The “you’re still acting like an addict” line

Anybody ever tell you this shit? I had it a few months ago…

Here’s the thing… If you’re clean for years, and somebody tells you that you’re “still acting like an addict” when you’re not, it should be a huge red flag. I’ll spare you the details of the situation I had because it isn’t important. But what is important is that it’s a con. It manipulation. Maybe gaslighting.

It could be that you’re passionate about something, or angry, or maybe you just like to eat lots of a particular type of food, but someone comes along, normally selling something or maybe they’re even some kind of therapist, and they tell you you’re still acting like an addict. And they can fix things in your life. For a fee.

Don’t buy it, folks. The fact is, there are people who will take advantage of you, even in recovery. And the “you’re still behaving like an addict” is a clever trick if you’re not wise to it.

It’s so easy to forget, so here are some facts to remind me of who I was and how far gone I was…

  • I was not being responsible. Paying the rent, the car, taking care of my responsibilities… I didn’t do any of those things, unless I absolutely had to, and even then, sometimes I didn’t.
  • I didn’t know what day it was, most of the time.
  • I started the day with the last of the meth from the night before, went to work, then came back and got more meth. So my day revolved around meth. My purpose in life was to be high, to remain high, or to get high. There was nothing else.
  • Everything was about my personal pleasure. The meth high and any other pleasure seeking to go with it, especially sex, but not limited to sex. Everything was about my pleasure, so get high and fuck, or get high and watch a movie, or get high and read a book, or get high and eat a whole spicy chicken – washing it down with 2 litres of Coke, but all that mattered was pleasure, and mixing various things I enjoyed because they were pleasurable.
  • Nothing else mattered and nobody else mattered.
  • My job was just a job, it’s only purpose to get money so I could get more meth.
  • I had no social media presence. Fuck, no presence in real life either. I interacted with other people only to use them for my pleasure, or to get money for pleasure, or to have my girlfriend rob them so that I could convince myself that it was her who was bad, not me.
  • To summarize: The only thing that mattered was being high and feeling pleasure, and everything else was merely a vehicle to get me there.

So, if someone tells me I’m still acting like an addict because I’m passionate about atheism, or writing, or I’m angry about some shit that they said… such a person needs to go fuck themselves. They have no fucking idea what I was like when I was an addict. Honestly I’d rather not remind myself and the whole world here either, but sometimes it is necessary. Next month I’ll be seven years clean. I’ll try to write something a little more optimistic then.

The bottom line… If you have years of sobriety and some twat tries to manipulate you by claiming you’re still acting like an addict – think. What is their game? People will use and abuse you and not everybody who acts like they’re there to help you really is.

Cocaine is cool in memes and it’s a conversation no one is having

Somebody is making apple pie and the smell carried to our flat. My son, who is now twelve years old, announced, “I can smell cocaine.” So we had to have that conversation again. It’s OK, he knows what coke is and he knows it’s only cool in memes, but it still concerns me.

I’m on Facebook mainly for the memes. They’re a pleasant escape from reality, whether they be echo chamber jokes for the groups we find ourselves in, or political statements. Or the increasingly common cocaine memes.

I don’t have much more of a point to this… it’s just something that needs to be said. Cocaine is cool in memeland and that is something that more of us need to be concerned about. Children are on TikTok, Instagram, and I don’t know what else… Memes are a global phenomenon that we (well generation X for sure) didn’t have, but they sure do now. And children all over the world are learning what’s cool and what isn’t in a way that many of us never did.

Back in late 2009 when I went to rehab, in Natal at the other end of this small country I grew up in, although I was there for meth, nearly everyone else was in for cocaine, either powder or crack cocaine. So this culture where cocaine is cool is something to be concerned about.

Speak to your kids… It’s important to understand how their views are formed, and how much they “learn” from memes. At the very least, if they have this “cocaine is cool” attitude, it’s time they learn that memes aren’t always the best source of knowledge.

