Category Archives: The Peak of Madness

Adderall: Prescribed to Kids with ADHD, and Abused by Drug Addicts

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English: Adderall

English: Adderall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My girlfriend left town, enrolled in an all-girl boarding school in the middle of nowhere in central Pennsylvania.  It was safe to say that I wouldn’t be able to keep in regular contact with her throughout the end of winter and spring of 1999 in Hudson, Ohio (in between Akron and Cleveland).  The months leading up to her departure in late February were filled with an over-abundance of drugs.  We had been taking ecstasy every weekend, sneaking out and going to all night rave parties in the city in the middle of the night, smoking dope all day, every day, continuing daily to be fueled by Adderall– prescription speed that Jaime’s parents had prescribed her to for her supposed ADHD.  When they were available, we’d take mushrooms, or do LSD, and we did a fair share of weird designer drugs like Nexus (2CBs- a designer hallucinogen) and Special-K (horse tranquilizer).

God and conscience had been the furthest thing from our minds, as the powerful experience of the drug ecstasy rolled us into an inter-twined love affair of blindly idealistic proportions.  This drug, technically named MDMA, brought one to an emotionally open state of mind, and a willingness to love and share deep emotions.  There was no moral compass to guide this love.  It was a blind love, a feeling, a moment.  It has been said that ecstasy is used in psychotherapy to repair broken marriages.  Any drug that would release all of the serotonin in one’s brain at once could potentially lead an individual to fall in love with a chair or a rainbow.  Jaime and I were certainly good friends and attracted to each other.  Ecstasy made us feel like we were Romeo and Juliet with the whole world crumbling around us.  I would literally sneak out in the middle of the night and come to her house.  She had a balcony at outside of her bedroom at her parents’ beautiful, large home.  She would tie together bed-sheets and throw them out of the balcony.  I would climb up, we would take whatever drugs we had, and the night would go wherever we felt like.  It was an intense physical, emotional, drug-fueled relationship.  She was a sophomore and I was a senior in High School.

Ecstasy had side effects, also.  I would try to sleep after a night of being high on it, and would have nightmares where my teeth would be grinding together, and I would be weeping and witnessing an illusory world of phantoms and angry minions cackling at me.  I would literally feel at times that I was grinding my teeth to the point where there were cracking and breaking in excruciating pain.  It wasn’t until 2 years later that I would read of the end of time and hear that “the Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 13:41-42)  Much like my many horrific experiences on LSD, continued use of harder drugs plunged me into an experience of hell.  A few times, I woke up in the middle of the night after doing X, and my eyes were open, but I could not move my body.  I would begin to freak out, thinking that I was in a coma and would never awake again.  I would look around at the room and it would be hazy, though behind would lurk dark shadows that formed the faces of demons staring at me.  By some weird force of divinely inspired will, I would shake myself awake, as it would be drenched in sweat and fear.  I remember the sound in my ears resembling the feeling of sand being poured in my brain.  It was what I imagined an aneurism would feel like.  Many people talk of the euphoric and idealistic world that ecstasy creates.  Not many people talk of the after effects of this extreme drug.

Whatever idealism existed was now over for Jaime and I.  She was in Pennsylvania, given a new chance to pull her failing grades up and life together.  I was stuck, strung-out and lovesick, in Hudson, Ohio.  I had one semester of High School left.  I had scored nothing but F’s and one D for the first two quarters of my senior year of High School.  I was in the third quarter, and had nothing but F’s for grades.  In some classes, I had done so little homework and miserably failed so many quizzes and tests, that I had percentages of 20 and 15 and 38.  Mrs. Romito, our Assistant Principal, called me into her office…

“You’re on the ‘hot list’ Ben.”  She said into my beet-red, tired eyes.

“What’s the ‘hot list’?”  I apathetically replied.

“It’s a list with about seven people out of the three-hundred and eighty in the senior class who are in danger of failing twelfth grade.  Ben, if you don’t pull your grades up to at least D’s and C’s, you will not graduate High School this year.  You’ll be held back…”

I sulked in despair and despondency.

