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Wholesome San Diego mom finally quits meth

"Now it’s coming across the border. Often, it’s laced with fentanyl."

Now 55, Lisa began using meth as a teenager; she kept on using, despite multiple attempts to quit, until December of last year. But you wouldn’t know it to look at her.
Now 55, Lisa began using meth as a teenager; she kept on using, despite multiple attempts to quit, until December of last year. But you wouldn’t know it to look at her.

Between 2016 and 2020, San Diego County saw a 92% increase in methamphetamine-related deaths. According to the San Diego Medical Examiner’s Office, many of those deaths occurred in people over the age of 45. My friend Lisa Weber (not her real name) has avoided becoming one of those people, a fact which sometimes baffles me. But then, there are many baffling things about Lisa. Now 55, she began using meth as a teenager; she kept on using, despite multiple attempts to quit, until December of last year. But you wouldn’t know it to look at her. For starters, she looks closer to 40 than 55, and she is girl-next-door pretty: tall, thin, her vibrant smile revealing a full set of bright white teeth. And you wouldn’t know it to look at her life, either. She’s a minivan-driving, stay-at-home mom, the kind who volunteers to chaperone her kids’ field trips. She makes a mean cornbread casserole that is the hit of every potluck she attends, and she attends a lot of potlucks. One weekend a month, she and her husband Ted (not his real name) lead a church clean-up crew.

Of course, once you get to know her, you might start to notice things. The hydroflask she always carries is almost always filled with either vodka or tequila. Often, there is a slight slur in her speech. At those potlucks she attends, she’s always tanked — but then, so are most of the other attendees, so she blends in. About those field trips she chaperones: the school banned her from driving after another mother smelled alcohol on her breath. Still, the worst anyone might suspect is that Lisa is a functional alcoholic, which is a long way from a meth addict. And besides, alcohol or no alcohol, Lisa is wonderfully helpful and fun to be around.

Why did Lisa quit? It wasn’t because she lost loved ones to meth, though lose them she did. It was, in large part, because she couldn’t bear the thought of being the lost loved one herself. “I used to buy my meth from the Hell’s Angels,” she says, “but now it’s coming across the border, and you just don’t know what you are getting. Often, it’s laced with fentanyl. Doing meth nowadays is like playing Russian roulette. My niece’s boyfriend just died on the bathroom floor in a hotel room from a batch laced with fentanyl. I’m not going to go out that way! I mean, I pulled a fast one for fucking 40 years. I am not going to die from this and have everyone find out I am a fucking meth addict because I got a bad batch. Can you even imagine what that would do to my family? To my friends? To everybody?”

Beginnings

Lisa Weber grew up in City Heights, the second-youngest of eight children. She attended Catholic school and tried her best not to be a burden on her parents. She was helpful. She stayed out of trouble. She got good grades. She never drank. She never did drugs. She never even smoked cigarettes. Then, at the age of 17, she made a choice that impacted the rest of her life. “Prior to that day, I lived my life following two rules that I thought I would never break. One, I would never have sex before marriage, and two, I would never snort anything. Both of those rules went out the window in one night!”

Lisa’s friend was dating a cute guy with an even cuter friend. On the night in question, they decided to hang out. “My first time drinking and using drugs happened simultaneously that night. The guys were housesitting for their boss. They had some cocaine and some alcohol. I had never done either of those things. I was with a friend that I just started hanging out with, and she was pretty [popular]. I just wanted to hang out with them and be cool. I thought, I’m already 17. I’ll just try this. It is no big deal. That happened to be the same day I lost my virginity. It was a big night!” Lisa chuckles, and tells me she wasn’t really into the cocaine; it didn’t do anything for her. However, she really liked the cuter friend, and wanted to impress him. So the next time they hung out, when the group wanted more cocaine but couldn’t figure out where to get it, Lisa stepped in. She knew that her brother and sister-in-law did drugs, she asked them to hook her up. “My sister-in-law gave me what I thought was cocaine. What I didn’t realize was that she got us crystal meth instead. I knew the second I tried a little bit that it was different from the cocaine we had before, because my nose was burning off and I laid awake in bed for like two days afterwards.”

Before long, Lisa was seeking out meth. “It just made me feel like I had energy and I could get stuff done. I felt like it kept me on a constant up, like I was winning. It made me popular. I could bring it out and all my friends would want to do it.” She soon learned that her sister-in-law’s supplier was in the family as well: the husband of her oldest sister. She started buying from him, and when she couldn’t get it from him, she would go to the corner of University and Eulcid. “We called it The Corner. These were rough people. They were all bikers. There was some scary shit going on in those days” — the early ‘80s. “I was involved with so many people I never ever would’ve talked to normally. I would just walk up as myself, this pretty girl, definitely in the wrong place. It was not a big deal to me, though. I was never afraid of anyone or anything. But I probably should’ve been.”

Eventually, Lisa learned that all her siblings except for her younger sister were fellow users. The Weber siblings shared their drugs and helped each other score bags when they could. “Having it be a big part of my family was hard, because it’s something that has been a constant in my life for so long. I mean, the neighbor across the street from the house I grew up in had a meth lab in his backyard, and it ended up killing all of our other neighbor’s plants,” Here, her chuckle becomes a proper laugh.

