I didn’t think I could go much lower than shitting my pants in public, but…
Six days ago I scraped the last of my cocaine onto a spoon, cooked it up with some water and loaded it into a slightly used syringe. I tied off my arm with an old sock and, finding a usable vein, stuck the needle in, pushed down the plunger and felt the rush hit my head immediately.
Within 10 minutes the high started to fade. I’d been up for 32 hours and just used the last of my drugs. Now I could feel the panic set in. Part of me was screaming for more. Part of me felt sick with remorse as I was going to have to call my wife and tell her that after 9 days clean I had used the little bit of money she gave me for gas and food to buy drugs.
One year earlier I was an executive making a 6 figure salary.
18 months ago I was 14 years clean and sober.
17 months ago I was prescribed Percocet after a painful surgery.
Now I have no money, burned through my family’s savings and owe $100,000 to the bank, 2 credit card companies and the CRA for unpaid taxes.
How did I get here? There are a lot of answers that I have that involve childhood trauma, self-esteem issues, generational addiction and more. But the short answer is this: after a very long time clean and sober I took the aforementioned percocet for pain management after a surgery and, despite a long time clean, it awoke a beast that had never fully gone away. Within 6 weeks of taking my first pill I was crushing up Hydromorph and injecting it. I may look fine on the outside but I’m a fucking junkie. I was in meetings with executives but high as a kite and struggling not to nod off.
When most people think of a junkie you think of Vancouver’s East Hastings neighbourhood. Homeless. Sharing dirty needles. Turning tricks for dope. But that’s just geography. I’m no different than those people. I just had more money and a good job to lose first.
I didn’t start out this way. In fact as a kid I said I’d never do drugs. Then I smoked pot at 18. But that was it. I’d never do anything else. Ok, maybe some mushrooms. But that’s it! Then a few years later (in the early 90’s) it was acid and ecstasy and going to raves. But nothing stronger than that! At 23 a friend was doing cocaine and offered me some. I actually said no because “I have an addictive personality”. That didn’t last long. A couple years later another friend was trying heroin and I wanted to try it. Just smoke it. Then snort it. Then shoot it.
I have crossed every line I said I wouldn’t ever cross. When I got clean at 29 years of age I was a full blown junkie. Except instead of heroin I was shooting cocaine. But after burning my life to the ground I bottomed out. I went to 12 step mtgs, therapy and started to change. I was able to stay clean. Even happy sometimes. But I didn’t go far enough. At some point I started coasting. Little things started to change. I began lying. Manipulating, shopping compulsively. Using food or sex to make myself feel better.
7 years ago I met my wife. We built a life together. A family. I have a stepson I adore. But slowly over the last few years I drifted from my recovery program. I became more focussed on my career and the larger and larger amounts of money I was making. And while the trips, toys and nicer things started coming more frequently I was slowly becoming more and more unhappy. Mostly with myself. I would become short tempered. And when I got the post-surgery percocet a year-and-a-half ago it made me feel better. To numb the pain. Not just the pain from my surgery. But a deep internal and emotional void I couldn’t seem to fill. Drugs did that. They numbed the pain. But the lies built up. So did the costs. And over 8 months I drained our family’s savings account, all the while lying about where I was, why I looked so tired, and how much money we had in our account.
It all came to a head 11 months ago when I had to tell my wife why I had made up an elaborate lie about why I wasn’t home. When I told my wife she lost it. I had been lying for months. I had used all our money. She thought I was having health issues. In a short conversation her whole world was shattered. I had to leave the house. I ran to my parents and lived with them while I “tried” to get into rehab. The truth was I wasn’t finished. I wanted to be. Or, more honestly I wanted to want to get clean. But the reality was I couldn’t stop. And now that everyone knew I didn’t have to hide it anymore. I went and stayed with a friend who was also using and burned what little was left of my life to the ground in a few short weeks using all day and night. I went to visit my wife and son and was in so much pain seeing them. I sobbed when I saw my son after being away for 2 weeks. So you’d think I’d stop right? Nope. I got high 10 minutes after I left their house.
There’s a lot more to the last year but it’s basically a year of starts and stops. Getting clean and then scoring drugs and getting high again. Of my family letting me back into their house and daring to hope that this might be the time I “get it” and then being heartbroken again.
But 6 days ago something changed. I was sobbing on a phone call with my wife. I could hear she was done. She knew there was nothing she could do to make me stop. It was up to me to want to get help. I’m not sure exactly what it was. That the drugs weren’t working the same? That my body was hurting from the abuse I was putting it through? That my mind was not what it once was because cocaine actually destroys brain cells and causes “coke holes” in your brain? That I was tired of hurting everyone around me? Probably all of the above. But that day I went to an addiction therapist I had fired 5 months previously and told him the truth. That, despite telling everyone I had no means of getting drugs, I still had a dealer’s phone number (and let him erase it). That I didn’t want to keep doing this and would do whatever he suggested. That I didn’t want my son to grow up and be like me.
Addiction sucks balls (See? Coke holes. If not for them that sentence would have been far more articulate). It’s a scorched earth policy in action. Everyone around me gets hurt. And seemingly intentionally. The fact that I still have a wife – albeit pretty pissed off at times – and a son is a miracle. And one I will have to work at every day to rebuild my relationship with. They have been put through the ringer and are still here, still trying to help and support me. So I need to do this for them as much as myself. And I need to try to stay clean for another week.
Next week I’ll tell you about how doing so much dope you end up shitting your pants is NOT as cool as it sounds.