What need is there for alarm clocks when we never slept anyway? My day would usually begin around 72 hours before the morning light became noticed, and I was routinely surprised by the site of it: "My God, is it morning?" The revelation would then create cause to "burn one," yet again, as did almost any event occurring in my environment, perceived environment or actual environment, I should say. Hell, if the phone rings, burn one; tie my shoes, burn one; returning from the store, burn one; receive bad news, burn one; receive good news, burn one! Any event of just an average day in methamphetamine addiction became a reason, an excuse, to continue using.
I believe I have heard it said before, though I am drawing a mental blank about who may have coined the adage, "You are the last thing that I thought of, and the first thing on my mind." Simply put, methamphetamine was my god, and I was unknowingly dancing with the devil himself. Methamphetamine addiction stripped me of my very person, changed my personality to an unrecognizable degree, and created scars throughout my family and deep into my friends . . . scars that may never fully heal.
All that I am and all that I have left to give after methamphetamine addiction is a story of completely grave disappointment, exhaustive pain, mental collapse, and a scream in my heart that will not be stifled. Hopefully, what remains can be used to better aid others' decisions regarding which dance requests to decline in life.
So, there I was, sitting on a women’s maximum-security block in Jefferson County Jail, wondering what forces had brought me there. At that point, I could not decipher between the reality of my situation and the completely foggy, surreal environment before me. I remembered something on television telling me to just go with the policemen when they entered our apartment, and I remembered the same strange voices telling me to “just go back home” when I twice walked out the large, opening slider of the general population block a few days earlier.
The female deputies in the cube had said they were “going to make a difference for me” the second time I went too far. What had they meant? I understood when they ordered me to gather my sleeping pad, bath towel and cup, and the piece of paper explaining my charges. When they pointed and yelled harshly at me to walk around the officer’s cube toward another block, I obeyed. I didn’t know where I was being angrily directed to when they rolled the slider of the maximum security block, but the only difference they could have made for me at that point would have been showing me where my husband had been “taken.”
Once situated in what seemed like a confinement within confinement, I read the piece of paper sitting beside me on the steel bunk. It said: “Trafficking Methamphetamine, $140,000.00 bond.” What did it mean? How did this happen? Was it real? Did everyone know?
About three times a day, other inmates would come to my cell with ridiculously inhumane amounts of food that I would devour. Withdrawing from methamphetamine tends to create huge cravings for nourishment of any kind, and since I had lost down from an ideal weight of about 145 pounds to nearly 100, my appetite was overwhelming. The problem was, I was on the maximum-security block, and the portions were substantially less than the average portions on other blocks (which were already less than that of a normal meal in the free world). As well, I was also withdrawing from the immensely strong opiate, Oxycontin.
Even worse, when an inmate had the pleasure of being “placed on Max,” as it was called, they were not allowed to order any food items from the jail commissary. Later that month, when the withdrawals and delusions allowed me to understand how an inmate purchased store items, I remember ordering the only edible items that someone on Max could order – chewable antacid tablets and cough lozenges. I cannot actually number how many rolls of the white-mint antacid tablets and horrible mentholated throat lozenges I consumed that month, but even then, thanked God I was allowed to order them and have them to eat.
However, in the early part of the incarceration, I was extremely delusional and afraid. I did not answer the call to see a nurse, fearing that whatever forces had taken me there would desire to punish me for having wanted a pill. I could not rationalize that this was a legal medication used to relieve the ghastly side - effects of withdrawals from an illicit drug. Instead, I believed the trip to the nurse would be viewed in the same light that I, myself, viewed the many times I had “doc-shopped” in the past (faked an illness to a doctor in order to receive pharmaceuticals). I was also paranoid that perhaps the powers-that-be would poison me, and I did not try to rationale why someone would actually do that. Nonetheless, I was thrown head-over-heels into a constant realization that I had to make the right choices, and feared that the entire world was watching.
