Hi Joseph. What is happening to me?

With traffic averaging over 20,000 visitors a month, I get serious email. The rawness and brutal honesty of my readers never ceases to amaze me. Here’s a few I found interesting. I didn’t have to dig deep. From the month of December 2016…

12/2/16

Hi Joseph,

My name is Marianne and I’m sort of a meth junkie. Once a week I get a $40.00 bag, snort it by myself in about 2 or 3 days, then go on with life until the next week. This has been going on for about 10 years, more or less, and until recently I didn’t think about stopping, rather it was my treat to myself. I have no other vices, don’t drink, smoke, or sleep around, don’t have meth mouth, a face full of scabs, or support in any way and at 66 years old it’s very hard to change. I don’t ever feel a physical need to tweak, but the stuff makes laundry and house cleaning enjoyable. How can I start the process of quitting?
12/6/16

Hi Marianne,

Well, you’ve stumped me — kinda.  It sounds to me like you had a form of “controlled using” that worked, more or less, for you… until now. If I’m understanding you correctly, you don’t have any negative consequences from using that you know about. Rather, it seems you’ve had some overwhelmingly positive consequences from using — such as more energy to clean house. When the negatives are all stacked up and blotting out any sunlight that might get through, it’s easier to see the damage meth causes.

But in your case, if there’s no pressing medical reason to quit (yet), you’ve got to ask yourself: Why am I wanting to quit now, after all these years of successfully using?

You might want to check and see if you’re being honest about when and how much you use. I don’t mean to imply in any way that you’re purposefully misleading me, but that you might be (unknowingly) misleading yourself. But if you’re not, you have an interesting dilemma: Why quit if the consequences of using are overwhelmingly positive?

My gut tells me that there are serious negative consequences happening, right now, as we correspond. I hope you let the, for want of a better word, “lesson” from those consequences motivate you to change — to not pick up when next triggered.

Why do you want to begin the process of quitting? Let’s start there. I look forward to hearing back from you.
Best, Joseph

12/07/16

Marianne emails back: Thanks for answering me so quickly. You can see my dilemma clearly. I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to do more each week and I have spent an extra $20 a few times when I was feeling especially frustrated with my life (or lack thereof) but I try to keep the status quo if only for my shrinking budget. If I tell you a bit of my history it will become clear that I’m doing pretty well considering. Don’t know if you want to hear the sordid details, but to cut it short, I think I want to stop just to see if I can. Sounds lame to me as I put it down, but there it is.

12/09/16

Hi Marianne,

It doesn’t sound lame to me at all. I’ll bet you’ve long suspected that your “controlled use” of meth over the last few years might not be so controlled, after all. When I look back over those few years when meth was at its greatest influence over my life, I don’t see a person who was then capable of making complex or even moderate life decisions. (Seriously, suppose one of my parents had died when I was actively using; I wouldn’t be able to show up emotionally, my brain fogged at best.) Though it’s tempting to think you’re “doing pretty well considering” — and I’ve no doubt that you are — remember how tricky this disease is. It lies so well.

Let’s consider it honestly. If we hadn’t been using all those years, we would have probably made some important life decisions differently than those we did. We really don’t know how much we’ve sacrificed to this drug, how much potential was lost, momentum to grow or adapt to career, relationships based on communication and emotional connection and not based on the huge dopamine rush of meth. So just a warning. Don’t forget life would be so much better, richer and authentic if meth hadn’t crossed your path.

Do it. Like you said, just to see if you can. That’s reason enough for me.

Best, Joseph

 

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12/14/16

Hello Joseph,

My name is Jerry R—- and I am emailing for info (time to kick this shit). I don’t know where to start or if that’s what this is for, but I can’t wait until I die. So I am a loner and wanted ideas of how to where to go, etc. Please don’t give me some 12-step bullshit.
12/15/16

