Tag Archives: Alcohol

Van Halen Cassette tapes, Kindergarten Underpants, Atari 2600, and the Awesome Hippie Babysitter

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Atari2600wood4

Atari2600wood4 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rock and roll was the background music to my life from a very early age.  I initiated this obsessed love with two cassette tapes.

The first was “Purple Rain” by Prince.  I had that when I was about 4 years old.  My Dad bought it because he thought it was a killer album.  My Dad always had an ear out for what the best music on the scene was, a practice that I tried to pick up on.

The second was “1984″ by Van Halen.  I had that when I was about 5 years old.  I loved the song “Jump“, and also loved “Panama”.  I memorized the lyrics to “Jump” and used to sing them to my classmates in Kindergarten.  They looked at me like some sort of space alien.

My Dad was really into music.  When I was in my Mother’s womb my Dad’s drummer, Rodney Psyka nicknamed me “BB” (pronounced “Bee, Bee”), which is why my parents named me “Benjamin Bradford White” a little bit of a reference to BB King, but a never ending reminder that my identity was carved out in the middle of a bar gig.

I had no idea when I was a little man that my Dad had been heavily into the 60′s and 70′s drug scene. Nor did I have any idea that the members of Van Halen had probably indulged in their fair share of booze and drugs (especially old Diamond David Lee Roth!).  I just knew that I loved the sound of music pumping in my ear-drums.  Something about it felt familiar to me.

When I was a kid, my Dad smoked Barclay 100′s cigarettes.  I remember being 4 and 5 years old, and my Dad would be blowing that mellow blue smoke into the air.  I would be wafting it away from my face, trying not to breathe it in.  I always yelled at him saying, “Dad!  Smoking is so gross!  I hate it!” My Dad would just laugh and light up another, at times apologizing for smoking.  My mom would give my Father the dirty look that she often gave him.

I didn’t grow up under any sort of religious instruction.  The basic religion that my parents seemed to feed me was love, tolerance and compassion, coupled with BeatlesJoni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young records.  As a child I looked to musicians as being a certain breed of sage or prophet. I felt that their chords and melodies contained some sort of mystic power.  I was drawn to it.  It was the most spiritual experience that I encountered in my formative years.

When I was a kid in elementary school, I did pretty well.  They had me in a couple of advanced classes and I was basically a geek.  I was a different kind of geek though, because I had a variety of friends.  I was somewhat of a “socially adjusted geek”.

I had an appetite for trouble as well!  Once in Kindergarden I pulled my pants down in front of the class when my teacher had left for a short time, trusting that we the students would behave ourselves. We found after that she had left to join a small group of people that were observing their class behind glass with a one-sided mirror.  It was a behavioral experiment done by the Montessori School we were part of at the time.  They wanted to see if kindergarten kids could behave themselves in a large group without adult supervision.  I led the kids into a mini riot when I dropped my drawers and thwarted their experiment…

My parents later thought it would be a good idea to put me in public school, to give me more structure and rules.  It ended up working well.  I became a good student, and more well behaved.

In the meantime my Dad worked for John Hancock, an insurance company that was doing well in the 80′s.  He was at work often but he was also a good Father.  In many senses he was more of a friend to me than a disciplinary force.  I could always talk him out of punishments.  For example, after the pant-less fiasco my Dad tried to take away my Atari 2600 for a month…  and I talked him down to 2 weeks of Atari-absence.

Then there was the first time I witnessed my Dad get drunk.  He didn’t do it often, especially in front of me, and he definitely wasn’t an angry drunk, more of a slap-happy drunk.  We were at a wedding once when I was 10 years old and he had a little too much whiskey.  He had a lot of wild conversations with random people, basically being the life of the party in an extreme sort of way. While I, on the other hand, didn’t get it.  I cried and cried on the way home telling him how wrong it was.  After all, I was taught in school that these exploits were wrong.  Something in my young conscience felt horrible about it.

My Dad reassured me that he wouldn’t do it again.  He was generally good to his word throughout the rest of my pre-adolescent years.  He wasn’t an alcoholic, just a social partier.  He communicated to me that his position as a Father was more important than his party life.  He did a good job of keeping those two worlds separate before my eyes for quite a time. 

I had a babysitter named Laina who talked often of going outside to “get a fresh of breath air”.  I had found out that she smoked Camel cigarettes, and thought that maybe she was going outside to toke. I thought that was true because she used to come back from the “breath of fresh air” in an erratic mood and feed me some wild snacks, like Tato Skin potato chips, marshmallows and Coca-Cola Classic.  Then I hit the age of 13 and found that all hormones of either gender make one erratic. Nonetheless, it was safe to say I began to get a little chubby and crazy on this munchie food towards the end of my Elementary School days.

During this time I also got a guitar for Christmas.  My Dad had the guitar amp wrapped up and under the tree, and I had opened up all of my presents including the amp, but no guitar was to be found.  Then my Dad pulled a kamikaze move and grabbed the guitar out of his closet.  I was thrilled.  It was a black Fender Squier Stratocaster with white inlays.

