Sunday, February 5, 2023

The Tragedy of Meth

It will kill you, eventually, but bankrupt you and cause misery for you and your loved ones, first.

Spoiler alert: Most meth heads don't look like this!

I recounted before how we met a couple of guys who tried to convince us that it was possible to have "a responsible meth habit."  We kind of noped out of that and never saw them again.  It is a funny thing, but you can hang out with a pot smoker even if you don't smoke pot.  But you can't hang out with a cocaine user, a opiate user, or a meth user, unless you are as well.  It isn't that you reject them but they reject you.

I found this out years decades ago when some friends got into cocaine which was hella expensive back then - and still today.  Cocaine people quickly divide their lives into fellow coke fiends and "others" and I was happy to be in the second category.  My friends ended up in a bad place. One dumped his girlfriend and started dating underage girls and ended up losing his job, his house, as well as his girlfriend.  Some others tried to entice me with this newfangled "rock" cocaine (later called "crack") and I kind of edged away from that.  Broken marriages, depression, and pointless lives ensued.

My meth acquaintances also lost it all, but again, it happens so slowly they don't realize it is happening.  You do coke or meth and you feel like a new man - and as Steve Martin once quipped, "the first thing a new man wants, is another hit of coke!"  You know what happened to Steven Martin - and Richard Pryor.  Both were fortunate to survive, but had to go through rehab and lost so much in the process.  But at the time you are a coke-head, you still have your life - your job, your house, your spouse, your car - so everything seems OK - in fact everything seems super-OK.  It is only when these things slip away, little by little, that you realize that the drugs have taken their toll.  Many people never have this realization.

Our meth acquaintances were once wealthy - owning a chain of grocery stores as well as an elaborate mansion on a lake.  At one time, they had a leather business that was the largest in the United States - running leather contests nationwide.  But one by one, these things slipped away, first the grocery business, then the leather business, and eventually they had to get regular jobs to make ends meet - at an age when Mark and I were already retired.  They didn't get the connection between that and the meth, though.   I strongly suspect that the feel-good narcissistic nature of methamphetamine made them feel they could do no wrong and thus ended up making bad business decisions.  Sometimes, selling out when you can is the best decision.  But some folks see that as "giving up."

Well, a few years after we met these fellows, one died during the pandemic and it was tragic.  His partner was overwhelmed with grief.  We felt bad for him, but since we were not "responsible meth users" (or any other kind) we had kind of been shut out of their lives.  It is funny, but you talk to straight people and they seem to think that being Gay is like a club - that you know all the other members.  But it ain't like that.  People will ask, "Oh, you must know so-and-so, they're Gay!" and then they are mystified when we tell them that we don't go to the meetings anymore.

Anyway, I felt bad for them, particularly the surviving partner.  But I was shocked to hear he died as well.  A friend told me they found him at his lake house and implied it was perhaps suicide.  Is this the happy ending to methamphetamine?

I mentioned before my theory about drugs (and alcohol, which is a drug).  That God doles out only so much happiness in your life and like borrowing money for fun today - which you pay for double tomorrow - you can "borrow" on tomorrow's happiness today through drug and alcohol use.  LSD is particularly this way.  When you take it, you have this sense of euphoria and pleasure that washes over you.  The next day, however, everything seems stultifyingly boring (the fact that the next day is usually a Sunday probably enhances this effect).  You just sit around being bored for a day - nothing seem interesting, everything seems "flat" - as if the euphoria of the night before sucked all the happiness out of the next day.  The scales of happiness must be balanced.

Alcohol works the same way - you drink a lot and you feel like the life of the party.  The next day you are hung over and feel like shit.  Worst of all, if you really drink too much, you end up barfing your brains out and promising God that you will never drink again.  Of course, those promises are quickly broken - usually the next day.

Marijuana doesn't seem, at first, to follow this pattern.  You get high, you feel mellow and perhaps a little confused as well.  But long-term, the effects of the drug, for "chronic" users are well-known.  You end up living in your Mother's basement and grousing about how the world has been so unfair to you.  I've seen this pattern go down many a time in my lifetime.   I almost fell into the trap, myself.

