When someone gets into trouble with meth, he’s usually the one who gets all the concern and attention, right? But there’s often another victim, or victims, and they’re entirely innocent—the tweaker’s partner, family and close friends. Being emotionally bound to a hardcore tweaker is a special kind of hell. The anguish and frustration, fear and sense of helplessness I’m told are almost unendurable.
Unfortunately, I can’t provide any one-size-fits-all rules of engagement, nor do I think anyone can. There are just too many variables among users, their loved ones and their situations. But I can offer one proposition I believe to be iron-clad, and I can also give you a glimpse into the tweaker mind (such as it is) so maybe you’ll have a better idea what you’re up against.
That proposition is this: YOU CANNOT FIX AN ADDICT.
Post it on your fridge. Tattoo it on your wrist. Text it to yourself hourly. A user will quit only when he’s ready. You might get him to stop for a few days. You might even shame him into rehab. But he will not begin to recover until he makes a commitment to himself to do so. You can’t force it. I used to party with a guy who would bust out of rehab every night and then sneak back in at dawn. Tweakerella.
As for what it’s like to be high all the time, meth is like Novocaine, except it numbs your whole head, not just the roof of your mouth. Things happen to you, and you know they’re happening, and sometimes even that some of those things are bad. But none of it hurts, so it doesn’t matter all that much.
Your life becomes a disjointed movie, starring you. You identify with the hero (though you’re probably more a villain by this point). You’re involved with the jumpy, slightly out-of-focus action onscreen, to an extent at least, but you forget each scene as the next fades in. You don’t think about plot much, or the ending at all. Meth should be nicknamed “Scarlett” instead of “Tina” because, as long as you stay airborne, the answer for everything is, “I’ll worry ‘bout that tomorrow,” and then, only if it’s absolutely, unavoidably necessary or interferes with that prime directive—staying high. In other words, the addict sees almost everything through the lens of the drug.
Generalizations as to what flows from this are hazardous, but my experience was this: Given the choice between getting high and telling my partner the truth, I’d lie. He took me in after we’d broken up on the condition that I get help. I turned his apartment into my base of operations when he was at work. He lent me money, I spent it on drugs. He was trying to help, but all it did was enable my use.
What did help me, though (and again, this is only my experience), was the approach a dear friend of mine took. She kept in touch. She let me do my laundry at her house. Sometimes she’d make me lunch. We’d walk her dogs at Franklin Canyon. But no money, and no staying overnight. After an initial failed attempt, she stopped trying to force me into rehab. Instead, she’d simply tell me from time to time that she was 100 percent sure I would quit one day. That she would never give up on me.
If you’re one of the suffering “other victims,” you don’t have to face it alone. Check out Al-Anon at al-anon.alateen.org. Or, if you believe trying to “cure” your addict has become an addiction for you, you might want to look into Co-Dependents Anonymous at coda.org.