In the cold light of morning

A strange thought occurred to me this morning.

I was driving, having stopped in the front at a traffic light. It changed to green, and since I didn’t immediately pull forward, the person behind me hooted in those 400 milliseconds or so of my hesitation (one of my pet hates by the way). It didn’t really worry me but as I pulled away, I remembered how differently this would have been several years ago when I used meth.

I cannot emphasize enough how horrible it was driving to work in those years. I’d shower and change for work, not having slept the night before – sometimes several nights before, then have a last few hits of meth to “wake up” and drive to work.

The drive to work thus served two objectives:

  1. Get to work. (Obviously)
  2. Get the edge off. (i.e. lose the worst immediate effects of the meth high)

Objective number two didn’t always work, and even when it did work, that drive while extremely high, anxious, paranoid, and depending on how many days I’d been awake, on one hell of a downer, was highly unpleasant. You can be high and on a downer at the same time. You can be out of your mind high and depressed from a downer simultaneously. And that’s how I usually was in the morning, so high I’d sometimes forget sections of roads I drove every day, overly anxious and paranoid, and prone to bursting into tears because the meth downer is brutal. I’d also be  paranoid to the extent that sometimes I’d think I was being followed, and someone hooting at me would have put me into a manic panic.

One of my favourite bands is Placebo, and one day, having bought their album Meds, it reached track 12 (track name used for the title of this post) for the first time. The song described my life exactly, and I burst into tears while driving. It didn’t help that track 13, A song to say goodbye, was in my mind a song about giving up on somebody who had ruined their lives with drugs. I took that one personally too.

I still love both of those songs, especially In the cold light of morning. But fuck those years, I never want to feel those feelings again.

 

 

The endless search

I just saw this on social media and it made me literally laugh out loud, but not at the joke, at a memory of something that wasn’t funny at all back then.

Searching

For about the first five years after I quit meth, I refused to search for anything, ever, for more than a minute or so. “If I don’t find it right away, I give up,” I’d say. “It’s gone.” It used to drive my ex nuts but I didn’t care. These days I have more patience and will search for maybe two minutes…

In fact, for a while I had two ID documents, because I thought I’d lost it and would rather go to the department of Home Affairs and sit in a queue for three hours and order a new one than search through my apartment. Of course I did eventually find the original by accident. (I only have one now because one of them was in my car when it was stolen last year.)

For once, I’m not going to explain why… This post is for the other former meth heads. If you too were addicted to meth, you know why I loathe searching for anything.

 

An interesting article about relapse

For my last post, my one bit of research, and I use this term lightly, was to link to a definition of tolerance. That led me to an interesting site.

There I found an interesting article related to relapse. They’ve found that neurogenesis, that is the generation of new nerve cells in the brain, may lead indirectly to context-driven-relapse.

“New findings from our lab show that neurogenesis—the generation of new neurons in the adult brain—in the hippocampus may strengthen memories tied to drug-seeking behavior in rodents with methamphetamine addiction-like behavior,” says Dr. Chitra Mandyam, senior investigator of the two studies. These findings suggest new approaches for reducing relapse risk. Says Dr. Mandyam, “We also demonstrated that inhibiting neurogenesis during abstinence with a small synthetic molecule prevented context-driven drug-seeking.”

They link to two recent studies so this seems legit. I suggest reading the article itself. It is quite technical but not too much, if I can follow it… What I didn’t follow was how long a period of abstinence they mean, but presumably it is the short term, as in early recovery.

They go on to describe drugs that can help by preventing neurogenesis, but I gather this is still in the early phase of testing. Still, I like to keep my mind active by mostly reading and learning new things. The idea of preventing new brain cells seems like a bad one to me (simply because neurogenesis is an expected effect of brain stimulation, which is important to me because I try to keep my brain active and thus hopefully “young”), but at least this mechanism whereby we are prone to drug-seeking behaviour due to memories when new brain cells form, is something to be cognizant of. The real work for me at the beginning of recovery was to keep my mind on other things, to be aware of my cravings but not act on them, and then eventually the interest to get drugs went away. This for me simply emphasizes how important it is to remain in control and avoid temptation in early recovery. After that, my opinion vs others related to addiction treatment diverges somewhat, since I don’t believe one need make any effort after the first few weeks. I didn’t. (Of course my experience was subjective. When I tried to quit a few years before, I relapsed after nine months, so saying “the first few weeks” might seem unreasonable. That’s just the way it went for me when I had made up my mind to stay clean for good. So it might be prudent to apply greater discipline in say… the first year.)

