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.

When you fall… Failing at rehab and trying again

When my life started seriously veering off track, a few of my friends sat me down and told me that they want to help me. At the time, drugs were paying my rent, and they literally offered me their couch to help me lower my cost of living. They were good friends and they really meant it. I didn’t take them up on it; I thought I was fine.

My first try at rehab

Fast forward 4 years, and my first attempt at rehab. I still didn’t really think I needed help, but my lawyer insisted that unless I wanted to spend the rest of my life behind state-sponsored bars, I should give this thing a try. I went in as a way out. I’d been living on drugs, mostly crystal meth, for the previous 5 years or so. I was a daily user, everyone I knew used, I was paying my rent with ounces of coke, but somehow, I thought everything was going well.

Two months or so after entering rehab, sitting at my recording studio pretending to work, I ran across a baggie that had apparently been left behind. It took me less than 15 minutes to find something to smoke it with.

I only used a little bit that day. I’d been off the stuff for almost 3 months, and I didn’t need a lot to get high. I also wanted to save enough for my next “workday.” I was back to using daily within 5 minutes. By New Year’s Eve that year, I was smoking with an ex-customer in the corner of her bedroom before her guests showed up for the yearly party. I ended the night bored at an ecstasy party with half-naked friends giving each other backrubs. This time, I knew something was wrong.

Another attempt at rehab

Needless to say, I got kicked out of that rehab facility. I spent the following two weeks sleeping on a friend’s couch looking for another treatment option. It was on my way to a meeting at noon on a sunny day in Santa Monica that I saw where I really was. Passing a homeless vagabond on the promenade, I did a double take. I knew the guy; we used to party together. I’m one misstep away from being homeless. I need help.

As I write this today, I am five years into a well-respected graduate program in psychology. I’m writing a book about my experiences, and by the time it comes out, I’ll have a Dr. posted in front of my name. But that wasn’t always my story, and as recently as 5 years ago, it was the unlikely ending to my tale.

Addiction demoriliizationThe reason I’m sharing it with you here is because I want you to know that there is no magic number. There’s no right way to find your escape from the life, and there’s no necessary mindset when you try to save yourself. No one knows what is going to work for you yet. We’re working hard on figuring out a way to tailor treatment to specific people based on their drug use, their family history, their genes, and anything else we can think of. As of right now, we have no better answer than this:

Keep trying. No matter how many times you fall down, pick yourself up again. If AA doesn’t work for you, try something else. There are options, a lot of them. If you don’t know about any others, ask me, ask anyone. If you keep trying, keep believing in yourself, keep giving yourself a chance, you’ll find the way out eventually.

Until then, keep your head above water and come back here to learn more. As always, feel free to email me with any questions. I’ll keep answering.