My name is Tracy and I am a 54 year old single mom in CT.
I was in a car accident in 2000 that resulted in back surgery, and subsequently the prescription of opioids which lasted 20 years. I took them as prescribed as I thought I needed them for pain and trusted the doctors. Over the years I had asked about getting off of them and when I would try I would be so sick so fast and too ashamed to cope with it, especially as a single mom, busy trying to raise a son alone, I just kept going back to the medication. In late 2017, I landed in the hospital with a bowel obstruction. The surgeon informed me that it was due to many years of opioid use, Opioid Use Disorder, and it was imperative to get off of them if my body was going to heal and be able to eat solid food again. January 1, 2018, my journey of detox began. Knowing fully well that weaning off OxyContin after 20 years of 60mg a day was going to be brutal. Once I started, I knew how much worse it was. As each day passed, I was gripped by complete fear. I was so sick I kept reaching out to the prescriber. She barely spoke to me, had nothing to offer but a name of a therapist and happier when I went away quietly l, so I did. I felt like an addict, and even believed that I was one. I thought because I would feel “dopesick” I must be an addict as I adopted society’s view and the stigma I accepted as my identity. I felt alone, ugly and ashamed. I knew that it was imperative to push through and I was finally ok to live shamefully “out of the closet” in full detox. The days and months that followed were beyond anything even close to imagining. It was an inhumane physical torture on both a mental and physical level. It forced me into determination and resilience that I had no idea was in me. Every day I was sure I was going to die but I didn’t.
Now I am watching my story be uncovered through documentaries of who the Sacklers are and how they stole 20 years of my life, but more importantly, my mothering. I can’t believe I am alive. I was prescribed a cocktail of death with a combination of opioids and xanax. Hillbilly heroine is a new term I have only recently learned. I continue to be horrified that I was taking heroine in a pill without ever knowing. I am no longer using opioids and haven’t for almost 3 years, however I am still living with effects of detox, which through my own research is actually called “post acute withdrawal syndrome”, a diagnosis I was forced to uncover myself. I kept waiting for the pain to return but it didn’t. I was shocked that I was using opioids for years when I didn’t even need them. If it weren’t for some divine intervention in the form of a hospital visit, chances are I’d still be living dependent on opioids unaware that there is life out there and that it was achievable. The shame of detox and the lack of tools and education are what kept me on the medication because being sick didn’t fit into my life and I was too ashamed to tell anyone. For almost all of this time even through detox, the hardest days, I still thought I was an addict, and now understand that I am, but a different type of addict. I was so confused as to why I didn’t want them anymore and that I was not the addict I had stigmatized myself with. What is the most shocking is that no one separates drug addiction from drug dependence. The two are very different. Without education and support how is anyone to know or learn that they may have no pain like me and not be an addict but dependent, like me. Instead we face detox in the closet with the shame of being sick because no one wants to be seen going through it. It’s an inhumane torture and builds demons inside of you. If I had the support of anyone, it would have made all the difference.
My journey and my mission to educate about detox, has just begun. The conversation needs to be started. If someone is thinking about going into detox, or if they are in detox or if they are watching someone they love in detox, there needs to be a clear understanding and the accepting that we are human, with a heart, with emotion, with dignity and not what we believe or what we have stigmatized for ourselves. We matter. All of us matter. My story is just mine. We all have one.
I’m creating a safe loving platform through my podcast “Cleaning out the Closet, 1mg at a time...” where anyone can go to listen or share in an interview, their personal experience with detox and be less lonely, feared or ashamed. For me, I had to work full time through my whole detox so I pushed through it very quickly. I had to “fake it to make it” for as many hours as I could. The truth is, this began as my own research and now I feel like it is my responsibility to educate people properly so that no one feels lost or alone and ashamed, living in the closet, like me. My whole story is yet to be shared as I continue to learn and be educated through documentaries and wonderful books what really happened to me. With the release of Dopesick on Hulu, though painful to see, I continue to learn and be educated. I am truly grateful to the beautiful souls that have supported and helped guide me to my truth. The most inspiring part of my story isn’t surviving breast cancer through this nightmare, but my son. He went from an opioid addict to graduating college with honors and is now lobbying at the age of 25. He saw my drive for a successful and substance free life and as I got healthy so did he. It has been very painful learning about what happened to me and the self realization of how he saw me. I was an embarrassment to him and his friends and was blacked out every night for him to watch in fear wondering if I was going to wake up. This has created an image in his mind that I hope in time is replaced by his respect and trust. This is my truest purpose.
Thank you for listening.