2006: My addiction had long since chased away what had once been a fairly large circle of friends, even the most tolerant and empathetic among them having run for shelter. There are a finite number of late night, meandering phone calls about phantoms hiding in heating ducts or people living in the trees that a sane person can tolerate, and though their retreat pained me, the lack of interaction with the outside world seriously reduced the amount of acting I had to engage in to simulate sobriety. The only notable exception was Rebecca, who, four years after meeting in my first rehab, was still sober. Still, justifiably, even she was forced to maintain a distance that wouldn’t threaten her sobriety, sending an occasional email inquiring about my well-being.
As long as I kept my meth-smoking to a relative minimum, around six times a day rather than the previous 15 to 30 minute intervals, I was able to function fairly well, and would spend the day on the computer or meandering around the house and yard, slightly glassy eyed but otherwise presenting a countenance of relative normalcy. After years of Patrick discovering my hiding places with the skill of drug-sniffing airline customs canine, I now kept my pipe, torch and stash cleverly concealed on a small, inner ledge beneath the vanity in our bathroom. To find it, one would have to open the cabinet doors below the sink and reach a hand up and in to find the hiding place that was just wide enough to hold the paraphernalia. It was certainly my most clever hiding place to date. Several times a day, I would lock myself in the bathroom and retrieve them, careful first to turn on the water to mask the sharp, pronounced clicking noise of the butane torch. As an added precaution, I would set a pair of toenail clippers on the counter. The sound of toenails being clipped mimicked almost exactly the sound of the torch, and I wanted this decoy ready to point to should Patrick overhear anything. We had reached a point in our relationship where I fully expected him to have his ear pressed against the door, listening each time I used the bathroom. I had also reached a point where I knew that there was nothing I could say to him about this, his lack of trust being completely justified by my continuing relapses and the accompanying lies and creative fabrications.
I looked forward to the days when Patrick would have some acting job or other that would get him out of the house, and I would use those times as an opportunity to smoke speed all day long with impunity, enjoying the liberating feeling of being able to lay my glass pipe, torch and little zip loc baggie of crystals on a glass plate next to the bed. I would spend the day luxuriating in the sensual feelings that the speed engendered, seeking out and devouring the most graphic porn I could find, inhaling amyl nitrate and masturbating with frenzied, futile abandon.
For the uninitiated, PNP stands for “Party and Play.” Partying, in the meth lexicon, has nothing to do with the mainstream celebratory or cake-and-candle connotation. Rather, it is a euphemism for using speed: one, two or a cluster of jittery, clench-jawed, sweating men who have been reduced by crystal meth to the status of animals, each desperately trying to satisfy his chemically-distorted, darkened, and amped-up sexual desires.
Although I had always been comfortable with sex, and certainly never prudish about the act and its many variations, this sexually compulsive behavior was something of an entirely new order . It is deeply embarrassing to admit to this particular obsession, and few meth addicts do. I’ve read account after account written by the users of this drug, and very rarely have I read explicit accounts of this very common, albeit deeply shame-inducing activity. Wikipedia, in fact, in its entry for Methamphetamine lists “hypersexuality” first as a side effect of the drug’s use. Admitting to homelessness, criminal activity in support of the habit, even insanity is far less embarrassing than confessing to behavior that most would consider lurid, at best. Meth users, particularly gay meth users, often confess to being sexually indiscriminate, but few will cop publicly to the details of their wallowing in the murky shallows of depravity. Yet the proliferation of gay personal ads containing the acronym “PNP” demonstrates the ubiquity of this phenomena. For the uninitiated, PNP stands for “Party and Play”. For the uninitiated, PNP stands for “Party and Play.” Partying, in the meth lexicon, has nothing to do with the mainstream celebratory or cake-and-candle connotation. Rather, it is a euphemism for using speed: one, two or a cluster of jittery, clench-jawed, sweating men who have been reduced by crystal meth to the status of animals, each desperately trying to satisfy his chemically-distorted, darkened, and amped-up sexual desires. A search of the M4M (men for men) section of Craigslist, using the term PNP will generally produce hundreds of results for the Los Angeles area alone. Having participated In many of these “parties” over the past several years, the twisted logic of my tweaker brain now pathetically rationalized these masturbatory marathons because they allowed me to stay faithful to Patrick.
