For as many times as I tried to smoke meth under a blanket to avoid detection by “them”, it's actually a miracle I never set anything (or anyone) on fire. Of course there was the last time I did it, which was the last time I used almost six years ago. But that was not even close to the only time. In fact, by the time that happened I was getting pretty good at it. I'd figured out that two chairs was better for draping the blanket over rather than one chair and my head. Actually, I might have just realized that now. I'm fairly certain that never occurred to me when it would have been a useful thing to know.
Anyway, the time before that one that I tried to smoke like that was the second-to-the-last time I used crystal meth. It was Pride weekend in New York in 2007. I'd love to tell you that I was out having a blast with my friends, celebrating being gay in one of the greatest cities to be gay in. Sadly, that's not quite how it went down.
After getting out of detox in Philly, I returned to NYC and picked up right where I left off – getting high every day. Well, really it was every time I could get my hands on it. Shockingly, 72 hours off of meth did not magically make the voices go away. It's really hard to be an effective drug dealer when you think everyone can see and hear everything you are doing and saying (or thinking for that matter). So the bounty of unlimited, high-quality meth had completely dried up at this point. I was left to scrounge whatever I could using what was left of my 401K until I could get on public assistance (that's a crazy story in itself, perhaps for another day).
I was bouncing back and forth between friends that I had previously supplied drugs to. I think at the time we all assumed our (my) luck would change and I'd be back to hopping on a plane once or twice a month in no time. Plus, one of these guys was one of my closest friends in NYC at the time and the other was basically a good guy. They weren't the kind of people you might typically envision when you think of meth addicts. But make no mistake. These guys were doing it every bit as much as I was at that time, which makes this story even a little more remarkable.
The end of June was approaching, as was the end of everyone's ability to deal with my craziness. It was probably the second week of the month when, separately (but probably in concert), both of them told me I should probably think about going to rehab. Now just let that settle over you for a second. Two guys doing meth just as often as I was – and only a couple months removed from getting almost all of it from me – were trying to convince me it was time for me to put it down. How bad do you have to be for other meth addicts to be saying, “Dude, put down the pipe.” But that's what they were saying, almost verbatim.
So, the Friday of Pride weekend, I took my suitcase and got in a cab headed toward St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital at 59th St. and 11th Ave. I got there, totally nervous and totally alone, only to find out that they didn't have a bed for me and I would have to come back Monday. AWESOME! I don't have to go to rehab. I was like Amy Winehouse, only when they tried to make me go to rehab I said yes and got turned away. So back I went to my friend's apartment. But now things were different. Apparently trying to go to rehab and not getting in meant that he expected me to not use meth all weekend until it was time to go back. What kind of batshit crazy talk was that?!
I tried it his way for the first day – OK, the first two hours. But it just wasn't cutting it. So I got the pipe out and lit it. The next part is a little fuzzy. I don't know whether he gave me grief about it or if I just grew increasingly less comfortable doing it in his apartment when I knew he didn't approve. Or it's possible that I just had some delusion that there was still fun to be had if only I could break free of him and his judgment of me (which probably only existed in my head). However it happened, I ended up Sunday afternoon alone at some hotel in Mid-town. Just me and my pipe. There was one problem though. The curtains on the window in the hotel room didn't block out every speck of light that was coming from outside. One speck of light meant that “they” could see everything that was going on in the room. I have no idea what technology I thought existed for that, but that's truly what I believed.
So once again, I needed to build a smoking fort. I took the very acrylic bedspread from the hotel bed and draped it over the television and my head. I realized the instant I lit the lighter that this idea was pure pyromaniacal folly. So I did what any meth addict completely bereft of dignity, self-respect and sanity would do. I went into the closet, closed the door and sat down on the floor. And for the next few hours, whenever I felt the need to smoke I just returned to the closet and closed the door.
Of course, by about 4 am the voices had convinced me that even that wasn't safe, so I took the the streets of Manhattan looking for safe haven to keep getting high while I decided whether to return to the rehab hospital at 9 am. I'm sure it comes as a surprise to no one (except me circa 2007) that if a pitch-black closet in a locked, empty hotel room doesn't feel safe to get high in, there aren't many places out on the street that are going to fit the bill either.
As the panic about both being out on the street with nowhere to go and having rehab looming over me in just a few hours, I decided to call my friend. And here's where the remarkable part comes in. It was about 6 am at this point. He was up when I called, so he was clearly getting high. There may or may not have been other people with him. But it didn't matter. He didn't brush me off. And he didn't tell me to get in a cab and go to his apartment. He said to give him an hour and he would meet me for breakfast in Midtown and go to St. Luke's with me to make sure I got there OK. And he did. Not only did he make sure I got there OK, he sat in the waiting room with me for seven hours until they called me in to do my intake. He had to be vibrating trying to sit still for that long. Plus, how miserable must it be to be high in the waiting room of a rehab you are NOT checking into? I know how miserable it was for me to sit there high and I had a reason to do it.
They finally called me in at about 4 pm. I entered the rehab ward just in time for dinner at 6 pm. And I walked out, against medical advice, at 11:15 pm that night. I still wasn't quite ready. It took a whole lot of little moments adding up to get me to finally put it all down on August 27, 2007. The act of complete selflessness by my friend while cracked out of his mind was one of those moments. I'm not going to shout him out by name here, but he knows who he is. And now he (hopefully) knows I've never forgotten that day.