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A Word From Rick

Who was it that said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

By Rick Jacobs / TPA Award Winning Columnist   

     Albert Einstein is the most popular consensus, although in reality no one actually knows for sure. Doesn't matter, really. All that does matter is the blatant, in-your-face, glaring - you don't have to be a rocket scientist - to see how obvious it is.

    Speed regularly on Bartlett streets? You'll meet one of our finest.

    Imbibe in excess at parties? You'll stagger, fall down and wake the next morning with a headache. Or, worse, your mind will decide that clothes are no longer necessary and then the next day find yourself a star on a YouTube video. (Thankfully, there was no such thing as YouTube, cell phones and such back in the 70's.)

    Now, being older and much wiser, I would hope that I'm well aware of the futility of the insanity definition and would distance myself from falling into the trap.

    But, alas, no.

    For the past three Wednesdays and Saturdays I have purchased a Powerball ticket. And, yes, with the optional, one dollar extra, powerplay.

    (For those of you who are much smarter than me and do not play the lottery, a powerplay will increase the winnings of a non-jackpot winning ticket.)

    It all started with a clerk asking me if I wanted a ticket. The jackpot was many millions of dollars and a life of insane luxury should I win. The computer can pick the numbers. Computers are smart, right?

    Apparently not.

    After writing the rough draft of my resignation to my boss - I am definitely not one of those who claim that nothing will change after depositing my giant two foot by six foot check - I checked my numbers. Just a formality, right?

    Think positive. Think positive.

    Negative.

    Nada.

    Not one single number.

    Three bucks down the proverbial drain.

    I had a defective ticket. And, no, turns out you don't get your money back. They call it gambling, or some such term.

    Gamble (verb) (a) to play a game for money or property. (b) to bet on an uncertain outcome. (c) to stake something on a contingency. (d) take a chance. (See insanity)

    Well, I had learned my lesson, right? That was three burgers off the dollar menu I'd never get back. I work too hard for my money just to throw it away. Ain't nothing in this world would ever make me take such a dumb risk ever again.

    Right?

    Now hold on just a minute! a voice whispered in my ear. You've beaten some major odds before. Remember when you asked Susie to marry you? Recall your shock when she said yes? What were those odds, hmmm?

    I immediately went and bought another ticket.

    Gasp!

    Same result.

    Then, Thursday morning, I get a call from my brother. He hit four numbers in the Mega Millions lottery. He bought the Megaplier. Six hundred bucks for a two dollar investment. What did that tell me?

    I had been playing the wrong lottery!

    So, I went straight to the Flash Market and bought two tickets, one for each game. My odds for winning had just doubled. How could I possibly lose?

    Shock!

    Same result.

    I began to sense a pattern. You don't have hit me over the head with a ten-pound sledge and then ask me if it hurt. You won't hear me say, "I don't know. Hit me again."

    Sigh.

    Yeah, you will. Or at least the clerk at the Flash Market did. "Hit me again," I told her.

    Same freaking result.

    So, call me insane. Still, I actually get a kick out of playing. I figure one day I'll maybe hit at least one number. Five bucks a week won't break me. And I would wager - sheesh! Maybe I do have a problem - that if you ask any jackpot winner if they felt they were insane to play they would argue with you.

    If you don't play, you really can't win.

    In reality, I don't exactly fit into the definition of insanity because I don't expect different results. I have no illusions when I check the numbers twice a week. And I always get a kick out that little tingle of excitement I feel as I bring up the lottery website as I'm sure do millions of others. Until I know for sure, there's still that inkling that just maybe this is the time.

    And, should I win, on that day I will feel like the luckiest man in the world.

    Just as I did on the day when Susie said, "Yes."

    And now that I think of it, I've already hit the lottery once. Who's to say it won't happen again?

    Gotta go now. The Flash Market is open.

    C'mon baby! Daddy needs a new pair of Jaguars.

525,600 Minutes - What a difference a year makes   

By Rick Jacobs   

 525,600 minutes.

