Category Archives: Stories of Reccovery

So, you’re telling me I can cure myself of meth addiction? (Really?)

From “Can You Cure Yourself of Drug Addiction?” by Nina Bai, Scientific American (March 2011)

Scientific American writer Nina Bai spoke with Sally Satel about quitting drugs without professional treatment. Dr. Satel, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and lecturer in psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, was formerly a staff psychiatrist at the Oasis Clinic in Washington, D.C., where she worked with substance abuse patients.

Okay, so you cannot say she’s under-qualified.

Continue reading So, you’re telling me I can cure myself of meth addiction? (Really?)

“Beautiful Boy” Theatrical Trailer

Based on a True Story

Amazon Studios feature film, Beautiful Boyis based on the memoirs Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff. It stars Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney and Amy Ryan.

Spoiler: you will probably cry at least once while watching this trailer. I did.

Continue reading “Beautiful Boy” Theatrical Trailer

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

From Meth Addict to Olympic Silver Medalist — in Less Than Two Years

2016 Olympic Silver medalist Luvo Manyonga.  Takes the Gold at the 2017 IAAF World Championships. Another Gold at Australia’s Commonwealth Games in 2018. And, now, all eyes are on the 2020 Olympics.

Here’s the best feature story I’ve found on Luvo. Next time someone says you can’t come back from meth, tell ’em about Luvo…

Continue reading From Meth Addict to Olympic Silver Medalist — in Less Than Two Years

Mourning the Loss of Crystal Meth

Mark Twain once said, “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.” Don’t we know it, too?

If you’ve been struggling with crystal meth, you’ve probably come to realize that quitting—even though difficult—isn’t nearly as difficult as staying quit.

After withdrawal ends, the question for us is no longer “How do I quit?” The critically important question becomes: “How do I stay quit?” And there are many different valid ways to answer that question.

Continue reading Mourning the Loss of Crystal Meth

Done?

 

Feeling “done” with crystal meth?

Done with a high that isn’t a high anymore, but is more like daily maintenance? Done with focusing EVERYTHING IN LIFE around your dealer and getting more ice?

Done having to lie again and again to your family and friends about why you missed the wedding, graduation, funeral, birthday or whatever? Done with tensing up every time a police cruiser drives by? Done with having complete strangers you meet online inside your home just so you can host the party and play? Continue reading Done?

About the Big Craving: a Favorite Trick That Always Worked For Me

3 of series of 3 posts on cravings

In my first six months of getting clean, I had lots of using thoughts and many full-blown cravings. And though I employed the various tricks to “stop the thought” or “kill the craving” that we looked at in the previous blog posts, sometimes with a particularly strong craving I found myself overwhelmed. I was a hair’s breadth away from using.

You know the moment: your mind already knows exactly how to find the drug, which hotel to use at, the excuses I’d give my friends so as to drop under the radar for a day or two, and so on—all elaborately planned out in detail. (Sometimes this plan took less than a second or two to formulate; it was that fast.) Whenever this happened, I knew I had to bring out the big guns, so to speak.

Continue reading About the Big Craving: a Favorite Trick That Always Worked For Me

My Message for the New Year

The following was adapted from a post originally published in 2014 and still rings true today…

The media is filled with stories about the tragedy of meth addiction and paints a pretty grim picture for the recovering meth addict—the odds aren’t good, the road seems rarely traveled successfully. From our perspective: what a load of media hype (read: bullshit). Let’s give them this: life addicted was indeed grim. But that was our story while addicted. It’s NOT our story in recovery. It’s NOT our story while living a meth-free life. My hope is that the new year reminds you of the great possibilities your recovery has to offer. So what is “recovery”? To answer that, let’s look at what recovers:

1. Our Brains Recover Continue reading My Message for the New Year

Why Is It So Difficult to Admit My Relapse?

 

A while back, when an interviewer asked about my thoughts on relapse, I said:

It’s important to understand addiction through the medical model so we can jettison the guilt and shame associated with relapses. This is not to encourage or excuse slips, but to be realistic. Most meth addicts will relapse during the journey of their recovery. Society doesn’t condemn the person with hypertension who gains instead of loses weight. We don’t shame a diabetic for having a sweet tooth or forgetting to take his meds. We sympathize with their slips and cheerlead them to do better next time.

Then why is it so difficult to admit my own relapse?

Though I’ve preached not to be ashamed of relapse and, instead, learn from it so it won’t happen again, when it came to my own relapse, I did feel shame. And for the same reason that most who relapse feel shame: we don’t want others to see us as having failed, don’t want to set our sobriety clock back to zero.

Also, my position in the recovery community doesn’t make admitting relapse any easier. After all, I’m the guy who wrote the book on quitting meth, the guy who’s a so-called expert, with a website that gets about 20,000 visitors a month. A lot of people look to my story as inspiration, thinking: If this guy can quit and stay clean for years, why not me too?

I knew if I went public about my relapse, I would let many of you down. But, in discussing this predicament with friends and mentors – some with double-digit years of clean time – the question arose: Why not be an example of coming back from relapse? Since relapse is a part of most meth addicts’ recovery journey, why not be that example, Joseph? Then let the chips fall where they may.

This “relapsing phase” of my recovery lasted about two years. You could easily call it a dozen smaller relapses, but to my mind, what seems most truthful is to view the entire time as one continuous relapse, sprinkled with periods—sometimes months or longer—of being clean in between.

