Recovering addict shares harrowing tale
By Misty Volaski
Ojai teen and recovering drug
addict Chris (not his real name) looks fit and healthy, and comes
complete with dedicated, loving parents. He certainly doesn't
appear to be a scrawny street rat who'd do anything for a fix.
"I used to be like that," confessed Chris about his
recent miseries. And yet "I grew up protected. I didn't
grow up in a ghetto. I went to private schools."
At the beginning of this year, Chris said, he was a full-fledged
crystal meth addict - and had been for the last two years. It
was only after his second strike on Proposition 36 (see sidebar)
that Chris started shaping up.
"My parents said if I started doing (Prop. 36), I could
move back home. I didn't have a place to stay, so I started doing
it, and it worked out pretty good for me," Chris said.
But it took a lot to get to that point, he added. "At first
I was just looking for a way around (the jail time). I could
have done 150 days or go on Prop. 36 and I chose 36."
Before Chris' fortunate turning point, he was more than just
a drug addict - he was a thief, a pusher and "a real a**hole,"
It all started one night when he was 13. A friend asked him if
he wanted to try marijuana. "Pretty soon I was smoking a
lot of pot every day," Chris said. "It didn't seem
to be a problem, really, because many people don't consider it
a drug. But for me it really was sort of a gateway drug."
That party paved the way for Chris to try new drugs. "I
started hanging out with this one guy, partying and stuff. He
did it every day and he didn't seem like he had a problem,"
Chris said. "And I started going out with a girl that was
older than me, who already had a little bit of a drug habit."
Being quickly immersed in the scene, it wasn't long before Chris'
seemingly innocent pot habit progressed into a hardcore drug
problem. "The first time I did crystal was the night after
I took some ecstasy. I was still all f***ed up, and I was all
'f**k it,' and did a fat rail." The feeling, he said, was
more intense than anything else he'd tried.
"You're thinking about a million things a second. It all
just blurs together and you're so out of it. "
Anything he was doing, Chris said, it was "my whole world."
When he was tweaked out on crystal meth, he said, he would pour
all his energy into the most mundane of activities for hours
- or even days - at a time. "I spent three days cleaning
my car for no reason," he said. "And it was clean to
"You don't even stop to think, 'What am I doing?'"
Chris said. "I mean, you're having fun. You're high. Your
heart's going fast and it's like a constant adrenaline rush.
I can't even describe it, even if you don't know what you're
doing, it's like the most important thing in the world, like
you're (discovering) the cure for cancer or something. I wouldn't
even get out of bed if I didn't have any drugs," he added.
By the time he was 18, Chris already had a nice apartment with
nice things, a nice car with customized everything, new clothes,
and "a grip of cash. Basically whatever I really wanted,"
he said. All of which was courtesy of his parents.
"I was probably dropping at least $100 a day on pot, glass,
whatever I could get my hands on," Chris said. "You
could take whatever you get and sell half to smaller kids and
get your money back. And do it again the next day."
And with his car, Chris said, he could get drugs for free. "If
you have a car and you give them a ride they'll kick you down
half their bag for it." Translation? In exchange for a ride
to their drug dealer, his friends - and even people he didn't
know - would give him some of the drugs they'd just purchased.
"That's really where it all started - or ended, I don't
know," Chris said.
His car also provided him with another way to make money and
get more drugs. He and friends would go to Oxnard and buy stolen
stereos to resell and trade for drugs. "We used to go get
them for like $200. And you get, like, probably $2,000 worth
of stereos. And we'd just go trade it," Chris said. Anything
to get the drugs. "It's like you're on the barter system.
You just wheel and deal everything, anything."
Including things he'd stolen himself, Chris said. "When
I think back on all the stuff that I did, how much time I spent
getting money, ripping off my friends and my family.
"Drugs," Chris said of the whirlwind that surrounds
the drug culture, "are more powerful than money. But you
have to have the money to buy the drugs, so once you have the
drugs, you can get people to do your dirty work for you. I mean,
people will do anything for it."
Anything, even if it meant hurting others or even oneself. "One
of my friends overdosed four or five times. He doesn't even care.
And another one of my good friends was going to have someone
shoot him in the arm so he could get O.C.s (OxyContin) from the
hospital. It's just gnarly."
Chris kept taking bigger risks, ignoring the fact that his actions
lead to jail. Jail, he said, quickly became "no big deal."
That indifference spilled over into all aspects of his life.
"I got arrested nine times in six months," he said.
"For awhile I was just like getting arrested all the time
and I was like, 'f**k it this is what I do, this is who I am.'"
Despite the fact that jail is supposed to be a punishment for
criminals, Chris didn't see it that way. For him, it was almost
experience. "Jail doesn't really matter, it's just place
to stay. It's, like, a break, like a vacation. You go in there
and you get three meals a day, you know? And you can sleep all
day if you want to, just rest up, you know. You meet all kinds
of people in there that can hook you up. It's like drug school.
It doesn't even faze you at all."
Nine times in six months is a lot of jail time - about once every
three weeks, he said, he'd be in jail for possession, under the
influence or any number of other things.
"Once I did 30 days for not going to court because my friends
didn't come pick me up because they were getting high,"
he said. Being in and out of jail eventually landed Chris without
an apartment. "I just stayed wherever. And then I would
go to my parent's house, expecting them to give me money, and
when they wouldn't I would just rage."
Chris' problems with his family only worsened when he kept getting
arrested. "I was in jail for Thanksgiving, then in for Christmas,
then in for my birthday. There was a point when I would call
my house and my little brother would be like, 'Well no one wants
to talk to you' and hang up the phone."
Soon, the only communication between Chris and his parents was
through his lawyer. And, "When the cops would see me they'd
say, 'Your mom misses you. You gotta clean up.'"
But, as with most drug addicts, Chris didn't care about the pain
he was inflicting upon his family. Looking back, he said, "All
the cops in Ojai are really cool. They really just wanted to
see me do good, they just wanted to get me clean and get me in
Choosing to go on Prop. 36, Chris said, probably saved his life.
But at first, he was uncooperative with the program, skipping
drug tests, testing dirty and skipping out on meetings. But once
his family allowed him to come back into their home, things began
to turn around.
Now, Chris surrounds himself with sober people - "sobriety
is what I have to be thinking about constantly," he said
- and is re-learning how to do just about everything. "I
had to get rid of my car because it wasn't the same, I was always
so spun out in that car." Too many bad memories.
"When you think you have hit rock bottom," Chris said
grimly, "that's not even close."
He's also working on his relationship with his mom, which, he
said, is better than ever. "She's like, my best friend.
We just hang out and laugh."
Chris said he takes nothing for granted. "All it takes is
one second of thought and you're back in it. But you never know
if you can get clean next time."
He described drug abuse as a journey into a dark underworld,
and the return to sobriety as the difficult and rewarding return
to home. "It's good to be back," Chris said.
The Ojai Valley News
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