Update: I can’t emphasize this enough… We’re a long long way from beating addiction if children are growing up with a subconscious suggestion that cocaine is acceptable and pleasurable before they are even old enough to be exposed to it directly.

Just a reminder that recovery is possible

Sometimes it feels strange to remember that I used to struggle with addiction. As the years pass, the reality of it fades and it all seems like a bad dream. All those years where I used meth night and day, where I could not imagine being clean, where I heard voices all the time, and where around eleven years ago I taunted an idiot into beating me to a bloody pulp, and went to sleep in a pool of my own blood in the hope that someone might care enough to take me to rehab – not that that narcissist necessarily cared for me but more likely I’d caused embarrassment to the family name – but fuck it anyway, it worked. It all feels so distant. And even then I still relapsed and used for three more years.

But now, unless I force myself to remember, I don’t. That person. That guy. I vaguely remember him and it isn’t even a first person recollection anymore. Fuck him anyway, the fucking fool. He didn’t know how lucky he was to be able to live through it and become me, but he’s gone and I’m glad.

Today I read a post on Facebook by a friend in the US, who admitted to struggling with heroin addiction for most of her adult life, and conceded to getting clean again. My heart aches for her, because I was once like her and yet I can’t remember it clearly anymore. It’s a memory of a memory of that other guy who in a way, died in that pool of blood back in 2009.

So I just want to remind her, and people like her, that recovery is possible. That monster that you are, that you hate… doesn’t have to win. And you don’t need a belief in god or a twelve step program or any other kind of magical thinking. You just need to want it, to want normality and all those things you lost through addiction, want to stop hating yourself and stop being ashamed. You need to reach that point where enough is enough and fuck everybody who doesn’t believe in you because they don’t matter anyway. You can be clean and you can have a life. It won’t be easy, but it will be better.

Stupid search strings–Does meth make you telepathic?

No. Not only does meth not make you telepathic, but also telepathy isn’t real.

It does make you hear voices though. The voices are only in your head, and are a type of drug-induced hallucination… unless of course, you think you’re telepathic, in which case you are delusional. Welcome to the possibility of psychosis; then you can join the other idiots who comment to this post claiming that meth voices are real…

The hear voices link above takes you to all of my posts tagged with meth voices. Take them as a sign to stop using meth, if you’re not too far gone to follow sensible advice.

When I first wrote about hearing voices, it was for two reasons: Firstly, to attempt to express the horror I experienced while hearing them; and secondly to try deter others from using meth. I assumed that anyone who experienced it for themselves would, like me, be afraid of the voices becoming permanent, and take those first steps to stop using meth. Sadly it turned out this assumption was naïve. It often isn’t enough, and sometimes meth users who find these posts are too far gone to stop, having already succumbed to their delusions and reached a point where there really is no coming back. I’m hoping that you, the reader, is not one of those. I’m hoping you can stop before it is too late and I sincerely urge you to do so. We don’t necessarily get sobriety right on the first attempt (It took two attempts for me), but you need to try.

Edit: I’m aware that this post seems to contradict my previous one about the legalization of drugs. I’d like to expand on this note in another post, but don’t have time to write another one just yet…

The cigarette ban in South Africa raises an interesting point for me regarding the criminalization of drugs

I shared this on Facebook:

image

My status reads:

As a former meth addict (in my seventh year clean), I am highly amused by one aspect of the cigarette ban here in South Africa…

It means that ordinary people, smokers, are suddenly *almost* aware of how wrong it is to criminalize drugs. Almost. But not quite.

They have no problem buying illegal cigarettes, even though that technically makes them just like the addict/criminal I used to be. They’re addicted and have no problem acquiring their substance of choice even though it is against the law.

I don’t think they get it though. I don’t think they realize that sometimes, what makes one an addict or criminal is not the addiction or the substance dependency/abuse itself, but the consequences *imposed* on you for using them.

Excuse the broken subject-verb concord in the last paragraph, which should read “what makes one… imposed on one…”. I wrote it quickly. I don’t really have much to add to it, as I think it makes the argument clearly enough.

