Sarah’s ordeal started after the birth of her son, nearly 5 years ago. A complicated delivery left her with a herniated disk, and the doctor prescribed opioids for the pain.
Over the next few years, Sarah would wean off the pills, only to start again when life got hard, as it often did. She broke her ankle, tripping down her apartment stairs. She had a second child, a girl, then sunk into postpartum depression. She got covid, and her breast milk dried up. She and her husband split for a while.
“I had a lot of stress, and I just kept taking the pills,” says Sarah, now 29 and an Ideal Option patient in recovery. “It escalated pretty fast, and I had to take more and more.”
When her prescription ran out, she bought pills from an acquaintance.
“Without the drugs, I couldn’t function,” she says.
Sarah felt down about life. She was quick to anger and barely left the house. She stopped quilting, a hobby she’d taken up after her daughter was born and had quite enjoyed. She lost her appetite and dropped so much weight that none of her clothes fit.
“I felt like there was no future,” Sarah recalls, “like I was going to be a bum, sitting on the couch taking care of my kids, and that was all.”
She was consumed by the stress of maintaining her supply, spending money that should have gone for gas and clothing for her kids. To explain the missing funds, she’d tell her husband, “I had to buy more diapers” or “This or that bill went up.”
Adding to her stress, Sarah discovered the oxycodone she was buying also contained fentanyl. The pills were so addictive she had to use before bed in order to avoid middle-of-the-night muscle spasms.
A low point came when her supplier left town without alerting her.
“I didn’t have enough pills to get through the weekend,” Sarah recounts. “It had only been 8 hours, and I was already dizzy and nauseous and throwing up.”
Her body ached, she felt hot and cold flashes, and she had diarrhea.
“It got so bad that I had to tell my son to go to the neighbor’s house and get help,” she says.
While taking a bath at her neighbor’s, Sarah had a seizure, her arms and legs locking up. Her neighbor called 911.
Sarah told the hospital personnel that she was in opioid withdrawal, but she was discharged without being offered help.
Sarah thought: I don’t want to do this anymore. I’ve got to stop.
She tried to detox on her own, sequestering herself in the bedroom for three days while her husband cared for the kids.
But she found withdrawal from fentanyl unbearable.
“Those three days were hell,” Sarah recalls. “I was hallucinating. I couldn’t drink anything. My lips were so chapped I was bleeding. My blood pressure was super low. The whole time, I thought I was going to die.”
By then, her dealer was back in town, so Sarah devised a new plan: She’d take more fentanyl to feel better and then, right away, seek professional help for her addiction.
When she googled “what helps with withdrawal?” Ideal Option came up.
At her first appointment, Sarah learned about micro-initiation, a method of transitioning off fentanyl that enables patients to avoid becoming sick from withdrawal. Over a 5-day period, patients are supervised by a medical professional while they wean off fentanyl and simultaneously ramp up their dose of Suboxone.
Sarah was skeptical micro-initiation would work. “I was worried it would throw me into withdrawal,” she says. But she decided to trust the professionals.
“By day 6, I was fully on Suboxone, and I didn’t feel sick at all,” she says. “It saved my life.”
Though Sarah didn’t feel ill, she did experience cravings and took an opioid pill a week after her micro-initiation.
“I was honest with Ideal Option,” she says. “There was no judgment, and I haven’t used since.”
Since then, Sarah has found a Suboxone dosage that has kept her cravings at bay.
“I feel like I have my life back,” she says. ”I feel great. I’m eating again, and I look healthy.”
In the throes of her addiction, all Sarah cared about was where her next pill would come from. Now, she has regained her passion for quilting. She has bought all the necessary tools, including a sewing machine, and she has made 25 blocks for her first blanket. Now, she just needs to sew the blocks together.
“It’s going to be 5.5. feet by 5.5 feet, and it’s for my husband,” Sarah says. “He’s fully into Star Wars, so it’s all Star Wars themed, with Storm Troopers, the Mandalorian, Chewbacca, and R2D2.”
Being able to fashion a quilt from start to finish has given Sarah a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
“I’m proud of myself that I can take care of two kids while popping out a blanket all by myself,” she says. “It takes a lot of work.”
These days, Sarah enjoys long, evening walks with her husband and kids and feels equipped to deal with the ups and downs of her marriage.
“When I was using, I used to get really angry, especially if I knew I wasn’t going to have the funds to get my pills,” she says. “Now if I have drama with my husband, I can just tell him, ‘I’m not going to talk to you until you’re done with your attitude,’ and walk away.”
Sarah spends more time with her in-laws, who have noticed she’s happier and “more driven.”
In fact, Sarah is so motivated to pursue quilting that she plans to start a business with her month-in-law, selling blankets, burp cloths, bibs, and receiving blankets.
“Now I see a future,” she says.