Thursday, May 31, 2007

addict

I was 13 years old when I developed a severe cough that lingered for months. Doctor-prescribed Tussionex did something beyond alleviating the cough, it changed my outlook, made me feel calm, peaceful, happy. I took it long after the cough went away, courtesy of that innocent doctor and a c. 1970 infinitely refillable prescription for narcotics.

I found other things over the next couple of years: diet pills, barbiturates, sedatives and pain pills of all kinds. By 9th grade, my school-oriented good citizen friends had vanished and I was running with a rough bunch of kids from the other side of town, and a whole bunch of adults whose sole goal on any given day was to get enough dope to get through.

"To get enough dope to get through" sounds so desperate and that wasn't how I saw them, at least not at the time. To me, a good little Lutheran girl from the right side of town, with all the advantages one could hope for except a mother, they looked glamorous and thrillingly outlaw, with an anti-establishment, anti-everything approach to life that was like nothing I'd ever experienced.

It was in 9th grade that I went to a party where people were shooting up. It shocked me. I watched a man sitting on the floor of the bathroom, blood everywhere, desperate to find a vein. He was trying to hit in his feet, his ankles, hands, arms, and it went on for hours. It sickened me and I just wanted to get out of that place, away form those people, back to my clean, wholesome life.

A few weeks later I was back. I'd watch the folks sitting around the table, 10-12, maybe more, using the same needle, shooting speed mostly. I got the nickname of "little doctor" because I could get veins for people when they couldn't, could find injectable sites where it seemed none existed.

We went on road trips in search of crystal meth. When the drug was plentiful, the party was on and spirits were high. When it ran out, of course, there was nothing but despair and a craving to find more of the only reason for living. White crosses would do, in sufficient quantity, but crystal was the magic. The manufacture of crystal was different then. There weren't meth cooks on every corner, stirring up a pot of speed with a box of Sudafed and some lye. There were three that I knew of in Oklahoma, another in Wichita. They were all flat out insane, extremely well armed, living in homes fortified with weapons of all kinds.

I did things I would never in my right mind have done, ever. In my right mind, even contemplating living the way I did for those years is repulsive and sickens me. I look back on those wasted years from 9th to 12th grades, the people I looked up to ~ always the biggest dopers, dealers, thieves ~ and I wonder how I could have gone so entirely off the rails.

By 12th grade, my dependency on drugs was frightening. Given a choice between my big three addictions, a bottle of vodka, a Krispy Kreme and a gram of meth, I'll take the meth every time. Crystal is a wonder drug and it is deadly and that doesn't diminish its appeal once you've done it for any length of time. I am grateful I survived it, those insane years, and still I crave that feeling of invincibility, of euphoria, intensity. The reality of it led to violence and debauch, but that first rush is as seductive as anything I've ever experienced.

I gave up the dope when I moved to Houston. That was part of the reason for the move, to get away from my people, from the dealers, from the old used up junkies who gave me drugs because they thought I was sweet. I took up drinking every day, thinking nothing of it. My problem was with dope, not alcohol. I drank a lot before Houston, but speed was my thing and alcohol seemed like nothing.

As I've written before, it kicked my ass, completely, absolutely, 100%, this lesser drug of alcohol. I can count on one hand the number of times I did dope after the age of 18. Daily drinking will do that for you, break a drug habit in just a few weeks.

When I hit the doors of AA for the first time in 1980, I was disgusted. I didn't want to be a part of those old guys in those rooms. I was pissed off, way too young to be a drunk, and there wasn't anyone else my age in the meetings I went to. I wanted to go to NA where the addicts were. Figured I could, based on my history. But the deputies were sitting in the parking lots of the churches where NA met. While that again raised the outlaw appeal of the addict, I was still drinking and couldn't afford an encounter with law enforcement.

I figure that Power I connected with after years in the fellowship had me under surveillance even then, guiding and directing my life at that point. I stuck with AA until AA started to change me. The old men who took care of me those first few years ~ showing me the truth of my alcoholism, showing me, too, the transformative power of the love one drunk has for another ~ they carried me through. It was in AA I reclaimed the decency I was brought up with, was able to clear away the significant wreckage of my past, to make amends to those I'd harmed. Those 12 steps changed me from the inside out, permanently.

I will always be grateful I ended up where I did. I'm grateful, too, to have had the experiences I've had. I am still attracted to the outlaws, to the seamier side of life. With 24 years of sobriety, with a wonderful life, a healthy, happy outlook, I don't live there anymore. I have no desire to, not really, and so much of it disgusts me. Still, the words of Savoy Brown will come to mind periodically and haunt me a few days at a time, no matter how wholesome and healthy my life becomes. I cannot explain the appeal, but it's there.

Some of ‘em wise men, some of ‘em fools
But I need a little something to keep my cool
I sleep with the sun and I rise with the moon
And I feel alright with my needle and spoon
I feel alright with my needle and spoon


It's like phantom limb syndrome, only with doper's life, gone forever but still there, hiding out, sending out the occasional frisson of desire.

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10 Comments:

Anonymous Tater said...

