August 29th, 2010
This is a “reprint” of an article I recently wrote for a NY publication called Spotlight On Recovery:
For an addict, the prospect of no longer using whatever it is that gets them through each day is daunting. There’s a comfort in knowing what life is going to look like even if all it entails is dragging yourself out of bed, taking a drink, smoke, or hit of crystal meth, and going on with a day focused only on managing the disaster. The dark cloud that surrounds us is obscured by our drug of choice; it’s what makes the days tolerable.
The first step of recovery – Addiction treatment sets the table
Some of us are sent into treatment by family members or jurists, while others recognize the problem themselves and decide to take the first step into addiction treatment on their own. However we get there, getting into addiction treatment is only the first step; often it’s not even the one that gets us clean. Whether you recover by yourself or with help, whether you got it done your first time or your twelfth, if you’ve managed to stop using, you’ve come up against the ultimate challenge: What now?!
For me, the most difficult aspect of steering my life in the right direction was simply learning how to live. True, I’d been doing it for 24 years by that day, but my life involved constant escape, discomfort, and boredom. When I stopped smoking crystal meth, getting over the fatigue, hunger, and even my non-existent libido (all part of my withdrawal) was easy when compared with the simple challenge of what to do every day.
You see, I smoked crystal meth for 5 years (and before that came alcohol, weed, cocaine, and a slew of other drugs). I smoked meth when I was in a good mood, when I was upset, when I was bored, sad, tired, or alert. With the one common denominator in my life now gone, I wasn’t even sure how to simply pass the time. True, rehab had groups, it had meetings, and it gave me an opportunity to discover myself. But, while all those were helpful, for me, it was the time in between all those that was a challenge.
Learning to live without drugs – Finding purpose in recovery
My inability to fill my time with anything other than thoughts of using got me tossed out of my first rehab. Going back to work in my studio, I couldn’t help but look for some left behind treasures; I found a bag of meth, filled a pipe, and threw out three months of sobriety without a second thought.
My second attempt at getting sober was more successful, not only because I’d learned from my mistake. I’d made mistakes before but never learned a thing. The difference was that this place made us all do chores. They made us work. They made us recognize, and then follow through, on what it meant to be a normal, functioning, member of society. As I got a better and better grasp on life as a non-user, I realized that for me, simply staying sober was never going to cut it.
I’m a doer. I need to get things accomplished in order to feel satisfied. When it came to my drug life, I got things done by becoming a pretty successful drug dealer as well as a less successful, but working, musician. Now, I needed to find another channel for my energy, one that didn’t center around filling a meth pipe.
12-Step meetings did the trick for a little while. Having a place to go where I didn’t have to be ashamed of my past made it easier for me to get adjusted to sober life. Still, within months, I was getting restless again, and for me, that’s a sign of trouble. I was looking for something to do that would pose a challenge, giving me something else to focus on than the gap left in my life.
My purpose – To learn about addiction and help others
I’d always been good at school. Even in the throws of my crystal-meth addiction, I managed to perform well enough in class. That was the reason for my looking into academics as my healthy way out. I mulled over the possibilities with my parents. I was a pre-med student in college and thought about medical school. My dad, a physician himself, wasn’t excited about the idea. Understandably, he wasn’t quite ready to believe that I could follow through on such a challenge. I hadn’t done anything to give him a reason to believe yet.
I decided to start more gradually, and applied for a Master’s program in psychology at a state school in California. Psychology was my undergraduate major, which made the application a little bit easier, but getting myself ready for a life I’d left so far behind was scary.
No matter how dark, there’s a charm in the aimless nature of drug addiction; the focus is simple, the goals, close at hand, and the reward, immediate. What I was embarking on now was some nebulous, long term contest that could end up any which way. I wasn’t sure I was ready for the uncertainty. Still, within minutes of sitting down in that first summer class, I knew I’d made the right decision.
Now that I was sober, I liked the daily routines I’d run away from so many years before. When class was finished every day, I was happy to dive into the work, proving to myself that I could do well here again, that I could reach my goal of getting a Master’s degree after more than 5 years as a daily crystal-meth user-dealer. I did well in that program and started looking into psychology research about addiction. I’d slowly moved away from the rooms of AA, and looking into the psychology of addiction allowed me to stay close to the reasons why I was taking this new path. It also allowed me to work with others who’d had similar experiences to my own without focusing on the past as much as AA meetings did.
