Why can some people try drugs and then walk away, yet others do it once and are completely hooked? How is it that some people can use for year, then get clean, while others continue to struggle?
Part of it probably depends on the type of drug. Some drugs have a much more immediate and dramatic impact. We’re also learning more about addictive personalities, and genetic predispositions.
I have a good friend who simply can’t take even a sip of one drink. If he does, he wakes up later, after consuming three fifths of vodka. He lost his wife, his job, his career, and his self-dignity. It’s been a battle for him ever since.
In a couple of weeks we’re going to hear from some professionals that have helped people get off both drugs and alcohol. But this week, I want to tell two people’s stories.
Both were addicted to meth, and both have gone through hell because of it. But one was able to put it down 17 years ago, while the other hasn’t been able to make it past 10 months clean. These are Amy’s and Jason’s stories.
TD: Tell me about yourself and how you started using.
Amy: Mom was sick all the time with kidney problems. Dad left me when I was 8. I was raped at 14 and Mom died when I was 16. It was just messed up. My grandparents took me in. I was just lost that first year. The next year I got angry.
TD: What happened then?
Amy: I started drinking and smoked dope a little. I ran with an older crowd at 17. Then I got pregnant and the drinking stopped. I thought I was back on track. We got married and had another child. Things started spiraling down. I turned 21 and we were both hitting the bars.
TD: You started drinking more?
Amy: Yeah, lots.
TD: Were you still smoking much?
Amy: No, that phase was pretty much over.
TD: How did you get into meth?
Amy: We went to a party. We were asked if we wanted to try some meth. I was hesitant. But they said, “Oh, one line isn’t going to hurt us. Come on. You’ll lose weight. You’ll feel great; you’ll have energy.”
TD: Was weight a problem for you?
Amy: Yeah, I was frustrated because I couldn’t lose the weight.
TD: So what happened then?
Amy: We left and went in town to an ATM and got the money, and went back and got it. We were so stupid. We didn’t even know how to use it. I said, “What are you supposed to do with this?” They told me, “You can snort it or eat it. Try eating it first.” So we did. Within 5 minutes, wow. I felt powerful. Invincible. It was insane.
TD: So you did it again.
Amy: We did it occasionally, a couple weekends a month; maybe even once a month when we first started. He quit, but I kept using when he wasn’t around.
TD: You were addicted right away weren’t you?
Amy: Yes. I didn’t have the sadness anymore. I didn’t have to feel anything.
TD: Were you working? How did you pay for it?
Amy: No. I never paid for it. I guarantee you, girls don’t have to pay for it.
TD: What do you mean?
Amy: I think you know what I mean. Guys sell it. They use it to get whatever they want. They use you; they manipulate you.
TD: Ok. So what happened after that?
Amy: I got so messed up. I was about six months into it. My husband just moved out one day. My grandpa came to me and said, “What are you doing?” They were talking about taking my kids. It made me mad. I tried to kill myself a couple of times; I just didn’t care.
TD: But you kept using?
Amy: Yeah. And then things got really bad.
TD: What finally changed?
Amy: I did 17 lines, crashed and went into convulsions.
TD: 17 lines? In a day?
Amy: Over a couple hours.
TD: What happened?
Amy: Everyone took off, then one guy came back because he was worried.
TD: But you never left? No one called an ambulance?
Amy: No. I was out of it for maybe 48 hours. Then a guy I was seeing came over. He said, “You look like you’ve been to hell and back.” I admitted I had a drug problem and was using meth.
TD: What happened?
Amy: He moved in and kept people away. When they came over to try and see me, or hook me up, he told them to “get out of here!”
TD: So it worked?
Amy: Yeah. He saved me.
TD: You really detoxed yourself.
TD: And it’s been how long?
Amy: I got off on September 5, 1998. 17 years.
TD: How have you been able to stay clean so long?
Amy: My kids. It’s all about my kids
TD: Is it hard?
Amy: Yeah, sometimes. When things hit me hard, it’s hard not to want to go find it. I know you can, easy, but it’s not worth it. It not only affects you, it affects everyone around you. Every day is a choice; life gets hard. That’s where you need good friends and a support system.
TD: Do people think you still use?
Amy: Yeah, they call me “that drug whore” and say “she’s so skinny, she’s still using.”
TD: But you’re not?
