When a Partner Forces Withdrawal

by Janet MacMaster
March 12, 2000

My husband blackmailed me from the start of our relationship by forcing me to taper from methadone before he would allow me to move in with him. At that time, I had just given birth to his child, and my Grandmother had just been awarded custody of all three of my children. I lost custody because I was arrested for disorderly conduct, and because I refused to detox from methadone (against my famiies wishes). That is another long story that I will tell another time.

At the time, I felt like I was the worst mother in the world. Looking back now, I understand that I was completely abused by the system and by my family. To punish someone because they are in treatment, in my case, successfully, is wrong. Even though I was clean, I was guilt-ridden because I had used drugs in the first place.

I was due in court withing a couple of weeks after the birth of my baby, and was willing to do ANYTHING to get my children back. When my husband demanded I get off methadone, I did not think twice about it. My lawyer also advised me to detox before the court date.

My future husband and I puchased two 80 mg. bottle of methadone off the street, and I got medicated ath the clinic the next day, picked up two takehomes, packed my belongings in my partner’s van, and set off ofr my new home. My new home was a two hour drive away. I had no money and no vehicle. There was no turning back or changing my mind. I had cut all ties with the clinic.

I had planned on the four bottles of methadone lasting about two weeks. I thought I could detox myself in that period of time. I suppose I really don’t have to mention that idea didn’t work as planned. I became very, very ill. From my normal weight of 125 lbs, I went to a weight of 90 lbs. in three weeks time.

Sometimes during the third week of withdrawal, as I was attemptimg to take a shower, I had to stop and rest, sitting on the toilet as my husband washed me. I could only stand for a couple of minutes at a time without becoming exhausted. The exertion of even standing would cause me to become dizzy, breathless, and make me feel as if I were losing consciousness.

When husband realized how ill I was, and saw how much weight I had lost, he took me to see a physician. The Dr. prescribed Clonodine, a blood-pressure medication that is supposed to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms. The medication did enable me to sleep, but, made me feel extremely weak and lethargic.

Throughout this ordeal, I begged my partner for something, anything to help my withdrawal. He is a contractor and some of his employees at that time were opiate users. He warned his employees never to give me any kind of drugs, or they would be fired. I knew no one in the area. Because of this and other reasons, I could feel my resentment towards my husband building.

Through all of this, I felt I really loved my husband, but, in a way, I had also begun to hate him. It took me months to get to the point of climbing a flight of stairs without getting winded. As soon as my health allowed me to, I began to drink very heavily. One of the guys that worked for my husband was a bad alcoholic. He was amazed that I could drink a fifith of tequila throughout the day and not appear intoxicated. I was substituting alcohol for opiates.

I went a year without using opiates. A couple of times during that year, I used acid and cocaine in a group situation. Light social use of drugs was acceptable to my husband, but he had disdain for anyone that abused drugs, including alcohol. He viewed chemically dependent people as weak, immoral and lazy

That entire year, I hated every minute of how I felt. I can’t completely blame my cold turkey detox on my partner, but, I am very resentful towards him for not being more understanding and supportive of MMT. He was very unsympathetic towards my suffering. He suggested that I deserved to feel badly as a sort of ‘punishment’ for my drug use.

When I eventually managed to get back into MMT, he acted as if it were the end of the world. It was the beginning of mine! He always brought up the negatives of the program. He would do things like come home from work on a Friday afternoon and start packing camping gear, knowing full well I had to attend the clinic on Saturday morning. I needed to give my clinic a two week notice if I left town. Even when he wasn’t verbally expressing his dislike of MMT, he made sure I knew how he felt about it.

In my efforts to keep him happy, I kept my dose low, and would often say things like, “When I get off of methadone….”, In effect, I tailored my treatment around his needs and wants. I completely neglected my own needs. I abused alcohol because my dose was not sufficient and devoted tons of mental energy trying to get off methadone. In the meantime, I was not recovering emotionally, and was destroying my body with alcohol. My husband chose to overlook the heavy drinking.

He could, and did make me cry at the drop of a hat. He belittled me in front of friends and family because of my addiction. He talked badly about me in front of my children, and treated me as if I were a ‘non-person’.

Since separating from him, I have done much research about addiction and methadone maintenance. The knowledge I have acquired, might possibly have saved our relationship. IF…he would have listened to me.

I no longer blame my ex for the way he treated me, or his feelings about addicts and methadone. I realize society condones his behavior. It seems to be acceptable to treat addicts with contempt. Hell, I even treated myself badly for the same reasons.

I do however, blame the clinics I attended. My ex and I went to counseling together frequently at my clinic. The counselors concentrated on all of the wrong things. None of them seemed to realize the impact that abusive and invasive clinic policies can have on a relationship. The treatment of patients by most clinics, just confirms the non-addict’s view that addicts are not to be trusted and they are ‘bad’ people. If our own clinics treat us in that manner, why should anyone else treat us differently?

Most people will not be successful at detox if they do it for someone else. Many patients insist that they are only detoxing for themselves and no one is putting pressure on them to do so. Upon closer investigation, this isn’t always the case. Many times a partner or family member is putting on pressure for them to detox.

The MMT patient who detoxes because of someone else’s insistence will eventually begin to resent that person for forcing them back into a life of physical and emotional suffering. If a former patient relapses (which is extremely likely), that same loved one will blame them for being a failure.

Clinics need to be more accomodating and aware of the patient’s family. Clinics need to encourage education about the disease of addiction and methadone maintenance treatment for the patient and other family members. Clinic policies and regulations need to be changed to allow MMT patients to live a normal life and not put additional stress on a relationship. And, patients should NEVER detox until they are ready.