After my second bad trip I was badly shaken. I would spend many moments in frantic tears, mourning the innocence of my childhood, the regrets of all my lies, the fractured relationship with my parents, the tattered remains of my relationship with my girlfriend Harmony, and all the missed moments to simply love and be loved. I wanted to flee from drug usage and never turn back. I wanted to become sober and remain that way for the rest of my waking life.
The words of Fuel’s “Shimmer” blared on the radio in the Fall of 1998. The end of the chorus spoke the lyrics; “All that shimmers in this world is sure to fade, away again”.
Every addict has sobering moments. Chris Farley of the great era of SNL in the early nineties played a lesser-known character that would always say he was going to get sober, and then inevitably would get drunk or high again. This is a clip of that skit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sSnkqpVSBY. This depicted the inconsistency of “sobering moments”. Drug addicts seem to have no perception of what “rock bottom” really is. One could ride the edge of insanity, end up near death or in prison, and still crave the feeling of being high or drunk. It’s a deeply ingrained mentality and a way of life. Addicts truly deceive themselves into thinking that they’re not hurting anyone but them. They don’t realize that they’re shattering the lives of everyone who loves and cares for them because of their self-destruction. What they’re doing resembles suicidal behavior, because they truly begin to think that they are worthless. “No one will miss me if I overdose or die.” A drug addict will reason. “I might as well stay high to avoid the pain.”
I was a true addict.
Two weeks into my stint with complete sobriety, I was sitting at Arabica coffee house in Hudson, Ohio, having a cigarette and drinking a coffee. My girlfriend Harmony showed up to meet with me. I was happy to see her. Things were going better between us since I had been sober. I looked into her eyes and noticed something this particular day.
“Harmony, your eyes look red.” I said to her.
“Ummm, yeah whatever.” Harmony responded. She was never good at keeping things from me.
“Harmony did you just smoke weed?”
“Well yeah I did Ben…”
We got into a huge fight. I told her that I was going to go and get high again, and it was her fault. It would never take long for me to find a friend to pull me back down the hole. I tracked down an acquaintance, Clint Thorusen, who had a bunch of weed on him. He smoked a couple of pipes full with me, and I was back. Stoner Benny lived on.
A couple weeks before, after my traumatic experience on magic mushrooms, I had asked Harmony to stay sober with me, and she had reluctantly agreed. Obviously she wasn’t ready to stay sober. I obviously wasn’t either. It wasn’t even fair of me to expect her to keep a promise to me, because I had lied my teeth off to her for our entire relationship.
Rewind back 5 months into April of 1998…
Harmony was always afraid of my LSD use, so after my first few trips and trying to pressure her into taking it, she made me promise her that I would never do it again. I lied to her and agreed.
In the months that followed, I did LSD once or twice a week. I never told Harmony about it. When she would notice that I was acting stranger than usual, I would just tell her that I had smoked some really strong pot. There were a few times that she asked me if I was tripping. I would just lie to her face. Drugs make a person a more effective liar sometimes, especially the harder drugs, because they sear your conscience like a hot iron. But even the most effective liars eventually get found out, “for there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” (Luke 8:17)
One night I took some LSD, and went to a party at Dana Smith’s house, where Harmony was. At this time, I was always seeing how far I could ride the edge of this lie I was keeping up with. This particular night I don’t even remember, but I know that I was acting completely out of my head, and it was obvious that it was more than alcohol or THC floating in my skull. Harmony got really angry with me for the way I was acting.
The next memory I have is being at home, coming off of my trip. I called Dana’s number at about 2:30am. Her parents’ were out of town and Harmony was staying there for the night. These were the days before cell phones as well, so people only had land-lines. Dana answered the phone and put Harmony on. I was welling up with guilt as I tried to find the courage for what I was about to admit. Harmony got on the phone, “What the **** do you want?” She barked at me. “Ummmm, how are you doing?” I sheepishly responded.
“Look Ben, if you don’t have something really important to say to me, I’m getting off of the phone.” She replied angrily.
“I’ve got something to tell you Harmony. Just please don’t hang up on me.”
I then admitted that I was currently on LSD, and had been dropping acid regularly for the past few months. Harmony completely flipped out on me. Our trust had been broken. She kept hanging up on me as I tried to reason with her in my psychedelic stupor. At one point, she finally hung up and I kept calling back, only to get a busy tone. (these don’t exist anymore either, but used to be the sound you’d hear when someone left their phone off of the hook!)
At this time, I was an impulsive drug user and liar. I was also an impulsive romantic.
I snuck out of my house at 3:30 am, tripping on acid, and began what would be a 2-mile long run across town to where Dana’s house was. I may have been sixteen years old for almost a whole year, but I didn’t yet have my license because I was a lazy pot-head. I couldn’t drive, so I jogged across town.
There I was, a long-haired hippie kid, high out of his mind, jogging 2 miles across town, jumping behind bushes and trees when a car would pass by, afraid that the cops would catch me past curfew. The drug made this trek seem like a surreal nightmare. Every shadow that I passed by seemed like a monster, and every street lamp a neon, celestial galaxy vortex that could suck me in at any moment. I was determined to make it to Dana’s house and talk to Harmony.
I finally arrived and knocked on the door. Harmony came outside. She was stoned and drunk. I was still on acid. We tried to talk things out and they got progressively worse. As the sun began to creep up on the suburban Ohio horizon, we broke up.
Yet it wasn’t long before Harmony and I got back together after that.
Fast-forward a few months into the fall of 1998. After my stint with sobriety, I had fallen back into doing drugs again. Harmony and I were still together, but things were rockier than ever.
One night, as I was coming off of some combination of various poisons, I received a call from Harmony.
“Hey Ben!” She said rather enthusiastically.
“What’s up crazy girl.” I responded in a stupor. “Crazy girl” was a nickname I always used for her.
Harmony went on to explain to me that she had gotten drunk and fallen asleep next to this guy the night before, his name was James Sooner. He was an angry, muscular dude. She assured me that she hadn’t kissed him or anything. I couldn’t believe it. We got into the biggest fight ever, and broke up for what seemed like the last time.
It was the Fall of my Senior Year of High School. At this time, I was sure that Harmony and I would never break up. She was my closest friend and I had hopes that we would be together to the end. Breaking up with her sent me into an uncontrollable depression. I would spend nights sobbing my eyes out and trying to get high enough to forget the pain. I wrote songs and poems about her, declaring that I hated her and never wanted to speak to her again.
When an emotionally traumatic event occurs in an addict’s life, it triggers a greater dependence on their drug and alcohol habit to cope with it. Breaking up with Harmony would send me into a more severe era of drug abuse than ever before.