It’s been eight months since Bruce first smoked meth. Two since he quit. He considers himself lucky to have gotten out relatively quickly, though not without consequences.
At 40, Bruce felt he had his life together. A successful business consultant in Fort Worth, he rarely went out to clubs and didn’t have much use for drugs But when he learned a friend whom he admired for his success was using meth, he wondered if all the horrible things he’d heard about the drug were really accurate.
“We talked about it some and one night we [smoked meth]. It was great. It wasn’t really a high but a whole different reality, the effect was amazing the first time,” Bruce said.
After that weekend, Bruce waited a week to smoke again and another two weeks following that. Then he found a dealer and things accelerated. “I was taking two or three hits from the pipe each day, but I wasn’t using as much as those around me who were doing entire bowls every day,” he said. “I knew enough about meth as far as the addictive properties and the health consequences of it and my intention was simply not to let that happen to me, to regulate my use.”
An intelligent professional, Bruce tried to look at his meth use logically.
“I conducted frequent reality checks, asking myself questions: Can I live without this today? Is this turning into something I can’t handle? Are my answers changing? Pretty soon my answers were changing but I didn’t care. I had given up control.” Bruce recalls.
About three months into his use, Bruce began experiencing extreme paranoia. He said, “Every time I heard a siren I thought they were coming to get me for using meth. When the phone rang I just wouldn’t answer it because I didn’t know who it was.”
Though he knew he it was the drug making him paranoid, Bruce couldn’t control it. Instead, like many addicts, he tried to medicate past the side-effects, taking extra hits to reach the high beyond the paranoia.
Meanwhile, he was getting only two to three hours of sleep a night and dark circles had formed under his eyes. His hair was graying much more rapidly. Over the course of his use, he lost 15 pounds.
Halfway through his own ordeal, Bruce realized that the friend who had gotten him hooked on meth had recently lost his job, and in turn, his home. By that point, the red flags just weren’t enough.
Several out-of-town friends eventually noticed emotional changes in Bruce. After a phone conversation with him one evening, they called the Fort Worth Police Department to express their concern that he might try to commit suicide. In fact, that’s exactly what he was doing at that moment.
“I had become an anxiety-driven person to the point that it became a catastrophic emotion,” he says.
Bruce had taken a bottle of sleeping pills along with some meth and beer. He eventually passed out and when he woke to the flashing lights of police cars and an ambulance outside his window he managed to evade the officials and get to his car. He hasn’t used meth since that February night.
Since then, Bruce has tried to make sense of what happened to him, tried to understand the hold that meth has over otherwise rational people.
“It’s a horrible drug that is so difficult to let go of for so many people,” he says. “A lot of it has to do with the sexual side-effects. Things that didn’t turn you on before send you through the roof on meth. There are just no taboos anymore.”
In the end, he believes, the human roll will be high: “I think that’s going to create major sexual consequences across the country, including HIV infection and sex crimes. This isn’t going to leave us alone.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, May 12, 2006.