Tag Archives: addiction

God, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll

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Abstract Art, Dubai

Abstract Art, Dubai (Photo credit: Virtual BCM-Bobb & Company Marketing)

I had taken a dose of LSD that he couldn’t handle in the Summer of 1998.  The effects of the LSD went completely haywire.  I was in a dark fantasy world of which  had no control, nor escape. The people I saw contorted into minions…  the very air I breathed seemed to be filled with acidic poison.  The back of my brain felt like it was melting off of my head.  I didn’t know then that LSD physically made my brain hemorrhage.  I only felt completely out of control.  I remembered reading of Mephistopheles in the legend of Faust.  Had I been overcome by some dark angel like him?  Would I ever make it out of this state of mind, or was I doomed to wear a straightjacket in a little white room for the rest of my life?

The profound, dark thoughts seemed to overcome my mind like a swarm of wasps…  

A year before, I was smoking weed every day and getting drunk on weekends.  Two years before I was dabbling with pot and alcohol.  Three years before it was just cigarettes and an occasional shot of alcohol.  All that to say, what started as a mildly mischievous juvenile pursuit, had turned into an obvious problem.

There were reasons why I did the things I did, and reasons why I shouldn’t have done them.

Analogously, there are reasons why we all do the things we do.  Some of them are justified, and some are selfish.  We’re all products of the nature and nurture that we’ve been handed.  In one sense we’re all victims, and yet in another sense we’re all completely responsible for our actions.  Jerry Cantrell wrote words in song to his bandmate, Layne Staley in the song “No Excuses” in 1994;

Everyday
Something hits me all so cold
Find me sitting by myself
No excuses that I know

Every addict finds themselves sitting alone with no excuses left at some point in their addiction… usually numerous times. Layne Staley died from a mixture of heroin and cocaine…  Laboratory results determined the singer died April 5, 2002, according to a spokesperson for the King County medical examiner’s office, the same day fellow grunge pioneer Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994. Staley was found dead two weeks later, surrounded by intravenous drug paraphernalia in his Seattle apartment.  The death certificate reads Staley’s death resulted from “an acute intoxication due to the combined effects of opiate (heroin) and cocaine.” The death was classified as “accidental.” (http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1453818/staley-died-from-mix-heroin-cocaine.jhtml)

I was and am not a famous musician like Staley, though I’ve had delusions of grandeur wishing I would be, and my story did not end like Staley’s, or so many other forgotten phantoms who never got national publicity for their overdose.  (In 2010, there were 25 overdose deaths per 100,000 people in the U.S. (www.popsci.com))  My story of addiction ended with redemption.  My story ended with a life completely enraptured with the presence, sacrifice, and teachings of Jesus Christ.  It hasn’t made life easier, or like some Ned Flanders, cornucopian, utopian day-dream.  But it has made it clearer and more beautiful.

I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. (Eccl.  1:14)

But we must ask the question…  are drugs a channel for spirituality?  A lot of people would hear this question and easily dismiss it- of course drugs aren’t “spiritual”!  Other people would go to the other extreme and say “they are the only channel into the spiritual!”  The fact is, drugs are spiritual.  The real quandary is whether or not the spirituality they induce has a positive or negative effect.  Do they uncover an insidious darkness or a utopian dream-world?  Are they gateways into true consciousness and the other unused ninety-percent of our brains, or are they toxic poisons that cause irreparable damage to our sanity and physical health?

I was raised by parents who were basically agnostic, and they encouraged me all of my life to expand my horizons and search for enlightened creativity, individual expression, and freedom.

Much like my Father, whose spiritual search led him down a road of using drugs and playing in the Cleveland rock and roll scene of the 1970’s.  I spent a lot of my youth listening to the BeatlesPink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, and played music.  I began to believe that experimenting with drugs would lead me to a higher plane of enlightenment, and give me greater creativity.  I was writing songs at the age of 12, and began using drugs at the age of 14.  I really did approach using them on a spiritual level, and felt that somehow they would give me a greater connection to the mystical.

But in the story that will follow, we will see how that journey ended up hitting some very serious dead-ends, and eventually I was at the end of my rope, and miraculously stumbled into a real, vibrant relationship with God that changed my life completely.

