Life after Suboxone
The thought of getting off subs was daunting for years and I kept pushing ‘the attempt’ into the future. I am here to tell you that this can be done. It can be done much easier than I ever would have envisioned. Throughout my journey there have been stepping stones that I will share in hopes I may inspire someone to follow in my footsteps and transition easily into a sub-free lifestyle. I managed this goal with very few comfort meds. This was not easy but it was not overly difficult either. I learned patience, strength and acceptance. I learned not to be afraid of the taper and the unknowns that were yet to surface. If there is a piece of advice I can pass on to other people beginning this long road, “Do not be afraid of something that has not happened yet”. I’m streamlining my 9 month tapering journey in hopes I can help one person beat this struggle. I spent too many years of my maintenance worried about the horror stories I read online and the fear kept me caged as a chained paying prisoner to Reckitt Benckiser. The hard work and patience has paid off and has been 100% worth it.
I am a 39 year old female (at time of taper in 2015)
When I was in my early 20’s I found my love for OxyContin and after 5 years my addiction became difficult to handle. I transitioned to methadone maintenance and continued on 140mg per day for roughly 6 years. I tapered down on methadone (somewhat) and jumped cold turkey off of 40mg. I made it 3 weeks. I began drug seeking behavior again and the thought of death was welcoming. I started Suboxone at 12mg and quickly tapered to 6mg and maintained the 6mg dosage for 12 years. I split dosed throughout maintenance.
The long term side effects I was struggling with were taking a toll. I did not sneeze for 12 years, no sex drive, memory issues, sugar cravings galore, didn’t want social contact, didn’t want to go outside, I hated music or anything related, slept too much and overall I wasn’t satisfied with my life.
I always thought that the loss of medical insurance/coverage would be the kick in my ass I needed to get off sub but it was my hospital’s closure instead. My last doctor’s appointment would be in August 2015. Over the past few years, I’ve stock piled like any self respecting addict would. I had (130) 2mg tabs to start my taper from 6mg. On my last appointment my doctor supplied me with a script for 2mg strips as I felt it would be easier to taper with. I highly recommend the strips as they were integral to my tapering success.
My taper was quite easy from 6mg to 2mg. I tapered relatively quickly to this level with success and virtually no symptoms besides slight anxiety. My rule for my taper (under 2mg) was to stay at a dosage until I was comfortable which was usually between 10-14 days. I tried to maintain 10% drops under 2mg. I stuck to this rule throughout taper.
Once I arrived at 2mg, I started to feel a 'lack' of something. I stayed on 2mg for a couple weeks and decided to begin once a day dosing. I thought it was a good idea because it would create 'change' - which in turn, I could learn from. The first couple nights of sleep were restless and I slept light due to the adjustment and rise of anxiety levels. I also noticed that I could feel my dose wearing off sooner and started to experience the beginnings of actual w/d symptoms. Yawning a lot in the morning, watery eyes and headaches. I started to get a sensation of needing to stretch - almost like I could over-stretch and pop muscles of the bone. Gross, I know. I started to experience one of my favorite symptoms: aching joints and lower back. I had slight stomach issues in the morning but they usually subsided. I adjusted well after that initial period.Month 2 - The Real work begins under 2mg
In the beginning of switching to once a day dosing on 2mg, I decided to start rotating my doses to attempt to lower my blood level to the next drop. I started dosing 2mg one day, 1.5mg the next, 2mg, 1.5mg and so on. I continued this pattern until 1mg. During this phase I starting feeling the drops around day 4 which resulted in less sleep. Where I used to sleep 8-9 hours easily, I was now sleeping around 6 and woke up with slight anxiety.
I also became aware of my other favorite tapering symptom. Burning skin, hands and feet. In my mind it was my starving receptors screaming for a fix. I would take some ibuprofen which helped, surprisingly. The feeling always remained until my next dose.
I adjusted my dose and dropped to 1.5mg. The back ache and joint issues were pretty debilitating at the time and I remember thinking I must have an old back injury and I was hiding the pain all these years. You will come to find, this wasn't the case.
During this initial phase of 'actual' definitive tapering, I learned that knowledge is priceless. I read hundreds of taper stories, questions and answers trying to learn everything I could about tapering, jumping and post jump. I started to recognize a correlation between horror stories and quick tapers. I learned that the people most successful were the people who created a methodical schedule and tapered to a microgram level. I didn't bother asking other people to provide me a suggested taper. All the info is out there if you look for it. I thought about what would work for me and put it into action.