I performed so well in the program that I started looking into further schooling, eying the outstanding program at UCLA, my alma mater. The UCLA psychology graduate program is the best in the country and one of the best in the world. Feeling a bit like a novice climber taking on Everest, I set my sights high and went for it. I gathered recommendations; I made phone calls, set up interviews, and worked my full court press. After working tirelessly for more than six months, the good news came in. I was ecstatic. Then I was scared. Quickly, I realized that for me, challenge is food. I need to feel like I’m working toward something to quiet the restlessness in my head.
I know now, having researched addiction for the past 9 years, that addicts have personalities that make them search out challenges, make them need a rush, that leave them unable to sit still. For some of us, it manifests as Attention Deficit problems, but even for the others, for whom the challenge doesn’t quite reach clinical levels, the underlying restlessness is still a constant factor.
In our past lives, that restlessness left us searching for a way to pass the time. Drugs did that reasonably well for me while filling my life with distractions that moved me away from everything that was important. In my new life, I made sure that the challenges were worthwhile; I got involved in sports, rechanneling my need for achievement not only into school, but into fitness as well.
It has taken me years to balance my life, and the struggle is ongoing. I still have classmates, as well as my wife, reminding me sometime that I need time off once in a while to smell the roses. They’re right, and I try, but for me, staying busy is the rose. Without my endless work, I’m afraid I’d lose my grip.
So no matter how long ago it was that you seemed to have lost your passion, if you want to make life without drugs worthwhile, it’s crucial that you find it again now. Simply being clean of drugs is not the end-all. In fact, being drug free merely offers us the means to rediscover the life we left behind.
|Posted in: Addiction Stories, Drugs, For addicts, Tips
Tags: addiction, challenge, crystal meth, life, meth, PhD, Sex, teaching, treatment, weed
August 11th, 2010
Here’s another article from Sarah Henderson, one of our readers who’s recovered from a long battle with eating disorders and is living with bipolar disorder. She’s very candid about her experiences with addiction treatment, which I like a lot, and her unique view on food addictions (or eating disorders) fills a nice gap in my own knowledge. In this piece, she discusses issues about addiction treatment setting, independence, and the involvement of others in recovery. We’ve all heard that you can’t make someone overcome their addiction, and Sarah’s story shows that sometimes what does the trick is making them confront their own problems. As I’ve talked about in the past, I had a similar experience when I decided to own up to my problems and asked my father to let me take care of finding treatment myself. It was the first time I’d really internalized that I was the final piece in this puzzle.
Rehab is Easy. Recovery is Hard.
At least, that’s been my experience. Throughout the the years I struggled with anorexia, bulimia, self-harm, drug abuse, and bipolar I had a very distinct pattern: get sick, make people worry, get very sick, go to therapy, get extremely sick, go to residential treatment. Once there, I’d battle the people who were trying to help, then slowly acquiesce, then start to be semi-okay, get my weight up, get my symptoms down, and get discharged. Then, I’d get sick.
And around and around we go.
I did this for about ten years. I went to hospital after hospital, RTC after RTC, therapist after therapist. I was kicked out of treatment in several places for various reasons: not cooperating, hindering other patients’ recovery efforts, refusing therapies or medications. At one point, I was even kicked out of my small private high school because I was so sick I was “disturbing” the other students.
There is a time in my illness when I would have been proud of these things. I would have seen them as showing how tough I was, how strong in my cause, how determined to go down fighting. Now, however, remembering these things only brings a sense of sadness, and heart-wrenching compassion for the pain that this girl was in, how much she had to have been hurting to continue to put herself in that situation.
At a certain point though, the cycle stopped. I had been to this one treatment center twice in one year- and been asked to leave both times. Finally, the person who had been funding my psychiatric revolving door decided that was the last time he was paying for inpatient care. The next time I decided to get super sick, I was on my own.
After getting out of inpatient that very last time, I continued to relapse. However, knowing that no one was going to swoop in and save me, toss me in treatment, and keep up my game, created a shift in my thinking. I didn’t really have the option of continuing to get sick; at least, if I wanted to live. Wanting to live was something I went back and forth on often. I went through two very uncomfortable, joyful, horrible, painful, gratifying, terrifying, and ultimately life-saving years in outpatient therapy stumbling my way towards recovery. That time was like a dance, getting sicker then better, back and forth, until little by little the better days outnumber the sicker ones. I don’t have a “clean date” like many people; I couldn’t tell you the last day I skipped a meal or purged or cut myself. All I know is that I’m recovered.
