to go see a psychiatrist for an evaluation. These things have had a profound effect on the quality of my life. The therapy has been great for dealing with my manic depression. It has also helped with many other issues from a pretty tough life. In seeing the psychiatrist I was properly diagnosed and given medications that have made me more calm. Like I said I am lucky. My therapist has been the same for 7 years. I was just commenting on this and she said that she sees the kind of job she has as one were you need to hang in there for the long haul. She has been with the clinic for 12 years and plans on staying on for 30 years.
As for me I have become more “involved in my recovery” by getting involved with the medical marijuana movement both as an activist and as an advocate for my fellow patients. I am the group coordinator for my local hemp club. I also take my fellow disabled patient friends to there doctors meetings, shopping, even the beach. We have our own fellowship and it is damn much tighter than any 12-step community I have been the member of. The funny thing is today I have that corny “happy, joyous, and free” crap without even trying for it. A couple of years ago I even quit tobacco. I can drop my blood pressure with meditation so low it takes an expert nurse to find my pulse.
So today I can say to you instead of asking you if my way is living a harm reduction lifestyle I can tell you it is so. Methadone is not the “chemical handcuffs” that some make it out to be. For me I can sure live with it.
I sure hope you have read this. I will write you again when I have been doing this for 10 years (just 3 more to go) and let you know if there is anything to report.
I don’t really have an answer for Bill — he didn’t really have a question. He pursued his own path, and it is certainly distinct. There are so many things to note about his way:
- although Bill lauds methadone maintenance and drug courts, the way he used both is simply not permitted in any programs I am familiar with (“I picked the least harmful drug to use along with a methadone regime”)
- thank God for San Francisco and dedicated therapists and open-minded physicians! (“My therapist decided to give it a try with two conditions. First I was to see her for two hours a week of therapy. . . . The therapy has been great for dealing with my manic depression. It has also helped with many other issues from a pretty tough life. . . . My therapist . . . sees the kind of job she has as one were you need to hang in there for the long haul. She has been with the clinic for 12 years and plans on staying on for 30 years.”)
- in particular, methadone therapy has become so corrupted in most places by the 12 steps that Bill’s use of other drugs to leaven the methadone, along with occasional drinking, would be the object of scorn and denigration
- Bill has chosen to help other people by gaining them access to illicit drugs!
- Bill must really have reached some personal resolution — he’s quit smoking!
- Bill’s story is a tribute to individual motivation and tracing one’s own path through life — and God bless him for it!