Carrie Gonzales and Brett Gonzales

Recorded February 10, 2011 Archived February 17, 2011 34:09 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBY007460


Carrie Gonzales, 39, tells her husband Brett Gonzales, 37, about overcoming her addiction to painkillers.

Subject Log / Time Code

Couple, married for 17 years, met in Boulder, CO, shortly after CG broke her back.
CG became addicted to painkiller medicine during her long rehabilitation. While she was highly functional, it became very difficult for her to trust people.
CG's escalating addiction nearly ruined the marriage. "Instead of a husband, you became a caregiver."-CG. BG asked for a separation.
Couple decided to try an ibogaine treatment to wean CG off her medications. Ibogaine is currently illegal in the United States.
CG remembers her treatment and what she felt when she was done.
BG remembers his experiences and thoughts seeing CG become addicted and eventually cured.
CG talks about her sports interests.


  • Carrie Gonzales
  • Brett Gonzales

Venue / Recording Kit


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00:06 I'm bracken's awesome 37 years old. It's February 10th 2011. We're here in Chico, California with my wife Carrie and my name is Carrie Gonzales. I am 39 years old is February 10th 2011. Where in Chico California and I'm here with my husband Brett.

00:25 Why don't you start by telling us a little bit about how long we've been together and what brought us here to storycorps. We've been married 10 years together six years prior to that store on 16 years and I Met You in Boulder, Colorado going to college. I had just broken my back snowboarding which I did when I was 21 years old. We were filming a video and I was jumping off a very large cornice and I went to big and broke my L1 shattered it have titanium rods and screws in my back and let you shortly thereafter once I had kind of stabilized and gotten back to college and we've had a great time since then with a little hiccup.

01:09 Who as a result of your accident what what were the ramifications obviously other than many years of Rehabilitation and some psychological issues to deal with her emotional issues I would say the biggest effect. The accident had on my life was really a narcotic pain use painkillers. It started I'm sure like all back injuries with some percocet or with some Vicodin and after 17 years, which is how long it's been since I broke my back. It ramped up considerably to Fentanyl patches Percocet stoma Xanax.

01:52 Yeah, pretty high levels of everything. I'm a small woman hundred fifteen pounds, maybe 5 3 and I was on an incredible amount of pain killers. And that was that that became difficult around 300 micrograms of feed mill 300 micrograms every two days addiction to those painkillers, which I could clarify was a result of the doctors prescribing it to you. Correct. You never went in the illicitly got painkillers off The Streeter question Parts them know I never I always followed my doctor's orders. I did not ask for more than I needed. I didn't doctor shop. I didn't go on the street. It was that I was doing what I thought I had to do which was take painkillers for my back pain.

02:43 I'm quite a bit of painkillers, but it you know chronic pain management is about writing prescriptions this point and how do you feel like those narcotics impacted the way you were able to live your life. I'm the obvious impactions where the memory loss and the lack of motivation. I'm pretty impressed with how well I kept it together didn't crash my car kept a job had a very understanding boss have a very understanding boss. I would say a lot of it was really the the mental kind of suppression of my emotions of my ability to connect with other people. I had a wall built around me basically where I had acquaintances but not a lot of friends trust was difficult and the I had a pretty good relationship with the pain doctor.

03:33 And if you thought the majority of this was a result from the narcotics, absolutely. Yeah an email again. I think I adapted pretty darn well compared to how much due to the fact that I was on it quite a lot of opiates by the time the 17 years rolled around absolutely. You know, you're here in exactly. I don't know what title You Been by now but you do wear a lot of hats in your business and I'll pay the pretty high-level and the fact that the doctors were prescribing it to you seems like they probably would have been any cognitive dissonance in in this addiction. What was the main impetuous that there was a problem it's acceptable to be addicted to painkillers. If you broke your back, it's not it's not frowned upon its it's not like a heroin addict who goes to the street and shoots in their neck. Everybody. Totally understand. I don't feel like there was

04:32 I don't feel like people treated me differently because of it because I could point to a big long Scar and titanium rods and screws in the back and therefore it was acceptable and understood if it had been heroin or anything else. I think it would have be obviously a completely different story.

