Addiction stories: How I recovered from my addiction to crystal meth

By the time I was done with my addiction to crystal meth, I had racked up 4 arrests, 9 felonies, a $750,000 bail, a year in jail, and an eight year suspended sentence to go along with my 5 year probation period. Though I think education is important to keep getting the message out about addiction and drug abuse, there is no doubt that addiction stories do a great job of getting the message across, so here goes.

My crystal meth addiction story

The kid my parents knew was going nowhere, and fast. That’s why I was surprised when they came to my rescue after 3 years of barely speaking to them. My lawyer recommended that I check into a rehab facility immediately; treating my drug abuse problem was our only line of legal defense.

cocaine linesI had long known that I had an addiction problem when I first checked myself into rehab. Still, my reason for going in was my legal trouble. Within 3 months, I was using crystal meth again, but the difference was that this time, I felt bad about it. I had changed in those first three months. The daily discussions in the addiction treatment facility, my growing relationship with my parents, and a few sober months (more sobriety than I had in years) were doing their job. I relapsed as soon as I went back to work in my studio, which was a big trigger for me, but using wasn’t any fun this time.

I ended up being kicked out of that facility for providing a meth-positive urine test. My parents were irate. I felt ashamed though I began using daily immediately. My real lesson came when I dragged myself from my friend’s couch to an AA meeting one night. I walked by a homeless man who was clearly high when the realization hit me:

I was one step away from becoming like this man.

You see, when I was in the throes of my crystal meth addiction, I had money because I was selling drugs. I had a great car, a motorcycle, an apartment and my own recording studio. After my arrest though, all of that had been taken away. I just made matters worse by getting myself thrown out of what was serving as my home, leaving myself to sleep on a friend’s couch for the foreseeable future.

Something had to change.

homelessI woke up the next morning, smoked some meth, and drove straight to an outpatient drug program offered by my health insurance. I missed the check-in time for that day, but I was told to come back the next morning, which I did. I talked to a counselor, explained my situation, and was given a list of sober-living homes to check out.

As I did this, I kept going to the program’s outpatient meetings, high on crystal meth, but ready to make a change. I was going to do anything I could so as not to end up homeless, or a lifetime prisoner. I had no idea how to stop doing the one thing that had been constant in my life since the age of 15, but I was determined to find out.

When I showed up at the sober-living facility that was to be the place where I got sober, I was so high I couldn’t face the intake staff. I wore sunglasses indoors at 6 PM. My bags were searched, I was shown to my room, and the rest of my life began.

I wasn’t happy to be sober, but I was happier doing what these people told me than I was fighting the cops, the legal system, and the drugs. I had quite a few missteps, but I took my punishments without a word, knowing they were nothing compared to the suffering I’d experience if I left that place.

Overall, I have one message to those struggling with getting clean:

If you want to get past the hump of knowing you have a problem but not knowing what to do about it, the choice has to be made clear. This can’t be a game of subtle changes. No one wants to stop using if the alternative doesn’t seem a whole lot better. For most of us, that means hitting a bottom so low that I can’t be ignored. You get to make the choice of what the bottom will be for you.

You don’t have to almost die, but you might; losing a job could be enough, but if you miss that sign, the next could be the streets; losing your spouse will sometimes do it, but if not, losing your shared custody will hurt even more.

At each one of these steps, you get to make a choice – Do I want things to get worse or not?

Ask yourself that question while looking at the price you’ve paid up to now. If you’re willing to go even lower for that next hit, I say go for it. If you think you want to stop but can’t seem to really grasp just how far you’ve gone, get a friend you trust, a non-using friend, and have them tell you how they see the path your life has taken.

It’s going to take a fight to get out, but if I beat my addiction, you can beat yours.

By now, I’ve received my Ph.D. from UCLA, one of the top universities in the world. I study addiction research, and publish this addiction blog along with a Psychology Today column and a number of academic journals. I also have my mind set on changing the way our society deals with drug abuse and addiction. Given everything I’ve accomplished by now, the choice should have seemed clear before my arrest – but it wasn’t. I hope that by sharing addiction stories, including mine, we can start that process.