Middle School Drinking and Its Aftermath

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Dead Drunk

Dead Drunk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My friend Edan and I somehow got caught up in the quest for cool rebellion.  It was an electric summer for the music scene in 1993.  Riding the coattails of gritty, raw bands like The Cult, the Pixies and Guns n’ RosesNirvana‘s Nevermind had already wrecked the glam rock of the late eighties, and other bands were coming out of the wood work that rode Kurt Cobain‘s trail of mayhem, including Pearl JamSoul AsylumAlice in ChainsBlind Melon and Soundgarden.

Edan and I were listening to all of this new music, and coming of age as well.  Puberty was figuratively smacking us in the face.  Girls were becoming more and more of an irresistible enigma, and we were starting to develop heroes apart from our parents and the basketball icon Michael Jordan.

Our heroes were found in the ringing loudness of cassette tapes, and a new invention that was starting become common in home sound systems- Compact Discs.  Kurt Cobain sang of a world we deeply wanted to understand.  We began to be fascinated with the idea of being intoxicated, because we knew all of these guys constantly were.  And since I played music I somehow believed that intoxication would enhance my music, and in many ways that’s what I cared about the most- playing and writing good music.

We started by rolling up green oak leaves and stealing my Dad’s lighter.  We’d go out into in my backyard and sit in an oak tree (where else???) and smoke oak leaves!  We definitely didn’t inhale, but we got the adrenaline rush that came with doing something we knew our parents would think was wrong (or maybe really, just stupid and weird!)

From there it moved on to smoking cinnamon sticks, which weren’t very good at all.  It was amazing how silly we were doing these things.

Then we got the hunger to begin trying something truly illegal, smoking cigarettes while we were still only 12 years old.  We used to wait by the entrance of a grocery store in town.  People would walk in and put their cigarettes in the ash tray outside, some of them still mostly full.  We would take the cigarettes and smoke them!  Man, looking back I’m glad we didn’t get some sort of Hepatitis!

Edan’s 13th birthday was coming up.  It was the end of summer, the beginning of our 7th grade year in school.  Nirvana’s “In Utero” had just hit the CD racks in music stores, and we bought it up immediately.  With this music as our background soundtrack, we decided to steal a bunch of booze from Edan’s Dad.  We stole a couple of beers, we took little plastic bottles and filled them with whiskey, then rum, and then vodka.  I paid a 7th Grader about 3 bucks for a pack of cigarettes that was half empty (that would be a cheap price now, but then it was a rip-off!).  So we had gathered up what we saw as the most trouble we could get ourselves into to prepare for Eric’s 13th birthday bash.

Edan invited a number of his and my friends to the party.  After an evening of walking around on the dirt of an undeveloped area of his neighborhood and smoking cigarettes in the cool Fall evening, we headed back to his house.

When his parents were asleep, we broke out all of the alcohol.  I treaded carefully and drank little sips, pretending to be more and more intoxicated, when I was really faking it.  One of our friends, Nathan, refused to participate in the drinking.  He actually became the prophet of morality for the night.  We made fun of him for standing out.  I look back and realize it took a lot of courage to do.  As a thirty-two-year old man who has been sober for thirteen years, I know that I would be the one to stand out now.  Of course, I’d do it without condemning the people that are partying.  But then, I was much different, and much more easily persuaded to follow my id.

The night went on, and everyone seemed to be faking it like they were drunk.  We all winded down and Edan seemed to get crazier.  I suppose he drank a whole lot more than most of us, because a lot of us were just scared to do it.  Edan started getting violent and cynical.  He came after a few of us physically.  I remembered Nathan wrestling him and throwing him to the ground one time.  I think the alcohol just got a hold of Edan in a way he couldn’t handle (I mean, what 12 year old kid could?).  The night ended with Edan hugging the toilet and vomiting for quite awhile.

We woke up the next morning and I was too naive to understand what had happened.  I was seriously mad at Edan for acting that way and didn’t realize how much the alcohol had taken hold of him.  Regretfully I shunned Edan after that.  It was another step in my quest for popularity, and I was willing to mow anyone down to get there.  I turned other people against him and spread vicious rumors about him.  And it wasn’t until my eleventh grade year of High School that I came to tell him how sorry I was for that.