04:52 Perhaps you could expand a little bit more on the impacted to the addiction ended up having on our marriage after that that amount of time and in that level of addiction had developed by I like us to step back a little bit. I'm trying to get I think would be helpful to get the chronology right one. How did you meet and then after how long did you to do? How long after your injury did you meet? What was your what was your condition if you collect rainwater condition was and then go from there when I finally was able to go back to school back to college. I was 21. I'd only been in school while before I broke my back. I think I took about memory is a little fuzzy do the meds but I think it was about a year-and-a-half off to get to the point where I could walk, you know for five steps enough that could move from the shuttle van to my office or to my classroom to work. I wore big back.

05:52 Grace when I first met you, I had a Amino post spinal cord injury back brace on on my walking was difficult and my back pain was pretty severe for sure. When I first met you. I was really only taking Percocet and some Somas nothing the high-level that it was recently.

06:19 I would say when we first met things were great. I mean life was good. I was very grateful and happy to be walking. I think a lot of us take the small things for granted including putting bean and put your legs over the bed in the morning and standing up.

06:34 It wasn't too long after we left college that was still functioning pretty well. Not on a lot of meds, but I would say about every year that the plateau happened sometimes quicker depending on which drug if it was morphine or MS Contin or whatever it was.

06:52 I would say once we wanted to move to California things radically changed in Salt Lake City. I had it quite a concoction of opiates to take to mix together to be functioning when we moved to California, which is about 9 years ago, California has very strict.

07:14 Laws on controlled substances and one of them is there's only a certain number of controlled substances that the doctors allowed to write per month and Sonu doctor in California could write what was working for me at one point. I considered can I move to California? How do I how do I deal with this? And we found we moved to Redding temporarily and found a pain clinic that said the only way I can help you is if you wear these female patches meet this woman over here. She's had him for a while and she loves them and the woman did absolutely love them. There's a great benefit to wearing a patch that gives you treatment Through Your Skin versus having to take pills. We have the up in the down and did you forget to take them?

07:57 As a result of the he's I got a lot stronger medicine medication fentanyl is extremely strong and I think that was the Turning Point towards being able to be productive and have a good relationship and be open and honest to be more impaired without I honestly didn't really fully realize it either. It was a slow gradual progression from one patch to two patches to bigger patches and over 9 years. I I got to quite a few patches and

08:34 It became difficult in our marriage since we've been able to manage it with different drugs at a lower level to having to manage it with a big large blanket at Pettit on a constant level. Correct? I think the state of California had a concept about why they did what they did in my case. I think it might have backfired just a little bit and put me into more of an an addiction then where I was Prior. What was the breaking point for you with us with the addiction?

09:11 You know, we had we had been a little rocky for a while, but I didn't realize how hard it was on you. I I knew that my memory was a dragon that my motivation was low. But as a spinal cord injury my toes curled under and I had to have some extensive surgeries. In fact, I had four and you were amazing through all them when I could not walk.

09:34 But I think that took the toll and it was very difficult.

09:39 I do not like being in mobile. I'm an ass beating my brain, but my body wasn't cooperating and I got depressed and I stopped at losing desire to do anything or to be anything. And I think it just broke you instead of being my husband. You came back here gave her my caregiver and that's got to be tough for anyone no longer friends no longer lovers, but honey, can you get me this honey? Can you get me that and you had to do it all the point when you said honey? I I want to separate right before our 10-year wedding anniversary before Valentine's Day.

10:14 Was devastating I never thought we'd get a divorce or separate and that was the wake-up call. That was the oh, oh gosh. This is not what I want. How do I fix it and you actually

10:28 Said hey, what about getting off the trucks? And I had never ever considered that an option. No doctor has ever told me that I may not have back pain that it could just be an addiction. I always thought it was such a severe injury that for the rest of my life. I'd be on opiates.