“But Ben…”  Mrs. Romito continued.  “I know that you are a bright kid.  Your record shows that you were once even in gifted programs in school.  Now what you’re doing in your personal life is not your business, but I really believe that if you pull it together, you can make it to graduation this year.”

Mrs. Romito offered me what many during this dark period of life would not have offered- hope.  I also remember being at home and talking with my Mom and Dad about this situation.  Obviously, Mrs. Romito contacted them about it.

“Look man.”  My Dad, Gary White, the once hipped-out, tripped-out 70’s musician turned successful businessman said.  “I know that you are so bright and gifted Ben!  I know you have done amazing things before!  I don’t see why you can’t do the impossible now!  Pull your grades up buddy!”

My Mom supported completely this idea.  “Yeah Ben!  I know you can do it!”  She would say.  “You’re such a smart guy!  You don’t want to be left behind and watch all of your classmates graduate without you!”

My parents also believed in me when I felt the least worthy.  So I resolved to do the seemingly impossible, and in 3 months time, I would attempt to pull 15%-40% F’s up to 70%-77% D’s and C’s.

Jaime was gone from my life for the time being.  I was filled with sorrow and withdrawal from our Candy Cane world of ecstasy fueled love the months before.  But without her, there wasn’t any point in continuing the wild party.  We would converse on the phone about our dilemma.

“Jaime, we have to get out of this crap-hole we have created.”  I said

“Yeah Ben, I know.  I’m totally going to get good grades while I’m here.”  She answered back from her rural Pennsylvanian, all-girl dorm.

“I will too Jaime.  We can help each other through this.  We’ve just got to stop getting high.  Will you stop if I stop?”

“Yes Ben.  I love you.”

“I love you too…”

Was it real love that we felt?  No…  It was infatuation that began with a heavy drug experience.  But we were leaning on each other more than ever.  We both had a chance to pull it together.

But I was still a drug addict.  By this point, I was smoking marijuana all day, every day, and doing hard drugs whenever I could.  I decided that I would just change my addiction to drugs that would make me function at a higher rate and not slow my brain down.  I didn’t want to tell Jaime, but I connected with other kids that were prescribed Adderall, a lighter form of meth-amphetamine.  I began to steadily supply myself with Adderall pills.  I resolved to not smoke pot, drink, or take hard drugs like psychedelics or Ecstasy.  I would, however, take stimulants.

This is how a day at school looked for me when this shift in habit began.

6 a.m.- wake up in a groggy haze, have a bowl of cereal or toast and then a cigarette or two.

6:30 a.m.- Brew an entire 12-cup pot of double-strength coffee.  Drink half of it at home- dark and black.

6:45 a.m.- Fill up a 6-cup thermos with the other half of the pot of coffee, say goodbye to parents.  Get in my 1988 Buick LeSabre and head to school.  Down an orange, 20 mg. pill of Adderall with a swig of coffee.  Smoke 3 more cigarettes.

7:00 a.m.- Arrive at school.  Talk to no one.  Study or read for 30 minutes before homeroom.  Let Adderall, nicotine and coffee begin to speed me up into a frenzy.

7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.- Go about my day of school in an over-stimulated, over-talkative fit of madness.  Smoke a cigarette in the bathroom in-between every period.  Participate in class and turn in homework at a more consistent rate than ever.

12:30 p.m.- Skip lunch, snort 20 mg. of a crushed up, orange Adderall pill.  Begin speeding.  Depending on sleep and food intake, potentially begin to hallucinate or get delusional.

1 p.m. to 3 p.m.- Finish day of school, speeding out of my mind and making all sorts of new friends.  Some scared of me, some finding me amusing.

3:30 p.m.- Drive home, finish the last of the pack of cigarettes that I had started that day, and open another.

4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.- Arrive home, Brew more coffee.  Snort or eat 20 more mg. of Adderall.  Smoke more cigarettes.  Begin to do homework.

