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Brian kept up his research while working nine-hour days as a stockbroker in Winston-Salem, N.C. He earned a comfortable salary but wasn't fulfilled. So he started taking courses in psychology after work at Wake Forest. One day, his professor told him he should consider a career in the mental health profession. He had a knack for empathizing. Maybe he could help those in need.
A year later, he turned in his tie for a stack of books and enrolled in Appalachian State University's counseling program in addiction studies.
Paul couldn't stop crying at work. He didn't know how to get over his broken engagement. His emotions were raging. He'd already been arrested and released on his own recognizance for assault and battery after he punched a guy in the face and wrestled another guy to the pavement. The two guys had flicked him off at a stoplight.So he decided to get out of the house more and try to have a good time. One of his co-workers, a fellow security guard, had given him a bump of meth to get through a long work shift. That turned out to be the start of a meth binge that allowed him to party and work for four days straight - without any sleep. He usually smoked a quarter-gram per weekend, a half, tops. Sixty bucks per binge. That was nothing.
But then it got worse. Within weeks, he found he'd trade anything for an ounce - 28 grams - of speed. Handguns, DVD players, other drugs. He started consuming eight balls of meth (about 3.5 grams) every weekend. He met a girl who taught him to inject it. The instantaneous rush jolted him.
But the long binges caught up with him. In March 2003, he sent the wrong security guard to an event in Maryland. The guard was only licensed to patrol in Virginia. Paul was canned.
That night he went on a long binge. He tweaked every day until he ran out of meth.
In August 2003, Paul heard a knock. He put his dog away and opened the door. Two policemen tackled him. A woman from downstairs had called a crime hotline to report him. The woman's daughter had smoked pot with Paul, and the woman said he was selling drugs. Paul said he was just smoking his own stash. The police found a roach in the ashtray and a homemade gravity bong. They got a warrant. They found an eighth of an ounce of weed and arrested him for marijuana possession.
A day later, he posted the $500 bond. He'd been evicted from his apartment, so he moved in with his grandmother. Soon he started to get restless, needed a change of venue. He had friends in Atlanta. But he couldn't leave until his court hearing. In November, he pleaded guilty to the marijuana charge and left on a bus that afternoon.
For the first four months, Paul didn't touch meth. He got a job at a company that set up convention booths at the Georgia World Congress Center. He stayed clean.
Then he met a friend who knew a bunch of users. He went with his friend to a house off Cheshire Bridge Road and ended up tweaking for four days.
His contact list grew. He met a bunch of gay kids who had a plethora of meth. The kids would book several hotel rooms for a couple of nights and tweak in them. Then they'd switch hotels and repeat the routine. Paul did meth 24/7. He went through a gram - with a street value of $80 to $225 - a day.
In May 2004, his partying was cut short.
He was staying at a hotel off North Druid Hills Road. While he was in the shower, a girl he'd been tweaking with started knocking on every hotel room door, looking for him. Management walked in as Paul was getting dressed. They threatened to call the cops. He grabbed his two bags and bolted. His cell phone had been disconnected the day before. He had no means of contacting his friend, who'd left the hotel room to score more meth. He sat on the side of the road for a couple of hours. It got dark. He walked over to an apartment complex where he'd visited a friend the night before. He was tweaked out of his mind. He was sweating and couldn't stop moving. He'd been told by a maintenance man to leave the property. He left, then returned. He soon got tired of carrying his yellow bag and put it by a picnic table. He kept his black bag with him.