Category Archives: Life in Sobriety

The Story of a Child Named Hope, Her Addicted Mom, and the Police Officer Who Changed Their Lives

Here’s a heartwarming story of an 8 month pregnant meth and heroin addicted mother, the Albuquerque police officer who found her shooting up (recorded via his body camera), and then what happens next. Spoiler: the police officer and his wife literally adopt the user’s newborn child — and metaphorically adopt the mother, as well.

Continue reading The Story of a Child Named Hope, Her Addicted Mom, and the Police Officer Who Changed Their Lives

Done with Meth-Fueled Sex?

 

If you combined sex and crystal, the idea of having sex might seem overwhelming at first. But thousands of recovering meth users have relearned how to have healthy — even hot — sex without crystal meth. It’s just going to take some time and effort.

First, the harsh fact: Life without meth means life without meth-fueled sex. It’s okay, even necessary for many of us (it was for me), to mourn this loss.

Continue reading Done with Meth-Fueled Sex?

Fergie Talks With Oprah About Surviving Meth

 

Today, Fergie is a multiplatinum recording artist, who has traveled the world with the Black Eyed Peas. But in 2001, she was broke, unemployed and addicted to crystal meth. Fergie reveals why she turned to drugs after her girl group, Wild Orchid, was dropped from their record label.

It’s a really amazing interview. Peace and enjoy…

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?

Continue reading Hi Joseph. What is happening to me?

My All Time Favorite Definition of “Good Sobriety”

 

In case you haven’t heard or somehow missed the post, a while back I relapsed after almost four years clean from meth. On the morning I got my 60 day chip (for the second time) at a favorite 12-step meeting, an old-timer came up to me and said: “Joseph, do you know what the definition of ‘good sobriety’ is? It’s being mostly sober over a long period of time.”

I was floored. “Mostly sober?”

Continue reading My All Time Favorite Definition of “Good Sobriety”

3 Things You Can Do That Will Really Help You Stay Clean After You’ve Quit

 

A return to the basics this posting. They may seem obvious, but how often they’re not practiced. Let’s look at three things that you can do to help yourself stay clean after you’ve quit.

1. Do Not Isolate

Continue reading 3 Things You Can Do That Will Really Help You Stay Clean After You’ve Quit

Telling On Yourself

 

When you’re triggered or have a craving to use, one of the best things you can do to counteract it is to “tell on yourself.” That means talk about it with someone—give them the gory details of your flashback, craving or fantasy. You’ll be amazed at how confessing a craving will lessen its power over you. For your sobriety, it’s crucial that you find a best friend – several if you can – with whom you can be completely honest.

If you are working a CMA, NA or AA program, this person will most likely be your sponsor. But even though you tell your sponsor everything regarding your addiction, I think it’s very important to have other sober friendswith whom you can come completely clean too. I’ve got a handful. The more sober friends you have who understand, the better. When we keep our urges to use secret, we’re far more likely to relapse.

Early in my recovery, out of nowhere, the thought crossed my mind that on my next trip into Los Angeles, I could have a one-night party. (After all, I’d been sober over six months at that point, didn’t I deserve a little reward?) So within ten seconds, I planned what lie I would tell my friends in Palm Springs, the lies I’d tell to my L.A. friends who thought I was coming to visit, planned exactly where I’d stay to party, from whom I’d buy the drugs (online) and exactly how much I would pay for an eight ball. Really. In a matter of seconds. My monkey mind ran with it, planned the whole thing out.

In maybe ten more seconds, I was floored by guilt. Immediately, I extended the thought to include how awful the end of the party would be, how I’d feel when I crashed the day after—then I realized: Who was I kidding? I’d never partied for just one night in my life. My usual run was 3 to 5 days, always 5 toward the end. No, if I used, I’d party for days then crash briefly and rationalize that, since I’ve lost my sobriety already, I might as well party for a while longer. And so the cycle begins all over again. I might go on another year-long run, or worse. When my mind played thorough this possibility I was relieved because the urge to use, the sudden fantasy, had been busted. Still, I knew what I had to do.

The next morning, I took two sober friends aside and confessed the whole thing to take away any power that it might hold if I kept it secret. I eventually shared about it at a group level later in the week, disempowering the fantasy even more. Having a friend, or several, you can share everything with is crucial to sobriety. Because we have to learn not to shame ourselveswhen our disease rears its ugly head. It’s not a weakness of character to be triggered or get lost in a using fantasy. It’s what the malfunctioning brain of an addict does—craves more drugs.

