Hi I’ve read a lot on these forums about tapering against cold turkey and thought I’d put my own story out there to see if can help anybody going through or considering to go through opiate withdrawal. I’m by no means an expert on this nor do I advocate one particular route, what I’m writing on here comes from my own personal experience and basically what worked for me.
I’ve been addicted to codeine for 10 years with a routine of taking 15-20 30mg codeine phosphate tablets every night around 11pm, enjoying the high for a couple of hours then going to bed, this was how it was for the past 5 years at least. In the early days my dosage was lower but still followed the same pattern. I first started taking them after being prescribed the pills following surgery and quickly realising that if I took a few extra id get a buzz and feel nicely relaxed and that was it I was hooked. Like most addicts I knew fairly early on that I was addicted but tended to just push it to the back of my mind as I liked the high too much, it wasn’t until the last few years that I knew there was a major problem. I was spending around £100 per month to subsidise the 200 tablets that I got on prescription, I wouldn’t eat a large meal after 6pm so as to get the best possible high on an empty stomach, whilst on holidays abroad I would have to make excuses to run back to the room every night before my wife so I could quickly take my fix. Not to mention to overall effect on our relationship as id always be up till the early hours waking my wife up when I finally went to bed at 1 or 2 am. Id then roll in from work and have to sleep every afternoon for a couple hours. The addiction literally had consumed me completely.
From about 2014 onwards I wanted to quit and decided like most do that I would taper my dosage down, confidently believing that I would simply drop my dosage each week till I was eventually clean. The trouble was I was in control of my taper as nobody else was aware of my addiction and therefore everything would start well and then after a few days of cutting down, sometimes down to 4 or 5 tablets a night and id think to myself as I have done really well I will “reward” myself tonight and id take 12 or 15 that night, the problem was because id cut my dosage down id normally get a real high when I up’t the dose, and then I’d just tell myself that id start the taper again next week and so on and so on. This went on for years.
Id attempted cold turkey half-heartedly on a few occasions but never really believed I’d do it id maybe go one night and then the early withdrawals would kick in albeit mild but enough to make me think that again id jump back on my tablets that night and maybe would quit the next week instead or start another half hearted taper. It was like a revolving door. I think the problem with opiates as you all know is that you can function just enough to keep a lid on it so much that even those closest to you are blissfully unaware of your problem. Even though you are sinking deeper with every dose.
Friday 1st march this year was a normal day, nothing different about my routine. I woke up feeling the usual grogginess after taking 18 tablets or 540 mg the night before. The day past as normal and it was getting towards bed time, we had our 2 year old grandson staying so decided we’d watch tv in bed and went up to bed a bit earlier so the grandson could fall asleep. I cannot give any real reason why but lying there waiting for the clock to get near 11 I decided I wasn’t taking them that night. Maybe it was lying next to my beautiful little grandson realising that I was not the role model he believed I was and that if things did not change I may not be around to watch him grow up as the levels I was taking could really be fatal or eventually I could lose my family due to the stress I was placing on our relationship. Whatever it was it came from nowhere but I went to sleep that night without any codeine. The next day I woke up with very mild symptoms but nothing I couldn’t handle. And seemed to have a real confidence that I should try and get through another night and see where I was after that. Day 2 came and I woke up again feeling not right but still managed to function going out shopping with my wife etc. the feeling was similar to that when you are coming down with a flu or cold. I very quickly realised that this was going to be my best chance ever of becoming clean and went about arming myself with vitamins, protein shakes, Imodium and anything I could think of that would fuel my body with the right things to get me through the coming days.
Days 3 and 4 came and went without any real issues other than insomnia kicking in big style. But Instead of lying around the house I busied myself everyday walking for miles with my dog and constantly taking vitamins and supplements. It was at this point that I thoroughly knew and believed that I could actually do this and I was not under any circumstances going back now! I visited my gp on day 5 and explained the situation in full, this helped me immensely as they made me aware they were there to help if things got worse. It also stopped my main source of pills. I was given a sleeping tablet to help through the early stages with the insomnia but really I look back now and think that that maybe prolonged the insomnia so I would proceed with caution if anybody is thinking about that route. Unless it’s very short term. Day 7 was a pivotal day as I disposed and burned all my codeine, 240 tablets popping away in a fire. I absolutely knew at this point I had no alternative but to see this through.