Addiction stories: Hellish Heroin – Bambi’s heroin addiction story

Opiate Addiction can be a horrible thing whether it's to heroin, hydrocodone, oxycontin, or any one of a number of available opiates. This is only the first in a series of addiction stories we will have on the site.Addiction stories seem to have an impact that objective research can never have. This is another in a series of addiction stories submitted by our readers. I hope that everyone will benefit from learning about others’ experiences. There’s no doubt that Bambi’s experience of escalation in use from what seemed initially innocent is a common one. If you, or someone you know, needs help with their opiate addiction, try our rehab-finder for the best way to get reliable, verified, rehab recommendations.

A harrowing tale of heroin addiction:

When most people hear the word heroin, some things come to mind. Those of you who have never even thought of doing a drug like heroin, would never understand. And for those of you who you know who you are, whether you have found your way out, or are slowly still slipping away… Believe me, if you know who you are, then you know how it is. Realizing you’re addicted to something doesn’t hit you, until you mentally find your way out by accepting what has happened and letting go with only one hell of a memory. Continue reading “Addiction stories: Hellish Heroin – Bambi’s heroin addiction story”

Anonymous No More: Jennie Ketcham and her sex addiction story

As part of our Anonymous No More series, we bring addiction stories of addicts who are in different stages of recovery and are willing to share their take with you without the veil of anonymity. The point is to once and for all humanize addiction, and addicts, and reduce the stigma of addiction as a condition that leaves people hopeless forever. Jennie Ketcham has already publicly shared some of her story with the world, and if her recovery from sex addiction isn’t an example of humanizing and de-stigmatizing the addict, I don’t know what is. From her humble beginnings, through her porn career, to her role on Dr. Drew’s show “Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew,” Jennie has been leaving her mark on this world for years. I know her story will leave a mark on you.

Jennie Ketcham – Sex Addiction is a slippery disease

Like in alcoholism or drug addiction, the sex addict must hit rock bottom before any change can be made. The biggest problem with this particular addiction is the intrinsically shame-based nature of the disease, with core issues making that first step into recovery the biggest and most difficult step one could ever take. To say, “I am a sex addict,” is to admit total and utter defeat in an arena that is most private and sacred.

My name is Jennie Ketcham, and I am a sex addict. My bottom line behavior, behavior I absolutely cannot participate in if I wish to lead a healthy and happy life, is compulsive masturbation, porn, sex with strangers, sex outside my committed relationship, selling sex for money, and sexualizing people, places and things when I feel uncomfortable. For most people, these behaviors are already unacceptable. For a sex addict however, it’s regular Tuesday night. I am 27 years old, my sexual sobriety date is April 6th, 2009, and I ended up in the program of recovery by mistake, but it was the best mistake I ever made. And believe me, I’ve made plenty.

Up to April 6th, 2009, I was a Porn Star. I’d been in the adult business since 2001, and had worked my way to the upper echelons of porn. By the time I quit, I was managing a webcam studio, directing and producing my own content, and working whenever I wanted. I had heard about Dr. Drew and his new rehab show, “Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew,” and thought it would be the perfect publicity stunt for my webcam studio. I figured if I could get national press, the studio would take off and I’d be able to retire a happy woman. This is the superficial line of thinking that led me to rehab. These are the reasons I actually needed to be there.

Jennie the sexually addicted porn star

When I lost my virginity at thirteen, I realized I have something boys want, and decided to use my sexuality as a means of getting what I want. From my first sexual experience to my last pre-recovery, I was detached, emotionless, and cruel: it was a power struggle and I wanted to win. However, it never appeared as such, always the actress, and I played my sexual exploits off as curiosity and apathy. I’d have sex because I was curious. I wouldn’t call them (him/her) again because I didn’t care. When I joined the porn business it felt like the perfect career. I could have sex with as many people as I wanted, and didn’t have to care about any of them. And they wouldn’t care about me. I’ve never been able to accept love, and this is one of my biggest problems.

I’ve been a compulsive cheater since my first boyfriend, have never been able to maintain a monogamous relationship, and never felt any guilt about my extra-curricular activities. The problem isn’t that I lacked a conscience, it’s that I never felt significant enough to make an impact on any one person’s life. When I joined the porn industry I was no longer required to be monogamous, as it was my job to have sex. It became harder and harder to care about anybody I had sex with, and if feelings of love did start, I’d shut the relationship down before I could destroy it with my behavior.

I’ve been a compulsive masturbator since I started performing in hardcore boy/girl scenes. I decided to train myself to orgasm to non-sexual things, and nearing the end of the behavior, found myself masturbating upwards of 6 hours every day I wasn’t working. At the time I thought I was bored. In recovery, I am able to see the underlying issues, and have found a solution that works for me.

