How I cleaned up my act and dealt with my crystal meth addiction

I keep referring to the fact that I don’t believe in quick fixes for addiction.

My crystal meth addiction

Partially, this is due to research I’ve been exposed to that shows changes in the brain that are very long lasting. As I’d mentioned in an earlier post about crystal meth use, it can take as long as 2 years of staying clean for dopamine function in the brain to return to anything near normal levels, and though we don’t have any clear answers on this yet, the function that does return is most likely not the same as that which was lost.

But it’s also due to my own experience. I used a lot of meth for more than 4 years. It started out with $40 bags (a quarter gram) and eventually grew to almost daily 8-ball use (3.5 grams,), which I could only afford because I was selling pounds of the stuff. I’m sometimes surprised that my brain still functions at all, let alone at the levels it needs to for the things i’m doing now. Still, my memory has suffered and the jury on whether my ADD had worsened due to it or not is still out.

When I got clean, it took me more than 2 years of no substance use whatsoever to get to the point where I felt I was “back to normal.” There were certainly stages of improvement along the way, but I literally had to learn how to live without drugs. It wasn’t easy.

Filling up the necessary recovery time

As you’ll find out continuously throught this blog, my road wasn’t without it’s share of bumps either. I got kicked out of my first rehab for using after about 3 months of staying clean and though my second try was successful, it was far from easy and the struggles taught me a lot about myself and what I am capable of.

I’ve included, and will keep writing, a series of posts about rechanneling addictive personality tendencies into more constructive activities that can help in getting through the tough periods of readjustment. I can say that for me, it was this rechanneling that made it possible to get through my days.

Be it my schooling, working out, or my newfound passion for gardening (on my tiny patio), finding new ways to occupy my restless mind have proven indispenseble for my new, improved life. While I might not have been preparing for it, there’s been a quiet in my mind I didn’t even know before…

Read the upcoming posts for ideas on what you can do to rechannel your energy into things that will improve, not destroy, your life…

Philadelphia addiction help – Long term social support seems to work

Check out today’s article in the NY Times about a program in Philadelphia that is putting together a whole set of support structures to help addicts deal with life after drugs. At the center of the effort is the Philadelphia Recovery Community Center which offers groups, life-skills help, job training and more.

The article focuses on the peer to peer help (addicts helping addicts), which while important, takes away from the main message that addicts need more support than a simple short-term treatment stint.

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.

Addiction, exercise, recovery: A little less sweating, just as much addiction help!

contributing author: Katie McGrath

We’ve talked quite a bit about the benefits of active habits, especially early in recovery when addicts are looking for things to do instead of drugs and alcohol. If you want to look at another blogger who supports the idea that replacing addictive habits is essential to recovery, you should check out Spiritual River, written by Patrick Meninga. He has numerous blogs the specifically talk about what he calls the “creative theory of addiction.”

As we continue exploring what I call “positive addictions“, the important point to remember is to start small and to find things you enjoy doing. Any hobby that gives you enjoyment and that can take up a certain amount of time each day can serve as a “positive addiction”. In addition to the helpful exercise-recovery activities that we described in our earlier posts (like yoga and running), there are a number of less physically demanding ones that can be at least as helpful.

Other addiction help options!

Research has shown that activities like gardening, painting, listening and playing music, and writing (journaling, poetry writing, literary writing) have all served as positive addictions. We’ll look at each one of these briefly:

– Gardening can increase self esteem by enabling you to care and nurture for a living thing. It can reinforce and evoke positive emotions through growing, harvesting, and experiencing the growth of plants (1). Gardening can allow for an escape into an activity that promotes life while combining creativity and hard work (if you think gardening is easy, you’ve obviously never tried it!).

– Music therapy has also been shown to have a number of positive effects on drug users. We’ve all felt the power of music we love, whether sober, or under the influence. Analyzing lyrics and sharing songs enables people to express their feelings and thoughts in a positive way. In one particular study, relaxing music shortened the time it took subjects to fall asleep and improved mood on the following day (2).

Photgraphy

– Similarly, poetry and writing are pathways to feelings. Poetry therapy enables people to overcome obstacles and painful memories by writing and using words to express their feelings (3). The benefits of putting one’s thoughts on paper (by journaling for example) are also great because they allow one to reflect on internal processes that may be very important but just outside of one’s awareness.

– Lastly, painting is another leisurely activity that has been shown to improve depression and anxiety by inspiring creativity and individuality (4). People can clear an open space in their mind by focusing on their art. While few of us will ever reach the levels of artistic geniuses like Picasso, Van Gough, and Rodin, the physical and emotional benefits of creating the art itself are worth at least as much as the critical acclaim.

Obviously, there are a number of ways to fill the void left by drugs when trying to quit. Addiction help doesn’t come only in the form of exercise. The important thing is to find something that gives you pleasure, takes your focus away from the worries of early recovery, and perhaps, that you can get involved in along with other people to allow for the formation of new, drug-free, relationships.

Best of luck!

Citations:

(1) Kavanagh, Hean. (1998). Outdoor space and adaptive gardening: Design, techniques, and tools. Food Products Press: Binghamton, NY.

(2) Abdollahnejad, Mohammad Reza. (2006). Music Therapy in the Tehran Therapeutic Community. Therapeutic Communities, Vol 27(1), pp. 147-158.

(3) Keith Van Vilet. (1977). Creativity and Self Image: An Odyssey in Poetry and Photography. Psychotherapy. Vol. 4 pp. 9-93.