Progression

“I made some decisions early on in regards to my use, and I’ve stuck with them all these years,” says Lisa. “Number one, I was never going to inject it. Number two, I was never going to smoke it. Number three, I would never do anything more serious than meth. That means no heroin. I mean, I have never even done quaaludes or mushrooms. Meth is where I drew the line. I know my lines were very arbitrary, but I have never stepped over those lines. Never.” But while she may have been successful in controlling kinds of drugs and modes of consumption, she was less so when it came to quantity consumed. “My mom died when I was 19, and after that, my use really ramped up. I felt like it was a problem a lot, but at the same time, I wasn’t willing to come to grips with it. I wasn’t willing to do anything about it.”

Lisa explains all this to me as we sit in her husband’s oversized work truck in the parking lot of a Bruegger’s Bagels in PB. She is wearing a tie-dyed shirt and faded Levi’s. I’m about to ask her more about the progression of her addiction when I realize that I left my purse hanging on a chair inside Bruegger’s. I dash back to retrieve it, and when I return, Lisa is laughing at me. “Are you sure you’re not the one with a drug problem?” she asks with a cackle. “Because I have never and would never forget my purse anywhere.” It’s true. Lisa may be the most organized drug addict in the world. But then, she has had to be, in order to get away with her addiction for so long. “I wasn’t really worried people would find me out,” she says. “I’m smart. I mean, you can get away with doing this for as long as you want, as long as you’re not an idiot. Just don’t be obvious! I think I was a little bit more moderate than other people with it. It helped that I never progressed further — into smoking it or injecting it.” Still, there have been spikes besides the one after her mother’s death — in her use of both meth and alcohol. Many came when she was young. But one came during the covid lockdown, when she was stuck at home and bored out of her mind.

She also used a lot when she was starting out in her career. At 19, Lisa went to work for an ad agency. She was quickly promoted. A book publishing company took note of her success and hired her on at higher pay. “I used [meth] that whole time. I justified it by calling it ‘My cup of coffee.’ I don’t drink coffee, so meth was my pick me up.” Lisa believed that if she kept her job, paid her bills, and get to work on time every morning, then her meth use was not a problem. “I would use some before I went to work. I would use some in the bathroom at work. And then I would use a couple of more times throughout my day.” It didn’t help that everyone at the book publishing company drank. At lunch, she and her coworkers regularly ordered several drinks. But, she found, “when I had a drink, I’d have to do more meth, because I didn’t want to feel sluggish. It really became a cycle of using alcohol and meth together.”

Lisa routinely bought $25 bags of meth. Soon, those bags were lasting only a few days. She estimates that in those early days, she spent around $100 a week on her meth addiction. As she got older, she factored in her meth costs with her family budget alongside groceries and gas. “I am not the type to get my hair and nails done, or buy a lot of clothes and expensive purses, so I justified spending on meth that way,” Lisa says matter-of-factly. And buying was simple, because her dealer was still in her family. “When I worked for the book publisher, my main supplier was my older sister. On my lunch hours, I would run over to her house and run back. It was convenient.” But it was also starting to damage the family. “I had a couple of family members that meth fucked up pretty good. They couldn’t keep jobs. They would steal from the family. My dad found out what we were all up to, and that my sister was supplying us. He approached her and was like, ‘You are killing my family!’ You know what she told him? She said, ‘They are going to get it somehow anyway.’” Lisa shakes her head, not laughing now. Her two older brothers struggled for years with their addictions. They both eventually moved out of state to get away from the meth scene in San Diego. “My older brother Paul (not his real name) and I were the only ones who weren’t stupid about our drug use.” Paul worked for a local radio station for 25 years, and just recently retired. He used meth off and on throughout his career. His wife died from her meth use while in her forties.

As for Weber’s older sister, the family dealer, she got arrested multiple times, mostly for possession. “She’s a fucking idiot. If you are carrying big bags of drugs, don’t drive up Lake Murray Boulevard, speeding, with an out-of-date registration. When you are an addict, everything needs to be legit. Your license can’t be expired, you cannot speed, and your registration needs to be up to date or they can search the car. Well, [my sister’s] registration was bad, of course, so they searched her whole car and found a big sack. The rest was history!” Now Lisa is laughing again. “You are not going to believe this, but when I took her to her court hearing for that, she had this huge fucking purse that was just jam-packed, a total tweaker purse! When they put it through the x-ray machine, they pulled out a pot pipe — at the fucking courthouse! I just looked at her and said, ‘What the fuck is wrong with you?’ It’s like she was raised by wolves. She is the one child in our family who is so different from the rest of us, and so fucking stupid. She ruined Easter for our family when she turned 14 by going to jail! She said she was going to a movie with a friend, but she went out with boys and got picked up with a bunch of uppers in her pocket.” Weber prefers to find humor in all the dysfunction: “I mean in my family, I have to step over the funny, so I don’t trip on it. Every day!” When the sister ended up having to do jail time for possession, Lisa took custody of her two preteen daughters. At the time, she was 30, still using meth and teetering on the edge of alcoholism. But despite battling those demons, she offered the girls more stability then their mom could, and they flourished under her care.

