In December last year, after two years of reducing to a low dose of the opioid-substitute Buprenorphine (Suboxone) Emily joined The Buttery’s INTRA community-based program. She is now completely drug-free.
While the Buttery is best known for its longstanding residential rehabilitation program, it offers a range of recovery options in the community which work with the strengths of its participants. For Emily — a fiercely independent and private person – INTRA’s outreach program was the perfect fit.
“I had the feeling I could do it without residential rehab. I am a very private person and the thought of rehab for someone who has been using for so long, was overwhelming.
“My stepdad was dying of cancer and I moved up here to help my mum, who didn’t know I still had a problem — I had been a secret user for so long. But with INTRA, I could recover while helping my family and keeping my addiction secret,” she said.
Emily used heroin from 18 and started injecting Suboxone at 26. She managed to travel in 2011, using Suboxone back patches, but as soon as she returned relapsed for four years.
In 2015, Emily moved to the Northern Rivers, and with the help of an understanding GP, stopped injecting Suboxone and started stepping down her dose while she worked on her underlying emotional issues. “I found stable accommodation and got my life back on track,” she said.
However, it wasn’t until she was referred to INTRA by an employment agency that the possibility of abstinence became achievable.
“I couldn’t have done it without their support. They helped save my life and I will be forever grateful,” said Emily.
“The team at INTRA helped me let go of the fear surrounding stopping altogether. I was just taking the tiniest sliver but I had a hard time believing I could stop after 20 years of using every day.”
Emily attended the INTRA program three times a week, taking advantage of group counselling, art therapy and yoga sessions.
“The staff at INTRA work so hard. I have so much respect for their patience and wisdom.
“It was easy to justify keeping using because I was on such a low dose but (counsellor) Neshko, got me motivated and reminded me why I was doing it. He got me excited for the next drop.
Emily said, now that she is completely free from opiates, she no longer lives with constant anxiety. “That fear of my secret being found out was the biggest thing to carry around. My mind was always thinking ‘Where is my bag?’ Living with the anxiety that you might not be able to get on that day – these subtle negative energies affect you every minute of the day.”
“These days I am more present and more honest. I don’t need to lie about why I need to go to the shop. I start working at the end of last year. I’ve studied community development and have a boyfriend which is going well. Abstinence has helped me develop my emotional connections and has made me really grateful every day for the paradise we live in.