When Charles was about to be released from rehab, he called and begged us to do Suboxone to help him transition. We wondered, “What is the right thing to do?”
At the time, many people were saying that it was trading one drug for another. And there are still people who I respect that think that way.
It was a consideration but we were in the midst of putting our house on the market and about to move so we had to find Charles a room in a recovery house. At the time, the recovery houses were not taking people who were getting medication assisted treatment, also known as MAT. For those who suffer substance use disorder for heroin, that is usually suboxone or methadone post treatment.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of medications along with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders and prevent opioid overdose.
The idea is to allow the person in recent recovery some medication support to help them avoid relapse and death–allowing them to learn alternate coping skills since they had likely spent years using because their brains were being held hostage by a vile disease.
Since the recovery houses were not taking those doing MAT, we ultimately decided against it for Charles. We had little time to make the decision so we did call a couple of people, both of whom were in the, “It’s trading one drug for another,” camp. It was 2015 and there were fewer studies that related to MAT. Because he needed housing, we decided not to go with the suboxone treatment. But Charles wanted it.
I can also understand that recovery houses have to be wary and must consider the health of their residents and community. Adopting new strategies too quickly can have disastrous results. By now, however, there is enough data to suggest that those on MAT have a better recovery success rate.
I don’t think my son was ready for recovery to be honest. From reading his music lyrics, he couldn’t wait to use again when he got out. That is not unusual for a young adult experiencing their first recovery experience. But having said that, I wish we had done MAT for Charles. Would that have been different had the MAT squashed his drug craving? I’ll never know.
Here’s my new stance.
Why are we defining recovery for everyone as a one size fits all?
People are individuals and SUD has different levels of severity. Some diabetics can manage their disease with a healthy diet. Still others can have a diet that would be applauded by a registered dietitias and have to use an insulin pump.
There are cancer survivors, who, in order to remain cancer free, have to take medication until the day they die. Would I shame them out of their medication that keeps them alive? In all these cases, the ultimate goal is to create a lifesaving post treatment plan to give that person the most life and quality of life possible.
If Charles had gotten a couple of years of MAT at least until he was mature enough to work a recovery program, he might still be here. That’s considering that he probably would have needed another stint in rehab.
Going forward, I am redefining what I consider recovery
If some need MAT for the rest of their lives maybe because they’ve relapsed multiple times and wouldn’t otherwise live without it, I will not define them as being recovery fakes. To me, complete abstinence doesn’t mean someone isn’t in recovery.
There are a lot of non-recovery-purists out there thriving, making a living, and raising families. They are alive because of MAT or some other level of recovery support that some in the recovery community wouldn’t consider recovery. I’m not going to shame or pass judgement, consider someone who isn’t a purist is “weak.”
Science has changed, addiction medicine has evolved
I’m not going to shame or make someone feel unworthy of my respect for their recovery journey because it’s not the traditional path. How can I judge how hard it is to maintain recovery compared to someone else?