Her care was fueled by meth. “From 1995-97, I was into meth heavier than at any other time in my life. I felt I really needed it to be up and able to do stuff for the girls. I moved into my sister’s house. I changed everything while I was there. Her house looked like what you would imagine a tweaker’s house looks like: laundry piled everywhere, and just shit everywhere. The girls and I donated like 50 bags of clothes, because my sister would just go buy new stuff instead of doing laundry.” For a time, Lisa even took over her sister’s drug dealing business. “People kept coming to the house looking for drugs, so I was dealing for a little bit.”

When her sister got out of jail, they all lived together. Part of the probation was a daily drug test. Lisa was amazed when her sister kept passing her drug tests, until one day, one of her nieces came to her and said, “Mom keeps making me pee in a cup every morning for her.” Lisa was furious. Not long after, her sister met a man online; the man lived in Pennsylvania. The sister moved out state, but the girls refused to go with her, and for a long time, Lisa took care of them. Eventually, however, they ended up moving to Pennsylvania, and a few years later, Lisa’s niece began doing and dealing meth herself. When the niece became an adult, she moved back to San Diego, and later become Lisa’s regular meth dealer.

“Quitting”

At the age of 33, Lisa quit doing meth after meeting the man who would become her husband. “The first day we met, he told me that he was anti-meth. He didn’t know I did it, but it came up because that night; we talked about everything for hours. I really wanted to go out with him again, so I decided that night to quit. Well of course, before our next date, I went out and got really drunk. It was bad — bad enough that my dad had to come pick me up from my friend’s house and take me to the emergency room. But you know what? The next night, I still made my date with Ted.” Two years later, they married.

Ted is a recovering alcoholic. He has not imbibed once since they have been together. For her part, Lisa would stop using meth from time to time, but never fully quit until she became pregnant with their first child. “There have been two periods of time where I have stopped. I stopped both times I was pregnant and nursing. The first time, I did a line while I was still nursing my youngest son, and I stopped nursing. I was done. That was not a line I was willing to cross. For five years, I stopped doing meth: when I was pregnant with my oldest and during the 2 ½ years that I nursed him, and also while pregnant and nursing my youngest. But after all those years, I started right back up again! It has continued off and on until this last Christmas.”

Close calls and

getting caught

Lisa has had many close calls, times when her meth addiction has nearly come out. One time, she asked her dealer to drop by in the middle of the night and leave a bag of meth in her car’s gas tank. She retrieved it first thing in the morning. Later, a neighbor who lived across the street asked, “What was going on with that car last night? Someone left something white inside your gas tank.” Lisa remained calm and acted dumb. She went over to the car and opened the gas tank. “I don’t know,” she shrugged. “There is nothing in there now.” The conversation ended, and the neighbor never mentioned it again. Another time, while working as a real estate agent, Lisa dropped her bag of meth in the bathroom. It was inside an envelope. The homeowner handed it to her and said, “You left this in my bathroom.” She thanked him and shoved the envelope deep inside her purse. Once more, it was never mentioned again. A few years back, Lisa traveled to Texas on girl’s trip with a friend to visit her godmother. She decided not to bring meth; she wanted to get clean. A few days in, she realized she couldn’t handle it: she was exhausted and crabby. So she called her niece and asked is she could overnight some meth. Her niece stuck it inside a greeting card, put the godmother’s address on the envelope, and shipped it, care of Lisa. The letter never came. When Lisa tried to track it, she found it was held up at a United States Postal sorting center. Then she started receiving phone calls from numbers with only five digits. Though she suspected the callers were feds, she decided to answer. The caller asked her a series of questions about her godmother. Again, Lisa played dumb; again, nothing happened.

One reason she was able to hide her addiction was that her friends were drinkers. “Ted and I were really involved at our church, and all of our church friends were huge drinkers. It was socially acceptable. Every time we hung out at our friend’s house for backyard barbeques, pool parties, camping, you name it, everyone was drinking — everyone-except for Ted. And not just casually drinking; they were getting lit, with their kids there and everything.” Lisa’s tone indicates her displeasure.

However, there were two occasions when Lisa was found out; the times when Ted found her stash. The first time, he was devastated. He had no idea that Lisa was doing meth. The family was on a ski trip to Park City, Utah. Lisa had brought some meth to help get her through it; her oldest was four and her youngest was one and a half. “I went outside with the kids to build a snowman,” she recalls. “The meth had been in my bra, but I was sweating, and I did not want to bring it outside with me. I zipped it into a secret compartment in my new ski jacket. Ted picked it up to hang it in the closet. He was looking at how nice it was and checking out all the features when he discovered the secret pocket and unzipped it. He found it then.”

Later that evening, Ted confronted Lisa. They stayed up all night, talking and crying. Ted felt deceived, and Lisa was ashamed — but not ashamed enough to give it up. “Here is where it gets bad,” Lisa tells me, leaning in and resting her chin in the palm of her hand. “One of Ted’s friends came with us, so I was doing all the work: cleaning, cooking, taking care of the kids. I was putting the kids in their snow clothes every morning and trying to get them up the mountain. You don’t know what hell is until you enroll toddlers in ski school. So, the next morning after he found the meth, he wanted to go out skiing with his friend. I was like, ‘I can’t do everything here with the kids and not have your help and not have my meth.’ So, he gave the bag back to me, so that he could go skiing with his friend.” Seeing the shocked look on my face, Lisa quickly adds, “I think he was resigned to the fact that I really needed it.”

