Drugs Part 4: Meth
There was a friend of ours growing up who did meth (we’ll call him “R”). We didn’t see him very often as he was busy tweaking, but we heard stories. Stories of lying and stealing. Tales of explosively violent episodes. Whispers of local police involvement time and again. And over the course of his usage, we watched R waste away, becoming thinner and thinner with each passing, sleepless week. This was the closest experience I had to any hard drugs growing up in sleepy Tonopah, Nevada.
I was visiting friends in Las Vegas in summer 2001 for no other reason than to get out of town. My friend “K” had expatriated from Tonopah years earlier and was living in Vegas her boyfriend “B.” I stayed with them for what was originally a planned weekend trip that became a week-long one. During my stay, I met K and B’s circle of friends and several times while hanging out at their apartment they and their friends would take turns vanishing into the bedroom for long periods of time. I learned later they were retreating to smoke crystal meth.
One friend of theirs didn’t feel the need to hide their usage. He felt no sens of shame or need to shield me. “P” sat in the dining room holding a homemade meth bong (called a “quag”) in one hand and a campfire torch in the other. The intense flame kissed the end of the glass bowl briefly and he blew out thick, white smoke that completely enshrouded his head. It was one of the coolest-looking things I’d ever seen. He asked if I wanted to try it, likely noticing amazement on my face. I told him I was tempted. Very tempted. In the end, I declined.
Memories of R’s downward spiral into his own meth usage was nowhere near me when I admitted my temptation. Here was an actual friend of mine, her boyfriend, and their group of friends. All were using meth. All were happy, healthy, clean, fun to be around, and generally seemingly awesome individuals. There wasn’t the slightest hint of the negative aspects one would associate with “speed freaks” and “tweakers” within this group.
At this point in my life, I was in love with electronic music, baggy rave clothes, neon rave clothes, rave dancing, and pretty much everything indicative of the “raver lifestyle.” I was essentially a dumb rave kid that had never been to an actual rave and I lived in a tiny town where one would never take place. The drug aspect of raving wasn’t important to me (although I desperately wanted to try ecstasy after learning about it). In Las Vegas, raves happened all the time and I was surrounded by a group of people who raved all the time. They were everything I’d imagined a group of rave friends could be when I’d fantasize about going to raves. I had such a phenomenal time hanging out with them that K and B agreed I could live with them if I ever decided to move to Vegas.
On the last day of my week-long Vegas trip, K and B were in their bedroom. I knocked on the door to chat them up for a minute and say goodbye. They invited me in. I knew they were smoking meth and told them I didn’t mind. In fact, I was interested in trying it.
Meth was the only thing you could say I was peer pressured into trying, but not intentionally. No one forced me to try it. No one told me I should try it. No one said “you’d be cool if you did it” or any such nonsense. It was simply their lack of behaving and appearing like drugged-out losers that influenced me. Both K and B specifically went out of their way to keep their usage hidden from me and when I said I’d be willing to try, K repeatedly asked if I was sure. I was. She held the pipe for me and lit it. I inhaled a little bit, then blew it out quickly (as instructed – leave meth smoke in your lungs the same way you would with cannabis was a bad idea). I didn’t feel much and hit it a second time.
Again – and I can’t stress this enough – K and B and their friends were nothing like R was. What I heard about what R went through were the same types of stories I was fed about all drugs. This commercial was what meth heads were purported to be like:
K and B were nothing like that. The only negative I could spot in my time spent with them was their apartment was a disorganized mess, but no more a disaster than most of my non-meth-using friends. After learning firsthand that marijuana wasn’t the dangerous drug I’d been cautioned about and meeting people who used meth and were nothing like the above commercial, of course I was going to try it.
One of the many abuses I suffered under my father was a severe lack of parenting. I was left to my own devices when it came to learning how to function in the real world. What wasn’t taught in school I learned from television, movies, and friends. A friend has to teach me how to ride a bike. A friend had to teach me how to shave. A neighbour had to teach me how to drive. I learned nearly everything in life from those who knew and were willing to guide me. Why would drugs be any different?
Here’s the weird thing about meth: it doesn’t make you feel high. At least, not in the way cannabis or alcohol or cigarettes do. Meth just makes you feel… great. You’re in a good mood, you’re alert, you’re confident, you’re energetic, but at no point do you actually feel traditionally “high.” Part of that can be talking a lot, which apparently I did. Non-stop. During a nearly 4-hour car ride back home. In my mind, I was simply talking about all the fun things I’d done on my week-long Vegas holiday (like being introduced to the greatest video game of all time, Conker’s Bad Fur Day). In reality, I was tweak-talking.