Laina, my babysitter, was really proud of me for chasing after rock and roll.  She got me into the DoorsAerosmith and Led Zeppelin.  I listened to Zeppelin II for the first time, and it blew my world apart.  Jimmy Page’s riffs made me want to learn how to tear it up just like him.  Laina even helped me write a song, and we called it “Death Theater”.  She was really bummed when I made the lyrics a naive version of an anti-drug rant.

But Laina and I became pretty good buds.  She took me downtown in Hudson, Ohio during the annual shaving cream fight that all the middle schoolers and high schoolers used to go to.  It made me feel pretty cool to say the least, especially for a 4th grader!  Laina helped me figure out a little bit more of who I thought I was, and turned me on to rock and roll that turned my world upside down.

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.

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

Shattered, Broken, Beer-Bottle Hearts

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DSCF1857

DSCF1857 (Photo credit: Kdt.)

 

Please fellow readers, don’t be offended, for this is only my opinion, but a lot of the popular music of August 1997 was a disgrace to rock n’ roll.  Again, this is only my opinion!  Sugar Ray’s “Fly” was #1 on the charts in these days.  We heard this song so much on the radio that I thought my head was going to implode.  I would have gladly heard Tom Jones’ “What’s New Pussycat” ringing beneath my eardrums for seven days straight than have one hour of “Fly” by Sugar Ray.  But those suckers in that band knew how to write a catchy, irritating tune!

But I couldn’t hide any longer, and like the irritating melody that it was, the lyrics of “Fly” rang in my mind, providing yet another soundtrack for my love-confused, teenage nicotine heart.

All around the world statues crumble for me

Who knows how long I’ve loved you

I just wanna fly

Put your arms around me baby

I just wanted to fly.  All of the time.  I was stoned practically every waking hour of the day.  Everything in my mental framework was seen through dope vision 3-D glasses.  Who knows how long I had loved my ex-girlfriend and then best friend Harmony.  It seemed like a lifetime to my hormonal self… really it was two years.  Yet here I was, living out a full-on sexual and emotional relationship with my current girlfriend, Madiera.

Madiera and I weren’t only a serious item.  We were pot buddies.  We both loved to get high…  all the time.  Yet I knew that I had to break it off with her…  I knew that my feelings for her were clouded by my desire to be with Harmony.

Harmony and I definitely didn’t talk like we once had throughout most of the summer of 1997.  But when August rolled around she began to appear in my life again.  She was on the verge of her sophomore year, and me my junior year.  She was more beautiful than ever to me.  A young hippie chick with long brown hair who loved Led Zeppelin and smoked weed.  She was my close friend, and the truest love my naïve mind and soul had ever known.

Madiera left for a weekend to go and visit her friend, Andrea, at Bowling Green University in Ohio.  It was my chance to re-connect with Harmony.  I set up a time with her to hang out.  I called her on the phone on a cool summer evening…

“Hey, how’s it going?”  I said,

“Good!  How’s it going Ben!”  She replied in all her perceived luminescent perfection.

After some small talk, I went for it;  “So do you want to go and hang out at the park tomorrow?  The weather’s supposed to be good.  We could have a few beers or something.”

“Uhhhh…  yeah Ben, that’d be alright.  But are you sure you want to drink in the park!  That’s like totally illegal!  You’ve gotten really crazy in these past few months, what happened to you.  And would it be ok with Madiera?  Aren’t you guys still going out?”  She replied.

“Oh no worries.  Madiera knows that me and you are just friends Harmony!  C’mon, it’d be good to hang out!  It’s been too long!  And it’s cool- we’ll find a spot to drink in the park where we won’t get busted.”

“Ok Ben…  then do you want to go to…  Hudson Springs Park?”

I couldn’t believe it.  Was she really into me like I was into her?  She was going to come and hang out with me…  alone, in the park!  And she was going to drink with me…  alone!  In the park!

“Sounds cool to me- wanna meet at like 12 noon?”

“See you then!”

“Ok, bye!”

Adrenaline was surging in my veins as I lit up a cigarette that night after getting off of the phone with Harmony.  I couldn’t wait to see her.  Would I be able to contain myself?  Harmony and I had been friends for two years.  We had dated once for a couple of months.  We had never kissed because I was so nervous around her!  Now here I was, no longer a virgin, and she still was.

It’s difficult to explain the twisted mind that was within my cranium.  I felt that now I was more experienced, I could approach Harmony with more confidence.  I knew she was jealous about Madiera.  I had told her everything…  what Madiera and I had done.  After all, Harmony and I were friends, right?  Yeah right.  I was using the experience to make her jealous.  I thought it would make her want me more.  I was narcissistic, like Pete Townshend wrote and Roger Daltrey sang in The Who‘s “Behind Blue Eyes”;

But my dreams they aren’t as empty

As my conscience seems to be

I have hours, only lonely

My love is vengeance

That’s never free

But in all of my vainglory I had a whisper of love.  The Greeks would have called it Eros and Phileos… a combination of romantic and friendship love.  This was a love that I felt heavily for Harmony.  I wasn’t capable of unconditional love…  I had no way to tap into that extreme power…  at least not yet.  My conscience was empty, and the way I expressed my love was all too selfish.  I suppose if I would have actually put Harmony before myself all along she wouldn’t have ever questioned or denied my sincerity or character.  Nonetheless, my chance with her had arrived.