After that, Ted was suspicious for a time. However, “he just trusted me. He would ask me periodically if I was using, and I would lie and say no. I think he had his suspicions, but I don’t know that for a fact. I mean, I was up until all hours in the evenings, and then I was also the first one popping up in the mornings. It became pretty obvious. Also, he busted my niece with it at our house. He knew she was bad news, and that I kept hanging out with her. But it wasn’t until 18 years later that he caught me again. I was very sneaky.” Then, in September of last year, Lisa bought her brother Paul $200 worth of meth. He was moving to Idaho. She didn’t want him to have to struggle trying to find meth in a new city. She placed the drugs in a brand-new purse that a friend had made for her. Just as he had done 18 years earlier, Ted started admiring her new acquisition. He picked up the purse and studied it. He unzipped all the pockets, to check out the craftsmanship. Inside one pocket, he found two bags of meth. He took them and did not say a word. “Paul and I were of course freaking out” over the missing meth, recalls Lisa. “We blamed Peter, Paul’s son, because he likes to always help himself to other people’s drugs.” Her tone is annoyed as she tells the story.

At Christmastime, Lisa and the family headed to Washington to visit Ted’s mom. Before the visit, Ted confronted her. “Ted came to me and said, ‘I know you are using again. Don’t even deny it.’ And then he said, ‘I’m not going to give up on you. I’m just not. You are too smart, and I know you can beat this.’” His words made her feel worse than if he had yelled and screamed. She knew he was right.

Her guilt prompted her to come clean to her sons about her meth addiction. They took it hard. They felt betrayed. Lisa recalls, “I often told the boys never to do meth. So when I told my oldest son about my addiction, he said, ‘You have no idea how devastating it is to hear you tell me that meth is a death sentence and you are doing it. Please promise me that you will never do that again!’ I knew enough was enough. When we went up to visit my mother-in-law for Christmas, I didn’t take any meth with me. And when we came home from Christmas, that is when I started on my recovery.”

Quitting

Unfortunately, “I exchanged [meth] for drinking. When you do [meth], you can drink, and you aren’t affected as much because one is an upper and the other a downer. Once I wasn’t doing any drugs, I was getting really drunk every day. It was sad. I decided I wasn’t going to swap one thing out for another. I had to just drop everything. At the exact same time I gave it all up, I got covid. That gave me a reason to stop. I stayed in bed for five days. My whole mind was fucked. The hardest part lasted almost two weeks. I told myself, ‘This is bullshit; I am not going to die from [my addictions].’ My mom died when she was 58. I am 55 now. I have this fear of leaving my kids behind. I don’t want to do that to them.” Lisa is near tears as she says this.

She started attending NA meetings at a park near her home. But, she says, she used the word “fuck” when retelling a story relating to her addiction, and the group took a vote at the end of the meeting and decided that foul language was not to be used. “They gave me a 30 day sobriety coin at that meeting. I tossed it right back at them over my shoulder and flipped them off and told them to fuck off when I left. I found an AA meeting near the beach. I knew right away I was home when I found that one. It’s AA, but they are all drug addicts, too. They just get me.”

She says that she has not gone back to meth since then, but the drinking has proven more difficult to stop. “I started going to AA meetings regularly, but I was still drinking afterwards, which wasn’t cool. Ted was very patient. He would say, ‘You know, I really think you are drinking way too much.’ I would of course respond with, ‘I am not drunk!’ My kids were hiding my liquor bottles when they found them. And they would find them all over the place. My oldest even bought a breathalyzer and would test me every day. I don’t blame them. I have proven myself to be an untrustworthy liar.”

On February 2nd , Ted received his 29-year sobriety coin from AA. Perhaps feeling overwhelmed, Lisa commemorated his success by getting tanked. “For some reason, I can’t explain it, I just got ripped out of my mind that day. My son came home from school and I was literally passed out. I just felt so bad and so shitty. So I promised that I was going to try to quit again. I got 30 days, and then I was like, ‘You know, I don’t want to stop drinking forever. I want to be able to have one drink and be fine, like a normal person.’ I fell off again one more time really bad, but now I am just at point where I am staying busy. I am not really going to the meetings, though. I need to get back. I am sure they are worried about me. I’ll have to start my recovery all over again. But I am working and doing other stuff, so it’s not as tempting.”

When I ask Lisa what “starting her recovery over again” looks like, she pauses for a second before answering. “I need come to grips with everything I let slip while I was using. For instance, I am years behind on our taxes. Years! This is a new era, where I am facing up to the things I let pile up and happen because of my addiction, and now I am moving forward.”

She says that the biggest hurdle in moving forward are the regrets she carries. “I regret that I lied to my husband, especially because when we first started dating, he told me that he absolutely did not want any involvement with meth in his life. The second regret is all the money I have spent and all the time I have wasted! It takes a lot of time, trying to chase drugs. Phone calls trying to find it, driving around trying to find it. And then, when you do find it, you can’t just pop in and out, because that looks too suspicious. You have to stick around for a while, and sticking around in those kinds of places is no bueno.”

She is adamant that this time around, her recovery will stick. “My parents raised me to believe there is nothing I can’t do, and I do have my faith. I believe in God. I believe he watches out for me. I think even though I have had some problems, I am a good person. I am a good person with a problem. I am going to eventually get rid of this problem, and then everything is going to be okay.”

