Drop Out, Smoke Crack, Get MBA (not part of the ongoing series) to read the ongoing series click here
I’ve made it through graduate level classes like statistics, accounting, finance, and too many math based…quantitative classes to mention here but my brain didn’t used to work that way. While earning my bs in psychology I learned about plasticity and how the brain can heal after severe damage. Stroke victims, trauma patients, head injuries, not always of course, but sometimes there can be amazing healing done as the brain makes new connections. Please excuse my generality… my undergrad in psychology was geared towards business, I/O Psych….that type of thing and even if it wasn’t, the depth of an undergrad psychology education requires that no diving signs be posted everywhere.
As the name of my blog suggests yes, I used to smoke crack, but I gave that up for the most part years ago while still using powder cocaine and living as a semi-functioning alcoholic. I was using booze to help with anxiety and well… that plan went to shit. I used to do this blog a couple of years ago, but stopped because of depression related issues…I haven’t had a drink in almost 4 years since I originally quit and I’m just trying to get through life as a non-drinking, no cocaine, no pills, alcoholic / addict.
I have an MBA now, but I barely graduated from high school and flunked out of college before diving deep into hard drug use and alcoholism. I thought that I was probably below average intelligence and just not wired for learning in an academic setting, not book-smart, not a math-guy.
When I say that I wasn’t a math guy I’m not being flippant. I was in summer school every summer…for some random math related class or another for what seems like my entire jr. high and high school careers with absolutely no hope or chance of ever passing a mathematics based class the first time during the regular academic year. No way that was happening. It seemed like I needed extra help just to barely pass a math class even if it was the second or third attempt at the same material. Usually in summer school bitd they would have tons of extra credit opportunities to assist someone like me to just get through the class by the skin of their teeth.
While I was at my darkest and deepest drug use I remember having a difficult time choosing the right words to say, trouble expressing myself, math had become something that my roommates would help me with when it was time to tip the pizza guy, but I was convinced that I would never be a quantitative type of person. I didn’t even know what the fuck quantitative meant until I was in my 40s.
As the hard drug abuse days were slowly fading in my rear view mirror I felt like I had probably experienced some cognitive damage due to my heavy drinking, multi day crack binges, the few dabbles in heroin, the countless just grab a few of whatever pills that were offered, found, stolen, sometimes just no memory of how they were obtained, just a mess of club stamps on my hand and some pills in the “coke pocket” of my jeans.
Mostly pain killers at the time…opiates…but the point is that cognitively I just felt… well pretty stupid. I didn’t know simple grammar rules such as your, you’re… they’re, their, there, math was a myth wrapped inside of a mystery… or the other way around. I was also drinking a very large amount of alcohol and as my drug habit began to decrease my alcoholism ramped up and pretty soon it was out of control. I would find myself drinking as early as possible on the weekends and drinking as much as possible during the week… my daily routine like being on time was just a mess with no real rhythm other than my morning ritual of throwing up whatever I had poisoned myself with the night before…or on the weekend as it was normal for me to get drunk enough by noon to pass out and then wake back up around 8 or 9 pm for a second round, especially if I had a little blow on me. Which in those days I might have a 1/2 gram or so once or twice a month… and compared to where I had been it was a huge improvement. I had slowed my drug use down quite a bit by the age of 41 and just rarely got coke, but sometimes I would. My drinking was out of hand, but my worst days of hard narcotic abuse was over… and my crack days were a decade behind me…I had made it through.
I decided to take a Spanish class to prove that I could make it somewhere on time, learn some Spanish, and make my parents proud by trying to improve myself. I ended up making an A and then I went full-time and eventually graduated, but I hadn’t taken any real math based classes yet other than intermediate Algebra where I barely survived…and then College Algebra….making a B for the class. I made an A on an exam during my college algebra class that brought tears to my eyes, yes…I was that proud…and also 42 years old.
I enjoyed my time at Houston Community College and made the Dean’s List for the first time, which was so strange to earn academic accolades of this caliber, and I began to study psychology, taking two classes before graduating and transferring to the University of Houston where I majored in psychology and minored in business administration. I was a research assistant and made the Dean’s List again…graduating and then earning an MBA… the point is how did I do that? Hmmm…
Hypothesis: I was a dumbshit… did a bunch of drugs damaging my brain…. brain heals through plasticity and reroutes my brain better than before.
Before drug abuse: Shit Student
After drug abuse: Dean’s List
Of course there is the variable of age. Depending on who you ask, going back to school as an older student either helps because of the maturity that comes with age, meaning that since I was older, I knew that an education was important, therefore I needed to study, prioritize my time etc., or it hurts as others might point out that I most likely was already in cognitive decline due to age alone…not even considering the drugs. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” vs. “It’s never too late to learn” seems to be a contradictory battle of common sayings, none of this being even close to the scientific method or anything other than pure wondering thought of an addict, could be argued with enough success I suppose.
I have these two friends, one a former junkie, standup comic and another is a former tweaker that writes a blog and I’m going to get together with these two individuals and see what they think regarding the cognitive abuse and repair of former hard core drug addicts like ourselves.
Smarter than before? No difference? or Drugs made me stoopid?
I’m looking forward to our conversation next week…I’ll post the video and notes