Here are the sources for the article:

 

A silly search string (meth no longer keeps me awake)

Excuse me for not writing much lately… I have been busy. So I saw this in a search string that reached this blog:

meth no longer keeps me awake

Lucky you! It’s time to quit. Or use more meth. The choice is yours. Seriously, one of three things is happening here:

  1. You’re crashing, because you’ve been up too long and have depleted all the dopamine in your system.
  2. It’s not meth. Street drugs are invariably poor quality, made even poorer by cutting them with other substances to give the impression of a greater amount.
  3. It’s your tolerance for the drug. The longer you use, the greater your tolerance and the more you need for the same effect, up to a point where no amount gives you the high you want.

If you’ve used for several days without sleep and depleted all the dopamine in your system, you need some sleep and you will get some whether you like it or not. Most likely it isn’t this because you’d have to be quite stupid not to realize it… It probably also isn’t number two because if the meth is cut with so much other stuff that it isn’t meth at all, you would notice there is no rush while taking a hit. That leaves number three – tolerance. If your tolerance is very high, you’ll get a rush but a high that wears off quickly, or no high at all. (It takes years to build this kind of tolerance.)

This is a good thing. If there is no high, the drug isn’t doing anything good for you any more. You probably still get anxious, and paranoid, and might even hear voices, but not get any pleasure. That’s what happened to me. I got all the negative side-effects but none of the positive ones. No pleasure means there is no point in continuing to use meth, or you could try to use a lot more, maybe inject if you’ve been smoking it. (The crystal form of meth is a salt and is soluble in water just like table salt.) And even that probably won’t do any good but will do plenty of harm. As for me, I was unwilling to ever inject that shit directly. No thank you.

But the sensible thing to do in this situation when smoking meth no longer works for you is to stop using meth. That’s what I did, and life is a lot better without it.

Sometimes lies are good

I’ve been pondering why it is that I couldn’t seem to quit smoking cigarettes, but quitting meth was easy. It seems weird. I mean, sure… there isn’t such a stigma associated with cigarettes, even though they can kill you through about 40 different cancers alone. And I’m at more or less the same point with smoking as I was with meth… it’s time to stop. It was time a while back already.

Then I remembered something I did when quitting meth that was different. I lied. I found a not so little white lie that helped me quite a bit. I had two reasons for lying:

  1. Day one of quitting meth, and I knew I was done.
  2. I also knew nobody would believe me. Fuck, I wouldn’t have believed me.

So I lied. I said I was already clean for a year. Then one year later at the start of September 2014, I told the truth. It was a shitload easier to say, “Hey, I lied a year ago when I said I was a year clean, but I am a year clean now.” Actually it wasn’t that easy – I was worried people wouldn’t believe me when I told the truth about the lie a year before. But nobody had a problem with it. That lie turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. It took all the pressure off the beginning of my recovery. And by pressure I mean the stress caused by the expectations of others who knew my situation. The only people who knew were my mother and Megan, my ex, who were at home.

What I’m getting at is that lies aren’t always bad. That lie in particular helped me a great deal, and it allowed other people to have confidence in me, confidence nobody would have had if I’d told the truth. I am wary of anyone who deals in absolutes, anyone who insists that they despise lies, because that is itself a lie, likely a lie they believe. Everybody lies and anyone who judges you for lying alone is, in my experience, someone who should not be trusted. (For example, beware of a person in authority who claims to “value openness and honesty”. That’s code for, “Don’t lie to me but I will lie to you”.) I do prefer to tell the truth as much as possible, but lying itself is not always bad and definitely not always wrong.

Of course I can’t use the same lie for quitting cigarettes. I don’t have reason one as above. I don’t know I’m done. Why I don’t have that certainty with quitting cigarettes but I did with meth, I do not know. It sucks but that’s the way it is. Wish me luck then… I’m on day one not smoking cigarettes and I’m not gonna lie – I don’t know if I can do this.

Sometimes lies are good. But not this time.

When it was high time to be clean

Let me tell you a story. A story about a moron meth dealer who accidentally helped me get clean by repeatedly selling me fake meth. It’s a story I haven’t told before. But I have to mention some other things first…

Actually I have seldom written about my last few years using meth. They were not good years. Late 2010 to September 2013 were strange years… I’d relapsed together with Megan after she begged me for months to use again, and then she’d left me, and I felt like I couldn’t stop. I used by myself every day, and my mind was a mess. I found myself treading a fine line… between insanity and madness.