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Now 55, Lisa began using meth as a teenager; she kept on using, despite multiple attempts to quit, until December of last year. But you wouldn’t know it to look at her.
Now 55, Lisa began using meth as a teenager; she kept on using, despite multiple attempts to quit, until December of last year. But you wouldn’t know it to look at her.

Between 2016 and 2020, San Diego County saw a 92% increase in methamphetamine-related deaths. According to the San Diego Medical Examiner’s Office, many of those deaths occurred in people over the age of 45. My friend Lisa Weber (not her real name) has avoided becoming one of those people, a fact which sometimes baffles me. But then, there are many baffling things about Lisa. Now 55, she began using meth as a teenager; she kept on using, despite multiple attempts to quit, until December of last year. But you wouldn’t know it to look at her. For starters, she looks closer to 40 than 55, and she is girl-next-door pretty: tall, thin, her vibrant smile revealing a full set of bright white teeth. And you wouldn’t know it to look at her life, either. She’s a minivan-driving, stay-at-home mom, the kind who volunteers to chaperone her kids’ field trips. She makes a mean cornbread casserole that is the hit of every potluck she attends, and she attends a lot of potlucks. One weekend a month, she and her husband Ted (not his real name) lead a church clean-up crew.

Of course, once you get to know her, you might start to notice things. The hydroflask she always carries is almost always filled with either vodka or tequila. Often, there is a slight slur in her speech. At those potlucks she attends, she’s always tanked — but then, so are most of the other attendees, so she blends in. About those field trips she chaperones: the school banned her from driving after another mother smelled alcohol on her breath. Still, the worst anyone might suspect is that Lisa is a functional alcoholic, which is a long way from a meth addict. And besides, alcohol or no alcohol, Lisa is wonderfully helpful and fun to be around.

Why did Lisa quit? It wasn’t because she lost loved ones to meth, though lose them she did. It was, in large part, because she couldn’t bear the thought of being the lost loved one herself. “I used to buy my meth from the Hell’s Angels,” she says, “but now it’s coming across the border, and you just don’t know what you are getting. Often, it’s laced with fentanyl. Doing meth nowadays is like playing Russian roulette. My niece’s boyfriend just died on the bathroom floor in a hotel room from a batch laced with fentanyl. I’m not going to go out that way! I mean, I pulled a fast one for fucking 40 years. I am not going to die from this and have everyone find out I am a fucking meth addict because I got a bad batch. Can you even imagine what that would do to my family? To my friends? To everybody?”

Beginnings

Lisa Weber grew up in City Heights, the second-youngest of eight children. She attended Catholic school and tried her best not to be a burden on her parents. She was helpful. She stayed out of trouble. She got good grades. She never drank. She never did drugs. She never even smoked cigarettes. Then, at the age of 17, she made a choice that impacted the rest of her life. “Prior to that day, I lived my life following two rules that I thought I would never break. One, I would never have sex before marriage, and two, I would never snort anything. Both of those rules went out the window in one night!”

Lisa’s friend was dating a cute guy with an even cuter friend. On the night in question, they decided to hang out. “My first time drinking and using drugs happened simultaneously that night. The guys were housesitting for their boss. They had some cocaine and some alcohol. I had never done either of those things. I was with a friend that I just started hanging out with, and she was pretty [popular]. I just wanted to hang out with them and be cool. I thought, I’m already 17. I’ll just try this. It is no big deal. That happened to be the same day I lost my virginity. It was a big night!” Lisa chuckles, and tells me she wasn’t really into the cocaine; it didn’t do anything for her. However, she really liked the cuter friend, and wanted to impress him. So the next time they hung out, when the group wanted more cocaine but couldn’t figure out where to get it, Lisa stepped in. She knew that her brother and sister-in-law did drugs, she asked them to hook her up. “My sister-in-law gave me what I thought was cocaine. What I didn’t realize was that she got us crystal meth instead. I knew the second I tried a little bit that it was different from the cocaine we had before, because my nose was burning off and I laid awake in bed for like two days afterwards.”

Before long, Lisa was seeking out meth. “It just made me feel like I had energy and I could get stuff done. I felt like it kept me on a constant up, like I was winning. It made me popular. I could bring it out and all my friends would want to do it.” She soon learned that her sister-in-law’s supplier was in the family as well: the husband of her oldest sister. She started buying from him, and when she couldn’t get it from him, she would go to the corner of University and Eulcid. “We called it The Corner. These were rough people. They were all bikers. There was some scary shit going on in those days” — the early ‘80s. “I was involved with so many people I never ever would’ve talked to normally. I would just walk up as myself, this pretty girl, definitely in the wrong place. It was not a big deal to me, though. I was never afraid of anyone or anything. But I probably should’ve been.”

Eventually, Lisa learned that all her siblings except for her younger sister were fellow users. The Weber siblings shared their drugs and helped each other score bags when they could. “Having it be a big part of my family was hard, because it’s something that has been a constant in my life for so long. I mean, the neighbor across the street from the house I grew up in had a meth lab in his backyard, and it ended up killing all of our other neighbor’s plants,” Here, her chuckle becomes a proper laugh.