Sex Rehab with Jennie Ketcham

In rehab with Dr. Drew, I was prohibited from masturbating, sexualizing, having sex, drinking, drugging, every numbing device I’d become accustomed to using. When the effects of these behaviors wore off, when my oxytocin levels started to even out, when the alcohol and marijuana drained from my system, I was left with uncomfortable feelings I couldn’t identify or process. With the help of trained specialists, I started to understand what was going on behind my compulsive, dangerous behavior, and with the program of recovery I’ve learned how to deal with life. I am powerless over compulsive sexual behavior, and my life had become unmanageable. I came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. I made a decision to turn my will and my life over to that power, and every day since has been better than before.

I was celibate for over nine months, trying to get back in touch with the Jennie pre-sex. I attend bi-weekly therapy sessions, and follow every direction given by either therapist or sponsor. I trust in the program of recovery, and have learned how to treat myself like the precious young woman I am. I have become a woman of grace and integrity, I have dreams that aren’t pornographic, and my first healthy committed relationship with a man I love. I have a relationship with my family, something that had fallen off in addiction, and am someone who does what she says she will do. There isn’t a single moment that goes by that I don’t worry about falling back into my destructive cycle, but now I have the tools necessary to live a healthy and productive life.

When I walked into rehab wanting publicity for my company, the joke was on me. I had accidentally walked into the first day of the rest of my life, and one minute in recovery is worth a thousand days in addiction. I am blessed through and through, and I take it one day at a time.

A final word on sex addiction recovery from Adi

You’ll notice that Jennie’s bottom-line behaviors are very far from the often stigmatized view of the sex-addict as a rapist, or pedophile. While there’s little doubt that there are sex addicts that fall into those categories, the vast majority of addict engage in activity that might, for others, be relatively benign but that has become compulsive in their own lives. My issues with sex addiction revolved around seeking sexual partners outside my marriage and migrated from my bedroom to online chat sites after I got caught cheating. What’s also very clear when reading about the recovery experienced by Jennie is that with the proper guidance, treatment, and time, addicts can go on to become fully functional in ways that many out there believe are nearly impossible. As Jennie mentioned in her reference to Oxytocin levels, a huge aspect of addiction recovery is letting the body reset, or at least attempt to re-establish, its  functioning to pre-addictive-behavior levels in the brain and elsewhere.

Jennie Ketcham used to live a life that left her unattached and cold, though for her, it didn’t seem like much was wrong until she saw the other side thanks to her stint on “Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew.” Most other addict’s aren’t very likely to end up on a reality show that specifically addresses their problem (though A&E’s intervention may help some of them), but the knowledge that others with similar problems have recovered and are living full productive lives that would have been unthinkable should give hope to every struggling addict. It’s what works in group therapy everywhere and what gets some people into treatment in the first place. By living her recovery without anonymity, Jennie is showing endless other addicts that life with addiction is possible. That’s what addiction stories do – they give hope.

Addiction stories – Anonymous no more: Sarah’s recovery is no secret

In case you haven’t noticed, I can’t stand the stigma I’m supposed to carry around as a recovered addict. People expect me to steal from them, or pull out a gun, or maybe just smoke some crystal meth at the dinner table. But guess what, I haven’t been that guy for almost 10 years now, and chances are, I’m never going back there again.

I received the following addiction story from a reader, another recovered addict (from an eating disorder mostly) apparently sick and tired of the misconception. I’m publishing it here with very few changes, and though I’m including it in our Addiction Stories category, I’ve started a new category now and it’s called Anonymous No More. It’s my personal opinion that if more recovered addicts stood-up and told the world that their previously sordid lives are now full and complex, just as they are meant to be, we’d see a lot less of the kind of misjudged treatment Sarah is referring to. So thank you Sarah Henderson for being the first one up to bat on All About Addiction. And here’s to all those who are going to follow everywhere – There’s no doubt in my mind that when it comes to inspiration, addiction stories do as good a job as research-based education.

Anonymous No More: Inside Stigma – A Patient’s Perspective

Hi, my name is Sarah. I’m Anorexic, Bulimic, and a Cutter.

You could call me these things. But they wouldn’t be accurate. Because I am not these things, these labels. And I am not in recovery from these things.

