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80 Years Ago

Archives 03-21-2001

North County Lines by Bob

An Award Winning Column

For comments or questions contact Bob at bobncl@hotmail.com



Methadone. A substitute for heroin addiction? Perhaps. A good substitute for heroin addiction? Perhaps not.

I consumed many drugs, legal and illegal, during my younger, wilder, stupider days, before I put down my addictions and began trudging the path of recovery, the road to happy destiny.

Unlike cocaine and speed, which take you up, or so it seems, heroin takes you out, way out, among the clouds, where the bravest angels fear to tread, where junkie fools play stoned graveyard games for keeps.

Called smack and horse, heroin can also be spelled d-e-a-t-h. Many addict friends of former past have I seen, curled up in fetal crouch, needle fresh from punctured veins, crooked smiles across empty faces.

Many addict friends of former past have I seen, squirming on the floor, unable to afford or to find what's needed to silence a monster screaming for constant feeding.

Many addict friends of former past have I seen, heads on satin pillows, hands crossed at their waists, crooked smiles on empty faces.

Seeing a friend on methadone is better than viewing one laid out like that. But isn't there a better way to kick drugs than substituting one addiction for another?

Yes there is and I speak from experience, of my own and others I have known. Those who had faith. Those who had fortitude. Those who had something called guts.

An estimated one out of five GI's returned from Vietnam with a drug problem. More than half of those were addicted to opiates, primarily heroin. I guess picking up a deadly drug habit with death all around didn't seem like a big deal.

According to what I've heard, the smack in Vietnam was almost pure. It hadn't been stepped on again and again. For a few bucks, you got enough for several hits.

But when a soldier returned to the States, the story was different. The smack had been stepped on again and again. Enough to keep you high, to keep you from withdrawing, could cost a couple hundred dollars a day and more.

The only addicts who earned enough to afford that were rock stars, famous actors, and sports celebrities. But those jobs were already taken.

Performing the simplest job in an average workplace while using heroin is impossible. Not much call for someone who nods off while driving a taxi or selling shoes. Unless a GI addicted to heroin wanted to become a thief, he had only one choice: Kick it.

Methadone was around then. But things like that were for the wealthy and the poor. A republican was in charge of our country. Talk about a blessing in disguise. Good ol' Nixon. At least he was good for something besides erasing tapes and lying to Congress.

Although he didn't know it, his plans to exclude Vietnam veterans and the middle class from receiving methadone helped scores of addicts kick heroin without replacing it with another drug. Sometimes Tricky Dick's tricks even tricked Dick.

My friend Dave was a Vietnam veteran who finally kicked heroin without using methadone. When I met Dave after detoxing in a chemical-dependency unit at a mental health center, he had been clean and sober a long time.

My arrival there was the result of an addiction to Demerol and morphine that developed after an embankment next to a bridge piling I was inspecting collapsed and I slid 30 feet to an abrupt stop feet first. After being released from the hospital, I walked like a crab for months.

By the time I returned to work, my addiction to two powerful opiates was firmly established. I had a full-time monkey on my back. My supervisor quickly became aware of my inability to think.

Go away and don't return until you're off that stuff. But. No buts. Get yourself straightened up or don't come back.

My supervisor made me responsible for myself. He was practicing tough love, something that's worth more than a truckload of methadone.

Give addicts sympathy and you're participating in their relapse. A cold, hard, proven fact. Sympathy kills more addicts than all other incorrect forms of treatment combined.

Detoxing was simple but not easy. Nothing to numb the effect. My teeth rattled. The vomit flowed. I shook until what felt like hot nails being driven through flesh, muscle, and bone began subsiding after several days.

Would I have taken methadone in the depths of withdrawal? You bet. Am I glad I didn't now? Most certainly.

Dave was another story. Although a Vietnam veteran, he was the child of wealthy parents. He had been given methadone to replace his heroin addiction on numerous occasions. He continued to relapse until he decided to quit cold turkey.

Knowing half measures avail us nothing, Dave quit trying the easier, softer way and toughed it out like thousands of others who kicked their addiction to heroin without replacing it with another drug.

Dave chose to kick his addiction without relying on another drug. Fortunately, I had no other choice. Thank You, Whoever or Whatever is in charge of things like that.

After I detoxed and finished 28 days of treatment, just a beginning, not a cure, Dave became my 12-Step sponsor.

He gave me understanding. He gave me encouragement. He gave me a hard time when I started feeling sorry for myself. He never gave me sympathy.

Dave knew sympathy, feeling sorry for an addict, recovering or on methadone, is a potent poison that kills effectively.




Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570
tel 931.823.6485
fax 931.823.6486

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