Two years clean, at last

Two years is not such a long time, but it’s felt like forever.

There was a time, a few years ago, when I could not imagine ever being without crystal meth. I’d been using it for years and it had gradually taken over every aspect of my life. The first thing I did when waking up every morning was to take a hit. Sometimes, if I’d used more than intended the night before, that even involved buying drugs before going to work. Then make it through an eight hour work day, the first six or so hours being high, and the last two being carried only by the overpowering desire to get out of there and get more drugs.

In my last two years using, I did manage to slow it down a little, and would regularly abstain for long enough to test negative in a drug urine test, which would allow me to see my son. But it was always touch and go… I’d abstain for five to six days, putting myself though the gruelling detox and having to suffer complete physical exhaustion, and the inevitable anger management disaster of the first few days of “recovery”, only to do a test (at a SANCA not in my area so it was “safe” to discard positive results) and sometimes test positive. Then make a lame excuse for why I couldn’t see my son that week, and try it all over again the next week.

I was on course to lose him forever, knowing that I needed to stop but telling myself that I couldn’t. Although I’d slowed my using down enough that I slept a little every night, it was slowly escalating. I was stuck in a cycle that progressed a little worse every month, where each month I owed the dealer a little more and sometimes I missed my car repayments, and even though I was performing well enough at work, I had no life outside of work while the voices in my head had increased to the point of being constant companions.

It was such a day that I took my ex, Megan, and her then four-month old daughter, Aishah, back into my life. I didn’t really even think about it, that I’d be supporting both of them, but was a mess. I was still that person, the meth head, or tik-kop as we call it here, who took a few hits, then got in my car and drove to the station to pick them up. Then I drove them back home and locked myself in the bathroom.

With Megan, Aishah and my mother in the apartment, on that day which I had not known would be my last day as a using addict, I took several long hits. I smoked up a whole gram of meth in those few minutes. And as high as I was, I asked myself “What the fuck are you doing?”. I knew that I could not use with them in the house. The decision was one of simple logic: Using involved spending the whole night, apart from the last two hours when I slept, tweaking myself stupid in front of the computer. I simply could not do that with a woman and four-month old baby sleeping in the same room.

So I took the other gram I had left, and flushed it down the toilet. Then I took a black garbage bag out of my bottom drawer in the kitchen. I wrapped my lolly (the glass pipe used for smoking meth) in newspaper, stamped on it and dropped it in the bag. And thought to myself how funny it was that I’d bought the lolly only the day before. Until then, I’d been using a 12V bulb and a cut off piece of plastic pen for six months. Then I went though every drawer where I’d stashed packets containing “crumbs” of meth, the bowl in the top of the cupboard with bits of broken glass (from all the bulbs I’d broken when trying to take the filaments out) and every other place where bits and pieces of meth paraphernalia could be found, and I filled that refuse bag; then threw it away. And then, as high as I was, I got into bed and went to sleep. And that was it, the last time I used.

It seems funny when I think about it. I didn’t stop because I wanted to stop, even though I knew that I needed to. I stopped because it would be impractical to continue using. It wasn’t the first time I’d thrown out all my shit and sworn never to use again, and it didn’t feel special. It didn’t feel significant. It was just another day.

The next day at work was just another day. Of trying desperately to stay awake. But I’d done it before. Abstaining for up to a week was something I did twice every month, I told myself, so I can do this… I was a bastard in the office. My temper was out of control for about two months. And every day for the first few days, as I drove home, past where I used to meet the dealer, I told myself “I can’t. I can’t use. I want to, but I’m not going to.” Except I didn’t allow myself the comfort of “Just for today”. I told myself, “Not now. Not ever.”

And that was the end of my using days. Just like that. Unfortunately, I couldn’t even celebrate or tell anyone else in my family the truth – not then. I’d been lying for a long time, saying that I was clean when I wasn’t. I decided that for the first year or so, I’d continue telling that lie; then eventually tell the truth when I knew it was behind me. So that’s what I did. For a long time, only Megan and my mother knew when I really cleaned up.

Of course my reasons for not using changed. Within days, the voices in my head disappeared. My temperament changed and one of the ladies I worked with remarked about it. She thought that it was because Megan was back with me, and explained my new laid back personality as “You have love in your life”. The reality is, this person that she saw was the real me, the person that I am when not using drugs. She didn’t know it, but that was the day she met me.

In a way she was right. For the first time in years, I had love in my heart. Love for this helpless little baby girl, love for my son who I could see every week with no feelings of guilt, because I didn’t go out and buy drugs right after seeing him. Love for Megan although there was no romantic relationship there anymore. And love for myself. But mostly, it was about loving others and putting their needs before my own. For me, that was the key to staying clean.

Also, there was no bullshit. No NA meetings, no fooling myself that addiction is a disease, no higher power, no stupid 12 steps. Just the people that I care for and the choice to be clean and sober so that I can be there for them.

I did attend a 12-step outpatient program because I had a court order stating that I needed to do one. But I started that program when I was already 17 months clean. I can honestly say that the program was a complete waste of time, one that had nothing whatsoever to do with my success in staying clean. I haven’t been to a meeting for six months once again, and don’t miss that nonsense in the least.

Things got more difficult earlier this year when Megan and Aishah left. The way that Megan did it was wrong. She deceived me into paying for her to go on “holiday” and then didn’t return, although things didn’t work out as she planned and she is now living in Johannesburg.

It was hell to get used to them being gone, especially Aishah whom I loved and treated as my own daughter. But I got through that, and my relationship with our son improved. The foster care was renewed for only another six months, three of which have already passed. Our relationship is better than ever and he will be back with me for good by the end of the year.

We also do see Megan and Aishah regularly, and she is still as attached to me. I’m still sad at the stupidity of her mother, but there’s nothing I can do about it, and I treasure the time I do get to spend with the little girl. She is, after all, Josh’s half sister.

This week I am at home, after going to the doctor yesterday, feeling lousy and run down. It turns out that I have severe hypertension, and my blood pressure is 150/110. But I’m on medication and will have another check-up on Friday. Hopefully the medication is working and I have nothing to worry about. It would be ironic if, after dong everything to get Josh back, I died young due to health issues, so I am doing what I need to do to get my health on track.

On the bright side, tomorrow I get to pick him up early. Normally on Thursdays I collect him after after-care, but tomorrow I will collect him directly from school.

So here’s to another two years clean, and another, and another and another… Fuck “just for today”. This is for life.

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