9:00 p.m. – 4:00 a.m.- Snort or eat 20 more mg. of Adderall.  Do more homework, reading and studying.  Talk to Jaime at some point on the phone- telling her that I was staying clean, and hearing the same from her.  Do more homework.  Record music.  Write poetry.  Go outside and smoke.  Play music.  Do homework.  Talk out loud to myself while smoking outside in the dark.  Stare at the carpet on my floor and see demons writhing and gnawing at each other’s flesh.  Try to sleep.  No success.  Force myself to eat a couple of pretzels- they taste dry and disgusting.  Do more homework.  Smoke.  Play music.  Think about Jaime.  Try to sleep.  Cook a can of vegetable soup and force myself to eat it.  Speed wears off.  Crash into a deep oblivion.

6 a.m.- Wake up and do the same thing, with potential variances but consistent stimulant intake, again.

I was drinking 2 pots of coffee, smoking 2 packs of cigarettes, and taking between 60 and 100 milligrams of Adderall a day.  I was a speeding frenzy.  I would barely eat one and a half meals a day.  I was six-feet, zero inches tall, and weighed 160 lbs.  After doing this amount of speed for 3 months, I weighed 133 lbs.  My ribs would show through a t-shirt.  I had long hair pulled behind my ears and deep blue, skeleton-esque circles under my eyes.  Yet through all of this, there would be nights when I would literally do between 3 and 10 days of homework for all 7 of my classes in one night.  I had no study halls in school, because all my periods had to be full for me to even consider passing twelfth grade.  I was running myself ragged and crazy, with speed, caffeine and nicotine fueling me all the way.

During this time, I may have slipped up and smoked weed a couple of times.  I would always tell Jaime when it happened, and she would act disappointed.  I never told her about the speed intake, though.

Granted, Adderall was a legal, prescribed drug given to kids with ADHD.  But this stuff was speed- it had meth-amphetamine as its’ active ingredient!  When taken in higher doses, it kept my brain working functionally.  But there would be times that I was so sleep deprived, that I would begin to dream lucidly while awake.  I would look at the chalkboard in the class I was in and see skeletons made of chalk dust begin to swordfight.  One time I was deeply low on food intake and sleep, and tremendously high on Adderall.  I saw a dark purple figure before my eyes every time that I blinked that looked like a cloaked man.  The ghost of Christmas future.  The grim reaper himself- the bringer of death.  I thought that I was going to die of a heart attack and he was going to take me away.

People saw this drug as a help to society.  Most of the kids prescribed to it abused it as much as me, and were just as delusional and messed-up as I was.  When the drug would take a hold of you, it would give you such intense euphoria that chills would run all throughout your body constantly.

The end of high school neared.  My once failing grades were now all C’s, D’s, and even a B.  I was called in once again to Mrs. Romito’s office.

I scurried in to her room in a frenzied state.  My hair in a pony-tail.  My face all flushed from speed and caffeine.  My pupils dilated and eyes wide open.

“Ben…”  Mrs. Romito said.  “You made it.  You graduated.  I knew you could do it.”

Though I was a crazy, frenzied mess.  I had stayed over-stimulated enough to pull my grades together.  I wouldn’t be held back.  I would graduate High School.  Jaime did well at her school in Pennsylvania.  She got A’s and B’s.  She wanted to transfer back to Hudson High School to be with me and her friends.

But were we strong enough to begin a new chapter?  We were still addicts.  When she first arrived home she saw how skinny and dilapidated I was, and I had to admit to my speed abuse.  I would soon after quit taking speed.  But what was the summer to bring us?  We were to be released into the wild world of graduated freedom, crazy kids, smoke filled air, bright sunshine and ponds where people took drugs, drank beer and had sex.  The dark nights ahead were screaming our name as Jesus lingered, hidden behind the clouds as the prodigal son was knowingly about to squander his property in reckless living. (Luke 15:13)  It seems as if He may have known that one day His arms would be open wide, as the sick child returned in unworthy tears and grief.  Only to embrace and hold close to this tattered mess of a person in reckless, forgiving love.

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Taking Mescaline and MDMA and Playing Bad Live Music

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English: Mescaline extracted from cactus, 100%...

