AMC’s hit series, Breaking Bad provided many of us with a peak into the horrors of meth use. However, unless you see it for yourself, you cannot fully understand how ugly this drug really is. I unfortunately, can say that I have witnessed, first hand the devastation meth can reak.
Let me tell you the story of my friend Chris…
I first met Chris in my freshman year at college. We were randomly paired to be roommates. It was
indeed an odd coupling. Here I was, a lanky long-haired slacker from Southern New Jersey, unsure of what I was really doing at a university. And here is Chris, a driven, confident, overachiever. In our first few days on campus he had already volunteered to assist in the local mayoral campaign. I was intimidated. I thought to myself: I’m lost compared to this guy. I haven’t even considered a major. Chris came to college as valedictorian of his high school under his belt. I came in with loose jeans because I had forgotten to pack a belt. I may have been awarded “most likely to fall asleep during class.”
Surprisingly, we got along very well. In fact, we remain friends today, nearly 15 years later. While in school, we didn’t remain living together for all four years, but had mutual friends and kept in touch. After graduation, Chris immediately acquired a great job with a promising career. He landed with a large, nationally-recognized consulting firm. I started a little more slowly but nabbed an entry-level position at a small marketing company with room for growth. Given our college career, this contrast was no surprise. Chris always reached for the stars. I reached for the next keg beer.
Of course we grew apart somewhat and lost touch in our mid-twenties. It often happens with college friendships. However, we saw each other at an alumni function about five years ago. We exchanged the good news of our lives. I was doing well – married, and somewhat financially secure. Chris had recently come out as a gay male, met someone special, and became an executive-level employee at his firm. Things were ho-hum for us both and it was good to catch up. I wasn’t surprised at all by his success.
Some years later, Chris and I coincidentally wound living in the same city, merely blocks from one another. Upon recently discovering this, we agreed to reconnect. I recall being nervous about telling Chris of my divorce.
Before I could even broach that touch subject, Chris came out to me again. Only this time, it was about his meth abuse.
I was astonished. Not this guy, I thought to myself. I can imagine 1,000 others with whom we graduated turning to hard drugs before Chris. When the initial shock of the confession wore off, I saw Chris as friend in need. I knew he was struggling, but I also know that he is capable of greatness. With the support of his friends and family, I figured we can help him through this difficult time. I decided to spend as much time as possible in the following weeks. In hindsight, this was not enough. Boy was I wrong about that and I regret not insisting an inpatient program for Chris sooner.
I’ll go back to the TV show, Breaking Bad. The way it depicts meth abusers is somewhat accurate and well-done. However, when you see a close friend in the throes of a meth addiction, it isn’t compelling and interesting like a TV show. It’s downright terrifying and confusing.
It’s confusing because that person you know disappears in the obsession of his or her drug use. The once driven, earnest executive, becomes a manipulative liar – feeding false stories to his friends and family to mitigate the level of his problem. Everything he says and does is deigned for you to feel better about his situation. So that you let your guard down. So that he may be soon left on his own to use again. It’s a scary metamorphosis.
Meth users often experience a severe “crash” or physical and mental breakdown after the effects of the drug wears off. Because continued use of the drug decreases natural feelings of hunger, users can experience extreme weight loss. I saw this in Chris. He was 60-pounds lighter than the last time I saw him. Negative effects can also include disturbed sleep patterns, hyperactivity, nausea, delusions of power, increased aggressiveness and irritability. Other serious effects can include insomnia, confusion, hallucinations, anxiety and paranoia. In some cases, use can cause convulsions that lead to death. In my weeks with Chris, he displayed all of the symptoms. I knew something drastic needed to occur, but I wasn’t sure how to force the action.
Last week I received a desperate call from Chris. He was rambling incoherently and spoke with paranoia and fear in his voice. I rushed over to him but really didn’t know what to do when I arrived. Seeing “the crash” of meth first hand was a wakeup call. My friend can’t do this on his own. He needs professional help. I fed him, stayed up the entire night as he came down and drove him to his parents’ house in the suburbs. A temporary solution.
A few days later and another horrifying episode. This time, I decided to call an ambulance. Chris was even more paranoid and more incoherent as the the previous relapse. We went to the emergency room and then later, to the psych ward at another hospital. He remains under their care now, and is looking to enter an inpatient program.
For Chris, it is one of three outcomes: recovery, jail, or death. He is lucky he has a chance at recovery. Many never get this opportunity. Many have permanent brain damage and some have convulsions, which lead to death. Meth is a drug that can take hold of anyone, even the fittest and strongest of beings.
Chris has a good support circle of family and friends. We all hope he puts in the work and chooses recovery and restores his life. We all know that for our beloved friend, it’s recovery, jail, or death. It’s now or never.