My name is Tom.
I was introduced to crystal meth on the dance floor of the Apache Bar in The Valley in 1990 by a man named Neil. He gave me a hit of ecstasy, so I moved in with him that night. Turned out he was dealing crystal. Of all the guys, of all the bars, of all the nights....
What began as a whirlwind of excitement, rejuvenated life force and super powers in and out of bed turned methodically into a shrunken, paranoid journey to a frozen underworld where no one sleeps and everyone was out to get me.
I tried hard to maintain a carefully crafted schedule of “normal” in order to prove that balance and control were still in my court. I wasn’t like the others, whose before-and-after images were overdone to scare you. I kept a job. OK, so I was teaching step aerobics with no voice (I had dry mouth, so I used hand signals, and my BPMs were out of this world, but packed classes = successful), and I was turning tricks. My jobs were no longer related to my career but to my true love—crystal. I would always keep three or four days off in a row. Like clockwork, 24 hours before the end of my last class, my body would pound with excitement and anticipation, for soon I would be set free from this world of “have tos” and escape to the land of “fuck you, I am power.”
Flash forward to 1992. Driven by meth to a frozen ball in the corner of my rented room for eight hours, the race inside my head to kill myself was approaching the finish line. In a moment of what I call grace, I chose to move back to my parents’ home in the Midwest. There, with no accessible crystal in sight, I drank like a fish, until April 28 of 1993, my first day of sobriety. I attended 12-step meetings daily, had the cotton removed from my ears and inserted it into my mouth. I had to relearn how to take direction, to slow down my speech and my gait and to sweat through those moments of absolute uncertainty. And every time I did I gained sober experience. One baby step at a time, not picking up “no matter what,” slowly began to reveal a new hope.
Today I celebrate 20 years of continuous sobriety, a day at a time, by the grace of God and the help of countless addicts. It’s a ‘we’ thing. I get that now and am grateful.
Tom Pardoe sits on the board of directors of Christopher Street West and has produced several fundraisers for AIDS organizations and recovery events.