English: Mescaline extracted from cactus, 100% all natural. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The spring of 1999 couldn’t have had a weirder mix of popular music.  Songs like “Praise You” by Raver-style DJ “Fatboy Slim” shared billboard spots next to songs like “One” by Creed and “What it’s Like” by Everlast.  This was an era when many styles of music were converging and combining.  It was a melting pot of hip-hop, rock, hard-core, trance, dance music, jungle, heavy metal.  We were a generation on the verge of the millennium, the internet was just beginning to bring the world into one vast social network.  The globalization of culture was at hand.

In the midst of all the popular music of this era, I was a retro-rocker to the core.  If an album hadn’t endured for at least five years in the consciousness of artistic rock n’ roll culture, I probably wouldn’t get into it.  In 1999, I was listening to Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Yes, Rush, early Genesis, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, The Grateful Dead, Crosby Stills and Nash, U2, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Lenny Kravitz, Blind Melon, and more.  I had a blue case full of used cassette tapes that I was constantly popping into the tape player of my blue Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight.  Their was a consistent soundtrack in the background during all of the out of control chaos of my party lifestyle.

Woven into the fabric of the years 1998 and 1999, was participation in a retro-rock cover band called “Kaleidoscope”.  I played bass and sang both lead and background vocals in the group.  Garrett Nevin sang and played guitar, and my good buddy James played drums.  We did a great variety of old-school rock songs like “Time” by Pink Floyd, and “Yellow Ledbetter” by Pearl Jam to name a few.  There was just one problem, neither Garrett nor I could hold a tune vocally!  At this point, my vocal chords were wrecked with smoke and hard living, though I had never really had a strong voice.  Garrett didn’t have a very good voice either.  We could jam instrumentally with the best of them, but couldn’t sing.

We played a variety of safe gigs in Kaleidoscope.  Most of them were for friends that would have supported us if we had tied cats to microphones and pulled their tails.  Eventually, we landed a gig among strangers.

Garrett came to us one day, telling us some news.  “Hey guys, I got us a gig at a huge frat party at Nelson’s Ledges!”  He told us.

Nelson’s Ledges was a huge hippie hideout.  And apparently, a large group of collegiate jocks and beer drinkers had rented the place out to throw a big concert.  I don’t think I was fully aware that I was about to play the most humiliating gig of my life.

When we arrived at Nelson’s, I was with my girlfriend, Jaime.  It was very early in the summer of 1999.  I was done with high school and withdrawing from a large amount of speed that I had done all throughout the winter and spring.  Of course, because I had no intellectual or ethical grounds for abstaining, we wanted to find some sort of hard drug to take.  It was the summer after my senior year, and I still had no desire to abstain from the hard partying scene.  It’s a simple fact of God’s wisdom that “the backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.” (Proverbs 14:14)  One who wants to stray from what is right will receive a just consequence- simply that they will be handed over to the natural end of their pursuits.  God has created the world where no one can float along in an illusion of epicurean selfishness for too long.  There are consequences to all of our actions.

But Jamie and I were ignoring the consequences.  We scoped the scene at Nelson’s Ledges and effortlessly found an older hippie lady that sold us two pills of ecstasy.  She warned us; “These have a little bit of mescaline in them, so they’re going to make you trip as well as roll.”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mescaline)  I only knew that mescaline was found in the peyote cactus and used by Native American tribes to foster “vision quests”.  I had never knowingly ingested it.  Our band was about to go on in 45 minutes.  We took the pills and chased them down with swigs of water.

The next thing I knew, Kaleidoscope was playing live.  The ecstasy and mescaline started to invade my mind like a fire eating up dry brush.  I thought we were playing the best music in the entire world, as the drugs were reaching their peak.  I was tossing myself around the stage like a crazed circus clown, every wave of sound seeming to caress my ears and soul like lavender lotion.  I looked out in the crowd and they all appeared to be just like me, smiling and caught up in euphoria.  I looked over at James and Garrett, who were completely obliterated on hashish.  They seemed to be frowning and barely making it through.  I thought to myself, “man, if only they were on the wavelength I was on, they’d get it!”.

