Greg thought he was in control of his life.
He was a husband and father who earned a very good wage - enough to allow him to spend $200-300 a week on cocaine. He always had money to afford alcohol.But what started out as "social" snorting and drinking had become major addictions. When he lost his job - "a shock to my system in terms of what was going on because I thought I was in control" - he knew he needed help.
For the short-term withdrawal, Greg went to a treatment center. But maintaining his sobriety, he said, is a lifetime project, and for that he has turned to Cocaine Anonymous. "I have to live my life in a way where using is not an option," he said.
Cocaine Anonymous was founded two years ago in Utah - three years after it was founded nationally. There are 10 chapters between Ogden and Provo, and there are meetings every single day.
Based on the principles proven successful in Alcoholics Anonymous, the group is not preventive in nature. It is, rather, for the recovering cocaine addict. The non-profit organization's funding is generated through collection of a small fee and allows individuals in distress or who are ready to battle their addiction to talk with others who have been in the same place.
"Prevention is not the issue. Cocaine is used - in great abundance - throughout the valley," Greg said during a press conference to introduce the media to the organization. "We aren't trying to impact the social cocaine user, the one who can take it or leave it. We are interested in impacting the addict, the one who can't stop using the drug."
Phil, another member of Cocaine Anonymous, started out like Greg as a social drinker and cocaine user. But after 17 years of closing the door to his office every day so he could have a "jolt" (at 15-minute intervals toward the end), he discovered the addict's truth: "It gets away from people without them even knowing it. Cocaine is the only drug that affects the `happy' center like alcohol. Because of the euphoric state and delusion, coming off is very hard."
The drug is available all over the valley, he said, adding that someone who knows what to look for can watch other people and find ways to get the drug in very little time. And visualization of the addicts as worn-out "losers" doesn't hold up with cocaine. Those addicts are "the neighbor lady in Layton, and the doctor and lawyer who make a lot of money."
Both men have been drug and alcohol free for nearly two years. They know that staying free will require lifelong vigilance.
"An addict won't react to get help until he realizes his life is threatened (by cocaine)," Greg said.
According to Phil, the physical addiction can be overcome in as little as 30 days. But even two years later, an addict can wake up in the middle of the night in a cocaine-delusional state - as if the brain's "happy center" is recalling a high. It takes 18 months to even understand that you were truly addicted. After that, it's a matter of staying off the drug.
"It's a big lifestyle change," Greg said. "It changes the people you've associated with, the places you used to go, the things you used to do."
To help cocaine addicts, the group has put in a hotline/answering service. Anyone calling 488-2151 will be told about the meeting schedule and put in contact with recovering addicts. Because the group is anonymous, members go by their first names only.