10:53 I don't know exactly what you asked me. What happened. I was your current pain physician told you that because your your opiate level had not increased you didn't have any underlying pain that what you had was a physical dependency, otherwise physiologically you would have to be increasing your opiate usage what you had it on for a couple of years because you were so disciplined about your usage. But so once we once we got that piece, and now I just think that was key in Shifting the way we were looking at what was going on because we knew there was the opportunity for you to live without opiates and the potential that they would be paying their but we didn't know how much right I remember the day where we went into the pain doctors office and you were right by my side and

11:40 He basically asked him what do I do to get off the drugs? And he says well, it'll take 2 years daily withdrawals. You'll feel like shit your your husband will probably hate you you hate me and yelled and you lose your job and I thought was why the hell would you do that? That does not sound like fun and we walked outside the front door and you turned to me and you said Carrie. What about ibogaine?

12:02 And I remember I remember knowing that I began existed but not have any clue about what ibogaine was the legalities are and then maybe a little bit about the process that ibogaine. What what you undergo when you take ibogaine sure. Ibogaine is a root bark from Africa from Western Africa from Gabon. It's not legal in United States. It's a hallucinogen but its main purpose is it actually allows people who have opiate addictions methamphetamine cocaine and an ability to

12:44 Get rid of 90% 90 95% of the cravings and all the withdrawal symptoms with one dose. It's schedule on the United States. It's legal in Canada is legal in Mexico. We went home and I googled ibogaine and within I would say 2 hours is what I tell people but probably within 10 minutes. I knew I was taking ibogaine and I knew it was going to work. It's intense you back up it took me about four and a half months from that day at the doctor's office for us to be flying down to Mexico. We cashed in frequent flyer miles and I found a clinic through quite a bit of research that offered a safe setting and drugs just in case I did come out of the experience and I had back pain I wanted to be able to be taken care of. I didn't want to be in a white wall Clinic with heart rate monitor is beeping nor did I really want to be in the jungles of Costa Rica with some guy with his face painted dancing around a fire?

13:44 I feel like I found the perfect Clinic I was really happy with it when we got there and I was really pleased that you came down with me to experience it. It was life changing. I think it'll be like changing for anybody who takes ibogaine with or without an addiction.

13:59 It is very powerful drug. You take it one time within a 24-hour. Normally depending on your body weight your addiction the length of the addiction and your health health is important.

14:12 And it's it's far from fun. It was taxing as all hell it was you know, you take the drug within an hour. I had absolutely no cravings and about 99% of my withdrawals were gone. Ironically didn't really know what a lot of my withdrawal symptoms were until afterwards but

14:35 You layer down in a bedroom and they warn you you're going to be in that bedroom for a few days. I honestly I heard that but I didn't really listen to that.

14:45 I remember it coming on in the big wave of energy and you get a taxi, which is like a your body is encased in concrete. You really can't move until you're pretty much laying in this bed for a long time. I

14:59 Most people have the majority of people have very intense Visions experiences that take them back either to their childhood and Trauma that cause them emotional scarring basically and helps you see your life and see what decisions you made and how you got to where you're at in my case. I don't remember my experience much. I think it had a lot of work to do in my body. And since that's why I was there I'm happy with my result. I remember waking not waking but being aware of my surroundings about it's about a 48-hour trip basically where you are you are out of it for about 48 hours and you are stuck in the bedroom.

15:46 And I kind of remember I think a day after taking me to 24 hours being tired of being in the same bedroom wanting to get out of the bed the next day. I made it to the couch few steps away and was happy for the change of scenery. You don't sleep the whole time. In fact, I remember Dave four or five. I got an hour and a half asleep. And I was so excited. It was on day 3 that which happened to be my 38th birthday my 39th birthday that I recalled.

