People say that opiate detox is like having a bad flu. Well, if you’ve been there you know that is the understatement of the century! Detox from opiates is a painful, miserable experience. Even at inpatient facilities with medical assistance there will still be some discomfort.
If you want to, or have to detox at home there are ways of making it more tolerable.
Days or even months before you begin your detox it’s helpful to start a mental detox. This is the real key to maintaining sobriety, or even returning to ‘normal person’ status. By ‘normal person’ I mean returning to the person that you were prior to opiate addiction.
Experts will tell you that this is impossible, once an addict always an addict, that you have a disease. Well, it’s just not true. All of those things ‘experts’ tell us are theories. The methods the medical community uses, based on those theories have been failing to work for 60 years now.
It is possible to train yourself to no longer desire your drug of choice. It all starts in the mind, with your thoughts.
I had some “Addict heal thyself” light-bulb moments while I was still a heroin addict, just before I finally got sober. I want to share with you the most profound:
1. No person, program, or meeting could do anything for me to help me reach my goal of returning to who I was prior to heroin. In fact, they did everything in their power to discourage me from believing that I could be cured.
2. If I believe it’s possible I can make it happen.
3. I have control over every aspect of my life. I am not now, nor have I ever been powerless.
It was a very important day for me when I gave up on finding help through any outside sources. That was the day that I took my power back. I decided that if everyone wasn’t wrong that I would make them wrong. When I stopped looking for help outside of myself I finally decided to help myself.
Though it seemed sudden when I came to this realization, in retrospect it wasn’t. I had been reading personal development books for quite a while. I read a lot about the power of the mind. It struck me, reading about people bending metal with the power of their mind and having surgery without anesthesia using only metal abilities, how could these amazing things be possible, yet we are taught to believe that once an addict always an addict? It simply can’t be possible that I can change everything about my life except this one enormously important area.
And so, I have been happily chemically independent for some time now. I think the secret of my success is that I had a running start. Prior to putting the needle down I went to work on myself. I wrote goals, did visualization, watched and changed my thoughts, and I meditated. After a short time I just didn’t want drugs anymore. Even when I went into withdrawal I just didn’t want the drugs. I don’t struggle one day at a time, attend meetings, avoid people places and things – I don’t have to.
Detox itself will be more tolerable if you are working toward something that excites you.
Once you’ve made worthwhile goals and learned a little bit about the powers of the mind the desire to get sober and get a great life will increase. Once you feel that passion you know you’re ready to put down and move on. This is true for any drug.
If you are opiate, benzodiazepine, or alcohol dependent you’re likely in for some physical withdrawal. If you decide to detox at home there are a number of things you’ll want to do to ensure as much comfort as possible. Remember that detoxing from certain substances can, on rare occasions, be fatal (this is the case with alcohol and benzos) so you will want to discuss your options with a doctor.
To ensure as much comfort as possible begin planning your detox ahead of time. Focus on treating the symptoms you are going to be feeling.
1. Make sure that you reschedule any commitments for at least a week.
2. If you have children you might want to make arrangements for them to stay elsewhere or for you to stay elsewhere. At a minimum make sure there is someone else looking after them. Don’t underestimate the depression and irritability and lack of energy that accompanies detox.
3. Have over the counter medications on hand that you may need
a. Anti nausea
c. Sleep aids
d. Benadryl (to stop the endless eye watering, sneezing, and nose running)
e. Epsom salts for hot baths (these can be lifesavers, especially if you are prone to intolerable skin burning sensations like me)
f. Motrin for pain
4. If you can, ask that someone gives you frequent massages. This will take your mind off of the discomfort and help the muscle and bone pain. Even a hand massage can work wonders.
5. You will likely feel hot and cold sweats or be freezing even though you are sweating through the sheets. Having someone to change your sheets for you is always helpful. I used to have so little energy that I could barely walk to the bathroom, never mind changing sheets!
6. This is a bit controversial, but some legal herbs can be very helpful. Kava Kava, a powdered ceremonial herb can be used to take the edge off.
7. Once you endure the worst of it (days 2-4) try to get up and walk around as much as possible. At first you will probably be dizzy, but it’s important to keep your body moving.
8. Throughout the process stay hydrated. Back headaches accompany most detoxes and water should help to relieve them.
There are some symptoms that people rarely mention, like the sensation of burning skin. I often felt as though I had a very bad sunburn when I went through withdrawal. You might experience strange sensations on your skin and scalp, eyes that are so dilated any amount of light can be overwhelming, and any stimuli can be too much for some people. There was one time I had to walk into a Walmart during a detox and it was stimulation overload. The fluorescent lighting blinded me and I felt dizzy, there was so much stuff! I never made it past the front door.
Also, people can get extremely horny during withdrawal. Opiates can kill sex drive and sexual sensation, but when the body is stripped of them, the sex organs go into over drive. Unfortunately, you’re normally too uncomfortable to want to have sex with anyone other than yourself!
For me, it was usually once I started to feel better, around days 5-7 that I would relapse. This is why I think it’s important to work on yourself before you put down the dope. The current paradigm of “put down then heal” just doesn’t work for the majority of people.
If you have not had success the traditional route, give my counter-intuitive method a try.