We met at Hudson Springs Park at noon.  It was a cooler summer day in the upper seventies.  I had acquired a six-pack of Molson Golden beer, and had a full pack of fresh Camel Light cigarettes and a blue lighter in my pockets.  I put it in a backpack to remain inconspicuous to any legal bullies roaming about.  Hudson Springs was about a half hour walk from my house, so I went on foot to meet her.  Even though I was sixteen I was literally too lazy and stoned all of the time to try and get my driver’s license.  Plus, I had so many older friends that carted me around it didn’t seem to matter to me.  One caught up in a life of hedonistic addiction doesn’t care about personal progress, as much as they care about the next kick.

And there she was standing in the gleaming daylight, a phosphorescent seraph.  Harmony was beautiful to me.  I was a young kid in a puppy love daze.  I still remember the fuzzy light blue short-sleeve sweater shirt and bell-bottom-like jeans she was wearing, with her long brunette hair parted down the middle.

I had a continual agenda of intoxication.  We quickly walked out into an open field where I knew we were alone.  We broke out the beers and drank them, smoking cigarettes, laughing awkwardly and potentially falling in love all over again, or maybe for the first time mutually.  We each drank three beers.  Harmony and I had a strange, paradoxical innocence in much of what we did, even though much of what we did was not innocent.  We were friends, and we were beginning to become truly more than that.  At one point I just put my arm behind her shoulder and we laid there… looking at the clouds in the sunlit sky and basking in the afterglow of alcohol, hops, and sentiment.

We woke up an hour later.  We had fallen asleep amidst the infatuation and beer buzz.  We laughed about it.  “Whoa, I guess we passed out!”  I said.  “Yeah, that’s totally crazy!”  She replied.

“But I don’t want to be anywhere else”  I said back, with a boldness I had never had before with her.

“I don’t either”  She replied, as my heart pounded with life and vigor.

I remember rolling over and looking into her eyes.  I brushed her hair away from them and almost leaned in to kiss her.

“Wait a minute!”  Harmony said.  “You’re still going out with Madiera…  We can’t do this.”

I sheepishly and unwillingly agreed, so as to appear somewhat honorable.  “Yeah, you’re right.  I need to break up with her.”

Harmony and I walked away from that scene.  It had been a whole two years that I had known her and been completely crazy about her.  We had never kissed before.  We came close to having our first kiss ever but it didn’t happen.  I needed to break the news to Madiera when she came back from Bowling Green.

A Stoner’s Break-Up Story

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Malmo Heartbreak

Malmo Heartbreak (Photo credit: Paul Stuart Iddon)

It was the first week of my Junior Year at Hudson High School.  I knew it had come time to break the news to my then girlfriend Madiera that I was going to break up with her, because I was digging on my ex-girlfriend and best friend Harmony all over again.

Madiera gave me a lift home from school on the day I knew I had to do it.  In usual fashion we packed a glass pipe full of bright green herb and smoked it in her grey Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme as soon as we pulled out of the school.  Ironically, she asked if we could go to Hudson Springs Park to hang out, which was the place I had spent time with Harmony a couple days before.  It was the place where I had realized I wanted to break up with Madiera.  Madiera and I would usually go to the park to fool around and party.  I knew this time was different.  We parked in the parking lot of the park and finished the bowl of weed.  Then we went for a walk down the trail around the bend of Hudson Springs Lake.

I’m doing my best to remember here, because I was stoned constantly in these days, and particularly in this moment..  Madiera and I came to a clearing off of the beaten path of the trail where no one would likely venture.  A lot of the talk was plastered babble of which I don’t remember.  I know she had a look in her eyes like she wanted to kiss me and maybe get something happening.  At some point I said, “We need to talk about something Madiera.”

A dark silver cloud seemed to be cast over us as her demeanor shifted.  “What, Ben?”

I went on to tell her that I wanted to break up with her.  She protested at times in desperation, and in all my shallow manipulation I couldn’t bring myself to hurt her.  I still claimed that I loved her, because somehow I thought it was the right thing to say.  We babbled on in circular stoner language, and she was saturated with shock and anger.  I felt like a toothless weasel.  I’d reach in at times to hug her, not knowing what to do.  She was in anguish.  At some point amidst our mind-baked cackling and rambling she did ask me about Harmony.  I told her we had hung out and I did have feelings for her again.  This enraged Madiera even more.  She wouldn’t believe me that nothing had happened between Harmony and I.  I knew it almost had but luckily we hadn’t completely crossed the line.  Madeira drove me home and we shared deeply awkward goodbyes.