    One year. One revolution around the sun. Where the earth was this time last year is where we are again. And where we will be, inevitably, this time next year.

    This has occurred an estimated four and a half billion times, give or take a millennium or two. And, according to astronomers, the sun will continue to rise in the east and set in the west every day for another four or five billion years.

    It's safe to say that everyone here should be fine.

    Given that, the span of one year, when compared to overall time, is a blink. Less than a blink.

    That is exactly what 2011 was, at least for me. It was over before it actually began. The months flew by as if someone, somewhere, had a remote programmed in on earth, pushed the fast-forward and then put it down and forgot about it.

    I remember January, 2011. Now it's January, 2012. Everything else is a blur.

    Ten years ago, when the earth began anew its orbit around the sun, I found myself facing a future that was both foreign and profoundly frightening. The year before, 2001, began with my wife, Susie, and I the proud owners of Simply the Best Cleaners, open less than a year but already showing signs of growing and prospering beyond our wildest dreams. I was 44 and Susie was only 39. We, and our four children, worked together every day. It was hard work but very exciting and fulfilling.

    One year later - one short, blink, blur, eventful year later - my family was facing far different challenges that seemed unthinkable and yet were very real. We had very nearly lost my children's mother to a massive coronary the previous fall. Her resulting neurological damage was debilitating and permanent. I found myself thrust into the role of caregiver. For a time I struggled with balancing that role while attempting to keep our business open, taking care of the house and children and convincing myself that I could do it.

    I couldn't.

    Over the next 525,600 minutes the world made its way around the sun, oblivious to the struggles of its inhabitants. For the first time in my life, facing those minutes, well, very simply, I was scared to death.

    I felt overwhelmed, and utterly alone.

    Looking back, I find the opposite was true. I was never alone.

    Faith had always been confusing to me, and in the early days of Susie's recovery, watching her lay near death in the Intensive Care Unit, it was difficult for me to imagine there was anyone watching over us. But as God sent me angel after angel to help me and my family, I eventually came to an "Aha!" moment.

    God doesn't cause, nor does He want, bad things to happen. But He will help us through them.

    He sent angels in the form of family, friends, community and church. There were angels that, especially during that first year, helped me out of bed every morning and walked with me throughout each and every day. They whispered to me, "You can do this!"

    Eventually, I believed them. I found ways to be happy again. The joy of waking up every morning has returned. And when Susie smiles at me - and it is nearly every minute of every day - I feel that, just maybe, God is smiling at me through her and is saying to me, "Rick, you're doing just fine."

    There's another voice, way deep down inside me somewhere, that never goes away. Sort of like a whisper in a cornfield that speaks to me now and then. It is the voice that compels me to write so that others who find themselves in a similar place may read my words and understand that, one day, it's going to be okay again.

    You are not alone. Welcome the angels that God sends you. You will find strength you never knew you had. Life will be good again. Just give it time.

    A wise man once said, "Life consists not in holding good cards, but in playing those you hold well."

    I would add: Bluff now and then. Don't be afraid to lose occasionally. More than anything else, don't be fearful of going all in.

    The world revolves every 525,600 minutes.

    The very best we can do is hold on tight and enjoy the ride.

News from the North Pole by Rick Jacobs

The waiting is over folks! It's time for my highly anticipated and now world famous "News From the North Pole" column.

    First, breaking news from Washington:

    The mystery couple made famous by the popular Christmas song I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus has, at long last, been identified.

    Or, at least, Santa has.

    "Mommy" has chosen to remain anonymous and is speaking publicly only through her lawyer. However, I was able to speak with her by telephone in an exclusive interview only available on this web site.

    "I just had to come forward," she told me. "All those other girls did and it just broke my heart. I really thought he and I had something special. All those kisses underneath the mistletoe meant so much to me. Apparently, though, I was naive to think I was the only one."

    So, I asked her, just who is this "Santa"?

    "He told me to call him 'Hermie'," she said, her voice choked with emotion. "He was so sweet I used to refer to him as sugar Cane. Now he's more like novaCane to me. I'm just numb," she said.

