So, here goes. How to start, how to start? I guess I will start with a short back story. I have been on the Fentanyl patches for 10 years, as well as many other opiates for 15 years. You name it, I've been prescribed it. I arrived here the same way as many others, and for probably the same reasons. Same story, different girl. A back injury with opiates prescribed and even encouraged. I quickly learned that opiates not only numbed the physical pain, they also numbed the emotional pain. And....they numbed the emotional pain so very well, beautifully even. A beautiful warm blanket on the very lonely life I seemed to have created for myself.
I was never good with pills. If I hurt either physically or emotionally I would just take more. I was always running out before my next prescription, and constantly going through mild withdrawals. After several years I realized I needed to get off all pills. I slowly tapered by going up on Fentanyl patches as I went down on the pills. I managed to cheat the pill withdrawal demons by paying the far more powerful, jealous Fentanyl demons. In 2011 I was finally off everything except Ibuprofen and Fentanyl.
Here's the thing with the Fentanyl patch, if you don't abuse it, its very difficult to get any kind of high from it. Sure, it still numbs life, but just not a high numb. In February, I experienced a very emotionally difficult situation that I am sure I will get into in more detail at some point. I immediately went back to my usual coping mechanism (why is that??) and just put on extra patches. Problem solved! I didn't have to deal with the unbelievable hurt of betrayal and the knowledge that I wasn't loved, and instead wrapped myself in the lovely warm blanket of fentanyl and denial. I ran out early. I just told the doctor I had a box that didn't stick, and since I had always filled on time or late, he was ok with giving me the script 10 days early.
I never dealt with the emotional pain I had experienced in Feb, I mean, I had fentanyl, so I really didn't have too, except, it just wouldn't go away this time. The hurt and betrayal had just cut too deeply and just wouldn't go into that place inside my head where I shove all the pain. The place I never visit. I had read online that you could suck on the patch and in May I tried it for the first time.
I LOVED it!! It felt so damn good! And, just like that, I was hooked! All the pain gone, and a lovely euphoric high replaced it. Instantly my life was so warm, so safe, and so lovely! At first I was very careful and made sure I never ran out. However, the last few months I have been out of control and have run out early both times. Last month I ran out 5 days early and used Loperamide to get me through to my next prescription. I also begged the doctor to put me up over the 50 mcg/hr patch, and he hesitantly did so. I mean, I had a legitimate back injury and I knew he would. I promised myself I would never do that again, I was going in the wrong direction and I knew it.
Of course, the girl that Kitts talks about in her journal, you know, the one that's inside you and agree's with everything you say? The one thats encouragingly nodding her head and agreeing enthusiastically when I talk about reduction and control? The one that was right on board with me when I promised myself I would never run short again? Well, she just turned around and did whatever she wanted, all the while still smiling happily and agreeing with my good intentions. What she wanted was to use up all 15 patches in just over a week, and she was very, very happy doing so. Who knows what dose I was on, but I know that for me it was excessively high. I am honestly lucky to be alive. Fentanyl is not a drug to fuck with.
So here I am today, 48 yrs old and 26 hours off of fentanyl, the last of my opiate hell..... and the beginning of another very real, very powerful hell. A hell that there is no way around, only through. The beginning of the beautiful, powerful, soul changing hell of having to face head on the life I have managed to create for myself. The life that is so very different from the one that I dreamed about as a girl all those years ago. The life I have been hiding from for so long. You see, getting off fentanyl means that everything changes. It must. It's the nature of the beast. I cannot stay the same because this life, this life right now, this life that I have been living for 15 years only survives unchanged on fentanyl. I can only live this life because I am numb to it, because I don't really care about it. It's the price I pay for the colourless status quo hell of an emotionless life lived and survived on drugs, and I am no longer willing to pay. I want my dreams in colour, I need my dreams in red.
