Close encounters of the meth kind

According to recent statistics, there may more than one-half-million methamphetamine abusers hurrying hither and yon through the great state of California at this very minute.

Marvelous …

With those kind of population estimates, one can rest assured that there’s a pretty good chance each and every one of us will have an opportunity to encounter one of these enthusiastic, but notoriously short-tempered stimulant abusers, as we go about our day-to-day affairs.

And virtually anything can happen during one of these unexpected meetings.

Sometimes it’s a long-lost old buddy you never met.

One minute you’re strolling down the sidewalk at one with the blue skies, sunshine and chirping ravens, and the next you’re being bear-hugged by a a skeletal guy with wide eyes and a toothless grin.

“Duuuude, where ya been?! I haven’t seen you since high school graduation when we were in the Navy! Whaddya-whaddya? Still got that Buddha opium pipe? Whadda blast! Yer lookin’ good, buddy! How was Saskatchewan?”

Listen carefully, amigos: It doesn’t matter that you don’t remember this guy from high school. It doesn’t matter that you were never in the Navy, smoked opium from a Buddha-shaped pipe or ever visited Saskatchewan. Whatever you do, don’t try to deny any of this.

If you do, you’ll never get rid of this new meth-fueled friend, because he’ll spend the rest of the day trying to explain, quite vehemently, how you were a chief petty officer aboard the U.S.S. Swampus and both of you got obliterated on primo hashish during a three-day binge in a Saskatchewan trailer park in 1989.

Just keep nodding, smiling and agreeing and, eventually, your new acquaintance will blink rapidly 15 or 20 times and walk rapidly away while humming “Stairway to Heaven” really, really fast.

Unfortunately, your experiences may go beyond the chance encounter with a friend you never had. With 500,000 meth users galloping off in all directions statewide, you may discover that your gardener, physician, attorney or auto mechanic also may have fallen victim to the illegal stimulant.

If your gardener shows up one Saturday morning, promptly mows your lawn 15 times and then asks “Hey, where’s your lawnmower?” it would be safe for you to presume that methamphetamine might be involved.

Just keep him away from the chain saw …

When your normally slow-moving mechanic is suddenly in a big, big hurry and quickly replaces your car’s spark plugs with banana slugs, he also may be powered by meth. And if he insists that those banana slugs are way better than spark plugs, it’s a pretty good bet that he’s had a close encounter with the drug. Thank him profusely and, if your hyperactive gardener is still hanging around, have him help push your car to another repair facility.

Finally, if you go in for a check-up and it appears that your health care provider may have been self-medicating with methamphetamine, remember that surgery is no longer an option for anything – not even a nose-hair trimming.

Really, amigos. I wouldn’t kid you on this …

Originally published on May 6, 2007

Reason No. 347 to avoid meth …

Hey, here’s a swell idea for next weekend: Don’t do any methamphetamine. Don’t snort it, don’t shoot it, don’t smoke it, don’t rub it under your tongue.

Really.

If you can last from Friday night through Monday morning without the slightest smidgen of the junkyard stimulant – no cheating! – chances are you might even last through Tuesday or (dare we hope?) Wednesday.

What a concept, America!

I guess I’m just being ridiculously optimistic, but I think it would be great if all of us could get through just one weekend without turning ourselves into sweating, pop-eyed meth fiends who are just as likely to park our cars upside down in the neighbor’s okra patch as we are to shoot the family cat because it was looking at us funny.

Admittedly, I’m being rather tiresome about this whole methamphetamine thing. But I walk into the county Hall of Justice five days a week and, five days a week, I encounter twitching wrecks who used to be moderately functioning human beings who are trying to explain to a judge why their formerly successful lives spiraled into meth hell in the space of a year or two.

Meth is killing us, it’s trashing our families and it’s wreaking havoc of innocent bystanders.

Plus, it’s making a helluva lot of us look incredibly stupid on a daily – sometimes hourly – basis.

Take the Portland case which I will refer to simply as reason No. 347 to avoid meth.

According to a recent Associated Press report, an Oregon man (who shall remain nameless just in case he ever gets his act together), was chaotically rolling along with a skin full of methamphetamine last year when he was foolish enough to pick up an automatic nail gun.

Then our over-methed hero somehow managed to shoot himself in the head with the aforementioned nail gun – not once, but 12 times.

Repeat after me: Meth, bad. Meth and nail gun, worse.

Not a really tough concept, eh?

On the positive side, our methventurer survived the nail gun fight he somehow got into with himself and eventually made his way to an Oregon medical facility.

The AP reported that the man, who complained of a headache, first told doctors he’d had a nail gun accident (12 times?!), but later admitted he’d taken meth and might have tried to kill himself.

Using a pair of needle-nosed pliers and a drill, doctors were able to remove the nails successfully, and the patient lived through the ordeal.

I know there are a few substance-challenged thinkers out there who already are arguing “Hey, if he hadn’t had plenty of meth, he might not have been strong enough to make it to the hospital to have his nails pulled out!”

Uh-huh.

Let’s try this again: Meth, bad. Meth and nail gun, worse.

Ditto for meth and handgun, meth and chain saw, meth and rattlesnake, meth and gasoline, meth and tambourine, meth and jar full of short-tempered scorpions …

Really, amigos. I wouldn’t kid you on this.

Originally published May 21, 2006

A good man with a bad problem

I’m going to go way out on a limb here and wish former Fairfield City Councilman John English good luck.

And I’m going to go even farther out on that limb and tell you that John English is a good man, albeit a good man who had a bad drug problem.

A popular city councilman, John English was dedicated to his constituents, to the community’s youth and to protecting the victims of domestic violence. Ironically, he knew Fairfield had a crime problem and he wanted to do something about it.

What John English didn’t know when he became a city councilman in 2001 was that his life was about to be turned upside down by methamphetamine, a treacherous drug that has destroyed thousands of lives and continues to destroy lives from coast to coast.

Arrested for methamphetamine possession in Sacramento and Yolo counties in 2004 and 2005, English adamantly denied knowledge of the drug. He represented himself in Sacramento County Superior Court and continued to claim innocence even after a jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to four years probation and 30 days in jail.

Before turning himself in for his Sacramento jail sentence, he was again arrested for methamphetamine possession, this time in a Yolo County casino.

Again, English denied any knowledge of the drugs.

By then, English’s life had become a train wreck. He’d lost his council post, his business was suffering, people were avoiding him and family members had become alienated. John English’s life was lost in a methamphetamine nightmare.

To his credit, he eventually rose above the drug and admitted his addiction to the court and to the public.

“I’m a methamphetamine addict and I’m admitting that in this court,” English told Sacramento Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette last fall. “It’s time for me to get on with my life and I cannot do that with the perpetuation of this lie.”

English has since served his time, paid his fines, participated in a Sacramento County drug rehabilitation program and, last week, was placed on three years probation on the Yolo County meth charge.

Some people think English got off easy.

Don’t believe it.

John English was most certainly not a career criminal and he lost just about everything he had to a drug that has proven incredibly destructive to people in all walks of life – from cops to computer programmers, politicians to plumbers and the occasional soccer mom.

It’s remarkably addictive and can trash an otherwise productive and blameless life in a year or two – sometimes less. It’s a nightmare from which some victims never awaken.

I spent a lot of time talking with John English during the course of his trial, and I believe the former councilman is a decent man capable of keeping clean and sober and doing good in whatever community he chooses for his home.

So I say good luck, John. I wish you well.

Originally published February 12, 2006