I also noticed people that were prescribed benzos in unison struggled in a different way and routinely couldn't differentiate between benzo issues and sub taper issues. Many of the horror stories I read involved someone dual-prescribed benzos and subs. There were a couple people's benzo/sub stories I followed in the beginning. I was originally open to the possibility of using them for the post jump acute stage but my opinion quickly changed.
My mind was constantly flooded with questions that other people's taper stories couldn't answer. Who will I be after this? Will I be ok? Will I have PAWS for years like other people have reported? Will my personality change? Has my chemistry been fucked up for so long that there is no 'real healing'? Will I be happy? I've come a long way in my life, so sub did save me in a lot of ways. I wouldn't be where I am without it BUT can I live without it? The more I reflected on these questions, MY voice starting to reign over the voices of fear. This was a long road but I knew long roads.
At 1.5mg I started to notice personality changes in myself. I started to get emotional again. I noticed myself tearing up watching tv or you tube videos. I started to notice music again. I had no idea that it was the sub causing the disinterest in music all these years until I learned most people I read about experienced the same thing. Music started to give me chills and energy. I started to notice when I had my headphones on all day that I was much happier and had more energy throughout the day. I still to this day, have my headphones on most of the time. I am making up for lost time.During my journaling process, the forum I was posting on changed formats and I lost an entire month of tapering. I will pick up on the following month.Month 3 - Don't fear the taper
On the 'lost journals', I talked about switching to the strips to make tapering easier. I was on 1mg (2mg tabs) when I switched to 2mg strips. The first time I took the 1/2 strip, I had a reaction to it. It was a lot stronger than the tabs. At that time, I decided to lower my dose to make up for the strength of the strips. I went to .82 mg instead of staying on the 1mg. Being on this dose and tapering slowly wasn't any different from previous drops. I started to feel the effects of exhaustion from the months of 4-6 hours of restless sleep but at the same time, I was getting used to it.
I began sticking my strip between my gum line and my lip and got a much better absorption rate. I was also able to hold a conversation with people when taking my dose. I continued this practice throughout taper.
Month 3 went a bit slower than normal in the tapering schedule due to work commitments and I needed every bit of mental acuity and physical strength that I could hold on to.
On the 8th day of .75mg, I had a thought. I started to notice that every time I dropped down the adjustment felt the same. It didn't feel much different each drop getting under 2 mg. In a way, it felt like I adjusted better. This epiphany started washing away the rest of the 'taper fear'. During this transition, I started to notice my thoughts go from 'fear' to 'finding strength', I no longer worried that I had no refills and no doctor. I was determined to taper once.
I would drop in dosage. I would feel the adjustment 4-5 days later which resulted in restless sleep and slight stomach issues. On day 6-8, I would stabilize and return to new tolerance level. My sleep would return to the normal 5-6 hours.
At the end of month 3, I was on .62mg. I was struggling with energy levels, lethargy and lack of motivation. During my taper, I was making a conscious attempt to go to the gym as often as I could muster the energy. It was difficult during this time and I ended up skipping a lot of gym days.
I noticed that I couldn't drink more than a cup of coffee a day because the caffeine made me feel worse. I always forced down a small cup so I wouldn't have a headache. I felt very restless in the mornings and had trouble sleeping. I kept feeling the need to stretch and burning sensations rarely let up while trying to sleep. I began recognizing when it was going to be 'one of these nights' and just got up. It made everything much easier to deal with as far as the lack of sleep goes. I started to experiencing sweating as my newest symptom. It felt a lot like cold sweats you'd get when you had a flu or cold. It only lasted about a month and it must have dissipated because this was the only time I mentioned it.Month 4 - Let the good times roll
I started split dosing again at month 4 when I reached .5mg. I was having a tough time in the mornings because my blood levels were jacked up so high and falling so low. I'd been taking three quarters of the dose in the morning in the other quarter around 7 o'clock at night. I'm glad that I went with single dosing for so long because it taught me what to expect. I was basically being tortured every day and now it seemed to work better for me and the drops seem a bit easier.
When I started reading about tapering, I remember reading 'get a plan and stick to it'. My plan had gone every which way but it was still working. One helpful thing that I did to help me get this far - was to go to once a day dosing for a while because it taught me what it felt like when your body was deprived the most. Since I went to .5mg, I would take a little quarter sliver at night before bed just so I can sleep. It's helped me greatly with the frustrations during the day and not sleeping the night before. Being on once a day dosing for months, the lack of sleep was not going to be a big surprise (loss of sleep is what I dreaded most) and maybe that's why am not afraid. It's the energy level that kills me. Like everyone says, "when you're busy, you're fine". It was the mornings that were toughest. I used to get up and work out most mornings before work and started blowing it off. I kept telling myself this is temporary. My damn back hurt all the time. I had this new lower lumbar cracking in my spine. I couldn't imagine how sub detox would cause it so I probably had an old injury exacerbated by the taper. Maybe because I'm 39. I kept imagining how easy the taper may have been if I was in my 20's...but I just wasn't ready then. I didn't know at the time the back pain was related to the taper.