Junior High School is a cold, Darwinian arena where “survival of the fittest”, or maybe “coolest” or “meanest” can be the only rule.  Those who create the rumor mill and oppress the honest and vulnerable come to prominence.  Those who forthrightly navigate their way through the wilderness of confusion get left behind in a trail of smoke.  Some of these realities come alive in adulthood, where consumers subversively gnaw and tear at each other’s souls, and bosses subversively undercut and demoralize their employees.  Hopefully, we learn from these errors and seek to love our friends, neighbors and enemies, fueled by unconditional love from above.  Yet it is the lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools. (Prov. 15:7)  Our very nature is to spread calamity, but rising above it is possible through surrender.

I didn’t realize these things at the naive age of twelve.  I would have many years of infamy before being driven towards true assertion.

Busted With a Pack of Marlboros at the age of 12

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English: Marlboro cigarettes pack

English: Marlboro cigarettes pack (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Amidst the shunning of what used to be good friends, and rising popularity as a middle school musician (which in hindsight is completely ridiculous!), my own hunger for defying authority and a moral compass continued.

One time, a friend named Kalen and I hit our own personal jackpot.  It was early on in my 7th Grade year and the frost of winter was settling into the October winds.  Kalen and I figured out that a lady at a local gas station was sympathetic to young people taking on a nicotine habit.  Word about this lady spread amongst the miscreants in our grade and above, and got to us.  We went to the gas station and put together about $1.50 between us, because back in 1993 that was honestly the price for a pack of cigarettes!

After some pensiveness on both of our parts I opted to be the one to go in and ask her for cigarettes.  My heart was probably beating at 165 beats per minute and my palms were sweating like a gooey sponge that has been left in the kitchen sink for weeks.  I walked up to her and whispered in grave nervousness; “uh… uh… can can can I have a uh…  pack of Marlboro Reds please?”

I couldn’t believe what she did next.  She whispered back; “Sure honey, just slide the money onto the counter and I’m going to slip the pack behind this rack.  You go ahead and grab it, because there are cameras in here.”  I pocketed the pack in what I perceived to be some sort of great victory over fear.  It was crazy though.  This lady was selling me cigarettes, and I wasn’t even far enough into puberty for my voice to change yet!  In hindsight I realize that if I was in her shoes today, I would have never done what she did, and not only to avoid the punishment of the law, but out of principle alone!

So Kalen and I jumped on our bikes and rode victoriously to the baseball fields by our houses.  We lived close to each other and this neighborhood park was a frequented hang-out spot for all sorts of vandalism, idleness and also some great times of playing baseball and football.

Nobody was around, and we nervously broke out the cigarettes.  We both lit one up and puffed on it, feigning James Dean-like coolness and having no idea what we were doing.  Kalen had to get home, so he left, and for some wild reason I stayed and had another by myself.  I always had this weird independence about me that made me want to experience things in isolation.  Maybe it was because I was an only child, or maybe it was just a strange curiosity deep within me to find myself alone with conscience annihilation and silence.

Whatever it was, I finished what I was doing and put the pack in my front jacket pocket, which made it stick out like 3 wallets stuffed into the pockets of tight disco pants.  I biked home to face my Mother at the front door.  I had no plan for a lie, and just thought I could walk in the door with my arms awkwardly covering my pelvic area where the pack of Marlboros was concealed so wonderfully.

Obviously my Mom cornered me and asked me what was in my pocket.  I nervously replied; “Nothing!”  And scurried into my room, frantically opening my closet door and shoving the pack into an old binocular case that my Grandfather had given me.

My Mom knocked on the door and I let her in, acting sheepishly innocent.  She asked me why I smelled like smoke and if I had a pack of cigarettes, to which I of course replied “No!” with some measure of defensive anger.  She went right for the jugular and opened the side of my closet where the pack was hidden.  After a thorough investigation, which lasted about 10 seconds, she found the pack of Marlboros.

I had one thing to my advantage in all my hunger for mischief.  I was a bad liar.

