Meth series hits home

By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers

A popular piece of advice for writers is to write about what you know. But writing about what you know can be extremely painful when you’ve been affected by the destructive demon of methamphetamine .

Crank. Ice. Chalk. Tweek. Nose candy.

There are many ways to label this man-made drug, but the effects are all the same. And the many stories that I’ve heard over the past month-and-half are all the same, too, painfully familiar accounts of people losing their jobs, homes, cars, businesses, savings, friends and loved ones because of meth and its deceitfully sudden addiction, which quickly overshadows the pleasures of weight loss, feeling carefree, and staying awake for days, weeks and even months with little sleep.

I recently completed a three-part series on meth, which was published in the Clovis News Journal and Portales News-Tribune this past week. It was one of the hardest projects I’ve ever worked on. I didn’t have much problem finding people to talk to. In fact, my problem, thanks to my editors, was in limiting the abundant amount of information I had, and keeping it within a workable size. An even bigger problem, however, was writing the stories.

I had the story leads written in my head. I knew how I wanted them to start after hours of reviewing my notes. However, as I sat at my keyboard, I was unable to contain my emotions as I started reliving my own experiences through the detailed accounts given to me by others.

The patterns leading up to these destructive behaviors were hauntingly familiar. With people that I know, the signs had slowly started to manifest themselves and the women that I talked to repeated the same warning signs which, at the time, gave all of us a sick sense that something was wrong, terribly wrong, and yet we didn’t quite know what it was.

There was the rapid weight loss. Constant itching. Insomnia. Lack of appetite. Memory loss. Depletion of funds. Paranoia. Irrational behavior and lack of responsibility and caring.

Tears started pouring down my face. I rushed to the bathroom to regain control of myself, but only to have more tears replace them. I rushed back to the bathroom and told myself I had to get it together and just write. Even after a third time, though, I couldn’t do it. “It’s too painful! It hurts too much!” I cried, and so I called it quits and went home for the day.

After a night of deep thought and prayer, I came in the next day and was finally able to write. I kept my thoughts focused and just wrote over the next few days even though I still had occasional problems wiping the expressions from my memory of the people’s eyes and faces, mostly of the mothers whom I had interviewed. They had bravely shared their stories, and all with a helpless sense of “How could this happen to my child?” and “What am I going to do?”

The losses caused by meth are taking a noticeable toll. I am aware of several recent deaths, including suicides, that are related to meth.
Meth is so destructive because it’s cheap, at least in the beginning, it’s available and it’s extremely addictive. Throughout the experience, the battle cry I kept hearing was that the meth user has to want to change. You cannot force them. And yet the Catch 22 is that as long as they are hooked on the stuff, they’re not thinking about anything else.

I refuse, however, to believe that any situation is hopeless, especially with God. My daughter, Laura and I regularly watch the “Intervention” TV show on the A&E network. It’s a show in which loved ones confront addicts with ultimatums and refuse to “enable” them unless they accept help. About half of the people end up relapsing, but the other half are success stories.

Another battle cry I kept hearing repeated, especially by law enforcement people, was that meth is everyone’s problem. One of my colleagues remarked, “Meth is a dirty little secret. Everyone knows about it, but no one wants to talk about it.” But as one person whom I interviewed, Paul Hunton, who is making a video documentary on meth said, “There is more at stake than not talking about meth.”

Meth is our problem.