I did find out later that Madiera had hooked up with a guy on the same weekend I had almost kissed Harmony.  She had been at a Frat Party and gotten drunk… ending up osculating (which only means kissing) with some unknown kat with a flat-top hairdo and the 1997 equivalent of Axe ‘Kilo’ body deodorant emanating from his pores.  It made me not feel as bad about what I had done.

But Madiera was heading into her senior year, and we had truly been close friends, though maybe not eternal romantic lovers.  She was heart-broken.  She did slip into heavier drugs shortly after that.  Her anger for me magnified for a time.  I deserved it for what I had done to her heart.  She dated guys sporadically and opened herself to total relational freedom.  Yet I lived my life much like a confused squirrel beside the street pavement of existence- running around aimlessly with only a prayer at not getting smashed by the reality car of absolute authenticity.

Harmony and I were together again.  I felt as if I should update her on the magnitude of drug intake that I was used to.  Harmony liked to smoke a little ganja here and there, but mostly filled her habitual nature with cigarettes… She smoked Marlboro Mediums, and she occasionally dug into mixed cranberry juice and vodka to fill and inebriate her Friday nights.  She was nothing near the caliber of crazy I was.

I was smoking at least $150 worth of high grade pot a month by this time, and usually more.  I was inhaling 15 cigarettes a day, almost a pack.  I was able to consume 9 beers in a couple of hours and mix them with a high amount of dope smoke in and out of my lungs without vomiting for the next hour afterwards, and usually got drunk at least one or two nights a week.  Harmony had to catch up to me.  Now that I had been all the way around the proverbial sexual “bases” in the hanky-panky baseball diamond more than a few times, I would have to convince her to join me in that area too.  I was foolishly excited to get her up to date in my new-found world of vice!

Harmony was not so quick to join me.  She was cautious, and hadn’t violated her own continence like I had.  She was also alarmed by the amount of marijuana that I consumed.  I lied and told her I would cut down a bit.  This just meant that I would smoke more of it by myself than in public.  Thus my habits deepened in the caves of secrecy.

But Harmony was good for me in so many ways compared to where I really was within myself.  She rekindled an inspiration and love in me I felt had been veiled behind a fog for some time.  We would certainly have weekends where we drank a significant amount of vodka and cranberry juice, and sit on her friend Dana’s roof smoking cigarettes.  One night, Harmony got drunk enough to vomit on the roof.  I took care of her to help her feel better.  Secretly I was always more wasted than everyone else around, because I would enter into the party after smoking grass on my own.  My higher tolerance for poison also gave me an ability to look after Harmony and her friends.  They didn’t have the annihilated guts to consume venom like me.  I partied like an insane 22 year old living in Miami, Florida.  I was only 16, and living in the suburbs of Hudson, Ohio.

About every song on the top of the radio in September of 1997 was not to my personal taste, except maybe Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”.  These were days where the thundering guitar and explosive drums of Jimmy Page rang in my ears constantly.  I wanted to live in the world that Robert Plant sang about in “Misty Mountain Hop”;

Walkin’ in the park just the other day, Baby,

What do you, what do you think I saw?

Crowds of people sittin’ on the grass with flowers in their hair said,

“Hey, Boy, do you wanna score?”

And you know how it is;

I really don’t know what time it was,

So I asked them if I could stay awhile.

I was a 16-year old kid and it was 1997.  Something in me longed to meet with these gypsies of the 1960’s and 1970’s, of which Robert Plant seemed to speak about…  these songs spoke to me of a concocted utopia where people constantly took drugs, rapped about wild philosophy and listened to music.  I wanted to recreate that world in my little sphere.  My hair was longer…  almost to the point of pulling it behind my ears.  I bought more tie-dyed shirts.  I longed for the world of Woodstock and the hippies to come alive in my existence.

I didn’t know the darkness that lurked, unveiled behind this façade of beauty and hedonistic freedom.  I was attracted by the outer skin of it, and not the inner soul of the beast that hid himself behind.

Tripping into Madness at the House of Viking Chaos

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Ludovico technique apparatus.

Ludovico technique apparatus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was Halloween of 1998.  A psychedelic fall array of color had blanketed the landscape of Ohio.  The tree canopies of red, yellow and orange would dance around in my hemorrhaged brain like colorful quilts and tapestries arranged on dirty walls.

In October of 1998, Shirley Manson from the band “Garbage” sang these words on the radio; “I fall down just to give you a thrill, Prop me up with another pill, If I should fail, if I should fold, I nailed my faith to the sticking pole.”

Kent, Ohio was a twenty-five minute drive away from my hometown of Hudson, OhioKent State University was famous for their yearly Halloween bash.  It was my plan to party all day at school, and head to Kent and party all night.

By this point, even though I was a senior in High School, a good amount of my High School friends didn’t want to be around me any more.  My habits were too severe, and my moods were unpredictable.  I would snap on people in a moment.  I would go from being sentimental to being crazily angry.  My only friends were those who participated in my level of madness.  This led me to hang around with a lot of people in their twenties.  People who were attending college and failing out, drug dealers, and also the legion of young people who consumed what they offered, and funded their designer rave clothes wardrobe.