I got home, unpacked, did all the normal things one does after a trip. When night fell, I laid down to go to sleep and simply couldn’t. I’ve always had trouble sleeping. Since as far back as I can remember in childhood, it’s always been difficult for me to fall asleep. My mind races too much for me to simply be able to close my eyes and drift off. Sometimes even sleep aids don’t help. The only thing guaranteed to help me sleep is watching a movie or TV show. Something about distracting my mind with the visual and audio stimulation never fails to relax me into unconsciousness. Once in a rare while, music alone does the trick. So when I couldn’t sleep the night after I first tried meth, I attempted a movie, but it bored me. No matter what movie or show I chose, I was unable to be interested in it. I tried just shutting my eyes and focusing on my breathing, but after a few minutes, a lightheadedness overcame me. I felt like I was falling while laying still. It was a terrible and strange sensation. I ended up going on a long walk for a couple of hours, came home and drank some NyQuil, and finally slept. And because meth didn’t make me feel high, I never once attributed my sleeplessness to smoking it.
I ended up moving to Las Vegas on July 26th, 2001 and lived on K and B’s couch. They’d actually made by hand a huge banner for me that said “Welcome Home.” No one had ever done anything like that for me before. For all its quaint charms, I hated living in a small town and K and B knew it. With this simple gesture, it made me feel like I’d made the right decision. I felt like I had finally found a home and found friends that were unlike anyone I’d known before. These news Vegas friends weren’t afraid to show their emotion or affections the way small-town folk were. We’d hug hello and goodbye. We’d lay on each other watching movies or hanging out. There was a physicality and an intimacy with these friends I’ve never known before with friends or family. I’d known K for many years and her boyfriend B for a little over 1 year, but the rest were new and made me feel right at home instantly.
At first, my meth use was limited. I was more interested in ecstasy (which you can read about in part 5). But they smoked meth regularly and because I lived with them, I smoked it with them. They’d also snort the stuff at times, which I’d only do on occasion (I didn’t much like snorting things). Shooting it up was completely out of the question. There was this idea in the group that shooting up drugs was going “too far.” That people who shot up (any drug) were the true junkies and since we only smoked and snorted our meth, we were superior to them. I had no job and nothing else to do, so I did it as frequently as they did. I was living a party lifestyle, filled with experiences I never dreamed of before and sensations I’ve never felt before. I was introduced to my first rave. I did drugs. I met fascinating new people. I got to explore Vegas and all its glorious neon gauche. I was taken under several wings and shown a life I never could’ve had in Tonopah. I had amazing friends and felt amazing because of them.
That’s the deception of methamphetamine I only learned years after quitting. The “amazing” feelings were more so the result of the meth than the people I was around. While I didn’t necessarily feel “high” in the classic sense, I was amped up because of the meth. That’s what those cleverly-jingled commercials don’t tell you. You feel amazing on methamphetamine, not “high” and not “drugged out.” You’re carefree and experiencing the happiest of emotions. Every interaction is spectacular and meaningful. And I was someone who never really got to feel happy growing up. I was emotionally stunted for the longest time. I thought moving to Vegas and being surrounded by these amazing new friends was why I was feeling so good. It never was about the meth for me. I never once put 2 and 2 together.
Another thing I didn’t realize at the time, was that I was gay. I’d convinced myself in my teenage years I was asexual. I wasn’t attracted to women and, of course, I wasn’t attracted to guys therefore, I wasn’t into sex in general.
I was lying to myself. Back then I was a little liar in general. I lied about anything and everything, just to make myself seem more interesting. My sad life was full of shame, so I said things that made it seem better. My lies were painful and obvious and told to everyone. One example of my meaningless deception: my new Vegas friends were taking me to my first rave and I lied, saying I had been to a rave before but that I simply “didn’t go in.” My falsehoods were never done with intentional harm or malice. My lies came from shame and a need for attention. As much as I lied to everyone around me, I lied to myself even more.
Eventually, I experienced my first comedown. I don’t know how long I’d be awake for or how little I’d eaten beforehand, but the comedown was excruciating. I knew the remedy was as easy as smoking more meth (and my friends offered me that remedy), but I refused. To me, doing so would’ve made me a “junkie.” I needed to have the strength to say “no,” even in the face of a crippling comedown. My body ached. I was hungry but couldn’t eat. I was restlessly tired. I could assume no position that was comfortable. My feel-good emotions replaced with the dread of depression I’ve known most of my life. After hours of torment, I managed to fall asleep while listening to Nirvana’s “Unplugged” album.
