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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 22 October, 2014

Column: Meth is not glamorous – and nobody is immune to the tragedies it brings

I dabbled with drugs on a social basis and thought I was in control; but that was before trying crystal meth. The drug stripped away everything I believed about myself as a person, exposing me to dangers and tragedies I would never have imagined.

Catherine W

I STILL VIVIDLY remember my first hit of crystal meth. Introduced to me as “Tina” at a house party when I was twenty-three. The intense rush and subsequent high was an experience I will never forget. It was such a sublime moment that I had to try it again – about 15 minutes after the first. That was the start of a three-year battle with drugs that changed my life forever.

I’ve always been open to new experiences and have long recognised a propensity within me for risk-taking, whether that be bungee jumping, hang-gliding, adventurous travel, or trying out new party drugs.  Meth, though, was a new feeling; it was something I couldn’t ignore and desperately wanted to attain again and again. Before long, my life began to revolve around situations and people that were associated with meth. It quickly began to encompass everything about me. Whilst I was fully aware of the situation that I was getting myself into, my control was lost. I would – and did – do anything to get hold of my hit.

Everything I believed to be ‘me’ came crashing down

Prior to meth I was a regular clubber and loved nothing more than to hit the dance floor. I lived for music and wished away the days waiting for the weekend to begin. Partying was an integral part of my life, and ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine, GHB, speed and poppers fitted nicely into that scene. Even with all of this, I held down a good job and worked hard. In essence I worked hard and partied harder.

It was never my intention that I would become a drug addict. I thought of myself as a regular youngster who was able to control my drug intake – strictly done on a social basis. Heroin was a no-no, as was crack; these were the drugs of addicts. I was interested in a good time. I wanted to get high at the weekends and function during the working week. Then along came Tina.

Everything that I believed to be me came crashing down. My love of the drug drew me in to an ever-increasing cycle of highs and lows. It would start at the weekends, as that was when I partied. It would, over time, finish later than expected. Soon I was turning up for work completely out of it. Initially I thought it was great that I was able to get to work. Due to the nature of the drug it also increased my productivity hugely. I would be literally speeding around the place, intensely getting the working day done. One reason for this was the amphetamine; another was to get back to the party.

A five-day stint with no sleep became the norm

In the coming week that was all to change: I simply no longer bothered going to work and instead chose the meth pipe. The partying would now go from Monday to Sunday, the only breaks being when due to exhaustion it was no longer possible to continue. There were times when a five-day stint with no sleep would be the norm. Food was never thought about; instead I used nourishment drinks to give me some vitamins.

Obviously this is not sufficient, and I drastically lost weight. My clothes no longer fitted, and even with a belt my jeans would never stay up. I must have looked a sight making my way home during daylight hours – face sunken, grey, gurning; eyes wild, intense, exhausted; jeans falling around my knees; junkie shuffle.

In between sessions I’d crash, often sleeping for long periods. Once awake it all started again.

I wasn’t immune to the tragedies meth brings

This continued for three years. Within this time I had lost my job, the vast majority of friends, my home. I saw a friend on the scene die of an overdose and lost many others through subsequent mental health problems. The sight of so many people spiralling out of control was horrendous; lives being completely destroyed for the sake of a hit. It transpired that I wasn’t immune to the tragedies: I became infected with HIV.

It was too much, I couldn’t take it any more. I reached out to one of the few friends that I still had, albeit on a restricted basis. This request for help saved my life. Unlike many others, I amazingly still had people willing to help. Many have nobody except those in their immediate circle: fellow addicts.

The pain and loss will forever be with me – but I also have real hope

With determination and lots of help I managed to get out of the circle. It wasn’t easy, and I had to move to country to escape. Eventually I got my act together and was accepted to university – a dream of mine. I’m now fully focused on my degree, and have come to terms with the life-changing events I encountered and am faced with. It wasn’t easy, and I didn’t do it alone, utilising any supports that I could find along the way.

I’m not going to claim that I regret anything that happened in those years, to do so would be a lie. I’m optimistic about the future, and believe that my experiences have shaped me as a person. I wouldn’t have HIV if I had not gotten into something that I couldn’t handle, but I also wouldn’t be at university and have as clear a focus on life as I do now either. Whilst the pain and loss will forever be with me, the gains and strengthening friendships of those who stuck by me will forever give me real hope.

I was extremely lucky, but as I saw all too clearly there’s many who will have no such hope.

The author of this article wishes to remain anonymous due to employment reasons.

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