Learning to Die, Part One – “Fatal Attraction”

Today, write about a loss. The twist: make this the first post in a three-post series (Writing101, Day Four: The Serial Killer).

LEARNING TO DIE

Part One: “Fatal Attraction”

I always thought I would never even try a “hard” drug.  My dad had told me many horror stories of his friends that “never came back” from heavy acid trips and although he never mentioned that he had tried cocaine, speed, and heroin until after I was well into my own bouts with addiction (and recovery), I had been given enough information through his stories of girlfriends lost to addiction, through public education, and through the scare-tactics of the churches I attended as a child, that I was certain that the “harder” drugs were too dangerous to even try.

That being said, I still experimented heavily with alcohol and marijuana, consuming both semi-regularly from the age of 16 until my introduction to cocaine later in life.  I had tried pot once, in a very small amount, before moving out of my hometown, at 16.  Later that year, I decided my only escape from my mother was to choose voluntary psychiatric care at a nearby mental hospital for a few months, and when I got out I went to live with my father and to attend a nearby alternative high school.  There, the common practice after school was to go see the school pot dealer in the woods across from the school and smoke up with him.  I’m not sure how many times I did this, perhaps a few, but I know that I stopped when I had an experience that scared me straight (as far as going out in public when I was stoned).

One evening after smoking out in the woods, I got on the county transit bus to go home to the neighboring town where I lived, stoned out of my gourd.  I fumbled with my change for a long time, dropping quarters on the floor and stumbling around while picking them up.  Finally, I finished paying, got my transfer, and sat down near the front door.  When I got closer to home, a man in a dark blue sweat suit, carrying a navy blue gym bag that proclaimed in bright white letters across the side, “POLICE,” walked up to the front of the bus next to me, leaned over next to my face, and inhaled deeply through his nose.  That sniff seemed to last forever, and it freaked me the fuck out.  I was frozen in place.  He finally stood back up and said, “Sorry, I just had to do that,” and he exited the bus.

My mind spun faster than a gerbil wheel, my eyes watched the window through the back for following police cars, my heart jumped every time we went to make a stop, certain that uniformed officers were planning to board and take me in every time those doors opened up.  I finally made it home safely.

After that, I only toked up when I didn’t have to go anywhere or when I was sure I wouldn’t encounter anyone else while I was baked.

As far as alcohol went, I was able to get a hold of it regularly.  When I was at parties for older friends, I would drink to excess, getting pretty sloshed, then taking the bus home to my grandparents’ house where I lived with my dad in the basement.  He never said anything about me coming home smelling like a distillery, maybe because never really got into any trouble that way and I always came home, albeit pretty early in the morning.

However, one episode encouraged me to be more moderate in my drinking.  When I was 17, I and three other friends decided to try to finish off a full half-gallon of Everclear in one night.  I woke up two days later, praying to a god that I no longer believed in, hoping that he would just let me die.  The pain in every cell of my body took at least another three days to subside, and after that I didn’t drink to blackout ever again, usually I drank to get a small buzz going, and then would switch back and forth between alcohol and water to stay just a little buzzed.

Things changed the year I turned 30.  The fall before then, I tried mushrooms for the first time, having a pretty intense and partly uncomfortable trip, in which I lost my fear of death, or so I thought.  Shortly after, I was introduced to whip-its (nitrous oxide) and the wonders of its anesthesia.  Mushrooms did not become a regular part of my experience, but nitrous did from then on.  Nitrous, along with the things I would later substitute for it, would soon change my world.

Later will come Part Two: “Blowin’ in the Wind”

Why I Don’t Do Legal Drugs

An old friend stopped by today.  He asked me how I was doing, and how I was staying away from pot, considering my husband and non-program friends all smoke it.  He and I used to smoke it together, back in the day, and he still smokes it now.

The thing is, although for long periods of time I used to smoke it several times a week with my lovers, friends, and later my husband, pot is the one drug I never had a problem putting down.  I never craved it when I wasn’t smoking it, and on many occasions I would stop smoking it for months on end with no issues.  I never stole to get pot, I never spent my rent money on it, I never prostituted myself for it, and I was almost always honest about my use of it (excepting at job interviews).  Once I joined a 12-Step program, however, that all changed.  I stopped consuming it altogether, partly out of respect for people who did do those things to get pot, and partly because I believe in the fundamental principles of the program in treating the disease of addiction.

You see, I don’t really have a drug problem, I have a reality problem.  The drugs I took were just a poor method of dealing with reality and my resulting feelings.  Almost anything can take the place of drugs in an addict’s efforts to not face reality – sleeping, eating, shopping, gambling, shoplifting – anything that can give a little thrill that allows us to ignore what we really feel about the way things really are.

The whole point of drugs, for me, was that I was willing to go to any lengths to change my perception of reality into something different, to numb my feelings so that I wouldn’t have to face them the way they were.  Feeling depressed? Overwhelmed? Irritated? Lonely? Angry? Sexually frustrated?  Instead, I would focus intensely on my next “score” (what some programs call “chasing the bag”) that would get me the drugs I wanted, so I could feel “better.”

Eventually, the drugs stopped making me feel good, and instead just made me more miserable.  I no longer got “high,” but I was so deeply enmeshed in the habit of chasing drugs – doing drugs – chasing more drugs, that I had alienated myself from any remaining resources (family, friends, therapists, case managers) for other kinds of real help.  I had managed to change my reality so completely that I had become an outsider to everything and everyone, especially myself.  The last thing I was willing to do was to wake up and face all the damage I had done to myself and all those close to me.

At the end of the road, I spent countless hours contemplating suicide.  I started shooting without cottons (extremely dangerous and deadly), I tried to overdose a few times, without success.  The thing was, a small sliver of my conscience remained,  despite all my efforts to ignore and destroy it so that it wouldn’t bother me anymore.  I couldn’t kill myself.  I couldn’t get high anymore.  I couldn’t get numb anymore.  Drugs only increased my misery… yet I couldn’t stop, not on my own.

See, thinking about a problem will not solve it.  Only action can do that.  I had trained myself into countless methods of avoiding responsibility for my own behavior.  I couldn’t think my way out of the prison I’d placed myself in, no matter what I tried.  My thinking had become flawed, by my own unintentional design.  I thought of everything I had lost because of my drug usage… and that only made me want to use drugs more.

So anyway, back to pot.  Pot is not my problem, but if I smoke it, I get loaded.  Allowing myself to artificially change my reality in any way allows my “stinking thinking” to get going, to say that if one drug is okay, then the others might be okay too.  It’s a slippery slope.  I know, intuitively, that getting baked, or tipsy on alcohol for that matter, would allow it to be all too easy, with my lowered inhibitions, to think “just a little” of another drug would be okay.  Just “one hit” of crack, of meth “a few” whip-its, or pills, one slip-up leads to two, and then a thousand.  I know this.

There never has been a time, since I started hard drugs, that I could do “just a little” of anything.  Stopping is always a gargantuan task for me, once I start I must move heaven and earth to get myself back to ask for help stopping again.  I’ve relapsed so many times in the last two years that I know all too well what “just a little” would cost me.  Everything.