Hey Jerry,

I think you’ll find the book helpful. A lot of my readers have quit without a 12 step program. The book tells it like it is, at least. Know that 80% of what’s in the book is available free on the website in some form, so you don’t have to buy the book to get the information. The book just puts everything in one easy to find place. Here’s a link to: Quitting Crystal Meth paperback and kindle edition on Amazon, if interested.
 I do have a chapter on Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA). The reason I emphasize CMA or the other 12 step groups is because they are the ideal place to find a new set of friends who do not use. If you’ve been an active meth addict for a while, most likely you have very few, if any, non-using friends left. I’m not a Big Book thumping 12 stepper, which you can tell by reading my blog. Though I attend a few 12 step meetings a week, I’m there for the friendship. I’ve done the steps (more than once) and they helped me grow as a person… but didn’t magically cure my addiction, like I heard advertised by many sponsors. I know, from personal experience, the pros and cons of 12 step groups. (Spoiler: I find the pros far outweigh the cons, if you can tolerate the personalities in the room.) Finally, it comes down to this: Is showing up at this group helping me move farther from meth — or is it moving me closer to meth?
I have a close friend who insists that whenever she goes to a meeting she comes out feeling worse than when she came. “Every time,” she said, “Without fail.” A majority of those addicts who quit using, do so without 12 step programs. Just a fact. Still, CMA saved my life years ago. I needed a new community of non-using friends and the fellowship of CMA and other 12-step groups provided that instantly.
Just give it try. Like I said, you don’t have to become a Big Book thumper to join CMA. If certain parts of a 12-step program are right for you, it’s commonly said: “Just take what works for you and leave behind the rest.” You may find that, at a later date in your recovery, what previously “didn’t work” now does. Or not.
Hope this helps,
Joseph
And I was surprised to read, in about a month…
Jan 18, 2017
Hello again. I am in a 12 step NA group and have 34 days clean. Happy to say I feel great and thanks for your help.
Jan 20, 2017
Great news! Whatever you are doing, keep it up. Find the program that’s right for you and run with it.
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12/12/16

Dear Joseph,

I am a recovering crystal meth addict. This friday (12/15), I will have 60 days clean. I read your ‘what to do and what to expect’ book and I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am that you wrote the chapter regarding sex. When I read the sentence about it being okay, and even necessary for some people, to mourn the loss of crystal sex, I balled my eyeballs out. I have been an addict with several drugs for 14 years. The last two years have been meth only. It really takes your life quicker and scarier than anything else. To have finally admitted that I needed help, gotten myself to rehab, and commited to this strange sobriety thing, has seriously saved my life. Reading your book has made me feel optimistic about my future and allowed me to let my past go a little easier. Thank you so much.  — Aly

12/113/16

Hi Aly,

I’m so happy for you. I’ll be thinking of you at the Friday night CMA I usually go to. Thanks for letting me know the book helped. And, yes, you have every right to feel optimistic. Hopefully, 2017 will be a much better year for everyone.
Peace, Joseph
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11/24/16

Hi Joseph. My name is Jean. I am writing you because my partner uses — a lot. He says he wants to quit but can’t. We have two children and, when he is coming down, he gets very aggressive and really nasty. He dosen’t become physically violent towards us, but he is emotionally abusive. The cops usually get called to our house. What do you think I should do? He can’t get into a detox centre right now so his only option is to do it from home. He’s on a correctional order from the courts to not take drugs, but he still smokes marijuana all the time. What do you think I should do? He’s an amazing guy when he’s not on drugs. We have been together for 15 years with random periods of him being sober, but right now he says he wants to quit but can’t. I feel I should walk away, but I am his only support. He has shut everyone out of his life. I am the only silly one that has stuck around despite being pushed away. I don’t know what to do. I feel lost and confused. Thanks for listening.
11/25/16

Hi Jean,

I can’t tell you what’s best for you to do, here. If I’d been doing this dance with a partner for some time, I’d try to see if there really is anything different he is doing this time to get clean. There’s an old saying in AA: Nothing changes if nothing changes. Unless he’s actually changed some things up in his quitting process, he will just get the same outcome.
Compared to all the previous times he’s tried to quit, exactly what is he doing differently this time? Seeing a therapist? Channelling his addiction into working out as opposed to using meth? Going to meetings? Seeing a “sobriety coach” on a regular basis? Reprioritizing recovery to come before family and career?
Also, he needs to understand that the feeling “like crap” is part of withdrawal will pass (3 days to 15 days usually). Finally, and I know you already know this in your heart: you cannot quit for him. He has to really want to do it himself.
Hope this helps,
Joseph
12/12/16
Jean writes back: Thank you so much for getting back to me. He’s not really trying at all. The only difference is that this time he has been court ordered to stop everything. I know I can’t quit for him. I keep telling myself that this his choice, not mine. I guess it just hurts because he has a beautiful family. We have two amazing kids right in front of him and, right now, it seems like all he thinks cares talks about is meth. Because we don’t use we are not part of his world. But every time I try to walk away, he is devastated. I guess I was looking for an easy out where there is none 🙁 I felt for a very long time that I was some how responsible for him and his wreckless behaviour and that I was helping him to keep using. So I have decided to just let him make his own choices no matter how crazy they seem. Because at the end of the day, it’s his life to live how he chooses Just sad coz he is an amazing person. Sorry to be so annoying and bothering you with my problems. Thank you for listening and taking the time to read this 🙂
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1/5/17

Kay writes: I’m 18 and I’ve been smoking since 16. I first tried it at 14. My mother father uncle and a lot of my cousins are also addicted, so I guess it runs in the family. I have a couple of friends that will support me but, other than that, there’s no one for me to really go to — and I don’t want my grandma, who I live with, to find out.