16:18 That I realized I think that I didn't have any cravings and I didn't have any back pain. I had a very weak body. I did not have any muscles. I was thin. This thing can be I didn't eat when I was on so many opiates my digestion didn't work. I was Skin and Bones, you know, I cried. I'm going to cry cuz I didn't have any back pain.

16:47 I cried cuz I didn't know this was an option. It was it was so foreign the idea that I'd have all the surgery and not have back pain when I probably had no back pain 12 years ago and just didn't realize it committed to a life of constant medication there would never be a choice. Otherwise, absolutely and I appreciate your commitment. So on my birthday is when I really want it really hit me that that I was freed from at all. Now, I was exhausting I was tired. I was hungry I was I was overwhelmed with feeling like I don't I remember being in awe of getting Goosebumps getting Shivers somebody give me a compliment and feeling like lovewell up in my body.

17:39 Crying a lot at the beginning because everything was magical and amazing and just flowers and everything was it was like I was seen it all new from a child's view point. Everything was awesome. It was a sense of euphoria. Once the reality of that my new life. I was given a new life you this this new perspective or was it the the long-lasting effects of ibogaine or combination of both do you feel you know, it's probably a combination of both along with being able to be all a hundred percent me like nothing suppressing my my emotions or my digestion. I mean, I got to go to the bathroom which was outstanding everything was so it's just it was like incredible that the body started working so quickly after I can feel when I ate protein the difference of protein to Sugar's I can tell if I

18:39 How much fry food like all these things that I hadn't hadn't experienced and I were Seventeen years. We're just glistening in front of my eyes and it was it was overwhelming at the same time. So exciting. I had no idea that this this like Euphoria would last for so long. I thought you know, I'd have a couple weeks of like high-energy on my God life's amazing. Look at these emotions. I can feel in the hold of me. Really Goosebumps work. We're crazy like getting Goosebumps sport was it felt weird? I kept remember telling you Predator. I feel so weird and you'd say no honey. It's everybody feels like you just aren't used to it.

19:19 To now that you you went to Mexico and over the course of three to five days you you kicked your your opiate habit of 17 years that was the result of the Western Medical approach which was totally acceptable and is acceptable to a lot of people

19:38 So now that you came back with a clear head in it and an admittedly hammered body from the experience in from years of drug addiction.

19:48 Where you at now? And what did you do with this new this new Leaf Sun Life.

19:55 I am doing everything I can do everything. I want to do everything I've wanted to do when we first came back that we stayed for two weeks. And I think it's important to tell people that though I was able to realize I'm day 3 that I wasn't addicted to painkillers any longer.

20:14 I was so wiped out in your you don't sleep for so long and the Sleepy do get is so minimal at the beginning that it was hard to to walk across the house. It was difficult to walk down the street. So they ask you to stay an extra week and it's called Aftercare and it's basically incorporating your new self with your reality around you with very supportive people majority of who were ibogaine folks as well prior addicts who were running the the treatment center other clients that were in Aftercare dealing with their own new emotions their own their own bodies their relationships with people around them.

20:55 As we got back. The first thing I want to do is go downhill mountain biking up at Northstar in Tahoe. And we went that weekend. We came home on a Monday. We went and saw my pain doctor was the first person that I remember make an appointment to see and he was astounded I would say at first he probably did not think that this was going to work at all even though he read the same literature I did.

21:24 He it was medically very difficult for him to swallow that I was able to do something in 3 days or you know, a total of two weeks out of my life that most of his patients would take two years to do or longer. That was awesome walking out of that office knowing that I did not have to ever go back again and I haven't in 7 months. It's been 7 months since treatment. I have not gone to the doctor once and I just have to go every 30 days which made traveling out of country impossible at made.

