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Signs of Drug Use
I told her as much about Stephen as I could remember and recounted a
number of other instances in which I had witnessed or known about drug
abuse over the years. The more I disclosed, the clearer a lot of strange
things became to her. She started to piece things together as she
realized that she had been oblivious to so much.

She realized that Barry had been keeping very strange hours for a long
time, up or out all night and asleep all day. The fidgeting, fast talking and
scratching, the glassy eyes and the dramatic weight loss. Most of his
personal possessions were gone and many of hers had disappeared as
well. The phone often rang late at night and Barry would whisper into it.
The calls were very short and he would leave the house soon after. She
no longer knew the people who would call, but they were often quite
abrupt when she said Barry was not home. Sometimes he would eat
nothing for days, and at other times he would eat ravenously. He often
laughed uncontrollably at nothing in particular. He started wearing long
sleeved shirts on hot days. He also seemed to have been having a lot of
bad luck lately. He had been mugged a couple of times, had money
stolen or cheques bounced. Additionally, he had been unable to get
home a few times and seemed to be falling out with a lot of people.

He also seemed to be having a lot of good luck as well. Often he made a
lot of extra money or people seemed to be giving him a lot of stuff. He
had made many new friends and had become very outgoing and popular.

When she asked him about some of these things, he gave answers which
didn’t make sense. If she pushed it, he would become angry or turn on
her and accuse her of calling him a liar or not trusting him. Sometimes, it
became so tense that he would turn and walk out. In the end, she was
stunned when he would verbally abuse her and swear at her, which he
had never done before. He had become so moody, that she often felt
anxious when he was at home.

Sometimes, he would be enthusiastic about a new idea that he had and
excited about the potential money that he was about to make. Then a
day or two later, he would go off of that idea and stay in bed all day. He
took to wearing headphones most of the time, she was sure it was to
avoid speaking with her. He also spent most of his time at home alone in
his room. His bedroom often had a strange smell to it, but he said that he
was using incense or room deodorizers.

A year or two has passed since the initial call from Barry’s mother. During
this time he has had a series of therapies with varying degrees of
success. Last year he was fortunate enough to be referred to a clinic and
a doctor who managed to change everything for him. Today he is drug
free, healthy, wiser and happier than he has ever been.

During this time, Barry and I talked often. As much as I would like to say
that I helped him, I did nothing other than to observe and listen. The truth
is that His experience, insight and honesty helped me enormously. I
believe that his experiences and his ability and willingness to share them
with others, will be of great benefit to many of the people he may be able
to reach in the future.

The amazing thing about Barry is that he is able to chase down his
demons, sit with them, inspect and analyse them, work through the fear
and confusion of them, and then come through and articulate the
experience. His combination of intelligence, courage, insight and humility
is phenomenal. Barry has walked through hell and back, paying attention
to every detail along the way. His hope in telling his story is that others
may be saved from travelling down the same path.Yesterday, Barry and I
sat for many hours, I asked him if he would mind if I asked him point-
blank questions. I could have researched a great deal of information, but
I knew that Barry would give me real insight rather than an academic
blah, blah, blah.

Of course, the two big questions I wanted answered were:

Why did you get into drugs and what was it that made you decide
to quit?

He jumped right in on his decision to quit by opening his arms out wide
and looking me in the eye “I wanted to live”.

“I had overdosed a couple of times before, and believe it or not, I was too
embarrassed to get help. I was also concerned about being busted or
having my friends implicated. I didn’t want my family to know nor did I
want information on my medical records. I just believed I could get
through it by myself and perhaps on some level, I may have also not
cared deeply enough if I lived or died.”

“There was something different – more serious this time, I didn’t know
what it was, but on a deep, deep level I knew the question was written
there, “This is the real deal, do you stay or go? and I knew it would be
the last time I would have a choice”.