Progression

“I made some decisions early on in regards to my use, and I’ve stuck with them all these years,” says Lisa. “Number one, I was never going to inject it. Number two, I was never going to smoke it. Number three, I would never do anything more serious than meth. That means no heroin. I mean, I have never even done quaaludes or mushrooms. Meth is where I drew the line. I know my lines were very arbitrary, but I have never stepped over those lines. Never.” But while she may have been successful in controlling kinds of drugs and modes of consumption, she was less so when it came to quantity consumed. “My mom died when I was 19, and after that, my use really ramped up. I felt like it was a problem a lot, but at the same time, I wasn’t willing to come to grips with it. I wasn’t willing to do anything about it.”

Lisa explains all this to me as we sit in her husband’s oversized work truck in the parking lot of a Bruegger’s Bagels in PB. She is wearing a tie-dyed shirt and faded Levi’s. I’m about to ask her more about the progression of her addiction when I realize that I left my purse hanging on a chair inside Bruegger’s. I dash back to retrieve it, and when I return, Lisa is laughing at me. “Are you sure you’re not the one with a drug problem?” she asks with a cackle. “Because I have never and would never forget my purse anywhere.” It’s true. Lisa may be the most organized drug addict in the world. But then, she has had to be, in order to get away with her addiction for so long. “I wasn’t really worried people would find me out,” she says. “I’m smart. I mean, you can get away with doing this for as long as you want, as long as you’re not an idiot. Just don’t be obvious! I think I was a little bit more moderate than other people with it. It helped that I never progressed further — into smoking it or injecting it.” Still, there have been spikes besides the one after her mother’s death — in her use of both meth and alcohol. Many came when she was young. But one came during the covid lockdown, when she was stuck at home and bored out of her mind.

She also used a lot when she was starting out in her career. At 19, Lisa went to work for an ad agency. She was quickly promoted. A book publishing company took note of her success and hired her on at higher pay. “I used [meth] that whole time. I justified it by calling it ‘My cup of coffee.’ I don’t drink coffee, so meth was my pick me up.” Lisa believed that if she kept her job, paid her bills, and get to work on time every morning, then her meth use was not a problem. “I would use some before I went to work. I would use some in the bathroom at work. And then I would use a couple of more times throughout my day.” It didn’t help that everyone at the book publishing company drank. At lunch, she and her coworkers regularly ordered several drinks. But, she found, “when I had a drink, I’d have to do more meth, because I didn’t want to feel sluggish. It really became a cycle of using alcohol and meth together.”

Lisa routinely bought $25 bags of meth. Soon, those bags were lasting only a few days. She estimates that in those early days, she spent around $100 a week on her meth addiction. As she got older, she factored in her meth costs with her family budget alongside groceries and gas. “I am not the type to get my hair and nails done, or buy a lot of clothes and expensive purses, so I justified spending on meth that way,” Lisa says matter-of-factly. And buying was simple, because her dealer was still in her family. “When I worked for the book publisher, my main supplier was my older sister. On my lunch hours, I would run over to her house and run back. It was convenient.” But it was also starting to damage the family. “I had a couple of family members that meth fucked up pretty good. They couldn’t keep jobs. They would steal from the family. My dad found out what we were all up to, and that my sister was supplying us. He approached her and was like, ‘You are killing my family!’ You know what she told him? She said, ‘They are going to get it somehow anyway.’” Lisa shakes her head, not laughing now. Her two older brothers struggled for years with their addictions. They both eventually moved out of state to get away from the meth scene in San Diego. “My older brother Paul (not his real name) and I were the only ones who weren’t stupid about our drug use.” Paul worked for a local radio station for 25 years, and just recently retired. He used meth off and on throughout his career. His wife died from her meth use while in her forties.

As for Weber’s older sister, the family dealer, she got arrested multiple times, mostly for possession. “She’s a fucking idiot. If you are carrying big bags of drugs, don’t drive up Lake Murray Boulevard, speeding, with an out-of-date registration. When you are an addict, everything needs to be legit. Your license can’t be expired, you cannot speed, and your registration needs to be up to date or they can search the car. Well, [my sister’s] registration was bad, of course, so they searched her whole car and found a big sack. The rest was history!” Now Lisa is laughing again. “You are not going to believe this, but when I took her to her court hearing for that, she had this huge fucking purse that was just jam-packed, a total tweaker purse! When they put it through the x-ray machine, they pulled out a pot pipe — at the fucking courthouse! I just looked at her and said, ‘What the fuck is wrong with you?’ It’s like she was raised by wolves. She is the one child in our family who is so different from the rest of us, and so fucking stupid. She ruined Easter for our family when she turned 14 by going to jail! She said she was going to a movie with a friend, but she went out with boys and got picked up with a bunch of uppers in her pocket.” Weber prefers to find humor in all the dysfunction: “I mean in my family, I have to step over the funny, so I don’t trip on it. Every day!” When the sister ended up having to do jail time for possession, Lisa took custody of her two preteen daughters. At the time, she was 30, still using meth and teetering on the edge of alcoholism. But despite battling those demons, she offered the girls more stability then their mom could, and they flourished under her care.

