Wednesday, August 1, 2012

When It Was Good...

About the songs: The songs I'm choosing for these posts aren't for entertainment or enjoyment really. You may enjoy some of them. But they are here for context. Good, bad or downright dreadful, some songs got their hooks in me by evoking powerful memories or by bringing to mind people or places that I love (or am terrified by). Those are the songs I'm using this month. You don't have to play the videos, but I think the posts might come to life a little more if you play the song in the background while you read. Enjoy!

There's something that I've heard a few people say in 12-step meetings that really rings true for me. “If you think my problems sound bad, wait until I tell you about my solutions.” That about sums up my entire life before I got sober. It is certainly true that I've encountered some difficult problems in my life. It's even more true that I made just about every one of them worse with my brilliant plans on how to solve them.

I was always looking for something or someone to fix me. And whenever I found something (or someone) that appeared to do that for even just a moment, I declared it (him) my savior. It was like this with almost every drug I ever did – at least the ones I liked.

I wasn't really that much of a drinker, but when I was 19 a friend of mine turned me on to smoking pot. Now, you're probably thinking, “What? He was 19 before he ever smoked pot??” Yep. I was. I was 17 and away at school in Florida before I was ever even drunk for the first time. That's because I was always really clear that alcohol and drugs were not the answers to my problems. Until I tried them.

Like I said, alcohol didn't really wow me. But marijuana? That I was impressed by. I remember the first time I smoked it, my friend Ray (who called me PepĂ© for some reason) and I were sitting in his car (or my car – who knows, I was stoned) and all of a sudden this feeling came over me. It wasn't just that I immediately was certain I was funny and likeable (neither of which I considered myself ten minutes before). I remember looking down the street and reading the street sign from about 100 yards away. “I can see!”

Ray: Huh?

Me: I can see! I can read that street sign way down there. This stuff improves my vision. This is fantastic!

For the next year or so, I smoked pot at every opportunity. Why wouldn't I? It was curing my near-sightedness.

I'm not sure if pot worked for a long time, or if I just had an aversion to anything that wasn't pot because everything else really seemed like “drugs” to me and pot seemed pretty harmless. So I stuck with pot and beer for a long time – well into my thirties.

But I still was never enough for myself. I was never popular enough. I was never good looking enough. I was always an outsider. And then in 1999 – Thanksgiving weekend – a friend convinced me to try ecstasy. I had passed on the opportunity to try it several times in the past, but I was going through a dreadful break up and I was feeling incredibly shitty about myself. It was the perfect situation to fix with drugs.

Let me tell you, I WAS FIXED! I have to be honest here, I LOVED ecstasy. And I loved everyone I was with when I was on it. But best of all, I loved ME when I was on it. I ran around town telling anyone who would listen about how awesome life was with ecstasy. At that point in my life, I can say truthfully that I didn't know that there was an actual feeling that felt as good as the feeling I had on ecstasy.

There is this crazy-ass episode of Touched by an Angel that we happened upon once while lying around recovering from a circuit party event, resting up for that night's festivities. In it, Valerie Bertinelli's character somehow gets talked into doing ecstasy with the kid she's supposed to be helping. I'm not going to pretend to remember the how the scene went exactly, but either she said this or someone said it to her. Either way, it's ridiculously awesome. On the dance floor, music blaring, kids sucking lollipops and wearing glow sticks: “It's like prayer, in pill form!” Having experienced both ecstasy and the power of prayer, I'm going to have to allow it. That's exactly what it is.* (The episode is called Heaven's Portal – if you have TiVo you should wishlist it.)

It was the same way with Cocaine and Ketamine. I remember feeling lied to by all those freaks who fed me that “drugs are bad” propaganda. Why is The Man always trying to keep us down??

And then there's meth (Lady Godiva was a freedom rider, she didn't care if the whole world looked...). If ecstasy was the drug of my dreams, meth was my soulmate. I really wondered why everyone wasn't doing it every day. For me, it made everything right. It took away my fear of not fitting in, of not being good-looking enough, of not being liked. For the first year I was using meth, I was literally fearless. I was afraid of virtually nothing (which helps you understand how I came to the decision to not only sell meth, but to sell it at the level I sold it).

And that's where this song comes in. I had just become a daily user during season five of American Idol (all roads lead to Idol). And I loved Katharine McPhee. So even though I knew objectively that the song was dreadful, I played it over and over and over. Because it was my love song to meth. “Every mistake, every wrong turn, every time I lost my way, led me to this moment of bliss.” I seriously felt that way.

And “Can I get any higher? Tell me, does it get any stronger?” Well, that was just written for me and meth.

I want to be clear here. I didn't tell this story to glorify drugs or romanticize my years of using. I told it because if you've read this blog for the past couple years and you're NOT someone in recovery, you have to have been wondering why the hell I put myself through everything I put myself through. I know that before I used meth I wondered how anyone could ever let themselves get addicted to such a clearly awful drug. I had seen what it had done to people I knew before I ever tried it. I honestly thought I was inoculated by that.

But I'm telling you now. Meth is like that charismatic, super-sexy guy that sweeps you off your feet and makes you think you're the most wonderful person in the world. And then starts beating you and batters you every day until you finally realize that it's never going to be like it was when you first met and you get the courage to leave. In fact, it's exactly like that. It's why meth addicts relapse so often, just like women (and men) keep going back to their abusers. The good was so good that you can chase it right to your grave.

 *Only prayer doesn't cause “terrible Tuesday”, the day when all the serotonin is completely gone and your brain isn't making any more of it for a while. All I can say about terrible Tuesday is, wait until Wednesday to decide to break up with your boyfriend, quit your job or kill yourself.

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