I dressed up like Magic Alex, from the film “A Clockwork Orange” by Stanley Kubrick for Halloween.  I ate 3 hits of blue LSD gel tabs in the morning and put on my outfit- complete with a walking cane and fake, long eyelashes.  I wanted to imitate the criminal madness of Alex, who fueled himself with drugs throughout the whole movie, and then committed heinous acts of violence and infamy.

There’s something about the world of drugs that makes dark and sinister things interesting.  I had officially gone down a road of embracing darkness.  I would take drugs regularly, hallucinate and see awful things, and accept them as if they were normal.  I realize that God Himself wasn’t going to force me to do otherwise, for that would make Him a “Master of Puppets”, and not a loving God who revealed His beauty, love and forgiveness to me, at a moment of desperation in a bad trip I had the summer before.  I should have known then what I know now, that God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. (Rom. 1:18-20)

God’s most severe judgment is that He lets people experience the sting of their own consequence.  At this point, I knew that everything I was doing was totally awful, but my self-hatred and anger towards the world was thorough enough to plunge me into a downward spiral.

I don’t remember barely anything at all about the Halloween of 1998.  I do once recall looking at myself in a mirror dressed as Magic Alex, and seeing myself turn into many different vicious creatures, because the drug had so thoroughly taken a hold of my brain.  I also remember being in Kent many hours later, walking through the streets dressed as Alex, still tripping and completely drunk.  I don’t think we even made it to the Halloween party in downtown Kent.  We spent all night racking our brains with substances, and then ate at Denny’s restaurant in the middle of the night with a group of inebriated freaks.  I don’t remember who was there.  I don’t remember anything we did.  I only know that I was so out of my mind, anyone who would have encountered me would have thought I belonged in a mental ward.

I do know that we were partying all night at a house that belonged to a friend of ours, Dirk.  He lived at the Eagle’s Point apartments in Kent.  His house was a constant, consistent den of crazy.  Dirk didn’t do drugs like we did, but he was always drunk.  He would get so drunk at his parties that he would dress up in a Viking outfit, complete with a horned helmet, plastic body armor, a plastic ball and chain mace, and Valhalla wrist guards.  There were a few nights that he went into a rage and brought in large objects, and began to demolish his apartment.  I remember one night where he actually smashed his TV with a large log.  We would all sit around him, dumbfounded and laughing, too afraid to stop him, and too wasted to care.

It was at one of these parties where I did a line of cocaine.  It was one of those things that I always told myself, even at the worst moments, that I would never do.  But my friend Kristian assured me that it was not going to kill me, and it would be one of the most potent highs I had ever experienced.  I only remember snorting it, and then being filled with the feeling that I was equal with God.  I believed the serpent, who said that God knew that when I put it up my nose my eyes would be opened, and I would be like God…” (Gen. 3:5)  I remember walking around afterwards, filled with the sensation that I could destroy and overpower anything.

Forty-five minutes later, I was the most depressed that I had ever been.  I smoked a full eighth of an ounce of marijuana, just in an effort to cope with the physical withdrawal.  My friend James was deeply angry at me.  He told me off that day.  It may have been because of him that I didn’t do it again.  The urge was definitely strong, but I can now say that this was the only time that I have ever snorted cocaine.

But my party was not even close to over.  At this point, I was smoking about $70 worth of marijuana a week.  I was taking between 2 and 6 hits of acid a week, which cost between $10 and $30.  I was snorting prescription speed when I could get a hold of it.  I was smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, which cost $17.50 a week back then, and I was drinking about two fifteen packs of beer on the weekends, which was $16 a week (we drank really cheap beer).  Over all, I was spending about $123.50 a week on my drug habit.  For a senior in High School with no job, this was a lot of money.

I began to deal pot to support my out of control habits.  Most of the time, I would find naïve, nice kids and rip them off.  I’d ask them for money in advance, buy dope for them, smoke half of it, and tell them I got ripped off and give them half of what they payed for.  I regret to say that during this time, I also turned some kids on to LSD.  One of which dosed himself and had to be put in a mental ward for the night.

The fights I had with my parents were out of control.  I would come home, 2 hours after curfew.  My Mom would confront me, angry at my defiance of their rules.  I would cuss her out.  She would ask me, “Ben, are you high?”  I would bark back at her, “Yeah…  What are you going to do about it?”  At this point I didn’t even bother trying to hide anymore.  I was off my rocker, and I just wanted to live my way.  My Mom actually went into the worst depression she’s ever been in, and had to take Prozac for a short time to alleviate the worry that I would come home in a coffin.