It took a long time and a lot of work to get here. And all those years that I spent in addiction treatment did NOT go to waste, despite how it may sound. I think for me- for many people- inpatient treatment lays foundation for recovery, plants the seeds of new behaviors, thoughts, and coping strategies. But it’s not until you leave that safe, rarefied environment that those seeds will sprout, and recovery can begin to flower. I always had this idea that RTC was supposed to cure me; that I should be able to walk out all whole and healed, no problems at all. And I was always pissed when it didn’t happen that way. Finally I figured out that’s not how it works. Treatment just gives you the tools and materials for recovery. YOU are responsible for building it.
I wish someone had told me that the very first time I went to inpatient. It’s an important thing to remember throughout the treatment process; the more you understand that you alone are accountable and responsible for your own health and recovery, the more likely you are to achieve it.
Final thoughts from Adi
Like I said in the beginning, I appreciate Sarah’s truthfulness about her experience. Additionally, I share some of her story, especially as it pertains to having to own up to her condition and lose some of the guidance, or maybe crutch, that had been there for so long. However, I think that this story is a great example of why it is true that while addiction stories can offer great inspiration and hope, addiction research looks at patterns in data that can offer insight no given story can give us.
For instance, Sarah says she that outpatient treatment let her truly put the tools that she learned about in residential treatment to use. In fact, she suggests that this is the role of outpatient treatment. In actuality though, addiction research shows that people do better if they’ve been to residential treatment, especially among more difficult cases, and that a structured transition, like moving from a residential treatment facility to sober-living or to outpatient, increases the chances of long-term sobriety.However, I don’t know of any research that shows that past experience at residential treatment predicts greater success at outpatient treatment. Everything I’ve seen shows that past failure at rehab predicts future failure, not success. That’s not to say that Sarah’s story doesn’t repeat, but as a rule, more difficult cases do better in residential, not outpatient.
These sort of research findings can help guide us towards the most probable path to success, after which point individual variability sort of takes over and works its magic. The hope is that as we get better and better at it, our addiction research will guide us towards more customized initial treatment selection. It’s how we make things work in our A3 Rehab-Finder.
|Posted in: Addiction Stories, Drugs, Education, Food, Treatment
Tags: addiction research, eating disorders, inpatient, recovery, residential treatment, sick, time, treatment, years
August 6th, 2010
We’ve already mentioned that kids tend to get in quite a bit of trouble during their teen years (see here). Well, adolescence is also a time when the brain is developing and therefore is at a high risk for damage, especially when alcohol abuse enters the picture.
Early use means more alcoholism later
While the risk taking can be playful and harmless, when it involves alcohol and drugs the consequences of use at an early age can be long-lasting. The earlier a person begins drinking the higher the reported rates of alcoholism later in life. During this time, when an adolescent’s brain is changing, they are less likely to be able to inhibit themselves, let alone anticipate the future. Those with hyperactive, disruptive, antisocial personalities are at the greatest risk for alcohol abuse at early ages, putting their already somewhat compromised brains at an even greater risk.
Teens, like adults, report feeling more at ease when under the effects of alcohol, which makes it easy to understand why they would want to continue. Less like (some) adults, teens rarely consider the negative consequences of their actions, a fact that has at least a little to do with their still developing brain structures. But there are consequences to alcohol abuse and they can be dire – over 5000 kids die each year as a result of underage drinking.
Young bodies and early alcohol damage
Before these young adults are truly mature, their intake of alcohol may not be properly resolved by their bodies because their regulatory systems are not fully developed and can be further taxed by the intake of alcohol. Alcohol abuse in a young age can have a lasting effect on brain development resulting in impairments for many years to follow. Reproductive organs and other important maturation factors may also be stunted due to a consumption of alcohol during a vital time (especially when binge drinking). As with most people who drink, regardless of the age, liver enzymes are elevated soon after the heavy drinking begins, meaning the body is less able to ward off other toxins.
Parents and alcoholism
Children of parents who drink more and view drinking with a laid back opinion are more likely to drink more as well. This may not be a problem as long as responsible consumption is discussed, but my guess is that it rarely is. Also, kids who have older friends are more likely to begin drinking at an earlier age. Teens that have become addicted to alcohol need help specifically tailored to their age group that does not remove them from their normal home and school setting. It’s been shown that isolating these kids, or specifically grouping them together, may do more harm than good.
