December 30, 2019:

Withdrawal was no worse than mild flu.

We've heard so many stories, and there's Frank Sinatra rolling in agony in The Man With the Golden Arm. It wasn't like that for me. Perhaps because I never shot up. I would smoke at home, snort at work. I have no personal reference to compare with, so perhaps my addiction was simply not very severe. Whatever the reason, I was sick with flu-like symptoms for a couple of days and then was physically fine.

My decision to quit was driven by embarrassment. My dear friend moved to San Francisco. At first she was my houseguest, but for me her presence was so calming and so helpful that I was thrilled to have her partner up with me as permanent housemate for several years. To me she seems so level, so solid and so grounded, that I was flatly unwilling to be addicted with her nearby. Or to be crazy.

I credit her with my ability to be "high functioning" after my breakdown. With her anchoring my world I became able to focus. I could follow the technical books that were necessary to my career, and survive the long hours necessary to support myself.

The one thing I was not able to do was play an instrument with any sort of emotional expression. My playing was emotionally flattened, all but dead, for decades. Meds and therapy at long last brought that part of my life back.

And so we arrive at the closing of a very long circle, where proper medication is substituted for self-medication, and therapy is substituted for trial-and-error. The lesson I'd like to leave you with is: get help sooner not later. My fear of meds and therapy robbed me of what for most people are the most productive years of their lives.