MY FIRST LINE OF BLOW
The first time I used cocaine was in 1987. I was in the downstairs bathroom of one of the nicest hotels in Dallas, befitting my outward status and appearance as a licensed attorney (at least in Pennsylvania, I had not taken the Texas bar exam yet). Shiny marble, mouthwash, breath-mints, and the ultimate bonus, a toilet door that closed completely so no one could see in. With the bathroom attendant standing just outside my door handing out towels and mints, I carefully laid out three lines of cocaine given to me by the drug dealer I was introduced to for the first time twenty minutes earlier. I rolled up a twenty-dollar bill and bent over the white Kohler commode. The three white lines looked harmless, and my only hesitation was the grime, germs, and undoubtedly the past drug residue from previous guys like me.
Then I went for it. As the cocaine began its journey up rolled bill to change the course of my life, I had a thought. I thought about a man I’d never met. I thought about Lenny Bias. Lenny was a first round draft pick of the NBA Boston Celtics in 1986. Lenny was a “can’t miss” future NBA prospect. He died of a cocaine overdose two days after being the second overall pick in the draft—it caused a deadly arrhythmia. No warning. No second chance. Just dead. I was thinking about him just three months after he died as I stood there with a rolled-up bill in my nose. It occurred to me in that moment that I had no idea what I was putting my my nose any more than Lenny did. But I was determined. I was going to do what it took to be part of the fun. That could never happen to me.
After I snorted the lines, I opened the stall door, walked over to the faucet, washed the residue off my hands, swigged a mini-cup of generic mouthwash, flipped the attendant a 5-spot, took a mint, and pushed open the restroom doors to exit into my new kingdom, at least for as long as the high lasted.
I was on the apex of a feeling I had never experienced before. A feeling I loved and knew immediately I had to have again, and again, and again. This is what I’ve been looking for all my life, I thought. I finally felt like I was in control, and I walked confidently through the dim light of the already addicted, the non-addicted, the weekend coke kings, big haired beauties, doctors, lawyers, students, and fellow 30k millionaires. I was now up for the battle. The King of Dallas. Nothing could stop me as long as I felt that way. In that moment, in that bathroom, I was instantly addicted. Not necessarily in the sense of physical dependence, but in immediate psychological dependence—I instantly felt I couldn’t survive if I didn’t try to maintain such a wonderful feeling.
Cocaine had the power to make all my anxieties seem trivial, and made the formerly impossible, possible. I was able to party, socialize, and feel good about myself all at the same time. It was like the drug made my problems go away, if only for the brief period of the high. But of course, my self-medication was only papering over deeper issues, not resolving them. Cocaine did not make me better at building and maintaining relationships: it just helped me overcome my often paralyzing fear of being rejected by women and worrying less when the relationships fell apart. Coke didn’t help me focus in my career: it just helped me recover from the hangover from the night before and not lose self-confidence despite poor performance. Coke didn’t cure my depression: it only masked it for the short time. It did not help me take control of my life: it just offered the illusion of control and self-acceptance as thing slowly but surely spiraled downward. Decades after my first experience with coke, I’d watch the ziplock baggies of cocaine I’d traded for Mavs Championship tickets spiraling down the toilet bowl, but the vision of those baggies wasn’t enough to help me see just how out of control my life was.