Often, adolescents with alcohol abuse problems are also using other drugs, and they may be suffering from other psychological disorders. All of the issues need to be treated at the same time in order to effectively treat the entire person. No matter what the issue(s), the sooner they are dealt with the more effective the results.
Teenage alcoholism is a problem, and one that we shouldn’t be ignoring.
Co-authored by: Jamie Felzer
“Adolescent Brain Development, Decision making, and Alcohol Abuse and Dependence” NIAAA Research. November 2007.
“Why do Adolescents drink, What are the Risks, and How can Underage Drinking be prevented?” Alcohol Alert. January 2006, 67
|Posted in: Alcohol, Drugs, Drugs, Education, For others, Tips
Tags: abuse, addiction research, Alcohol, alcohol abuse, alcoholism, binge, Brain, brain development, decisions, drinking, peer pressure, teenage alcoholism
July 4th, 2010
A&E’s Intervention built quite an initial popular following for itself by choosing subjects with disarmingly unique stories and addictions. However, as the show has progressed, it has found strength in an ability to show America the true face of addiction: the so-called normal, everyday people battling their demons in private.
Heroin addiction doesn’t understand “class”
Joey, a 25-year old father from Pennsylvania, stands as a prime example, a young male who grew up with a supportive family in a comfortable suburb and nevertheless found himself in the grip of heroin addiction. By his own account on Intervention, Joey began experimenting with drugs at the age of 13, and by 15 was regularly smoking marijuana. By 17, he was using ecstasy, LSD and had developed a heroin addiction, which several trips through a 12-step rehab program did little to slow. As his tolerance for heroin built, Joey found himself shooting heroin at the rate of up to 7 bags a day to maintain his high. Despite steady work as a tattoo artist, his money was increasingly feeding his heroin addiction, preventing him from even making his child support payments. Sharing dirty needles had also most likely been the cause of his recent contraction of Hepatitis C, an infection that now shows up in a staggering 80% of all regular injection drug users.
A&E’s intervention – A glimpse into the face of addiction
As per the show’s format, this episode revolved around a forthcoming intervention planned by Joey’s family, who were growing more and more desperate as his heroin addiction continued to eat away at his life. In accordance with the Johnson Model, the classic standard of addiction intervention, the family resolved to present Joey with an ultimatum- either he could voluntarily enter rehab treatment, or he faced losing contact with all of his family members, losing any rights to his young daughter, and could even face jail time for violation of his probation.
Even with the gravity of the consequences facing him, Joey’s heroin addiction was such that he still could not come to terms with his situation. Anticipating the intervention, he ran, going into hiding for two days while his family camped outside of his home, his job, and the homes of his friends, waiting for the chance to confront him with reality. Ultimately, they spread the word that they were prepared to have him arrested. With nowhere left to turn, Joey finally resolved himself to rehab, though not without one final fix.
Difficult recovery and relapse
Though the treatment originally seemed to take well, giving Joey 9 months of sobriety, he was depicted on the program suffering a late relapse. This time, he willingly returned to treatment. According to A&E’s Intervention, he has now been sober since April 25, 2010.
Joey’s story resonates because of how tragically common his themes are: the complete loss of personal wealth, the hardship that the addict’s behavior has on family and friends, and the willingness to put oneself in extremely dangerous situations for the chance to use just one more time. Time and again, Joey demonstrated an extreme lack of caution as he shot up heroin with dirty needles, putting himself at risk for Hepatitis, HIV, and any other number of serious diseases. This brings up the issue of so-called “harm reduction” programs designed not to prevent injection drug users from using, but rather to provide them with clean needles and education in order to minimize the threat to public health and guide, not force, the addict towards potential treatment. The long-standing counterargument to such programs has been that they implicitly condone drug abuse, but research has shown that needle exchange programs do not increase drug abuse but merely decrease disease and dirty needle use. In this way, it is increasingly becoming regarded as analogous to sex education and the distribution of birth control, another common-sense public service that has too often fallen victim to the agendas of culture warriors.