How we treat that craving is the key.Don’t keep it secret. Take away your disease’s power over you by “telling on yourself.”

You CAN quit crystal meth. Learning strategies to better maximize the possibility of truly quitting is what this blog is about. I hope it’s helped. Peace.

My Personal Recovery Program, Today

 

This website averages approximately 20,000 unique visitors each month, 75% of whom are here for the first time. My blog is ranked, by readership, as the 40th most popular blog about recovery in the world. (I was once told, “That’s not bad for such niche market; it’s not like you appeal to all kinds of recovery, just meth.” I responded it was obvious they didn’t understand how huge of an epidemic meth is around the world.) This is not to brag, but to give you a fuller picture of the scope, here, and to point out I get a lot of emails. I make it a point to try to answer every email I get because I know as well as anyone how lonely and isolating the disease of meth addiction can be. And I want you to know: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. But there’s a particular question I sometimes get that I want to answer here, in a blog post, as opposed to a private email.

That question: What does your personal recovery program look like today, Joseph? Well, glad you asked. Here goes…

For me, my personal recovery isn’t a “one size fits all” approach. Rather, it’s an eclectic mix of modalities and programs I’ve found that work best with my particular personality and, well, quirks.

True, I’m a fan of the 12-step approach, primarily because it offers “meetings” where I can find other recovering meth addicts like myself and thus avoid my biggest triggers (loneliness and isolation). I’ve worked through the steps with a sponsor more than once. It’s indisputable that, since it’s inception in the 1930s, the 12-step approach has helped millions of people worldwide get and stay clean and sober. But it’s also indisputable that for many the 12-step program simply isn’t a good fit.

It’s arrogant when an AA guy says, “Well, these people just didn’t seriously apply themselves to the program.” There’s no one size fits all path to recovery when it comes to quitting meth or any other drug. I’ve also been in a 90 day residential rehab program – Cirque Lodge in Sundance, Utah – that included various non-12 step intensive therapies and can’t speak highly enough of that experience either. My lineage of recovery includes everything from Buddhist meditation practice to Christian Bible Study, from group and individual psychotherapy to inspirational readings and, most importantly, it includes helping other addicts, either through this website or in person, here, in Southern California.

Bottom line, what has worked best for me is to keep an open mind. Like I said, I’m not a “one model fits all” type of guy. My program of recovery is eclectic, individualized, and always evolving. And that’s just fine. Don’t let someone tell you there’s only one way to get clean (usually, their way). Factually, that’s simply not true.

What else?

Here’s a rule I live by: If I’m keeping a secret, I need to tell it to someone I trust. This not only disempowers the secret, which might easily push me into using again, but it lets me get the collected wisdom of my friends and fellows in recovery, reminding me that I’m not doing this alone. And this doesn’t just apply to secrets that have to do with wanting to use or using, but all secrets. For once I’ve got a secret stuck inside my psyche, my addict brain says why not keep some more. The addict brain will say: “No one else needs to know about all those using fantasies you’ve had lately, Joseph. Just keep these to yourself.” If I keep the secret, before you know it, I’m in relapse mode. (By “relapse mode” I mean when I’m headed into the circumstances that would be prime for a relapse.)

And, speaking of how I do it, here’s my favorite “trick” (really a technique) to combat cravings that I used a lot during my first year of recovery – and still use on occasion when I need to. Whenever a craving comes and I want to so desperately use, I strike this bargain with myself. The bargain: I won’t use tonight, but, if when I awake tomorrow morning, I still find myself wanting to use, then the party is on – without hesitation. (And, this way, I’d have time to relapse in style. I’d have the day to get my party in motion and prepare properly: like purchasing new paraphernalia, since I tossed the torch, pipe and points long ago, and stocking up on Gatorade for hydration – you know, the basics.) Even though I’m being a bit flippant now in writing this, at the moment I’m making the bargain of “wait until you wake up tomorrow morning and then see,” I’m 100% sincere. That’s the only way I’ll go to sleep that night, knowing a better planned and executed party awaits tomorrow if I so desire upon awakening. But guess what? Without fail, every morning when I awaken the next day, I feel only one thing: immense gratitude that I didn’t use the night before. My cravings long past, I am just so happy I haven’t relapsed. It’s a technique that’s never failed me yet. And I know scores of other addicts who have used this technique to their advantage as well.