I am recovered.

From those things, I am recovered. I am bipolar, which requires ongoing management. But you wouldn’t know it if I didn’t tell you. I am not the stereotype, I am not the crazy person we all think of, ranting and raving on some street corner. I am like anyone else, except I take a few pills before I brush my teeth in the morning.

And yet.

I still catch flak all the time. For the taking meds, for going to therapy, for the eating disorder history, for the visible scars from years of cutting. People comment on them, I’ve lost jobs because of them. It’s like, what do you want? I used to cut myself. I don’t anymore. I used to starve and binge and purge. I don’t anymore. So eat lunch with me and stop looking at me like I’m going to vomit on the table any second. Deal with me as I am now, not as I was then.

And yes, I take medication for a chemical imbalance. Guess what? So do diabetics. Only their imbalance is in the pancreas, and mine is in my brain. That’s the difference that makes people freak. That’s where the stigma lies.

If you ask a poet, he’ll tell you the seat of the soul lies in the heart. If you ask a neurologist, he will rightly tell you that the seat of the soul lies in the brain. And anyone who’s ever experienced dementia will testify to that. It’s very possible to exist in your body without living in it. And it’s possible for the person you love to die long before their heart stops.

I believe that stigma comes from people’s instinctual knowledge that when you mess with the brain, you mess with the soul. It can be disturbing, it can be terrifying, it can be cruel. And most people just aren’t up for facing that. However, when you don’t face it, you also miss out on everything the other side has to offer: healing, resilience, clarity, and courage. And while they are some people who don’t come back from mental illness, the vast majority of us do. The other side is a beautiful place. And if you can get past the stigma, you can join us.

Closing “Addiction Stories” commentary from Adi

You’ll notice that Sarah considers herself a recovered addict. When it comes to my own drug use, I do the same, and I can tell you that there are quite a few people out there who strongly dislike it when I tell them that I think I’m done with my drug addiction. To me, this is all part of the same stigma equation – It doesn’t matter if others in recovery stigmatize you as having a problem for life or if the people doing it to you are ones who have never walked in your shoes. The bottom line is that I believe people can be “recovered” and though it probably doesn’t apply to everyone (nothing ever does), I think it likely applies to more people than you believe.

And that’s where working through the stigma is important, as we shed off the shackles of our current understanding and get to a clearing that is lighter and offers more freedom for each addict to use the tools that make the biggest difference for her. That way she can live her life after her recovery as she wishes with little judgment and consternation from those around her. And it shouldn’t matter if we’re talking about recovery from an eating disorder (like anorexia or bulimia), drug addiction, gambling, or sex addiction.

Doesn’t that sound nice?

Addiction stories – LSD addiction: AN LSD trip down the wrong path

An LSD trip may be fun for a bit, but LSD addiction doesn't sound like any fun at all.**DISCLAIMER: This post has been changed since its original content. Since I Believe the submitted story was fake, I’ve now made this a post about the possibility of developing LSD dependence**

Many of my readers claim that LSD addiction does not exist. Well, They’re simply wrong. LSD dependence (the clinical term for addiction) is certainly out there, though its no doubt rare. To understand why I can make that claim, let’s cover the specifics of what a psychological assessment of dependence requires:

The official definition of addiction

As far as the DSM-IV (the psychological assessment manual) is concerned, dependence on any drug require at least three of the following to occur within a year:

  1. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
    • a need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect
    • markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of substance
  2. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
    • the characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance
    • the same (or a closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms
  3. The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended
  4. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use
  5. A great deal of time is spent in activities to obtain the substance, use the substance, or recover from its effects
  6. Important social, occupational or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use
  7. The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance (e.g., continued drinking despite recognition that an ulcer was made worse by alcohol consumption)

Now, I’ve taken more than my share of LSD trips before. Actually, I used to sell acid, among many other drugs in my former life. I knew many people who loved acid, mushrooms, and other hallucinogens (including me) but a few cases stand out in particular.

LSD addiction – Hypotheticals and examples

Given the above definition of substance dependence, any number of combinations of symptoms could qualify someone as being dependent on LSD.