We had a set of 2 hours.  Somewhere about an hour and a half into the set, I came out of the extreme euphoria I was experiencing…

I awoke, though I had been conscious the entire time.  I looked out at the crowd and the noises from the people that once sounded like cheers and shouts of adoration, turned into booing and cussing.  This group of frat-boys were standing with their friends, in a group of about 500 people.  They were drinking ungodly amounts of beer and literally trying to jeer us off of the stage.  We finished the last thirty minutes of the set, and though I was still high out of my mind, I was in reality enough to realize the horror I was in the midst of.

Many people philosophize about the power of drugs and creativity.  It may be true that drugs open one up to the power of the weird and mysterious, and make one desire to go outside of the box in their quest for art.  But this can be done all the same if one desires to tap into the source of creativity- God Himself.  In the end, drugs destroy people’s abilities to perform at anything.  This performance was proof of that.  I was so high that I thought the entire crowd loved our band.  When I came to, they were literally trying to force us off of the stage.  Once, even Noel Redding, Jimi Hendrix’s bass player, said that Jimi was so high while on stage once, that they played through 2 songs and had to cancel the gig, because Jimi couldn’t even make it through the chords of the song.  Though the mystique of creativity and freedom has been thoroughly associated with drug culture, when it comes down to it, drugs destroy a person’s ability to create.  I can’t imagine the kind of music Jimi Hendrix would have made if he would have gotten sober, instead of choking on a pill, drug and booze filled vomit on September 18th, 1970.  This was a man that carried his guitar with him almost 8 hours a day and practiced constantly.  If he would have been off of drugs, he would have truly been an unbelievable virtuoso.  People who associate drugs with great creativity are fooling themselves.

And if I would have known then what I know now, that all the music I created after quitting drugs was ten times better than before, I may have been led to quit drugs altogether much earlier.  But I chose to buy into the lies.  I was an addict in search of the next out of control experience.  I didn’t care if I lived, died, or went to prison.  I didn’t want to stop, and I was headed for more trouble.

Doing Mushrooms at Prom

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Nathan Hale HS Prom, 1983

Nathan Hale HS Prom, 1983 (Photo credit: litlnemo)

As the year slid into the summer of 1999, I wanted my world to be freer than ever.  I had stayed sober from psychedelic and harder drugs for 3 months in order to attempt graduating high school.  I had succeeded by the skin of my teeth, and my marginal success had dumped me back into libertine freedom.  I had used self-control to avoid the humiliation of staying back a grade in my senior year and joining the class of 2000.  As soon as I accomplished what I had to, I let my inhibitions go once again.

There is no institutional moment that a typical high-school student longs for more than their senior prom.  Mine was on its’ way.  My girlfriend Jamie had been away at an all-girls school in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, for almost the entire spring semester of that year.  She was to return back to the town of Hudson, Ohio, and back into my life.  She had made a few friends during her stint at the school who were partiers, but she swore up and down that her sobriety had remained in tact.  She had only continued to smoke Camel Red Lights daily, drink coffee, and study, or so she said.  Of course, our MDMA fueled romance led me to believe what I wanted to believe- that she was completely faithful to her word and to me.  To this day, I’m unsure of details as to how many lies were flying around, but I was equally guilty of living in a fantasy world.

Jamie was to be my prom date at the senior prom of 1999.  Hudson High School was a wealthy school fueled by stinking rich, Upper-Middle class taxpayers.  We were to have our senior prom at the newly built Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland Ohio.  This should have been a dream come true for me, as my life was fueled by the inductees who did and were to line the halls…  people like Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Sting, Jim Morrison, Bono, Eddie Van Halen, Kurt Cobain and Lars Ulrich.  But by this point, drugs and their subsequent selfish pursuits had pulled me far away from pursuing the heights with playing music.  I hadn’t been in a well functioning band in years, and my efforts at making music were very secluded and personal.  I made songs for Jaime and myself instead of sharing them with my peers.  To make it worse, the rival high-school band, who went by the name “Discordant”, had become far more popular than me and my friends.  They were going to play live on the Rock Hall’s prestigious stage during our prom.  I hated them passionately for this.  Joni Mitchell, the great folk songwriter who began her career in the late sixties once wrote;

