• Andrew Woods


Updated: Nov 30, 2020

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 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. 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 there’s also the possibility of getting shot down and going down in flames. Crashing and burning is a terrible ordeal. Of course, I’m familiar with all this territory, having gone 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.

Unknown 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. I’m more than willing to plough through the barriers 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.

*Revision of my Psychology Today article*

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