In an interview, I was recently asked if I have a “bucket list” I want to accomplish. It’s an interesting question because I definitely had a bucket list when I was using (usually around meth-fueled sex, but not always). As I thought over the question, I realized today I purposefully don’t keep such a list. Instead, I try to live each day fully and when my mind finds something that’s worthy of a true bucket list, I try to do it as soon as I possibly can and, if I can’t, let it go… so I might experience the miracle of life before me in the present moment. Sure, I still dream big, but it’s not something that I need to accomplish for my life to feel complete. What I need to accomplish is to stay clean and sober and, then, in my experience, the other stuff in life, like my dreams and goals, generally work themselves out one way or another. For example, this fall I start a two year Masters in Psychology program – back to school at my mid-fifties. It kind of fell into my lap and I was clean enough to recognize it and take advantage of the opportunity.

What about daily rituals or practices? Today, I don’t have a set ritual of morning prayers I practice daily, like most of my friends in recovery seem to have. (I might in the future, however, but not today.) My morning takes the form of being present and awake to “what is” before me in life. Then, throughout the day, I try to remember to ask the Universe to help me be of maximum benefit to others.

I also try to get exercise, take a walk in my beautiful city of Palm Springs and the mountains surrounding it, and I hit the gym when able. Mind, body, spirit – all are integral to keeping myself meth-free. When one of these, or especially two, are out of whack, I’m almost always in relapse mode and need to catch myself before a slip might actually happen.

And, as for “service” which, if you’re in a 12-step program, is always emphasized, in the past I’ve been secretary, treasurer, and phone list person for various meetings. But today, my service commitments to 12-step programs are informal, like giving someone without transportation a ride to a meeting. True service to others can take many forms – from volunteering at the local animal shelter or soup kitchen, to spontaneously buying a homeless person a Big Mac Combo. At its core, service is just helping others and being kind, loving, and compassionate. As far as I can tell, loving kindness is THE central teaching of the world’s great spiritual traditions. Service work is loving kindness in action. So I try to mix it up and be eclectic in my service, like the rest of my recovery.

And that’s how I’m doing it today. The only certainty is that in some time in the future, my recovery will evolve in some way, large or small, and I’ll find my psyche and heart journeying into new and unchartered territory… all to maintain a meth-free life.

When I was in the height of my meth use, it was all about escaping my life. Not today. Today, it’s about living life, while keeping an open heart and mind. That’s a life worth living, if you ask me.

 

Goodbye Crystal Sex, Hello Sober Sex

 

If you combined sex and crystal, sober sex might seem overwhelming at first. But thousands of recovering tweakers have relearned how to have healthy—even hot—sex without crystal. It’s just going to take some time and effort.

Like it or not, the reality is sexual desires often come roaring back in the form of fantasies or cravings. Anything to escape the boredom, right?

First, the harsh fact: Life without meth means life without meth-fueled sex. It’s okay, even necessary for some, to mourn this loss.

One complaint you hear a lot from former tweakers is: regular sex seems dull and just doesn’t feel as good as it did on crystal. There’s a physiological reason for this. After all the repeated and intense dopamine dumps in your brain, the fibers in the pathway associated with sex are damaged. But just as with most other pleasurable feelings, this will change over time. Your brain will heal and you’ll definitely start enjoying sex again. Just remember it takes time and effort on your part.

Also, sober sex is a different kind of sex. Instead of the limit-pushing, intense, compulsive, nonstop-pleasure marathons you used to have on crystal, you’ll have normal sex. If this sounds boring to you, it’s just because you’re still operating from the perspective of meth-fueled sex.

Imagine charting your pleasure on a scale of 1 to 10. If you think back to your first orgasm, whether having sex with another person or masturbating, it was probably so intense and amazing that it scored off the charts—say, a 15 on a 1 to 10 scale. But, after a few more sexual experiences, each orgasm no longer felt so new and intense. Orgasm leveled off to where it belonged, near the top of the “normal” pleasure scale, close to 10.