    I asked her if she had seen him lately.

    "No, not in several months," she said. "He's been real busy for a while, running for something or other." She then added, "I did get a text from him recently. Seems he just had a lot of spare time open up."

    From the North Pole:

    The news that Santa had been tinkering with the idea of teaming up with FedEx to help deliver toys this years is no longer the case, according to officials at Santa's Workshop. While he had admitted early this year that last year's trip around the world nearly did him in, Santa says he is feeling at least a couple of centuries younger these days.

    "Last Christmas nearly killed me," he told reporters at a special news conference just days ago. "I almost didn't make it. After all," he said with his famous twinkling eyes dancing around the room, "I am like 800 years old, give or take."

    How does he explain the more youthful Santa?

    "The Bartlett Rec Center," he said. "Joined it early this year and I've been working with one of their trainers religiously, three or four times a week, every week."

    The results, he said, have been nothing short of miraculous.

    "I haven't felt this good in maybe three, four hundred years," he said, and as if to make a point, stood and began doing some rigorous jumping jacks. "I've lost probably fifty pounds, packed on some muscle and have more energy now than way back when I was putting kites under Ben Franklin's tree.

    "And by the way," he whispered with a wink, "Mrs. Clause is, uh, well, thrilled as well."

    Here's some good news for the kids of Bartlett:

    Once again Mayor Keith McDonald was proud to accept, on behalf of all the children of Bartlett, the coveted "Best Kids in America" award for the fifth straight year. Because of the milestone of five consecutive years, Santa Clause himself was on hand to present the award to our mayor.

    "Five years in a row," said a beaming Santa, "is a remarkable achievement for any city. Bartlett has always been one of my favorite stops. This year we'll probably set a record for toys for all of these wonderful boys and girls."

    Mayor McDonald was obviously pleased as he hoisted the trophy over his head, although, he said, he wasn't surprised.

    "We've always had great kids here. Always. That's one of the reasons this is such a great city to live in. Great parents and great kids."

    Right after the ceremony, Santa jumped in a Bartlett Fire Engine and rode down Stage road and waved to a great many of these same kids in the annual Bartlett Christmas Parade held on December 3rd. This parade, he said, he never misses.

    "I love the Bartlett Parade. I make it a point to never miss it. I've seen a lot of kids grow up right before my eyes over the years. Some of these kids," he said, "are a long way from home this year. An awful long way. Where they are, there's no parades, no Christmas trees and no family. They're young and proud and wear a uniform. They're also tired, and homesick and lonely. I hope the folks here in Bartlett will remember them, and take the time to write a letter or send a gift and, most of all, offer a prayer for their safe return.

    "That," he said, "would be the best Christmas gift ever."

    I agree.

    To my son, Sean, somewhere in Afghanistan, stay safe. We love and miss you and wish you could be here instead of there. You make me proud.

    Merry Christmas.

Rick Jacobs writes his way to the very top

Rick Jacobs, the best columnist to ever put word to page around here, has won 1st place in the TPA (Tennessee Press Association) editorial awards. Accompanied by the Edward J. Meeman Foundation Award. That is as good as it gets for a columnist from Tennessee. Rick's three part column on the inside life of a meth addict was moving, disturbing and real.

"Written in 2010, Rick and I both wondered what the impact might have on readers," said Dawn Boone, editor of The Bartlett Express during that time. "Then Rick said if it saved just one life, it would be worth any back lash from anyone. He was right; and I knew it. It is a great piece of work and I am glad I got to be a part of publishing it." 

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Rick Jacobs

By Rick Jacobs
TPA Award Winning Columnist

November 30th, was National Meth Awareness Day.  Below is the first of the three Tennessee Press Association winning columns by Rick Jacobs about meth abuse where he interviews an actual meth addict. Read it, have your kids read it and learn all you can about this drug.

Meth - The Drug

By Rick Jacobs  

 There once was a little girl who grew up in Bartlett, Tennessee. She was raised in a loving family home and had all of the necessities and many of the luxuries a middle-class income could provide. Her parents stayed married; there were many summer vacations and countless weekends spent fishing and boating at a nearby lake and cabin.