“I think I was semi-conscious, it was like an out of body experience. In a
way I was observing myself as well as experiencing myself. The
experience was of great panic, I felt my body shutting down and at the
same time I was watching as my organs stopped functioning. I felt like my
heart was racing and pounding hard in my chest. Yet, at the same time, I
felt like it was stopping altogether. I wanted to speak, but I couldn’t get
enough air to breath. All I could do was silently call out for help. Nothing
is more frightening than silent screaming!”

“I’m not sure how I got to the hospital, but I seem to remember everyone
in the waiting room turned to look at me and people ran in slow motion
towards me. I thought to myself, “I’ve made it,” and then I slipped away.

Is this when you started the treatment?

“Yes, and I really committed myself to giving it all that I had. I had
promised myself, my family and God, that this time I would do it with every
fibre of my being. I slipped though, and for months I would go in spurts,
falling down and then climbing back up only to fall back down again.”

“Over the years I had done a lot of damage to myself physically.
However, with the drugs I was rarely aware of the pain and hadn’t paid a
lot of attention to it. Without the drugs, I was in physical pain and on
many occasions I could feel my heart stop. I felt like I would pass out and
would lie down, hold my breath and push down into my heart to start it up
again. I had also lost a lot of weight and often just felt weak and sickly.”

“The hardest part was controlling the mind and the emotions. I was
obsessed with watching myself and had a continual dialogue going in my
mind every minute of the day. The days were long as well as I rarely
slept. All the time my head just kept talking about why I should or shouldn’
t have ‘just a little a taste of something’. Emotionally, I was destroyed, I
was beyond despair and I will never be able to put into words how
frightening that can be.”

“Socially there are problems as well. My friends were drug related, so I
needed to avoid them, but at the same time I missed them and
experienced great loneliness. They understood me and I believe they
loved me, they were my source of fun and entertainment. Drug friends
are not judgemental and they provide empathy like no one else can. The
social dynamics are exciting, interesting and stimulating. Straight people
all have opinions and lots of advice, but the underlying disapproval is
loud and clear. Although they don’t mean to, they really make you feel
like less than nothing.”

Methadone seems to be the standard treatment, but it appears to
be a less than perfect solution. Why did it work for you this time,
when it hadn’t before?

“Methadone takes the edge off and allows you to at least function more
normally. It is also strictly monitored and you must undergo testing to
prove that you are not taking other things as well. The theory is that the
dose can be gradually reduced over time until you can withdraw from the
addiction completely. It is often also recommended that some form of
psychotherapy should be employed to address the emotional or
underlying factors.

“I lucked out when I met
Dr Neil Beck, in his clinic in Perth. He discovered
that I had Bipolar and explained that this was very common with
alcoholics and drug addicts, which is why it is one of the first things he
looks for when he does his initial examination.”

Bipolar Disorder is a new name for manic depression. People with bipolar
experience depression so deeply that they can become suicidal or at
least experience such despair that they just can’t think straight. Barry
mentioned that ever since childhood he has thought it was normal to feel
this self-loathing, panic, hopelessness and isolation. His sense of
loneliness had ached into his bones and lasted for many days at a time.
He recalled how he needed to lock himself away for days in a dark room
and just try to go invisible. It’s a screaming sense of abandonment, so
great that you feel that you are dropping into an endless pit of nothing
and disappearing.

He describes it as,
“Being a black dot - falling into a black tunnel - no one
knows you exist and no one will ever rescue you”.

The flip side of bipolar is that you swing the other way and experience a
God-like sense of yourself. You become a genius, you’re invincible and
energized. A sense of peace and love or euphoria fills you, you can
conquer the world. It’s quite common to think that this aspect of bipolar is
a good thing – but it’s not. The ‘Super Me’ phase of bipolar often leads to
reckless decisions and subsequently bad consequences. Often people
with bipolar will spend all of their money or use credit cards during this
manic period. They will initiate business deals or sign contracts or make
promises which can’t be kept. They are also likely to try dangerous things
while feeling invincible.

I knew as soon as Barry explained bipolar to me that he was explaining
Stephen’s behaviour to me.
If only…

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Treatment and Recovery
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Bipolar And Addiction
Depression / Abandonment
An interview with someone who has been there.

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