Tag Archives: drugs

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.

The Post-Hippie Scene of Kent, Ohio

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Main St Bridge - Kent

Main St Bridge – Kent (Photo credit: Todd Baker << technowannabe)

Kent, Ohio was made infamous by the 1970 May 4th shootings of 4 college students on campus, and Neil Young, backed by Crosby, Stills and Nash, coined the song “Ohio”, which forever rang in the consciousness of Kent residents.  Ever since then it was one of the premier hippie spots in the Cleveland/Akron area.

In the center of this hippie culture was Brady’s Café.  Brady’s Café was right next to the Kent State University Campus, and was upheld by hippies who had been around Kent for a long time.  It attracted a new generation of hippies…  Gen-Xers and Slackers who listened to Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth, Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins, as well kats who were into the Grateful Dead, Phish, and the more widely accepted Dave Matthews Band.

Duane and I were drawn into the scene of Brady’s, and were introduced to it by his older friend Brenden, who often sold us dope.  At least once a month, a band called “The Black Hole Jokers” would play there.  They were mostly a Grateful Dead cover band.  I had my “initiation” into the Brady’s scene at the ripe age of 15 when the Jokers were playing.

You can imagine the kind of scene a Grateful Dead cover band drew in.  A synchronistic plethora of freaks, circus clowns, dopers, hippies, Frat Boys, Goths, Wiccans, Transexuals, Preppy Kids, Metal Heads, Harley Riders, Bisexuals, Satanists… you name it, were all there in their respective haze of choice to enjoy the surrogate psychedelic sounds.  I was just a kid, and no doubt got stoned on weed that was stronger than what I was used to at Brady’s.  Now I was hanging with college kids and adults in the drug scene.  At times, it was more than I could handle.

I spent many nights at Brady’s sick from something or another.  One night I was just ill and spitting up by the ledge on the outside of the café.  It may have been that I had been taken hold of by some bad pipe greens that were laced with something nasty.

We literally used to buy drugs in the upper floor of Brady’s from crazy dudes we didn’t know.  One dealer was named “Seff”.  He was a bi-sexual nymphomaniac, and a heroin addict.  He would sell Duane and I weed, sitting right in the middle of the coffee shop on the upper floor.  Looking back I realize I could’ve gotten into some weird situations that I didn’t understand or know how to prepare for.  Someone transcendent was looking out for me…

They turned Brady’s into a Starbucks years later…

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Teenage Sadness

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Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the Winter and Spring of 1997 I have hazy memories of the subconscious of which I do not recall, nor understand.  I sit here now in Conway, New Hampshire on my day off, sipping strong coffee and writing of these vague memories.  My wife Sarah just reminded me of how great a memory I have, and how difficult it is for her to remember half the things in her past that I am able to conjure!  However, I’m the type of person that struggles with letting things go and nostalgia, and always have to intentionally seek divine grace in matters of forgiveness.

But the Winter of 1997 is a fog to me.  I’m certain I had gotten to the point during this time where marijuana had entirely engulfed my mind and existence.  I slipped into a deep depression.  I had a longing for the first love I had ever known, my ex-girlfriend and then best friend Harmony.  I dreamed about her in vague daydreams, mystified by scattered thoughts, tears and the abyss of abeyance.  I smoked my mind away and poured my broken heart into songs of longing.  My parents had bought me an Ovation 12-string guitar with an electric pick-up.  This guitar became my vehicle of inner expression.  I would spend nights up until 3am alone…  puffing and inhaling away on pack after pack of Camel Lights, and smoking pot in a pipe of my own that I had gotten through an older teenage dope-head.  You see, dope pipes were sold in regular stores under the veil of being used for tobacco only.  One would even have to sign a waiver stating that this was their intention, though it obviously wasn’t.

This was a great era of music.  The Winter of 1997 brought about a post-grunge era of deep expression fused with electronica.  The popular alternative songs were a soundtrack for my unspoken, lonely misery.  The Smashing Pumpkins had an anthem of woebegone called “Thirty-Three”.  When I listened to it again today through the eyes of my 15-year old self, it actually brought tears to my eyes.  Maybe it lingers as a subconscious memory of the desperate love and despair I felt back then.  The song croons with despondency the words:

“I know I’ll make it, love can last forever,

Graceful swans of never topple to the earth.

And you can make it last, forever you

You can make it last, forever you

And for a moment I lose myself

Wrapped up in the pleasures of the world

I’ve journeyed here and there and back again

But in the same old haunts I still find my friends…”

This song was certainly an anthem that rang in my mind.  Would Harmony and I ever be back together again?  We would talk some nights until the late hours, sharing our heart and soul with each other, but she always seemed to have a love interest in someone else…  I felt that she could truly “make it last forever…”  This love that existed in my heart for her seemed infinite, though looking back I know it was just the piercing strength of my post-adolescent emotion that paralleled the longing within all of us to taste eternal love.  We all try to find this love in every corner of our soul…  For what can be known about God is plain to us, because God has shown it to us, and anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (Rom. 1:19; 1 John 4:8)  I suppose the real question is; “What is real, sacrificial, true love?”  I’m convinced that that question can be fully answered in 1 John 4:7-21, but that is a discussion for another forum.

