Day 102 – Finding my "first high" again…

The night I arrived at my sister’s for this recent trip, she had two tickets to see STOMP for me and my 14 year nephew.  At one point, I didn’t think I’d make the performance.  I was going to delay my trip by a day to finish some things up at home. But when I heard how excited my nephew was…how he kept asking “Mom, is Uncle CT gonna make it for STOMP!” I knew there wasn’t any last minute details at home what could warrant a delay and missing this!

I got into the auditorium and we had great seats – I was dead center in row D and he was a couple rows back in F. To paint the picture – the hall is packed, the show starts…and it’s 110 minutes of non-stop percussion, rhythm, music, lights, sounds, energy.  It’s electrifying!  As I told my nephew afterwards “Did you realize that not once the entire evening did anyone on stage utter a single word? And yet, through their gestures, their looks, their motions, their sounds, their energy – you knew exactly what story they were telling. You knew the context of what was going on and the message to take away from each of their vignettes.”  It was so POWERFUL!

I was sitting in the hall absorbing all of this.  My body was on fire!  My senses were on overload!  I kid you not – I was laughing so hard, genuinely laughing, at the stories, the humor, the innuendoes.  I caught myself every once in awhile because at points, I’m the only one laughing – or I’m laughing the longest.  And I’m not even self-conscious about it wondering what people might think – my ego is completely out of the way.  I was just enjoying my a*$ off!  I am enjoying the show, enjoying life, enjoying all of the senses.  And all of a sudden, it just overwhelms me.  I was taking it all in, and it was like I stepped away from my body and was watching this.  I could just see myself enjoying without limitations.  And I wasn’t high. This wasn’t fabricated.  It wasn’t a mask.  It was deep and genuine.

I remember when I first started using – it was with ecstasy (X).  X would heighten all of your sensations. The reason I loved X was I was finally able to FEEL – to really (what I thought was real!) FEEL!  All the lights were brighter, the music was richer, the touching was more sensual.  It was overpowering.

As I watched and felt STOMP, I realized — THAT was the “first high” I was always chasing.

Since I’ve been in recovery, addicts say we are always chasing that first high.  And I kept relating that to my days of using cocaine or meth — and the concept of “chasing that first high” never made sense to me.    While coke and meth were good, I wasn’t “chasing them…”

Now I understand – they weren’t my first high!

My first high was X – that sensation, those experiences, those feelings!  

I realized that night watching STOMP – SHIT!

I found that first high!

And I found it drug-free!  And I found it in my own senses!  I don’t have to be fucked up to enjoy life…to feel.  And right there in the hall, I started crying…tears streaming down my face.  It’s not sadness, not loss, not grief.  It is joy, it is peace…and it’s gratitude.

I can also remember with meth that you hit this wall ’round about 45-60 days…or 4-6 months, I’ll have to go check ;).  But because meth fucks around with your senses and dopamine receptors so much, you fry them all…and without them, your highs aren’t as high and your lows aren’t as low…you kinda don’t feel.  Life is bland.  You “can’t enjoy life.”  And used to “feeling good” on meth, that can suck…can get depressing…hence, the wall.  I kept dreading when or if I would hit the wall.

That was my other excitement from the night!  I don’t know if there are higher joys to come but WOW –  I was on fire!  I was bursting out of my skin!  It was amazing.  I cried for joy for about 10-15 minutes…watching the show…through teary-eyed lenses 😉  And life was good.  I started laughing…I didn’t care who thought what.  I was at peace.  And it was like the entire stage, the whole performance, every individual in that troupe was performing for me…was giving me a gift…a gift I would probably never experience again.  Like chasing that first high…I had reconnected.  I had found my feelings.  I had found the ability to experience life.

And the beauty of this high — I probably will experience things like it again.  It’s real – it’s not artificial.  I can experience both the little things in life — the butterflies, the birds chirping, the warm Spring air — as well as the overdramatic experiences and performances like STOMP!

And, then to think that I was here with my nephew.  These were the kids I took myself away from.  You know…talk about egocentric, self-centered.  I took away their Uncle CT…but here I was back, enjoying them…being with them.

