Anatomy of a relapse part 1: losing grip

On September 6, 2014, I made a choice that could have cost me my life. In this six part series, we will journey back and look at how I slipped into a relapse and what I did to self-stabilize and avert catastrophe.

This is part one of six in a series.


Written on the evening of Thursday, September 4:

My plan was to purchase copious amounts of cough medicine, and disappear to a crummy motel all weekend.

I would have contacted a friend by email on Sunday, requesting a ride from the motel to the emergency room on Monday morning.

I’d have been a mess, barely able to speak, henceforth the note.

I know what I would have been like after a weekend binge of dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant with a double-life as a dissociative, often referred to as DXM), because binging on that stuff used to be my way of life.

It’s a strange drug of choice. Then again, choosing a drug over living real life seems like a strange thing to do in general.

But that’s what I did, for a long time. On and off (mostly on) for seven years. From 2002-2009, cough medicine was my god.

The reasons for that?

Well, I was once a little boy that wanted to be important. Then, I became a teenager who took the desire to be important and twisted it into a delusion that greatness was my destiny. But what is greatness to a sad, insecure, afraid person? I felt lost and ill-equipped for life.

Then, when I was 21, some friends asked me to “robotrip.” That meant drink Robitussin to get high, which struck me as pathetic. But I did it anyway.

Most concise way I can explain it is, with dextromethorphan inside of me, I felt important. Like I was on a mission.

As if the chemical had the power to expand my mind’s capacities and usher me to enlightenment. And from there, I thought I could change the world.

Single-mindedly, I chased down enlightenment while my life exploded around me. Could not maintain friendships, nor hold a job. All I could do was keep on tripping (in more ways than one).

I was swallowed by debt, stalked by looming shadows of awful, insensitive things I’d done to people I was supposed to love, and my body was rendered almost non-functional on multiple occasions. There were psychiatric hospitals and jail cells along the way.

In 2009, I cleaned up. Big year for me. Stopped using DXM, quit smoking cigarettes, went to college for the first time. Started building a life.

Over five years later, I have more to live for than ever. Found success in school and work. Have developed a sense of competency and importance outside of drugs.

Even so, sadness and insecurity have remained with me through my years of being clean of DXM. To cope with depression, I became an avid drinker.

Binge eating and drinking have been my fall-back coping mechanisms since 2009. Those activities are relatively easy to hide.

But what brought a DXM relapse into the equation?

Truthfully, I was emotionally, physically, and spiritually totaled from drinking and eating too much. I’d gained over 100 pounds from September 2013 to September 2014. Drinking and over-eating temporarily numbed my thoughts, but gradually worsened my depression, which led to more self-destruction. And so on. Epitome of a “viscous cycle.”

This is scary, but there were times this year when I was on the verge of killing myself. One drunken night, I had a suicide plan and everything, was at peace with it. But I was so exhausted that I accidentally fell asleep instead. Woke up in a better frame of mind.

Better, but still broken.

On Thursday, September 4, 2014, hollowed out and tired of holding on, I schemed my DXM relapse.

I figured if my life was a sinking ship, I may as well go down my way.

The chaos in my mind was interwoven with sporadic intervals of clarity, in which I was aware of the horrendousness of the idea. A few times, I felt like I would not go through with it.

Those moments of clarity did buy me some time. I did not use on Friday evening as planned, nor did I escape to a motel.

Even so, I’d already gone too far in my mind, too far to turn away. Like a moth locked onto flame.

On Saturday the 6th, the moth fluttered into the medicinal section of a local store. There I was, standing there, staring DXM in the face.

Twenty-some dollars later, it was time to go home and dance with the devil.

This tale is going to get uglier before it gets pretty.

But hang in there with me, OK? There is a point to all of this. Please don’t look away. We’ll get through it.

Part two (Onset)


Also published on Medium.