The First Time I Got High on Marijuana

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Red Eyes 12-2012

Red Eyes 12-2012 (Photo credit: daver6sf@yahoo.com)

By the time I had entered into my 9th grade year, the first year of high school, I was more into music than ever.  This was 1995, and it was officially becoming the “post-grunge” era.  Hootie and the Blowfish were popular, though me and my ever growing band of marauders were anti-pop and therefore anti-Hootie.  Silverchair, Greenday and Alanis Morrisette were big during this time.  And bands like “Bush” were making it truly official that “grunge rock” had met it’s end in commercialism.

At the beginning of the school year a TV series came on that changed the way I would look at music forever.  The 3 remaining Beatles who were alive at the time- Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison, came out with a series of shows about their music career called “Anthology”.  My parents and I watched these shows as they came on religiously.  I was drawn in to the story and life of the Beatles, and most of all their later era of music.  It wasn’t long before I snatched up albums like “Rubber Soul”, “Revolver”, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“, and “Abbey Road”.

In the story of the life of the Beatles, one of their most creative periods of songwriting began around 1965 when they released “Rubber Soul”.  There was a move away from the pop sound they had before and into a stranger, more speculative approach to songwriting.  This was the era where they began using marijuana regularly.

I remember the time in the Anthology series where they talked of marijuana as something that seemed to enlighten them spiritually, making them more creative and philosophical.  My Dad at the time seemed to agree with what they were saying, and I didn’t know why.  I didn’t talk to my parents about it either, but a deep curiosity was birthed in me as I learned of the Beatles’ creative crutch.

During this time I was making close friendships with a few friends, one named Mitchell and the other Duane.  Mitchell played guitar often, but was beginning to become a virtuoso on bass- getting into prog rock by Rush and Frank Zappa, and Duane played drums and was heavily into Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix experience and Jimmy Chamberlain from the Smashing Pumpkins.  I played guitar and sang, and we formed a band that we named “Mulberry Tree” to reflect the mixture of classic and grunge rock that made up our sound.

Because we wanted so much to be like the people we looked up to, the next step for us was to smoke marijuana.  Duane was into it before all of us, because he had older friends than we did, and we were ready and willing to join him.

In the Fall of 1995, we had a group of friends over (a band they called “Aftermath”) to play music at my house.  My parents were out of town, and Duane had filled a Black and Mild Cigar with dope.  These guys were not a part of the “popular crowd” by any means, but because of my 8th grade downfall from popularity I was making the effort to befriend people no matter what their social status was.  We set up all of our equipment, including drums, and amps and guitars in my parent’s garage.

Before we could finish setting up or even play one song, Duane pulled out the Black and Mild and convinced us we should light it up.  I was beginning to become less careful and encouraged him to go for it.  This was the 3rd time I had tried pot, and it hadn’t really intoxicated me yet.  Duane encouraged me to inhale it deep and hold it in.  I did just that and coughed and coughed until I felt like my lungs were going to pop out of my mouth.  I tried a few more hits just like that and then quit, letting Duane finish the rest.  I think Mitchell may have tried one hit, but backed off.

So we had finished smoking, and I went back to setting up equipment.  The last thing I remembered was being in my basement grabbing speakers and not being able to lift them.  I began to freak out as numbness filled my body and clouded my mind.

The next thing I remember is laying on the ground, with all the boys from Aftermath laughing at me and mocking me, though one named Antony was actually pretty concerned for me.  I was flipping out at this point, thinking that I was about to die.  I kept repeating that over and over to everyone around me, “I’m gonna die!”  And Duane once hovered over me as he made serpent rhythms with his hands and quoted Jim Morrison, saying “Don’t worry man!  Just ride the snake man, ride the snake!”  Duane was as high as me but had been there before.  At one point he sang the words of “Tomorrow Never Knows” by John Lennon and the Beatles, “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream… it is not dying, it is not dying…”

My next memory was playing music with my boys in Mulberry Tree.  I probably didn’t hit one correctly timed note on the guitar, and I was beside myself laughing and stumbling all about.

Later in the day I entered my first experience of “coming down”.  The high began to wear off and I was grateful to have felt such fear and yet survive it. Something within the experience in my mind became akin to why people ride rollercoasters, or bungee jump, or skydive, or steal something, or lie, or break in to someone’s house, or have sex with someone they’re not committed to.  The thrill of the adrenaline…  Knowing it was wrong but doing it anyways, and being afraid it would kill me, yet making it out on the other end, made me obsessed with the experience.