Like that first orgasm, the first time you had sex on crystal was off the charts. But it was much higher than a 15 because it created an unnatural physiological state that the human brain could never reach on its own. In short, that first experience of crystal sex was closer to a 60. By comparison, sober sex quickly became unsatisfying. After repeated experiences with 60-level crystal sex, regular sex felt empty and boring and on the 1 to 10 scale, sober sex probably rated a 3 or less.

It’s important to remember this 3 manifests from the distorted perspective of crystal meth—an expectation of 60-level pleasure that the human brain was never meant to experience. After quitting meth, regular sober sex may continue to feel like a 3 or less for awhile. However, in time, your perspective returns to normal and sober sex begins to feel enjoyable again. Of course, sober sex will never be as intense as that 60 of crystal sex, but it will again become one of your great pleasures in life.

Your brain adjusts. Trust the thousands of meth addicts who successfully quit before you—the 10 of natural sex will not only be “enough” but amazing in its own right, just as it was intended to be.

So how do you handle sex in sobriety? There is only one rule: no crystal sex. Here are two opposing ideas…

Wait a year. I’ve heard it said in CMA that, if you are not already in a relationship, it’s healthy to stay away from sex for a full year. This gives you time to work on your recovery without the complications of a major trigger.

Don’t wait, but keep it sober. On the other hand, in the early days of CMA, it was sometimes suggested that newcomers have sex with members who had some sobriety under their belt—a big “no-no” in AA circles. The rationale was that, if you have sober sex with a newcomer, at least they’re learning to have sober sex and are less likely to relapse with crystal sex. (These were mostly gay male meetings in Los Angeles.)

One of my friends who’s been clean for over five years put it best, I think. If having sex makes you more likely to use meth, don’t have sex for a while. On the other hand, if not having sex makes you use – that is, you get all pent up from forced abstinence and one day you have an explosion risky sexual behavior – then do have sex.

Mourning the Loss

Regardless, you will mourn the loss of crystal sex. In Overcoming Crystal Meth Addiction, Steven J. Lee, M.D., a psychiatrist who specializes in addiction, uses the analogy of a “trip to Antarctica with breathtaking sunrises over colossal glistening snow peaks, unlike anything you could see on this planet” as a way to put the loss of crystal sex into perspective. On the expedition to Antarctica, you face tremendous challenges. Your body and soul take a beating—it’s 20 degrees below zero with fifty-mile-per-hour winds and you get dangerously lost for awhile along the way.

But after this long, difficult and very costly journey, you get to experience something few people ever do: the unseen world of Antarctica. Then, like Dorothy in Kansas, the journey is over and you find yourself back home in the normal, everyday world. But you have an amazing memory to carry with you for the rest of your life. Lee writes, “the immense physical effort and financial cost to get there remind you that this is a place not meant for humans to see. That makes the memory that much more precious—the realization that you saw the unseeable.”

Once more: unlike most people in the world, you actually experienced Antarctica and still have amazing memories of the journey. But you’ll never go back. Those once-in-a-lifetime peak experiences are over. “This is an important admission you need to make to yourself,” Lee continues, “because any hidden fantasy that one day you will have crystal sex again is a seed that can grow into an uncontrollable craving and a relapse.”

You’ll have to grieve the loss and accept it—or else risk relapse.

Remember the stages of grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, finally, acceptance. These are applicable to your grief over losing crystal sex forever. Denial: I don’t have to think of “not-having crystal sex” as a forever thing. Anger: I want to have that experience again, damn it. Bargaining: I can have crystal sex for one night a month, right? Depression: No, I can’t because crystal doesn’t do one-night stands. Acceptance: Since I don’t want crystal to ruin my life, I’ll have to give up crystal sex forever, which is a worthy exchange.

Sex is tricky. And that’s the understatement of the year. There’s only one thing that’s certain: a healthy and active sex life is important to happiness.

So given that, here are three final points to consider about sober sex:

You were emotionally connected to the meth-fueled sex, not to the other person. It’s a lie that you were “more connected” to your sex partner while using meth. Though you might have been physically connected while having a wild party, it was actually the meth and sex that you were emotionally connected to, not the person. Be honest, your sex partner could have been almost anyone. The meth was the crucial element. In sober sex, you have the opportunity to experience a genuine emotional connection with another person—something you didn’t get with crystal.