Though for some a lurid escape, it has become increasingly clear to us at A3 that A&E’s Intervention, by presenting a straightforward view of the true complexity of modern drug use and addiction, has become an invaluable tool for those attempting to understand the face of this issue. As is usually the case with television content though, it pays to go a little deeper, and hopefully the show motivates people do just that.
|Posted in: Addiction Stories, Drugs, Drugs, Education, Opiates
Tags: A&E Intervention, A&E's Intervention, about addiction, addiction, dirty needles, drug, drug abuse, drug use, face, family, heroin, heroin addiction, intervention, joey, time, treatment
May 8th, 2010
When I first got sober, everything I thought about had something to do with drugs. It wasn’t just that I always thought of getting high, but everything in my life was tied to drugs, especially crystal meth.
My drug use centered life
I used to make music in my studio, but I was always smoking crystal meth while doing it; I had a few girls I was “seeing,” but I got high with almost all of them (if they weren’t into it, I’d sneak a smoke in the bathroom alone). Every one of my friends was on drugs. I paid my rent with cocaine, made my money from selling anything you could think of, and overall, was simply surrounded by the stuff.
The drug use to craving connection
If you haven’t heard about this yet, memories are reconstructions of the past. When you remember something, your brain doesn’t just pull it out of some secret drawer like you were told when you were a kid. Instead, the different areas of your brain involved in making the memory (like your visual cortex, your olfactory bulb, and your language areas) light up all over again, re-exposing you to those same old thoughts, feelings, and senses.
Knowing that, it’s not surprising that cravings are so difficult to handle. Who wants to re-experience getting high with their best friend, their girlfriend, or in their favorite place over and over while trying to get sober? It’s literally maddening, sometime to the point where you just say “screw it” and run out to do it all over again (as in relapse).
I told my sister the other day that when I think about smoking glass (another name for crystal meth), the thing I miss the most is the white puff of smoke that fills the room. We used to call it “Dragon’s Breath” and I was pretty talented at producing the biggest clouds. It freaked her out a little to know that I could possibly still miss something about meth after everything that happened.
Even though I felt that it was necessary to calm her, I know that the addicts reading these pages know what I’m talking about. Of course I still miss smoking crystal meth sometimes; Given everything I now know about drugs, which is a lot given the fact that I’ve spent 8 years studying nothing but drugs, I’m surprised I don’t miss the stuff more.
Drug use, reward, and what’s next
Almost every drug I know of eventually gets down to activating your reward center. Meth does so in a way that’s so extreme (like I said in an old post, it literally floods your brain with DA), that I’m surprised I ever managed to come out of it. I definitely know why it felt like such hard work.
So when a craving comes, don’t think of it as a sign that your failing. If that were true, there would be no survivors of addiction. Instead, recognize what your brain is doing, allow it, then think about the changes you’re trying to make. As the memory gets reconstructed, those new aspects you’re thinking about, those that have to do with your recovery and the positive changes you are making, will incorporate themselves into those old memories.
This, along with everything else you’re doing, will make the cravings less and less threatening, allowing you to stay sober even when they come through.
|Posted in: Addiction Stories, Cocaine, Drugs, Drugs, Education, Meth, Treatment
Tags: cocaine, craving, crystal, crystal meth, drug use, memories, meth, music, recovery, relapse, sober
March 4th, 2010
The following story was shared by a young reader. I was first drawn to it because it mirrored mine to a large extent. Fortunately, John decided to pull out before he let his life go down as far as I allowed myself to go. For that, and for his courage in sharing his story, I applaud him.
John’s addiction story
My name is John and I am an alcoholic and a raging drug addict. I’m seventeen years old and only used for about 2 and a half years, but that was more than enough for my life to fall to pieces because of my addiction.
When I was fourteen I got a little drunk for the first time. I hated the way the alcohol tasted, and I hated how it made me so sick. The effects were nice, but I wished that I could get them without having the unpleasant side effects.
I found a solution to this problem at age 15 with marijuana. Within my a few months of my first time smoking, I was getting high multiple times every single day. My friends were changing rapidly because the ones who really cared didn’t approve of my heavy usage. I responded to this by getting new friends. Around this time I also became addicted to stealing in order to support my addiction and also in order to look cool by having a lot of money. My friends and I would get high and drunk and then go out at night and steal hundreds and hundreds of dollars from people’s unlocked cars.
I began selling pot at age 16. Dealing was a new experience for me. I won’t lie and say it wasn’t fun – it was, definitely. But the rush of making heaps of money and being loved by all your peers becomes an addiction in itself. I was dealing pretty heavily, for a high schooler selling pot – some days I would sell a thousand dollars worth of it at school. Afterward, I lived what I thought was a carefree and safe lifestyle; I smoked weed with friends all day, and eventually we moved onto harder drugs.
