I Was Snorting Crystal Meth Before Going to the Office

Wed, Sep 6
Key Points
  • Thuan Nguyen struggled with social anxiety as a child and found relief through alcohol and drugs.
  • His substance abuse escalated to crystal meth addiction, leading to job loss and financial ruin.
  • After his family intervened, Thuan reluctantly entered rehab and began to embrace sobriety.
  • He now works in the addiction treatment field and teaches wellness techniques like yoga and meditation.

I was hanging out with some friends when one of the group turned to me. "What's wrong, Thuan? You're so quiet." My social anxiety was really bad when I was a kid, and at that moment, it felt like something that had to be fixed.

When his mom left, he asked whether I wanted to try some beer. Why not? I thought. At first the taste was terrible, so we added whipped cream and caramel—all the ingredients we used in our milkshakes. It was still terrible, but I got this feeling; all the anxiety I had, it somehow just went away. I finally felt like I'd found something that would fix me.

Throughout high school, whenever there was a keg party I was always there. I was always nervous, but once I had that first cup of beer it was okay. I could be just like everybody else.

That carried on into college and into my life as a professional in New York. At work, I always thought to myself: "Once we have a happy hour, everybody's going to finally see who I really am. I'll be relaxed, I'll be funny and tell jokes."

But I always had to wait for that happy hour.

I made friends with a colleague at work who introduced me to weed. I'd never smoked before and got this really weird feeling. It was almost like alcohol, but when it was over, it was over. I never woke up with a hangover in the morning.

That friend represented weed for me. Every time he wanted to hang out, I thought: "Oh, I'm going to get some weed." The one thing that I didn't like about the drug was that it always put me to sleep.

I would be hanging out with his friends, smoking, and I would fall asleep. I'd wake up with everybody laughing at me and hated it. What else is happening around here? Why isn't everybody else falling asleep?

On one occasion I woke up and realized that while I was sleeping, they were passing around a plate of crystal meth. I asked to try it, but my friend said no. Once again, I didn't feel part of the group. I didn't fit in.

One night, my friend's dealer was with us at a club and he asked if I wanted to try it. "Alright, I'll try it. I'll try everything at least once," I said.

The sense of euphoria was unbelievable. Crystal meth made me feel like Superman. It felt like I could do anything I wanted.

After realizing I had taken the drug, my friend set some ground rules:

"OK, if you're going to be doing crystal meth with us, this is what we're going to do to not get addicted. We're going to work all day, all week. Then on Friday night, we're going to do some crystal meth.

"We're going to party all night. We're going to party all weekend. We're going to have to make sure that we have a lot of weed on Sunday. We'll keep on going until about 6 p.m. on Sunday, and then we're going to stop.

"Then we're going to smoke a lot of weed, and then we're going to go to sleep, wake up in the morning, do our five days at work, and then do it again."

And that's what we did. For a whole summer, we were weekend warriors. I never thought it was a problem. It was this dirty little secret I had, but as long as I was keeping everything going at work and paying my bills on time, everything was fine. It was just something I did on the side.

I moved out to Seattle and for the first year I didn't do any crystal meth, because I couldn't find any. Then, when I finally found some, I told myself that I had to regiment myself and control it. Just like everybody drank coffee in the morning, I would have one line of crystal meth in the morning and then I would be fine for the entire day.

For about a year I did that, until a big project came along at work. I told myself that I'd need to be working longer hours, I'd need to be on point. Crystal meth can help me.

For a three-month period, I averaged three nights of sleep per work week. I was putting in crazy hours, and after presenting my project at a conference, got a standing ovation.

There I was, on the stage, thinking: "Look at what I just did. I did this entire thing while I was high. I'm high right now, and nobody knows. Look at all the adulation and praise I'm getting. Imagine what could happen if I did this even more."

It validated my lifestyle, so I carried on. But within a year, I got fired because they couldn't trust me anymore. On the nights that I decided to go to sleep, I wouldn't hear my alarm in the morning and would walk into work at 10 a.m. in shame.

Everyone would see me and I'd be so embarrassed. After a while of that, they had to fire me. For the next two and a half years I drank and took drugs while unable to find a job.

Finally, when I lost all of my 401(k) savings and started squatting in my condo, my family discovered what was happening and checked me into rehab.

I didn't even want to get sober. I was still convinced I didn't have a crystal meth problem. I thought they were blowing out of proportion, and I had a problem with managing my finances.

But while I was in rehab, something strange happened to me. I started to listen. People told me that life could be so much better if I just stopped drinking and taking drugs.

From there, the process was really messy—just feeling all the emotions that a human being feels. At first I had my head down, I wasn't talking to anybody. But when all the stuff that I was avoiding started coming up, I became uncomfortable.

Now I understand what people say when they say it gets worse before it gets better. I was doing 90 meetings in 90 days, and was on this pink cloud because I was feeling better and my body was coming back to life.

Then all of a sudden all of these resentments started coming to the surface, and all the behaviors I had as an active addict came up.

I spoke to my sponsor, who told me I hadn't done any work. I was going to all the meetings, eating the cookies and drinking coffee, but I wasn't doing any work on myself. I wasn't reflecting on who I was and the things I was holding on to.

So, I started really committing to the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and started writing a list of all the resentments I had of other people, what the basis of those were, what the underlying causes and conditions were.

What I came to realize was that I was a people pleaser. I had really low self-esteem and was like a doormat for people because I didn't respect or accept who I was. I wanted people to be happy with me so that I could be happy with myself.

I think that was the biggest lesson I learned from my steps, just knowing that I don't have to live my life this way and that love for myself has to come before I try to seek love from other people.

After leaving rehab I went to a sober house and joined AA. I got a job back at the rehab, first as a housekeeper and then in the kitchen. Later I joined the staff of the 12-step program before transferring over to another treatment center where they focus on mind, body and spirit.

Today I have my dream job in wellness, teaching techniques like yoga, qigong and meditation, which I had no idea was possible. I am so grateful for my addiction, because it showed me a different way of living.

If I were still drinking and taking drugs, I wouldn't have experienced this spiritual or personal growth. A lot of people in earlier recovery don't understand how people like me can be grateful, and I didn't understand either.

But to be able to feel the darkness, to go through the darkness, see the light and I think: I know now exactly why this worked. I had to go through these processes to get me to where I am today.

For me, it's been an absolutely wonderful journey.

Thuan Nguyen is a certified yoga reiki teacher at Mountainside Addiction Treatment Center. He has special training in qigong and over a decade of experience in the addiction treatment field.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Newsweek's My Turn associate editor, Monica Greep.

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