21:55 Meet having a life outside of 30 days very difficult and you know scuba diving none of the cool stuff. I'd like to do one thing. I do want to jump back to real fast is is the treatment cost at first when I found out it would be $6,000 for treatment. I thought wow, that's a lot of money. I hope this is worth it. I came home and I probably would have spent $60,000 mortgage my house. I would have I would have asked every stranger on the street for two bucks for two years. If it took to get $6,000 it was worth every penny and so many more important point to put out there is is your health in your body and who you are is worth every penny of it.

22:38 So we came back got to blow the doctor's mind away, which is awesome. And we went downhill mountain biking that weekend and you took me every weekend except for like one all summer until the resort closed and I've never felt better. I also decided to start taking care of myself, which is something I didn't really do before at all. So I started trying to eat more cuz I had a pretty negative relationship with food. We I started going to see a personal trainer at the gym and that has been one of the best decisions. I've made it started to three days a week now, it's two days a week and I feel better than I've ever felt even before. I broke my back stronger and healthier have like a glow that's wasn't there before that I know is because of this newfound release on life. That's new.

23:34 New opportunity to do everything I've always wanted to do with a partner who?

23:40 Stuck by me when things were tough. I didn't give up.

23:46 It's okay. I know this is actually a great segue to a question. I wanted to ask you earlier and that's could. Could you tell me the experience from your perspective which part of him was like seeing her during the toughest moments of their marriage and then her recovery in life as it is now.

24:07 From from my perspective, you know, Kerry, you've always been an extremely intelligent person. That's why that's why I hang out with you and why I love you, one of the reasons you're beautiful and you have a vivacious spirit that that I fell in love with way back in college and it has kept me by your side for 16 years.

24:30 As I slowly watched you become a a shell of that original person. It was really difficult first for me to recognize what was happening because we've been together for so long. We had been through so much together, the our relationship had become a exceptionally complex and things that were causes of situations were sometimes difficult to ascertain as it as the later years came in for towards a more recent time.

25:04 It was very difficult to know who I would be coming home to mood swings more seem more rapid. We we now know that a lot of the times I was dealing with you going into withdrawal the very quick-acting nature of of your patches of your opiate patches. We had no idea of it within 2 hours. It starts leaving your body. So if you're off on your schedule a little bit we were dealing with all sorts of things that we chalked up to one thing or another all together or a complex as withdrawal.

25:41 I never stopped loving you and it was really fundamental in our relationship. I think that that that nut that love never did flag. I couldn't continue to be in the relationship that we were experiencing at the time in the way it was unfolding and that I recognize clearly what I didn't know at the time is what we needed to do about it. It was not until

26:08 I had come to grips with.

26:11 The fact that I may lose I may have to walk away from our marriage in order to preserve myself and be okay with that and that was really a long hard thing to come to cuz that you know, you have a lot wrapped up in marriage and what we've done and we've had a lot of beautiful experiences together and it just fundamentally the the woman that I fell in love with who is not the woman I was living with I was living with a drug-addicted person and it wasn't it wasn't that there was

26:47 It wasn't it. This was a bad thing. You were high-functioning. We still got out and had a lot of fun. We still do a lot of things together. We enjoy life to the fullest. We have great communication and we know how to speak to each other and for each other.

27:03 But it just wasn't wasn't going and then.

27:07 As we're sitting in that space for I think it was 9 days.

27:12 9 days out from me putting it on the table that we wish that we were going to separate but I needed a separation. We were going to our wedding stuff and and that day was was really really powerful for me very emotional and then real touching and going through all that all that material. I think kind of primed it because the next day

27:36 Was when you came home from your yoga class and I could see shining through your eyes was the Carrie that I fell in love with was the woman mistook beautiful shining like being inside out that show that had become from the the opiates just shining through kind of same here. I am wait wait for me. I'm right here.

27:57 And from that point on and we decided ibogaine. I knew that we had walked up to the edge of that cliff and and looked over and neither of us wanted to jump both of us were willing to but then all of a sudden we happen to look over and see that bridge there and that really worked out well and so now

28:17 When we went down to Mexico

28:20 All right. I felt like it was important for me to also.

