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.