Nine short-long years ago (Monday, March 27, 2005), I found myself sitting on the steps in front of my apartment complex feeling nothing. I had been on a final walk after being awake for nearly six days and I knew the marathon had come to an end. My body and soul were beaten into a comfortably numb state of shock. I didn’t want to go to sleep, knowing that my body would need a few days of a xanax-induced coma just to begin recovering from the damage I had done to it.
Earlier, the first stop on this shameless walk had led me to the apartment of some guy I had met in an AOL chat room. He greeted me with a bright smile (give or take a tooth). I didn’t want him sexually, I just knew that he was partying (ie, high on speed) and that I could have some brief companionship with another human who was also high. I snorted some of his meth, watched some of his porn, tinkered with his projects, and – insultingly – departed when he wanted to breathe a cloud of meth smoke onto my penis. I didn’t enjoy smoking meth because it always gave me pneumonia, so I certainly didn’t want to know what that stuff would do to my penis.
I left his apartment and vigorously yet aimlessly walked down Santa Monica Blvd. at about 8am. Knowing that I only had about one line left in my final stash, my mind was mapping out my journey home (about a five-minute-walk). I held my flip-phone up to my ear and pretended I was having an intense conversation so passers by wouldn’t strike up a conversation with me. I knew a lot of people in my hood and feared someone might notice me on the walk. Looking back, I realize I was just like the crazy man I used to mock, the one I’d frequently see talking to himself on a payphone. My next stops were Los Tacos – a 24-hour Mexican restaurant so I could provide myself with some of the nutrients I’d deprived myself of for nearly a week (a tamale and enchilada combo with rice and beans), and then one last stop at 7-Eleven where I picked up some Gatorade and a bag of Nantucket chewy chocolate chip cookies. I then floated home and found myself seated on the walkway steps that led to my apartment complex.
I sat peacefully, plastic bags of food at my side, as the bright morning grew even brighter. Finally, I made my way to the dust-filled apartment that I called my home. My cat cried out for food as I entered. I immediately tended to Kiki and pried open a can of Fancy Feast for my neglected baby even though my hunger pains screamed louder than his deep meows. Fortunately, I was an addict who treated my pet better than I treated myself so he remained pleasantly plump. Physically, my body was speckled with infections. I had small, itchy bumps on my arms, legs, and ass- jestingly I would call them my speed bumps. Once again, one of my eyes was infected with mild conjunctivitis. The edges of my nostrils and the corners of my lips were cracked from days of dehydration and poisoning myself with meth. My asthmatic lungs were slightly filled with fluid making it hard for me to catch a full breath without yawning.
My friend Greg was in my living room, where I had left him before I had set out on my final journey. He fearfully watched as I gorged on the food I had purchased. I could tell by the look on his face that my eating manners reflected an animal that was consuming its first meal after a long period of starvation. I pushed the bag containing empty containers of food aside and told Greg I was done. He had witnessed my week-long party and it was clear he doubted that this was my finale. I looked him in the eyes and said:
“Seriously, this time It’s over.”
I reached into the pocket of my jeans and pulled out the Bic pen-cap that contained a rolled-up miniature zip-lock bag of crystal. Then I opened the bag and poured the remaining contents of my crystallized speed on the table where I proceeded to smash the meth into powder form. I used my California Driver’s License to line up the substance, rolled up a somewhat crisp dollar bill, and snorted my last line of meth. I looked up at Greg and said:
“That was it, that was my last line.”
I threw away the bag of food along with the empty bag of meth and proceeded to shower off my filthy body. I cleaned up well enough to be seen in public and put on my signature going-out outfit (jeans and a white t-shirt.) I cleaned my apartment to the best of my ability and spent the rest of the day organizing things. The evening approached and I told Greg “It’s time for me to go to the meeting”. Greg insisted that it would be rude for me to show up at a recovery meeting for crystal meth addicts while I was still high. I replied that it was my only option and that I had to go.
I was greeted at the meeting by bright smiles, hugs, and “welcomes.” The speed had worn off so I was struggling to return the smiles. It didn’t matter, though: these people understood me. The meeting started and the leader introduced the “chip guy” – someone who presented little key chains to reward members who were celebrating sobriety milestones. When he called upon those who had less than 29 days of sobriety, I stood up, dragged myself to the line of newcomers, and hugged the chip guy (who whispered in my ear “Welcome, keep coming back.” I faced the crowd of about 70 men and women and said:
“I am Jonathan. And I am a crystal meth addict.”
The crowd replied, “Hi Jonathan, welcome”. The lights dimmed which meant it was time for the main speaker. I can barely remember what he said. My mind was so spun and kept tuning in and out – I just wanted it to be over. Then, something he said caught my attention: “If you are new here and used meth today, I thank you for being here. Without your presence, I would not remember how bad things are on the other side.” After his share, I thanked the speaker – his name was Donato – for addressing me personally without even realizing he had done so. He invited me to come to his home the following night where he hosts a recovery meeting for alcoholics every Tuesday in his backyard in Hollywood. Although I didn’t realize at the time that I was also an alcoholic, I said yes.
Tuesday night at Donato’s has since become my recovery home group (ie, a meeting that I attend regularly.) My first day of total sobriety was March 28th, 2005. Since then, I have had to change just about everything about myself and my life. Some times have been extremely rough, while other times have been so full of joy that I am overwhelmed with happiness. The main difference now is that I am living rather than surviving.
Each day is a gift and I thank God regularly to be blessed with the next dawn.