Shakin Like a Leif

Kicking smack with Leif Garrett

Waismann claims the Institute has a 65 percent success rate after one year. "But as opposed to Narcotics or Alcoholics Anonymous, which require total abstinence from all mind-altering substances, when we say 65 percent success, we mean 'opiate-free.' Leif can have a beer three days after the treatment. He can smoke pot once in a while. He can do anything I can do. But because he will no longer crave opiates, he will no longer be a slave."

The interview over, Waismann excuses herself. "I really need a cigarette," she says.

The TV cameras are off and the moment of his treatment is impending, and Garrett is getting simultaneously quieter and more talkative. "I'm kinda nervous," he confides. "For one thing, I hate needles. I'm really afraid of needles." The heroin addict chuckles at what seems like hypodermic irony. "See, but I only smoked it," he says.

Looking around the room at the crowd of people watching him, considering the audiences that will view what has just been videotaped, Garrett seems struck by the sad collision of his professional aspirations and his personal addiction. He realizes that just about the only time he gets media attention anymore is when he is in some kind of drug trouble.

"I'm sure there are people out there who have doubts about my sincerity or my chances of making it," Garrett says. "I'm sure they think, 'He's doing this just for the media or to get his name clear.' That's okay. The most important thing is how I deal with it and what I do with it and my own health and whatnot, you know?

"When I did Behind the Music, I was clean. I was pretty much toughing it out. I would occasionally go to [Narcotics Anonymous] meetings, but not really. I was cold-turkeying myself, but that's the toughest thing in the world. And then I had a loss in my life—my girlfriend of five years died of a heart problem, non-drug-related—and that was just sort of an excuse, if you will, not that there's ever an excuse, but it was something that sent me over the edge."

And then all visitors are told they must leave the room. About 15 minutes later, the guy from Entertainment Tonight decides he needs one more visual for his story: videotape of Garrett undergoing the detox, stretched out in bed, his veins detouring into tubes, his vital signs monitored by machinery. Somebody takes this request inside to Garrett, who says no.

"He's worried about the Internet," comes the relayed reply. "He's worried that an image like that will end up everywhere, that it will follow him the rest of his life. He's worried that he's already gone too far."

Three days later, Garrett is on the phone, calling from home. "I feel great, man," he says energetically. "I can guarantee you, in all honesty, I'll never go back to heroin again." He has taken his daily opiate-blocking pill, as well as a few others to deal with conditions ranging from anxiety to nausea. He'll begin once-a-week counseling soon.

Meanwhile, Garrett can't stop thinking about his first semiconscious thoughts as he was coming out of the operating room, emerging from sedation after the six-hour detox.

"I dreamed I was doing a concert, that I had collapsed onstage and that I was being carried off on a stretcher," Garrett recalls. "It was scary. It seemed so real. But it turned out I was being wheeled through the hospital on my way to my private room. During the next few hours, I got my bearings—and I was so grateful it was only a dream."

Or, he allows, maybe a subconscious warning. "This has been about a six-year run for me," Garrett says. "At times, I got to the point where I thought this was the way it was going to be for the rest of my life. I wanted to stop, but I couldn't stand the horrible pain of withdrawal and that bad downtime that always seems to come after that. For some reason, so far, I don't really have that."

Garrett is mindful that others with heroin addictions—and he mentions friends of his such as actor Robert Downey Jr. and Stone Temple Pilots front man Scott Weiland—have had so many relapses that they've nearly run out of legal options. "That's one of the reasons I'm talking about this," he says. "I want them to get through it. But the only reason I did it is that I don't want to live that way anymore. Sure, there could be a potential chance of wanting to do it again, possibly, at some point, but I have absolutely no craving whatsoever. It's like night and day.

"As far as drinking a glass of wine with dinner, I couldn't make that promise, nor would I want to. But it's something I want to stay away from for a while. I need to be clear for a while. I may never use it again. I don't think anybody can say, 'Never, ever again.' I'd like to say it and mean it. I could say it to you now and mean it, but who knows what's gonna happen and how I might feel sometime down the line? I mean, you really can't predict anything."

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