I AM BLACK AND HETEROsexual, but aside from that I could have written much of “Me & My Monkey” (1/13) from personal experience. I was introduced to drugs at a Catholic high school in Washington in the early ’70s, and for the 15 years that I used regularly, everything else, including sex, love, and family, competed for second place among my priorities. I played basketball well enough recreationally against several players who have played (and still play and coach) in the NBA to think that I could have competed at a high level. But disciplining myself to study and practice hard was not at all important to me.
From the East Coast to California, in and out of the military, it never took me long to find the people who had the connections. My personal list of drugs was not quite as long as Anonymous’, but when I cataloged mine in rehab in 1987, I had done more than anyone else there. I was a garbagehead, or in the terminology of treatment, “poly-addicted.” But I never have liked needles; PCP was my drug of choice, and I smoked it for several years on a daily basis.
Believe it or not, even with the drugs, I functioned well enough to work in the air traffic control system for over six years. For the record, I never used on duty, but I did sometimes take long lunch breaks to drive from Leesburg, Va., to Southeast D.C. so that I would not have to delay getting high when I got off work.
Getting arrested, even though it would eventually cost me my career, felt almost like a relief, because it spurred me to do something that I had halfheartedly contemplated for years. In fact, by the time I entered a treatment program as my employer mandated, I had effectively stopped using on my own. I knew all too well what my life was like with drugs, and I was ready to live without them. It’s nice, for instance, to know that if I am stopped for driving 80 mph, I may get a speeding ticket, but there’ll be no possession charge along with it.
I am now married and the father of two children, and although I don’t have frequent cravings, I can tell Anonymous that the monkey never completely goes away. But no matter how bad life gets, keep in mind just how bad it could get again, and it’s not that hard to abstain. Stay strong.