For all of this, I am truly grateful.

All that for $52 and a service fee of $12.

Priceless 😉

Day 91 – Goodbye Letter to Crystal Meth

I was going through my notebook from treatment and came across a good-bye letter I wrote to my drug of choice, crystal meth. It was an exercise during inpatient they had us do as we left inpatient to whatever next phase of treatment we were heading. It was a way to bring closure to the ending relationship with our “best friend.” We read these out loud to our group.  Since I came across it, I thought I’d share it here.

Dear Crystal

I never felt like I fit in – I was always sitting on the outside of life looking in.  I’ve moved every 3 years for the past 18 years and until recently (2009) I’ve never lived anywhere longer than 4 years since I was 10 years old. So, I hardly had close friends, let alone a best friend.

Then, I was introduced to you nine years ago.  You’ve taken many shapes and sizes through the years depending on what was available — ecstasy, GHB, pot, “special K,” cocaine and finally crystal meth. Through all the moves, ups and downs and relationships, you stuck with me. Of all my friends, you’re the one who always reached out to me – called me – called me back – never let me go too long before you checked in on me. I needed and craved the attention.  Thank you.

You helped me to fit in. I got to hang with fun people and dance and party to make up for my lost days at college. I had sex with guys would have never given me the time of day were it not for the crystal or coke I brought to the table. You even helped me stay in a loving relationship for seven years. In the end, faced with a choice between my best friend of nine years and the man who shared my life for seven years through all sorts of crap, I chose my DOC – crystal meth. Although it ultimately was the best choice for us both, it’s been a painful loss. But as painful as our breakup was, I saw it as an opportunity to get more deeply involved with you, crystal meth. A couple times a week turned into several times a day. I turned down family vacations to be with you. I have yet to meet my new niece born in July 2009 because I didn’t want to leave you. I missed my grandmother’s 96th and 97th birthdays because I wasn’t sure I could find you out East. With all of the phone calls I didn’t take or voicemails I erased without listening, I could have lost my grandmother…and missed her funeral…because of you. In my final moments of despair, I would have even taken the life of my dogs as well as my own because of you.

That is my friend.
That is my best friend.

That’s bullshit.

What do they say — with friends like you, who needs enemies.

Crystal Meth, I’m ending this friendship.  Instead, I choose my two nieces and two nephews.

Crystal Meth, to you I say good-bye and reacquaint myself with my family, including my 97 year old grandmother who is still alive and well.

Crystal Meth, I’m tired of wasting time with you, and instead will return to my hobbies of model trains, gardening, cooking and photography.

Crystal Meth, I’m no longer confining myself to Greenfield, isolated and alone with you, a butane torch and a pipe. Instead I’m going to once again pursue my love of travel and visit other parts of the US and the world.

Crystal Meth, I’m replacing you with my new thirteen best friends…the twelve steps of my program and my Higher Power. I’m reconnecting with my other friends who have stood by me and always been there even when I abandoned them.

Goodbye crystal meth.
Goodbye addiction.
Hello Recovery.


January 4, 2010

As an engineer, along with my letter, I came up with my personal formula for Recovery (of course).  I shared it with the group that last day of inpatient:

CT / [f(a) -1] x fb + [t + 15] x r = CT’     where a={c,cm,x,k,420,g}

CT (me) was divided by the function of addiction f(a)^ less One, his Higher Powermultiply that by Fairbanks and add/allow for [time to heal + 15 friends*] multiplied by Recovery and the outcome is equal to a renewed CT in his prime

^where a is a function {cocaine, crystal meth, ecstasy, special K, pot and GHB}

*15 new friends as my Higher Power is the Christian Trinity –> Father, Son and Holy Spirit…so the twelve steps of my program plus 3 😉

Day 90 – Pregnant, PAWS or life?