    "Lana" graduated from Bartlett High School in 2000. Her grades were excellent. She had always wanted to be a nurse and had actually begun nursing school before a family tragedy forced her to drop out and work at the family business.

    She never went back to school. She will soon be 27 years old. The last two years of her life were spent in a world utterly unfathomable to most people. It was a world of darkness, sadness and danger. It was a world of incomprehensible manufactured euphoria, only to be followed by bottomless despair and depression.

    In between these two extremes was a relentless pursuit. Find more of what put you in both places.

    I happen to know Lana. Over the last few days I have been talking to her at length about her addiction and her recovery. She has been very open and truthful about both. What I discovered is how little I knew about the drug that nearly robbed her of everything that was important: her family, her well-being and even her life. I began to research online, reading anything and everything I could find.

    What I found was both fascinating and frightening. It was also eye-opening.

    This column is devoted to what the drug is and what it does. The next two columns I will share Lana's personal experience with the lifestyle of addiction and her ongoing recovery.

    Lana and I share a goal: educate just one person who will say "no" and avoid the nightmare that has been her life for the last two years.

The Drug

    Methamphetamine, on the street, is more commonly known as meth, ice, glass, speed, go fast and crank. There are many other aka's. The two most common forms are powder and rock. The powder is usually snorted and the rock, crystal meth, smoked.

    Meth production is a multi-step cook process and is made in meth "labs", usually set up in the dealer's private home or apartment. There are even labs set up in cars, called "rolling" labs. Various chemicals are used in the 48-hour manufacturing process, creating toxic fumes. Additionally, since the chemicals have to be heated, there is the very real danger of an explosion.

    "I knew three people who died from explosions," Lana said. She also once witnessed another equally dangerous, but much faster, method of meth-making involving plastic bottles, cold medicine, stripped down double-A lithium batteries and coffee filters. Called "shake and bake", a sticky smokeable form of meth could be ready in 2-3 hours.

    The main ingredient of meth is ephedrine or its cousin, pseudoephedrine. These can be found in many over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines. When mixed with things like ammonia or lye, these ingredients are isolated and the result is a drug so powerful that it defies imagination.

    There is, quite literally, nothing else on earth that compares.

    When meth is ingested, the user is treated to a state of such intense pleasure and euphoria that virtually all who experience it, from the very first time, become addicted. Meth triggers a massive release of Dopamine to the brain, and this is how we humans know something feels good.

    According to PBS's website Frontline, and I'm going to dumb this down to very basic layman's terms, dopamine hangs around in little sacks and waits for a signal from pleasure receptors to be released. Once released, they float around the brain for a while and then re-enter the sacks to be recycled for use at another time. We usually maintain a base level at any given time of about 100 dopamine. Depending on the activity, more or less are released.

    If we are hungry, and we eat a cheeseburger, our dopamine level will spike at around 150. Alcohol will increase this level to about 200 and nicotine will up it to 250, similar to the level of pleasure we experience with sex.

    Cocaine spikes this level to around 400. What's more, cocaine will block the ability for dopamine to re-enter the sacks for an hour or so, therefore the pleasure level is maintained for this amount of time.

    Meth floods the brain with a staggering spike of up to 1250 dopamine. Very simply put, our brains were never meant to experience this. In addition to this pleasure overload, meth will block the re-entry for twelve hours or more. Therefore, when the user is finally released from this marathon of inhuman ecstasy and exhilaration, the result is a crash so complete and devastating as to be equally inhuman.

    There is only one way to get back to the one place you never knew, or could know, existed. Literally overnight you become a willing slave to meth, knowing full well what it's doing to you, where it will likely lead you, and, for reasons you cannot understand, not caring.

    While the reward center of your brain is drunk from dopamine, the other areas, like judgment and memory, are dwarfed into insignificance. Nothing else matters.

    The sad reality? You have trouble remembering why anything else ever did.

