The Last Chance Texaco – Interview

February 21st, 2011

Chris has struggled with Crystal Meth since his 20’s, but I can’t tell his story as well as he can, so i suggest you read it here now he is four years sober.  He runs the blog The Last Chance Texaco where he details his daily struggle, and speaks on just about all topics related to his addiction including recovery, relationships, and forgiveness.  It is likely the best blog on this subject I have found in my research, so I asked him if he would be willing to be interviewed and he consented, and what followed was a honest, open, even penetrating discussion on Chris, his background, the AA program, etc.

AllTreatment: Chris, you have quiet a story, which our readers can find in full here, but for the sake of this interview, can you briefly tell us about yourself:Chris: Well, I guess I’m not what most people’s image of an addict is. I grew up in a small town. I come from a large, religious family. My childhood was happy. My dad is a Ph.D. engineer and I had a stay-at-home mom. I was close to my grandparents. I was active in things like scouting and Junior Achievement. In 6th grade my plan was to go to Marquette and become a dentist. If I had remained faithful to the religion I grew up in I probably never would have discovered drugs, but that just isn’t how things work out for most of us who have that thing, that little defect that addiction stems from. Life got difficult in high school. I was pretty sure I was the only gay kid in my high school. I had a contentious relationship with my step-father. I started smoking a great deal of pot and by the middle of my senior year I dropped out of school and ran away from home. It wasn’t all down hill from there. There were times when my life kind of worked right. But basically it was a 20 year slide into hell. My personal hell was much lower than it needed to be, but it made for some pretty interesting experience.AT: Where you are with your recovery?Chris: I just celebrated the 4th anniversary of my sobriety date. That doesn’t sound like much to someone who isn’t an addict and it probably sounds like forever to someone who is. Between 1984 and 2007 I made 6 earnest attempts at getting sober and the most I ever put together was two and a half years. Two and a half years sober and completely miserable. Now it has been 4 years. Sometimes I’m surprised that I’m still sober, and sometimes it feels like the most natural thing in the world, but I am always profoundly grateful for it.AT: What you are trying to accomplish through your website?

Chris: National Geographic called my town “America’s most remote urban area”. It is a bubble. I didn’t really know anyone who was getting clean. I didn’t actually believe it was possible. I thought that people who were addicted to crystal meth were doomed. Everything I read said that we had a ridiculously high relapse rate over the first year. I also knew that some of what I was experiencing getting clean was going to be different because of the relationship between crystal meth and sex. I didn’t know a single gay person who was sober from or even interested in getting off methamphetamine. I was also pretty clear that I wasn’t going to be able to get clean by myself. I really was just desperate to hear the story of someone whose experience was much like my own who got free from this addiction. Well, back in 2007 if you searched for the term “crystal meth recovery” you seriously got recipes for making the stuff, some blog rants by people who loved the stuff, some news articles about it. If you added “personal stories” to the search there was even less, and I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that there wasn’t anyone bleeding their experience into a blog somewhere. I just really thought someone should. Someone should be sharing their experience, day by day, of what getting off that stuff is like. Maybe it would just be futile. Maybe, if they actually stayed sober, it might give someone hope. I was looking for hope and I couldn’t find it outside myself, so I decided to share my own experience, as honestly as I could and from the place where I was.

AT: Where did you get the name The Last Chance Texaco, because it’s brilliant?

Chris: Thank you. Actually when I started writing the name was MethedUp. About 9 months into recovery though the name was so irrelevant that I needed to abandon it. My story wasn’t about being methed (or messed) up anymore. It was really about getting whatever it was that I needed to make the journey successfully. Lots of people call 12 step groups “the last house on the block.” I always thought of it as the Last Chance Texaco. Actually it is an image from my childhood. Lots of the families I grew up around had cabins in Island Park, Idaho and the gas station there on Highway 20 happens to be the Last Chance Texaco. I wasn’t aware until months after I started writing that it is also a Ricky Lee Jones song, but the lyrics of that song are right on target for the idea I was trying to communicate. One line I especially love is “It’s your last chance to trust the man with the star.” A perfect metaphor for a Higher Power.