Of course it is more complex than that. Cigarettes don’t give you a high like meth does… Or do they? Actually the meth high is more subtle than you think, and I was able to perform well enough as a software developer for several years while using it. Things were a little crazy in my life, but they didn’t get completely out of control until people knew about my drug abuse.

I’m not saying that drug abuse isn’t a problem and that it doesn’t need intervention. But I am saying that criminalizing it and the way addiction is treated, is not working. I know I’m right. Also I don’t know what the best approach would be to decriminalize addiction… Can you decriminalize the addicts but not the drugs? I don’t know… But I do think the approach to addiction taken by most countries is a catastrophic failure.


Aside… Whether or not addiction is a disease is another matter, and one that I’m unclear on. I see it as a behavioural disorder, one that has been categorized as a disease by the recognized medical and scientific community. That makes it a disease by definition.

However, the effects of addiction on the brain are what I would consider normal and expected, including both the psychological effects and the physiological effects to, for example, the hedonic system of the brain, which adjusts and changes under stress (allostasis).

But all of that, the entire debate of whether or not addiction is a disease, is in my opinion a red herring, when treatment for it involves belief in god, AKA magical thinking. So the debate is irrelevant when we do not treat addiction anything like the way we treat any known disease.

Remembering Kittles

Now that I’ve written about the three new kittens in my home, I’d like to share one of my saddest memories.

In the old days, when I lived with my girlfriend, in Cape Town, we had two cats, Misty and Winky. Both were female and neither were spayed. Both had kittens, but it is the second litter I’m thinking of.

I lived those days in a drug-fuelled haze. I was high all the time. Day and night, and struggling to get to work in the morning and then not screw up; then coming home to chaos at home, of course always buying meth on the way.

Misty had a beautiful litter of kittens; I think seven or nine in all. She was a fluffy cat and these were the cutest, most fluffy kittens I have ever seen. But we also had a Labrador puppy named Sasha, and I did not know that this boisterous dog was mauling the kittens. I’d come home each day to find a dead kitten in some random place in the house. I could not understand why or how this happened, especially because my girlfriend was there, as far as I knew. (Actually she wasn’t always. She was cheating on me, with a dealer, who was sometimes in my home while I was at work.) The rest of the time, she’d just lay around, out of it, while I went to work.

Every day I’d make the best nest I could for the mother cat and her kittens, out of the way and as safe as I could. And every day I’d come home to a dead kitten, it’s mouth held open in a permanent grimace of death, its body looking like a discarded rag doll except it was bloody and sometimes still warm.

When I realized, too late, that it could only be the dog mauling them, I made their nest in the bottom kitchen cupboard, having cleared it out and fitted it with blankets. But there were only two kittens left, a pure white fluffy kitten, and a chocolatey one. I loved them both, but thought the chocolatey one was especially cute.

That final morning, I locked the dog out, and I begged. I pleaded. I demanded, I cried… that she simply did not let the dog in. “Please don’t let those kittens die,” I pleaded. “Please!” I wanted to save those last two kittens. But she couldn’t do that. She wouldn’t do that. So I came home from work that evening to the front door ajar and the chocolatey kitten laying dead in the lounge, while my ex was asleep in the bedroom.

Kittles survived. She named him. I’d never name a cat Kittles. Fucking hell. But he lived and he was a beautiful cat. And he loved that dog. He played with the dog all day long. He thought he was a dog. Every evening we’d take Sasha for a walk, and Kittles would come along, sometimes running with us, sometimes walking along all the walls on our path, but he came along because that’s what he did. He only lived about a year though, because we lived in a busy road and he was run over.

I loved that cat. But fuck it, I wish I hadn’t been so stupid. I wish I’d realized what was happening to the kittens while I was at work and I wish I could have saved the rest of them.

I have a photo of him somewhere but I’m not adding it. I can’t even look at it.

Meth fucks up everything, by the way. Everything. It may look like I’m blaming my ex, but I’m not. I’d never allow such a situation were I not in a permanent meth stupor those days.

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.