Nothing beats you down harder than the feeling of lost innocence, and the disconnect from ingrained values. One of the saddest days of my life occured when I realized that everything I had become was a lie. Self serving and manipulative in the headlong pursuit of abandon, escape, and numbness. I would tell any lie, committ any petty theft, find the soft spot on any hardened family member or friend, all to score, and use, and run. I moved many times, for that clean start, that next to last chance, but the dirt inside always worked its way back to my outside life. I corrupted everything I touched in those years and it hurt like hell. The downward spiral of pain and guilt, and the effort to erase it with more and more abuse. I would fantasize about the years before I became this thing, this disgrace, and lay the blame for my demise on everyone and everything but myself.

AA brought honesty back to my life. It allowed a chink of light in my indigo world, which paused the cycle long enough for me to realize hope. Hope allowed me to stay sober long enough to realize truth, and truth has allowed me to find my way back to an ordered and peaceful life. Thank you for sharing part of your truth with me today, it cuts through the everday bullshit like a fart in church, and helps me to keep it simple for myself.

Much love.

May 31, 2007 8:58 AM  
Blogger BigAssBelle said...

tater, you put it so well, far better than i. i hated that life. hated it. not when i was in it as much as after i got into recovery. so why would there be anything about it that would appeal to me? hell, almost every one of those folks i ran with are dead or in prison. i don't want to get high, i think it's more the outlaw aspect of it. very, very strange. i think it's just part of the disease, a skewing of vision and attitude that lingers still.

May 31, 2007 9:42 AM  
Anonymous Tater said...

I agree that it is part of the dis-ease that lingers on. It's the illness grasping at straws to pull me back. I romanticize the allure of the outlaw past, because it softens the reality enough for the sugar coating to begin, the "It was horrible, but I managed to pull myself out of it." I sometimes have the hubris to imagine that my sheer will set me on the right path. Yeah, I know. LOL! I feel it's akin to the friendships we form out there with all the junkies who are worse than us, those we can point a finger at and say "Now there's a REAL addict..." It's such a crazy and warped illness, one that morphs and changes with time, one that is always just around the corner waiting to pounce. Let's just keep telling it "to go fuck itself", shall we? I like your new pic btw. very cute.

May 31, 2007 10:58 AM  
Anonymous lynette said...

yes let's do, tell it to go fuck itself. and those "friendships" with junkies? that in itself is ridiculous. i never met a junkie who wouldn't profess to be a friend, and turn around and rip you off if it meant getting more dope.

you're right, too, on the "there's a real addict" thing. i could look at that guy in the bathroom on the bloody floor and say "not me, never me," and turn right around and snort half a gram of crystal. "if i ever get THAT bad, i'll do something about it."

i have always been grateful i didn't (a) kill myself or (b) cause irreparable damage (though i sometimes wonder about the brain cells i'd have had without the chemicals), but this occasional continued allure of what was a seedy, dreadful, awful, horrible, soul-killing lifestyle may be the permanent damage i thought i avoided.

chronic insanity, my disease du jour . . . :-)

May 31, 2007 11:56 AM  
Blogger Willym said...

Oh Lady you have me weeping for the young you and rejoicing in the mature you. I can't imagine the daily struggle and I know from two very close friends that it is a daily struggle. Every day you give us another reason to care for and about you deeply.

May 31, 2007 12:04 PM  
Blogger lisalgreer said...

Lynette, thanks for telling part of your story. It really touched me. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would have become an alcoholic had I drunk more; I was just raised in an extremely fundamentalist home and I guess that's good in this case. I still love that feeling of disinhibition and wildness I get when I drink; literally, I am a big woman and it takes just one drink for me to feel it. I was primed for addiction (like I am with sugar). So, I don't drink. LOL. I think the want of the thrill is very much part of addictive biochemistry. When we get that thrill of getting away with sneaking our drugs or using or whatever, we get a rush of beta endorphins. I guess that's why I used to eat chocolate in the bathroom, in bed, anytime I was alone. I was getting away with it. Yeah, right. My body showed otherwise! Thanks again for sharing... Lisa

May 31, 2007 2:25 PM  
Blogger rodger said...

Wow...very powerful. Like the hold the drugs and alcohol had/have on you. I can understand the drug aspect and was lucky enough to get away from them myself and maybe that is why I've not had the alcohol problem.

Thanks for sharing this...it really hit home!

Nice pic sweetie!

May 31, 2007 2:56 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Thanks for sharing this story, Lynette. As I'm sure you're aware, crystal is ravaging the gay community these days. I've watched friends lose everything they had, including their minds. Just last week I visited a friend in prison. It's a scourge this drug. Thanks for reminding your readers of that.

May 31, 2007 6:47 PM  
Anonymous SFJim (JGnSF.at.yahoo.com) said...

Tonight I was itching so much to use crystal. I have been in recovery but have had my slips. So I was online cruising the ads and also reading Joe.My.God. I always love your comments you place there and you made one re: Joes southern shirt attire in a pic with Edmund White. Made me smile. So I decided to check out your blog because I have enjoyed it before. And then I read this. You helped me avoid a slip tonight. For that I thank you and the universe. There are no accidents.... Peace. Jim

June 03, 2007 1:08 AM  
Anonymous lynette said...

jim, there are no accidents, you're right. and i believe each potential slip we're able to bypass makes us stronger. you've come through this one and that's proof you can get through those slippery times. peace to you, sweetie. the internal peace that comes with being clean and free of that godawful drug is amazing. that's what i hope for you. big hugs.

June 03, 2007 11:06 AM  

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