Nic’s Story and Why We Wrote This Book
When you’re an addict, you can go without feeling anything except drunk or stoned or hungry. Still, when you compare this to other feelings—to sadness, anger, fear, worry, despair, and depression, well, an addiction no longer looks so bad. It looks like a very viable option.
BEEN THERE. DONE THAT.
When I was growing up in San Francisco, it felt like everyone smoked pot. They smoked it walking down the street. They smoked it at school. Some of my parents’ friends even smoked. So when I was twelve and one of my friends offered to “smoke me out,” it felt like no big deal.
We walked down to the park behind the soccer field. My friend passed the pipe to me, and I hit it without really thinking. Almost instantly—pretty much as soon as the drug hit me—I felt a sense of relief.
I think that relief came because pot helped blunt a feeling I’d had my whole life that something was wrong with me. On the outside, everything looked good. I was popular and did well in school. But inside, I was scared and insecure and totally uncomfortable in my own skin. I walked through life like I wore my nerves on the outside of my body. Everything was too much to handle, and the world seemed overwhelming and abrasive. I’d look in the mirror, and the image looking back struck me as ugly, weak, and pathetic.
Smoking pot changed that. When I smoked, I felt confident and strong. I could slip out of my bubble of insecurity and go to parties, talk to girls. Pot helped me see a different person in the mirror. It helped me turn off the negative voices in my head, stop worrying, and just have fun.
Pot made me feel free—at first. But soon it began to have the opposite effect. It stopped giving me that confidence. Stopped making me feel light and fun and strong. The more pot I smoked, the harder it became to catch hold of those positive sensations, and the more depressed I got when I was straight.
I’d heard all those warnings about pot affecting brain development and all that, but I thought it was a scare tactic. But looking back, I realized I spent so much of high school and college high, that I missed a lot of what normally happens during those years. It’s when I should have learned how to adapt to change, how to handle difficult emotions, how to fail, be rejected, deal with all the normal pressures of adolescent life.
Because I was always smoking pot, I never faced any of those things. I never learned how to be a real, functioning person, how to just cope. When things got too intense, I got high to escape. And when I wasn’t high, I was so deeply depressed I couldn’t even get out of bed.
Eventually, no matter how much pot I smoked, it basically stopped affecting me at all. It didn’t take away the pain and fear like it once had. It just made me dull and paranoid.
RUNNING FROM MYSELF
At that point, I decided to seek out harder drugs. And it was definitely a conscious choice. I was desperate to find something that gave me the same sense of relief pot had once given me. I felt like I couldn’t exist without drugs.
I tried everything—hallucinogens, prescription drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin, ecstasy, cocaine. I kept chasing that more confident and strong version of myself who felt less alone. Sometimes the drugs would work for a while, but then the feeling would slip away again. It wasn’t until I tried crystal meth that I thought I’d finally found “the one.”
Now, thanks mostly to Breaking Bad—a TV show about a high school chemistry teacher who became a meth cook—everybody’s heard of crystal meth and knows how dangerous it is. But back in the late nineties, when I first did it, I had never heard of it. So, when my friend offered me some speed (also known as meth), I took it without thinking.
As soon as that drug hit me, I felt a rush of elation—not just from the drug, but from feeling like this was what I’d been looking for my whole life. It was better than those first hits of pot, better than everything. I felt super confident, super strong. I felt like a real-life superhero. Just like that, I was addicted.
Once I started doing crystal meth, my life spiraled out of control in a flash. Meth made me arrogant, crazy, and fixated on more, more, more. I was like an animal, reduced to one need: to get high. Nothing else mattered. I broke in to houses, stole money. I even stole from my little brother’s piggy bank.
My parents kicked me out of the house. I ended up homeless, living in a park in San Francisco. I ate out of garbage cans, got food from soup kitchens. I did things I’d never imagined doing to get money. And I kept using. I couldn’t stop.
Until I had a really bad scare. I woke up in the hospital with a tube down my throat, having been on life support after an overdose. Terrified, I went into rehab and managed to stay sober for a year and a half.
Only, I had never learned how to live sober. I was a complete emotional mess. The one thing that maybe saved my life is that I wrote. I come from a family of writers and have written ever since I was little. Even strung out and living on the streets, I wrote. I’d cram into the back of some burned-out car with other kids and stay up all night, writing in my notebook while they slept, trying to get my story down, to make sense of the chaos of my life.
I wrote when I was sober, too, and miraculously, I connected with this editor at a publishing house who felt I had a story to tell. I’d write chapters, and she’d like them and ask for more. Eventually, I got a book deal.
At the time, it felt to me that writing a book would make my whole life worthwhile. So I finished about half of it, and I received a small chunk of money that felt like a huge chunk of money. I felt on top of things for the first time in forever.
IT ALL FALLS APART
I’d been sober for about eighteen months when I got involved with this older woman I’d known from being in treatment with her. She was super beautiful and super cool, the ex-wife of a famous actor. I felt that if she could love and want me, it had to mean I was worth something.
My entire identity became wrapped up in my book and in my girlfriend. Of course, it turned out she was using again and lying to everyone about being sober. She smoked crack, so I started smoking crack too. I felt like I had to, so we could be together. Like it had to be the two of us, sharing this secret little world. It became the only thing that mattered to me.
That led me down a dark hole into the worst drug binge of my life. We started doing not just crack, but heroin and meth, too. I kept having convulsions from smoking so much coke. Even when I almost lost my arm from an abscess caused by shooting drugs, I kept using. I couldn’t stop.
The meth made us both crazy. Once, I went into the bathroom to find her ripping out the tiles, convinced