10 Things I Learned From Dealing Drugs

image - Flickr / Max Boschini
image – Flickr / Max Boschini

Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What is it like to be a drug dealer? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.

Though I sold a little of just about everything from time to time my meat and potatoes was crank. I was deeply involved in a pretty heavy tweak scene for two years.

For the most part, tweak dealers are like the President of the Hair Club For Men: not just the President, but also a client. It’s not a group of people who follow the adage “don’t get high on your own supply.” In fact the entire reason I started selling was so that I could get high for free. The first time I tweaked I knew I wanted to feel that way all the time, and that selling was the only way I’d be able to afford it.

Over the two years following that decision I got pretty deep into it, did and sold a lot of speed, spent time around a lot of crazy people, and saw some pretty amazing things. I don’t think I have a story as gripping as Anon’s, but maybe I can provide some insight through a few sketches. Since my experience as a drug dealer is pretty intertwined with my experience as a drug user you’ll get a little of both.

What’s it like to be a drug dealer?

1. It’s Magical

I got to be high all the time. All. The. Time. People say that drug use is a constant attempt to chase down the first high, and that it’s never great again. Nope. It always felt great. I was very, very high for just about two years straight. I loved it. How much did I love it?

I did so much speed that my hair fell out. My teeth rotted in my head, to the point that I shattered my wisdom teeth one day by eating a piece of candy. I got nosebleeds  that ran so hard I just held a dixie cup under my nose and let it fill. I did so much damage to my sinuses that when my nose bled I would get blood flecks coming out of my tear ducts. Yes, I actually cried blood.

I loved it enough that none of those things slowed me down. It felt so good that I didn’t care. Unlike most people who had to slow down or stop when they ran out of money or speed, I never ran out. That was the magic of being a drug dealer. I could do as much as I wanted, all the time. I did enough that, on the few occasions I decided I didn’t want to be higher, the people around me were shocked. Shocked. They were worried something was wrong.

2. It’s Frustrating

I built up a pretty big roll on two occasions. Both times I lost everything. Once I was swindled and the other time I was robbed. Both times I could have recovered what was taken from me and prevented it from happening again, but I wasn’t willing to take the steps I would have needed to.

I wasn’t afraid of a fight but I was never willing to take the kind of severe retributive action that would have been necessary to intimidate people from stealing from me. I had acquaintances who were willing to take that kind of action for me but I wasn’t willing to be responsible for it, and it would have meant some deepening of commitments that I didn’t want to make.

The only solution was really to stay small. I was well-liked and well-connected enough that nobody would mess with me over a few hundred dollars. Unfortunately that meant that though I had access to bulk purchases and large fronts I wasn’t able to really take advantage of them, and had to grind out 8-balls and quarter ounces. I didn’t make enough for a real living and could have been making big money, but wasn’t really willing to do what it would take.

3. It’s Hot

Sex on speed is great. People in the early stages of a tweak are horny. Girls love drug dealers. Especially in the first year I had more amazing sex with more people in more configurations on speed than in any other period of my life. I won’t go into more torrid details.

4. It’s Terrifying

I was threatened with knives. Once a guy with four spiked rings on his hand was a second from punching me in the face. I’ve had guns pointed at my head.

Once someone started a rumor that I was a narc (I wasn’t). For the next several weeks I didn’t know if I would get killed. I walked into the houses of dangerous, paranoid men hoping that the strength of my reputation and or my relationships with them would get me back out the door again.

When I say “dangerous and paranoid” I mean men who took care of problems with soundproofed rooms and ball peen hammers. The only way to deal with them was to walk straight into their paranoia without showing any fear. Inside I was terrified that I would never leave the places I walked into, but not showing up or panicking would have convinced them to kill me, and so I had to hope they wouldn’t believe the rumors.

5. It’s Tragic

So many people are dead. Friends overdosed and crumpled to the floor in front of me like puppets with their strings cut. A girl I knew borrowed a car once and brought it back with a ding. The guy she borrowed the car from shot her to death. She was pregnant. More than one friend committed suicide. People I knew were beaten, robbed, murdered for money or drugs or slights.