The first time you comedown off of hard drugs is the worst. Every comedown after that pales in comparison, but they can still be loud and dramatic. One particular comedown had me angrily smoking a cigarette in the living room while B and 2 other male friends “J” and “N” were in the bedroom. I could hear them joking around behind the closed door, giving N tips on how to kiss his newfound girlfriend in his first relationship. I could hear J and B making out, to show him (random making-out happened frequently for everyone in our group but me, regardless of gender). I was furious. I left in a huff. Storming past everyone, shouting some nonsense about moving back to Tonopah. My comedown-inspired trek landed me at a park, on a bench, and I thought long and hard about why I was enraged. My internal monologue went something like this:
“Why are you mad?”
“Because J and B were kissing!”
“Why does that make you mad?”
“Because I want to kiss B!”
“Because I love B.”
“Because I’m gay.”
It was as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes. I not only finally admitted to myself that I was gay, but that I was in love with K’s boyfriend B. I don’t know if I ever would’ve come to terms with this facet of myself if it wasn’t for using meth. The emotional devastation that comes hand-in-hand with coming down allowed me to break down my own walls in a way I’m uncertain anything else could’ve.
The months following were tumultuous at best. Having your very first crush at 21 with your female friend’s boyfriend that you live with while using meth and ecstasy regularly isn’t an ideal environment. Add to the mix the fact K and B would break-up regularly and the straight man I was in love with when left alone with me wasn’t 100% heterosexual. All parties involved treated each other terribly, which the meth enhanced.
My friendship/relationship with that group came to an end at the beginning of 2002 and so did my meth use. Pretty quickly, I met a new group of friends who also used meth. This new group was less bombastic and emotional but still had its explosive moments. My personal methamphetamine usage was still limited to using with other people. I didn’t really actively seek it out. Not until after my first breakup with my first actual boyfriend. “P” and I dated briefly and surprisingly, despite both of us using meth at the time, the relationship itself didn’t really involve that much meth consumption. It was nonetheless an intense relationship and I took the breakup hard.
This was the only time I turned to meth to make myself feel better. To use it as an escape. For the last few months of 2002, I was what you would consider a tweaker in the classic sense. Doing as much meth as possible to not feel anything and to avoid feeling anything in the comedown. I smoked it. I snorted it. I packed pill capsules with it. Sometimes all 3 at the same time (still not shooting up, because that would be beyond the pale). Not only was I doing it often, but I was also doing copious amounts. Dangerous amounts. As much as was being fed to me by someone I had moved in with (who I later discovered had feelings for me). I was so geeked out of my head on crystal because of this new roommate that I never retrieved my possessions from my old apartment and I ended up losing nearly everything I own. But I was high at the time, so it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered.
One day, mid-December of 2002, and I can’t explain why or what caused it, I realized what my surroundings were. I had been awake more days than I could remember, scribbling some nonsense down in a notebook, and it felt like I suddenly took a big breath after not breathing at all. An epiphany. I became aware of what I’d been doing, why I’d been doing it, and was filled with profound shame. I decided I was done. Right then and there, I vowed to never use meth again. That mindset lasted until 3 days later when a speed-laced tablet of ecstasy lured me into using meth once more. That was December 22nd, 2002.
I told everyone around me I was done. I told my still-using “friends” not to offer it to me. Not to talk to me. Not to even think of me. If they were using and they did any of the aforementioned, I’d call the cops on them. The fear of police intervention secured my sobriety as not a single one of them ever offered it to me again.
I didn’t need rehab. I didn’t need meetings. I simply decided I was done. I don’t even remember much of a comedown from my last bought with crystal meth. I stayed with a friend who didn’t use the stuff and provided a safe environment. I still consumed other drugs, mostly ecstasy and marijuana, but I never touched meth again. The only reason I ever tried meth in the first place because the exhaled smoke looked cool (this was a major factor of why I smoked cigarettes). In the beginning, it was a thing to do because it was around. I was blind to all the symptoms of using. I was already skinny and been so all my life. I’ve always had trouble sleeping. I was naturally hyper. I was lying all the time already. And the emotions were new and spectacular to me, honestly, in retrospect… even the negative ones were thrilling.
When meth wasn’t around, I didn’t need or want the stuff. The 3-ish months in the fall of 2002 (post-breakup with P) was the only time I truly desired it. I lost a lot during that brief time. Practically everything I own. Several decent, non-using friends. And a part of myself.
I often wonder what life would’ve been like had I never tried that first puff of speed. Would I have ever opened up emotionally or would I still be repressed? Would I have come to terms with my own homosexuality or still be in the closet? The only thing I’m certain of is I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t spend approximately 1 and 1/2 years using meth, for better or worse.