I wondered if I had secretly been watched my entire life, as paranoia gripped every seam in my being. I wondered who my mother really had been, and remember chanting repeatedly “I know there is a God.” Complete mental collapse had come to my bunk. I read every engraving, every scribble from inmates who had been in the cell before me, every carved name and who they loved forever, and wondered what they could have meant for me to understand when they wrote on the cell walls that I would one day view. Every second was a hungry eternity. Every night was filled with a battle against falling asleep because the nightmares I continually endured were terrifying.
Did I really have children? Did I have only two, or had the misperceived forces lied? Was I an experiment? I have decided that the worst delusion while withdrawing was wondering what I could I believe in the Bible if some cruel dictatorship had only shown me what controlled "facts" they had wanted to show me? I clung to the knowledge that I knew there was a God, because I had known Him in my life other than "fact" in print. I had felt His arms around me too many times before to doubt Him, many times before and during drug addiction. I knew He was as real as my own flesh that I could see before me.
He was there in that cell with me. I didn’t see Him with my own eyes, no. But throughout what I came to eventually call “the spinal chord bends,” (a phase of withdrawals that feels so unnatural and uncomfortable throughout the spine and back, making you feel as if you must constantly bow over or jerk your shoulders back suddenly in complete failure to satiate the strangeness felt) He was there. I felt that He cried with me. I felt that He smiled with me.
Every evening I was allowed out of my cell and into the block alone for about thirty-five to forty-five minutes, as the other maximum-security block inmates were held in their cells, waiting their evening turn to shower and use the phone. When I finally realized that I was to exit my cell when hearing the loud sound of the cell door’s locking mechanism disengage, my mind drew a blank over phone numbers that I had known all my life. This was another side-effect, for me, of coming out of methamphetamine addiction. I would try all day to remember just one phone number, and then doubt myself when it finally came time to make that call.
When I actually remembered numbers through the fog, the users of that number's service had not been set up to accept the Department of Corrections’ billing methods. And why would they? I had come from a very straight, Christian family, previously untouched by substance abuse. Our relatives did not go to jail.
I finally reached my mother-in-law. She had spoken with my husband. He was on the sixth floor of the same jail, and I on the fourth. Furthermore, his block was above the maximum-security block, and he had been trying to yell to me through the vents, to instruct me on how to speak with him. I thought I had heard his voice a couple of times, but there had been so many others in the ventilation shaft as well. So, it turned out, the female deputies had made a difference for me, after all.
About the third week, fairly use to the routine, clarity began to shine through the chaos. A woman in the cell next to mine had summoned me to the small, tunneled airway between her cell and mine, at the long, 6” vertical window. Sitting on top of the steel bunk, I listened to her instructions on how to “go to Tokyo.” At first, I believed she was either mocking my desires to leave that place, or had also been withdrawing from illicit drugs. As I listened to her, I realized she was talking about holding a conversation through the toilette. I was sure she belonged on the medical block, insane as she was. Then it dawned on me. The toilettes share the same pipe from floor to floor. Would it be possible? Could this strange voice be correct?
The next day, my mother in law told me that my husband had given a male deputy $40 worth of candy bars he had obtained from the general population commissary to be, in turn, moved into Cell 3 on his block, directly above my Cell 3. I immediately went back to my cell, forgetting the shower (and note, this was a huge sacrifice when being met with absolutely nothing to do all day except to look forward to being allowed out of the cell and into that shower). I knew exactly where to begin, and did not pause, even at the thought of dipping the water out of the toilette with my drinking cup. I towel dried the remaining water in the bottom with my only bath towel, climbed onto the sink to yell his name through the vent, and heard his voice return to me. I began to cry. The girl in the cell next to mine had told me the night before to request extra toilette paper rolls so that I could unroll it from the tube and then use the three of them together to make a sort of “microphone” that I then inserted into the hole in the toilette. So when my husband screamed from the ventilation shaft “Do you know how to go to Tokyo?” I was ready, with a tear-filled “Yes!”
