I’m in San Francisco this weekend, for the very first time sober. Lots of strange things happened whenever I was here back in the day. One time I smoked and drank so much on the first day here I lost my voice for the rest of the weekend. That was an interesting visit. So this trip is not really like any of the ones before.
What did happen tonight was I ended up at a meeting in a room that was strikingly similar to the studio apartment I was staying in the last time I used crystal meth, five years ago this weekend. I was sitting there tonight looking around as the memory of that last night came back vividly – not in a bad way though. In fact, I was really grateful to be having the flashback (which was good because the topic of the meeting was gratitude).
[About the song: I don't know that this song is the obvious match for this post, but from the first time I heard it in 1991 it seemed like it was written for me. And I think a lot of my friends and family still wonder how I ended up where I ended up. Listen to this song. This is how I ended up there.]
The reason I was in that studio apartment five years ago was that I was cat sitting for a friend. And when I say friend, I mean the guy I gave all my drug dealing paraphernalia to when I decided to try to get sober. In addition to watching the cat, I agreed to make a couple deliveries that needed to be made on Saturday. I was full of brilliant ideas about what I should and shouldn’t do back then.
By this time I was already going to an outpatient program quasi-regularly. It was a five-day-a-week program; after six weeks of dropping in when the mood struck me, I had finally agreed to attend three days a week. At the time I thought I was manipulating them with this compromise, but in retrospect they got me to make a commitment to do to something – finally – they wanted me to do.
I could lay out how the whole weekend unfolded and the circumstances that led to my using crystal again that Sunday night. I had at that point not used meth in 61 days. I was so proud of my “sobriety”. (Aside, I hate quotation marks in general, but you’ll see they are there for a reason in this instance.) My sobriety consisted of me drinking beer four times a week during that time period, using ecstasy the first week I was in the outpatient program, smoking pot about a half-dozen times and that fun-filled GHB adventure in Central Park a couple weeks prior.
So, let’s skip the charade and the shenanigans. I fully intended that whole weekend to use crystal meth on Sunday night. I was planning and manipulating every minute of every day to ensure my plan would not be thwarted. I even used the burning desire time at a meeting that day to say I was afraid I might use that night. And when no one came running up to me after the meeting and insisted I stay with them to make sure I was safe, I had my justification. These people are supposed to keep me from using and they don’t even care. I knew they were all liars and fakes. Or maybe they were just scared to death of the angry, psychotic guy in the back of the room ranting about people following him and staking out his apartment.
Either way, I was on my own to do what I wanted. Only I couldn’t really call any of my friends because they all knew I was trying to get sober. I certainly didn’t want them trying to talk me out of it. So, my only options were to either sit alone and get high or get online and try to get some stranger to come over and smoke with me.
I did try the latter, but when he got there and saw the state of the apartment (remember the apartment that was being renovated from the COPS! Part 3 post – this was it) and me, he didn’t even stay for a glass of water.
I was on my own. I tried to smoke, but the voices started coming up the steps and were trying to get in the door. I had to think of something. I turned off the music and sat completely still in the dark for about ten minutes so they would think I went to sleep. I’m not sure why I thought this would work since I also thought they could see everything I was doing through the one uncovered sliver of the window that was allowing the light from the street light to come through.
After I was sure they had been fooled by my clever ruse, I got a blanket and put it over my head. I think I also draped it over a chair. Whatever I did, it was to create enough space for me to light the pipe under the blanket without setting it on fire. I don’t know how I didn’t burn the entire apartment down to tell you the truth. That was about 11 pm on Sunday night.
I wanted to smoke again at a couple points during the night, but by then I knew they weren’t falling for my tricks and would be busting down the door the next time I lit the pipe. I’d have to wait until sunrise. For reasons that escape me now, I thought they would be less likely to storm into wherever I was during daylight hours. They always seemed to be waiting for nightfall.
I’d love to say there was some grand finale, some divine intervention that struck me sober that morning, but what happened was quite banal (though still somewhat profound). As day broke, I realized I could smoke again; I grabbed the pipe and started to fill it up. I picked up the lighter and was just about to hit it when a thought occurred to me. And I actually said this to myself, aloud: Come on Petr. If this wasn’t fun on Sunday night, how the fuck is it ever going to be fun on Monday morning?
And that was it. I got up, took a shower, gathered up the meth, pipe and lighter, and headed to my outpatient program. It was still really early, so I walked from near 14th Street and 7th Avenue to Roosevelt Hospital at 59th Street and 10th Avenue.
When I got there, I looked for the one counselor I didn’t hate at the time and asked to talk to him. I gave him all the stuff and said simply: I think I’m done.
And I was.
And I was.