    "I knew people," Lana told me, "who, in a whole month, would sleep maybe three days."

A Word From Rick

This is the second column about meth abuse written by Rick that was part of the TPA award winning series - His relentless research and in-depth interviewing deserved the award - Rick cares about his community and wants everyone in Bartlett to be aware of this drug and how close it can hit to home - educate yourself and educate your kids.

 

ADDICTION

By Rick Jacobs 

Now that you've met me, what will you do?

    Will you try me or not? It's all up to you

    I can show you more misery than words can tell

    Come! Take my hand! Let me lead you to hell.

    From a poem titled "Ms. Crystal Meth" by Samantha Reynolds

    The lighter flicks, you inhale, the rock burns, the smoke enters your body. Blood cells lining the walls of your lungs absorb the drug and are quickly sent to your brain. If this is your first time, a dopamine level six to twelve times higher than what is normal is released. Your heart rate increases and high doses of adrenaline flood your brain as well.

    A sense of euphoria envelopes you. You feel invincible. You can do and be anything.

    "You feel like Superman," said Lana. "Nothing is impossible."

    What you don't yet grasp are the many things that become impossible once you find yourself addicted to the drug methamphetamine.

    Sleep is impossible. Eating is impossible. Work is impossible. Relationships, outside of your meth friends, are impossible. Good health is impossible.

    The very drug you once felt gave you everything will, over time, slowly, yet very deliberately, take everything away. Sadly, there is little you can do, except take more of the drug so that you don't care. Eventually, it will lead you into a terrifying world of hopelessness, despair and depression where, if the drug doesn't kill you, thoughts of suicide begin to surface, because you feel you have no friends, no family, no future and no hope whatsoever.

    The drug is that bad. It is, possibly, the most dangerous and highly addictive drug on the planet.

    "I had no idea it was as bad as it was," said Lana. "I had no idea. I thought a drug that bad, you only see in movies."

    Lana was introduced to meth by one of her roommates. She remembers he threw the rock down in front of her and told her, "You gotta try this. You'll love it."

    She did like it. At first, she didn't use every day. That didn't last long. After "a couple of months or so" she knew she was hooked. And, finding it wasn't a problem. Meth was everywhere.

    "I always knew of someone who had some. Always. If your regular source didn't have any they knew where they could get some. It was just having the money. That's one reason I worked so much."

    At the beginning, Lana said, meth is a fairly cheap habit. You could reach the high you wanted fairly easy and it lasted a long time. Over time, though, you needed more of it and more often.

    "Like, at first, it was awesome," Lana remembered, "but toward the end you needed more and more. And then you could only get so high. There is a certain point where you can't get any higher but your brain tells you to keep on and keep on and keep on.

    "It's like a drive that never goes away. You're constantly reminded of how it feels. If you ever get tired or you have a lot of work to do and you don't feel like doing it you know you can go to that and it'll help you."

    Eventually, she said, it became a way of life.

    "It came to that point, yeah. Every single night. At work. Before work. You were just in a bad mood if you didn't have it. You were lazy and you didn't feel like doing anything until it got there. If I knew it was on the way I would do a little better anticipating it. If I didn't have "help" I couldn't get anything done."

    The cost of being a meth addict, Lana soon found, was expensive. She worked as a bar tender and made good money in tips. Most of it funded her habit.

    "If I made $100 in a night," she said, "I would spend $75 on meth. The rest would go for food and cigarettes."

    That was every single night. If she had a slow night, that wasn't a problem. Her connections were flexible.

    "They would front it to you. They knew where you worked. They knew you would good for it."

    Lana, of course, knew that what she was doing was wrong. She fell heavily into debt. Her car fell into disrepair and she couldn't afford to get it fixed. She had no real place she called "home." When she would sleep, she would find a couch somewhere, as close to her job as possible.

    "I slept on a lot of couches when I would sleep. But when you're up and you've got it or you're with someone who has it, you just bounce from house to house. People are awake and... I mean you hardly ever sleep. Or eat. Hardly ever."

