“….But HOW did you do it?”
I only talked to a doctor about quitting meth one time. It was about a month into my sobriety and around a week after my kids were taken. My mom thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown and paid for me to go see her doctor. The doctor was a nice, young, pretty blond lady who seemed real down to earth. I told her I had recently been addicted to meth but had quit.
She asks a little about the addiction. How long? How did you do it? The basics. Then she asked what program I had went to. When I told her none, she paused.
“Well, what medicine are you on?”
She starts to get a little exasperated.
“Okay but what doctor are you seeing?”
At this point she puts down her pen and asks the question that will become very familiar to my ears.
“Well, then how did you quit meth? How did you do it?”
I didn’t have a good answer for that pretty doctor, who at the end of my appointment told me she was very proud of me but then gave me a referral to an inpatient state mental health facility with a promise from me I would go straight there for a 3 day observation (I didn’t).
So how did I do it?
I hear constantly there is no way for a meth addict to quit without professional help but this is not true. Now, hear me out. I very much recommend getting professional help. I am sure it is much easier and more more likely to work with professional help so please, if you can get help with your recovery, get it!
For some people, in some circumstances, that is not possible. People will say bullshit like ‘If it was important to you, you’d find a way’ or the age old ‘You’re just making excuses’ but I know sometimes you can’t get professional help, yet need to quit. This is why I am posting this, to help those of you who can’t.
Be warned, however, that you’re not going to like these instructions and this is going to be one of the hardest experiences you will ever go through. But hey,you’re no pussy, right?
Step 1: Get Caught
What? You thought I was joking that you weren’t going to like these instructions and already you’re like ‘nope, not for me’!?
But listen, getting caught, whether it be by the cops, your baby daddy, your parents, your job, or whoever, will typically be the catalyst that makes you change. Some people get caught and only feel sorry for themselves, which leads back to more drugs. For you though, this can be a wake up call; a glimpse of the future if you keep going down the path of drugs. I had quit about 2 weeks before I was caught. At the time, I thought it was proof that God hated me and there was no point in quitting. Now that I am in a right frame of mind again, I can see it was only because I got caught that I kept sober. I had tried to quit many times before and always ended up going back to meth. If I hadn’t been caught, I’m almost positive I would have went back to it that time too.
Step 2: Confess
This usually goes hand in hand with getting caught. You have to tell someone because you’ve been caught and you need help. You have to call mom to bail you out of jail or you have to tell your lawyer because you’re in a custody battle. Immediately you are accountable to them and this is good. The more people you confess that you are a meth addict trying to quit to, the more people you are accountable to. As an addict we tend to isolate ourselves from people who don’t do drugs because we don’t want to stop doing drugs, even for a moment. When you try to quit, do the exact opposite. Obviously don’t go telling everyone. I would recommend not telling co workers, your boss, strangers on the street, etc.
The best way I can explain the confessing part is by comparing it to smoking cigarettes. Sometimes, I will think to myself, ok I’m going to quit smoking cigarettes but I’m not going to tell anyone about it just so I don’t feel like I let everyone down if I don’t make it. It’s then that I know I’m really not serious about quitting. You have to be accountable to someone more than yourself. Also, don’t only confess that you are a drug addict, confess to them the signals they should look for if you start again. I showed my mom the exact spots on my thumbs I will get a callous from lighting a torch constantly so she can more easily identify if I go down that road again.
Step 3: Triggers
Triggers are the people, places, or things that remind us of the drugs we used to do and usually gives recovering addicts the urge to do drugs again. A trigger could be something very obvious like seeing a torch lighter or something more personal like hearing the music you always listened to when doing it. When you first quit, get rid of all of it. Fully purge your life of any obvious trigger like empty little plastic baggies, your glass dicks, cotton balls, etc. Next move on to the not so obvious triggers. In another post I mentioned moving or renovating your home just to make things look different so you aren’t constantly reminded of the life you are trying to put behind you. Also, keep away from places that are triggers. I never shop at Walmart anymore because I used to spend hours walking around different Walmart’s in the middle of the night when I was using. Only you know your personal triggers so be honest with yourself and throw away everything, or at least pack it away for a while if it’s something valuable to you.
I actually came across this article on Twitter today about addiction and muscle memory that discusses this. Check it out at http://www.trueaccountability.org/blog/what-do-muscle-memory-and-addiction-have-in-common
Step 4: Other Users
I have read a ton of advice for addicts saying the only way to quit is to never again talk to any person who ever has done drugs but in my experience, nothing is that black and white. Yes, you are going to have to cut a lot of people out of your life but we all know there are some people you are going to have to know forever, whether they do drugs or not. Cut out most everyone you did drugs with, but it’s okay to make a few exceptions, as long as you are extremely careful and committed to your goal of staying sober. Let me give you an example. My best friend is still a meth addict. We did meth together almost every day before but now I am clean. I still love my best friend. We have been best friends since our sophomore year of high school (we are in our 30’s now) and no one is ever going to tell me that I shouldn’t know her anymore. But at the same time, I have to be realistic with myself. I don’t ever go over her home anymore because I know every place in that house she will hide meth and I can’t let myself get tempted like that. When we hang out, we meet in public or she comes over my house. I’ve asked her to never reference ice or bring it around me and she respects that. She is not ready to quit yet, but she does whatever she can to help me stay clean.
I originally titled this step ‘other addicts’ but changed it to ‘other users’ for a reason. You probably know people who use drugs socially but don’t seem to have a drug problem. Be as cautious of hanging out with users as you are of addicts. If you see another person using your drug of choice and not getting addicted to it, you may convince yourself you can do the same thing. Never forget you are an addict, you may never be able to use drugs casually like other people.
