I had it down to a science. I knew what stores sold it, whether they sold a generic, whether they sold it in soft-gel form, and whether there was a self-checkout I could use.
I knew the differences between brands and knew flavors I could tolerate. I learned to avoid the extended release formulas unless I wanted to double it up with the ordinary, old fashioned release kinds.
I knew which ones had extra ingredients like acetaminophen, guaifenesin, and sudafed. I preferred my DXM unadulterated.
I even knew what doses I needed to take to get to my desired high. And I knew the differences between the high plateaus.
I had whittled my cough syrup use down to a fine art.
I didn’t go back to cough syrup right away. After my release from the crazy house, I was sincere in my sobriety. I met with my drug counselor and made a plan. I worked with my therapist to develop coping mechanisms to get me through the drug cravings. And most importantly, I announced my new sobriety to my friends and the Werewolf.
The last bit was the hardest part; it made me squirm. Announcing my sobriety meant accountability. My friends were invited to act as watch dogs, policing me and keeping me from the ever-dangerous relapse. I hated being watched like this under any circumstances, and their lectures became more than tiresome.
Telling the Werewolf was the worst of all. It meant that our benders would be over: a thing of the past to day dream about nostalgically in sticky classrooms, sober.
I was never “completely” sober though. I worked with my therapist and together we developed a realistic plan to start me on the road to the old fashioned, strict, and– in my mind– boring sobriety.
So for me, “sobriety” meant I was allowed to occasionally smoke weed, drink in moderation, and take any pill I was prescribed (which included high doses of benzos, amphetamines, and opioids). This was clearly at odds with the common conception of “sobriety”.
For me, sobriety was ugly. It meant abstention from the hard drugs I was doing: the molly, ecstasy, morphine, vicodin, and– most importantly– my beloved DXM, conveniently and legally available at your local drug store.
Even though I was still allowed to associate with my minor vices, going “sober” was hard. The drug cravings were hard to ride out. I often had to sit at the table with my hands tucked under my thighs, watching the seconds pass on the 15 minute timer. If the craving didn’t abate in those 15 minutes, the timer was reset and the rhythmic tic tocs resumed.
I really did want to go sober. I missed my drugs but, during those the first few weeks after my hospitalization, I was able to get through my cravings by reminding myself of how awful my hospital stay had been– and how easily I could end up back there. Especially if I backslid my way into DXM.
DXM is a double-edged sword for people dealing with mental illness. Not only does DXM nullify the effects of mood stabilization drugs, it goes farther than that– DXM actually magnifies the problems of mental illness, digging you deeper into your diagnosis each time you use.
And as time passed, I started to forget why being sober was so important. The memory and shame of my hospitalization began to fade away, as did my convictions. Why was going sober so important? After all, I was high functioning even when I was using. But, most damning of alI, I was bored. Boredom will always be a trigger for me. And DXM whisked me away from that unbearable, self destructive boredom.
The days rolled by and my convictions slowly began to fade away. Three short months after my release, I was back on the cough syrup wagon with no end in sight.
I started to backslide.