Meth Stories: A Narrow Escape
In 2005 I endured the ultimate tweaker nadir – I got arrested for possession with intent to distribute, and carrying weapons. I had a baggie of methamphetamine on me that I idiotically told the arresting officer I was holding for someone else. And then I had a 9 millimeter that I toted around because I thought I was cool. That entire thing is a story in and of itself but I don’t even think that exciting of one. It was my first offense and basically to get leniency, with my 401K money, I hired a good lawyer and acted like an innocent retard anytime I was in the courtroom. I played a babe-in-the-woods and I must say, I did a pretty good job of it. And no, I did not tell on anybody and, if nothing else, I can take some criminal streetpride in that. Yes, I did some jail time and a halfway house and massive fines and loss of driver’s license and all that, plus 5 years of probation, but I avoided prison, thus allowing me to maintain on the mean streets of Iowa and both contribute intermittently to society while “slipping” into a ruthless drug habit at some very inopportune times. Such as the night before a PO visit.
But like, with that whole Jeckyl and Hyde thing you hear about in treatment and from everyone who has ever read “The Big Book”, either the sacred AA original or the cracked out knockoff those tweakers stole, just like they would your stereo, I walked through life with that bizarre dichotomy. When I was clean, I could charm the socks off any authority figure and speak with an articulateness they’d never ever heard from a meth addict but when I was dirty I was a depraved madman in a makeshift lab – so to speak – trying to get high off any of those filthy truck stop blister pack drugs and camera batteries. Not to mention creepy rituals that went along with the whole thing that would spell nothing short of terror for an outside observer.
It was that charming, clean cut, Dr, Jeckyl who landed a relatively solid paying job with a subprime mortgage outfit called Extell Loans in Cedar Falls, IA the summer of 2006 after my conviction for the ‘05 arrest and in a period where I was trying to make right (surely after some foggy urinalysis) for my probation officer. I got the job, it was a small office, Chris was the owner, his brother Dave spent most of the time on the road and their childhood friend Roger handled the “underwriting”, a term to be used loosely. As if you even know what the fuck that word means to begin with. This was 2006, this was before the housing bubble burst and my new little employer was one of the ones throwing darts. Also, I am still a unique specimen in the sense that I could spend 3 days down in what could only be described as a dungeon, putting horrendous chemicals in my body, while watching porn or trying to fix a bicycle for 72 straight hours, a foot of standing water surrounding me, who could then clean up, put on a shirt and tie and act like a fucking businessman (hopefully) by Monday morning. Of course by this point “hopefully” pretty much meant never. It’s like, even my meth compadres didn’t always know what to make of me. They would have easily thought I was a fed if I wasn’t inhaling grams of that shit and blowing out storm clouds right in front of them. They all worked savage jobs and here I would stop by after a day at the office in a 3 piece suit and slide right through the mud with them like it wont no thang.
Extell really was on the frontlines of the subprime housing crisis. Essentially, my job was to find loans closing in the Midwest, sometimes by cold calling brokers in say, Minneapolis, sometimes relying on some of my frenemies in the field. For them, it was all about commission so all they wanted was a piece of my investor ass and all I really wanted from them was some kind of confirmation that I was doing at least the bare minimum requirements of my job. A voice on the other end of the phone because we made a pretty good base salary. I hate myself for a lot of the things I’m about to tell you and I also don’t really like myself for the many days I went into work and just zoned out for 9 solid hours. Now, trust me, I wouldn’t give a rat’s if my employer were Wal-Mart or even Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, but these guys were pretty cool to me and I certainly didn’t always give it 100%. And I’m doing this on the .00000001% chance in a cold day in hell that any of them stumble across this retelling, even with the changed names, including the company (there was never a place in Cedar Falls Iowa’s business registry that went by the name Extell Loans) but there were other days I went in and worked harder than anybody in the office but what do you care? Let’s get to the meth stuff.
While my bosses were, relative to most employers, fairly nice and affable they were still ripping the fuck off of homeowners and they may not have even known it at the time but they were not unlike drug dealers because even though a degenerate gambler with a 560 credit score getting 100% financing is far from innocent, there is somebody (us) pursuing his dumbass and trying to convince him that homeownership will do him right. “Come on man, buy this house, homes! I give you the first room for free, dawg. Come on, smoke some of this no money down, stated income, low DTI loan! I don’t even need a VOD, baby!”