Her care was fueled by meth. “From 1995-97, I was into meth heavier than at any other time in my life. I felt I really needed it to be up and able to do stuff for the girls. I moved into my sister’s house. I changed everything while I was there. Her house looked like what you would imagine a tweaker’s house looks like: laundry piled everywhere, and just shit everywhere. The girls and I donated like 50 bags of clothes, because my sister would just go buy new stuff instead of doing laundry.” For a time, Lisa even took over her sister’s drug dealing business. “People kept coming to the house looking for drugs, so I was dealing for a little bit.”

When her sister got out of jail, they all lived together. Part of the probation was a daily drug test. Lisa was amazed when her sister kept passing her drug tests, until one day, one of her nieces came to her and said, “Mom keeps making me pee in a cup every morning for her.” Lisa was furious. Not long after, her sister met a man online; the man lived in Pennsylvania. The sister moved out state, but the girls refused to go with her, and for a long time, Lisa took care of them. Eventually, however, they ended up moving to Pennsylvania, and a few years later, Lisa’s niece began doing and dealing meth herself. When the niece became an adult, she moved back to San Diego, and later become Lisa’s regular meth dealer.

“Quitting”

At the age of 33, Lisa quit doing meth after meeting the man who would become her husband. “The first day we met, he told me that he was anti-meth. He didn’t know I did it, but it came up because that night; we talked about everything for hours. I really wanted to go out with him again, so I decided that night to quit. Well of course, before our next date, I went out and got really drunk. It was bad — bad enough that my dad had to come pick me up from my friend’s house and take me to the emergency room. But you know what? The next night, I still made my date with Ted.” Two years later, they married.

Ted is a recovering alcoholic. He has not imbibed once since they have been together. For her part, Lisa would stop using meth from time to time, but never fully quit until she became pregnant with their first child. “There have been two periods of time where I have stopped. I stopped both times I was pregnant and nursing. The first time, I did a line while I was still nursing my youngest son, and I stopped nursing. I was done. That was not a line I was willing to cross. For five years, I stopped doing meth: when I was pregnant with my oldest and during the 2 ½ years that I nursed him, and also while pregnant and nursing my youngest. But after all those years, I started right back up again! It has continued off and on until this last Christmas.”

Close calls and

getting caught

Lisa has had many close calls, times when her meth addiction has nearly come out. One time, she asked her dealer to drop by in the middle of the night and leave a bag of meth in her car’s gas tank. She retrieved it first thing in the morning. Later, a neighbor who lived across the street asked, “What was going on with that car last night? Someone left something white inside your gas tank.” Lisa remained calm and acted dumb. She went over to the car and opened the gas tank. “I don’t know,” she shrugged. “There is nothing in there now.” The conversation ended, and the neighbor never mentioned it again. Another time, while working as a real estate agent, Lisa dropped her bag of meth in the bathroom. It was inside an envelope. The homeowner handed it to her and said, “You left this in my bathroom.” She thanked him and shoved the envelope deep inside her purse. Once more, it was never mentioned again. A few years back, Lisa traveled to Texas on girl’s trip with a friend to visit her godmother. She decided not to bring meth; she wanted to get clean. A few days in, she realized she couldn’t handle it: she was exhausted and crabby. So she called her niece and asked is she could overnight some meth. Her niece stuck it inside a greeting card, put the godmother’s address on the envelope, and shipped it, care of Lisa. The letter never came. When Lisa tried to track it, she found it was held up at a United States Postal sorting center. Then she started receiving phone calls from numbers with only five digits. Though she suspected the callers were feds, she decided to answer. The caller asked her a series of questions about her godmother. Again, Lisa played dumb; again, nothing happened.

One reason she was able to hide her addiction was that her friends were drinkers. “Ted and I were really involved at our church, and all of our church friends were huge drinkers. It was socially acceptable. Every time we hung out at our friend’s house for backyard barbeques, pool parties, camping, you name it, everyone was drinking — everyone-except for Ted. And not just casually drinking; they were getting lit, with their kids there and everything.” Lisa’s tone indicates her displeasure.

However, there were two occasions when Lisa was found out; the times when Ted found her stash. The first time, he was devastated. He had no idea that Lisa was doing meth. The family was on a ski trip to Park City, Utah. Lisa had brought some meth to help get her through it; her oldest was four and her youngest was one and a half. “I went outside with the kids to build a snowman,” she recalls. “The meth had been in my bra, but I was sweating, and I did not want to bring it outside with me. I zipped it into a secret compartment in my new ski jacket. Ted picked it up to hang it in the closet. He was looking at how nice it was and checking out all the features when he discovered the secret pocket and unzipped it. He found it then.”

Later that evening, Ted confronted Lisa. They stayed up all night, talking and crying. Ted felt deceived, and Lisa was ashamed — but not ashamed enough to give it up. “Here is where it gets bad,” Lisa tells me, leaning in and resting her chin in the palm of her hand. “One of Ted’s friends came with us, so I was doing all the work: cleaning, cooking, taking care of the kids. I was putting the kids in their snow clothes every morning and trying to get them up the mountain. You don’t know what hell is until you enroll toddlers in ski school. So, the next morning after he found the meth, he wanted to go out skiing with his friend. I was like, ‘I can’t do everything here with the kids and not have your help and not have my meth.’ So, he gave the bag back to me, so that he could go skiing with his friend.” Seeing the shocked look on my face, Lisa quickly adds, “I think he was resigned to the fact that I really needed it.”