AT: Your struggle is one shared by many in the addiction community, a struggle that those who have not dealt with addiction may not entirely understand, especially in terms of relapse.  Relapse is very common, and an ever lurking threat, one which you yourself have succumb to, and yet here you are four years sober.  How have you dealt with this threat, and how do you maintain your strength against it?  How do you deal with the temptation of relapse in the moment, when it is hardest to reason?
Chris: I remember very clearly what it was like before. Not just the good stuff, and lets be honest, there was good stuff. Sometimes it was fun. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been doing it. But I remember the bad stuff too. I have never let that get too far away from me. And I have gotten really good at recognizing when my thinking isn’t quite right. I think of myself primarily as a crystal meth addict so it would be very easy for me to think that a beer would be fine on a hot day. Or wouldn’t it be nice to just smoke half a joint and take a hot bath and get a really good night’s sleep. Well as an addict I know that I can never safely use any of those mind or mood altering drugs safely. I know that the thought “have a beer” is an INSANE idea.

I don’t actually believe that I have any “strength against it” to maintain. Fig

hting it is being attached to it. Letting it go is much easier. Now when I have that “one beer” or “half a joint” idea I know that it means that something is not quite right with me and that I need to pull my focus back in on the tools that helped me get sober in the first place.

AT: You seem wholly invested in the 12 steps program.  Why does it work so well, and would you recommend it for others who are suffering from addiction?

Chris: There are a lot of ways to recover. I only know that because I have seen it for myself. I tried many of them and while they worked for others they didn’t work for me. I even tried 12 step recovery before and never got “the miracle” they kept telling me was going to happen if I stuck around. When I came back in 2007 I did not believe that it would work. Actually I was quite certain that it wouldn’t, but what else was I going to do? My grandfather used to say “You can’t lead ’em where you ain’t goin’.” Well I didn’t need to be blazing a trail on my own. I needed to be on a path with others who were trying to get to the same place. 12 step programs were the only place that I found where I felt that I was with people and we were all on a path together. I think that is why it works. I think the main thing is the fellowship. That along with a few simple tools for seeing oneself more clearly. Sponsorship has been really important to me as well. Finding someone whom I feel safe about being completely honest with has been incredible.

I would absolutely recommend it, but with a proviso. Sitting in meetings is not recovery. I first had to be convinced to my core that I was an addict and then I had to be convinced that this might work for me. I always suggest that people read the book Alcoholics Anonymous, especially the chapters More About Alcoholism, The Chapter to the Agnostic, and the personal stories. If you’re an addict then obviously substitute your drug for the word alcohol but read those things. If after reading those you aren’t convinced that you are one of us or that this can work for you then either read it all again or throw the book away. If you have an honest desire to get sober you can and if you want it to this path can work for you. It is that simple.

AT: What would you say was the most important step you had to make in terms of recovery (not necessarily referring to the 12 steps, but not discounting them either)?

Chris: The phrase 12 steppers use is “fully concede to our innermost selves”. I hung on to the idea that maybe it would be different for a long, long time. I don’t know how to tell someone how to do that but that is at the heart of willingness. I think that in this life each of us gets a few seconds of pure grace, places where we can, if we are willing to, walk away from where we are and into a new world and a new life. For me that window of grace exists at the intersection of opportunity and willingness. There were many times when I had the opportunity to go to meetings but I didn’t have the willingness to go to any length to recover. The single most important step I took was to kick the window open when I saw it and keep on walking forward.

AT: Your story is vast, at times heart breaking, at times inspiring, but I was especially surprised by how well written it is.  Have you written a book?  If not you should.

Chris: Oh, thanks. Hopefully it is unique enough to be interesting and universal enough to be helpful to a broad audience. I love to write but writing that self consciously is, well, it has it’s place. You know what I’d really love to do is write television. When I realized how much I would hate being a dentist, writing became my dream job.

AT: Any last thoughts regarding your personal struggle or addiction which you think might help others in the recovery community?

Chris: I am really grateful that AA didn’t kick me out; that they meant it when they said keep coming back, because that is the only thing I did right.

S. Cody Barrus
Managing Editor

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