Oh the jealousy, the greed is the unraveling

It’s the unraveling

And it undoes all the joy that could be

When James, the brother of Jesus, spoke of the jealousy that was among Jesus’ early followers, he said that “where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (James 3:16), and he was speaking to people who were supposed to have known better.  I suppose in a way, I should’ve known better as well.  But just like Joni Mitchell and James the brother of Jesus collaboratively pointed out nineteen centuries apart, my jealousy was unraveling my soul and leading me down a road of bitterness and stagnant soul-eradication.

This is the downward spiral of the drug user.  One who uses drugs to cope with life becomes more and more disabled within reality.  Deep inside I hated most everyone, especially those who were “succeeding” in life, I loathed myself for my disinclined suicidal tendencies and instead of rightfully blaming myself and beginning to deal with the problems that plagued me, I blamed everyone else.  I was the victim in their cruel game.  As long as I stayed high or drunk, everything would at least seem serene.

The High School prom of Hudson High in 1999 was an amazing party that only the most privileged would have attended, relishing the memory for years beyond.  Jamie and I went and had dinner with another couple, my friend Duane and his date Kali, we attended the prom, fueled by an over-load of caffeine and nicotine.  We slow danced a few times and I sat in rage and sweaty bitterness as Discordant played through their pop rock set, complaining to Jamie about how much they were sell-outs that sucked, though inwardly I wished I was in their place.  In my mind were delusions of grandeur, the way life should have been.  Me up there on the Rock Hall stage playing solo with my back up band…  “Ben White and the Misfits of Love”, singing original tunes that made people cry and ponder the deep things of life.  Instead, I was a washed up drug addict that had barely made it out of High School, with his drug addict girlfriend who was two years younger than him.

During the “after-prom”, they had decked out the Hudson High School gymnasium with inflatable obstacle courses, games, photo booths, memories, and other joyous moments of the past four years that our entire class could share together.

Jamie and I ditched the after-prom, and headed to the backyard of my parents’ house.  It was 1 a.m. and they were asleep.  I had a half ounce of psilocybin mushrooms, and we were going to take a small dose and trip the night away.  Forget our peers.  Forget meaningful social ties.  We were wanna-be hippies and just wanted to do what we always did best; hide in a vacuum and waste our lives away.

We each took a small dose of psilocybin mushrooms and sat in my parents’ backyard, staring at the canopy of the trees above us as it merged and twisted like a kaleidoscope.  Our peers were at the all night lock-in at my High School, which was a couple of miles away from my parents’ house.  There we were, alone and tripping, the dissenters continuing their lone escapade.  We stayed up all night, most of which I don’t recall, and the morning brought in a new summer that would certainly be filled with wanton hedonism.

We had purchased these mushrooms at a large reenactment of the 1969 Woodstock concert aptly named “Hookahville” somewhere in the middle of nowhere in central Ohio.  Jamie and I had paid about $50 apiece to enter the concert for one day, even though we paid for the three day event.  We couldn’t come up with lies to stay all three days together, because we knew our parents would figure out we were both gone.

Hookahville was a wild array of hippies, and proved that even in the year 1999, the Grateful Dead’s anthem “Golden road to unlimited devotion”, written in 1967, was still being lived out;

Well everybody’s dancin’ in a ring around the sun

Nobody’s finished, we ain’t even begun.

So take off your shoes, child, and take off your hat.

Try on your wings and find out where it’s at.

This place was a huge collection of hippies.  There were people with long hair and beards that walked around in a thick haze of psychedelic craziness.  Many people were wearing tie-dyes and bell bottoms, and the air smelled of dope smoke and patchouli incense.  These were happenings where somehow the cops couldn’t come, either.  So there were literally little stands that sold balls of peanut butter and marijuana for $10 and called them “Dank Goo-Balls”.  For me at the time, I felt that I had stepped into a utopian dream, though really, it was a disturbing place full of darkness and people wandering around on an imaginary lost planet.

