Sheila (not her real name) is one of my patients. With her permission I am sharing her story because I bet it resonates.
Sheila is now a happy and healthy mom and wife with a satisfying and lucrative career who has rediscovered her interest in art and is quite the social butterfly. She hasn’t had a drink or used drugs in many years and has helped others get into treatment and maintain sobriety. Although she always acknowledges her past she knows that she has risen above it. She realizes that each day of healthy living is a gift and she appreciates that more than ever – having spent years in a cycle of drug use and depression for much of her early adult life.
Sheila grew up in the suburbs, the middle daughter of upper class parents. Her early childhood was pretty idyllic – with lots of opportunity to pursue art, which was her passion. At age 13, just as she entered puberty Sheila was visiting cousins and was sexually abused by her uncle. That’s when everything changed.
Already feeling awkward about her body (teenage Sheila was attractive, but shy), she soon developed an eating disorder and began to isolate herself. She no longer found joy in life and lost contact with many of her friends. A trip to grandma’s medicine cabinet for some Percocet started a downward spiral that stopped 5 years later when, after a near overdose, her mom convinced her to see me.
Sheila was terribly afraid of experiencing withdrawal symptoms so we decided to do an extended opiate detox – one that would last a full 3 weeks rather than the more standard 1 week protocol practiced at most detox facilities.
24 hours after her last use of prescription opiates Sheila took her first dose of Suboxone. We completed the induction phase of treatment over a 4 hour period and she was so comfortable she did not need most of the other medications I prescribed for symptom control (including Clonidine for withdrawal symptoms and Zofran for nausea). Over the next 3 weeks I gradually lowered her dose and she remained comfortable for the whole process.
Although Sheila completed detox with no complications she did have some symptoms of depression for the next few months. I used a combination of anti-depressant medications to treat her symptoms and her mood returned to normal. A year later, she was medication free and symptom free – leading a happy and sober life and rediscovering her artistic interests
Like so many other stories, this one had a happy ending. Sure there were bumps along the way but Sheila found love in others when she once again began to love herself.