This article originally appeared on VICE Australia.
A 2013 study found that 7 percent of Australians aged 14 years and older reported using crystal meth (a.k.a. "ice") at some point in their lives. Numbers aren't available for 2014 yet, but we're told they're rising. So who's smoking this stuff? It's not only for the downtrodden and tooth-deprived anymore.
People with good jobs on ice aren't hard to find. Take Alex (whose name has been changed). He works in the central office of a non-disclosed national bank as a lender. Until last year he was using the drug regularly at work. Here's how he did it.
Banking is a stressful environment. People who say banking isn't stressful are just insane. They hire people who are book-smart but not that socially switched on. So they're like empty vessels, without personality. You're working with four or five of them, and they're just talking about their cat and you're thinking that you'd smoke or drink anything to get away from them.
I never liked ice when I was younger. I was all about the pills. In the 2000s the quality of the pills was fantastic, but then they went to shit all of a sudden and everyone moved to shard. So ice became a weekend thing. We'd smoke on the weekend and spend the week coming down.
Productivity was just through the roof, which is why management didn't care.
So I'd be in this routine—we used to call it manic Mondays, terrible Tuesdays, Westgate Wednesdays... Thursdays were actually all right because you were coming back to Friday again. I was working for the weekend, when I could go to my friend's house and smoke up again. We used to call it the never-ending story.
Doing it at work, that was kind of taboo. So I said I'd just smoke it once but on the first hit I got that peak. It was like phwooaaa, I'm rocking. I was talking to people and typing at a million miles an hour. I could answer like 5,000 phone calls and just keep going. Productivity was through the roof, which is why management didn't care. I'd be like, I'm absolutely smashing this out, I've done all my work, I've done everything! Then a pattern formed and it became Monday, then Wednesday, and then it came to a point where the days didn't matter anymore.
The come-down is really rough. You need Xanax. I don't know how people do it without Xanax. It's the no-sleeping thing that kills you, the sleep deprivation. But Xanax changed the game. If you have a Xanax just by itself you've got 20 minutes before you're out. And if you have a puff by itself you're just fucking off your face. But together, they balance themselves out. We called Xanax the get-out-of-jail-free card.
I didn't think anyone else did it. The bank is very straight-edge, but ice was all over the place at Christmas parties. You'd go to the Christmas party and know who the tweakers were because they are were beaming. They'd invite you to the toilet, and then you'd be like, Oh my God, that guy is in that department and that guy works in accounts. Christmas parties are where you pick it. So yeah, the last four Christmas parties people were smoking in the toilet.
I never cared about work, but I still felt ashamed most of the time. It was like you were only doing it for the excitement. I wanted to be better; I wanted to progress. I wanted to feel better and have more money and do nice things and be with nice people. I hadn't been clean in a long time because a younger me was always on gear. It's alcohol, man—once you've drunk, it's a gateway drug to everything else.
Anxiety and panic attacks were common. They happened in meetings, and you'd just be holding on because you were coming down. I used to take a lot of time off work if I was high or coming down, and I'd feel bad because I wasn't actually sick. I'd just take enough time to fix myself, but it takes weeks to do it properly. And my general mood was just shit.
Finally, I saw that meme saying It's 2014 and I'm still a piece of shit and thought, I am. I just wasn't doing anything positive, so I stopped. I don't like to do things in halves. I just stopped taking it one day, and I was a mess. I couldn't even go to Safeway and get a sandwich. Every part of my body was telling me to run away. But I think that was the adverse effects of Xanax and not the ice. I've done a complete 180 now. I didn't even drink last weekend.
It wasn't detrimental to my career, but it wasn't a progression thing either. It was just such a focal point that I didn't bother progressing with anything else. No one on ice has ever said to me, Hey, I got a new job, man or I got a new girlfriend. None of that happened to me either. I just lost years, really. I didn't go out for dinner for like two years. It took me four months solid to get off of it. And you know what? I just heard that I got a new job. Just then. I wouldn't have got it if I were still using.
Illustrations by Michael Hili
As told to Charlie Braithwaite. Follow him on Twitter.