One time, my Dad and I were arguing.  I started physically pushing him until he was up against the wall.  I dared him; “Go ahead Dad.  Hit me!  I know you wanna do it!  C’mon!”  I was fortunate that my Dad controlled himself in that moment.  He never struck me in my life, even in those moments when I would have deserved it.  Not that I believe in them, but I could have used a couple of spankings when I was little…

I was about to go further into psychological drug abuse as the world of the Rave scene lured me in like bait on a fish-hook.  The pumping jungle bass beats, flashing colored lights in the night, the tweakers dancing around like indigo demons, and the mystique of a drug called “Ecstasy” intrigued me.  It wouldn’t be long before my life would become stranger than ever…

Flushing Dad’s Dope Down the Toilet and Being Found by Jesus

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Toilet

Toilet (Photo credit: http://www.homespothq.com)

So the deepest era of drug horrors was over, and I was about to venture into a new period of my life, one that was moving upward into sanity and clarity.  It was a rocky path, and not one that appeared picture perfect.  But God was doing something that I wasn’t aware of at the time.  Little did I know that He would use music to capture my attention, and the very thing that had once provided the soundtrack to my existential despair and addiction would play a crucial part in my redemption.

In the summer of 1999 I officially graduated high school, making it out by the skin of my teeth.  And then after my last bad trip, I embarked upon a summer full of beer, pot, adderall and cigarettes.  My girlfriend Jamie and I were back together, for she had left her boarding school in Pennsylvania to come home permanently.  I chose not to work at a job all that summer, and we partied our brains out.  Her parents became more accepting of our juvenile love affair, and actually began letting me stay overnight at their house!  Me, an eighteen year-old, with their sixteen year-old daughter.  It’s hard for me to believe.  I have a baby daughter that is one year old, and couldn’t even imagine this.  But I suppose they thought that I was good for Jamie.  I suppose in a way we were good for each other, because we were beginning to get out of the drug scene and support each other.  But looking back it’s weird to realize that we were permitted to live in monogamous promiscuity.

At the end of that summer, Jamie’s wealthy parents agreed to take me with their family on a trip to the British Virgin Islands.  This was literally one of the most amazing vacations I had ever been on.  We snorkeled in beautiful blue, deep ocean landscapes colored with coral and fish I had never seen.  I stayed in a room on a cot with Jaime and her sisters who were sleeping in beds!  Again, looking back it seems so weird and creepy!  I was eighteen, which was a legal drinking age on these islands.  So I pretty much behaved as an alcoholic the entire time- drinking from the morning until the night and getting sloppy and crazy.  I talked to many locals and got turned on to old school Caribbean dub step music.  Some old alcoholic Islander hooked me up with a cassette tape.

Not long after that trip to the Virgin Islands, Jamie convinced me to come and join her at the Lutheran Church her parents attended.  Something in me was actually interested in going.  I was likely coming off of a hangover, but I do remember sitting in the pews, and a deep rush overcame me.  It reminded me of the feeling I had during having a brush with death during my worst bad trip on mushrooms and crying out to God.  The mushrooms hadn’t induced the feeling, but more so my fear of dying had sobered me for one moment and given me a small glimpse of hope.  This feeling of numbness and joy came over me that was greater than any high I had ever had.  I started to uncontrollably weep, right in the middle of this service!  From then on, I wanted to keep going to this Lutheran church, just to experience the liturgy, Gregorian chant-style worship, and overwhelming presence of this mysterious God that was beginning to reveal Himself to me.

I was even baptized at this church, which was contrary to their infant baptism doctrine.  The pastor and congregation really embraced me though, a long-haired, burnt out, beer drinking maniac.  The morning that they baptized me, I had drank about twelve beers the night before.  I was incredibly hung over.  I later realized that most of the congregation at the church was likely in the same state of mind.  Like a newborn baby, they sprinkled me with water, and initiated me into the fold of the Lutherans.

After this, many of my friends chastised me and told me; “Watch out for those people!  They’re just trying to brainwash you and take you away from having freedom to do what you want.”  But I was committed.  I wanted to begin to change my ways.  I told Jamie that I wanted to quit smoking pot and cigarettes.  She agreed to join me in the venture of leaving dope behind, though she wasn’t quite ready to quit smoking cigarettes.

It was September of 1999, and the future was looking brighter than it had for me since I was in sixth grade.  I was enrolled to go to college at Akron University.  I had a new job at Arabica coffee house in Hudson, Ohio.  Jamie and I’s relationship was better than ever.  I had decided to quit pot, and even accomplished quitting cigarettes amidst shots of espresso and frustrated madness.  I had even become a “religious” person.  I was going to church every Sunday.  I definitely drank myself into oblivion on Friday and Saturday night.  But I was starting to feel like a functional American hypocrite.

All of this wouldn’t last long though.  By November of 1999, I was smoking pot daily again, and Jamie was doing it with me.  I dropped out of college because I didn’t feel like doing the work.  I stopped showing up at church on Sundays.  Jamie and I plunged further into sex, dope and beer.  Heck, my Dad would give me pot whenever I wanted it, so I started letting him supply me again for free.