My usage increased heavily and I began using other drugs as well. I slowly began trying all the things I said I would never do, and before long, my life was absolutely governed by cocaine, alcohol, prescription medications, and lots and lots of pot. I got really into cocaine a few months into it – and then everything changed. Walls fell down; suddenly opiates weren’t anywhere near as scary to me, hence my common run-ins with Vicodin, Valium, Percocet, and Oxycontin. None of the prescription pills had the same kind of power coke had over me, though; my teeth still chatter sometimes when I start craving the rush of that manipulative white powder going up my nose. Cocaine is a pretty serious drug, and I was hooked before I even realized what was happening. This is unlike my experience with getting hooked on pot and booze; with those, I could recognize the kind of path I was going down, but I just couldn’t stop. There is a reason coke is called a “hard drug” – because you’ll fall for it. Hard. People go into with the mindset that they can handle it. Maybe some people can. I, however, am not one of those people – the second I pop a pill or blow a line, all I can think about is getting more to keep my buzz going.
Of course I also began getting into trouble with the law. February 16, 2009, I was arrested for the first time after picking up a couple ounces of weed. I met some buddies in town to smoke, but they didn’t inform me that they had vandalized a building at a school earlier. Before I knew it we were being followed by policemen. They caught up with us, encircled us in cop cars, causing a roadblock, and searched all of us. They immediately found my bag of weed and cuffed me, along with all my buddies. I played the innocent child, though, and got off with a possession charge.
The second arrest took place only four months later. I was back to my old dealing ways – by now I was suicidal, addicted to all kinds of drugs, and had no faith in other people. I got high and brought an ounce of weed with me to school, and was found by the school officer in a bathroom stall, selling a few grams to a 14 year old. I was arrested with intent to sell, endangering a minor, possession on school grounds, and possession of marijuana. Also, I was expelled from school. I began saying I was going to kill myself to gain some sympathy, at which point I was placed in a 2 week long mental ward. After that, it was off to rehab for me, where I had sex, did drugs, lied and stole.
A few days after getting out of treatment, I was using again. I remember feeling like an empty shell – I would stay up for days at a time, stealing, lying, and using people to get my drugs and liquor. My family thought I was sober at this point, and I began at a character-based boarding school in August.
I brought a lot of pot with me and resisted everything the school was trying to offer me. Once the pot ran out, I began huffing up to 2 cans of computer duster every day, along with a daily dosage of booze and a whole lot of cough medicine.
I hit bottom on November 16, 2009. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the most important day of my life – that was the day I finally decided I had had enough. I called up my mother, crying and saying I was really done this time, but she didn’t believe me (who could blame her). So I then called up an old friend who I knew was heavily involved in a 12-step group. This man is my sponsor today. We work our program together, and maintain daily contact.
At almost 90 days sober, I can honestly say I have never been so grateful and serene in my entire life. If you’re reading this and you can relate to my story, please know that there is a way out of the twisted insanity that is drug addiction and alcoholism. I should be dead right now, but I’m still here – as far as I’m concerned, that’s proof enough for me to believe in a loving Higher Power. As long as I remember to help other addicts, talk to my sponsor, work my 12 step program, and remain honest, I don’t have to drink and drug today. And to me, this is a miracle.
A little insight
John’s story mirrors that of many other addicts: Early innocent use followed by the dissolution of self-imposed rules about what one will, and won’t, engage in. Cocaine might seem scary at first, but after a lot of weed, alcohol, and some ecstasy, it might just lose that edge. As I’ve talked about in other posts, there are quite a few common personality issues that make it even less likely that a future addict will say no to increasing degrees of abuse.
Once again I want to make a point that I think it important: Drugs are the road, but not the problem per se when it comes to addiction. The vast majority of people who try drugs don’t get addicted to them – What we need to get better at is understanding the process by which those who do, develop problems. This includes earlier identification, better targeted prevention, and more effective treatment. That’s my take on all of this at least.
|Posted in: Addiction Stories, Drugs
Tags: addiction, Alcohol, arrest, cocaine, coke, cops, identification, impulsivity, jail, marijuana, opiate, oxycontin, percocet, policy, prevention, recovery, selling, story, valium, vicodin, young
February 15th, 2010
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.
The 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.
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