  1. Tolerance buildup for the drug is quick and significant. As anyone who’s ever tried to follow one trip with another knows, the second time requires a lot more acid, and any additional trips increase the amount of LSD needed greatly. Tolerance – Check!
  2. Withdrawal from LSD, especially in the wake of repeated exposures (the multiple trips I was talking about before), includes disorientation, difficulty thinking, fatigue, and sometimes perceptual difficulties (problems with hearing, vision). I’ve experienced this myself, but the best example I’ve seen is of a friend who tried to trip continuously for as long as possible – After about a week and a half, she was eating literally a sheet of acid to feel anything (her boyfriend was a dealer, talk about tolerance). When she stopped because her boyfriend cut her off, she had the hardest time finishing sentences, completing thoughts, or following conversations for nearly three months! Withdrawal – Check!
  3. With the above 2 out of the way, any of the other 5 symptoms can serve to complete the LSD dependence picture. Still, though I’ve never met anyone who tried to stop but couldn’t, I have:
    1. Known people who spent a lot of their time and resources (money) chasing down good acid, paying for it, or preparing for and getting involved in activities that involved LSD.
    2. Many of the people I knew began slacking off at work, sometimes being fired, getting far more lax at school, and neglecting any relationships they had with people who were not involved in their LSD use.
    3. Quite a few of the hard-core LSD users I knew told me time and again that they know their LSD use is causing them difficulties (mostly psychological difficulties) but that fact seemed unable to deter them from buying more acid and continuing down the same path.

So does LSD addiction exist?

Obviously, I believe that LSD dependence exists, though it is no doubt rare. As I’ve stated time and again, I am NOT against the use of drugs. However, I think that drug users’ naive approach to many of these issues, including their constant desire to ignore all signs of the negative consequences of drug abuse, is a big part of the problem here. Ingesting drugs is harmful, but knowing that, I believe people should have the choice to harm themselves, though not others. People with drug problems need help, not jails. Still, to make this a reality, we need to do a much better job of educating ourselves about the true effects of drugs.

I’ve seen LSD destroy lives that took years to rebuild. I’m not talking about people locked away in mental institutions thinking they’re an orange (we’ve all heard that story). But I had friends who became completely unable to live and function in society who gave up friends, significant others, and family for a drug that eventually made them crazy. Some of them are back, some aren’t.

All I’m saying is be careful.

Struggling with my addiction: Recovery, addiction, and the everyday stuff

I’ve written about my own struggles with my addiction on here numerous times. I’ve used crystal meth, ecstasy, cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, LSD, mushrooms, and more, though the first few were the ones that really got me.

After an extended career as a dealer and addict, I turned a new leaf and made a new life for myself. It took a couple of rehabs and a hefty jail sentence. Still the link between my addiction and my recovery is not always strong.

My notions regarding the strong relationship between addiction and personality factors like attention-problems, impulsivity, sensation-seeking, and others comes from both my research and my personal experience. I’ve seen the genetic, behavioral, and clinical manifestations; I’ve also lived it firsthand.

I’ve always been known for doing things I wasn’t supposed to and then feeling sorry for them (or not). It was true when I was 5, long before my first sip of alcohol. Sadly, I’m realizing it is still true now and will most likely be true forever.

I can’t keep anything organized in my head. I never could. I was the kid who lost his house keys 5 times a year, forgot about midterms and finals, let alone school assignments, and who could never remember birthdays, anniversaries, or other important dates and times. These days, I’ve learned to rely on my pda/phone to help me with at least some of those things and it’s made my life much easier. But the underlying problem remains.

The problem is that I’m still impulsive and I still do things I shouldn’t. It’s a constant struggle to pull myself back, a very conscious struggle most of the time. When I say that addiction can be treated, it doesn’t mean that it actually disappears, though for me, it has certainly taken a backseat. If anything, it was after getting sober that I realized my drug use was so tied up with sex that I most likely had developed a sex addiction as well.

I’m not sober now (I drink socially), but I’m very aware of my intoxication level when I drink and rarely let it get out of hand. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gotten actually drunk in the five years or so since I began the forbidden “AA experiment.” It works for me, though it might not be for everyone.

The point is that nowadays, I have too much going on in my life that I love to throw it all away over getting high. My fiance, my education, and my work are important to me. The thoughts are still there, but I don’t act on them. It took a lot of work to get here and I seriously hope that I never have to put that work in again, but recovery, addiction, and my everyday stuff can still be a struggle.

You have to build the life you want and do your best to make maintaining that life a priority. It’s not easy, but it can be done. Look here for an exercise that can help you figure out what that life should even look like.