And somehow this feeling of “riding the edge”- something that felt like hanging over the edge of a cliff and then being pulled back- became an addiction.  Also, all the anger I felt towards my parents, the terrible grades I was getting in school, and the social pressures just seemed to fade away for 4 hours.  Later that night all those feelings magnified though.  I slipped into a more depressive state, clinging to the sounds of Beatles records, playing the guitar, and writing down poetry to comfort myself.

After that experience, the school week passed by in an anti-climactic fashion.  I talked to friends like Kaden about the experience, and it seemed to scare him.  Other pot-head kids which I had once viewed as crazy with a higher level of juvenile mania.  All of a sudden they became close acquaintances.  I longed to get high again and ride the edge of the cliff once more.

The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly. (Prov. 15:14)

Chasing After the First High

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don't get high on my supply without me.

don’t get high on my supply without me. (Photo credit: Divine Harvester)

There was an entire scene that seemed to surround the new-found drug culture that Duane, Mitchell and I were about to be immersed in.  It centered around a place in the town of Hudson, Ohio called Arabica Coffee.  Coffee was becoming a popular fad and drug of choice amongst especially those in the middle class suburbs and urban centers in the mid-90’s.  Starbucks was starting to bust it’s way out of Seattle and all over the country, and even those of us in high school began to taste of the European twist on this little brown bean.  We drank it in the form of cappuccinos, lattes, mochas, and sometimes just straight regular coffee.

In the midst of Duane and I’s descent into the abyss of depression and skepticism that naturally came along with the things we were doing, we began to find solace at Arabica coffee house.  It was a place where we, as 14 year-old kids, could buy a coffee, and sit and smoke cigarettes inside. For some reason no one ever questioned us for doing this.  This was also 1996, long before smoking in indoor establishments was made illegal in Ohio.

When I got high for the second time Duane had filled a cigarette with a little bit of weed, and we only had smoked a bit of it.  For some reason this time was different than before.  We found ourselves later back at Arabica coffee shop, too high to drink coffee or smoke cigarettes, and we kept feeling like jolts of electricity were surging through us, and also the strange feeling of feeling like we were being poked by a hundred needles at once.  We must have looked like total goons sitting there with our heads down on the table, buried in our folded arms.

Duane had taken this same pot we had used, and filled up an entire cigarette with it to smoke it himself the next day in his bathroom at his parents’ house.  He described for us in detail how he was convinced that he would die all night.  He was twiddling a little piece of drumstick wood in his fingers and became persuaded that if he were to drop this piece of wood, his heart would stop.  We found out the next week from Duane’s older friend that we had in fact been smoking ganja laced with PCP.

It was during some of these strange moments of being high and sitting around talking about weird philosophy and sharing poetry and song lyrics that I first met Harmony.  Harmony was a striking sight of beauty to my 9th Grade eyes.  She was a hippie girl who smoked, talked eccentric chatter and had long brown hair.  Something within me was ignited and inspired.  I began to write songs and poems describing the way I felt about her.

It wasn’t long before Harmony and I were “going out”, which was just an official term for considering each other to be boyfriend and girlfriend.  I was such an odd kid, and during our 2 months of dating I couldn’t even work up the nerve to kiss her.  Somehow I had the audacity to put a lot of foreign unknown chemicals in my body, but not the confidence to make the move I so desperately wanted to make.  I was a walking contradiction of sin and naïve conscience.

So Harmony and I broke up, because nothing was happening.  I think I freaked her out because I was writing songs for her and hinting at being in love with her, yet surprised her by being so afraid to kiss her.  But we became the closest of friends.  We began to talk with each other every night on the phone.  Sometimes I would be up until 2am and my parents would bust me on my phone (this was when we still had land lines- not cell phones!)  We continued to be deeply close friends, sharing our love for classic rock like Led Zeppelin and the Beatles, and pouring out our hearts to each other.

It was during this time that we also began to discover Pink Floyd.  Duane, Mitchell and I watched the movie “The Wall”, and began listening to albums like “Dark Side of the Moon”, “Meddle” and “Wish You Were Here”.  Something in the morose, dark psychedelic sounds of the Floyd seemed to provide the soundtrack for our venture into cannabis use.  The lyrics also spoke of a cynical, alienated view of the world.  We identified with them and their songs began to influence our song writing.

