Longform

Fighting Fire With Fire

Page 7 of 7

He got his first treatment at Murray Hill in February 2007.

"I woke up the next morning, and I knew what they'd done had fixed it because I had no urge, no craving," he says. His wife doubted his endorsement, but when he returned home and was able to spend time with her and her friends while they smoked meth without any desire to do it himself, she decided to do the protocol too.

Now, 18 months later, they attend regular Narcotics Anonymous meetings. "I'd do NA and couldn't get through a week, then I did Prometa and was there every day for a year," he says. The couple has since started a recovery group at their church. Cook is back to work at his vehicle repair business, his wife works at a nursing home, and they abandoned their divorce, remodeled their house and brought their children back home to live with them.

Steve and Cook have been clean for more than a year and Michlin almost six months, but to Adinoff, the jury is still out. Even at a year of sobriety, he says, addicts remain at risk. He fears that if Prometa turns out to be a sham, the disappointment could compromise the hard-won progress scientists have made in convincing people that addiction is not a personal failing but a biological condition that requires medical treatment.

"We'll come out with something really great," he says. "And people will say, 'Oh yeah, right, we've heard that before.'"

Yet Steve believes that without the medical component of the Prometa program, he would have been ripe for another relapse, unable to focus on therapy and learning to deal with day-to-day life without the old crutch. "For me," he says, "getting free of those thoughts firing all day, that was the key."

To scientists like Adinoff, Steve's 180 could have been the result of a placebo effect or sheer determination, considering that he was about to lose his family. But for Steve, whatever the explanation, life after Prometa has been radically different.

The last vacation he took before getting clean was a golf trip to Arizona. Unconcerned about drug-sniffing dogs or jail, he walked through airport security with a baggie of crystal meth tucked into his pocket.

Steve's recent family vacation was an experience he couldn't have imagined back then. As he and his wife got ready to leave the house in late July, she handed him a box. "Would you mind taking this test for me?" she said.

"Sure," he replied. Unlike two years ago, he doesn't resent her vigilance. Her random drug testing is just another safeguard against The Addict's clutches. There's nothing to hide, no drug escapes to plan, no shame.

Lounging on the beach and gazing out at the Atlantic, he's able to focus on his wife and children without being consumed by something else.

"Before, I'd be in the room with my kids while they were coloring, but now I'm talking with them, praising what they're doing, participating with them," he says. The days of covert drug deals seem almost like a bad dream. "Looking back, it seems so stupid—it's so great not to have to worry about all that, to be able to just hang out with everybody."

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Megan Feldman
Contact: Megan Feldman