Often, I would get so lost in the world of self-pleasure that I would lose track of time, jolting sharply back into reality with the realization that Patrick was due home momentarily. The sense of time’s passage is drastically distorted by meth use, and I often found myself in this situation. I would then wage a strange battle: attempting to reach climax and still have enough time left over to rid the house of all evidence of how I had spent my day. Each jerk stole precious time from the forthcoming cleanup regimen, and this anxiety, coupled with the erection-diminishing nature of the speed, ensured that I’d invariably lose what I had come to think of as the War of the Tug.
On really bad days, having run out of personal lubricant options, I would use Vaseline, which required a chemical cleanup rivaling that of the Exxon Valdez .
Sweaty, heart pounding, I’d admit defeat and leap from the bed in a panic that would scare all three dogs into a chorus of barking, running about the house cleaning in what I thought was a systematic way, trying to rid it of any detectable residue of my solitary debauchery. Most normal people understand that sex sometimes requires a little cleanup afterwards: a greasy hand print on the headboard, a spot on the sheets that requires laundering. The cleanup effort required following an extended tweaking session is a very different prospect altogether.
Heart pounding with the fear of discovery, expecting to hear Patrick’s key in the lock at any moment, the first step was to strip the bed of the lube and sweat stained sheets, and stuff them into the washer along with the clothes I was wearing, if any. The next was to return the drugs and paraphernalia to their hiding place. Following that was a frantic, room to room Windex rub-down. It is truly astounding the number of household surfaces a tweaker can touch in a five or six-hour period, and Patrick knew from past experience what a smear of lube on a doorknob most likely meant. During the days spent alone like this, it seemed like every surface in the house became coated with a film of whatever water or oil based lube I had been using. On really bad days, having run out of personal lubricant options, I would use Vaseline, which required a chemical cleanup rivaling that of the Exxon Valdez . Windex in one hand, a wad of paper towels in the other, I’d proceed deliberately from one side of the house to the other, spraying and then wiping down everything my hands might have come in contact with during the day: the telephone handsets, remote controls, doorknobs, thermostat, light switches. This task completed, I’d turn on the bedroom ceiling and spray Fabreze to mask any lingering odor of amyl nitrate, then quickly jump into the shower and rinse the sweat, with its tell-tale cat-urine like odor of metabolized meth, from my body. The final step was to floss and brush my teeth fanatically to remove the similarly rancid mouth odor caused by the drying effect of the speed.
Patrick would arrive home, tired from a long day at whatever he was doing, to find the house smelling perfumed, the washing machine churning away, and me sitting, fresh-scrubbed on the couch in the tv room, pretending to be fascinated by whatever show that happened to be on at the moment. It is indicative of the level of deception I practiced that I also made sure I was watching a tivo’d show I’d already seen, in case he decided to join me. That way, I’d be able to answer any questions about characters or plot should they arise. I would feel a wave of guilt for this deception, but that didn’t stop me from rising from the couch to give him a warm welcome, offering to make him dinner, or regaling him with made-up stories about how I had spent my day.
“I cleaned the whole house,” I’d say, neglecting the part about having done it in a 10 minute, bug-eyed, speed-induced sprint.
“And I’ve got a load of laundry going.”
At night, because sound carried further, I would forego using the butane torch and use a regular Bic lighter instead, although it often resulted in both a burned thumb and a blackened pipe from the black carbon the smaller, less intense flame produced.
One night, after having avoided using for several weeks, making a grand show for Patrick of my desire to once again clean up my act, I slipped into the bathroom just before bedtime. Earlier in the day, I had paid first a quick visit to my dealer on Croft Avenue in West Hollywood, and then to the Smoke Shop at Santa Monica and Vine. Now, I retrieved the teenager of meth and the thin glass pipe from their hiding place on a small ledge inside the cabinet below the sink. At night, because sound carried further, I would forego using the butane torch and use a regular Bic lighter instead, although it often resulted in both a burned thumb and a blackened pipe from the black carbon the smaller, less intense flame produced. Sitting on the closed toilet, I lit up, inhaling the white vapors. After several deep tokes, I grabbed a wad of toilet paper, moistened it and rubbed it around the receptacle end of the pipe, or bubble, as it is often called. This trick cooled the pipe and helped to quickly re-solidify the clear, liquid speed into a solid white mass that could not spill out the top, while also removing the layer of thick black residue the lighter had produced. I re-hid the pipe, placed the Bic lighter in the pocket of my bathrobe that was hanging on the back of the door, flushed the toilet for effect, turned off the light and joined Patrick in the bedroom.