I ended month 4 at .375mg.Month 5 - Got to have that bass!
.31mg. I had this strange experience the first week on .31mg that I wanted to mention. I started having thoughts that I haven't had in a very long time. For example, I was watching tv and I saw this place that looked cool and I remember thinking, "I'd like to go there and check it out". I hadn't thought of something like that in years. Typically, I just stay in the house, I don't travel, I don't have any friends left, I just hermit away at home all the time. It was a strange thought to 'want' to go somewhere. I also noticed in the prior week that I felt strangely energetic and clear. It's hard to describe what I mean by that. I found myself getting out of work and just putting my headphones on and just going for a 3 mile walk in the dark. It was strangely exhilarating. I'm not sure if it was the music or if it was endorphins but it made me feel better than I had in a long time. Music was a life saver and as it reverbed through me it would completely change my mood - for the better. Anything with mad bass worked for me! Had to have the bass. Heavy bass.
I noticed my dose wore off semi-quickly now as the constant yawning and watering eyes started earlier. I continued to split dose. I had read that when you get low in a taper that it's helpful to split your doses which I 100% agree on. I found it was a lot better getting sleep then trying to adhere to the 'once a day' rule I set for myself in the beginning of taper. My back was still aching but nothing like it was before. I had this constant cracking my lower spine. I was able to manage with use of Motrin and started lifting differently to try and rehabilitate. I hadn't had stomach problems since the prior month. I thought stomach problems would continue. I understood that this meant I was adjusting OK and tapering slow enough.
It was hard to believe I came all the way from 4/6 mg. I just kept spiraling lower. The only true worry I had was wondering if I had ability to live a productive life after. I remember reading other people's stories that had experienced problems with thought process/decision making for the first 60/90 days. I remember thinking that I would have to be one of these people after 20 years of LAO maintenance. I was preparing myself for the possibility of difficulties post-jump. This again, was not the case.UPDATE ON BACK/JOINT PAIN: This was a w/d symptom. It slowly decreased as I got lower and is 100% gone. I was very glad it was temporary. ~Dotz (6/25/16)Month 6 - Car accident pause
.31mg. To make a long story short, I was on my way to work and was sitting at a light and got rear-ended at 40 mph. I had just bought car and it had 900 miles on it. It ended up being totaled. For the most part, I was ok and had whiplash for a couple weeks but I paused taper when I processed the stages of grief. My taper was planned to .25mg the following weekend.Month 7 - Sneezy & Sleepy
.25mg. This drop didn't affect me much. There had been some of the lower drops I didn't feel until day 6 or 7 (strange I know). I was still split dosing which has helped immensely compared to once a day dosing. Forced myself to the gym and it helped a lot as well. 5 hour energy's were my savior throughout this journey. They gave me just enough energy so I could feel human a couple hours a day. Those things are miracles.
.19mg. This process has been excruciatingly slow but it's the way it has to be. After spending the last 20 years of my life on maintenance drugs, it had to be slow. Surprisingly, I've done rather well every drop. It actually seemed to get easier the lower I got in dose. One thing I noticed was my lower back pain had diminished almost completely. Lower back pain and joint cracking was one of the tough parts getting under 2mg to about .75 mg. Maybe that can be attributed to forcing myself to go to the gym 5 to 6 days a week or maybe the sub is unwinding from my system? Continued split dosing and was sleeping 6 hours a night..
I had sneezed four times since beginning my taper. I told my doctor for years I had stopped sneezing and he didn't think it was related to Suboxone. Guess what? It was. I had no doubt. I literally did not sneeze for 12 years prior to my taper.
The only comfort meds I'd taken were ibuprofen and melatonin. I have a prescription for doxepin and tizanidine and I tried each only once (I just didn't like it). I still experienced the mini anxiety attacks when attempting to fall back asleep at night. Sometimes my mind just wouldn't be quiet. I slept six hours a night but my sleep continued to be broken. When thoughts got really noisy I started practicing deep breathing from 1 to 10 and repeated until calm and fell asleep and it seemed to help. I bought sleep headphones and would play spotify rainstorm and sleep music playlists. Listening to these clips, slowed my brain down and stopped the circling thoughts. I wasn't anxious because I was afraid. I was anxious because it is part
of the suboxone tapering process. I learned to expect it, deal with it and move on.Month 8 - Will I be ok?
