Smoking bowls and hiding empties: living with addiction

Hiding the empties in a grocery cart down the street

I was “clean” for almost two-and-a-half years after spending 40 days in the hospital recovering from a subdural hematoma. I crashed my car, was life-flighted to safety, and suffered another hematoma while in the hospital. The doctors never put their finger on the cause of my medical malady, but I was convinced it came from living too hard for too long: weed, pills (adderall and various opiates), alcohol, heroin, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, bath salts, inhalants…yeah.

My parents rented a hospital bed for me when I finally left the hospital and I lived and slept in their living room for a couple months (I call it the museum room because everything in it is just…so). No drugs, no alcohol, no cigarettes. I was severely depressed and suicidal for the duration, just waiting and hoping for the final blow to come and put me six feet under.

But it never came. I started feeling somewhat better and moved back to my basement bedroom. I still spent at least half the day in bed, usually more. I couldn’t read (the words seemed to dance on the page), video games were not appealing, I rarely answered my phone and I barely turned on the TV.

To buoy my recovery, my parents played board games with me like Scrabble and Boggle. I would win occasionally but I’m pretty sure they let me win. I was a shell of myself and not fit for anyone’s company.

A year went by and I leased a new car with the insurance money I received from the one had totaled. And I started drinking, a few beers or a couple glasses of wine now and then. Soon it was half-a-case of beer a day and a bottle or two of wine. Then a first date handed me a joint. I liked it. I had forgotten how much I liked smoking weed. Soon I was buying quarter ounces of marijuana every week along with drinking heavily every day. I really didn’t see this as a problem compared to all the drugs I had been addicted to and using daily.

“The whiskey bottle I hide in the small space behind the TV so Sue Ellen can’t find it. Doing this kind of shit, it’s hard not to think back on all those twelve-step meetings I used to go to. I remember hearing people talk about how they would do shit like hide bottles around the house or sneak their empties into the neighbors’ trash cans so the garbage people wouldn’t know how much they were drinking. Actually, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I remember them talking about how they had to keep changing liquor stores ’cause they were too ashamed to face the same employees every day—or multiple times a day.

But the difference between me and all those people at the meetings is that I’m aware of the signs, right? And I know how to catch myself before falling down too far. They talk about how their lives had become unmanageable, the way my life did when I was using hard drugs. But for now, drinking and smoking pot, I haven’t had any negative consequences at all. So how could this be a problem? I mean, I keep telling myself it isn’t.”

“She asks if I wanna go “smoke a bowl.” The way she says it sounds so casual and harmless. A fucking bowl. How dangerous could it possibly be? My brain processes the long string of thoughts in a virtual nanosecond. I mean, I think about Safe Passage Center and all the other goddamn rehabs I’ve ever been to. They were all a joke—a waste of time. They were wrong about everything.

So when they said I shouldn’t smoke pot, even though my problem had always been with hard drugs, they must’ve been wrong about that, too. I’m not addicted to pot. I’m not even addicted to alcohol. Just ’cause I was addicted to meth and heroin, why the hell would that mean I’m also addicted to pot? It makes no sense. Of course I should be able to smoke pot. Christ, if I’d listened to them, I’d still be at that boot camp place in New Mexico. They obviously have no idea what’s best for me.”

We All Fall Down: Living With Addiction, Nic Sheff

“Love or something like it” (a broken record)


Managing bipolar mood swings when you are drinking and using daily is truly a lost cause.

I was lost as lost can be

Being praised for being found

All that praise got lost on my

As the mood swings headed down

Part From Me, The Avett Brothers

Not long after meeting a girl who would make such a positive difference in my life, I fell back into my old ways and started shacking up with an ex who had access to the pills I had a love affair with. The affair with the ex was definitely not love but one of convenience.

Soon, another ex came into the picture whose current boyfriend was a big-time crystal meth dealer in Pennsylvania. One line of the drug at their house one day had me off to a race I could never win.

When I ran out of meth and decided to try and “get clean,” I started huffing from the moment I got out of bed until I turned out my light at night. “Buy 3 get one for free!” Can’t beat that, right?

Inhalants became my drug of choice. I actually stopped smoking weed and drinking because I was so into that “rarified air.” The cannisters became a constant companion, until I was huffing while driving one day and crashed another car. You would think I would have learned by now, but I hadn’t learned anything. Yet.

My girlfriend kicked me out of her house where I had been staying while she was on vacation overseas, and in a couple weeks I ended up in the psych ward for 5 days. The attending doctor at the ward convinced me to attend an outpatient rehab when I was released. After a short time in rehab, I finally, finally started seeing the light.

I smoked a bowl one time after my 3-month rehab stint, and, other than that, I have been clean for 222 days. After 45 years I started to love myself, love my girlfriend and be a true boyfriend to her, and be a better father.

As they say, one day at a time, and I know that to be true. There are temptations to use all around me all the time, but my confidence continues to grow that I Can Do This and I am starting to believe in a much brighter future.

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