By Alys Mercury
1. ‘Partying with Tina’
When your meth friends use the term “party,” they do not mean the act of going out for a night on the town. I felt pretty lame when – after a couple months of exchanging ‘partying’ in conversation – I had it pointed out that this referred to the act of being on a speed bender, or simply using speed in general. ‘Tina’ might be your aunt’s name, but it’s also short for crystal meth (Christina. Isn’t someone so clever). Also, ‘PnP’ refers to ‘party n play,’ which typically involves getting together for some extended kinky hijinks in a motel room and sharing your drug stash along with the lube and bodily fluids. Now that’s a party.
2. Reptile skin
Using meth on a regular basis has this very unique, and entirely unpleasant, effect on your epidermis. I know the general association is with sores and skin picking, but the more common reality is this…paradox…in which your upper layer is simultaneously dry and vaguely slimey. Along with the sweating, you’re basically never going to feel clean. Your sweat (and even hair) develops this very distinct, unnatural scent. After a while you get used to it. But I’m sure your loved ones don’t.
3. The alcohol war
There’s quite a divergence in the tweaker population regarding booze. If you’re like me and some others, you find it easy to develop a dual-addiction such as the devil’s water or any other number of opiates or depressants in order to “balance out” (a myth) or “come down.” Now, the catch is that the other half of your tweaker brethren find this absolutely maddening. Many will have zero desire to drink while high, and consider mixing to be “wasting the high.” This logic makes perfect sense at the time. Because drugs.
4. Sex and more sex
This one is probably not unheard of to most. The cliche used to be gay guys getting down while high – often unprotected. The fact is, this shit doesn’t care about your gender or sexuality. I became insatiable, to the extent it was almost life-consuming. That level of desire can lead people to some weird, weird places.
5. The variant path to bottom
If, when, and how quickly you hit rock bottom can be affected by your method of ingestion. Downward spirals come in all shapes and sizes, but with this drug, they’re typically happening even if you’re not cognizant of it. The intensity of that usually depends, from most to least, on this order: intravenous (needles), smoking, insufflation (snorting), and oral (pills). It’s possible to continue doing it any which way for many years and keep your head above water, but typically the latter two are the more sustainable. The problem with that is the potential to never..quite..hit that bottom and surrender to the fact you have to get out. Dual-addiction will, however, speed (har har) that process up typically. So. That’s handy.
6. Keep your life, lose your mind
Despite what the extremists might tell you, meth alone will not kill you or cause you to overdose unless maybe you have some incredibly inconvenient preexisting heart condition. It will, however, slowly but surely eat away at your sanity. This might just look like mild paranoia or unstable mood in some, or – especially combined with the sleep defects – legitimate psychosis to the point of resembling schizophrenia. Most of the time I was quite focused and lucid (albeit jittery and fast-talking). There’s obviously a reason they gave this stuff to fighter pilots in World War II. But there were other times when my ability to reason, make logical decisions, and even understand what I thought or felt were simply not cooperative. At the worst times, it felt like a morbid circus running amok in my mind that I just couldn’t seem to find the exit to.
7. The detox paradox
Amphetamine detox basically consists of lots and lots of sleep, but the cravings are a special hell. I never truly wanted to keep doing it. There was never a day I woke up and thought, “y’know, I think this daily meth thing sounds like a swell plan.” Trying to quit and going cold turkey was a common occurrence. One issue is that if you only have a day or two off work per week, it’s a catch-22 situation of beginning the detox process and then facing the reality of not being able to get to work and function without starting it back up again. When the options are to get high so you can physically get to a 12-step meeting or miss it and stay in bed, you’re basically fucked. But if you do manage to make it past the dreaded three-day mark to about four or five, the mental cravings hit like a steamroller. If all you’re capable of doing is laying in bed with your eyes drooping, then it’s enormously difficult not to obsess to the point of insanity over what it is you want right then. And what you want right then is only a phone call away.
8. Loved ones sense that something is “off”
Unlike the recognizability of a booze problem, most people who have not done meth or come into close contact with anyone addicted to it will probably notice your odd behavior and appearance but have difficulty putting their finger on the cause. My coworkers frequently asked if I was “ok,” not if I was high. I got dismissed from one of my jobs not for sneaking bumps behind the espresso machine, but rather because my boss sympathetically said I needed to “go take care of [myself]” and that he hoped I’d “feel better soon.” Some folks whom are not privy to anything about drugs just wondered if I was an insomniac on the verge of some manic emotional breakdown. But yes, people will notice that at least some sort of worrisome distress is at hand.
9. Too much or too strong = chest-thumping pain
With crystal there is no way of safely gauging the difference from one batch you receive to the next. You’ll know how much you usually do, but not what the stuff is going to be like. So sometimes it’s a crapshoot. It’s not exactly, y’know – regulated. At its worst, overdoing it meant that a few minutes after ingestion, the feeling of a chest-thumping near-heart-attack would ensue and not subside for hours. This usually resulted in attempts to ride it out by a) freaking the fuck out because you’re still new to this and proceed to annoy whomever has to calm your ass down, or b) doing EVERYTHING YOU’VE BEEN WANTING TO DO ALL AT ONCE. I seriously fainted once from doing cleaning tasks too damn fast. Lots of things get done frantically; few of those things being of much value, besides maybe finally getting some dishes cleaned before tinkering with some random project attracts more interest.
So basically, if that bullshit “super pure” blue meth from Breaking Bad actually existed, less dishes would probably get washed and more would be, like, used as projectile weapons.
10. Sometimes in order to recover, you have to change everything.
When the life you’re used to diverges farther and farther from a healthy reality, the concept of shaking that etch-a-sketch picture fully to dust seems unimaginable. Saying goodbye to a relationship, a living situation, a group of friends, perhaps a job, and most tragically a lifestyle and world you’ve come to know as being what’s familiar and “real” is terrifying.
So is that reptile skin thing