It got pretty fucked up and obviously Chris and Dave and Roger and even all the rest of us weren’t manbabies. We knew this shit didn’t smell right. Not like good farm animal shit.
I guess I say all that because I feel guilt about a lot of the things I’ve done, a lot of the crap I did but like, basically I just missed a lot of work. A LOT. And told insanely elaborate lies that sold out family, friends, pets, kids…anybody’s name I could use to…use…more.
I had already raised some eyebrows with my questionable attendance but none more so than when I got into a fake car accident on the way to work one morning. I think it was a Tuesday or Wednesday. See, over years of addiction and playing the worky-missy game, I conditioned my brain and body to be able to handle Monday – oftentimes I was drunk as a skunk, with the meth residuals keeping me from passing out at my desk after 8-9 hours of vodka drinking. Actually, usually it was 11 hours because I started drinking about 5:00 am, before showering, so I could get a warm buzz going. After much practice and fine tuning, that’s how I usually handled Monday. Thereby, Tuesday, I learned after awhile, was the really sucky day. On Tuesday, the meth had, for all intensive purposes (<–No! This is what I mean, these were, in fact, intensive purposes!) left my body and I was exhausted and a shell of man and hadn’t eaten and I desperately needed sleep, and yet, I had to go into work and finish out a full day. Pure fucking torture.
Funny thing is, I say all that shit and I don’t even think it applies in this case because I think this might have been a Monday when I said I got in a car accident (and it wasn’t even a car, it was a truck) and I now am remembering this because I was definitely tweaking when I called Chris. So I wasn’t out of meth. This whole article is shenanigans.
So it was a Monday, or maybe a Thursday, and whatever day it was I must have been a mess because there was no way I could make it in and these excuses had long been exhausted on a job I hadn’t even worked that long: grandma died x 2, flu x 2, ear infection, stuck out of town – work loves that one, “just a really bad cold, man! I don’t want to get anyone else sick”). Those were done. Couldn’t be recycled. No more flu. No more grandmas. I had to pull out a fucking whopper or they were going to call bullshit and end my employment if I didn’t come in. Picking up the phone one still had a bit of “well I haven’t jumped out of the plane just yet” confidence. Dialing…dialing..and then once that voice on the other end answered it was do or die. “Chris, it’s Todd Gack. I was driving down Lafayette and another truck came out of nowhere and T-Boned me. I think I have a concussion. My truck is messed up and I need to deal with this”
What’s he going to say? Really? Well..nothing. There is nothing he can say but yes, ok, Todd, deal with it. I’m sure he asked if I was okay and without question, if I was going to the hospital and I said I was working on that and I probably told him I was calling my mom or my brother or a family member and that I’d likely do that. One of the profound opportunities I had at my disposal, and I’m not even sure I knew it at the time, was that Extell Loans did not provide a health plan. That ultimately turned out huge because not only could I give it as an excuse for not seeking medical treatment I could, in many ways, blame it on them!
I remember promising a call back later and needing to get alcohol to deal with that later call. This meant a stumblefuck drive to the store, replete with painfully strobing sunlight that one wouldn’t even notice clean but now would resemble police lights with every tree I drove past. And the auditory hallucinations. And of course…dealing with the gas station attendant who would likely think she might be selling beer to a cerebral palsy sufferer at 6:30 AM on a weekday morning. Ugh!
But…like the phone call….I just bit the bullet, perhaps covered whatever disgustingly sweaty, smelly clothes I was wearing with a jacket and crabdrove up there. That’s a term I’m making up to describe the, not so much swerving, but stuttering down the road to get that life saving brewski. I would have preferred hard liquor but the means to obtain would rival Indiana Jones going through Yahweh’s three feats of trust, benediction, and daring in Last Crusade. It’s not like I hadn’t done it before. I did feel some real pressure this time. The first six or seven methy call ins to work, well, you know they’re starting to wonder some shit but this one I was pretty sure, and rightly so, that my job was on the line. And with my fucking background, giving up a $36K base salary plus commission position….dude, I needed to start pounding this beer.
