It was about two years ago when my city newspaper asked me to write a story about a methadone clinic that had opened up in our area. They did not know I was a recovering alcoholic or that I had any familiarity with addictions, I was just a cheap (free) writer they could depend on for local coverage. They were probably kind of surprised when I told them I wasn’t interested in doing a “hit” piece on the clinic, there had been plenty enough of negative news already gleefully distributed by the mainstream media.
I guess I already had a rudimentary understanding of methadone maintenance treatment (MMT), although in hindsight I realize most of my knowledge came from the con side of the argument. I expected at least a guarded interview from the program director but instead was giving a (chaperoned) free pass to the facility and its employees during dosing operations. The openness both surprised and impressed me; needless to say that I came away that day with a positive story that much to my surprise was actually put to print. Since then I have found that there are definitely clinics out there that are less than reputable, but the clinic I now call mine has never let me down in their professionalism and their sincerity to help those suffering from opioid addictions.
I call it mine because I hold a once a week recovery meeting there that we currently do on Saturday mornings. It’s not an AA, NA, MA, or even a twelve step program, it’s just an open topic meeting where we talk about our addictions and learn about recovery. Recovery is hard to define for anyone, but for those in MMT it can be a very elusive concept.
I have discovered, ergo my name, that recovery for me is a process of continuous improvement, gathering of knowledge, and exploration. Recovery for me is not only reining in my disease, but throwing a saddle on its back and riding that beast into the future for all it is worth. The lessons that we learn to recover from our addiction become the very tools that allow us to effectively handle stressful situations, try new things, and make us successful in life.
But for many in MMT, recovery is something for addicts and alcoholics that have kicked their substances all together and not for those that are just “maintaining”. Many have tried support groups like AA and NA but have either actively or passively been made to feel unwelcome once it is known they are in MMT. Some have not even been properly introduced to the concept; they have accepted that MMT is successful as long as they don’t fall back to illicit drug use. There are those that think of recovery as a meeting with their counselor.
So in our meeting we talk about how recovery is not just a twelve step process or only total abstinence from drugs and alcohol. It is instead a continuous process that can also include MMT as a critical stage in one’s development. Recovery is way of improving one’s life and that of our loved ones. It is learning new confidence and self respect, and it is planning for the future. It may include the twelve steps, counselors and groups, or a more personal program as I follow, but recovery is definitely not just a meeting
There is no set schedule for weaning off MMT just as there is no set schedule for progression through the twelve steps. Many balk at the thought of life without methadone just as newcomers do in AA thinking the end goal is beyond them, but by working through the steps they find the power to make it happen. It is no different for those in MMT, in the beginning it may be hard to imagine a drug free life but by following a graduated path of recovery one can eventually discover the power to succeed.
How do you define recovery?