Voices for Recovery
Working in New York City in 2003, I probably seemed completely indistinguishable from the average Westport commuter. I was 54 years old and married, owned a small search firm with my wife, participated in civic activities, and was a registered voter. But each day I took a medication for a chronic medical condition.
Taking a maintenance medication is hardly atypical; people take maintenance medications for blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety, and countless other medical conditions—but the difference is that I took a medication to treat my opiate dependence. I had spent the past 20 years trying unsuccessfully to taper my addiction to heroin. At the time I did not understand that my opiate use had caused changes in my brain.
Eventually, I learned that taking medication to restore normal brain function is no different than taking prescribed medication for any other chronic medical condition, such as insulin for diabetics. Very few individuals who use medication-assisted treatments consider themselves in recovery because they have the misconception that recovery only occurs after you leave treatment—but that's not true. I realized that I was not alone, and that thousands of people have achieved abstinence and sobriety with medication-assisted treatments.
I am now 61 years old and still ride the train to New York. Only now it is to the South Bronx, where I teach methadone patients that recovery assisted by medication is just as valid as any other pathway to recovery, with the intention of preserving their health and wellness.