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LETTERS FROM WAKE ROBIN FARM

OMG, AstraZeneca's at it Again and Frank's Back!

Apparently handsome actor Mike McGowan did a good job for Astro Zeneca in convincing people to plead with their doctors for Movantik, because they’ve come out with a new commercial featuring him once again as Frank, the construction foreman with opioid-induced constipation.

Absolutely shameless! Commercials like this ought to be illegal! Watch as Astra Zeneca cynically attempts to normalize addiction to opioid painkillers. The theme tag on this one is especially appalling, something about “Standing up to your opioid-induced constipation.” In other words, Don’t back down! Don’t be a wimp! Stand up for yourself! Be a man and bravely march in to your doctor’s office and demand another drug! The drug you deserve and are entitled to!

Please note here: sympathy for your constipation. It's really a bummer! And sympathy for your back pain too. Of course you need to be on opioids. That goes without saying, buddy.

But guess what? Don't be looking for any sympathy from the medical community for the effects of trying to get OFF of these drugs. By then you're an addict, and probably deserve it, right? Your doctor won't be able to wash his hands of you quickly enough.

The whole concept of Movantik is ridiculous in the first place. As an opioid agonist , it actually counters the effects of the opioids people are already taking. This means that one of the side effects is feeling like you’re in opioid withdrawal. Duh! If you’re going to go through all that, might as well bite the bullet, get off the opioids, and win the prize of being clean.

But no, the pharmaceutical companies would rather have you paying to take two different drugs which will fight it out in your brain and your body. This is not going to feel good. So why not be brave in a way that will not involve filling the coffers of Astro Zeneca and whichever pharmaceutical is selling you your narcotic of choice?

Taper off of your opioids. It may take awhile, and it’s not going to feel good, but opioids can actually make your pain worse in the long run, so if you kick them, you’ll eventually have less pain and be healthier.

And you’ll have better things to think about than worrying whether you can go to the bathroom!

I wish you good luck in finding one of the rare doctors who has the slightest clue what patients are being put through in first being prescribed these drugs and then being told to get off.  Read More 
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Loving My Life Again

My friend Marsha Ham and I go way back. We met around the time our first babies were born, so that means we’re talking 35 years at this point! We always take each other out on our birthdays and share the latest stories of marriage, motherhood and now, grandmotherhood.

In the summer of 2013, I asked if we could postpone her August birthday lunch for a month. I was in over my head with trying to ready a little bungalow to put on the market, and looked forward to the massive relief I expected when the stress of this was behind me. I thought we could drive the hour up to take a look at the farm property her daughter had just bought and then have lunch in Silverton.

I’m glad I didn’t know at the time it was going to take me three-and-a-half years to make good on this suggestion! That summer, I had no idea how sick I really was or how long it would take before I fully recovered from the effects of prescribed Oxycodone and Xanax.

Now that I'm well and busy reclaiming my life, I don’t often visit my old message board for people trying to get off of benzodiazepines, but the other day somebody wrote asking about anhedonia and wanting stories of people who’d recovered from this. While I never felt inclined to write blog posts about being sick, I now find I do want to write about the joys of being well. I want to help spread the message to anyone on this same path that yes, recovery is possible.

Anhedonia, for those unfamiliar with the term, is defined as a condition characterized by an inability to experience pleasure in acts which normally produce it. And we’re not just talking about sex or other peak experiences here! It’s everything. Most of us don’t even realize the simple, moment to moment pleasures involved in daily life—the first cup of coffee in the morning, for example—until they're completely stripped away.

I didn’t realized how thoroughly compromised my brain was that summer. I thought I was just over-worked, sick of life, and mad at everybody. Ditching my entire family and running away sounded like an excellent idea. In my darkest hours of bleak despair, I was, frankly, suicidal.

Nothing to do but hang on and live through it, which is the story I describe in Accidental Addict. Eventually I started having what people call “windows,” where I’d notice myself having positive thoughts again, and now, finally, I’m back to my old self. But it took a ridiculously long time.

That’s why my outing to Silverton with my friend yesterday seemed so momentous. I savored my awareness that my thoroughly healed brain was capable of delighting in every little thing: the blessed sunshine after this long rainy Northwest winter, the pleasure of reconnecting, of being out in the world again. I loved seeing Marsha’s pistol of a daughter in her element, and we both marveled at her energy, remembering our days as young back-to-the-land moms when we were ourselves trying to rehab ramshackle houses and grow gardens, all with kids underfoot.

So yes, it’s possible to heal from this horrific symptom, and for people who come out of anhedonia, it’s almost like a religious experience. We have a renewed appreciation for the essential sweetness of life itself.

Anhedonia is a concept I feel is missing from so many discussions of recovery from drug addiction. Nobody talks about just how long it takes for a brain to recover. Addicts manage to ditch their street drugs and go through withdrawal, only to find themselves thinking that life “clean” isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. But that’s because they’re not really well. It’s too soon to judge. It might take a couple of years after being technically “clean” before a person begins to experience the everyday joys of life again. I used to be as judgmental as the next person, feeling all these reported relapses were just instances of bad decision-making. Now I understand the despair, and I wish addicts could get less judgment and more emotional support in trying to stay clean long enough to let time do its healing.

If this is you, if you’re suffering from anhedonia after withdrawing from drugs—street or prescription, it makes no difference to your brain—hang in there. It often takes longer than people expect, but you will heal in the end. My Rx is simple—no going back on your drugs, no layering on of new drugs to “help.” Just give it time. Eat right, rest, exercise, try not to tear it with the people who care about you, and keep hanging on to the belief that if you stick to this path, one day for sure you’ll again be walking back out into the light.  Read More 
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