My songs took a turn into the world of melancholy.  They had a sombre tone.  I also discovered guitar and vocal effects like flangers, phasers, reverbs and delays that gave my music the simulation of surrealism.  These effects were also used by Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, the later career of the Beatles, and more.  My lyrics became even more philosophical in tone, at times entering into a dream like world apart from reality, and at other times expressing the ongoing isolation I felt within myself when standing in juxtaposition to society.  I became more addicted to pain and sorrow, as I began to felt they were a catalyst for “true art”.

The drugs began to consume my life.  Duane, Mitchell and I were continually searching for a heavier and heavier high on marijuana.  We bought pipes from older kids that could buy them legally at a head shop, and even obtained a plastic, purple bong which we used to fill with grape juice, smoking pot in it constantly.  It just seemed that we couldn’t get back to that first high we had, which felt so surreal, scary and surprising.  We would smoke and smoke until we felt our lungs barely worked, and still the high was never the same.

It was as if a mysterious stranger had fed us a tremendous fabrication.  We had felt as if we could be more like God or feel like gods ourselves, becoming completely entranced and absorbed into our own cerebral worlds.  But the first experience of this “godlike” feeling was more intense and profound than all the others after, and it was seemingly impossible to re-create the original experience.  This was the cycle of addiction that I began to understand was taking hold of me.  I was searching for that first high and I would never get it again, but felt a vacuum within my spirit.  It seemed that the quest would never meet its end, and it seemed to be plunging me into deeper despair and confusion.  My grades at school continued to plummet, and my relationship with my parents became more strained.  All that seemed to matter were drugs, our band, and my feelings for Harmony.

Drunk and Arrested at Age 15

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Hiatt type 2010 handcuffs. Circa 1990s

Hiatt type 2010 handcuffs. Circa 1990s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was late July of 1996, and “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money in My Hand” was #1 on the alternative rock charts.  Not far behind was Stone Temple Pilots’ “Tripping on a Hole in a Paper Heart”, a modern psychedelic rocker, and Beck’s “Where it’s At”- an genius hybrid of minimalistic alt-rock and hip-hop done by the white grandson of a Vaudeville performer.

This had been an interesting summer.  My parents, in the midst of their continual fighting about money, had certainly moved ahead financially.  We bought a nicer house closer to the High School in Hudson, Ohio.  It was actually within walking distance.  One positive result of this was my removal from old surroundings.  Some of the neighbors around me who perpetuated my drug habits were now absent from my every day life.

On top of this, our high school band, “Mulberry Tree”, was facing some strain.  Our drummer, Duane, had disappeared from our existence for the summer.  We found later that he was hanging out with his older friends, and had really gotten the love bug for an older girl.  I suppose I would have done the same thing were I in his shoes.

But in our youth, me and the bass player of Mulberry Tree, Mitchell, took it personally.  We started writing our own music, which had more of a progressive-rock edge to it.  We wrote 6 to 9 minute long opuses, which were deeply influenced by prog bands like Yes, Rush, early Genesis (with Peter Gabriel), Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, and King Crimson.  We were also certainly influenced by Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne.

Yet the removal of Duane and his older friends from our little rock star utopian dream world severed us from the ability to acquire marijuana.  We began to experiment more often in the cedar lined shelves of our parents’ liquor cabinets.

Mitchell would come over on Summer Evenings, after playing baseball all day, and we’d conjure up some form of liquor or beer.  We’d fill ourselves with it to the point of buzzing or being intoxicated, and then we’d congregate in my basement, which now had a full drum set, guitars, a bass, amplifiers, a keyboard, PA speakers, and a little recording studio with equalizers and mini-speakers.  It was every thing a young rocker would dream of.  We’d record our original music, with me on drums, and rhythm guitars, and Mitchell would play bass and lead guitars.  We’d mess around with over dubs and share doing the vocal tracks.  We created some great material when the alcohol wasn’t disabling us too much.

We ended up connecting with an older girl named Madeira in our circle of friends.  Mitchell had a love interest in her, and I had a bit of one, but knew that it was only right to allow my friend to pursue his interest before mine.  Our first connection with Madeira was at one of her parties.  Her parents would leave town and her 21 year-old sister would buy enough beer to kill an army of kittens.  She’d invite her sphere of influence into her den of high school freedom, and we’d partake of the spirits.