Step 5: Accept the Withdraw
Here is the ultimate truth about quitting meth. Ready?
Quitting meth WILL NOT kill you.
But, it will feel like you are dying.
The first month of withdraw is going to feel like death but you will not die. Meth is not like heroin in the way that you can die if you quit cold turkey. I am not in any way demeaning the process of quitting meth. I’ve been through it and trust me, no matter how much you know you won’t die, your body is telling you it’s dying through pain. There is no way to ease this on yourself. Just try to sleep through it as much as you can (which won’t be hard since you will be in the crash most of the time). The short answer to withdraw? Nut up and shut up! Accept that it’s going to suck for a while, and you’re just going to have to bear through the pain. No one will look down on you for crying like a bitch during the first month. We all did.
Step 6: Get Tested
The best thing that could have happened for my recovery was being required to submit to hair follicle testing every 3 months. This was part of the settlement I made with my ex husband to keep seeing my children as much as I do and it is truly the last line of defense against my drug addict self. Most days, the thought of death and the horror of the addiction I made it past is enough to keep me from really wanting to do drugs again. Once every while though, the urge is so strong, I start convincing myself I could do it just one more time. It’s at these times I am more thankful than ever that I agreed to the hair testing because I know there is no way I could get away with it. When it comes to ice, hair follicle testing is pretty precise (not so much with marijuana but I’ll write another blog about that later) so I would absolutely be caught. The best thing you could do for yourself is commit to regular testing where the result is sent straight to someone you would not want knowing you messed up. Maybe a parent, sibling, lawyer, pastor? Someone you don’t want to disappoint. This again goes to being accountable to someone about your addiction. This is a tough step but if you are trying to quit drugs without professional help, this step is almost necessary.
Step 7: Remind yourself of the horror you went through
Quitting drugs is like breaking up with someone. You may be so certain at first that you are done with that person, but then after some time goes by, you start remembering all the good times you had with your ex and none of the bad. Same thing happens with drugs. After you get through the hard parts of withdraw and begin a normal routine of life again, you kind of forget how bad drugs were and why you had to quit. You start getting nostalgic about how much better your life was when you were doing drugs. You think you now know enough to keep your drug usage under control. This is where a lot of people end up going down the same path over and over again.
When you catch yourself day dreaming about the pleasures of your drug, immediately change the direction of your thinking to remember the shameful, terrible parts. Keep the humility you felt during your recovery at the forefront of your mind. If you keep a journal, look back to the things you wrote about on drugs. That should remind you real quick. For me, those “on this day”memories on Facebook help me a ton. Every morning I look at my memories and I can see how happy and normal I was in the posts I made 6 years ago, way before drugs. More importantly, I can see the depressive, manic, shit I was posting 3 years ago, when I was at the height of my addiction.
Step 8: Distract Yourself
After you quit drugs, you will be left with extra time on your hands. I never realized in my using how much time was taken up by my drugs. If I wasn’t currently on drugs I was arranging to get more drugs or crashing from not having drugs. I was never bored as a drug addict because at the first hint of ennui I would just smoke more meth and then everything around me would become instantly fascinating.
I’m sorry to say, I haven’t yet found anything that comes close to making everything around me interesting like meth did. If I do, I will let you know. For now though, find some new things to do with your time. Try some new hobbies, get involved with a group or a church, or spend some time with friends and family. The main goal is to keep yourself busy and distracted so you don’t get bored and do drugs. If you need some suggestions, read another blog I posted recently here 15 Things To Do Instead of Your Drugs.
At first, it may seem impossible to enjoy anything but we all know that meth damages the pleasure sensors in your brain so this is to be expected. It takes anywhere from 6 months to 1 year for those pleasure sensors to start repairing themselves so don’t be discouraged by the lack of enjoyment you feel. Make yourself do things anyways. I promise, if you stay off the meth, one day you will wake up and realize you feel happiness again.
Step 9: Forgive and Appreciate
I have misled you in this post because I have made this post about how I recovered from meth. However, the credit for my recovery goes to so many more people than myself. My parents, my brothers, my children, my boyfriend, God, fate, even my ex-husband who took the kids from me. The judge who sided with my ex. The people at church, my co-workers. The list goes on and on for me. And it will for you too.
Up until a year after I quit, I was still very bitter and in my mind everyone had screwed me over. No one could possibly understand the pain I was in. And God? That motherfucker either didn’t exist or existed only to watch me fall on my face over and over. My parents? Why didn’t they immediately get my into a rehab when I confessed to them? Why did they ignore it until my kids were taken? This was their fault. My boyfriend encouraged me to do drugs. It was his fault. My lawyer was conspiring against me. His fault! I could keep going telling you how, even though I wasn’t touching drugs, my mind was still that of an addict’s in the way that I thought I was the only one trying and everyone else was against me. And just like an addict, I hated myself as much as I hated everyone else.
Once I focused my mind on being thankful and forgiving, my recovery went faster and smoother. I know now that I could have never made it out of my addiction without the support of my loved ones, the undeserved Grace God kept pouring on me, and (even though I hate to admit it) our fucked up legal system and asshole society. How can I expect perfection out of everyone else and at the same time expect them to forgive me my imperfections? This step takes a while, as in maybe the rest of your (my) life. It takes a lot of focused effort to retrain yourself how to think and feel but it gets easier and easier to do once your life starts coming together again. Positivity breeds more positivity in my experience and that needs to be your mantra going forward. Think happy thoughts, you warrior.
I would love to hear from you on your personal experience with recovery from meth or any other addiction you think is relevant. If you write a blog on this subject, feel free to post a link to it in the comments. Do you have any resources, advice, or tips for people trying to quit?