But being the gregarious one I was, I knew what Jamie and I had come for.  I wanted to find a bag of psilocybin mushrooms.  I literally walked around just yelling; “Shrooms!  Does anybody have shrooms?”  Even Jamie thought I was totally crazy.

A wild cat heard me.  He had black opal dilated pupils, and was thin as a rail with a huge beard, long hair, and a tall hat that belonged on the head of the Mad Hatter of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.  “Hey man, you need shrooms?”  He said, obviously tripping on them himself.  “Yeah that’d be great man.”  I responded, trying my best at the age of seventeen to appear like an experienced hippie.

That was where we scored our half ounce of mushrooms for prom.  We didn’t stick around long for Hookahville after, even though the Grateful Dead spin-off band “Ratdog” led by ex-Dead guitarist and singer Bob Weir, were on the stage, making all the hippies dance like it was the summer of love.  We needed to get back home before curfew.

Fast-forward to the day after prom, after the first dose of those shrooms had been consumed.  Jaime had to head back to her boarding school in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania to take her finals.  We had only taken a very small amount of these mushrooms, and I was left with more than three-eighths of an ounce of them to myself.  When Jaime headed back for her finals, she made me promise her something.  She pleaded with me; “Ben, please save these for me so we can do them together again.”  Of course I agreed.  But I was a drug-head with an insatiable hunger to do stupid things.  I hadn’t yet tasted the sweet honey of wisdom, the “drippings of the honeycomb sweet to the taste, such could wisdom have been to my soul; where if I had found it, there would be a future, and my hope would not be cut off.” (Prov. 24:13-14)  Instead, I was often tasting the bitter gall of sin and self-loathing.  Leaving a huge bag of mushrooms in the hands of such a young man was a bad thing to do…

The Last Bad Trip on Shrooms

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It was two days after homecoming, where my girlfriend Jamie and I had skipped out to take a light dose of the psilocybin mushrooms we had purchased a half-ounce of.  Jamie was back at her boarding school in Pennsylvania, and I was left with more than three-eighths of an ounce of these stinky brown fungi (shrooms smell like feet and taste like poop, for those that don’t know).

Before long into that evening, I was around a group of wily friends.  Brandon, my black friend who had a sweet afro with an afro-pick in it, and loved George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, and Alex, my friend from Greece who grew hydroponic marijuana in his closet and could have been a professional graffiti tagging artist.  These guys were heavy into the drug scene, just as I was.  It was an inevitable recipe for disaster that I was around them with a large amount of psychedelics.

We were hanging out with a group of various friends, and before long, I took Brandon and Alex aside and told them I had a large bag of mushrooms.  “Hey guys, do you want to take a dose with me tonight?”  I asked them.  I couldn’t resist for long.  They both agreed and came with me into a room away from everyone.  I pulled out the massive amount of boomers from my pocket.

“Holy crap man, that’s a lot of mushrooms Benny!”  Alex exclaimed in a British-Greek accent.

“Yeah dude, let’s just take part of em’.”  Brandon added.

“No man…”  I said, wanting to be shocking and extreme as always… “Let’s do them all…”

I always had a way of persuading people towards insanity.  “The devising of folly is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to mankind.” (Prov. 24:9)  Even though Alex and Brandon wanted to do a smaller amount of mushrooms, I forced my opinion on them, and we divvied out three massive doses of these unpredictable spores.  We were each going to eat about an eighth and a half, or three-sixteenths, or six thirty-seconds, or twelve sixty-fourths of an ounce.  Before they or I could change our minds, we had already ingested the mushrooms, and we were on our way into the crazy wilderness of our minds in the summer evening.

We soon smoked dope after ingesting these dastardly cow poop growths, so I don’t remember much of what happened immediately after.  The next memory I had was driving in Alex’s car.  Alex drove a little gray 1990 Ford Fiesta, and he had tagged the ceiling with all sorts of permanent marker graffiti artwork.  I looked up at the ceiling of his car and the lines started to swarm and merge together.  I looked out at the road in the foggy Ohio evening and saw the yellow lines in the middle begin to twist and turn in snake-like, serpentine locomotion.  I exclaimed at Alex; “I think these boomers are kicking in strong man!”  He glared back at me with a maniacal glance; “Oh yeah Bennnny!”  They were starting to take over Brandon’s mind as well as he giggled uncontrollably.

