Meth Monsters

me edit
A portrait of me as a child that hung on my grandmothers wall

The focal point of many therapy sessions, dreams, journal entries and the source of many  insecurities, has been “the night my dad went bad“. I remember my mom always referring to it as such. I’ve analyzed the event over and over.

I remember waking up to my dad moving from room to room frantically, reading the bible, talking about the demons inside everyone. I remember being ripped from my bed and watching my little dog being shot, covering my walls with blood. A dog that slept in the bed with me every night. I remember my dad and grandpa getting into a physical confrontation which ended with my grandfather being Air Lifted to the nearest hospital. I remember my grandma hiding the rifle under the couch and telling me not to tell anyone where she hid it. After she hid the rifle we went to the neighbor’s house where I was given clothes and we hid in the basement. All of this chaos came from a meth induced state of psychosis. My dad had stayed up for days on end until his brain wasn’t working and he was experiencing hallucinations and delusions.

Do you know the scariest part of all? The scariest part is what my dad used to be and what he had become. I hear countless stories of how he triumphantly carried his high school basketball team to victory— stories of him being  undefeated in boxing—and great football player to boot. There are old newspaper articles with images of him featured on the cover. I hear about his great intelligence. He had it all. He was Salutatorian of his class and had every possibility open to him. He could have applied himself and went to any college of his choice. His aptitude tests were off the charts!

He didn’t choose college but he did exceed, above and beyond, at the trade of his choice. He became a logger and tree worker. I used to watch him in awe and I wasn’t the only one. He was master at his craft. It seemed that he was good at everything. He was handsome, intelligent and athletic. He was described as “a stud” by former classmates. Hearing of his addiction and psychosis leaves people who knew him in a state of shock. Some literally don’t believe it.

You may ask yourself the same question I asked myself for years. WHY? Why would such a bright soul go down such a dark path. Was he sick? Was he sad? What happened? I don’t know what caused him to experiment with drugs. I do know a large factor this particular instance is that he chose meth; One of the deadliest, most terrifying, drugs in existence.  Methamphetamine has the potential to transform a life into an unrecognizable state. It can obliterate sanity, leaving a skeleton—a psychotic—dehumanized—stranger. It’s an epidemic that leaves destruction in it’s wake.

Methamphetamine use can cause increased neuronal death in the CNS (Central nervous system). The ability to regenerate these neurons is limited. SOME of the areas of the brain effected by meth abuse include the frontal and prefrontal cortex, the striatum, the parietal cortex, the hippocampus, the cerebellum, and several subcortical structures. Why in heaven’s name would someone continuously go back to a drug that destroyed so many essential parts of one of the most valuable organs we as humans use?

Meth is a trickster! Not only can she come in a beautiful white crystal form, she can release dopamine, serotonin and epinephrine; all neurotrasmitters associated with extreme happiness, productivity, focus and libido. She has the ability to manipulate thoughts until you no longer have any of your own; they all belong to her.  I absolutely hate admitting it but I flirted with her a few times myself. I wanted to see why my dad would risk so much, ultimately destroying his family. I knew exactly why after the first time I joined her cohort.

Unfortunately after flooding the brain with happy chemicals and exhausting it’s reward system we are left feeling hopeless. Meth causes extreme energy and can leave a person completely unable to sleep while also suppressing the appetite. Users are known
to stay up for days without eating, and drinking very little; add increased activity and you have a huge problem. Our bodies can’t handle the stress.

Here is a bit of information I found online; It further explains some of these terrible side-effects. Meth causes decreases in the levels of dopamine and serotonin transporters– Dopamine and serotonin transporters are specialized cells in the CNS that function to remove the dopamine and serotonin that have been released from the neurons into the synaptic cleft (the space between neurons) and bring them back into the cell where they can be repackaged for reuse. This partially results in the psychoactive effects of meth, but also leads to later dopamine and serotonin depletion because the neurons have less dopamine to use later. This can result in a number of extreme mood effects, such as initial extreme euphoria followed by extreme periods of depression, apathy, and hopelessness.

Prolonged use causes the user, often times, to be plagued with paranoia and intrusive, obstructive thoughts. My dad had the constant fear of being spied on and thought that people were trying to kill him and his dogs. He thought that light bulbs, along with many other objects, had cameras in them. He even once picked specs of fly poop off of the walls as he said they had tiny cameras in them. He incoherently accused people of trying to kill him, sometimes in ridiculous ways. He claimed that someone was dumping bleach down the drain so it would come back up through the shower and kill him slowly. How does that work? He once thought he was being chased by the cartel and ran into Walmart where he asked an attendant if he could hide in one of their empty boxes. The attendant obliged before promptly calling the police. This incident landed him in jail; one of MANY visits he would make in the following years.

It kills me to watch what this drug has done to such a remarkable individual. I have spent much of my life building coping mechanisms to alleviate fear associated with his unpredictable choices. He recovered many times before returning to his old ways leaving me in a state of distress. Always confused, living in a state of anticipation just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I love him very much and he will always be my father but I was forced to create a certain amount of distance between us. I drank my angst away, unknowingly compounding it, for years.  Alcohol worked well to numb the pain for a long time, or so it seemed.

This will always be a tough subject for me. I prayed constantly as a child, to no avail. I finally got so angry with God that I turned to atheism. I found comfort in thinking there was no heaven or hell. I looked to science for answers. It has only been recently that I’ve been able to open my heart back up to God. I’ve found solace in spending Sundays at church. I have found family there and they have taken me in with only the best of intentions. I still have a great deal of confusion about my past. I probably always will but that is OK.

Over time, something has changed; I don’t struggle daily. I have spent years of my life being depressed, angry and scared. I’m finally learning to let go of those feelings. I was fighting happiness with every bit of my being. I am now changing the way I think. The state of our lives is said to be a reflection of the state of our minds. I believe this whole-heartedly. With the help of my therapist I’m reforming my thoughts and rebuilding coping strategies, one day at a time.

session progress DBT encouragment 2
These progress notes are from two separate visits. I continue to work on DBT techniques with the guidance of a professional.

Loved ones can be a good motivator to continue trying when things get tough. Another motivator I have found is helping others. The prospect of saving a life and helping someone find happiness has a way of uplifting the soul. There is a perennial debate on whether or not altruism is paradoxical. Can you help another person without doing it for yourself? If it makes you happy to help another, aren’t you ultimately doing it for yourself? To that— I say—who cares?! If you are helping someone else, or yourself, or both, you are making the world a better place. I challenge you to use your knowledge and empirical experience to help another. Everyone has something to offer and it feels great to use it. We as humans tend to look for a greater meaning and need to feel like we are part of something important. Do something important today.

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