Scabies Helped Me Quit Weed
People don’t change, my friend told me once. I’d been complaining about my job and my lack of a boyfriend, and wondering aloud what I could do differently life-wise. She didn’t buy it. I was working at a nonprofit book publishing company at the time, which covered my rent and bills but not too much else. Meanwhile, my friends found the fire to rise up in different industries or go back to school to pursue virtuous and stimulating JDs, MS.Ws, or MFAs. But I couldn’t get stoked about anything. Being gay in New York was fun but I was getting older and the only relationships I seemed to sustain were with other stoners – prematurely tired and squinty dudes, who were mostly only up for delivery and a viewing of Jurassic Park.
Years later, I thought of what she said again. I was 32 and had been smoking regularly for half my life. After a while it became evident that it was smothering me in a sense, but I didn’t know if I could stop. It took a kind of demonic possession to make me realize that I had to take my substance abuse seriously and change my habits.
One day I felt an unfamiliar pressure on the skin on my lower back. At first I could relieve it by pressing up against the back of a chair or whatever I was sitting on. Over a period of weeks it got to feel more like a heat, and then a dry scraping tickle, an itch that came and went. On a business trip in San Francisco the itch spread to my legs and bothered me when I woke up and when I tried to sleep. I went to the doctor and he couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. It got to the point where I couldn’t fall asleep until 4:00 AM or so, scratching my legs and arms until I passed out. Sometimes my skin would swell with red marks, and then they would disappear. I went back to the doctor and showed him the red patches on my elbows, knees, waist and wrists. He told me, “I’m going to treat you for scabies.”