Now, I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol for two years, and have never been legally drunk, because the only drinking I did past the age of twenty-one was a beer or glass of wine here or there.  I was floored by Ephesians 5:18 that says; “do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”  I want that fulfillment and joy that can come from sobriety and being filled with God’s presence.  But at the age of fourteen going on fifteen, I dug debauchery.  The dictionary defines debauchery as “excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures”.  This was my M.O.

The first party we attended at Madeira’s house began with Mitchell and I sharing a 12-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and ended with both of us laying like fools on a bathroom floor, vomiting what seemed to be an endless ocean out of our insides, and professing of our bro-mance friendship love for one another.  People say and do completely silly and regretful things under the influence of alcohol to be sure.

Later, Madeira had invited us to hang out with her and go bowling.  She obtained a bottle of 40 proof (1/2 strength) whiskey and 2 bottles of Boone’s sparkling wine for our voyage.  We made it to the parking lot of Stonehedge Bowling Alley in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Madeira was 16 and drove us there.  Mitchell had a learner’s permit because he was 15, and I had no sort of driver’s license because I had just turned 15.   We certainly had no plans for a designated driver.

We decided to drink the alcohol before going in to bowl.  Mitchell and I drank the whiskey, and Madeira drank the Boone’s.  Mitchell and I managed to finish the entire bottle, which was ½ strength but a large quanitity, especially for 15 year-olds!  Madeira finished both of the bottles of Boone’s.  We stood outside and smoked cigarettes as the deeply inebriating effects began to destroy and flood our minds.  Mitchell and Madeira ended up further away and I was on my own smoking.  I saw them kiss.  Madeira later got so sick that she started throwing up.  We never made it into the bowling alley to bowl…

So we had a serious dilemma.  Madeira was in no state of mind to drive.  Mitchell had a learner’s permit and half a bottle of rot-gut whiskey in him.  I had the same amount as Mitchell and no license.  We collaborated with great wisdom and intelligence to have Mitchell drive us home.  “We’d take a back-road highway- Route 91, and avoid the Route 8 freeway.  That way we’d stay away from potentially getting pulled over.”  So we thought…

Mitchell drove us home as Madeira laid down in the back on my lap.  She was feeling terrible and not in the best place, but still my feelings for her were there…  hidden underneath the surface.  I looked out the window into the beautiful summer night sky.  It was July 29th, 1996.  The stars were out.  What were we doing?  Were we crazy?  I held back my feelings for Madeira.  I hoped that we wouldn’t get in deep trouble.  Things weren’t looking good.

Mitchell drove through Cuyahoga Falls, then Stow, and then we were close to the border of Hudson, Ohio.  All the way he kept turning around to us in a fit of adrenaline.  He spoke loudly with a slur, “I think we’re going to make it!  Everything is gonna be ok!”

When we crossed the border into Hudson, a cop car pulled out of the darkness.  Flashing lights beamed in behind us.  Mitchell began to freak out.  “Oh no! Oh no oh no!!!  What are we gonna do?  What are we gonna do?”  He yelled.  I responded, in my inebriated tone, “It’s all good man, just tell him you’re taking us home and Madeira has the flu man!”

Mitchell pulled over.  The cop shone a flashlight in from behind us, making our adrenaline spike up.  Mixed with the alcohol, the feeling was numbing and terrifying.  The cop came up and addressed Mitchell, “Son, do you realize you were driving without your headlights on?”  Mitchell flipped and started apologizing.  He got out of the car and admitted he didn’t have a real license.

Everything else seemed to flash before our eyes like a nightmare.  Mitchell getting a sobriety test, then getting cuffed and put in the cop car.  The cop pulling me and Madeira out of the car and cuffing both of us.  Two back-up cops showing up and taking all of us separately…  isolated from one another…  They put me in the back of a cop car alone.  I was drunk, only 15 years old for 9 days, and breaking curfew.  An accomplice to under-age drunk driving.  I don’t remember all the details in the haze, but I was definitely weeping like a little child in the back of that cop car.

