One question that I have been asked several times, is “How much did you use?” I’ve been asked it personally, and also sometimes when filling in forms, such as when I applied for life insurance and was honest about my issues with addiction in the past.
Maybe to someone who never had a problem with addiction, this seems a reasonable question, but to me it certainly is not. How can I possibly quantify how much I used? People all too often have the mistaken impression that we addicts spent most of the time in some confused state not knowing what was going on anyway (which is nonsense by the way – a high is simply a feeling of euphoria), so the question always took me by surprize. I’d expect people to guess that I wouldn’t know. And I don’t know. Not because I was too confused to know what the fuck was happening, but because of the way I used and the number of years involved. It’s not like I wrote that shit down in a journal that recorded it by weight.
My stock answer is this:
As much as I could get. More even…
And that’s the unpleasant truth. I used every day, if I could, and I used it all up every day, except for a hit or two that I saved for the next morning. Then the next day, I bought as much as I could afford or could get on credit, used that all up, and went back to the dealer again (on the same day) to get more; then used that up, except for a bit that I saved for the next morning. Rinse and repeat.
There was no set amount that I used on any given day. I could guess, but I’d probably be wrong. There were probably days when I only managed to get half a gram, and other days when I used more than two grams. There were also days when I got packets of salt, or something else that wasn’t meth at all. That shit happened all to often, and there wasn’t much I could do about it. It’s not like I could log into HelloPeter.com and complain about the poor customer service of my drug dealer.
The point is, I used as much as I could get. If I had more money or could get more credit, I would use more meth. There was no upper limit, no quantity that was ever going to be enough.
The reason for this is something called toleration. The more you use a drug, and I suppose this only applies to recreational use and not to small, controlled doses… the more you get accustomed to using that drug. You need more drug to have the same effect, to such an extent that if you chase the high you used to get at the start, you will overdose before ever reaching that point. Having said that, there is of course an upper limit to the quantity that can practically be obtained and used in a single day, especially if, as I did, you only purchase drugs after paying the rent, buying groceries and so on, and are limited to what you can get without committing crimes. That is, I was limited by my budget and the amount of credit I could get. I have no idea what that limit was though.
What I find more interesting about this is that thanks to tolerance, many of the problems caused by my addiction actually became less severe over time. I most certainly was not using in moderation, but it felt like I was. My last stint in active addiction lasted for about two years and nine months, but due to the effects of toleration and my using a finite amount, by the end of that time, I was very much in control. I used every day but also slept every night, and the voices in my head had disappeared. I felt like shit most of the time, realized that the drug was no longer working for me, and accepted that it was time to stop. Further, I was perfectly capable of seeing how bad my problems had become, even while I was high, and just needed a little bit of motivation to stop, which came and I have written about that before. So I was as far away as anyone could ever be, to thinking that “I was powerless over my addiction; that my life had become unmanageable”.
Moving on to my second topic of today…
My worst day clean was better than my best day using.
Excuse me if I have the quote slightly wrong – It’s been almost two years since I wasted my time going to an NA meeting. But the paraphrased one is probably close enough… I don’t know its origin, but it is something I heard repeated parrot-fashion quite often.
It’s absolute bullshit, of course. Moreover, it’s dangerous bullshit. While it might be convenient to whitewash our past, to rewrite out history and demonize our days in active addiction, I see that as not only dishonest, but also as disingenuous and dangerous.
I had some amazing times on meth. They lasted for a couple of years, and included some of the best times of my life at that point. The drug also served a purpose at the time in that it was self-medication for depression, and it gave me confidence that I never had. It helped me grow as a person, at first, before everything went downhill. The point is that after that, it led to an even worse depression than the one I started with, and years of pain as well as other consequences.
But at the beginning, those best days using were pretty fucking good. And conversely, the worst days of being clean and sober can be pretty fucking awful. But that’s the way it’s supposed to be. There is no meaning in comparing my best day using with my worst day clean. Why would I?
My worst day clean is difficult because it should be difficult. I have bills to pay, and debt from those best days clean when I didn’t pay my bills. I had family who no longer trusted me (they do now – it just takes time) because of those good old days. I have all kinds of difficulties when I’m clean that I never had when I was on drugs, because I am being responsible and living a normal, productive life.
I believe that if we rewrite our history that way, and demonize the days of active addiction, we take some of the meaning away from our progress in recovery. Life isn’t easy because it isn’t supposed to be. Forget that, and in a moment of vulnerability under extreme stress, you might remember that using was actually fucking good and an escape from your difficulties. But keep it real, and that will never happen.