Addiction is a cruel beast that sneaks up on you without you knowing it’s there. You start using drugs for whatever reason… perhaps to cope with trauma of some sort… and they leave you feeling so good, you forget why you started. They take the pain away and are effective for a while, and then they create more trauma than they ever solved to begin with. But you forget, developing a kind of selective memory where you only remember the good times, then the beast has a way of returning if you aren’t prepared.
I’m just weeks away from six years clean, so this seems like as good a time as any to remember some of the unpleasant things that meth did for me. For this post, we travel back in time to 2005, the year I started using meth.
Imagine going to bed, but just as you’re about to drift away to slumber-land, an irritating itch startles you, screaming out at you from your left ankle. You lurch down to scratch it, bringing instant relief, but as you do so, another itch tears at your right shoulder. Then your lower back, then your left thigh, right thigh, upper back, neck, left arm, right arm, ass, your side… It doesn’t end. You roll around as you flail from one itch to the next in a scratch reflex that seems never-ending. Then imagine feeling an itch that runs down your thigh, feeling as if you can literally feel the blood flowing through your veins somehow causing an itch on the outside.
I immediately looked that one up, and it’s called formication, defined as “the false sensation of flesh-crawling bugs”. Not to be confused with fornication, which is a tad more fun.
Now imagine all that itching and scratching at work; imagine snapping out of your wild scratching spree to realize that everyone has stopped what they’re doing to stare at you, the lunatic flapping and flopping around like a fish in a bucket.
Being delayed, and friends that don’t know when to leave
I had this friend named Chris, whom I knew from the local Spur restaurant, where he was first a waiter, then a manager, and then fired. He would come to visit me and then not leave.
Once, he’d been there for two days, sleeping on my couch if he slept at all, when he suggested going to visit some people he knew. I took him there only because it was an opportunity to lose him somewhere.
So off we went… They lived in a room, possibly the former slave quarters but my memory is hazy, at Tokai Manor House, a historical monument. I don’t remember the deal exactly – I think the girl’s father maintained or managed the place or something, and she lived there with her boyfriend.
They were decent people though I can’t remember their names… “I just want to sit and tik”, she said, echoing my thoughts. I immediately liked her. He was a cop, on suspension from the flying squad because he was caught on meth. In another world, maybe he would have been treated differently… Here was a guy who was a victim of trauma. As a first respondent, he’d seen every kind of grizzly scene there was… shooting victims, accident scenes, domestic violence… you name it – any way that somebody could have died horribly and he’d seen it, working a job where he was always too late to help people but also always just in time to see their fresh corpses. So he used meth as a coping mechanism; where presumably the high of the drug took away the trauma for a while, but got him suspended. In another world, one where using drugs was treated not as a crime but as a problematic behaviour due to trauma indicative of some underlying problem that needed treatment, maybe he’d have been given the help he needed. But this is not such a world.
Anyway, the guy saw my good quality Pyrex glass meth lolly, and noticed that I was carrying it around in my pocket, so he took it upon himself to help me. He took out a cloth and some needle and thread, and started stitching. At first he was still responsive, but after a few hits, he went off on a tangent. Stitching stitching stitching… the whole night long. He tweaked on it, but was also delayed. It was the first time I witnessed such a thing, but would not be the last. On meth, we can get into that state where we focus exclusively on one thing, and we can also get into a state where unlike the “speed” misnomer implies, we are extremely slow and delayed. He lucked out and got to be tweaking and delayed simultaneously.
In the morning, the guy and his friend, and my annoying friend Chris, went to go play paintball. That guy used to run the local paintball in Tokai forest. Left with the girl, I took one or two more hits, and left, happy to ditch Chris with them. He was their problem now.
In retrospect, meth really does mess up your judgement. These people had never met me before, didn’t know me from a bar of soap, and the guy left me alone with his girlfriend. It was always my intention to be left behind so that I could ditch Chris, but really, who leaves a strange man alone with his girlfriend in an isolated place?