When my dead brother was alive and in his mid-20s and I was in my mid-teens and he hadn’t yet discovered AA and become forever enthalled with 12-step groups and obsessed with AA founder Bill Wilson, he would tell me stories of his drug and alcohol binges.
He’d buy a jar of whites and several bottles of Ripple wine and then hole up in his B.O. and stale- Lucky Strike-smelling courtyard studio apartment on Redondo Avenue in Long Beach.
He’d begin by taking about six of the pills. While he waited for those to kick in he’d drink a bottle of Ripple. After the first wave of the speed peaked and started to wane, he’d take 12 more pills to get the high back. He’d ride the next big rush while drinking another two or three bottles of that rotten Ripple wine.
“Every time I start to come down” he told me, “I’ll increase the dosage. Now, I know from the start that inevitably I will develop a strong tolerance if I keep it up. I always promise myself that when the time is right I’ll taper off slowly so I won’t get strung out. And every time I tell myself that I know that it is a lie and I’ll end up taking the last 50 or so of the pills to get one last good rush and when those wear off I’ll be in big trouble.”
Worse, at about the same time he ran out of pills, he’d also run out of Ripple. And Lucky Strikes. Since he was almost always broke in those days and had usually just spent every penny he had on the pills/booze/smokes, about 40 hours into the binge he’d hit a trifecta of withdrawal symptoms from speed, alcohol, and nicotine — bringing on waves of D.T.’s and convulsions.
His D.T.’s were particularly harrowing.
“Once” he told me, “I saw tiny little naked devils walk underneath the door. There were about a million of them all with huge erections marching in a line and each of them carried a shovel. They marched up my body and went into my ears and then into my brain. Then, each would scoop out a bit of my brain and walk back in a line down my body with a shovelful of my grey matter and walk out underneath the door again to the outside. And the worse thing was that while this was happening I was convinced the ugly little devils were real and every time one scooped a part of my brain I could both feel and hear it. The sound was horrifying and the pain was excruciating.”