Almost There: The Final Stages of Opioid Recovery

A young man from Chicago has come a long way
January 11, 2019 Updated: January 24, 2019

Opioid addiction is arguably one of the toughest to break. Whether it’s a predilection for painkillers or heroin, the habit is an arduous one to overcome. One young man from Chicago, Illinois has been struggling with addiction for the past decade, and is in the final stages of his own recovery.

Peter is 26 years old, and is commercial estimator for a landscape contractor. He’s been clean for over a year, and has tapered off his final doses of methadone. However, it would take several failed recovery attempts coupled with personal tragedies to compel Peter to commit to his treatment.

Tragically, it wasn’t until the overdose death of his friend Jake and his own overdose that Peter fully committed to his recovery in 2017.

“That along with me overdosing and being in critical condition, and a coma on life support, breathing tube in the hospital for two months, in-patient physical therapy, that whole stint getting out of that having Jake die in 2017, within a couple months after that, I think those couple things, and whatever else kind of slammed me in the side of the head … it was a little bit of an eye opener,” Peter told The Epoch Times.

Taken Away

Peter grew up in a nice suburb outside of Chicago, and went to a good high school. Like a lot of high school students, Peter began experimenting with alcohol and marijuana when he was 16 years old. Then he moved on to harder drugs like painkillers and cocaine. At age 17, he began selling marijuana and was eventually arrested for intent to distribute. After the incident, his parents wanted him to participate in wilderness-immersion therapy program.

A transport team from the program came to Peter’s house, woke him up in the middle of the night, and whisked him away. His parents knew he wouldn’t have agreed to therapy voluntarily.

Headshot of Peter
A headshot of Peter. (Courtesy of Tim Sullivan)

Peter landed in the desert in Utah, and camped out with a group of other troubled youth for about 10 weeks. Over the course of his time there, he would hike, learn different outdoor and camping skills, and participate in therapy. Afterward, he attended a therapeutic boarding school for another 10 months. Unfortunately, being forced into therapy backfired.

“When I came home I felt like I had a lot of resentment just being kind of shipped off without knowing about it, and then missing my senior year, graduating at my high school, everything that comes with that,” Peter recalled. He received a diploma from his home high school, but it wasn’t the same.

Shortly after returning home, Peter relapsed.

Introduction to Heroin

After going through an ineffective series of treatments Peter slipped deeper into addiction, and was using cocaine more days than not. He was asking some friends where he could get more cocaine, and they told him they couldn’t get any, but they could get heroin. Within a year, he was snorting a substantial amount of heroin.

By age 19, Peter was shooting heroin intravenously, which eventually led to a couple of arrests. His close friend John overdosed on heroin, and after that Peter went downhill fast for the next five years struggling with addiction and spending some time in prison.

In a renewed effort to get sober, Peter had begun going to a methadone clinic the next town over in 2011 before he found himself in prison again. Shortly after his release, he experienced another relapse within seven months. He was unable to wake up to go to work, and had reached his limit.

Committing to Recovery

Peter had been participating in a combination of counseling and methadone treatment at Symetria Health a few years ago, but initially was not fully committed to his recovery. After the tragedies he experience in 2017 Peter had his wake up call.

Despite his initial hesitation, it’s been the most effective method of recovery he’s experienced.

Peter seated
An undated photo of Peter. (Courtesy of Tim Sullivan)

Previously, Peter’s treatment had been impersonal. He would walk into a methadone clinic, and they would provide the bare minimum of treatment, which meant simply giving him the pharmaceutical.

Peter found that this was the first time during his recovery where counselors took a personal interest in his treatment. For Peter it’s been a long journey to where he is now, but it’s not over.

“So now being clean a little over a year and getting off of [methadone] I’m in a much better space where if I get a thought or something like that, it’s easier to get rid of the thought, think of the bad, and use some of the things I learned or was taught so I don’t feel like I have to use and go kill myself,” Peter explained.

Aftercare

Right now Peter is primarily focused on his aftercare.

Toward the end of his treatment, he had more individual counseling sessions to prepare for maintaining his sobriety without methadone treatment. During this time, he processed the challenges and success he’s had.

Peter recognized that even though he was not entirely committed to his recovery at the beginning, he continued to show up and engage.

Moreover, Peter had worked hard during the course of his treatment and had gotten to a place where he was able to be employed.

Since he has tapered off use of methadone, he continues to attend aftercare group therapy at Symetria in order to reduce the chances of a relapse.

Now, Peter is in great health and has started improving relationships with people he may have pushed away in the past. He’s learned healthy coping skills such as exercise and identifying triggers. The combination of personalized therapy and methadone treatment at Symetria Health was more effective than the typical, decrepit methadone clinics Peter had become accustomed to.

“Before I couldn’t get through the work day without waiting to get off and going to get high or whatever,” Peter said. “I’m in the best spot I’ve been in in a long time for sure.”

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