“In the same old haunts I still found my friends.”  Mitchell played bass and Duane played drums in our band, Mulberry Tree.  Our music seemed to get more and more powerful.  It was as if we were living inside of our songs and performances as we worked harder on our sound.  We were close friends and band-mates.  I often shared my heartbreak and struggles with Duane, because he was an introspective poetry writer and cynic like me.  I shared feelings with Mitchell as well, but tried much harder to appear manly to him, because he was an athlete as well as a rock n’ roller.

Duane was definitely a great poetry writer.  His poems consisted of dark corners in the spiritual realm.  He was raised a Catholic and had become a self-proclaimed atheist.  These shadows of anger came out in his poetry and his abstract drumming.  Him and I would always spend time smoking cigarettes and pouring our thoughts out to each other.  He inspired me to write poetry as well, and it helped me to deal with the emotions I was facing, as well as strengthen my song lyrics.

Mitchell was a great bassist and songwriter to be sure, but he had another aspect of his personality.  He was the type of guy that thrived in the world of sports and athletic vigor.  It was quite amazing, really.  He could spend a weekend with us smoking dope and drinking, and then go right back to lifting weights, eating creatine, and beating the garbage out of other huge dudes his size on the wrestling mat.  As his muscles grew, so did his appeal with the high school ladies.

Harmony began to gain an interest in Mitchell.  I couldn’t have been more devastated at the thought.  But I loved both of my friends so much, and I was put in the middle.  One night Harmony and I were talking and she asked me the fatal question, “So…  Can you ask Mitchell if he likes me or not?  He’s SOOOO hot!!”

I would call Mitchell not long after and ask him.  Of course he liked her back, because she was obviously the most beautiful girl in the world to me.  He made sure to ask me, “Is it ok though Ben?  Is it alright that I ask her out?  I mean, I know you like her and stuff.”  To which I bluffed, “No, no man.  I don’t like her anymore bro.  Go for it buddy!  What more could I ask for than two of my best friends to get together?”  I couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth.  Was I insane?  How could I bear this all to happen?

And yet it was inevitable that Harmony and Mitchell would become a thing.  My songs would delve into so deep a sorrow that they became anthems of hard rock anger.  The way I really felt was akin to Gwen Stefani of No Doubt in their #1 hit “Don’t Speak”:

You and me

We used to be together

Everyday together always

I really feel

That I’m losing my best friend

I can’t believe

This could be the end

It looks as though you’re letting go

And if it’s real

Well I don’t want to know

As a way of escape I delved into marijuana use in a whole new way, and pretended that I was happy for my friends getting together.  But there had to be a way for me to get back at Harmony somehow…  She had friends!  That’s right!  She had friends that were good looking.  Maybe if I dated one of them I could make her jealous.  She had a curly haired friend named Laila who I thought was attractive.  I began my ploy to see if we could get together.  And of course I would use Harmony as my “middle-woman” to orchestrate the whole fiasco.

Maybe I should have listened to the lyrics in the song “Discotheque” from U2’s “Pop” album to set me straight.  I realize now that they could have spoken truth to me when they claimed a universal reality:

You’re looking for the one

But you know you’re somewhere else instead

You want to be the song

Be the song that you hear in your head

Love…

(You want heaven in your heart)

(Heaven in your heart)

(The sun, the moon, and the stars)

As much as this longing in my heart has been abated upon this earth as I look at my life now, I realize that back then it seemed to be so desperately far from me that I didn’t know what to do with myself.

Secret Acid Man

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postcard - drugs - LSD Acid Guy (b&w)

postcard – drugs – LSD Acid Guy (b&w) (Photo credit: Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL))

After my second bad trip I was badly shaken.  I would spend many moments in frantic tears, mourning the innocence of my childhood, the regrets of all my lies, the fractured relationship with my parents, the tattered remains of my relationship with my girlfriend Harmony, and all the missed moments to simply love and be loved.  I wanted to flee from drug usage and never turn back.  I wanted to become sober and remain that way for the rest of my waking life.

The words of Fuel’s “Shimmer” blared on the radio in the Fall of 1998.  The end of the chorus spoke the lyrics; “All that shimmers in this world is sure to fade, away again”.

