Falling Out of Love With Cocaine

By Emily McCombs 11/30/11
For all the pain it caused, cocaine had its charms for one former addict—especially in the beginning. This is her account of what she loved, and came to loathe, about a very deadly habit.
The author's old life (her arm on the left) Photo via

I love cocaine.

I know it's not cool to say that now that I'm sober, and people now think I'm a Puritan or a nun just because I don't drink and snort coke anymore. But the truth is at times I resent being thought of as tame or healthy. Sometimes I want to yell, "I used to be fun, you know! I've snorted cocaine off a penis!"

So I mean it when I say I love cocaine—and drinking and dangerous, casual sex with strangers. I just don't do those things anymore.

I grew up in Oklahoma, and I always thought of cocaine as one of the "scary" drugs, the ones that got passed around in D.A.R.E. class that were meant to scare and intrigue us with their illicit power. In New York, not so much. Coke seems to be everywhere, and it's anything but scary. But it still has some power. I see the tell-tale sniffling, the jaw-clenching, the bathroom line that grows a mile long as two girls cram in together for 10 minutes, and I still get that twinge.

The first night I really did it, more than a bump in a bar bathroom that I barely felt, everything clicked. I was fabulous that night, I swear to God. Everyone loved me, men wanted to fuck me, girls liked my outfit. All my insecurities, the inherent sense of inferiority that kept me from feeling at ease in social situations, gone. 

I don't miss walking by freshly washed families on the right side of 8 a.m. and hating their bright-eyed children for their innocence of just how much life is eventually going to suck.

Addiction is a series of lines drawn, then crossed.

I would use drugs, sure, but I was never going to buy them. Then I'd buy them, but I wasn't going to be the one to get in the car with the "guy," as drug dealers were universally called at that point. Then I was riding around the block as drugs and money exchanged hands, but I wouldn't use at work. Until I'd stayed out REALLY late the night before and needed it to make it through the day. But at least my rent was paid! Until it wasn't, and I was getting cash advances on my credit card to buy $50 bags.

It's amazing how somehow you always manage to find money for drugs, no matter how large your habit or how small your income. I was freelancing at the time, blowing lines off a CD on my futon matress all day while I copy edited textbooks for 10 dollars an hour. My attention to detail was unparalleled.

Sometimes I imagine looking through a big room of everything I purchased on credit during this time period—there'd be a corner donated to quarter bags, another to stupid ugly clothes I don't even have anymore. I'm still paying it all off.

Forgive me a moment of junkie porn: I miss the whole process that used to go down in that bedroom, back when I didn't own a CD that wasn't caked with white crusty residue. The crushing, the pouring, the chopping and separating into fat lines, then the first snort, always the best, the bitter taste trickling down my throat, the numbness. Oh man, I really miss the numbness, and that chemical flavor.

I don't miss stumbling home in my tight dress and heels after a days-long cocaine binge with a road beer rattling around in my purse because even though the sun is shining and the party is over, I still need just a little bit more. I don't miss walking by freshly washed families on the right side of 8 a.m. and hating their bright-eyed children for their innocence of just how much life is eventually going to suck. I don't miss the evil that comes out between 4 and 6 am, the seedy scummy underbelly of life that you start to believe is the only one that exists.

This is what my life used to look like. That's my arm on the left.

With cocaine, the party lasted longer, and I could drink for 12, 14-hour blocks without puking or blacking out, a problem which had begun to plague my drinking as of late. No matter where the night started, I knew how it would end—with last call, then a group of us huddled around somebody's coffee table at an afterparty that would go on for as long as we could make the drugs last.

Once the party bled into the next day so far that I suddenly realized I was overdue for a 7 pm date, and decided with a quick shower, my date would never know I'd been up for 2 days and was high as a weather balloon. When I showed up at his door, he was freaked out enough that he let me sleep it off in his bedroom before laying into me for my bad behavior.

But even as the party got less and less fun, I couldn't bear for it to end. At one point, I remember thinking how nice it would be if someone would open a 24-hour bar with no windows or clocks, where everyone could just keep getting high forever. It scares me how good that sounded at the time.

In a way, I'm grateful to cocaine for dragging me down fast, before I could spend 20 more years hitting bottom with alcohol. I had to quit cocaine or fuck up my life irrevocably, and quitting cocaine (slowly, with lots of false starts) led me to quitting drinking. Even if I didn't have a problem with booze in its own right, it would only take a few shots of Jeager to send me back to slurringly harassing strangers for a hookup. 

Even today, though I now have enough perspective to see cocaine as a terrible, life-ruining drug, I don't trust myself to be around it the way I am now comfortable being around alcohol. Its pull is too strong, I'd be as likely to faceplant in it as turn the other way. If my drinking was a love story, cocaine and I had a quick, filthy fling so volatile and drama-filled that we can't be around one another without an eruption of violence. Like with a lot of exes, we just can't see each other anymore.

This piece originally appeared on xojane and is reprinted with permission. Emily McCombs was one of the original Fix writers before she became the Managing Editor of xojane. She's written for BUST, Elle, Marie Claire, Nerve and TheFrisky and was the managing editor of the men's site Asylum. She has also written about transferring addictions and how to date without drinking, among other topics, for The Fix.

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