Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Medicinal Purposes

Note: Tonight's post contains somewhat graphic descriptions of drugs and drug use. Enter at your own risk.

Full disclosure: I'm all over the place tonight mentally so you may need to do some kind of intellectual lambada to follow along. The sinus headache dulls certain (I want to write "brainal" so I guess this is one of them) synapses, making it really difficult for me to express myself articulately and to hold on to one train of thought for very long.

I've been a non-smoker now for approximately 14 months now, making it the third-longest cigarette-less period of my life. I've quit for 3 1/2 and 2 1/2 years before, another time for a year and twice for six months. In all that smoke-free time, cigarettes never once stopped looking good to me. It's something that I've had to learn to actively fight almost daily. It's really hard to escape cigarettes in our culture. At least one of your friends smokes. It used to be that probably half of all addicts in recovery smoked. That number has definitely dwindled, but every time you walk out of a meeting it's like entering Marlborough Country.

The reason I'm telling you all of this has hardly anything to do with smoking cigarettes. I mention it because it's the reason I am so glad that alcohol was not my drug of choice. I drank some, but rarely to the point of messiness. I never even liked drinking all that much, which is what finally made me decide that I could give it up in addition to the drugs. I held on to it for about the first two months I was trying to stop doing crystal, reasoning that I didn't need to stop drinking because that wasn't my problem. "I don't even like drinking." As the drug haze lifted, I had to acknowledge that was a pretty lame reason to drink.

Anyway, the point is that being around people that are drinking or drunk people doesn't make me want to drink. It mostly just makes me want to slap them. And since there are very few crystal bars dotting the urban landscape, I don't really have it dangling in front of me every day. In fact, most days the only time I even think about crystal meth is when I'm at a meeting or when I'm writing this blog. In a lot of ways, I feel pretty charmed. I do what I'm supposed to do every day and I'm freed of the obsession.

On top of that, there are some parts of my life as a sober person that are only as good as they are because I was once an addict. On days where that is most true, I often think of my addiction as a blessing in disguise. I have friends I wouldn't have had otherwise. I've been given opportunities I wouldn't have been given. It would be much more difficult to dredge up things to write about here.

I'd gotten so accustomed to feeling that way, I almost forgot that it's not always the case. Some days not only suck, they suck in ways that make me think about how crystal meth would help them not suck.

The first time I remember using crystal* was six years ago tomorrow. It was New Year's Eve and, like every other gay couple in Manhattan, we had a party to go to. I hadn't been feeling great for the previous couple of days, but at about 7 pm (right about the time there was absolutely nothing that could be done about it) my sinuses felt like they were going to burst right out of my skull. There is almost nothing I hate more than a sinus headache -- maybe the Tanya Roberts years of Charlie's Angels but that's about it. My first inclination was just to call it a night and send my boyfriend and our friends on their merry way to have their merry fun.

Unfortunately, that was my M.O. almost always. All I needed was a fingernail clipped too close and I would beg off whatever plans we had that evening. So, I was pretty sure it was going to look like I was faking it just because I didn't want to go. But my head was seriously throbbing, so much so that I could hardly move it without wanting to cry. I knew it was probably going to be January 2nd before I could go to the doctor, so I was screwed.

Now, around this time we seemed to always be playing host to one drug dealer or another. This was back before I got into the business and I guess we figured they were good to have around. So whenever someone was coming to town from wherever, we had a house guest. This is relevant because it explains how I was in my own apartment before I was really a crystal user and somehow came upon crystal.

One of the things I had always loved about cocaine was that it had this magical analgesic quality to it. A couple of bumps of that and, voila, pain all gone. I started to think that might be an option, but quickly dismissed it because you have to snort it every 20 minutes or so and I knew my sinuses couldn't take that kind of assault without serious consequences.

But, my friend assured me, one bump of crystal would last me a few hours -- maybe longer since I didn't really do it. I know it seems counter-intuitive to snort something when your sinuses are ready to explode but at the time it just made sense. He chopped up a little pile for me and gave me a sawed-off McDonald's straw. Maybe the reason I remember this as my first time is because it felt like someone shot a .22 caliber gun up my nose when I snorted it. Crystal always has a hideous burn when you first snort it (a friend used to always tell the story of this woman that would run around the living room right after doing a bump screaming, "The burn's the best part baby!!"), but I remember this as taking my breath away. It might have been that I didn't know what to expect. Or it may have been that I inhaled draino into my already infected nasal passages. Whatever, that first 20 seconds was maybe the worst pain I've ever felt in my life.

But then, it was as if God himself came down from the heavens and waved something over my face. All of a sudden all I felt was A MAY ZING! Nothing hurt. Plus I had more energy than I'd had since I was about 23. For months after that, I would downplay the experience, not wanting to let on how much I'd liked it. Part of it was that I didn't want to like it. And part of it was I just didn't want to give all those people that told me I'd love it the satisfaction of being right. But make no mistake, I was completely on board (in my mind if not publicly). I was able to go to the party and have fun. The effects even lingered so that I was still OK the next day (weird thing about the first six months or so that I used crystal -- I could lie down and go to sleep).

Now, if you remember the first paragraph, you probably have figured out why I told this story. This is one of those sucky days that my brain likes to prey on. Remember that time you had the sinus infection. Crystal took the pain right away.

It's one of the things that I'll probably always have to deal with, specific circumstances triggering euphoric recall. It's funny that I have no recollection of how that situation resolved itself. Did I get an anti-biotic and feel ok in a couple days? Did I do more crystal to get me through New Year's Day? I don't know. That's part of the disease of addiction. Your brain has the miraculous ability to have photographic memories of the good times and all the files containing the problems conveniently get lost right when they'd come in most handy.

But like I said earlier, I do what I'm supposed to do. In this case, it's own the insanity of my thinking. It's absurd to think I'd walk away from everything I've built in the last 2 1/2 years just because my head hurts. But if I didn't acknowledge that I think exactly that way, I'd be in a lot more trouble.

Sadly, I don't really have a big TA-DA ending for this post. I just needed to get it out so I could see what it looked like in black and white. I will say that writing took away the obsession. So, thanks for being there for me tonight.

*I've been told by an ex that the first time was actually the previous summer. I'm all but certain he's correct, but for whatever reason I really have no recollection of it.


  1. speechless.
    and glad for your understanding of all this.
    HNY my friend.

  2. Agree with Susan... so glad that you have the insight that you do, and that you're doing what you need to do. It's not an easy road, and you're doing great!

  3. I'm sorry that you are feeling so lousy. I'm glad that you are not using crystal to make things all better. I wish that I could do something to make your headache go away if for no other reason than to make those thoughts go away as well. You are winning the battle. And really, in the end, that means everything. Happy New Year, brother.

  4. *hug* and here's some anti-biotics.

  5. Felle better Petr. Happy New Year!

  6. Yep - that's what it's like, God came to me too!

  7. Petr keep pushing yourself through the rough days. Another day of sobriety is worth it. You have people pulling for you and we're confident that you'll get through the days that suck.