After you get comfortable with sober sex, you will be able to have those 10-level experiences again and, most importantly, that will be enough. It’s true. And don’t fall into the trap of thinking normal sex is just a weaker, tamer version of that wild beast crystal sex. Because the truth is that sober sex is a different animal altogether. Sober sex has its own rewards of intense pleasure that sex on meth will never have. Remember kissing? Remember going slowly, and feeling that warm glow from happiness you felt as you explored your partner? Remember feeling really connected, looking your partner in the eyes and staring deep into their being? Even though you’ll always have your memories of crystal sex, the intense desire to have it again will pass with time. You may have flashbacks and intense memories from time to time, but they will lessen.

What you get to have in sobriety are sober experiences—and that includes sex. Relearning how to have sober sex could be a book in itself. The main tenets are: don’t use no matter what and give yourself permission to change. Other than using, if you want, you can try everything you did while thwacked out on crystal. But, today, you get to try it sober. Then, if you find that certain sexual practices don’t work for you anymore, you can, in a sober and respectful way, change those practices.

Sobriety is not about making our past behavior wrong. Other than using, it’s fair game to experiment with your experience—give it a try sober. You may like it. Or you may feel that certain attitudes toward sex no longer work for the sober you. It’s not uncommon for the “no strings attached” sexploits of a person’s using days suddenly to seem empty and hollow because, in sobriety, you now want something more meaningful—a “connection” to another person beyond NSA. If this happens to you, then, in a sober and respectful way, begin looking for more lasting connections.

Sex does again become a peak experience. It’s just that now it’s a 10 at best. Now, it’s what is humanly possible. Sex could be fabulous enough before crystal. It will be again afterwards, too.

You CAN quit crystal meth and have great, hot sex still. Learning strategies to better maximize the possibility of truly quitting is what this blog is about. I hope it’s helped. Peace.

[This blog post was adapted from the book Quitting Crystal Meth: What to Expect & What to Do, available at Amazon worldwide.]

If I Could Travel Back in Time, What Advice Would I Give My Younger Self?

 

First, don’t try to get clean and sober alone. It doesn’t work. Ask for help. In my personal experience, no one has ever been successful at getting clean alone. I’m not saying you have to go to 12 Step meetings – but I do suggest you try them out to see if they work for you. Instead of 12-step meetings, your help might come in the form of inpatient rehab, an intensive outpatient program, a weekly church group, a therapist, spiritual advisor, self help books, a sober mentor or peer… the list goes on. Most likely it’ll be a mixture of these. The more help you can get, the better.

I’d tell my younger self to reject the “It’s okay to try anything once” philosophy. I’d say Joseph, the first time you shoot up crystal meth, you’re going to spontaneously say aloud, “I want do to this everyday for the rest of my life.” One hit and you’ll be full blown addicted and, what’s worse, you’ll know it and won’t know how to stop.

Oh, yeah. And get ready for some stigma. There’s nothing Hollywood chic or hip about being a meth head – unlike, say, with heroine, cocaine, alcohol or prescription meds. With your drug of choice, you’re merely a tragic tweaker on your way to being mindless, homeless and toothless. And absolutely no one wants to hire a recovering meth addict. A recovering alcoholic or oxycodone popper, sure. Let’s give ‘em another chance. They’re in recovery, after all. But the assumption with meth is: you can’t ever really trust the person because, hey, it was meth. So brace yourself for the stigma. (Of course, the good news is there will be many people who will embrace you and your recovery. See above: don’t get sober alone.)

And, finally, I’d hammer home: That you are not morally weak or lacking in character because you’re an addict. Young Joseph, you have a disease. The medical community considers addiction to be a “chronic disease,” just the same as high blood pressure or asthma. The difference between a meth addiction and these other diseases is the location of the malfunction. With addiction the malfunction is in the brain – so the illness affects feelings and behaviors. Because of this, those who don’t know any better view addiction as a moral issue, a matter of willpower or character. But the truth is: addiction is a biological process in a brain that is malfunctioning. Remember this and try not to shame yourself for becoming a junkie. Yep, Joseph, you’ll become a junkie with a pipe in mouth and needle in your arm.

So, younger Joseph, I’ll end by reminding myself: Don’t believe the negative hype. You CAN quit crystal meth.

In your future travels, you’ll literally meet hundreds of recovered addicts who are now living a life free of meth. Oh, yeah. Take some notes for crying out loud. You’re going to start a writing project on “quitting” before too long.