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Dope Sick Detox


Dope Sick picI knew my last fix would arrive shortly upon waking up from an entirely unpleasant half-sleep in the backseat of my car. It was a quick drive to my favorite coffee shop where inside there was a restroom with two trustworthy locks on the door. I have always been a committed practitioner of making sure no one would have the opportunity to catch me in the act. After shooting up most my heroin, I stepped outside, ordered a coffee and stole an ice-cream sandwich. While enjoying my “breakfast,” I began to wonder when exactly I would make the drive over to CAST, give up my car and take a ride to the detox unit. I finished my coffee and ice-cream sandwich and made one last run back to the restroom where I finished off what little heroin I had left. It felt bittersweet knowing that this was my last dose for quite possibly forever, though seeing as my tolerance had robbed me of the ability to get high anymore and the effort required to score cash and dope was taking its toll on me; it was hard to care. I made a phone call to my mother. “Hi. I’ll go to detox.” She said when and where to meet her.

To say that I was pensive while driving to CAST would be an understatement. A million different thoughts, ideas and emotions drowned out the sound of the radio. Every street name and intersection where I had scored over the last year, the cold train rides in New York City and the hot car rides in Los Angeles, the gaunt faces of my junkie comrades and the warm smiles of my dealers, the horror of having to kick and the uncertainty of whether or not I really wanted to, the petty dialogues between myself and my parents and their attempts to help me – everything, loud and clear. The sun was out and it was in the upper 70’s, but I could feel no warmth, just a sick, haunting trembling knowing that soon enough the withdrawals would set in and I would not be reaching for the phone, running to the pawn shop or getting well.

Shortly after arriving at CAST and speaking with Nancy, the clinical director, she suggested that I head to the detox unit at Brotman Medical Center. I told her that I had heard horror stories from friends who had gone through there and requested that I detox at Tarzana because I heard they treated opiate withdrawals with Methadone. She gave me the OK and I returned to my car where I packed a small duffel bag with books, clothes, a few amenities and plenty of cigarettes. My mother drove me in her car over the hill and into the valley, a place where I had grown up but left long ago, only to find myself there under circumstances somehow related to drug use, typically the buying of or getting off them. This time I was getting off them.

The intake process took hours. I was beginning to experience the restlessness and anxiety that sets in shortly before the kick turns one into a sick, sobbing, screaming mess, but had hope that things would be just fine as soon as I received my detox medications. After a short tour through the facility by this giant of a man, I made my way to the nurses’ station and asked, “What do you give to folks coming off of heroin?” The nurse replied, “You’ll probably get Subutex….Tylenol for pain and Benadryl for sleep.” My jaw nearly fell off my face, my heart began to race and tears welled up in my eyes. “You can’t be serious. I’m kicking a yearlong heroin habit, at least a gram a day and you’re going to treat me with over the counter medications for the common cold? I don’t sleep for days when I come off this shit. No one does. You do know that, right?” The nurse gawked and snapped back at me. “You and a thousand other people, honey. No one ever died from lack of sleep.” And then it happened. My skin began to crawl. The hair on my arms stood up. Nausea set in and utter horror and disbelief consumed me. Choking back my tears I thought, “You people are fucking sick” and walked outside to smoke a cigarette. I don’t remember the names or faces of the other patients who were there with me. I couldn’t. All I could think about was that choosing Tarzana was a bad fucking idea, to put it lightly.

It had been nearly 24 hours since my last fix. As the sun rose, so did my withdrawal symptoms and I found myself in a panic, face to face with one of the most dreaded facets of heroin addiction – awaking to a junk sick dawn and having no means of getting well. I was scheduled to receive a 2mg dose of Subutex in a couple of hours. Let it be known that I am not a doctor, nurse or certified in any way in the field of medicine, but I do possess a Ph.D. in Heroin Addiction from the University Of Everywhere. The dose of Subutex they were intending to give me would have done as much good as giving a cup of chamomile tea to someone having a seizure. And of course, the Benadryl and Tylenol I had taken earlier had absolutely no effect. I called my mother, explained that what little medication they had given me did absolutely nothing to help my withdrawals and what they were intending on giving me later would have no effect either. I had to get out of there and fast. Brotman sounded like utopia at this point. Anywhere seemed better. I told the nurses, counselors and staff that their program was a sick joke and questioned whether they were just clueless, sadomasochists or both. I promised to inform any and all of my friends to never set foot into their disaster of a detox unit as long as I have life in me and walked out. Several hours later, I arrived at Brotman. I spent six days there. On the day I was discharged, I could firmly say that Brotman provided the best and most painless detox that I had ever had (and I had been through four two other treatment centers). I applaud all of the Brotman staff and doctors and highly encourage anyone seeking out a detox to go there.

Later that afternoon after a much needed haircut and buying new pair of jeans, my mother dropped me off at CWEST, the men’s’ sober living house owned and operated by CAST. Though I was, and still am, suffering through the post-acute withdrawal symptoms (yawning, crawling skin, restlessness, depression), I have managed to settle in very fast and become very comfortable around the other residents. It has been seventeen days since my last use and by attending the daily outpatient groups, meeting with a therapist and a psychiatrist, going to meetings, sticking to a healthy diet and keeping my eye on the long-term goal of staying clean and sober, I know I will be able to think clearly again, accomplish my goals and to once more have a life of my own free from addiction.


By Cameron C.


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