The next thing I knew we were at some party.  The moon was full in the foggy sky, and it felt like we were in a horror movie.  Life patterns squirmed on the grassy ground, filled with phantoms of death and fear.  My mood began to sink into a malaise.  All of a sudden I realized I hadn’t seen Brandon in awhile.  “Where’s Brandon man?”  I muttered in a complete stupor to everyone around me as they stared at me.  Then I looked out into the grassy field and saw the outline of Brandon’s afro.  I ran to him as if I had found a long lost friend after twenty years of separation.  “Hey Brandon, are you ok?”  I yelled in worry.  “I don’t know Ben, I’m just not happy.  I feel like I’m in hell.”  Brandon replied.

As soon as fear, worry, or objects of conscience are introduced into a trip, the whole thing goes sour.  This is why psychedelics are truly evil.  In my mind, they are the expensive chocolate in the Devil’s candy store.  You have to abandon your moral compass to enjoy the experience.  When you do that, it leads to violence, hedonism, sexual permissiveness, manipulation, lying, and more.  But Brandon had just done the thing that would make this trip go sour.  He had introduced the fear of an eternal afterlife apart from God into the mix.  Deep down, I was afraid of the same fate, because God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.  They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them.  For, ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. (Romans 1:18-20)  I may have been ignorant of God’s true loving character, but I was not ignorant of the fact that the life I was leading was totally wrong, and that I was paying consequences for it.

The next memory I have was being at Alex’s grandma’s house.  Alex was completely unhinged and roaming around the house babbling in Greek and English, trying his best not to let the intense high overtake him.  I began to mention serious things about death and God, because I was growing weary.  He stared me in the eye and yelled at me; “Shut the f*** up man!  Don’t talk about that right now!”  This made my fear worse.  Brandon had roamed off again into some unknown corridor of Alex’s grandma’s house.  Alex continued to roam around babbling, trying to fend off the madness that was impending.  I saw a spider on the wall that seemed about half the size of my body, and seemed to stare into my soul as the fear grew.  I panicked and felt as though I was dead, dropping to the floor.  I scrambled and ran for the phone (this was 1999 and we used land-line phones still).  Alex was cursing me, telling me to stop it and calm down.  I dialed my parents’ number, and much like the bad trip on mushrooms in the summer of 1998, I fumbled through telling them that I was freaking out.  I told them where I was and pleaded with them to pick me up.

I don’t remember my parents arriving.  I don’t remember the drive home.  I do remember watching a family movie on the Hallmark channel that night, and it was the scariest movie I had ever seen, because the old man’s face on the TV’s skin was melting off and he looked like Satan.  Everything looked like the devil’s territory that night, as the foggy moon melted away in the sky.  At one point, sitting in my parents’ living room, I looked in the carpet and saw a being with a gargoyle-like head began to emerge from out of the ground.  This being, seemingly male, had serpents flowing in and out of his belly.  I harkened back to thinking of my friend who had done so much acid, that he saw Satan pop out of the ground and rip out his heart.  My entire body received a chill like never before.  I swore in that moment that I would never touch psychedelics again.

I was like a desperate little child that night.  I begged my parents to camp out in the living room with me in sleeping bags, for fear that I would freak out and trip into a permanent nightmare.  I was afraid that the proverb I would later read would come true, that “the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.” (Prov. 24:20)  I was so afraid to die at this point that my fear began to shape my life in a different direction.  It may seem a paradox to many, but it is true that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.”  (Psalm 111:10)  At this young age of seventeen I may not yet have truly “feared the Lord”, but I was beginning to fear my mortality in an intense way, and it was magnified by taking psychoactive drugs.  It wasn’t the drugs themselves that were causing the fear.  I was having normal thoughts about life and the drugs intensified them and made them potential catalysts for insanity.