Every addict has sobering moments.  Chris Farley of the great era of SNL in the early nineties played a lesser-known character that would always say he was going to get sober, and then inevitably would get drunk or high again.  This is a clip of that skit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sSnkqpVSBY.  This depicted the inconsistency of “sobering moments”.  Drug addicts seem to have no perception of what “rock bottom” really is.  One could ride the edge of insanity, end up near death or in prison, and still crave the feeling of being high or drunk.  It’s a deeply ingrained mentality and a way of life.  Addicts truly deceive themselves into thinking that they’re not hurting anyone but them.  They don’t realize that they’re shattering the lives of everyone who loves and cares for them because of their self-destruction.  What they’re doing resembles suicidal behavior, because they truly begin to think that they are worthless.  “No one will miss me if I overdose or die.”  A drug addict will reason.  “I might as well stay high to avoid the pain.”

I was a true addict.

Two weeks into my stint with complete sobriety, I was sitting at Arabica coffee house in Hudson, Ohio, having a cigarette and drinking a coffee.  My girlfriend Harmony showed up to meet with me.  I was happy to see her.  Things were going better between us since I had been sober.  I looked into her eyes and noticed something this particular day.

“Harmony, your eyes look red.”  I said to her.

“Ummm, yeah whatever.”  Harmony responded.  She was never good at keeping things from me.

“Harmony did you just smoke weed?”

“Well yeah I did Ben…”

We got into a huge fight.  I told her that I was going to go and get high again, and it was her fault.  It would never take long for me to find a friend to pull me back down the hole.  I tracked down an acquaintance, Clint Thorusen, who had a bunch of weed on him.  He smoked a couple of pipes full with me, and I was back.  Stoner Benny lived on.

A couple weeks before, after my traumatic experience on magic mushrooms, I had asked Harmony to stay sober with me, and she had reluctantly agreed.  Obviously she wasn’t ready to stay sober.  I obviously wasn’t either.  It wasn’t even fair of me to expect her to keep a promise to me, because I had lied my teeth off to her for our entire relationship.

Rewind back 5 months into April of 1998…

Harmony was always afraid of my LSD use, so after my first few trips and trying to pressure her into taking it, she made me promise her that I would never do it again.  I lied to her and agreed.

In the months that followed, I did LSD once or twice a week.  I never told Harmony about it.  When she would notice that I was acting stranger than usual, I would just tell her that I had smoked some really strong pot.  There were a few times that she asked me if I was tripping.  I would just lie to her face.  Drugs make a person a more effective liar sometimes, especially the harder drugs, because they sear your conscience like a hot iron.  But even the most effective liars eventually get found out, “for there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” (Luke 8:17)

One night I took some LSD, and went to a party at Dana Smith’s house, where Harmony was.  At this time, I was always seeing how far I could ride the edge of this lie I was keeping up with.  This particular night I don’t even remember, but I know that I was acting completely out of my head, and it was obvious that it was more than alcohol or THC floating in my skull.  Harmony got really angry with me for the way I was acting.

The next memory I have is being at home, coming off of my trip.  I called Dana’s number at about 2:30am.  Her parents’ were out of town and Harmony was staying there for the night.  These were the days before cell phones as well, so people only had land-lines.  Dana answered the phone and put Harmony on.  I was welling up with guilt as I tried to find the courage for what I was about to admit.  Harmony got on the phone, “What the **** do you want?”  She barked at me.  “Ummmm, how are you doing?”  I sheepishly responded.

“Look Ben, if you don’t have something really important to say to me, I’m getting off of the phone.”  She replied angrily.

“I’ve got something to tell you Harmony.  Just please don’t hang up on me.”

I then admitted that I was currently on LSD, and had been dropping acid regularly for the past few months.  Harmony completely flipped out on me.  Our trust had been broken.  She kept hanging up on me as I tried to reason with her in my psychedelic stupor.  At one point, she finally hung up and I kept calling back, only to get a busy tone. (these don’t exist anymore either, but used to be the sound you’d hear when someone left their phone off of the hook!)

At this time, I was an impulsive drug user and liar.  I was also an impulsive romantic.

I snuck out of my house at 3:30 am, tripping on acid, and began what would be a 2-mile long run across town to where Dana’s house was.  I may have been sixteen years old for almost a whole year, but I didn’t yet have my license because I was a lazy pot-head.  I couldn’t drive, so I jogged across town.

There I was, a long-haired hippie kid, high out of his mind, jogging 2 miles across town, jumping behind bushes and trees when a car would pass by, afraid that the cops would catch me past curfew.  The drug made this trek seem like a surreal nightmare.  Every shadow that I passed by seemed like a monster, and every street lamp a neon, celestial galaxy vortex that could suck me in at any moment.  I was determined to make it to Dana’s house and talk to Harmony.

I finally arrived and knocked on the door.  Harmony came outside.  She was stoned and drunk.  I was still on acid.  We tried to talk things out and they got progressively worse.  As the sun began to creep up on the suburban Ohio horizon, we broke up.

