We had been flying down the Atlantic City expressway with the music blaring at speaker-busting volume when I began to gently press the brake in anticipation of the toll booth fast approaching.
“Give me a single,” I said to Mark.
“Just pay it yourself, okay?” he answered.
“Dude, I’ve got nothing but twenties. That woman a the 7-11 gave you like seventeen dollars in ones when we stopped for the Slurpees. Just give me one, man.”
“Michael,” he said, “JUST PAY THE TOLL!”
We had just pulled forward and the woman in the box had her hand held out waiting for the forty cents.
I begrudgingly reached into my pocket and peeled off a twenty. After being handed back a messy pile of wrinkled bills and random coinage, I turned to Mark. I was about to rag him out for being a pain in the ass when the problem became painfully clear. Mark was frozen in place staring down at an overabundance of white powder circling the area around his groin.
Somehow, when he had gone to pull out the dollar bill I had requested, the bag of cocaine we had procured for our late night jaunt to the casinos had broken open. The damage was troubling though not critical. We had a lot of blow in our possession and the amount that had spilled did not seem significant enough to put too big a dent in the evening’s festivities.
With that said, there was still the matter of our mutual commitment to never waste even a granule of the cherished narcotic.
As I turned the wheel to the right heading toward the darkened roadside stop, Mark asked, “What are you doing?” I smiled devilishly and found a convenient corner in which to nestle the car. Mark looked at me with mild hesitation and said, “Alright. Get it over with.” He arched his back and put his hands on either side of the crotch of his jeans to smooth the area out as much as possible as I lowered my head and snorted up every drop of the spill.
As my Chevy Cavalier flew back into the center lane for the last leg of the trip, we were cackling like demented hyenas as Mark screamed, “I can’t believe you just snorted a line off my dick!”
And so it went. We hit A.C. just as the clock hit 2am and partied like rock stars until the sun came up.
As the clock shifted past six, we ambled crookedly down the barren boardwalk, drugless, penniless, and passing a cheap bottle of wine shrouded in a slim brown bag back and forth trying desperately to stay awake.
All of a sudden, without warning, I bellowed, “OH FUCK!”
“What, what?!” questioned Mark clearly shaken up by my sudden exclamation.
“I have a huge job interview at 8! I totally spaced! Jesus, we gotta go… right now!”
We broke into a flat sprint, madly dashing for the car, hoping against hope that we had a vague idea of where we had parked the thing.
The car was pushing full capacity as it tore north shaking violently trying to hold steady at 110 mph.
“Dude, slow down! You are freaking me out!” Mark pleaded.
I answered, “Shut up and open the glove compartment. There’s a brush in there. Give it to me… NOW!
I held the convulsing car steady with my left hand, while I used my right to hold the brush and desperately try to make my hair look like something other than a wild bush baby with the help of the rear view mirror. “Reach back in and get the Visine… and the Altoids… give me the ALTOIDS!”
It was 133 miles back to Wayne and we were there in an hour and fifteen minutes. By the time I reached the secretary and had been announced for my scheduled meeting, it was 7:53.
I plunked myself down on the plush couch in the waiting room and attempted to use the seven spare minutes to calm my insides.
It was impossible. My heart was beating like Neil Peart was perched in my ribcage soloing on “Der Trommier.” My extremities were all shaking violently. My cowlick was stubbornly pointed to the heavens. And everything from my forehead to the crack of my backside were drenched in dripping perspiration. I was awash in abject terror. I longed to flee but was desperate to tough it out. I knew that at any second, my prospective boss would be headed toward me with his hand out and the chances of me looking straight into his eyes and screaming bloody murder were increasing by the second.
That moment of shuddering panic is remarkably similar to what the darker moments of these last eight days have felt like as the Adderall has pumped furiously through my system.
It’s hasn’t been like that all the time, mind you. There are moments, short spans of time, where the drug seems to be effecting me the way the pharmaceutical warlords had intended. And, so far, I am experiencing those moments as something of a trap; a sort of nasty chemical sleight of hand. Because each day of the last eight, I have awoken feeling mass trepidation about swallowing the tiny bead-filled orange capsule, only to do so with the hope that the tide will turn and the sparse moments of satisfaction will overtake the dark ones and become the norm. And if I knew without a shadow of a doubt that this shift would, indeed, take place at some point, I think I would be able to weather what is happening now far more successfully. If someone could guarantee me that my brain and bodies reaction to being awash in amphetamine would undoubtedly regulate and work correctly at some point, even if that point would take months, I’d feel different. But no one can make that guarantee. Actually, no one even seems to know. In the last week, I have perused the experience of hundreds and hundreds of people who have experienced being on this stuff, reading the contents of message boards, blogs and medical websites, and the only thing that everyone seems to be able to agree on is that Adderall is a fickle bitch of a drug.