And that I did. I figured I had about 3 hours before I had to place a follow up call. There is a sweet spot – I didn’t always know how much it would take to get there or when but it was there and it was my holy grail and it was the only way I would get the verbal confidence, reconnecting the frayed and tweaked out circuits in my idiot brain, to make that phone call. Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think it at the time. I thought I was finished. But I also knew, in the back of my stupid head, that once I got that pisswarm buzz-on, I could talk my way out of this.
About 10:00 I called back. I talked to Chris. I drove the lane of guilt transference like Jordan. “Chris, you know I’m woozy but I just want to lie down for the rest of the day. You know I just don’t have the money to deal with an ER visit (fuck what about car insurance!?) and I don’t think I need one. Just got rattled a little. The truck looks like it’ll drive but it needs some repairs. The other guy didn’t have insurance and I’m working on that part of it but not really dealing with it today.”
Drunk talk with the wrinkles ironed out by speed had become like a personality trait for me. An attribute. I wish I could have listed it as a “Strength” on job applications. I spoke it fluently and proudly like one would speak Latin after years of study at the university level.
I know I said more but to tell you what exactly I said or expound upon the genius of it I would have to get high right now and then wait about 48 hours and get really drunk and then come back here and type the rest of this paragraph and Ruthless has no per diem for drugs and so I ain’t doin shit!
In any event, I still had a card in my filthsleeve to play. I would fuck up my truck. And I knew I would fuck up my truck because….I would….fuck up my truck. That’s just all there was to it.
Chris gave me the go ahead to report tomorrow “if I felt I could” (right then and there I knew that bought me a noon check-in). I did still have the health insurance/car insurance issue to deal with but I felt like I could get through this and keep my job by this point. I really did.
While the rest of the day I couldn’t piece together under oath I surely can deduce some facts based on later outcomes and experiences with those outcomes prior:
I do know at some point I bought more drugs. Can you believe that? lol.
I’m sure the rest of the day progressed much like previous tweekdays. Running around the house, peeking out blinds, pouring bleach on things, freaking out. I also am sure I drank, smoked, drank, smoked, slept maybe, and I know that I waked and baked (crank) because at some point I did try to drive into work the next day. I wasn’t going to park anywhere near the building but I was going to actually make an effort to show up.
I was out of alcohol, that much was clear and I remember that well because the actions I was about to take could only be done sans liquor of any sort. I had a breathalyzer in my truck. Each month I paid $75 (plus the $300 installment fee) to house this next level, War on Scum tubular contraption in the cab of my rusty blue Ford Ranger and to start my vehicle I had to hum into the sumbitch without so much as the molecules of a cough drop floating around on a gust of my breath. You do hum into them; it’s a common misconception that you blow into breathalyzers, but it’s more like when you played the recorder in 1st grade. You hum. And then if your lungs are free of Satan you can turn over your engine and drive. Note that 15 minutes down the road your breathalyzer starts beeping and if you don’t hum again clean within I think 45 seconds your shit goes ballistic. I knew all this. I had no alcohol left but I needed some if I was going to get to work and lay down that magical drunk talk I taught community college night classes on. I can only imagine my spatial faculties had shrunk to 5 feet of positive movement at a time, before I needed to take a break. Probably a sit down one. I’m not real sure what was motivating me to even attempt to go to work; it’s not like I hadn’t cashed out a last chance before, irrespective of my nearly unemployable status I mentioned earlier. I had drank earlier, it must have been a couple two three hours because my truck did start but a kick of meth evidently was the driving force behind me marshaling up and entering on what for anyone else would be a ho-hum innocuous daily commute to work. I knew ONE thing. I HAD to get more liquor. I had to get my swerve-on before I faced my boss. I had to get beer and gum. You may think that there would be no way for somebody not to detect beer on a mafucka’s breaf but I completed an entire substance abuse evaluation with a grizzled counselor after drinking two 40’s in my past. I could do this.
I gave my truck a hummer. He liked it. He started up.
