Recently I have found myself wide-awake at 4:00 a.m. Many mornings I will enjoy the solitude by sitting on the couch and staring out into the dark stillness of the night. While looking at the shadows cascading into the living room from the street light, I noticed how they danced from the headlights of a slowly passing car. I was reminded of my life as an active Meth addict. This is the time of the night we used to call the “Witching Hour” as all the tweakers would be at their climax of deviancy.
One particular witching hour came to mind, a time when I had been awake for four consecutive days, and the first time I can recall feeling out of control while actively using. Turning off my bedroom lights, I got into bed and moving figures on my walls and ceiling immediately caught my attention. Of course, being a part of the Meth social circles, I had heard all about the “Shadow People” from other addicts which were movements and figures that one would think they saw but were the result of sleep deprivation. I had previously experienced swift movements caught in my peripheral or what looked like small animals diving into the street while I drove at night. These were no big deal to me and I typically laughed at myself.
This time it was different.
These shadows took on three-dimensional shapes; an elephant, oddly shaped men, a large bird, and a gigantic flower. I was frozen on my back, sinking into my mattress as I witnessed the animation before me. I remember wiping my eyes and closing them tightly as I attempted to make what I knew to be illusions disappear. Eventually, I succumbed to the entertainment. I was giggling like a child as the flower bent over and touched my nose, I was talking out loud to the elephant who had sat down beside one of the human figures. I’m not sure how long this went on; Meth can cause a minute to feel like hours.
When I try to reflect on the rest of the night, it comes to me in pieces and not necessarily chronologically. I recall hearing loud rustling and voices outside in the back yard, and the night took a dark turn. As if a villain had entered the scene in a child’s movie, the friendly shadows ran in fear after hearing the sounds outside. Suddenly they were gone, replaced by the long stoic obscurities cast from my windows. I sat up in bed, heart racing, and stricken by fear I had never felt and have never felt since. The sounds were coming from a group of policemen who were positioned outside my bedroom (or so I believed).
My bedroom had sliding-glass doors that led onto the patio and back yard of my condo. Beyond the curtains over the doors, I could see the stealthy movements of men flipping, running, sneaking…they were planning an assault on me. I was frozen except for the erratic darting of my face toward every tiny sound outside, each time gasping. And then, I could hear them in the house. I began to sob. I was so overcome with fear that I was having difficulty breathing and shaking so violently I couldn’t even grip my phone. I inched my way to the very top center of my bed and curled into a fetal position. I cried profusely and remember screaming out each time I would hear a twig break under the pressure of their boots or the crackle of their radio or their faint conniving whispers.
Hopeless. Fragile. Confused. And completely out of control.
The grip of fright felt as if I was being slowly smothered by a python. I lay curled up, tensed, crying uncontrollably, with my face buried between my legs hoping I could drown out the noises. There were several instances during the night when I desperately tried to seek help. For some reason, maybe exhaustion or dehydration, when I was finally able to control the convulsions enough to hold my phone, I couldn’t remember how to make calls or send texts. Out of sheer habit from being high and scrolling apps on my phone, I managed to log into a dating app and sought out help from other people. But who was going to rescue someone who was currently surrounded by the police? At some point, I recorded a message using the “Voice Memos” function on my phone. It was a plea for help referring to how the police were connected to my friends and family, I had been followed for days, and other irrational paranoia. In my mind, I had sent that memo out like a S.O.S. to the Universe, but in reality it went nowhere. Some time after day break, my body finally gave in to the pull of rest my body needed and I passed out. I frantically woke up later that day, my muscles sore to the touch from the intensity of the night. It took my sober mind several hours to piece it all together. I had lost my shit.
Up until this point of my drug use, I prided myself in being one of the few users who had control over their mind. I wasn’t like most others: face-picking, schizophrenic, or violently paranoid. I saw myself as an educated, level-headed man who understood reality versus drug-induced mind tricks. What I have come to understand now is that Meth has a clever way of manipulating emotionally mature people like me into the false notion that they are making the decisions. With those who aren’t as mentally advanced, it is easy to make them hear voices, see bugs crawling on their body, or think that the neighbor is recording their every move for the FBI. The real challenge for Meth is to intricately deceive someone like me by utilizing their confidence, will, and intelligence against themselves.
Please understand that this drug is highly clever in the way it slithers into the synapses of the brain and quickly learns where and how to attack. This strategy is individualized for each person as it studies patterns and writes new ones. And, now that I am reflecting on my life history, I understand that my first addiction was to control. Control is the high that enables me to feel good, safe, and powerful. This is why Meth and I had such a natural connection. It allowed me to feel as if I had complete control. All the while, as if a gifted marionettist, it knew exactly which strings to pull inside my brain to make me dance.
After I completely lost control that night, I began to analyze my thoughts and behaviors from an outside perspective and sought to understand what was slowly happening. My mind was being hijacked; I was a puppet. With that understanding, then began the labored and deliberate work of leaning in and taking back my mind from a chemical (and I believe spiritual) perpetrator. The healing from the profound cerebral damage Meth has caused is the battle of a lifetime. It still tries to attack me, even sitting alone on my couch in the middle of the night. The memories flood, good or bad, which can lead to triggering the craving, and then my brain easily gives in to those marionette strings, those drug-forged synapse patterns. But each time I deny those cravings, I am forging my own path, cutting the puppet strings, and authoring my life.
Even during the witching hour, sobriety has given me a new kind of control, one that is positive and produces a light that rids my world of the shadows that seek to destroy me.