Some say that after a month, or multiple months, their bodies reaction to the amphetamine shifted dramatically and began to counteract the ADHD magnificently. Many of those people claim that if you had asked them after a week, they were ready to flush every pill left in their safety-cap topped bottles down the toilet. Alternately, there are an equal number folks who claim that it’s not like an anti-depressant, where it takes a while to work its way into your bloodstream and work the way it’s supposed to. It’s an amphetamine. It works immediately and the way it affects you is the way it affects you. Granted, these are random people floating somewhere in cyberspace. They are not doctors. Quite frankly, a good portion of them seem to be teenagers who traded the answer grid for the upcoming Trigonometry test for three pills and are trying to figure out the best way to utilize them in the quest to get as high as possible. So, yes, I am taking this into account. Still, though, regardless of the competence or intentions of any of these people, they are people who have actually had this drug in their system and I think that counts for something.
If you look on Web MD, or many of the seemingly legitimate medical sites, they will generously list for you a whole circus freak show worth of potential side effects (I’ve already experienced most of them) although they give you no information about whether these side effects are temporary, and if they are temporary how long it tends to take before they begin to wane.
My psychiatrist wants me to give it a month. That’s been my intention. Take the drug as prescribed for a month and then reassess. Simple enough, right?
But it’s not simple. It’s anything but simple. First, I’m an addict. So, right off the bat, popping uppers is, at best, precarious. And it’s not that I think I am going to find myself wanting to take more Adderall at one time than I am supposed to. The last thing I want is a more intense version of what I am already feeling. The problem is that I feel like I am on drugs. I feel like I am high. Not incapacitated, but definitely high. And it’s not an enjoyable high. It’s a frenetic high. There are swaths of time where it’s not. And when it’s not, it feels useful. But when it is, and so far it mostly has been, it feels crazy.
I feel crazy.
The memory that I opened this piece with, the Atlantic City trip with my buddy Mark; I have tons of those. Moments of being high to the point of feeling that I was walking the edge of my own sanity. Paranoia on pot, bad acid trips, K-holes, crack-sickness. One of the things I am most grateful for in this world is that I got sober before I had children. The fact that my little girls have never seen me in one of those moments, jacked to the gills on something or other fighting to keep my brain matter from leaking out my ears, is the miracle of miracles. The way they look at me, the admiration, the trust, the absolute assurance that I know how to be their daddy and that I can protect them, it’s everything to me.
In these last couple of days, I have had multiple experiences of being with the girls, coloring with Ryan, reading Harry Potter to Sydney, where I have had the experience I fear so deeply. Neither of them have noticed anything, I am quite sure. But still, being with them, but not being able to focus because I am using every inner resource I can muster to keep my shit together because I feel so jittery and out of control, is vile. It’s heinous. It’s pure, uncut shame.
I know that I am not engaged in recreational drug use. I know that. But I still feel like a bad boy. That’s been the refrain of this last week. The inner critic keeps chanting, “Weak-minded, soulless, unlovable, pill-popping, useless junkie!” It whispers to me with sinister contempt and I can’t seem to staunch its flow.
“Stop,” I beg, “I’m just trying to help myself. Please! I’m doing this FOR my wife and children. I’m trying to get better.”
“NO!” it bellows, “Cowardly liar. You lie to them all and you lie to you. Your bullshit has festered so long that you no longer see it for what it is. Liar. This drug, finally, this will be your undoing.”
I know it sounds a little dramatic. But it’s not far from the truth. The voice has always been there, but I generally don’t listen to its toxic propaganda, or if I do, I recognize it for what it is. But not always. Sometimes it gets in. And right now, with this shit coursing through my system, it sounds far too much like my own voice at the moment.
Day 8 is winding down. Sort of. I’m still percolating, albeit in a manner that does not currently feel too uncomfortable.
Day 9 is nigh. Will the evil continue?
Jesus, I hope not.
Friday, July 1st 10:52am
No Adderall today. I just can’t.
To be continued.