The Detox Diaries

Going through withdrawals is like flying through restricted airspace.

Posted Jun 13, 2016

Andrew Woods, used with permission
Source: Andrew Woods, used with permission

This following is a guest post by Andrew Woods.

I have never met Andrew in person. I 'met' him via email. I met him because he emailed me to see if he could nominate me for a recent was giving out. I learned through our correspondence that he too blogged. And then I read one of his posts. I haven't focused on addiction much, if at all, in my blog. I've dealt with compulsive overeating (food addiction) and wrote about it. But I haven't dealt with or written about alcohol or drug abuse. When I read this post of his, I thought people need to hear what the inside experience is like of withdrawal. Knowledge is power and his post, in my opinion is powerful.

**Disclaimer: Always check with a doctor prior to beginning any withdrawal management regimen. **

It’s easier to believe in this sweet madness
Oh, this glorious sadness
That brings me to my knees

Sarah McLachlan – “Angel”

When I returned home from the pharmacy, I immediately popped six Loperamide (Immodium) and six Diphenhydramine (Benadryl). I washed the pills down with a tall glass of tonic water. There’s a special circle of hell reserved for those who make light of addiction. But I need to remember, I’m no longer an active addict. I’m in recovery, again. And I’ve only just begun the withdrawal phase.

Over-the-counter comfort meds are an absolute necessity when it comes to enduring withdrawals. Benadryl, to put me to sleep (I managed to sleep just 3 hours last night). And Immodium? Call it a trick of the trade – a secret remedy for opiate withdrawal.

Fun fact: Immodium, a powerful opioid agonist, binds to opioid receptors in the gut, but fails to effectively cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB). However, when combined with quinine, an ingredient in tonic water, the drug penetrates the BBB and calms the central nervous system.  While there is no “high”, the combination of Immodium and tonic water relieves many of the symptoms associated with opiate withdrawal.

Last night (day 2 clean and sober), I visited my parents for dinner.

“Should we have peas or carrots for dinner, Andrew?” asked my mother as I plopped down on the couch. I needed to rest. Walking the short distance from my car to the living room had been a tremendous effort.

“I don’t know…. whatever,” I mumbled.

My father eagerly piped up, “I want carrots.”

“But peas would go so well with the chicken!” my mother insisted.

Compromise has never been my father’s strong suit. So he shot back, “Nope, I definitely want carrots.”

The conflict over peas or carrots continued. I kept silent. I didn’t have the patience to intervene.

“Well, I think we should have peas.”


I wanted to scream. JUST MAKE A F*$#king DECISION ALREADY! I was tense. The shakes were intensifying and beads of sweat were beginning to drip from my creased forehead. I ached for a hit, a shot, a bump, a toke… anything that would skyrocket me to heaven. But I resisted temptation, and joined my family for dinner. We had both peas and carrots.

Going through withdrawals is like flying through restricted airspace. There’s a chance you’ll make it out in one piece, but then again, there’s also the possibility of going down in flames. Crashing and burning is a terrible ordeal. But I’m familiar with this territory. After all, I went through similar withdrawals nearly three years ago. I suppose I was a tad naïve to believe relapse wouldn’t eventually come knocking at my door.

Enduring withdrawals requires more than over-the-counter medications. I listen to a lot of music. When I can’t sleep (common when withdrawing), I surrender to whatever tune suits my mood and state of mind. I mean, I really lose myself in music.  The past few days, I’ve been revisiting some of my favorite recovery songs.  I quoted Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” at the beginning of this post for a reason – it reminds me to follow the straight and narrow. It reminds me of the life I have chosen to leave behind.

Unbeknownst to many, the song “Angel” was inspired by the death of Jonathan Melvoin, a musician who died of a heroin overdose while touring with The Smashing Pumpkins. “Angel” is a daring and introspective peek into an addict’s search for inner peace. Conjuring heavenly imagery set against a bleak and dreary backdrop is no easy feat. Indeed, McLachlan deserves praise for her accurate insights into the highs and lows associated with addiction.

Living one day at a time is encouraged during the early stages of recovery, particularly during the withdrawal phase. Long term planning and goal setting simply add unnecessary stress to one’s rehabilitation. So, I live moment to moment, and try to get through one day at a time. Rest assured, I am determined. When I say I’m going to do something, I do it. Success is my only option.  So I’m more than willing to plough through the mountains of shit that stand in my way of getting clean and sober.

This is day 3.  I feel a bit better. But I’m nowhere near the finish line. This endurance race has just begun. I broke out in tears earlier today. I don’t know why I cried. I just did. But for the first time in quite a while, I didn’t numb the pain. And they say it’s better to feel pain than nothing at all. So I must be on the right track, again.

Andrew Woods currently resides in Coquitlam, BC, where he attends graduate school (completing a graduate diploma in Psychosocial Rehabilitation). He lives with schizoaffective disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and has struggled with substance abuse since the age of seventeen. Andrew strives to raise mental health awareness and promote hope for recovery by sharing his story of lived experience.

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