.14mg (or 140 mcg.). I was on .16mg for 2 weeks prior.
It was hard to believe the little teeny pieces I take still had an effect. I had officially sneezed 18 times now. It was weird to track sneezes but I couldn't help myself. I think the LONG low taper made all the difference. I was still split dosing because I felt w/d symptoms return after about 10-12 hours. It wasn't anything horrible, just irritating. Yawning, watery eyes, stretchy muscles. I've also noticed that I had zero 'good feelings/energetic feelings' from my doses. The slivers of sub only were w/d symptom relief. When I got under 1.5mg I kept getting 'high' feelings after dosing and it was freaking me out a little. I had figured out that the sub was working like a SAO since I was far under the ceiling effect and when I took my dose - I felt the spike.
Sleep had been decent. I noticed I didn't require as much sleep anymore. I could go to sleep at 2am and get up at 7am and be fine. I always feel wired but weak and lethargic. Being tired routinely caught up after a week and I got really tired and slept well.
This was the test of all tests. Could a person on long-term suboxone maintenance (for almost 13 years by the time it's said and done) step off slowly without much pain and suffering? I was, however, prepared for the adjustments my body/mind will go through post jump. I felt that I couldn't avoid everything and that it couldn't be this easy, could it? I know things had gotten better the less I'm on. Strangest thing, I was still not afraid. At all. I accepted each stage as it came - as I had throughout this entire process. Month 9 - Spacing out doses
.06mg (or 60 mcg).
I had stabilized on .06mg and I switched back to once a day dosing trying to get my body to starve. It was hard to believe that .06mg made a still difference. I could make it through days with relative ease but the night kind of sucked. I tried not to take it before bed one night - like I usually did (went 34 hours without?) and the restlessness and anxiety killed me. I finally got up at 3am and took my dose and finally went to sleep. I knew this was only temporary and I was still trying to put time in between doses so it will help with the actual jump. Besides the low energy and continued lack of sleep, I was doing pretty well. Next drop was planned at .03mg.....how else could I reduce? .03mg was literally the size of an eyelash.Month 9 - FIN
.03mg (or 30 mcg).
On March 18, 2016 I jumped.
Saturday night at 9pm was my last .03 mg. My 'goal' wasn't to jump but to get past the 34 hour mark I kept getting stuck at. I successfully reached the 48 hour and I felt actually pretty decent so I decided to go to 72 hours. And that was that. I never went back. I got rid of leftover meds the end of that week and have not craved them since.
I think what helped a lot in the final 2 weeks going under .06 mg - is the irritating burning sensation never really went away. The burning was always there like an old deadbeat roommate. I just got used to feeling shitty all the time and somehow it removed the anxiety (for the most part) from worrying about the jump.
I was able to sleep around 5-6 hours a night post jump - which in itself was a fucking miracle.
I couldn't believe this long-ass 9 month journey had concluded.(Excerpt from journal)
I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. How is it possible to feel 'better' then while I was tapering? I didn't have any rolling body chills today...just yesterday. I feel fatigued but no worse than low taper felt. I know I have the infamous 4-7 day and the 9-12 day to look forward to but damn...so far so good. I am not at all confused about the mental changes I'll be going through. I have to pay for the 25 years as an opiate addict. I will never forget I am a opioid drug addict and my coping/life skills must reflect this. So far, NO cravings at all. My life is so far removed from the lifestyle....So far it feels solid.
I hope this can be a success story for other people... I have a long road to go and I'm just warming up....but here I am. Now it's my turn to pay it forward. In Summary
The rest of my journey post jump can be found under the thread title 'Eyedotz Taper I Jumped'. I wanted to keep these two threads separate because merging them would have been daunting and it made sense to only summarize my 9 months of tapering.
I am currently nearing 100 days post-sub at the time this summary was written on June 25, 2016. I am happy. I have no cravings. I am free
. I am sharing my story with others in hopes I can inspire them to attempt to take back their lives and put their active addiction in remission.
The best advice I can give someone is to 'embrace the fear'. Learn to embrace the shittiness. If you go into each day expecting to feel better and you don't - it makes you depressed and sad. If you go into each day saying, "Here, comes another crappy day on my sub taper..", you will learn to accept what is. The act of acceptance will in turn will remove the fear. This can be done. If I can do this after 13 years....You can.
Thank you for everyone that has supported me along the way. I have met some truly awe-inspiring outstanding people on this forum that have become friends for life. My goal is to lead them - hand in hand to the other side.
~Dotz PS - FUCK YOU SUB