    Just how little sleep are we talking about?

    "I'd say four days was the most I ever stayed awake. You stay awake for three or four days, then get a couple, three hours sleep and then you're good. Then you wake up and do it again."

    Going without sleep, obviously, can't last indefinitely. Eventually, Lana said, you just can't go anymore, and you crash. Hard.

    "I'd go a week or two with just a few hours sleep. Finally you're body can't handle it anymore and that's when you crash. Sometimes for three or four days. That's when you have to have someone there with you, physically waking you up. You don't hear your phone... it's almost like a coma. If you had somewhere you were supposed to be, like work... it didn't matter. Nothing mattered."

    Did she ever wake up, I asked her, and wonder what day it was?

    "Oh, all the time," she said. "Didn't know what day it was, didn't know what time it was. I'd wake up, use the bathroom, maybe try to eat something, go back to bed.

    Eating, like sleeping, was also a low priority.

    "You have to force yourself to eat, like a piece of bread or something. Your mouth is all dry and nothing tastes good. It affects your taste buds. Nothing tastes the same. After three or four days without eating you get what they call "meth tongue" which is a lot of bumps on your tongue and it almost hurts to eat.

    "Ice cream was always good."

    Waking up from the three to four day crash, Lana told me, was when it was hardest. That's when you really knew what you had become and what you were doing to yourself. What you had lost. She knew she was an addict and, she said, she hated herself.

    "That all mattered when you were coming down off of it. And then you'd cry and you were depressed and you felt ashamed. But then you'd wake up and all you wanted to do was get high.

    "I knew I was a drug addict. I thought about it all the time. If I was high, I'd laugh about it. If I was coming down I couldn't believe I had let myself get to this. I'm surprised there's not more suicides. You have thoughts like that all the time. I never got to the point where I'd thought I'd actually do something to myself but I did feel like nobody cared about me anymore, like I didn't have anybody, no friends, no family. I would cry and cry, and my part-time friends would talk to me, I'd get high again, still have those thoughts, but then it didn't matter.

    "All that was in your mind is freed. You're happy and you feel like Superman again, like you can do anything. All those problems are still there but when you're high you can think of ways to make it all better. You make charts and you do projects and you'll plan out what you're going to do and how you're going to do it. But you never do it."

    Meth became the both the problem and the solution. It was a vicious circle that seemed to have no end.

    "You don't want to get out of bed unless you have it," she said. "God forbid if you had to do something productive. If you didn't have the meth it was almost impossible. If you didn't have it you were grumpy, in a bad mood, you lashed out at people. As soon as you were high, everything was okay again. It was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

    Finally, though, Lana began to think seriously about quitting. Her teeth began to deteriorate and fall out, a common symptom called "Meth Mouth." She became suspicious that her "friends" were pilfering through her belongings during her days-long periodic crashes. She also saw examples of what meth was capable of that surprised even an addict of two years.

    "I saw people lose everything. Their furniture, TV, homes, everything. I saw people get evicted. I saw one couple give up their four kids. They weren't taken away from them, they gave them up on their own. They couldn't take care of them anymore. It was so sad," she said, and then added, "unless you were high."

    Finally, there was a reality that, to Lana, was more frightening than continued addiction: The very real possibility of going to jail.

    "Everybody I knew who was selling it, or making it, the girls who were with the dealers... almost everyone I knew had gotten busted or knew someone who had gotten busted. It was crazy. Everyone thought someone else was the cops or someone else was a snitch. Towards the end, almost everyone I knew had gotten busted.

    "It was almost not if you would get busted, it was when. But the drug was that powerful. You just kept telling yourself it wouldn't happen to you."

    "When you're on meth you feel dead sometimes. I don't ever want to feel like that again."

This is the third and final column by Rick on meth. His hard work paid off with TPA awards but his real goal was to reach people and stop "just one person from trying meth then all of the work was worth it," said Jacobs.  