In less than 2 weeks’ time I will be 90 days clean. I would be lying if I said that it had been easy, but id also be lying if I said it had been hell. I have been extremely lucky to the point that during this I have only really suffered physically symptoms. I somehow have avoided depression, anxiety, mood swings and other associated mental symptoms. I wonder if this is down to that fact that there were no mental reasons for me starting to abuse codeine, as I’ve already stated I was prescribed for pain relief and I simply enjoyed the high. As I say above its been no bed of roses, things I have suffered with in the early stages were insomnia, looseness on the toilet, constant sneezing and constant itch in the nose (like hayfever) a cough which I still have now. Most of these have worn off now but perhaps the most debilitating thing that persists is drowsiness and fatigue and sporadic insomnia (this is never more than maybe once or twice a week at most). It’s not every day but there are some days where I simply feel drained of energy and motivation. It’s difficult to explain to someone how bad that can feel especially if you need to be active. But on the whole I would say writing this today I am probably 85% back to normal. And that’s pretty amazing considering how much I abused my body for 10 years.
Anybody reading this thinking oh my god here is someone that’s 3 months clean and still has symptoms don’t be alarmed. You learn to live and deal with these days, you start to understand that this is a process and you become very patient and allow these days to come and pass knowing in your heart and mind that each day you are healing and becoming stronger. I have done more in this last 3 months than id done in the last 10 years, I walk for miles each week, I live super healthy now, back then I liked a drink and would often drink 4 cans of lager a night whilst taking the codeine. I have probably had no more than 10 cans of lager in the last 3 months! and again as I write this I have not had a drink of alcohol for over 3 weeks. that’s not because I’m abstaining it’s because I now value my health and mind so much more and have no real interest in drinking it was just part of the codeine ritual. My relationship with my wife has gone back to where we were when we first married and we are so much closer now. Even though sleep can still sometimes be difficult it is an amazing feeling to now just go to bed when I’m tired this can be 9.30 if I want or whenever. My body is still healing, I am well aware of this and understand there may still be more hurdles to cross ahead. But when you see and feel how your life changes in such a short period of time you gain a mental strength to never want to go back to that dark period of your life. If I’m honest I am a better person for being through it. I am my own hero in one sense as I am achieving something so many cannot do. But my message to anybody out there is get off these poisoness tablets as soon as you can. Ride out the storm and you will be amazed at how quickly you get your fight mode switched on to win the battle!! I cannot stress enough that seeking medical help from your gp is a must if you are to win this war, your gp is your ally, they can provide resources when you are up against it. If you see a gp that isn’t supportive make an appointment with another until you have the support you need. You will be amazed at the strength you gain from knowing there’s help out there if things get tough.
I am just a normal bloke, nothing special about me. I’m not strong willed or publicly confident or have any particular abilities that would set me apart from anybody reading this in a similar situation. But what I am is living proof that you can go from being a serious opiate addict to a clean living healthy normal person in as little as 3 months. If I’m absolutely honest by about week 3 I was functioning comfortably enough to lead a fairly normal life without drugs. I am not there yet, I understand that and have accepted that to reach that 100% normal feeling may take many more months or even longer. But the doom that I was filled with before I quit and in the early days of recovery is now replaced with excitement about waking up every morning knowing that whilst there is the odd bad days there are far more good days where I feel alive again. I do still think about the high feeling sometimes and yes I would say I can miss that feeling sometimes, but it’s like when you have been in a relationship with someone that was bad and didn’t work and you might miss a few things about that person but you know in your heart that you’ve moved on and it’s for the better and you’d never go back because it’s all in the past and you’re in a far better place now.
Sorry this post has been so long but I had a lot to cover, in summing it all up tapering never worked for me, it may work for some but I believe the self-discipline required has to be immense especially if you are doing it alone, It may be easier if you can give up your supply and get somebody to give you your dosage daily. I guess what I am saying is if my thoughts on tapering are similar to yours and you can relate to that then you may want to consider going cold turkey, I genuinely believe if you make it through the first 2-3 days that you find a will power from somewhere within to push you through! Please though understand fully what it entails and ensure that you are physically capable of dealing with this and you should really seek medical advice first although I appreciate this is one of the hardest things to do especially if you are on a repeat prescription as effectively this cuts the supply, but as stated somewhere above if you are to beat this then you really need to follow this advice.
I have found and used numerous vitamins and supplements and will be happy to let anybody know what worked for me if they are interested. This is another part of the process as mentally to know your pumping all of this goodness into your body helps with all aspects of your recovery.
if even one person reads this and it sets them on the path to being clean then I will be delighted. I am walking talking proof that you can and will win your battle!!