Others are in prison, or spent enough years in prison that they’ll never be accepted in society. Friends were in and out of juvie from the time they were 14. People thought of jail as a regular place for people to be coming back from, like college or a family vacation.

A few wound up in mental institutions. Speed can crack your brain open, and some people don’t come all the way back. Most of those people wind up on the street or dead, so I guess an institution is actually less tragic.

6. It’s Insane

There were many occasions when I wasn’t in my right mind, but once I had a complete break. I had been up for 8 days and I had spent the night hanging out with someone who was incredibly sketchy and set off every cop alarm bell I had (I don’t have any idea whether he was a cop and I never saw him again after that, but I heard a couple of months later that he got hit by a car. Twice.)

Between the long time up and the sketchy night I cracked in the morning. I went to another friend’s house for a while, but when I left there I knew I was being followed. I saw the truck across the street where they were set up watching me. I saw the footprints in the snow that proved they had been getting in and out of the truck.

I dumped everything I had, and I got one of my only truly trustworthy friends to pick me up and take me to his house. I posted up at his window and watched the cars that were driving by his cul de sac watching me. Two snowplows went by, and I knew they set up a road block around the corner.

Lots of cars went by, enough that most people might not notice the cops. I did though. They were in red cars. There was a red pickup. A red minivan. A red coupe. A red jeep. Those ones kept circling, and they had the cops in them. Every time I saw a red Jeep it was more proof that they had a red Jeep.

I was terrified that they were going to come take me away to prison (though I had nothing on me). I knew this was the end of a long operation to catch me. I came about 15 seconds from walking out the front door and showing them (in a permanent and dramatic way) that I wouldn’t be pushed around.

Luckily my friend, who had long experience with this kind of thing, convinced me to hold off. Somehow he convinced me that I should get three nights of sleep before taking the kind of drastic action I was planning, and that if I still felt like taking action after that he would be right there beside me. Thank God.

It actually did take three days. After the third night of sleep it all melted away. I can still remember with crystal clarity just how sane I felt. It’s very humbling to think about just how sane I felt during a complete psychotic break.

7. It’s Lonely

Big rock in my pocket? Lots of friends. Down to my last ends? Not a lot of people around. Need a place to stay? Not a lot of people around. Down for the count after an illness? Well, you get it.

Not a lot of people around. It’s was easy to think I was popular and awesome when things were going well, but it was when things were going badly that I found out who my real friends were. They were easy to spot because they were the only ones still in the room. Those people still get Christmas calls and birthday gifts. Those people will have me on a plane with a phone call for anything they need for the rest of my life.

8. It’s Risky

Once I had a backpack full of drugs and paraphernalia including a digital scale. The drugs were weighed and bagged up for selling. My friend’s vehicle broke down and as we got out, a police car pulled up behind us. One officer went to talk to my friend, and the other came to talk to me.

He asked me where I was going, and I told him I was headed to a friend’s house to spend the night. He asked me what was in the bag, and I could already feel the cuffs on my wrists. I knew I was going to go to prison for a long time. I started pulling the bag off my shoulder to open it and he said “you don’t have to show me, I’m just curious what you have in the bag.”

Somehow I managed to keep from sobbing with relief and I told him I just had some clothes and CDs. He believed me, the other officer helped my friend get the vehicle started, and we were on our way.

9. It’s a Learning Experience

When I was a teenager I was wicked smart, but not socially adept or empathetic. I had a high IQ and a basement low EQ. That changed in two years.

I was pretty unimportant but I was adjacent to some fairly impressive people. If you’ve ever seen the show Gangland on the History Channel, I know a couple guys from one of the episodes. I learned a lot just being around and watching them.

I came out of that time significantly less smart than I had been. I’m sure I killed brain cells. I’m not as good at math or science as I was before. But I’m also pretty well liked and pretty good at communicating. I don’t scare easily. I know I can survive things worse than most of my peers can imagine. I learned how to trust my gut and how to judge people quickly. My snap judgements about people are usually very good. I have a stronger sense of ethics and loyalty than many people I know.

10. All In All

It’s not something I would recommend. I got very, very lucky. I don’t regret it any more than I regret any of my life, since I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it, but I’m sure there are easier, more pleasant paths to success. They probably go through Stanford or something. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

This comment originally appeared at Quora.

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