From the first snort up my nose to the immediate high and rush that accompanied that, along with a swig of my vodka-jungle juice and a drag from my cigarette — nothing ever compared. It got me.
I was 17 and it was the summer of 1984. I was eager and excited to visit my longtime childhood friend, Kimberly, in Northern California. By now, smoking pot and drinking beer were weekend occurrences amongst me and my suburban Philly friends.
Unbeknownst to me, Kimmy and her boyfriend had been using cocaine. I was ignorant of cocaine use and wasn’t remotely interested in trying it. I was scared of it. John Belushi had just died from a cocaine overdose, and I had seen Scarface. Tony Montana made cocaine very unattractive to me. I’d rather stick to pot and beer. As the three of us were sitting around Ronnie’s kitchen table making screwdrivers, Ronnie mentioned to Kimmy about leaving to get the stuff. I wasn’t aware of what he was referring to.
When Ronnie returned with the bindle of coke, I was so intrigued by the notorious white powder that I could barely focus on my screwdriver. He started chopping it up with a razor blade on the glass kitchen table and was moving it to and fro with a credit card. Wow. This was real cocaine. The word danger kept flashing before my eyes in neon lights. I felt pressure to be cool and I wanted to fit in.
Ronnie cut out two lines for himself and Kimmy, and I felt left out. I was uncertain about even trying this drug. People have heart attacks, overdose, and die ingesting this stuff — why would I want to even jeopardize my own existence? Ronnie started chopping out two more lines. I looked over and pondered for a minute: Should I try this? My hands were sweating and my heart was racing. I felt fearless. “Hey Ronnie, cut one out for me. I may as well try it.”
This was the start of my twenty-year love affair with cocaine.
By the time I was 19, I was dating the local cocaine dealer. I knew him through friends and we partied almost every night. I got to know how his side lived — the blue-collar drug addicted side. I enjoyed it immensely. Or did I just enjoy the coke? Who could tell at this point? I became so addicted to the guy and his drugs that I wouldn’t have cared if he looked like "Weird" Al Yankovic.
From the first snort up my nose to the immediate high and rush that accompanied that, along with a swig of my vodka-jungle juice and a drag from my cigarette — nothing ever compared. It got me. To the core of my being, this shit got ahold of me. My life became a constant rush, experiencing blasts of adrenaline with him and his gang of degenerates. I knew that this crowd wasn’t the type I would have invited over for Sunday dinner. It didn’t deter me, though, since I liked the hectic pace and being in the center of the drug network. I felt that I was above these people, and somehow it made me feel better being around them. I felt like we had what everyone wanted. I was the 'it' girl of the group. My low self-esteem and self loathing made it quite easy for me to sequester myself with people that were, outwardly, less than desirable.
Our weekends started on Wednesdays. We would go to the local watering hole and I would shuffle into a cramped one-stall bathroom, wipe down the back basin of the toilet with one-ply tissue and dump out some blow. Customer number one would enter and I’d swiftly push the coke into a line to feed myself and the frequent flyer of the evening. It was an insidious life, filled with contradictory highs and Spike Lee moments of Not Doing The Right Thing. I knew being involved in a drug operation was unethical, but I couldn’t bring myself to care.
This relationship crashed and burned within a year. Within the next year or so, I was dating another cocaine dealer. Dating your dealer made the best sense to me. This way I always got what I wanted. Granted, these relationships were just as insidious as my drug addiction, but I didn’t care.
I upheld this sordid lifestyle for many years. Later, when I moved to California, it only increased my usage, as it was much easier to get. By the time I was 37, I was doing cocaine only a few times a week, as I tried to uphold some sort of a career. I considered myself a recreational user.
Thursday through Sunday was the norm. Each time I used cocaine it worked for me. It made me feel good, like I mattered — it made sense. I loved the instant rush of snorting the line and having the drip down my throat within seconds. BAM! That was it. My own a-ha moment. I could stay up for hours drinking, snorting, and smoking with whatever person of the week was there. Playing poker, Yahtzee, or just talking shit about shit. It didn’t matter.
I loved getting the bindle, chopping it up, and sifting out the lines into perfect matchsticks. I loved the routine of it. I could start tasting it minutes before I would even have it in my possession. It was all consuming; so much so that I would bargain away anyone and anything at any cost. I lost relationships, friendships, jobs, money — but mainly my self-respect. All because I wanted what I wanted. Most nights, I would barely make it to bed and stroll into my office high with no sleep. I am amazed that I was able to maintain that routine for as long as I did.
The interesting thing, though, is that I only used cocaine when I drank. Alcohol was my number one drug of choice, then cocaine. I never used it without alcohol. The combination of alcohol and cocaine was perfect for me, as I could drink longer when I had the depressant of alcohol and the stimulant of cocaine in me. It completed me.
The last time I did cocaine was a few weeks before I quit drinking. When I quit drinking, I quit cocaine. The yin and the yang were no longer. I had finally had enough of having enough. Now being clean and sober is my drug of choice: I celebrated 11 years this past May and I did it one day at a time.
If you’d like to read more of Nancy’s story, Last Call, A Memoir is available on Kindle.