Jess had been born and raised in a small town, in a sheltered life she described as “simple but nice.”
She loved God, she loved church, and she loved her family, even though they weren’t, in her words, the most functional.
She was eighteen and wanted to be a nurse, just like her mother, determined to share her compassion and patience with those who needed it the most. She wanted to specialize in labor and delivery, enticed by the thought of sharing such unconditional love to newborns.
Inside her nondescript childhood home, her father drank too much whisky. Her mother worked too much.. Her younger brother, diagnosed with ADHD, had too many behavioral issues. She felt grateful for the love she had in her life, but she also felt lonely in ways she couldn’t describe.
She couldn’t afford out-of-state university, so she commuted to the state school. Her first semester consisted of psychology, biology, chemistry, and English 101. In one of those classrooms, on one of those ordinary days, she met Patrick.
Later, she would feel like he fell into her life naturally, almost like he had always been there.
Then, she was charmed by his humor and patience, intrigued by his personality and intelligence.
He introduced her to a cultured world, to novelty and eccentricity, to what she only knew existed from the outskirts. He spoke three languages and played the piano. He skateboarded and loved yoga. He was vegan, and he drank his coffee black.
She was fascinated. He was her first love, her first everything, and with him, she felt safe.
At the beginning, there was just one minor issue. Patrick smoked weed in the evenings and weekends. A child of the D.A.R.E generation, weed signified irresponsibility and self-destruction. It paved the gateway to everything that was bad. In her high school, the potheads seemed lazy and unmotivated. They were the good-for-nothing rebels. She wanted nothing to do with them.
But Patrick didn’t fit that ugly stereotype zoned out in front of the TV, coffee table strewn with Dorito bags and half-filled cans of Mountain Dew. He didn’t loll around playing video games or watching TV show reruns.
No, he was almost done with college, positioning himself for a high-end, lucrative career. He had his hobbies. He called his mother once a week. He even cooked with organic vegetables!
The weed just helped him relaxed. Helped him focus on the piano. Helped him sometimes with his studying. Helped him just enhance listening to music.
Curiosity won, and the first time Jess took a hit, she experienced a blatant aha moment, an epiphany announcing, this is what I’ve been missing!
Slightly stoned, she remembered feeling resentment towards D.A.R.E, towards close-minded society for its prejudices and propaganda, and towards herself for being such an apparent prude. Her dad, who could and did legally drink every single day without fail, was in far worse shape.
Weed was fine, she decided. Better than fine even.
Patrick, and all his cultured self, also happened to dabble around in psychedelics and the occasional lines of cocaine. It’s just for fun, he said, with an unassuming shrug, just helps me experience the world a little deeper. It’s not a forever thing.
And, although she was mutually terrified and disgusted to inhale anything up her nose, she figured, it was worth trying once. How bad could one time be? Cocaine, as it turned out, offered a rush of euphoria so intense that words couldn’t even describe the sensation.
Of course, she knew it was all dangerous, knew she was flirting with destruction, but rationalization overruled logic. It had felt so good. She had felt so elated, so on top of the world. Logic kept getting pushed away, fading into a distant whisper, like the faraway voices of the people lost years ago.
Patrick landed his dream job- for the government- and it required drug testing. Not a problem. He quit everything, just like that. It’s not a forever thing.
Jess was facing a different problem.
Transfixed by the extreme confidence and happiness she felt on cocaine, she started obsessing over that feeling. The hiding began. The cycle of broken promises to herself followed by extreme shame and guilt began. The dependence, by all means, began.
Coke was everything she wanted in a substance, but, for a struggling college student concealing her habit, it was ungodly expensive. Meth, she knew, was much cheaper. And, she knew meth was bad, like really, really bad, but she promised herself it was going to be temporary. Just until she finished the semester. Just until she could figure out how to tell Patrick.
After her third time using meth, Patrick broke up with her. Not because of the drugs- he still had no idea how much her occasionally-snort-coke-at-parties use had spiraled- but because he had found someone else. He wanted out. The cliches ensued. I love you, but I’m not in love with you. We’re just going in different directions. I want what’s best for you, too.
Small town girl. He met her before she ever smoked a cigarette. He left her smoking meth.
What lies here is this: you don’t know where your destiny lies, whether you will be the one who stops and starts whenever you please or the one who becomes hopelessly dependent- or someone in between. Everyone wants to be the one in moderation, but nobody knows who holds those odds.
Was Patrick really lucky? Or was Jess really unlucky? Is this spinning wheel of life even a matter of luck?
Was Patrick to blame for introducing her to the perils of substances, for making it seem like the recreational drug use was a cultured and enjoyable part of existence?
Or was Jess, sweet and innocent Jess, who just wanted some relief, to blame? Was she genetically doomed from the start, bound to find someone or something to introduce her to an addiction she was predestined to live? Or was she just a small town girl in the wrong place at the wrong time?
While these are based on true experiences, all reasonable efforts have been made by this writer to protect utmost client and treatment confidentiality. Because of this, names, ages, features, and identifying details in this piece have been changed, omitted, and/or embellished.