My mom is out of her mind and so is my uncle. With my mom, I can’t tell if she’s still using or if she’s permantly fucked up. I’m sorry for making this email so long. Lol. I could go on and on about why I started and why I’m doing it, but I’ll save that for another time if. The longest I’ve stayed up was 5 days, so I don’t think it will be that hard to come back, but I would really appreciate your support.
1/6/16
Hey Kay. Yes, you didn’t use excessively for several years+, but in my experience, you’re still going to go through withdrawal in order to quit. I won’t go into the blah, blah, blah, about what you’ll need to know about meth withdrawal. It’s all for free on the website. Look at the menu tab “Stage One: Widthrawal” http://www.quittingcrystalmeth.com/stage-1-withdrawal/
But, the biggest problem I see for you, from what you’ve explained, is that you are going to be not only around someone who uses daily and will try to get you to join him, you are going to SURROUNDED by friends and family members who use daily, in your house (eventually, believe me), and bring you slowly or quickly spiraling downward back to using. I know this is the last thing you want to hear. I certainly wouldn’t want to hear it. So I’m just going to have give it to you straight and then move on to a few of your other questions.

When it comes to actively using addicts living (or even visiting) your house, you’ve already set the potential relapse in mot. Oh, you might not yet have picked up the pipe (ok, just a bump, that’s not like smoking or slamming, so the occasional bump doesn’t count — see how devious our addict brain can be?) Joseph’s addict mind loves to brag: “You’ve been sober for awhile now; come on, you deserve a break; how about this Friday night? You can take Saturday and Sunday to recover and then come Monday, once back at work, no one would be the wiser. Really. My mind can go there in an instant. What’s the truth, though? When have I ever gone out for just one night? LMAO.

