It’s incredibly easy to look back at my drug heydays with a sort of fond reminiscing. I have an almost nostalgic, candy-coated hindsight when I think about my past drug experiences. How could I not? To paraphrase the brilliant Bill Hicks, I never killed anyone, I never robbed anyone, I never raped anyone, I was never arrested, and overall I had a really great time.
The truth of the matter is a little less simplistic. There were bad times. Numerous ones. I’m sure even Bill Hicks had his number of negative experiences. But when you gain distance from a thing, the memory of it grows sweeter with time.
Before I ever tried a single drug, I used to be quite the little liar. Small stuff to make my life seem better and less lonely than it actually was. When you grow up in an abusive household, you learn quickly that lying makes everyday life a little more palatable. When you grow up gay without any positive influence around to help you understand what that means, you lie to yourself instead of figuring yourself out. Why face actual reality when you can manufacture your own?
Drugs only exacerbated this deceitful trait. What were once small lies born from a lack of confidence became grandiose in hopes of impressing people. Methamphetamine specifically empowered this habit. Meth was also quite good at bringing out all sorts of other negative attributes. Emotional instability and an almost bipolar ability to go from happy to violently angry were regularly on the menu.
The Bill Hicks quote includes “I didn’t lose one fucking job.” I did, however, lose a couple of jobs while on meth. While they were my first ever “real” jobs and one could argue inexperience played a part in my terminations, I have no doubt my meth usage at the time was the primary factor. Especially the lying I engaged in whilst high/working. I was late constantly and lied about the reasons why. I lied about getting specific tasks completed. I lied about why things weren’t done.
I even stole from a couple of the first few jobs I had. I also did a bit of shoplifting around that time. Nothing major and never from friends or “regular people.” I had convinced myself at the time that stealing was okay because it was solely from corporations who not only didn’t care about their workers but could also afford to have a few trinkets relieved from their possession. The stealing stopped when the meth use stopped. The lying took a few years before it stopped. It dwindled over time from outright lies to exaggerations to implied untruths to what I’d like to believe is me currently at my most honest.
Being on drugs with little-to-no responsibilities was terrible and amazing at once. I rarely paid for drugs because I was the fun drug guy people wanted to hang out with and do drugs with. I hardly ever traded cash for any drug but there was a greater cost paid. I behaved with rampant selfishness that has cost me several friendships. I mistreated people emotionally while I was high and while I was coming down from being high. I used my friends, I lied, I cheated, and I took my comedowns out on them (and not just meth comedowns, ecstasy ones could be just as bad). While I’m sober now (save for the occasional drink of alcohol, puff of cannabis, or the once-or-twice-a-year ecstasy experience), the burnt bridges of my past cannot be rebuilt, no matter how sincere and deeply felt the contrition.
Despite losing a couple of shit jobs, stealing a couple of meaningless items, and losing a good number of decent friends, I’m still lucky overall. The amount and frequency in which I consumed drugs should have killed me. Many aren’t that lucky. I knew people that weren’t that lucky.
I had a friend, P. He was a decent, upbeat, good-looking, fit guy. Held down a well-paying job. Went to church and treated everyone he met exactly how he wanted to be treated. When I quit meth at the end of 2002, he allowed me to live with him rent-free for a while so that I could get away from all the meth-users I had surrounded myself with. Without asking for a single thing, he gave me a safe place to get the meth out of my system without a hint of judgment or impatience. He was truly a beautiful soul and he’s one of the foundations that helped me get my life properly sorted. While I liked to do drugs, P loved doing drugs. We’d done ecstasy and smoked pot a couple of time when I briefly lived with him.
When I moved out of his place, we’d hang out on occasion. And every time, he was asking about drugs [which I either usually had on me (mostly ecstasy/marijuana) or knew where to get]. He was indiscriminate in his drugs, he simply wanted to be high. But it was cocaine he craved more than anything else (and one of the few I had no interest in and didn’t know where to find). Over the years as I became soberer, each time I’d run into P his life seemed worse. Degrading slowly. He told me about getting arrested for DUI while on cocaine. He started looking unhealthy. There was a hunger in his eyes I didn’t fully understand until I found out in 2013 that he died of an overdose in 2011. I never learned what drug finished him off. It didn’t matter. I miss him tremendously and think about him often. I am a better person today for having known him and I know many others who knew him would say the same. P and I were on the same path for a short amount of time. I got off that path, but he kept walking until he could walk no further.
I knew a woman, M, who was your classic tweaker. She loved meth more than her own children (who’re the ones I was friends with, not her). When her high wore off, she was in physical pain. I never knew if her ills were real or imagined but one particular memory sticks out: she’d come down from the meth and had back pains so severe that she went to the emergency room. Being that I was friends with her kids, I went with one of them to visit her. This was 2002 and we wear all tweaking at the time. From her hospital bed, the first thing she asked us was if we had any meth with us so she could get high. She legitimately wanted to smoke meth from her hospital bed in the emergency room.
She too died from an overdose. M, despite smoking methamphetamine for decades, found out that even she could consume too much of the stuff. I was never that close to M but I too think about her often. She was the exact opposite of P in almost every way. Where he was generous and calm, she was selfish and bombastic. And yet they met similar fates because they didn’t know when to stop.
Unfortunately, I have more examples like P and M. Someone I grew up with and was one of my closest friends in and after high school also died of a cocaine overdose. Another friend of mine from heroin. Even worse are the people I know of who, to this day, are still chasing their dragons and drowning themselves in intoxicants. There was a lack inside each of them that needed filling and they believed that drugs were the solution. It’s an emptiness I intimately understood and still understand.
When I reflect on my drug days, even if I’m somehow referencing things in a positive light, I’m always thinking of all my friends and acquaintances. The friends I’ve wronged and who rightfully cut me out of their lives. The people I know who’ve died from overdoses. The people still using, still tearing down that path to bliss. I count myself lucky, but only by the slimmest of margins.