In 15 minutes I would have to blow again. I needed to take that 15 and drive as fast as I could so I could get to a target gas station between my house and work. I flew down Lafayette St. I had meth in my pocket but I also, like I said, for some reason had this little bout of courage to get it on. Breathalyzer starts beeping, I hum, it shuts the fuck up. I have somewhere between 35-45 minutes before that bitch starting nagging me again. I’m 10 minutes from the station. Get to the station. Leave the truck running, dart in, 18 pack of Busch Light, a 52 ounce plastic cup and a straw. Skank in front of me turning in lotto. FUCK! Hurry. Hurry hurry hurry! She slowly gets her payout and leaves. Old man river needs his Des Moines Register. Hurry, pops! He hesitates, like he’s going to discuss headlines with the counter clerk. Come on, Wilford Brimley. Grump out and move on. He reconsiders, the register boy has a piercing and that symbol of delinquency saves me; old man leaves. I move up and pay with the quickness of a 35 year old male. I tell them to throw my change in the Leave a Penny Take a Penny tray. I am a good citizen. I get in my truck, start popping open cans, pouring them in the cup. Driving. Throw the straw in there. Start sucking. I suck not to hum. It is my new motto – I suck, not to hum. Through a straw the shit is like fracking into my brain, splashing against my frontal lobe, the lobe that makes decisions. I remember getting about 8 beers in me before the inevitable.
Now it’s not like it takes 60 solid minutes to get from my house to work but first off I had to stop at that gas station and second, the breathalyzer gave me MAYBE 30 minutes before it started beeping that stupid little red light again. Oh no. Oh no no no. This actually had never happened to me before. I’d heard about this, via severe alcoholic lore but the experience was a first for me. I obviously couldn’t hum. I’d sucked too much. I was probably 2 miles from work. Oh motherfucker, what was gonna happen, what would I do? I just kept driving, fast as I could, praying to my guardian angel, Orson Welles, for green and yellow lights. The red light on the breathalyzer stopped blinking and went solid because it didn’t get blown. Oh my god.
The next thing that happened is a phenomenon only the drunkiest drunks will ever undergo. It’s like, the culmination of pushing everything to the limit in alcoholism. Misting hairspray in one’s mouth, literally sleeping in a dumpster.
It was like Close Encounters or something; my truck just started doing all kinds of shit who’d ever think this fucking $150 piece of shit loosely calibrated police state device could do. My horn started blaring. All my lights – like every single one including, I presume, the one in the glove box, strobed. My radio came on. I think Lionel Ritchie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling” played and I testify that was an intentional move by the makers of Ignition Interlock. Instinct hit me the split second all that crazy Maximum Overdrive shit went down and I just gunned the gas. And by God…I made it. I made it to the parking lot two parking lots from my work. The one I completely intended to safely land in. I was Chesley Sullenberger if he was a huge, selfish, drunk, drug addicted loserface. I was late for work; I mean, I was already late for work even when I left the house but I got there, goddamit. I got there.
I drank more in that parking lot that day, folks. I drank a lot more. I never had any friends later on like I had when I was 12. Wait, what? No, yea, this was not a sentimental thing, at all. This was simply one more close call that only delayed my inevitable means to an end of self destruction and spiritual and financial ruin, with me living in a bug bed infested studio apartment and working at a corporate franchise convenience store at age 40 for $9 an hour, my college degree deep sixed many moons ago.
I know my boss was extremely suspicious of me. I slept in the bathroom a couple times that day. I stayed late after everyone had left, with Chris’ permission, to make up some work and – and yes, this REALLY happened – I had been smoking meth on foil in the work bathroom and I walked outside for some reason and locked myself OUT of the office building that evening about 7:00pm. Panicking at first, I calmly called Roger, who lived nearby and he came and opened the door for me. Thankfully, he didn’t have to piss or anything when he got there.
The next night I primed my driver’s side door and waited a few days before pulling it into our work parking lot; indicating, once I did, that I’d gotten the door from a local junkyard.
I don’t remember our exact conversation but somehow I’d thrown Chris some misdirection about the severity of the car accident, I know that I told him I thought my insurance was in effect but I didn’t want to claim it because of a past accident or some shit and I just didn’t want it on my record and…I don’t know. I mean, as supernaturally slick as I maybe think I once was it’s dawned on me over the years that perhaps people just want to believe the best in you. They know you’re bullshitting them, on some level or another, but they don’t want to believe you could be such a slimeball. But…make no mistake, ladies and gentleman, I was a slimeball.