After that, Ted was suspicious for a time. However, “he just trusted me. He would ask me periodically if I was using, and I would lie and say no. I think he had his suspicions, but I don’t know that for a fact. I mean, I was up until all hours in the evenings, and then I was also the first one popping up in the mornings. It became pretty obvious. Also, he busted my niece with it at our house. He knew she was bad news, and that I kept hanging out with her. But it wasn’t until 18 years later that he caught me again. I was very sneaky.” Then, in September of last year, Lisa bought her brother Paul $200 worth of meth. He was moving to Idaho. She didn’t want him to have to struggle trying to find meth in a new city. She placed the drugs in a brand-new purse that a friend had made for her. Just as he had done 18 years earlier, Ted started admiring her new acquisition. He picked up the purse and studied it. He unzipped all the pockets, to check out the craftsmanship. Inside one pocket, he found two bags of meth. He took them and did not say a word. “Paul and I were of course freaking out” over the missing meth, recalls Lisa. “We blamed Peter, Paul’s son, because he likes to always help himself to other people’s drugs.” Her tone is annoyed as she tells the story.

At Christmastime, Lisa and the family headed to Washington to visit Ted’s mom. Before the visit, Ted confronted her. “Ted came to me and said, ‘I know you are using again. Don’t even deny it.’ And then he said, ‘I’m not going to give up on you. I’m just not. You are too smart, and I know you can beat this.’” His words made her feel worse than if he had yelled and screamed. She knew he was right.

Her guilt prompted her to come clean to her sons about her meth addiction. They took it hard. They felt betrayed. Lisa recalls, “I often told the boys never to do meth. So when I told my oldest son about my addiction, he said, ‘You have no idea how devastating it is to hear you tell me that meth is a death sentence and you are doing it. Please promise me that you will never do that again!’ I knew enough was enough. When we went up to visit my mother-in-law for Christmas, I didn’t take any meth with me. And when we came home from Christmas, that is when I started on my recovery.”

Quitting

Unfortunately, “I exchanged [meth] for drinking. When you do [meth], you can drink, and you aren’t affected as much because one is an upper and the other a downer. Once I wasn’t doing any drugs, I was getting really drunk every day. It was sad. I decided I wasn’t going to swap one thing out for another. I had to just drop everything. At the exact same time I gave it all up, I got covid. That gave me a reason to stop. I stayed in bed for five days. My whole mind was fucked. The hardest part lasted almost two weeks. I told myself, ‘This is bullshit; I am not going to die from [my addictions].’ My mom died when she was 58. I am 55 now. I have this fear of leaving my kids behind. I don’t want to do that to them.” Lisa is near tears as she says this.

She started attending NA meetings at a park near her home. But, she says, she used the word “fuck” when retelling a story relating to her addiction, and the group took a vote at the end of the meeting and decided that foul language was not to be used. “They gave me a 30 day sobriety coin at that meeting. I tossed it right back at them over my shoulder and flipped them off and told them to fuck off when I left. I found an AA meeting near the beach. I knew right away I was home when I found that one. It’s AA, but they are all drug addicts, too. They just get me.”

She says that she has not gone back to meth since then, but the drinking has proven more difficult to stop. “I started going to AA meetings regularly, but I was still drinking afterwards, which wasn’t cool. Ted was very patient. He would say, ‘You know, I really think you are drinking way too much.’ I would of course respond with, ‘I am not drunk!’ My kids were hiding my liquor bottles when they found them. And they would find them all over the place. My oldest even bought a breathalyzer and would test me every day. I don’t blame them. I have proven myself to be an untrustworthy liar.”

On February 2nd , Ted received his 29-year sobriety coin from AA. Perhaps feeling overwhelmed, Lisa commemorated his success by getting tanked. “For some reason, I can’t explain it, I just got ripped out of my mind that day. My son came home from school and I was literally passed out. I just felt so bad and so shitty. So I promised that I was going to try to quit again. I got 30 days, and then I was like, ‘You know, I don’t want to stop drinking forever. I want to be able to have one drink and be fine, like a normal person.’ I fell off again one more time really bad, but now I am just at point where I am staying busy. I am not really going to the meetings, though. I need to get back. I am sure they are worried about me. I’ll have to start my recovery all over again. But I am working and doing other stuff, so it’s not as tempting.”

When I ask Lisa what “starting her recovery over again” looks like, she pauses for a second before answering. “I need come to grips with everything I let slip while I was using. For instance, I am years behind on our taxes. Years! This is a new era, where I am facing up to the things I let pile up and happen because of my addiction, and now I am moving forward.”

She says that the biggest hurdle in moving forward are the regrets she carries. “I regret that I lied to my husband, especially because when we first started dating, he told me that he absolutely did not want any involvement with meth in his life. The second regret is all the money I have spent and all the time I have wasted! It takes a lot of time, trying to chase drugs. Phone calls trying to find it, driving around trying to find it. And then, when you do find it, you can’t just pop in and out, because that looks too suspicious. You have to stick around for a while, and sticking around in those kinds of places is no bueno.”

She is adamant that this time around, her recovery will stick. “My parents raised me to believe there is nothing I can’t do, and I do have my faith. I believe in God. I believe he watches out for me. I think even though I have had some problems, I am a good person. I am a good person with a problem. I am going to eventually get rid of this problem, and then everything is going to be okay.”

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