By the winter of 2000, I was back in a gutter.  I even remember when the ball in Times Square dropped on midnight of January 1, 2000.  This was the era of the Y2K craze.  Everyone thought that all the computers in the world were going to shut down when we entered the millennium.  Some thought that we would all burn up in the apocalypse.  As that ball dropped, I was sitting in a basement, stoned and drunk out of my mind, watching MTV with a bunch of other wasted people.  I thought to myself in a moment of fear, “O God, please don’t let the world end right now!  I wouldn’t be ready to die and meet you!  I’m a waste of life!”  The ball dropped, and the relief on the faces of MTV Video Jockeys paralleled my relief, but didn’t quench my inner despair and worthlessness.

One good thing happened for me in the winter of 2000.  I was promoted to being a manager at Arabica coffee house.  Even though I was a college drop out and a total pot-head, they somehow trusted me to manage the store!  I was infamous for taking new employees into the freezer in the basement and “smoking them out” with my glass pipe filled with dope.  I would tell them it was their initiation into working there.  Arabica went out of business by the summer of 2000, and I had certainly played a huge part in its’ demise.

I worked with a person during my time at Arabica who was different than everyone else.  Her name was Liz.  Liz would never have smoked pot with me in the basement freezer!  She was from South Africa, and had a wonderful accent.  She was beautiful and confident.  She was wonderful with people and a diligent, hard worker.  I had tremendous respect for her.  She began to tell me about her personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and how Jesus had changed her life.  I asked her a lot of questions about this.  I often freaked her out, telling her of my wild drug experiences and basically sinful life.  She didn’t ever judge or condemn me, but rather seemed genuinely concerned for me.  All I knew of Jesus was that he was the center of Christian religion.  The Lutheran church I had attended talked about Him, but made Him seem like a great religious teacher, or a really nice hippie who wore white robes, but not necessarily the all powerful Son of God who was ruling the universe and living in the hearts of His people.  Liz talked of Jesus as if He was her personal friend and counselor.  She convinced me to visit her church, which was called Parkside.  It was a humongous mega-plex in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio.  I showed up there with a huge hangover.  My long hair was in a ponytail that hung down to the middle of my back.  I came alone in my schwag wagon- the 1988 Buick LeSabre with a duct-taped window, cranking Led Zeppelin as I pulled in to the massive parking lot.

Most of the people at this mega-church viewed me with great suspicion as I walked through the halls, shamelessly smiling at people with a half-drunken smile and trying to be friendly.  I met up with Liz and her husband, Rusty.  They introduced me to their friend, Chip.

Chip immediately befriended me and wanted me to join his band to play bass with him.  Chip had been an ex-extreme skier who used to throw himself off of cliffs for a living.  He actually was likely on the verge of making it to the Olympics.  But his real, hidden life was filled with cocaine, one-night stands, hard liquor, and marijuana.  He got to the point where he was almost put in jail for possession of drugs.  This led him to the verge of suicide.  Then he gave his life over to Jesus and everything changed.

I began playing bass in Chip’s band.  We played original songs he had written about his spiritual journey, and many were overtly about Jesus.  Chip quickly became a friend that I would call often for advice.  At the time, he was about thirty years old.  I looked at him as a mentor.  He took me in as a friend.  There were even times that I would be in the middle of a party, stoned out of my mind, and I’d pick up the phone to tell him that I was high and ashamed.  He would never judge me or talk down to me, but would just assure me that there were better things for me out there than that scene.

During this time in the midst of this redemptive friendship, I became very convinced that the life I was leading basically sucked.  One night, I had taken some of my Dad’s mid-grade weed out of his cigar box stash (with his permission from him of course).  My friends and I had spent the day roaming railroad tracks, eating hot wings, and smoking my Dad’s dope out of a little glass one-hitter all day.

Later on, it was nightfall and a storm was rolling into the sky.  I wasn’t that high.  I had smoked a very small amount of pot, and drank two beers.  But as the storm rolled in, I began to have what many would psychologically term an LSD flashback.  But I’m aware now that it was a demonic attack that came on as my conscience reeled within me about the desire to quit drugs.  The dark, grey clouds in the sky looked like skeletons slipping in and out of existence, and gnawing at each other with a faint scream in the distance.  All of a sudden, I was cut to the heart.  I had the thought in my head to go and confess to my Mom that I had a large bag of Dad’s weed in my pocket.  The thought was so intense, I told my buddies as we sat on the front porch abruptly; “Hey guys, I gotta split man.  Feel free to hang out more out here, but I’m done for the night.”  Without any hesitation, I stormed inside to confront what was eating at me.

“Mom.”  I announced abruptly.  “Dad has been giving me weed.”  I took out the bag of green from my pocket.  “This is his pot.  I don’t want to get high anymore.  I don’t want him to get high anymore.”

My Mom, with a shockingly calm response, as if she wasn’t surprised, but still big-eyed to some extent, said; “Well flush it down the toilet then!”

I flushed it down the toilet.

My Dad came downstairs and acted like this was the end of a long, drawn out ploy of reverse psychology, a typical stoner move.

“Hey Ben, you did it!  You finally did what I had been hoping all along!  I didn’t know what else to do to get you to quit drugs, so I started smoking pot again and put that pot in my closet on purpose, hoping that the idea of smoking pot with me would finally make you wanna quit!”

