Narcotic Delusions

Nine years and counting

By Liz Spikol
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 2 | Posted Feb. 11, 2009

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photo by steve ansul

Every now and then I decide to clean out my bookshelves. Within about 10 minutes, I find a little gem I've forgotten about, and the cleaning is abandoned for a comfy seat on the couch. Other times, odd bits of detritus will fall out of a book like pressed leaves, only less rustic and literary; mostly they're old CVS receipts.

The other day a card fell out of my Narcotics Anonymous "Blue Book." It was from my grandmother, dated Feb. 14, 2000: "You are, and will always remain, my love, my heart, my Valentine. I understand everything and want you to know that I know that we will see each other when it's right for you."

That card made me sad--not just because my grandmother died four years later by starving herself--but because she wrote that when I'd just come out of rehab. How hard it must have been for her to "understand everything" that year. I hardly understood it myself.

I started my love affair with pills in 1998, when my then-psychiatrist erroneously prescribed methamphetamine. I asked him at the time if addiction was a risk. Yes, he said, but in all his years of prescribing, he'd only "lost" two people to the drug.

Make that three. I quickly (speedily!) ramped my daily consumption up to four times the recommended max, popping the pills like they were Tic-Tacs. My weight dropped to 89 pounds, and obsessive-compulsive rituals, like counting, started to clog up my day and make me late for appointments. Things would happen in my apartment that "I" hadn't done--but then, who had? I was too scattered and dissociated to pay bills, to eat, to return calls. Life was all about maintaining the "right" amount of meth.

It was completely unsustainable, but much of the time I felt like a god.

I went into rehab, did hardcore detox and gained about 20 pounds in six days. Now I've been speed-free for nine years, but after my grandmother died, I had to conquer another addiction to a medication, Klonopin, which took yet another addictive substance--phenobarbital--to work through. And that was hell.

Yet in the same way people fantasize about a weekend on a Caribbean island, I occasionally dream about a substance-abuse weekend: speed during the day, Klonopin and pheno at night, cigarettes at all hours. The fact that it can't happen makes me want to climb into bed and give up. At least St. John is out there. Drugs without repercussions? Just a fantasy.



When I talk to non-addicts about my secret--that I desperately miss those pills, every single day--there's always a disconnect. Why the hell would you miss that? It's hard to explain. But cigarette addicts know what I mean and so do drinkers. The curl of the smoke, the clink of the ice in the glass ... it's not even the thing itself, but its suggestion. When people talk about the loneliness of recovery, they don't mean being lonely for the drug. But my old friend methamphetamine, how I miss you!

When my grandmother's card fell out of the NA book on my nine-year anniversary, I wondered if it was time for a meeting. I thought of Edward Norton hugging Meatloaf at a support group in Fight Club. Maybe I could meet a man with breasts who would let me cry on him?

I'd been to meetings before. After I came out of rehab, I was told to go to AA. But I don't drink, so I felt funny saying, "Hello, my name is Liz and I'm an alcoholic." I thought that tiny bit of deception defeated the purpose. I wanted to be me--the fabulously authentic drug-addict me.

So I tried NA. There I could easily say, "My name is Liz and I'm an addict," but everyone seemed to be suffering from crack or heroin addiction. It made me feel like a fraud. My silly little pill problem--how bourgeois. I stopped going, thus avoiding the wraithlike figures who hovered outside the meetings, ready to offer on-the-fence addicts a fix. But when that NA book jumped off my shelf like a little Michael Phelps bong hit, I took it as a sign.

It didn't work out. Everyone was happy. They invoked the same old cliches: one day at a time; it works if you work it; let go and let God. As an atheist who's only agnostic during PMS, I felt like a freak.

When it came time to share, I briefly considered saying, "It's my anniversary and I feel like shit," but everyone was so blessed, so grateful. I looked around the room and stuffed my bullshit weirdness away. Instead, I parroted the NA dogma: The program works; get a sponsor; use the phone numbers you get "in these rooms." Looking pointedly at a row of people who were there to satisfy the conditions of their parole, I said my piece with a beatific, Higher Power-charged smile. I thought a little recovery PR might keep them coming back; as I learned while working in the world of criminal justice, violating parole sucks.

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1. Sara Wittman said... on Apr 5, 2009 at 06:05PM

“Wow I'm srory that was your experience with NA. I am a member and I feel like my homegroup wants to hear exactly where you are at that moment, meetings shouldn't focus on a specific drug, and in my group they don't. I had to stick around long eough to hear a complete message. There are days when I go to a meeting and everyone is smiling and joking but my life sucks that day, and when thatswhere I'm at thatswhat I share. People do want to hear from you, there is nothing tabboo bout who you are, and if you don't beleive in God thats ok...think of the word God as a accronym for Good Orderlly Direction.....whatever works for you. I'm not trying to sell you NA. You have already proven to yourself you can stay clean without it. I just want to express my concern. Media is powerful and NA is a serious deal which has saved thousand of lives...your experience is only one and by sharing half truths about the fellowship as a whole you may just have kept a addict who desperately needed us from coming in the rooms. I'm sorry it didn't work for you but am happy you are clean. I know this is a opinion artical, I just wish you would consider how your opinion affects so many. I think NA probly respected you as a person, show us the same respect please.”

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2. I'm NOT Sorry Because said... on Sep 13, 2009 at 02:23AM

“I'm an atheist too and those meetings scream of "give up and give in" and "Let's make a phone chain" and torture other people when we are just dreaming of the pretty blue pills. I gotta tell ya that ain't working for me. Isn't that what we are fighting to Not do. We're fighting to remain intelligent non-conformists and not in the sense that we have to be rebels, just not sniveling bible cuddlers. It'd be easier if we could "work it" but Heck No. It's got to be the hard but smart and logical and un-sheeplike. way for me and I think probably you too. Hugs to you. I always respect your work and look forward to it.

Lives in Arizona”

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