If there is ever a reason to not get off fentanyl, withdrawals are it. Bloody F&#@ing Hell!!! Withdrawals from fentanyl have their own special place in withdrawal hell. You name it, its there with a vengeance. Whole body RLS, electric shocks pulsating through every cell, screaming, pulsating, electrifying, never ending. There's also an anxiety that feels as if you are standing on the edge of sheer terror. A feeling of impending doom thats difficult to comprehend. Forget sleep for the next 20 years (seriously, it feels like that). Your hands shake, and your body sweats and every inch moves, moves and never, ever, ever gives you a second of relief. A crazy making hell of blood, sweat, puke, electrical zaps, and tears. I honestly cannot describe the sheer, unimaginable hell that is cold turkey fentanyl withdrawal. The first time I experienced that was in 2005 because I decided I was just done with the patch and took it off. I was withdrawing from 50 mgc/hr transdermal patch. Eight days later with no relief or let up of symptoms, I wound up in the ER and given IV fentanyl. I was sent home with a script of fentanyl lollipops as well as the patches and told to never do that again. That hell was only withdrawing from the 50 mcg/hr patch, I can't imagine what it would be like at the incredibly high oral and transdermal amounts I have currently been taking.
Hence, my choice of Loperamide, and a wise choice for me although I wish I was strong enough to go cold turkey. I am now 29 hours in. The oral fentanyl has a half life of 8-9 hours is probably almost gone. The patch, which I removed at 11:30 am yesterday, has a half life of 20 hrs and will probably be almost gone by 8:30 am tomorrow. Then it will be a matter of just working through the Fentanyl stored in my fat cells and thanks to Fentanyl's amazing weight loss program I don't have much of that.
Loperamide is Fentanyl that doesn't cross the blood brain barrier, and its holding my withdrawals surprising well. So far I have taken 70 mg (35 pills) in 10 mg doses (5 pills). (For those interested, my first dose was 5 pills at 6:30 pm, followed by another 5 pills at 2:30 am, 5 pills at 4:30 am, 5 pills at 6:00 am, 5 pills at 12 pm, 5 pills at 1:30 pm, 5 at 3:00 pm). I will take another dose at 6:30 pm. I do not want to exceed 80 mg (40 pills) in a 24 hr period. I plan on staying on 80 mg dose (40 pills) for 3 days, and then reducing down to half (40 mg or 20 pills in 24 hrs) for 5 days or as needed. I then want to reduce down half again (20 mg or 10 pills in 24 hrs). Then I will be on a somewhat safe dose, and will reduce as tolerated. Thats the plan at least! Who knows, I am hoping, praying, and begging that I can stick to it.
So far, withdrawals with Loperamide have been ok, bearable. I have been a little uneasy. I can tell my brain really wants Fentanyl, and it wants it right now. I feel really alert. I am also experiencing a wide range of emotions that I haven't felt for many, many years. It feels strange and really weird. Its like my soul wants me to experience every emotion possible, and experience it in the excessively short time frame of just a few minutes. Then repeat ad nauseam. It's emotionally exhausting. I can tell my body is also processing something that it's not liking. I feel exhausted, like my body is screaming at me with no voice.
If you have made reading it this far I am impressed, and I thank you for sharing in the beginning of my story. I am hoping to post here throughout my journey through hell. I hope I make it through to the other side without retreating back to the comfort of the dragon in the cave. (I loved that analogy, I found it fitting and beautiful). I really admire the vulnerability and sheer courage of those who have journaled here. If it wasn't for you, for sharing your own very personal experiences, your darkest days, the hurt, the pain, and the joy with me, a complete stranger from everywhere and nowhere, I wouldn't have had the courage to post here. Nor would I have the courage to start the beginning of a new life drug free. I thank you more than you will ever know. Here's to the first few hours of a new, beautiful, bold and messy life. To the discovery of the world out there in the sun. Here's to meeting myself for the first time. May it be everything its promised to be, and nothing it's promised to be.