I’m beginning to think there are as many reasons for relapse as there are users who relapse. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous would tell you the number one reason is holding resentments. Others would say relapse comes from unaddressed childhood (or adult) trauma. For me it was sex. I believed I’d fully let go of wanting that meth-fueled sexual experience. But when my boyfriend relapsed and we broke up, I started having a nagging feeling inside. I could live without meth sex in the abstract, but when it came to my ex-boyfriend having wild meth sex with other guys—the kind of sex he and I never experienced because we were both in recovery when we met and fell in love—I just couldn’t let it go.

Normally, I’m not the jealous type, but suddenly my jealousy was off the charts. I desperately wanted to experience that kind of crazy meth-fueled sex with him. I even went as far as to think I deserved to—after which, my addict mind added, we would both stop, get clean together, and renew our sober relationship. This last part, what my addict brain wanted me to think, is laugh-out-loud funny to anyone who knows addiction. What a ridiculous justification!

Or as my friend from San Francisco, Marc, would say: “Girl, please!”

No one in their right mind would buy that “after using meth together we’d easily return to normal sex and live the clean and sober life,” but I wasn’t using my right mind. I’d let the emotional intensity of my jealousy overtake my thinking and my addict mind ran riot.

One of the big lessons for me in all this is: I can’t just do meth for a weekend here or there (what some term “controlled using”). Nope. For me, once I let Miss Tina out of the cage, it was harder than hell to get her back inside again. Like I said, it took about two years of on-again/off-again using with my ex before I truly quit the drug (and him).

Since part of my recovery at that time involved working a 12-step program, I had further self-inquiry to do. I had to honestly explore all of my reasons for wanting to withhold from you the truth of my relapse. In 12-step lingo, it’s called “doing an inventory.”

As mentioned earlier, I didn’t immediately disclose my relapse because it affected my self esteem and pride as a so-called leader in the meth recovery movement. Would I be labeled a fraud who couldn’t practice what he preached? But even less flattering is this:

I was worried about my monthly royalty check from Amazon. Would this revelation affect the sales of my book? Would the thousands of visitors to this website every month now dwindle?

(I wish I could tell you I was above these petty thoughts. I cannot.)

I’ve always believed that relapsing doesn’t mean you lose your recovery time. Yes, in the 12-step rooms, one must set the sobriety clock back to zero and start counting from day 1 again—but, for me, that’s just academic. You don’t lose the wisdom and experience gained during your previous clean time. One doesn’t suddenly lose the hard won positive lessons.

In my own case, it did seem as if the strength gained from those clean years wavered for a while—and I did feel lost, uncertain. But that strength, like the wisdom, was still there, waiting for me to return to it. It’s the strength that ultimately allowed me to end the relapse.

In the rooms of CMA and NA you’ll hear it put this way: “Relapse is a part of my story.” For me, I need to take this one step further: Relapse is not just part of my story; relapse is part of my recovery. In other words, recovery is not a one-time event to be achieved. Recovery is an ongoing process to be lived.

Now I return to what I told that interviewer: It’s important to understand addiction through the medical model so we can jettison the guilt and shame associated with relapses. This is not to encourage or excuse slips, but to be realistic.

And let me be one hundred percent clear: I hope my experience with relapse is over forever; I don’t plan or make any room for relapse to again occur in my life. But I am no longer arrogant enough to think relapse is safely foreign, either.

After Relapse, Recovery. What Else?

And I have no doubt that what I’ve learned through this relapse will help me relate to others who are still struggling today. I get chronic relapsing. But here’s what else I also get, one of the most crucial lessons of relapse:

A solid, strong recovery can follow an extended period of using. It can even follow a weekend of using.

Recovery from meth is about getting our lives back. Fuck meth for what it’s done to my friends. Fuck meth.

All around me I see it, again and again. After relapse there can be recovery. You just come back. You return to the rooms of CMA, NA, or AA, if that’s your program. And, if it’s not, there’s LifeRing, SMART Recovery, SOS (Secular Organizations for Sobriety/Save Our Selves), Women for Sobriety and others.

Maybe you get clean on your own. Many do, though I know I couldn’t—but that’s me not you. Or perhaps you end your relapse with the help of a therapist, a spiritual advisor, a guide book, or with some eclectic and personalized mix of all of the above. What’s important  is that you come back.

As a my friend of mine, who’s struggled for years with relapsing, proclaims, “I’m not a chronic relapser; I’m a chronic returnee.”

Sure, it’s often tempting to think of the relapser as that person who just keeps trying and trying, getting some days or weeks (maybe even months) clean here and there, only to relapse again before any substantial time accumulates. But remember, I was a few months shy of four years when I relapsed. And in my work with fellow meth users, I have met people who’d quit for much longer than I, and yet still relapsed.

(On the flip side, I have a dear friend—I actually dedicated Quitting Crystal Meth to him—who quit over twenty years ago and has never relapsed. It bears reemphasizing: Just because relapse is a part of most of our stories, it does NOT have to be part of yours.)

If you’ve relapsed before, I hope you never relapse again—and I hope my honesty here has helped in your resilience in quitting, as opposed to discouraging you. Because the news about quitting meth is encouraging. People quit meth all the time. And if they relapse, they can come back.

We don’t have to die from this disease.

In that vein, I’ll end this post as I traditionally do by reminding that, yes, most definitely you CAN quit crystal meth—whether you relapse or not. Learning strategies to better maximize the possibility of quitting (and staying quit) is what this blog is about. Peace.