“It’s a lot easier to look at myself in the mirror now” — Heath’s Story of Hope

During his addiction to fentanyl, Heath spiraled so far downward that even his dealer, the woman who sold him pills every morning before work, said to him, “You look like crap, you can barely cover your habit, and you’re going nowhere. Is this the life you want?”

Heath realized the answer was no.

For two decades, Heath had been addicted to Percoset, always maintaining construction jobs while snorting 4 to 6 pills a day. Life wasn’t great — he had a volatile marriage and health problems and threw away massive amounts of money on drugs. But he had convinced himself he was managing OK.

On fentanyl, he could no longer lie to himself.

Heath first tried fentanyl when his Percoset dealer briefly left town. Twenty minutes after he snorted his first pill, he fell off a ladder at work and injured his knee.

Two days later, when his dealer returned, he found that even 10 Percoset pills a day wouldn’t fend off withdrawal.

Soon, he was spending $700 a week and had his fentanyl dealer on speed dial. “I called her every morning. I didn’t get out of bed until I got her on the phone,” recalls Heath, 48, now an Ideal Option patient.

“I wasn’t a good father or a good friend or even a good pet owner,” adds Heath, who had stopped jogging with his dog.”

Then, his best friend died of a fentanyl overdose. Another friend overdosed but was revived by Narcan.

Heath realized: “If I don’t get help, I’ll die.”

He moved out of his house and crashed with some friends. One of them told Heath about Ideal Option.

He learned that prior to starting Suboxone, he would need to abstain from all opioids for 48 hours — twice the abstinence period required for prescription pill and heroin addiction. Heath knew he was facing two days of misery but was determined to muddle through it.

“That was the road I needed to take,” he says.

Heath holed himself up in the basement with his dog, a white Husky, who, as always, stood by his side.

“She wouldn’t eat because I wouldn’t eat,” he says. “I told her, ‘I promise, I’ll become a better dad for you.”

For two days, Heath dealt with vomiting, diarrhea, restless leg syndrome, muscle aches, and insomnia. But he never considered giving up.

“I knew if I didn’t do the full 48 hours, I couldn’t start treatment. I had already told my boss everything, and there was no going back. When I put my mind to something, I can do it.”

That was over two years ago. Heath marvels at how dramatically his life has changed.

“When you’re in your addiction, part of you says, ‘This isn’t right.’ You’re barely paying your bills and all your money is going to your drugs. But you convince yourself it’s the only way to live.”

Now he knows a different way. Thanks to Suboxone, he has no cravings for opioids. “Whoever invented that stuff should get a Nobel prize,” Heath says.

All his health problems have vanished. For years, he took prescription sleeping pills and medication for cholesterol and high blood pressure. He also gave himself testosterone shots every two weeks.

“Now, I don’t take a single medication. My doctor said, ‘You don’t need them anymore.’ ”

He feels more energetic than he did at age 30.

“Before, I was convinced the pills gave me the energy I needed to work. You don’t realize that if you just get off pills, you’re going to have natural energy. Now, I jump out of bed in the morning and take my dogs for a walk before work.”

Heath earned a promotion and supervises a construction crew. Now divorced, he can afford his house payment and other bills while still putting away money for his future and his hobbies.

During his addiction, Heath would invent excuses to avoid fishing trips with friends. “I wasn’t going to snort a pill in front of everyone out on a windy boat ride,” he said. “Now I can go out on a boat all day and without worrying about anything. It’s like 1,000 pounds of spiked lead got taken off my shoulders.”

Best of all, he has regained his self-esteem. “It’s a lot easier to look at myself in the mirror now,” Heath says.

He hasn’t forgotten the support he’s gotten from his white Husky, who now gets plenty of exercise and attention.

“I tell her every day, ‘You helped me get through the worst time in my life. I’m never going back.'”

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