As for your mom’s brain, in my experience most methamphetamine induced psychosis, pretty much leaves a few hours after you stop using. Some experience it for longer: maybe 24 hours, but most brains bounce back. Now, if I read correctly, your friend had a psychotic break while high and, days afterwards, is still psychotic. If this is the case, take them to the ER or call 911 to do it for you if she’s resisting. My rule of thumb is: if someone is still having moderate to severe psychosis after 72 hours have passed since they took the drug, call 911 and have them detained for their own safety and yours.
Several years back, a dear friend of mine had a psychotic break at CMALA, our big CMA convention. It took 6 of LA’s finest to wrestle her to the ground — this is NOTHING to be ashamed of. In my friend’s excitement about the conference, she got overly excited and anxious — and (kinda crucial) forgot to take her psych meds on schedule. She’s fine all these years later. Clean. Psych meds balanced. Etc. Sorry to be so long winded. But, if it were my mom, and she definitely shows psychotic behavior, I’d take her to a MD Psychiatrist. Perhaps the meth just triggered your mom’s onset of psychosis/paranoia/hearing voices and it can be quickly reversed with meds.
But if your mom and uncle still use from time to time, like you wrote, I’ll stake my reputation on this: they are lying to you about how much and often they use (you would, I would, that’s what we addicts do while active in our disease — lie to our non-using friends. I can’t tell you how many times I had stomach problems with “explosive diarrhea” about an hour or so before I was to meet with someone scheduled meeting. (Hint: no one questions “explosive diarrhea” and is quite happy to postpone, lol, for obvious reasons.)
God, I’m rambling, lol. Sorry this is such a detailed letter. It had to be to get the subtleties of your situation and its solution.  I’d also suggest:
See a “licensed Drug Counselor” to ask for basic “how I get and live clean” advice. Join NA or CMA (you don’t have to drink the coolaide, just take what helps, discard the rest). This counselor is very different from your MD Psychatrist. The Drug Counselor is more action oriented and works to identify triggers in your life, goes into detail; they are your sobriety coach, kinda.) The MD shrink is usually for psych meds only.
Try out local support groups. The best thing about AA/NA/CMA is they are, taken together, in every major city in the world. And, if it’s a big city, there are almost meetings around the clock. (Now if these kind of 12 step meetings make your skin crawl, I’d ask you to consider this: how many different meetings, with different addicts, some with blowhard egotism oozing out of every pore, have you actually experienced? In total? I always advise to try a total of ten meet, before you decide.  CMA helped save my life. Early in my sobriety I went to 2 meetings a day, morning and evening. I needed it. Now, I go to 1 or 2 a week, most. I don’t go because I’m jinxing and need a fix. I go to reconnect and visit with other ex-tweakers. Now, I also understanding, loathing those meetings. For almost six months I went, feeling mostly Hey Barbara. Yes, you didn’t used excessively for several years+, but in my experience, you’re going to rough hill to slog up in order to quit. I won’t go into the blah, blah, blah, about what you’ll need to know about meth withdrawal. It’s all for free on the website. Look at the menu tab “Stage One: Withdrawal.”
Here’s another blog post you might like to look at: “CMA: Pros and Cons.”
But, the biggest problem I see for you, from what you’ve explained, is that you are going to be not only around someone who uses daily and will try to get you to join him, you are going to SURROUNDED by friends and family members who use daily, in your house (eventually, believe me), and bring you slowly or quickly spiraling downward. I know this is the last thing you want to hear. It would be for me. So I’m just going to have give it to you straight and then move on to a few of your other question.
When it comes to using/users living (even visiting) your house, you’ve practically relapsed already (read on: please don’t panic, lol). Oh, you might not yet have picked up the pipe (ok, just a bump, that’s not like smoking or slamming, so the occasional bump doesn’t count — see how devious our addict brain can be?) Joseph’s addict mind loves to brag: “You’ve been sober for awhile now; come on, you deserve a break; how about this Saturday night? You can take Sunday recover, then come Monday, once back at work, no one would be the wiser. (I always thought I was getting away with hiding my meth use; just up for 72 hours, no biggie, I usually do 5 nights Right? LMAO. Really, Joseph? When have you ever gone out for just a night? Nope. Were I to use again, it’ll let the gorilla out of its cage. Can’t help it, So, for me, the solution of “controlled using” (meaning, you have control over the drug; can put it down at any moment (you think anyhow).
As for your mom’s brain, in my experience most methamphetamine induced psychosis, pretty much leaves a few hours after you stop using. Some experience it for long: maybe 24 hours, but most brain’s bounce back. Now, if I read correctly, your friend had a psychotic break while high and, days afterwards, is still psychotic. If this is the case, take them to the ER or call 911 to do it for you if she is resisting. My rule of thumb is: if someone is still having moderate to severe psychosis (CIA/NSA listening thru the tv; we’re being staked out right now and we’re about to get raided; and, well, you know… tree people usually come into play somewhere, right?) But, still almost always the brain heals. It just takes a couple of years (and an amazing recovery of normal brain function happens in as short as one year after getting clean). Several years back, a dear friend of mine had a break during a large CMA convention, took 6 of LA’s finest to wrestle her to the ground — this is NOTHING to be ashamed of. In my friend’s excitement about the conference, she got overly excited and anxious — and (kinda crucial) forgot to take her psych meds on schedule. She’s fine all these years later. Clean. Psych meds balanced. Etc. Sorry to be so long winded. But, if it were my mom, and she definitely shows psychotic behavior, I’d take her to a MD Psychiatrist. Perhaps the meth just triggered your mom’s onset of psychosis/paranoia/hearing voices and it can be quickly reversed with meds.
But if your mom and uncle still use from time to time, like you wrote, I’ll stake my reputation on this, especially in light of the psychosis continuing: they are lying to you about how much and often they use. You would. I would. That’s what addicts do while active in their disease, deny using to nonusing freinds. I know of several people who did not exit meth psychosis, even months after quitting crystal. For now, until new drugs are available, it’s tough. She may have to be institutionalized until, if ever, her brain recovers. The other friend I have is 8 years clean, I if I’m remembering correctly. He says he still hears the “voices” daily, sometimes a chorus of voices, but he’s learned how to distinguish real thoughts from those crazy ones.
I hope this helps. If there is anyway you can get into a living environment where no one uses, like an affordable “sober living” home, THAT would be my priority for you. I’m not saying you can’t get clean if you stay in your living situation. You can, eh, might. But it’s going to be hard as hell and you’ll be triggered all the time.
Let me put this way, then I’ll shut up and let you get back to your day. You know this to be true (or will soon): You have to quit. Unless, that is, you don’t care about the train wreck you made of your career, the loss of your family, and, in a few years, if not sooner, your eventual homelessness. In my experience with more than a thousand recovering meth addicts, THIS WILL HAPPEN to you. Usually sooner rather than later. The meth life is simply not a sustainable lifestyle.
Hope this helps. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions any time. I try to answer within 48 hours (hopefully 24), but sometimes due to travel and personal health issues, I fall behind and it might take a week for me to get back to you. But let’s shoot for a 24 hour turnaround.
Peace. Joseph
photo credit: Peter Forret google mail via photopin (license)