(4) Gil Bar-Sela , Lily Atid, Sara Danos, Naomi Gabay, Ron Epelbaum. (2007) Art therapy improved depression and influenced fatigue levels in cancer patients on chemotherapy. Division of Oncology, Rambam-Health Care Campus, Faculty of Medicine, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel.

Surfing and exercise in crystal meth addiction recovery

Hey everyone, I’ve already talked about the endless ways in which exercise can help addicts, especially in early recovery, fill the void left by their drug use (see here for some articles).

This NY Times article follows Darryl Virostko, a world class surfer, as he attempts to incorporate surfing and surfing lessons into the rehabilitation efforts of Southern California addicts.

Darryl was himself addicted to crystal meth. Another proof that recovery is possible through many different routes.

About addiction treatment – Genetics, the new recovery frontier

Genetics are making their way into every facet of research nowadays, and addiction treatment is no slouch in that area.

What is pharmacogenomics?

If you haven’t heard of pharmacogenomics yet, you are sure to soon. The idea that medications affect individuals differently based on their unique genetic makeup has picked up a lot of steam in the last few years.

Well, the same way of thinking is beginning to emerge in addiction treatment.Genes are making their way into addiction treatment

What can we expect?

Just as pharmacogenomics is said to greatly increase the usability of certain prescription drugs while reducing the worse side effects, so is the use of genetics in addiction treatment purported to bring more personalized, effective treatment to patients.

For instance, pharmacogenomics could inform us as to who is more likely to respond well to treatment using buprenorphine for craving reductions. It could possibly even tell us who would benefit more from specific behavioral interventions. Eventually, it may allow us to build a customized treatment program for addicts based on their genomic profile.

The importance of genetics!

And no one should underestimate the importance of genetics in addiction. In a recent congressional hearing, Dr. Nora Volkow, the head of the federal agency entrusted with advancing addiction research, NIDA, told congress that about 75% of a person’s inclination to begin smoking, 60% of one’s tendency to become addicted, and about 54% of a person’s ability to quit were genetically determined.

As we learn more about addiction treatment and the importance of specific genetic markers, I’m sure that individual addicts’ genes will play a pretty big role in what course of treatment people are given. Genetics might soon be the newest, most groundbreaking advancement in rehabs and recovery. But we’re not there yet so don’t let anyone fool you that they’ve figured out the formula for this!!!

Always stay mindful – My different experience with recovery, addiction, and crystal meth

One of the main features of addiction is, unfortunately, how insidious it is.
Given everything I’ve been learning in the past 12 years about drugs, their abuse, and the people involved, I feel right in saying that most people don’t realize how far gone they are until it’s too late.

I consider myself fortunate in finding my way out of my crystal meth addiction, and I’ve met many others who’ve found their way as well. Still, I realize constantly that you can’t be too vigilant or too aware in watching out for inroads back to disaster.

My Experiment

methAs I’d said before, I began drinking again after 3 years of staying completely sober. My decision to leave typical recovery was made after talking with my parents and loved ones and making sure that they understood what this meant. I made sure that if I began reverting back to my old way of being lazy, aloof, and disrespectful, they would step in and send me right back to rehab.

This was my way of running the famous AA experiment and for me, it’s been working for the past 5 years or so.

But, I am always aware of how intoxicated I am and it is rare nowadays that I let myself get to the point of the loss of control. I have this constant voice in my head now that monitors how drunk I feel. I DO leave unfinished glasses of wine at dinners at times, and I do my best to make wise choices before going out so that I don’t make dumb ones later (like driving under the influence).

How I stay grounded

Still, most of my awareness about my addiction and what it means comes from my constant work in the area. Working with people who are in the throws of their disease keeps me in touch with how far I’ve gone and how much I don’t want to go back. I now know much more about the risks and about what I’d be doing to myself were I to take them. I don’t want to kill additional neurons, and I sure as hell don’t want to go through 2 more years of hell trying to put my life in order. I’ve never tried speed again since the day I quit in 2002 because I can’t say that I’m sure of what would happen next, and I don’t want to find out in case it’s bad…

This is why I believe that education is one of our best weapons in the battle against addiction.

My most valuable help

Lastly, I feel like one of the most important ingredients in all of this is having people you can trust and confide in. I don’t have many of those, but there are a few, and my family is always there, and I share everything with them.

For me, it was the moment I chose to be forthcoming with my family and hide nothing from them that has healed years of tension, mistrust and fighting, and I never want to go back .

This however means that they too have to be open. We now laugh when I say things like “I wish I could do some speed now to get me through all this work I have,” but I assure you, no one was laughing 5 years ago…

A word of caution

DefeatedMy sponsor in AA “went out” (meaning he started using again) a few months ago after being prescribed pain medication for surgery. Many in AA would point to the fact that he should have never been prescribed those pills in the first place. Everything I’ve learned about the brain indicates that automatic relapse is only likely when using one’s “drug of choice“. I say it was the dissolution of his marriage and his trust that having been sober for 12 years he could do no wrong that got him in trouble.

The moral:

Be open, accepting, and loving. Let those around you say things that make you uncomfortable without too much judgment so that they feel safe in coming back to you, and if they ask for help, know how to give it to them. No matter how happy people are to finally quit drugs (or another addiction), the feeling of defeat when they realize they now have to learn to live without their crutch can be enormous. This is where the help is most important.

Question of the day:
Do you have a story about the support you found necessary for your own recovery or the recovery of someone close to you?