The Itch

One of the worst things a recovering addict can experience is the need to get your fix. Whenever it would happen to me, nothing else would be able to satisfy or distract me from this craving until I got it somehow. This feeling of crazy need is there with or without a physical addiction present, it’s almost as if the normal kind of craving we experience when we want to go to a certain place for dinner is amplified 16,000 times.

Searching was always one of the first signals that told me I was fiending for something. Search for bits and pieces of the substance that I might have dropped. Even though I knew in reality I was so good about handling my stuff even the cops would have a hard time finding traces of it I left behind; didn’t matter. I would still search. I would search every fucking inch of the floor or carpet. I remember the first time I went carpet surfing very well. It was the first time I ever tried meth. I had a best friend in middle & high school who had a little sister that ended up being trans, which made me love him all the more, and was like family to me. He lived half the time out in New Mexico, from which one of his trips home he brought some bomb ass crystal and I used, for the first time, by injecting it. The utter lightness and how good the lightness felt is indescribable. It didn’t hit me but for 3-5 seconds, enough time for me to grab the used alcohol swipe and needle to take them to the trash, and as I stood up… I was completely weightless. I felt a bizarre sensation of both warmth and crisp coolness rush through my neck, up by my ears and temples. I don’t remember what my friend was saying, but I instantly started talking and describing what I was feeling. “Like, omg, this is the BEST drug I have ever done holy shit no wonder people go bonkers over this shit…” The aliveness my body felt. The limitless energy. The joy and hope and oh my god the confidence.

That shot was all I needed for the day. We did a little bit later in the evening, and ended up staying up all night of course. He was able to fall asleep for a while in my living room, likely because what we did that day wasn’t shit compared to his normal use. He happened to be one of those rare, fairly responsible users. He eventually crashed and burned out … today he sits in prison. A loss I still hurt over. But anyway. He stayed with me the entire time I was high and made sure I did things that laid down the foundation for “good” using habits in the future. Like, rein in on my willingness to make irrational decisions (we went to the mall and the first kiosk that wanted me to spend $150 almost had their sale, until he intervened) drink and eat (I took a bite of something and spat it out, I couldn’t do it) sleep, and when I can’t sleep, lay there motionless and let my muscles rest. In hindsight, his habits oddly remind me of mindfulness. If there were such a thing as a mindful tweaker, he’d be it for sure. I was actually really lucky in that regard. All through my use I always seemed to be the one who never did too much and wasn’t able to handle herself in public, like I had seen so many other idiot users do.

Once he went back home to NM, the anticipation of being able to do more drugs was gone and my tweaking for it kind of went out of my control. I began scanning the apartment floor with my eyes (mind you, it’s carpeted) and would use my fingers to move some of the fibers back and forth in some areas. Before I knew it, my face was 2 inches away from the floor, using my phone as a light and peering through the threads and fibers to the floor beneath, frantically looking for a single large shard we might’ve dropped. As if that looks any different than salt.
I searched the whole damn floor before I unwillingly gave up. I think it took 4 hours. I moved the dresser which had been stationary since moving in, and searched the carpet under that too. From the get I kept asking myself why I was doing this. That I knew, I knew there were no shards of meth in the carpet, yet I was still compelled to search for it. What the fuck was I doing? My back was in serious pain by the next day and lingered for a week.

That craving, itch, or need for a fix is your body’s way of telling you it’s readjusting to life without the substance it’s craving. We can draw some clarity by the process new vegetarians go through once they decide to give up eating meat. For the next month or so, the ecosystem of bacteria in your gut that got its own sustenance from meat will begin to die off. Your gut picks up on this and sends signals to your brain in the form of cravings in order to stave the signals coming from the starving bacteria. However, as they die off the bacteria that thrive on fruits, vegetables and grains will begin to multiply. Soon, you’ll no longer experience the physical sensations of craving those meats. While this is a great illustrator of what goes on with physical addiction, it doesn’t much address the psychological factors of addiction we deal with. The memories, the desires to “feel that good” again.

This is where mindfulness comes in, and also where the food comparison realigns. While you may have eradicated your physical need for the substance, your mind is still addicted to the memory, or reliving the experience. Every time you return to those thoughts, they renew themselves by literally following the same pathways you did when you were still seeking out and using. The more you reignite those brainwave patterns, the harder it is for your mind and body to readjust to sobriety. Know it so you can expect it. The quality of your consciousness from moment to moment will determine your experience in recovery, so work on spending time alone or waiting for something in presence. Notice things around you. Really arrive at wherever you are. This is how you break these patterns. Interrupting the stream of endless thoughts by filling small amounts of your passing time with no-thought. It may just be a cure for the itch!