The first time I did crystal was back in 2004. A trick offered me a hit from his pipe and so my love affair with crystal began.
I had thought at that time that I’d finally found something I’ve been looking for. Something that made me relax, something to give me confidence to face just about anything. But the love affair soon turned into a struggle. My relationships with my friends started to suffer. I would quit for some time, and then go back again, each time feeling guilty for having relapsed.
I graduated from smoking crystal to injecting it about eight years into my addiction.
I was pretty much high all the time between Aug 2013 and June 2014. Almost every day of the week, I would rush home from work, have some dinner, then lock myself in my room and inject several times over the course of the night. I would jerk off to porn in between injecting.
There were many times when I really needed to pee but I was too scared to come out of my room for fear that my roommates would see me. And so, I would just pee into an empty cup. By midnight, after cumming, I would take a sleeping pill and drag myself to bed.
While waiting for the sleeping pill to take effect, i would have hallucinations of snakes crawling all around me. (Did I mention I don’t like snakes? I’m scared of them.) I would leave my night-light on because I was scared that more snakes would come out in the dark. So I would lie on my bed, trying not to move as snakes slithered around me. My comforter felt like it was swarming with them. I felt them on my neck and around my legs. I would tell myself to just relax, that’s it’s just tina. Then the sleeping pill eventually knocked me out. I essentially slept in fear.
I would wake up the following morning to go to work. The whole cycle would start again.
I had rituals. From eating dinner, to taking my meds, to preparing the syringe., they were all rituals. How did I not OD? I was very careful with how much crushed tina I put into the syringe. That’s why I was able to inject several times a night.
I think I was doing so much because I had basically given up. I had accepted that maybe my life would always involve tina. Maybe tina was just what I needed to get by. Other people have their own way of getting by. Tina happened to be mine. I was going about my life with that belief in my head. No one seemed to be able to stop me.
Until I showed up one day in June 2014 at my HIV doctor’s clinic for a check up. When the nurse couldn’t draw blood from the usual spot where they usually draw blood from because my vein was so bruised from overuse, she asked me why it was bruised. I admitted that I’ve been injecting. With a compassionate smile, she said, “I think you need to speak to the counsellor.”
The counsellor asked me to take some time off work, move back home with my parents for a couple of days and get well. She looked me in the eye and said, “This has to stop.”
I took her advice. I didn’t get high for a week. But then, eventually, I went back to my apartment and back to tina. I got high for a couple of days, then on June 28, 2014, I stopped altogether. I guess I just needed a last hurrah. I didn’t want anyone telling me to quit. If I was going to walk away from tina, it was going to be on my own terms.
There’ve been many times in the past 10 years when I would try to quit tina, only to take it up again. Each time, I felt a lot of guilt and shame about it. It's different this time. I may have been saying ‘I quit tina”, but I don’t think that truly captures what happened last year. I didn’t so much “quit tina” as I chose to do other things. I told myself that tina is an option. It will always be an option. But it’s not the only one.
That is what’s different this time. There’s no shame and guilt around doing crystal. Whenever I feel like I want to get high, I’ll consciously allow myself to get high. But I do this by taking a deep breath and picturing myself going to my dealer’s house. I remind myself of the excitement I would feel as I head home to my apartment, stopping on the way at a drugstore to get syringes.I remind myself of all the feelings I would feel throughout the whole ritual. From the drawback of the needle when it’s in a vein, to how it feels waking up in the middle of the afternoon two days later.
People in rehab calls it “playing the tape from beginning to the end.” The whole process takes about 30 seconds. After that, I would feel exhausted - too exhausted to actually get high, and so I go about doing whatever it was I was doing. It could be pushing paper at work, or hitting the gym, or doing laundry. Anything.
I had a thought the other day, and it’s likely I’m not the first to put it this way. Remember the phrase “falling off the wagon”? Well, what if it’s impossible to fall off the wagon? What if I am the wagon?
About the author: Miguel Torres is thirty-something and lives in Toronto.