RECOVERING 

By Rick Jacobs

    I'm 17.  I started (doing meth) about a year ago. The first time I did it was with my dad. He was gone almost all of my life in and out of prison. I've pawned about everything in my room. I think about finding a job but for all the wrong reasons. Wanting the job for cash to get high everyday. I dropped out of high school because I'd get high right before school and think everyone knew I was high and doing drugs. I'm fully convinced I have this under control and there's no problem, no addiction, nothing wrong. But one thing gets me is that the thought of taking a break, even for a week, pisses me off. So, I don't know.

From an entry into an open forum on Dailystrength.org. Here's another one:

    I feel it is not an option for me to get clean. I try so hard but there is completely no stopping myself  from using. I am way too skinny and really unhealthy. It's like nasty and I can never force myself to eat and I am just so pale and I just feel gross about myself. I try everything and it never lasts long. I hate how weak I am compared to this drug's strength on me. It always wins. I feel like a (expletive) puke. I just don't know what I can  do anymore.

    If I've learned nothing else from my research into the dark world of methamphetamine and addiction, I find what's most frightening is the double-edged sword that she brandishes on virtually every victim who falls prey to her power.

    She will rob you of everything in your life that's important and meaningful.

    She will then, like a jealous best friend, crush logic and reason, and convince you that life was meant to be this way. Just you and her.

    "I'll take care of you," she whispers.

    "I'll always be there for you."

    Then, she flips the sword, and says: "I will destroy you."

    You hear her. You understand. You are helpless.

    She is too strong to fight. The vast majority don't even try.

    "The best way to get off meth," a counselor from Lakeside Hospital informed me over the phone, "is to die."

    Lana, fortunately, somehow found the will, and the way, to get clean. She has been sober for almost six months. She is nowhere near out of the woods. Some addicts stay clean for years, only to relapse. Most return to the drug in a matter of weeks, or even days. According to Drugaddictiontreatment. info, a staggering 93% of those in traditional treatment return to abuse methamphetamine. And those numbers apply only to the ones who sought help voluntarily. According to Lana, during the two years she was using, that just didn't happen.

    "There wasn't anybody (who tried to stop using)," she told me. "Except for the ones who got busted and had to quit because they were in jail. Other than that, there was no one."

    For Lana, it was finally hitting rock bottom, absolute rock bottom, that finally convinced her she had to try and break free from meth's grip. The first time, she tried to quit on her own.

    "I called my dad and asked if I could come home. I was there for about two months. I never told him why I was home, that I was trying to get sober. I couldn't find a job; I slept most of the time. He and I fought a lot. I couldn't stand the depression. I started using again. I left and went back to the streets."

    She had learned, the hard way, what Drugaddictiontreatment.info describes as withdrawal symptoms and what usually happens:

    "First... the individual becomes depressed and loses the ability to experience pleasure. The individual becomes lethargic; he has no energy. Then, the craving for more meth hits and the abuser often becomes suicidal. If the abuser, however, takes more methamphetamine at any point during the withdrawal, the unpleasant feelings will end. Consequently, the success rate for... rehabilitation is very low."

    Lana returned to the life she so desperately wanted to escape just weeks earlier. She felt utterly alone and unwelcome where she was living. She was convinced it was only a matter of time before she would find herself either homeless, or worse, in jail.

    "I was miserable. Everybody was getting busted. I was scared that where I was staying that house was going to be raided. I didn't have any true friends anymore. Where I was at I would go to sleep and people would go through my stuff and take what they wanted. I'd wake up and something would be missing and they would act like they didn't know where it was. I didn't have a job. I didn't have any money. If I was getting high it was off somebody else and they don't like that at all. I could tell where I was that they didn't want me there. I just couldn't take it anymore. I knew then I was ready to get off the stuff. This time for good."

    One of Lana's friends - and probably her only real friend - came by that day to see her. Lana broke down sobbing and told her how miserable she felt. Apparently listening to Lana moved her friend into wanting to straighten her own life out as well. She told Lana to pack her stuff. She knew of a place in Mississippi where they both could get some help. It was an in-patient treatment center called Brother Paisley's Hope. It was free, it was secluded, it was structured and it was a long way from the temptations that nearly cost Lana her life.