“So Dad, you’re going to quit too?”  I responded aghast, believing every word he said.

“Yeah man, I couldn’t wait until this happened!  I knew it would!  I’m so proud of you buddy!”

Of course, my Dad was lying…  later I would bust him 3 more times with a bag of dope, a glass one-hitter (that he had confiscated on the day I flushed his pot down the latrine), and a roach (or mostly smoked joint).  But he finally quit when Jesus grabbed ahold of him in 2005, as this post describes:  http://benjaminbradfordwhite.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/how-my-dad-became-a-jesus-freak/

But in the year 2000, everything in my life was rapidly changing.  I had stopped smoking pot and popping pills.  I drastically cut back on my beer intake.  I started exercising and eating healthy.  I began to be afraid that having pre-marital sex with my girlfriend Jamie was clouding our ability to see if we were really friends.  I asked if we could stop having sex for awhile and see if our friendship was real.  During this “break” time, friends of mine told me that she was cheating on me.  I began to believe it was true, even though Jamie would deny it over and over again.  We broke up.  I was in utter and complete depression over it.  Ten days after our break-up, I showed up at her house to beg her to leave the drug scene.  I found her in bed with another guy, and after having flashes in my mind of committing the criminal act of violent assault on this guy, I stormed out of her house, slamming the door hard enough to practically break the stained glass within it.

It was then the spring of the year 2000.  In all of this sadness, sitting at home alone, I pulled out an album that someone had given me as a gift when I was baptized as a Lutheran.  It was an album called “the Jesus Record” by Rich Mullins and the Ragamuffin Band.  I had avoided listening to it for months, thinking it was just a bunch of ridiculous corny Christian music laden with electric 80’s piano and cheesy cliché lyrics.  I put on the first track, which was called “My Deliverer”, and was immediately drawn in to the beautiful natural piano and orchestra laden, haunting melody.  The lyrics wooed me in with heartful emotion and truth as they told a story.  It didn’t sound like a pretty Sunday school story.  It was a story of suffering and oppression, with deliverance in the midst of it.  The lyrics sang these words;

Joseph took his wife and her child and they went to Africa

To escape the rage of a deadly king…

There along the banks of the Nile,

Jesus listened to the song
That the captive children used to sing
They were singing…

My Deliverer is coming – my Deliverer is standing by
My Deliverer is coming – my Deliverer is standing by

Through a dry and thirsty land, water from the Kenyon heights
Pours itself out of Lake Sangra’s broken heart
There in the Sahara winds Jesus heard the whole world cry
For the healing that would flow from His own scars
The world was singing,

My Deliverer is coming – my Deliverer is standing by
My Deliverer is coming – my Deliverer is standing by

He will never break His promise – He has written it upon the sky

I will never doubt His promise though I doubt my heart, I doubt my eyes.

He will never break His promise, though the stars should break faith with the sky…

I was crying like a child throughout the entire song.  I would later find out that the song was not even sung by Rich Mullins, but by his friend and band-mate, Rick Elias.  Rich had died in a car accident at the age of forty in 1997.  Before his accident, he had compiled acoustic recordings of all the songs for “The Jesus Record” in a little church by himself.  His band-mates had made the album with the help of many people in the Christian music scene, as a tribute to Rich and his life.  Rich had been put on a pedestal as a Christian music star, and wouldn’t sell himself out no matter what temptations were thrown at him.  He ended up living a life of celibacy, having the leaders at his church receive all of his money, which likely could have made him wealthy, and at Rich’s request, gave him a yearly salary of about $20,000 a year, while funneling the rest into missions work, orphanages, and relief for the poor.  In the last days of his life he was living in a trailer on a Navajo Indian reservation, and pouring his life into the Navajo community, while still touring with his ragamuffin band and radicalizing the church with his heartfelt songs that described a true life of devotion to Jesus.  A movie about him will be released soon, watch the trailer here: http://ragamuffinthemovie.com/.

I wanted what Rich and his bandmates had.  I wanted what Chip and Liz had.  I wanted to know this Jesus that Rich Mullins wrote about, who “heard the whole world cry”, and “healed people through His scars”.  Chip had once dared me to pray a prayer when I was all alone and wondering about my existence.  He told me to simply look up to God in heaven and ask Him if Jesus was really His Son…

One night, not many days after I had cried myriad tears over the sweet music of Rich Mullins, I uttered this prayer.  I was sitting all alone in my room past midnight, and having what I then understood to be an LSD flashback.  I was looking at the ground, and seeing demonic figures gnawing at each other and convulsing in the carpet below.  I cried out in desperation, “God, is Jesus your Son?  Then show me!  Help me to see who He is!”  I saw white sparkles come down from the ceiling and strike the demons in the carpet, and they were sucked back down into the earth.  I was filled with that peace I felt during my worst mushroom trip ever, after having a near death experience, and then crying out to God or whoever was out there.  I was filled with that peace I had felt in the Lutheran church when I attended there for the first time.  The peace was beginning to become a part of my life.  Little did I know then of the amazing changes that would happen to me as time moved forward.