Later that night at the police station, our parents would come and pick us up.  I was too drunk to remember any of the conversations.  But I do remember when my Dad brought me home, and my Mom was waiting at the door.  It was about 3 am.  She didn’t say a word to me, she just wound up and slapped me hard in the face.  The numbness of the alcohol combated the physical pain.  But the emotional pain and shame were magnified.

I went up and slipped into a drunken slumber.  I would be grounded again for another month.  I would be enrolled into Oriena House for substance abuse counseling.  I would have to serve community service.

“Burden in My Hand” by Soundgarden would enter the soundwaves of the summer of August, 1996.  I would write songs in my month of grounding that were reflecting on my own addiction and desperation.  What would my Sophomore year of High School hold for me?  Would it be a year of reformed salvation?  Would it be a spiral into degradation?  Time would tell, but the words of Soundgarden certainly reflected my current state.

Follow me into the desert
As thirsty as you are
Crack a smile and cut your mouth
And drown in alcohol
Cause down below the truth is lying
Beneath the riverbed
So quench yourself and drink the water
That flows below her head

Close your eyes and bow your head
I need a little sympathy
Cause fear is strong and love’s for everyone
Who isn’t me
So kill your health and kill yourself
And kill everything you love
And if you live you can fall to pieces
And suffer with my ghost

Don’t Wave a Pipe in Front of a Frizzle-Fried Pot-Head!

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Cover of "Frizzle Fry"

Cover of Frizzle Fry

Despite the many antics of the summer of 1996, I could honestly say that I hadn’t smoked pot at all the whole summer.  Sure, there had been a fairly excessive amount of drinking, and an arrest, and my cigarette smoking habit had certainly not been abated.  But it’s almost as if I’d forgotten about the ol’ Mary Jane.

We entered into 10th Grade.  It was September of 1996.  “Down” by 311 had just hit the charts, and the hard rock reggae sound they blasted into the airwaves was rivaled only by bands like Sublime.

I was still listening heavily to the Beatles.  I got a hunger for 70’s rock like never before as well.  I was feeding myself on the sounds of early Deep Purple and Alice Cooper.  The album “Frizzle Fry” by Primus also became a personal favorite.

Mitchell, Duane and I were reunited as our band Mulberry Tree took off again.  Duane had profusely apologized for the previous summer, where he had disappeared into a haze of partying and chasing after an older girl.  We began to write music and play as a band religiously as we once had before.

September once again introduced the annual nerve-wracking homecoming dance.  Me and the boys of Mulberry Tree had hidden in a cave of rock n’ roll throughout that entire month, and we had no female companionship to claim.  Around this time we were beginning to be dragged into a strange party scene, led by the likes of one Kacey Jordan.  Kacey loved to drink, she loved to smoke marijuana, and she loved to try and interlink people into a vast chain of social chaos.  Her parents were constantly on business travel, so she had weekend parties more than anyone we had ever known.  Again, I hadn’t smoked pot for months, but began to get to know Kacey and her band of wily vagabonds.  Kacey really dug Mitchell, and asked him to homecoming.  He said yes, and she swore she would hook Duane and I up with blind dates for the dance.  We agreed in our typical passive-aggressive fashion.

We were paired with two girls from the neighboring rival town of Stow, Ohio.  Elysia was my date- a deeply sweet, intelligent hippie girl who had a strange mysticism about her of which I didn’t understand.  Duane was paired with a girl named Jaen, who was a senior in high school, and yet appeared to have more of a Middle-School-esque disposition.  Jaen had a knack for mocking people in a chiding sort of fashion.  I at times felt that she was going to punch me in the shoulder and yell “charlie horse!!”  Or pull my hanes his way up high and yell “wedgie”!

We had a fun night at homecoming.  Afterwards we ended up at an outdoor party with a bonfire.  Elysia asked me the magic words, “Do you like to smoke the good green?”  I had a moment where I thought, “no, no…  I shouldn’t do this…”  But it was as if an unquenchable love for this little green female plant that produced psychotropic effects had taken hold of me.  I couldn’t resist.  Elysia pulled out her rather large black and silver metal pipe.  She packed it full of dope and we smoked it together.

The high that took hold of me after not smoking for months was intense.  It was intense enough to flip me out a little bit.  But from that moment it seemed there was no turning back.