28:24 Do ibogaine so that I could understand what you had gone through and for me, the experience was beautiful. It was absolutely Divine and it left me with it.

28:38 A knowing a fundamental knowing that it's all absolutely perfect and everything that we had to go through to get to that point was exactly what we had to go through to get there and it was all for a reason and all of it. You can just sit back and relax and trust and release into it and allow it to unfold and since then things have been just absolutely great in our relationship a weave our communication. However deep it was before is deep and even more I think there's a new a new sense of love. I I can feel it coming from you. I feel like you have more love to give now that you're free of Narcotics allows me to reciprocate more freely.

29:23 Feels good.

29:28 What else have you been able to do since then? I'm on fire. I am besides personal training and totally being addicted to downhill mountain biking. I love to drive fast. I like are still I know it sounds crazy. But that's my reality. I've started skiing. Actually you got back on skis before ibogaine and I expressed an interest to maybe try it you were smart and said, we'll only if you can find the right people that can help you get on the slopes safely. Neither of us ever expected. What is now happening to happen. I started going up to Alpine Meadows up in Tahoe to the deceit to the Far West disabled Sports Group and they are people that help those with injuries or disabilities get back on the mountain. However that happens and that started with 16 and I sat in assets key and tried to do that and one instructor said will you can stand ski and I said, I don't know.

30:28 I can do that and got me on skis and I am pleased to say that I love skiing and I'm actually good at it. And I don't feel like you can tell I have any sort of a spinal cord injury. It's I have a little bit of a hip walk a little walk gait issues. Other than that nothing slowing me down and it's outstanding. I look forward to doing more stuff. I look forward to scuba diving with you. I look forward to traveling more with you. I love being more active being able to walk around and not be in such a bad shape to go mountain bike riding in the middle of the winter time. And Chico's outstanding has your experience influenced anybody else?

31:15 You know, what's great is that I'm finding that almost every single person I've ever told my story to know somebody who is battling with addiction be it heroin cocaine methamphetamine or more often than not narcotics and because it's acceptable nobody really realizes the danger involved in it or what the slippery slope. So to say and my one of my relatives actually I had no idea was doing methadone treatment once a week and was a prisoner to it and did not feel good and he has since been treated and he's doing great and he's at the point where he's like Wildlife is incredible. And we also had another friend who had alcoholism issues been drinking and though ibogaine isn't as effective for drinking alcoholism as it is for opiates cocaine methamphetamine, it was effective form and it was what he needed kind of slap himself back and into his reality.

32:15 And I hope I can influence more people.

32:18 How many more people actually that would be what I would like to do is spread the word let people know it exists. There's only been a little over a thousand treatments in the United States that correct. I think it's right around a thousand and to be one of those early adopters is it's a it's a powerful thing and I only hope my experience could help others and my my goal is to just get out in the media and let people know that it exists because even my pain doctor had never heard of it another physician of his friend of his who was right near a huge clinic in Tijuana. The guy was in San Diego and he didn't know about it. So I think I just need to let people know that it exists and if you know, somebody has a problem there is a solution.

33:01 But I want to tell you how proud I am of you. I want to thank you for taking the energy to work through what we had to do. It was a long journey to get us here. It was a long journey to get us through what we had to and I look forward to the Journey coming. I think it's going to be some of the most beautiful years of Our Lives. You know, I know it's going to be as you think me. I think I owe you a bigger. Thank you.

33:27 One for dealing with me for so long so high to knowing to communicate with me before you're ready to just totally kick me to the curb you gave me an opportunity, but I don't know most people in my situation would have in the three is we have been having so much fun since Mexico and since I would gain that I appreciate you supporting my new Endeavors my new sports in letting me hug myself down the mountain with broken back. I appreciate it. And I love you so much, and I can't I can't thank you enough. I love you to 50.