These last days have felt like being on an emotional roller coaster. One minute I’m joyous and full of life, the next I’m anxious and paralyzed; I get easily irritated around other people and feel lonely when I’m by myself; I’m optimistic and glad for the changes in my life, then I get angry, sad and scared. I’ve become obsessed with certain matters needing resolution, and have blissfully ignored others…arguably more urgent and of higher priority.  What’s going ON!?!  I feel like I’m either pregnant, experiencing PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome), or life.  Since medically speaking I’m unable to get pregnant – being a man 😉 – my guess is a combination of PAWS and life.

I’ve been told there’s a reason they give 30, 60, 90 day and 6 month, year and 18 month tokens. One often suffers from physical & mental affects of PAWS ( around those intervals. So, in addition to just giving stepping stones of success along the way, they are designed to give an extra “boost” to the recovering alcoholic or addict who is likely +/- a week hitting some of the symptoms of PAWS and beginning to wonder.  I hit it at 50 days…and around 85 days 🙂  These past days, it feels like I’ve been using again!  Friday night, I was basically up all night.  I was wired – partially anxious about my legal situation – but mainly wired.  I got about 2 hours of sleep…literally.  Finally, at 3:30am, I got up and did work around the house! I’ve been a bit edgy, distracted as if with ADD while also laser-like in single-tasking, and emotionally charged. Hmm…let’s look up side-effects of crystal meth…sounds like much the last 18 months of my life on meth!

I also think I’m experiencing some of the frustration of the “meth wall.”  

Meth addicts get over the acute effects of withdrawal fairly quickly. However, the “wall” period lasts 6-8 months for casual users and 2-3 years for regular users. (Some people never recover and remain unsatisfied with life due to permanent brain damage.) This is a period of prolonged abstinence during which the brain recovers from the changes resulting from meth use. During this period, recovering addicts feel depressed, fuzzyheaded, and think life isn’t as pleasurable without the drug. 

Although life is pleasurable and I’m feeling things once again, the depression and fuzzyheaded-ness is playing tricks with my mind.

Of course, then there’s life.  I have said I want to experience life on life’s terms…not on the terms of a meth addict! And I do mean that!  But with that comes – ups and downs; people, places and things that frustrate me; feelings and emotions. All that sh*& I escaped from…the loss, the grieving, the frustration, the emptiness.  It’s all here – in living colour – in hi-definition – in surround sound!  And sometimes, it gets to be overwhelming!  But, I know it’s better than the alternative…so I pray for serenity — look for the good — and turn things over to my Higher Power.  It’s sometimes harder said than done because it’s a new habit…I forget…I get caught up in old ways of thinking. But, when I do remember…or get reminded by those around me in recovery…it gets better.

The other thing I’m realizing is that for the past 90 days (!), I’ve largely lived in an either a sheltered world of recovery (in- and out-patient; twelve step meetings) or an isolated world at home, away from people and “life.”  Since I’ve lost my job, the extremes have compounded.  For the most part, I’m either in recovery meetings or at home…with some volunteering at church.  When I have been social, it’s been 1:1 with people I love, who care for me and who listen & share. Frankly, it’s been somewhat self-centered; to a certain extent, it has probably needed to be that way.  I’m learning to live & think differently – to wear a new pair of glasses, as the book goes.  So, to a certain extent, it’s been 90 days “about me.”  And that’s ok.  But now, I’m trying to expand that circle & return to reality — to go out with folks before/after meetings; to forge new friendships & get to know people; to face some pretty tough legal and employment challenges. And, that puts me “back in real life” — where it’s not all about me, where there are people who are bitter & angry as well as peaceful & joy-filled.  And simply put – I’m not used to that!  For the past 90 days of recovery – and the prior 2+ years of heaving using…it’s either been about me, or I’ve numbed myself from reality! 

So, I just put that out there for me to remember looking back.  I’m where I need to be… It’s ok to be human and make mistakes… I don’t have to get along with everyone… and life does have challenges which I can face with the grace & strength of my HP, through which I will grow stronger and survive — and be far better off on the other side. 

For that, I’m grateful.  

For now, I must slow down, breathe and give myself a break…

Good night.  Oh, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY to me!  By the grace of god…