April 08, 2020

Calais clinic a lifesaver for former IV drug user

Hello. My name is Billie Jean Bonness. I am a 31-year-old recovering addict. A “junkie.” I was a bad IV drug user.

I started out taking my parents’ Somas when I was 15. For people who aren’t up to date on the medications out there, Soma is a strong muscle relaxer. When you take it, you feel like you’re drunk. I’ve overdosed on them too many times to count, and I’m lucky to be alive.

Later, I was close friends with a person who had cancer. He had an enormous prescription for 40 mg OxyContin tablets, even after his cancer went in remission. He shared his Oxys with me. One night before I had to start serving a jail term, I shot up 50 of them! On a normal day, I would do between 15 and 20.

This person also enjoyed cocaine. We were getting 2 ounces every week. I’m not bragging, I’m just trying to make my point.

I used drugs continuously for 10 years. I’ve been in and out of jail since 2000, doing 90 days, 30 days, 120 days every few months. Every time I got out, I went right back to the drugs.

I wasn’t ready to quit. My famous line was – and now it makes me sick to think I ever thought this way – “I’m a junkie and I’ll always be a junkie.” Both my mother and my father were addicted to opiates, too. Over the years I stole from friends, family and my boyfriend.

When they say drug addicts will not quit until they “hit bottom,” they are right. I really don’t think there was any specific incident that happened. I was finally just sick of doing drugs. You see, when you’ve done drugs like I have, there comes a time when you’re not doing it for the high. You’re doing it so you’ll feel normal. Every time I stuck that needle in my arm, I made myself sick. But I had to do it.

Then, in April 2005, the Discovery House methadone program came to Calais. My mother and I talked a lot about going there, but she made the first call. She got her first dose of methadone on May 30. I saw how good she was doing on the methadone and finally I made that call for myself.

When I showed up for my two-hour intake interview, I hadn’t slept in three days. I shot up a whole Oxy 80 just before I went. The interviewer was very patient with me. I poured my heart out to her and she sat and just listened. I had never had somebody do that for me before. Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough counselors at the time, so I had to wait more than a month before I got my first dose on July 12.

Shortly after that, I got in some trouble with the law. I started going to all the group counseling and support sessions I could so it would look better when the time came for me to be sentenced. But after a few weeks of going to groups I found I really enjoyed myself. I still go to almost every group available, and now I help run a group called Patient Advocacy.

I’ve come a long way since July 12, 2005. I want people to know that methadone isn’t a miracle drug. It can take away the cravings and the dope sickness, but you, yourself, have to stay clean.

I know you hear these stories about people overdosing while on methadone therapy. The people who are overdosing are more than likely mixing their methadone with other drugs.

I’m on a very high dose – 210 milligrams. And it works for me. Everybody is different. If you met me on the street you wouldn’t know I was on methadone. I’m just like any other normal person, except I’m a recovering drug addict taking my life one day at a time. -BILLIE JEAN BONNESS, BARING

Please join our weekly conversation about Maine’s substance abuse problem. We welcome personal stories, comments or questions from all perspectives. Letters may be mailed to Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04401. Send e-mail contributions to findingafix@bangordailynews.net. Column editor Meg Haskell may be reached at (207) 990-8291 or mhaskell@bangordailynews.net.

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