The human brain is more fragile than we like to think. We, all of us, have many more moments of madness than we’d care to admit. Every time you get into a good book or movie, your mind slips into this other state that you might not even notice, a state where you believe the unbelievable, a state where you don’t merely “suspend your disbelief” as that turn of phrase implies, but you genuinely believe in nonsense. Like when you sit around a campfire and tell ghost stories late at night… ghosts are real. You believe in them. And when you sit in church and listen to stories of burning bushes, talking snakes, and virgin births… those things are real to you. You might not even notice it but you regularly get into this state of mind where the unreal is real, where you believe in things that you would never dare mention in broad daylight. (Hopefully. There are exceptions of course. There are people who believe in ghosts and UFO’s and other strange things, people who talk about those things in the light of day. I’m not referring to that. I’m referring to that odd temporary state, the witching hour or whatever you want to call it – I used to call it the “gloom zone”, where you are genuinely afraid of things that go bump in the night; that state when those things are “real”.) Normally, that state is only achieved in the middle of the night, but it became permanent for me on meth.

I heard voices, knew they weren’t real, but I’d pay attention to what they said. I’d see things that weren’t really there, but look at them anyway – find meaning in them anyway. I think there’s a much finer line between sanity and psychosis than most of us realize. From hallucination to delusion to full blown psychosis is just a hop, a skip and a gleeful jump. We all cross those lines at times and it is more normal that we’d care to admit. But on meth the lines were more blurred for me than ever. I wasn’t psychotic, I don’t think, but it was close.

For me, there were two Megan’s. The one in my head, and the real one. The one in my head used to tell me she loved me, inexplicably via a whisper to my ear in the middle of the day while I was surrounded by people, or she’d cry for help as I walked through a parking garage in the middle of the night while no one was around. Or she’d scream in my ear causing me to cringe while people around me looked on in bewilderment.

I saw a connection between the imaginary Megan and the real one. It became a delusion that Megan and I were psychically linked somehow, and I thought that when I heard her voice in my head crying out for help, that she was in trouble in real life. The voices would reach a crescendo, she’d be crying and begging for help constantly, and then quite suddenly the real Megan would call me and then show up, “confirming” my deluded beliefs, staying with me for two or three days before going back to the other guy, sneaking out while I was at work despite promising never to do that again. Once, she returned to me while I was on the way to a job interview. I picked her up and left her in the car while at the interview, and then took her home and we used meth together. Then she left two days later when I started the job, which left me with the voices even worse than usual in my first few days. It’s a job I don’t even list on my resume because I was literally out of my mind. I was fortunate to get a second offer three days after starting that job, so I left it with no questions asked and managed to get some semblance of control at the next job.

I’d reached the point where even though I knew the voices were hallucinations, they were so real, I struggled to tell what was real and what was in my head. I was losing it, and had become a zombie spending most of my time noticeably staring into space while my brain tried to figure out what was real and what was hallucination. The meth, when it did something other than give me a five second buzz followed by three hours of anxiety and meth voices, often did nothing at all. (And by “nothing” I mean it did still give me hours of anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations, but no high, no pleasure.) It was no longer giving me anything pleasant and I knew I had to stop. But I felt like I could not. And then along came Andy, meth dealer and idiot, to help me out by mistake.

Two out of every three days Andy sold me meth that wasn’t meth. I don’t know what it was, but it didn’t give me a high. At first that pissed me off, but then something else happened. My mind cleared. The voices vanished and suddenly, I was thinking clearly. Still getting real meth sometimes, I wasn’t clean, but by using far less than I had been, I was thinking clearly and getting back control for the first time in years.

After that Megan showed up with her daughter, then three months old in September 2013. That was the day I used most of what I had, which turned out not to be real meth, and then threw the rest away and went to sleep. I never used again.

But yeah… I have never given credit to Andy, the imbecile who sold me fake drugs so many times I was able to come to my senses and stop. Thanks Andy, you dumb fuck.


Edit… more on the subject of me being driven by guilt… Just as I slipped into addiction without really meaning to, I slipped out of it much the same way in the end. I knew I was going to stop, and although there were a few reasons, a prominent one was that I just didn’t like using meth any more. No grand ambitions to better myself or be clean, nothing like that. I just didn’t enjoy the meth high any longer. Andy the dealer who conned himself out of a cash cow, and Megan with her daughter being there, were also part of my cleaning up. But also, I just didn’t like being on meth. I couldn’t tell how much fake meth contributed because my tolerance by then was so high anyway. But it does leave me feeling a little guilty. Sometimes I feel like I get too much credit for stopping, when in reality I didn’t have to try very hard.

A drug test

Someone made a strange claim the other day, a claim that implied I might be using meth. So on the day I heard, I popped into a rehab on the way home from work and got them to give me a drug test. The place used to be called Sharp Addiction Clinic but the name has changed since I was last there.

Last time I shared a drug test from a different place, some arsehole downloaded it and changed the name. So I asked these people if it would be OK to share my test online, and they looked at me as if I’m mad. Whatever, I assume that implies consent.

It’s a huge insult to be accused of using. I’m six years and over four months clean, but when such accusations are made, there will always be people who take them seriously. There will always be that element of doubt to some people, and that is unnecessary and hurtful.

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