PRYOR, OK —
Methamphetamine addiction is common in Oklahoma. Although it is a long road, recovery is possible.
It feels dark, lonely, depressing. You think you're different, strange, and that no one is struggling the way you are.
“These negative emotions come rushing to the surface as your high begins to dissipate,” said Lance Lang, founder of Hope is Alive Ministries, a non-profit substance abuse rehabilitation program. “And as soon as you begin to feel these feelings, your mind instantly begins to long for an escape, for something that will make the pain go away.”
That begins the search, Lang says, the cycle from one high to finding the next.
“We seek out whatever it may be that we believe will cure our ills and we do whatever it takes to find it, lie, cheat, steal, bribe and manipulate,” said Lang. “We inevitably get what we want, we get high. But the escape we've searched for is always temporary, empty, meaningless.”
The addict is again left in that dark place, lonely and depressed, Lang said. This is the cycle of addiction.
“Many turn their heads to the problem, so long as it isn't affecting them,” said Anita Cantrell, a drug and alcohol counselor in Pryor.
The choice to use methamphetamine, Cantrell said, is largely a demographic one.
“Meth is a stimulant, inducing a rush of pleasure by affecting centers in the brain involved with pleasure and sexual activity,” said Cantrell. “People choose meth because it is cheaper and more easily accessible than other drugs.”
Meth is versatile, you can smoke it, snort it, or shoot it, which is another reason people turn to it, according to Cantrell.
“You can also administer it intravenously, and the effects lasts longer than cocaine. People choose meth because once they try it it and feel that intense high, they are continually trying to feel the affects of that first high,” said Cantrell. “Then they become dependent, using it to 'keep from getting sick' which is only the avoidance of withdrawal.”
In the throes of addiction, Lang said, many addicts don't realize the danger.
“For me, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't even recognize I was addicted until I woke up one night in severe withdrawals. But even that didn't wake me up to my situation. I keep chasing my fix all over the state. Meth, pills, crack, you name it I did. But even in the midst of all this craziness I never really considered the danger I was putting myself and my kids in. I was so blinded. I knew one thing, I had to get high and nothing was gonna stop me,” said Lang.
He said everyone around him knew he had a problem, but he couldn't see it.
“People suffering any kind of addiction often feel they are alone and like they can't find their way out,” said Cantrell.
“Even during the darkest times, I refused to admit it. I was caught on several occasions and each time I lied my way out. I look back and realize just how sad it must have been to watch as I destroyed my life,” said Lang.
Cantrell said she's researched methamphetamine as it's one of the more common drug addictions in the county.
She said the drug can be tracked back to 1887.
“Amphetamines were used in World War II by allied German and Japanese forces to keep pilots alert for extended missions and to keep troops awake and more aggressive during battle,” said Cantrell.
Cantrell said, according to her research, the late 1980s and 1990s saw a resurgence in the availability and the abusers of illicit methamphetamine, particularly crystal meth.
Cantrell thinks shows like “Breaking Bad,” which has a high school chemistry teacher turn to drug manufacturing to pay medical bills, glamorize the issue.
“The show makes manufacturing meth seem both plausible and lucrative,” said Cantrell, adding that the target demographic of the show mirrors the demographic of the meth user, a white male between 19 and 40.
“Meth is one of the hardest drugs to kick. It gives you such a false sense of reality that makes it near impossible to live without. It's viscous and destroying our state,” said Lang.
In his most recent book, “Hope Changes Everything,” Lang wrote that he started believing the lie that his failures and flaws made him a loser.
“And once I started believing that lie, it began to compoud in my mind until I felt buried under a landslide of self-doubt and insecurity. I've messed up too much, I would think. There's no going back now. I'm a failure, I'm a fraud. My dreams are dead,” Lang wrote, saying it’s a familiar feeling for many addicts.
Lang writes of the light at the end of the tunnel as well.
“Don’t stop pushing ahead. Forward motion is good, even if it’s barely perceptible. That is when you can overcome your fears and start to move forward in the rest of your life,” Lang wrote. “You can’t change your past, but you can live in hope for today, and when you do that, you’re taking a stand for the future. Hope begins now.”
Editor’s note: This is the last installment of a four-part series about methamphetamine.
The project covers the subject from various angles, including both ends of the spectrum - law enforcement and the addict. It also includes interviews with health professionals and counselors.
Most of the arrests in Mayes County include methamphetamine, leading to the highest number of incarcerations.