Alert: If you’re trying to manage your drug use, you’re not enjoying it anymore
As an active addict, I was an amazing storyteller. “I don’t have a problem” was one story I liked a lot. Another related one: “It’s all under control.” A third and more specific variation: “Coke is not interfering with my life.” There are many more stories I told that usually did nothing to convince people (or myself) that I was completely fine but these were the ones I had on speed dial.
Anna David is the author of two novels and three nonfiction books and the founder of Recover Girl Consulting.
Editor: Muhammad Talha
Of course, I knew you needed evidence to back up a story, and since, by the time I was telling these, I did have a problem, my coke use was not under control and it was definitely interfering with my life, I devised ways to try to make my reality match my stories. It wasn’t easy: if I had coke, I needed to do it until it was gone and I didn’t seem to know how to not have it. But then I came up with some schemes to try to manage and enjoy those times I went off the rails—literally. Consider this the opposite of a list of suggestions—in other words, kids, do not try these at home (or anywhere else):
1) Storing drugs at a friend’s house so I’d do it less.
In theory, this wasn’t a terrible idea, seeing as I had a friend who had an open-door policy—which is to say that she did not lock her door and had long allowed many of us to sort of come and go from her place as we pleased. “Sure, keep it there,” she told me when I asked if I could use her dresser as a storage facility between binges. Then she got sober and I, the selfish addict that I was, figured the arrangement could continue; she never did drugs, after all, because her problem had been strict with alcohol. She actually had to sit me down and tell me that as a sober person, she didn’t feel comfortable having me store my drugs there and I remember thinking this was ridiculous since she’d never done coke so it’s not like she would have been tempted by it! Yep. Didn’t really matter, though: it had never been a great system since I lived only a few minutes away and a five-minute drive is no real deterrent when your brain is telling you to have to have something right then. All it usually did was delay my use by about a half-hour and sometimes get me stuck in LA traffic.
2) Going out of town to avoid using.
I certainly wasn’t the first to come up with the idea of skipping town to get away from drugs. Luckily, my grandmother lived in Palm Springs, only a couple hours away from LA and so one Friday morning, I decided that the way I was going to not do coke that weekend was to go visit Grandma. Step A in the plan was to work late that night (I should mention that despite being unemployable, I was employed; this was 2000 when there were a bunch of websites destined to go under because they were run by people who didn’t know how to do anything and one of them had hired me.) I decided I’d wake up early Saturday morning, get on the road, and behave innocent, clean, sweet time with Grandma by lunch. But then my boss had the grand idea of giving us all a half-day that Friday. If I left for Palm Springs then, I knew, I’d be stuck in hours of traffic. And when I had free time (especially unplanned free time), I literally didn’t know how to not call my dealer. So I called him on the way home from work at noon, deciding I would just do a couple of lines, then relax all night and proceed with my Saturday morning road trip. All went as planned except that those couple of lines turned into two grams and by the time Saturday morning rolled around, I hadn’t slept and was a quivering, chaotic, high as fuck mess. So what did I decide to do? Go to Palm Springs, anyway—once I came down. I took swigs from a bottle of vodka until I stopped shaking and then drove—drunk and high—to the desert. When I got there, I told my grandmother that I was exhausted (the first honest thing I’d probably said in months), took a bunch of Ambien, slept 20 hours, and drove back to LA where I called my dealer again.
3) Trying to transfer addictions.
At a certain point, I couldn’t tell myself I didn’t have a problem. The nice thing about coming clean with myself was that I could work on a solution and the one I came to was that I needed to switch to other, less dangerous and expensive drugs. Right around then, I started dating a guy who took painkillers. I had no idea how dangerous opiates actually were—I’d taken Percocet when I’d had my wisdom teeth out and had been fine, right?—and so I started swallowing and not snorting. But I missed coke and when he and I broke up, I went right back to it.
A few months later, I asked a pothead I worked with where I could buy weed, and at lunch that day, we met his dealer at Larchmont Village. It was probably the first weed I’d bought since high school because I hated pot. All it did was make me paranoid that no one understood what I was saying—a reasonable fear since I made no sense at all when I was baked. At that point in my life, however, there wasn’t really anyone around; I spent most of my nights alone in my apartment doing coke. And thus Project Get Addicted to Pot began. It lasted, I think, a weekend.
I remember smoking out of my makeshift Diet Coke can bong and then going to get a manicure. “This is fun!” I told myself as I sat there having my nails painted. But it wasn’t. I was only thinking about how the Korean woman giving me the manicure was talking shit about me to another woman there. I tried going to the supermarket but couldn’t remember what I needed to get even though I had a list. The Great Weed Experiment ended.
So there you have it: three ideas I had in active addiction that seemed to make perfect sense at the time. They say when you’re enjoying something, you’re not trying to control it and when you’re trying to control it, you’re no longer enjoying it. They forgot to mention that trying a trifecta of ineffective ways to control it (in my case, storage, travel, and transfer) can possibly help you to see that.