    "It was a one bedroom, one bathroom little house behind the preacher's house, right next to a church. It had very little furniture. We had to be asleep at night by eight or nine o'clock. We had to be up by like five in the morning and get ready. We had to work every day. They'd cook dinner for us every night. We had to get permission to go anywhere."

    They also offered counseling sessions that, Lana said, were extremely helpful. The most important factor of all, she said, was location. Living more than a hundred miles from the source of the problem was vital.

    "I think if you don't have access to it," she said, "that helps a lot. But if you wake up and you know you can get it right down the street, or somebody in the house has it, then the temptation takes over and you're doing it again.

    "It's weird how it works."

    Lana, without really knowing it, had finally taken the right steps toward sobriety. This is from the website Choosehelp.com:

    "Meth abuse treatment is best carried out at an immersive treatment facility. The lure of the addiction is so powerful that few people can stay off meth if they remain in their normal surroundings. A meth user must learn to avoid the situations and people that trigger further meth use."   

    Lana also feels strongly that coming from a good home and loving family helps her to want to remain drug free. Her memories of growing up in a caring environment, and desperately wanting that again, is something not everyone she had been involved with on the streets were lucky enough to have.

    "It helped me a lot coming from a good family and a good home. So many of the people I got high with had been around it their whole life. They didn't know anything different. I knew guys who said they used to watch their dad cook meth when they were kids, right there in the house."

    While Lana's abstinence is encouraging and certainly healthier than when she was using, experts all agree that she not only is in it for the long haul, but that guaranteed success is, at best, dicey. Futurepundit.com reports that "The brains of methamphetamine abusers take over a year after they stop using before they develop the ability to ignore distractions and concentrate on a task. This disability makes it a lot easier for them to be tempted to start using again."

    Most counselors agree that the key to recovery is getting an addict to realize that if their behavior doesn't change, they'll die. Convincing addicts of this, according to Choosehelp.com, can take time.

    "Meth is incredibly addictive, and the physical and psychological devastation of a meth addiction is profound. The time required for a detox from meth will depend on the usage amount... but it can range from weeks to months to even years."

    Lana stayed in rehab for three months, then spent the next two months or so in Mississippi living with a friend who took her in and informally "adopted" her. She is once again living with her family in Bartlett and learning how to live her life without meth.

    "I feel so much better," she said. "Once it's out of your system, you're almost reborn. Your personality comes back, you don't sleep all the time. There's something inside, like the life in you comes back, and you feel a lot better. When you're on meth you feel dead sometimes. I don't ever want to feel like that again."

    She told me she concentrates on remembering how miserable she used to be, particularly during each and every time she would come down from the drug. She also said she wants others to know what she knows, but before they try it.

    "The mistake I made was trying it for the first time and liking it," she said. "I would tell him everything I had been through. Tell him it's not worth it. Tell him that the drug sucks. It will consume his life. It will destroy his life and take over his life. I'd tell him about everything I've lost."

    She knows it's still not completely over for her. The memory of the drug, and it's hold, remains powerful.

    "I still have dreams about it," she said, wistfully. "I dreamed about it last night. It's weird. I mean, I had a dream about it night before last, too. On New Year's eve I remember craving it. I had all this stuff in my head. I was glad it wasn't around. I didn't go anywhere."

    If it was in front of her again, knowing everything she knows, and having gone through the hell of addiction, would she, I asked, smoke it again?

    "If it was in front of me? Probably. It scares me, knowing that."

    Still, she says, as long as she stays away from it, she likes her chances.

    "As long as I'm away from it I think they're pretty good," she said. "So, I don't want to be around it. I don't want to ever get back on it again. I don't want to get back to that lifestyle."

Townnewsnow.com* 5555 Tylertown Avenue * Bartlett, Tennessee 38134 * Phone: (901) 606-3836 Fax: (901) 248-0681 Email dawn@townnewsnow.com

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