A week ago I wrote about a craving and my best way of dealing with it. Earlier today, that same nagging itch bitched at me once again. Just one… nobody will know. “Bullshit”, I say. “It’s never just one.”
I’ve been wondering why these cravings have returned. Maybe it’s because I’ve been trying to salvage some of the (c# application) code I wrote in my last extended relapse. I did write some good code, albeit buried in thousands of lines of mediocrity. Maybe my looking at the good things I did while under the influence has unconsciously allowed me to romanticize those times. It’s too easy to do… Remember the good and forget the bad.
Then today I discovered something online that I didn’t know: One of my favourite writers, Stephen King, had more than a casual brush with addiction himself. In the eighties, when he wrote some of my favourite books, he spent most of that decade on one long cocaine and alcohol binge. He achieved great commercial success, but nearly lost his family and then nearly his life. Yet he overcame it all, and is still going strong as a writer, without the addiction. If he can do it after spending so much time in his addiction, so much time that he was at one stage afraid to stop because he feared that he would not be able to write while sober, then we can all learn from his lesson. We can all be inspired by it.
As for that craving – it was easy to ignore because I really do not want to go back. I never want to go back. I will not go back.
Today I didn’t use the same technique as last time to deal with the craving. Instead, I thought about writing this post; as I drove my son home from dinner I pre-planned this post in my head. I find it easy to write in my head, then when I get around to sitting down and writing, it’s just a simple regurgitation of the words from my brain onto the screen, with maybe a tweak to the phrasing here and there.
Last week I wrote about what will happen if I were to use again. This time, I remembered something that did happen in my past. Not from the last extended relapse, but from my time before attempting recovery the first time. It’s an event that I was lucky to survive unscathed, and yet it was about one and a half years before I hit my rock bottom. Here follows my unpleasant memory…
It was around February 2008. Pay day. It was to be a year before I lost my house and all my possessions, but was a couple of months after I wrote off my car. (Without a scratch to myself – I’m always lucky.) I’d been without drugs for two days because my money had run out, so I was pleased to have been paid. Having received the SMS notification on my phone, I set off at around 11PM. First to the ATM, then to the dealer.
I stayed in Muizenberg, Cape Town. Although there were some “dealers” in the area, they were too small time. What I wanted was high quality methamphetamine at a good price. The local “dealers” were just addicts who couldn’t work, so they sold some of what they bought to the addicts who didn’t know that there were better quality dealers around.
Without a car, my options were limited. The closest dealer I knew of that had reasonably good quality drugs, was a man named Clyde, who lived in a not-so-safe area called Vrygrond. (Or was it Claude? Names from those days stuck in my mind like wet toilet paper to a shaving cut – not for long.) This area was on the other side of Prince George Drive, directly across from Marina da Gama. Not the place for any middle-class white guy to be walking after 11PM with a couple thousand Rand in his pocket. But I figured that after driving there so many times… What could go wrong?
So after drawing the money at the ATM, I walked briskly to the dealer. I was tired and weak. I had neither used nor eaten in two days. From the Marina side, crossing Prince George Drive, I walked about fifty meters in, then turned left into the first road. Then about three hundred meters. Once you get there, you’re far away from “civilization”, in a world of poverty and drugs. Scream there and nobody will hear you, nobody who gives a fuck anyway.
The road then turns 90 degrees to the right. Just before I reached the bend, I heard two other pairs of footfalls, closing in on me. As I turned, they stopped, so I knew they were somewhere around that corner.
I walked on, because it was another twenty meters to the dealer. I reached the dealer and made my purchase. Then I had a decision to make: Turn around, walk back the way I came and face the two muggers, or go even deeper into that area, into the dark. This would be the path I usually used to drive. It meant another fifty-odd meters, then turn right into a road parallel to the one with the muggers, then right again onto the road that entered this area. Head out on that road that forms a junction with the other end to the road where the muggers are. This is quite the dilemma. I knew there were two muggers. If they had any brains between them, they’d know which way I was heading. So they could either follow me deeper into this place, or double back and ambush me anyway when I took the only road out of there.
Here’s a map, with my route marked crudely:
I walked from Muizenberg at the bottom. Vrygrond Ave is the road into that area. Then left and up to the corner where I heard the muggers, and finally right and a bit further to the dealer. That area between Prince George Drive and the corner is just an open field, meaning that they saw where I came from. Thus if I went forward, deeper into even more potential danger, they could double back and ambush me on Vrygrond Avenue.
Edit: I neglected to mention that there were no working street lights in Vrygrond. It was pitch black, and walking into there was like walking back to the dark bedroom of my childhood – more than just facing my fear of the dark because this dark was a place with real danger. Die there, and there’s a chance that nobody will ever find your body.
So I decided to retrace my steps; walk right back towards the muggers.
I saw the first one as I reached the corner. I didn’t see his friend. As I got there, he asked me a stupid question to distract me. I started to run, but mugger number two had made his way silently behind me, and tripped me immediately.
As both of them got hold of me and tried to hold me down, I managed to get onto first my knees, then one foot and one knee. Telling myself that I hadn’t really felt something sharp against my head, I lashed out blindly to each side. As always I was lucky. My left elbow connected with great force to the one’s head, sending him sprawling behind me, and within milliseconds I was up, with my right hand on the other’s nose, my left hand around his neck and my right foot behind his ankle. I have no idea how that worked out, but it gave me the leverage to lift his foot, taking him off-balance, and smash the back of his head down against the gravel road with all the strength I had.
Then I ran. Both of them, who I would guess were nearly twenty years younger than me, regained their composure and chased. At first they were right behind me, shouting obscenities as well as “When I catch you, you’re a dead man”. Shouting while you’re trying to sprint is not smart, but lucky for me they were too stupid to save their breath. All those school races that I won so many years ago came back, and it was like I was twelve again, winning the 100m sprint. In the first 5 seconds, I gained about twenty meters on them, enough to look back and see how fast I was pulling away from them. Then seconds later I was so far away, I knew there was no way they could ever catch me. Yet I was terrified, and ran on anyway, out of breath and exhausted, having slowed to a steady jog by the time I reached Prince George Drive. I didn’t look back again and had no idea when they gave up the chase. Other than losing my breath for a few minutes, I came out of it just fine; not even a scratch on my shoes. (I did start running again regularly after that. I ran about 10km a day, something I couldn’t do now. Then again, running on meth doesn’t count.)
But it could have worked out so differently. I could have died that night in 2008. The only reason I am alive today is that I was lucky. It was blind luck and adrenaline that picked me up when they first took me down. I couldn’t see where they were behind me, couldn’t have known that I’d be able to knock both of them down and still have time to get away. And I couldn’t have known that they’d be unable to catch me.
Needless to say, I never walked back there again. But it was only because of my addiction and irrational need to get drugs that I put myself in such mortal danger to begin with. This was one of several times I was in danger, although it was undoubtedly the closest I came to death. And I have never been so afraid again. Sooner or later though, my luck would surely have run out.
And that, dear reader, is one of the reasons that I can so easily ignore my cravings now. I will never put myself through such danger again. Sadly there is a part of me that may always miss using – it’s like that drug gets into your soul and finds a permanent home there. (Not that I believe in a soul. I mean it figuratively.) So sometimes I have to remind myself that going back to using would be to open the door to the dark, evil place again. It’s easy to get there, but we don’t all make it back.