Amy: No. I have a weight problem where I can’t keep the weight on, but I’m not using. I haven’t for 17 years.
TD: Why were you willing to tell me all this?
Amy: I couldn’t stay silent anymore. I want to help someone.
I also interviewed another person named Jason, who also had a meth problem.
TD: Tell me how you got started with drugs and alcohol.
Jason: At 15-16, I was drinking. At 17-18, I started pot and cocaine.
TD: Why do you think you did that?
Jason: To fit in with the other kids. I never really had parents growing up. They were drug addicts. My grandparents mostly raised me. Grandma about lost everything trying to help me get out of trouble. I had battery charges, DUIs, reckless driving.
TD: How did you get started on meth?
Jason: I was 20-21, running with an older crowd with the cocaine; they turned me on to meth. It was the best feeling I’d ever had in my life. Euphoria. With coke, you could only get so high with it. From that time on, it was nothing but meth.
TD: What happened then?
Jason: I got a 4-year sentence for manufacturing in an impact incarceration program. Years of intensive probation.
TD: Did you stay clean?
Jason: For about six months. Then I started running around with the same people and started making it again.
TD: How did you do it?
Jason: My work ethic has always been strong. I’ve always had people trying to help me. I flew under the radar for several years.
TD: What happened then?
Jason: My girlfriend finally left me and took my two kids. That day, I straightened up and stayed sober for 10 months. I thought she was coming back, but realized she wasn’t.
TD: Then what?
Jason: I’d met my ex-wife. She got pregnant. I’d started drinking and using cocaine. The drinking led right to coke. I started seeing the same old people again and got back on the meth.
TD: But you got married and had a child.
Jason: Once I get high, it’s on. There’s no turning back. It doesn’t matter who’s in front of you; what they say. I’d buy a big old bag for $1,000. Just smoking, snorting. You just run the streets, dusk till dawn and just waste life. Whatever you had to do to manipulate someone to get more dope.
TD: That’s what you did.
Jason. Yeah. She probably saw me relapse 20 times. She finally had enough.
TD: What happened then?
Jason: I was picked up for possession. Then I got a DUI. I went to rehab in Springfield. I dealt with a lot of things for the first time.
TD: You came home.
Jason: I was doing good, going to one of my meetings at Lakeridge. I ran into one of my old crowd at the convenience store and he offered to hook me up. I said no, but he told me where he would be at, and that’s where I ended up. So from December to June, I was strictly doing meth. Lost my job, lost my family. Nothing matters when you’re in that.
TD: Then you got out?
Jason: For awhile. Then I went to the (county) fair last year and started drinking, and it led to drugs.
TD: What happened this time?
Jason: One day, I just made a choice to stop.
Jason: I just hated myself. I hated what I was doing. I hated being manipulated. One day, my intensive probation officer came to me and said, “Jason, there are a lot of people in this town that care about you, but you’re getting to the age where they’re going to start writing you off. You’d better search your soul to find out what you want to be in life.” That really hit me. It took me “f’n up” everyone’s life around me and getting into the bottomless pit, to finally quit one day. Everything I’ve lost was due to my drug addiction.
TD: So how’s it going?
Jason: I’m 9 months clean. It’s in my heart, and I’m doing it for myself this time. I’m getting high off of lifting weights. I keep my son around me as much as I can. He told me if I mess up again, he’ll never see me again. It really tore him up. It’s pretty bad when a 7 year old knows everything about drugs.
TD: Are you worried?
Jason: Sometimes. I’ve never made it past 10 months before. Your body just starts feeling it.
TD: But you’re O.K.?
Jason: Yeah, I’m finally content with my life. I’m alright with things. I’ve never been where I’m at.
After talking with them both, there were several things that occurred to me: Both were hooked from the first use; when they were using, nothing else mattered; and finally, they had to reach a point in themselves before they could walk away.
The difference of course, is that she’s been able to stay off, by putting her kids first, and staying clear of the people. He’s tried to stay off, and loves his kids, but he’s not been able to stay clear of past associates. He also said that drinking has led him back to old friends, and old habits.
If you are a praying person, I’d ask you to remember both of them and their families in your prayers. They’re part of our community, and this is an ongoing battle for them, and for us.
Next week, I’ll tell you about my conversations with some families of people who didn’t make it.