For four months, we spoke to each other in this manner, losing each other when being moved block to block. The stress of bribing guards to be moved to different cells without angering them became an artful undertaking. There were new fears to us, as well, being first-time offenders, like trying to keep from being thrown back onto the maximum security block for having fought or hit or defended yourself from one of the loud, institutionalized inmates who had to uphold image, whose status in the Department of Corrections’ community felt threatened by “big-time drug traffickers.”
A horribly emotional “good-bye” was endured “in Tokyo” the entire night before my husband was pulled away and shipped to prison. I had made it to the work block, and had touched my children through the thick glass at the visitation area by then. My case had also been mostly decided without me, as well. My husband pleaded for the powers-that-be to do something different than prison with me, and in turn, he would plead guilty and accept the ten-split-three prison term they offered, meaning he would serve three years straight, and seven on probation. Being that this had been both he and my own first offense, they had agreed, my heart breaking again. There had been people in different outreach ministries battling over me being given a different type of rehabilitation other than prison, as well. Their labors were incredible and baffling all at the same time. The utter joy of leaving that place was mixed with a screaming from my heart because my husband was not free; little did I know that the grips of Methamphetamine addiction would continue to grab and scrape at us for the rest of our lives.
And we had deserved exactly what we were given since we had been guilty of dealing drugs all along. Had we not been addicted to drugs, we would never have sold them. Methamphetamine addiction causes one to make choices they would never have made had they been clean. Eventually, even choices one is vehemently opposed to making is either considered or acted upon. I do not, however, believe drugs make someone take a violent course of action and intentionally hurt someone physically unless they already have the mentality to do so. I did not ever want to hurt or scare someone in order to obtain more drugs. I believe that those who do commit a violent crime against another person and then claim drugs were to blame is merely using an excuse for their willful violence.
For whatever reason one decides to break the law, they must accept the outcome. Even after having been stripped of my freedom and family, kept from my husband of, at that time, fifteen years, and facing ten years in prison if even thinking about breaking the law again, I actually missed Crystal Meth and opiates. I knew how completely evil the two were, even when used without combining the two, and I repeatedly told myself I did not even think of drugs or crave them any longer, and did not have to bear the thorn in my side that I knew as methamphetamine addiction. But I was lying to myself. I realize now that there is such a thing as “too good,” or “too enjoyable.” For me, trying hard drugs changed me forever.
Life was, is, and ever shall be different. It changed in the sense that it is difficult to find natural joy (though a definite possibility through God, time and setting boundaries for yourself to keep from using again. Equally as hard is the ability to sit still and content or to just be. I must constantly fill my mind with something, anything, to do, in order to keep from returning to the horribly cruel world of methamphetamine addiction.
If I could have that one moment back . . . . That one deciding moment when my life changed forever because I decided to abuse drugs, and in particular methamphetamine, I would walk away from it. Even now, as I say that, something in my mind says “Yeah, but that first hit is the one you keep looking for again.”
I have come to believe it is a horrible evil for a society to be given something so lethal, so detrimental, and simply be told to “just say no.”
To me, this “choice” that almost everyone in this day and age faces, certainly the generation coming after me, is not too far from different than the one Eve found herself making in Eden. She had been lied to and told that she would be a god if she would only taste that apple. When taking that first hit of methamphetamine, I thought I felt like I could be one too.
Thank you so much for the comments! This article was featured on Associated Content, where the use of keyword phrases is emphasized a great deal. Most likely, that is for the purpose of search engines? Not sure, actually, haha. I didn't think about toning down the keyword phrases in it, however, and will remember that next time. Thanks again for the warm welcome and critique!!
Immense power and purpose are here and these words need to be published. I remember that world and I remember the penitentiary days in Oregon. I remember them all, but I could never write of them the way you have. Now, writer to writer: overuse of a phrase can rob the story of impact and "Methamphetamine addiction" is an example of that, fortunately the rest of the potency in this article did not suffer for the overuse of this phrase. We already know the topic, so the phrase can be taken out in several key places. Also, put some "ease of reading" spaces between paragraphs. Again, this story is so gripping that I was willing to wade through the collage of letters to see it; not all your readers will though. I know of some prison ministries that would grab this testimony up in a second.