Can an Infamous Meth-Head Find True Love with the Girl Next Door?

By Nic Sheff 06/30/11

After an adolescence spent in countless rehabs and psych wards, Nic Sheff came to believe that everyone suffered from suicidal impulses, oozing abscesses and maddening drug cravings. Then he fell in love with a girl from the other side of the tracks.

Dating fellow addicts is easy but falling for a normal girl is another thing entirely

At 28, I’ve been in and out of dozens of treatment programs and sober livings and detoxes and outpatients and hundreds of 12-step meetings and whatever else for the past 10 or more years.

Honestly, it’s gotten to the point that people with substance abuse issues seem more “normal” to me than people who are, in fact, you know, normal. 

I guess over the years I kinda just started to think that everyone goes around telling stories about lancing their own abscesses, or getting cotton fever, or having to push the coagulated blood out of their rig, but not wanting to waste any dope, so they had to put the end of the syringe into their mouth to catch all the excess that sprayed out. I thought stories like that were pretty, you know, typical. Really, I did. And, besides, who doesn’t have a story about digging around in their arm for a half hour with a dull needle frantically trying to find a vein?

Even the non-addict girls I’d dated had at least spent a little time in psych wards. 

It was commonplace. Hell, I took it for granted.

But then I started dating someone who isn’t in recovery.

And not only was she not in recovery, but she had no history of mental illness or depression or cutting or fucked up shit whatsoever.

It was weird.

I mean, even the non-addict girls I’d dated had at least spent a little time in psych wards. Or it would turn out later they were bulimic or eventually had to start going to SAA meetings or something like that.

Basically they were all fucked up and could relate to my stories about being fucked up, too.

But dating a non-addict and a non-mental patient, non-suicidal girl, who was not sexually abused, eating disordered, heavily medicated or really into daddy issues was another experience entirely. And, honestly, the experience has proven to be a whole lot fucking harder than I would have thought. I mean, in a lot of ways it’s like being with someone from an entirely different planet. She has absolutely no context in which to place my experiences. And I have no context in which to place hers.

Hell, my fiancee was one of the popular girls. She played sports and went to like seven proms and then she put herself through college, working different jobs and things, eventually getting discovered as a model and all. She was happy. She didn’t ask herself day in and day out what the point of it all was. She never just wanted to disappear and not have to exist anymore.

A few years ago, when I was working at this rehab in Malibu, I remember reading through one of the client’s intake charts. Part of the chart was a Q&A where the clients had to answer different questions about their lives and their histories. 

Anyway, I was reading this girl’s chart along side one of the counselors and he pointed out in a kind a of horrified way that for the question, “Have you ever contemplated suicide?” The girl had answered, “Of course.”

For most people that is probably not a normal response.

But her answer didn’t make me think twice. 

Of course I’ve contemplated suicide. Many, many times.

I guess I pretty much figured it was the same for everyone.

And I guess I figured when I told my “normal” fiancee about the time I hid $200 worth of crack in my underwear to get through airport security, she would just laugh and think it was such a funny little anecdote.

But, uh, she didn’t.

It was the weirdest thing.

She didn’t think it was funny at all.

And I’m pretty sure she definitely wouldn’t have answered, “Of course,” to the whole suicide question either.

No, in fact, when she heard that crack story she got really upset. It freaked her out to think of me doing something like that. She even got kind of angry at me for telling her.

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Nic Sheff is the author of two memoirs about his struggles with addiction: the New York Times bestselling Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines and We All Fall Down: Living with Addiction. Nic lives in Los Angeles, California where he writes for film and television. Find Nic on Twitter.

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