To the non-addicted, the act of using a drug that revs up energy levels and sends the mind into hyper-drive immediately before bedtime would seem irrational. Rational behavior was already a thing of the past for me, however.
I crawled into bed next to Patrick and turned off the bedside light. Whispering a “good night,” I turned away from him and onto my left side, letting the euphoric effect of the speed wash over me. My eyes wide open, staring at drapes dimly backlit by an outdoor street lamp I began what promised to be an eight-hour ordeal that had, by now, become tortuously familiar. One of the side effects of the speed was the tendency of my body to twitch or jerk involuntarily in it’s dopamine-jacked flight-or-fight state, and my solitary focus was to stay still, an almost impossible endeavor. Too much movement, too much tossing and turning, and Patrick would certainly clue in immediately, blowing my cover of mimicked sobriety.
I laid there for hours, absolutely incapable of sleep, my body tensed and clenched from the physiological flight-or-fight response meth creates. Fortunately, the speed also creates the ability to hyper-focus, which worked to my advantage in this situation as I studied the drapes in minute detail, refusing to even shift my legs for fear it would alert Patrick to the fact that I was still awake. Finally, sometime around 1 AM, I was unable to resist the need to move, so I admitted defeat and slipped out of bed slowly, doing my best to keep the mattress still. Once on my feet, I glanced back at Patrick and noted with relief that he was still sleeping deeply, snoring gently. Moving stealthily around the bed and out of the bedroom, I closed the door behind me, putting resistance on the doorknob as it twisted closed to it mitigate the deafening sound of it clicking shut.
After a visit to the bathroom to retrieve my stash from its hiding place, I continued – light-headed – into my office, avoiding areas of the hardwood floor that I knew would produce a groan or squeak. Sitting down in the black Aeron chair in front of my desk, I gave the mouse of my iMac a shake, and squinted against the sudden flood of light as the monitor awoke from its slumber. Activating an alarm clock program that would notify me silently at 6 AM and allow me to sneak back to bed before Patrick woke, I proceeded with the focus and single-mindedness of a cat stalking its prey to navigate my bookmarked porn sites, starting as usual with the aptly named Smutnetwork.com. Once there, my senses began folding in upon themselves as my dopamine-saturated brain absorbed image after image, video after video, with hedonistic abandon. Everything else, my surroundings, even the sense of my own physical presence, was surrendered to oblivion. Click, click, click, ad infinitum. Images of sexual acts that, without the influence of the meth would be of absolutely no interest to me, or perhaps even mildly revolting, were scanned, registered and devoured as sustenance for my insatiable meth-propelled libido.
Page-view by page-view, the hours slipped by, my wide, red-rimmed eyes soaking up the porn like a sponge. Periodically pausing to take a hit from the pipe and then concealing it again in the top right hand drawer of the desk, my hand trembling and cramped, I worked the mouse around its pad, my synapses firing a hundred miles an hour. Time sped away from me and after what seemed like only twenty minutes, faint gleams of pre-dawn light began seeping through the louvers of the IKEA mini-blinds.
A faint breeze touched the overheated, yet clammy skin on the back of my neck, jolting me from my dark reverie. Startled, I spun my desk chair around. Patrick was standing in the darkened doorway, his eyes still thick with the confusion of sleep, watching, assessing.
For Patrick, it had deeply sinister implications. A meth-smoking gun, if you will.
Although almost imperceptible, I clocked the changes in his face as he registered the situation, the almost undetectable change in his expression still clearly conveying shock, sadness, anger, and most worst of all: disappointment. Catching one’s partner in the act of pre-dawn masturbation is, for most couples, simply an awkward moment, if that. For Patrick, it had deeply sinister implications. A meth-smoking gun, if you will. His eyes moved from my hand, still in my crotch, to the pornographic image glaring out obscenely from the computer monitor.
“I couldn’t sleep,” I stammered.
“Apparently,” he said simply, his voice devoid of feeling. He maintained uncomfortable, accusatory eye contact for a long, sad moment, before abruptly turning and walking back down the hall.