Harder drugs have harder consequences, which is why they should be avoided at all costs.  Sure, maybe it is possible to be a "responsible" social drinker or a "responsible" marijuana user.  You can still go off the deep end, of course.  But with methamphetamine, cocaine, and opiates, well, you could end up dead - or just losing everything you cherish in life.   They are powerful drugs and very seductive, as well.  You can only drink so much until you barf.  You can only smoke so much pot until you fall asleep.  But cocaine?  People can snort that crap all day long and "feel great" - the body doesn't rebel right away.  Same for methamphetamine - you feel like a superman, so there is no immediate negative feedback.

I was sorry to hear about those fellows, dying so young (late 50's, early 60's) as it seemed to needlessly tragic.

The funny thing is, they didn't look or act like meth heads.  They appeared to be healthy (if not a bit skinny) and didn't engage in "tweaking" behavior.  I knew another couple who fell down that rabbit hole. We went to their house one day and they had a nice setup in their living room with a vintage stereo system and we hung out and listened to music.  When we came back a week later, everything the room was upended and the stereo system was disassembled - the head tweaker was going to modify it to improve its performance (he said) even though he had no background in electronics or repair.  He did a lot of things like that - scattering valuable things to the wind after taking them apart.

Come to think of it - that reminds me hoarding behavior!  Could it be the same damn thing?  Curious thought.

The point is, not every drug user looks like the stereotype photo shown above, just as every alcoholic isn't like the "Bowery bums" they used to show on Dragnet - wearing dirty and torn overcoats and drinking out of paper sacks in some dirty back alley.  No, most have jobs and houses and families and just annoy the snot out of everyone they know.   Similarly, not every stoner looks like a refugee from a Cheech and Chong or Harold and Kumar movie.  People are quite good at hiding these things.

"But Bob," you say, "who are you to judge?  Maybe these folks were happy being responsible meth heads?"   And maybe there is a nugget of truth here - although I don't think I am "judging" so much as reporting.   Funny thing that, if you even talk about something or somebody, you are accused of "judging" by some folks.   Sounds pretty passive-aggressive to me.  If you say something I don't like, I'll just accuse you of being Judgmental.

But maybe there is a nugget of truth to that thought.  Some folks might prefer to "borrow" against future happiness, even if it means misery tomorrow, simply because they don't plan on being around tomorrow.  Years ago, some dude commented here that blowing all your money on "bling" was a solid move, as life in the ghetto was brutal and short - so why save for tomorrow?   There are people who do bad things in this world and fully expect to get caught - at which point, they just check out.  People claim that Jeffrey Epstein was secretly murdered in Riker's prison.  I think the opposite - he knew what he was doing was horrendously wrong, and just figured he would try to get away with it for a long as possible - and if caught, well, lights out.

Maybe there is a perverse logic to that - the last decade or so of life isn't exactly a Swiss picnic - stumbling around in a walker, changing your adult diaper, taking trays of pills to stay alive, everything hurting - it isn't pleasant.   But I am not sure that being a drug addict and killing yourself is some sort of upgrade to business class, either.

I think, rather, it is a classic example of people willing to trade misery tomorrow for pleasure today - to screw "Uncle Tomorrow" so they can put a fast-food meal on a credit card today (delivered, of course!).  I think such Faustian bargains are short-sighted.  Tomorrow will come and you won't fell like doing an Epstein at that point - you'll have to live with the misery you created.

Contentment is better than happiness.  Being content is to suckle at the teat of life and take as much nourishment as you need for the time.  Rather than seek gross excess, enjoy having "just enough" instead.  Drug use is fun and all - that's why people do it.  This narrative that drug addicts are unhappy or unhealthy people who are "hooked" on drugs and constantly going through painful withdrawal symptoms the minute they aren't high is a television trope.  They are, in fact, having a ball, and eventually the piper will have to be paid, but not today.  That's why it is hard to "kick the habit" - not because going "cold turkey" will give you the "DT's" but because drugs are so much fun and who wants to stop the party when you are having so much fun?

I feel bad for my friends - acquaintances, really, I guess.  They were nice guys and decent human beings.  They weren't evil, to my knowledge.  They never hurt anyone that I know of - other than themselves.  It just makes me sad, though, to hear about what happened to them.  They had it all - fame, fortune, fancy houses, and whatnot.  And over time, they lost it all as well.  Contentment wasn't good enough, I guess.

Rest in Peace - I hope they find contentment in the next life.