Submitted by: Susanne Johnson
I’m 39 years old and live in an apartment in New York state. I grew up in a small country setting and started using opiates after an oral surgery. Shortly after I started using opiates, I fell and hurt my hip and got another prescription for hydrocodone. When my prescription was finished, I kept going back for refills. I was 36 years old at that time, and had never had a problem with drugs or alcohol before that.
I realized that I had a problem as soon as I tried to stop taking the pain medication.
By that time, I had been using opioids for about two years, either by using a prescription or by buying them on the street. I decided to quit because I had gotten pregnant again. Once I stopped the painkillers, I immediately experienced severe withdrawal symptoms. I didn’t understand what it was at first; I thought I had the flu and I felt just really sick. I talked to my friends and they suggested that my illness was connected to painkiller use.
My withdrawal symptoms and cravings were bad, but I didn’t want to use any opiates because of my pregnancy. I found someone who sold suboxone of the street and start taking that. I was very afraid at that time. I didn’t want to use opiates because I was afraid of what they do to my baby; I was also afraid to ask a doctor for suboxone. It felt easier and less shameful to buy suboxone off the street and medicate myself.
First, I wanted to ween myself off suboxone, but then I was afraid that my baby would go through withdrawal symptoms. I didn’t understand it all, and never told my doctors what I was taking. None of my doctors or my family members knew anything about my addiction. I was frightened to talk to anyone, so I stayed alone with all my fears and worries. I had been a supervisor at a hotel for over fifteen years and my drug use hasn’t interfered with my job, so no one knew what I was going through.
I delivered my son in April of this year. I had a scheduled C-section and only then opened up and asked the doctor if the spinal injection would interfere with my suboxone use. He said it would not be a problem, but next morning, child protective services (CPS) knocked on my door. They offered me help and told me that I could go straight to detox and inpatient therapy.
I am on prescription suboxone today, the drug I got into trouble with originally. It doesn’t make much sense to me. I believe I already did the right thing from the beginning of my pregnancy to get clean and sober with the help of suboxone, although I did it on my own.
My baby is doing well; he had no drugs in his system when he was born. I told my doctor that I would like to be weaned off the suboxone; I have no desire to stay on it longer than needed. I am a little afraid of that step, but I have a sweet, little reason to do it.
My grandma passed away last January. She taught me how to crochet and after her death I got all her crochet materials. Today, I enjoy staying home and I make all kinds of things for my baby for the day he comes home to me. My grandpa was a farmer, and now my uncle maintains our huge family gardens. I’m there often and enjoy the gardening. I’m also considering going back to school to become a certified nurse.
Drugs are a huge problem, not only in the state of New York, but anywhere. I want to give pregnant women hope that they can deliver a healthy baby and find treatment at the same time. It’s not easy to separate from your newborn for a longer period, but for me it’s worth the outcome. There were times when I had a terrible outlook on life and thought that I would have to live with cycles of self-medication and isolation forever. Today I have hope, live a happy life and have a positive outlook on things to come.