Yet it wasn’t long before Harmony and I got back together after that.

Fast-forward a few months into the fall of 1998.  After my stint with sobriety, I had fallen back into doing drugs again.  Harmony and I were still together, but things were rockier than ever.

One night, as I was coming off of some combination of various poisons, I received a call from Harmony.

“Hey Ben!”  She said rather enthusiastically.

“What’s up crazy girl.”  I responded in a stupor.  “Crazy girl” was a nickname I always used for her.

Harmony went on to explain to me that she had gotten drunk and fallen asleep next to this guy the night before, his name was James Sooner.  He was an angry, muscular dude.  She assured me that she hadn’t kissed him or anything.  I couldn’t believe it.  We got into the biggest fight ever, and broke up for what seemed like the last time.

It was the Fall of my Senior Year of High School.  At this time, I was sure that Harmony and I would never break up.  She was my closest friend and I had hopes that we would be together to the end.  Breaking up with her sent me into an uncontrollable depression.  I would spend nights sobbing my eyes out and trying to get high enough to forget the pain.  I wrote songs and poems about her, declaring that I hated her and never wanted to speak to her again.

When an emotionally traumatic event occurs in an addict’s life, it triggers a greater dependence on their drug and alcohol habit to cope with it.  Breaking up with Harmony would send me into a more severe era of drug abuse than ever before.

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…

Eating Ecstasy and Falling Falsely in Love With the World

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Assortment of Ecstasy pills.

Assortment of Ecstasy pills. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can’t piece together any of the events in October, November and December of 1998 in chronological order.  My intake of mind-altering substances was at an all time peak.  I was smoking pot all day, tripping two or three times a week, snorting speed pills, drinking booze, skipping school, failing every class in my senior year of high school, and bouncing around like a lost pinball in Pete Townshend’s Tommy Rock Opera Sub-Conscious Machine. The ways of right-living people were aglow with light; But the road of wrongdoing became darker and darker, where travelers couldn’t see a thing; and fell flat on their faces.  (Prov. 4:18-19 The MSG)  No matter how many times I would fall flat on my face, there was always someone else to blame other than me.  I would reason that it was my parents’ fault, or society’s fault, or my teachers at school.  They were the instigators of my ruin, not me.  I was living in a delusion.

I remember the people that I despised the most and were “aglow with light”.  It wasn’t those who tolerated me or scolded me.  It was those who loved me.  I remember the nicest guy in my grade, Elias Wayans.  Every time that I encountered Elias, he would smile and seem to look deep down into my soul.  He would say things like; “Hey Ben…  How are you doing buddy?”  He was well liked by everyone in our grade.  Amongst many religious people who were hypocritical, and would join me in partying.  Or those who were holy rollers that would judge and marginalize me, he was a rare bird, someone who seemed to be a real follower of Jesus.  He lived a clean and respectable life, but he also exuded an unconditional love toward everyone that I couldn’t grasp.  All my speculation about the Woodstock Generation and Bohemians of the past couldn’t match up to the life of Elias Wayans.

One day, somewhere amidst the blur of the end of 1998, I was sitting alone in Arabica Coffee shop in Hudson, Ohio, coming off of one of my many acid trips.  I had a wool cap on, and my Green Grateful Dead Terrapin Station t-shirt on over a long underwear full-sleeved shirt.  I was smoking a cigarette and watching the smoke trail off into little phantoms in the air- where molecules would splice themselves into life patterns that developed into fiery crows, circus clowns and werewolves.  I looked up and saw a girl arise from the elusive mist and sit down across from me.  Her name was Jaime Wyatt.  There was definitely an immediate attraction that happened between us.

Not only was there an attraction to her, Jaime seemed to understand me.  She was heavy into the drug scene herself; addicted to prescription speed (Adderall), and smoking dope.  She had also done her fair share of LSD.  She talked me down off of my trip, and made me feel better.  I was still depressed about my ex-girlfriend Harmony and I breaking up, and getting so much focused attention from a girl definitely gave me greater confidence.

In some sort of whirlwind, Jaime and I began hanging out all of the time.  This was in late November, leading into December and the Christmas Season.  Santa Claus was an old burned out psychedelic hippie to me as the winter of 1998-1999 crept in.  Jaime and I became good friends.  We were so much alike in so many ways.  We were idealists, we were outgoing types, and we observed a certain poetry in life and loved to discuss deep things.  Jaime and I had a taste for wild, spontaneous adventure at the time.  We were both hedonists to the core.  We didn’t care about responsibility or respect to any authority.  We roamed free like two wild flower children in 1969.

I don’t remember when or how we first kissed or began dating, though I know these things came to be.  We were high all of the time.  The drugs were flowing around us like oxygen.  I got in with her circle of friends, some whom were drug dealers of a higher caliber than I had known before.  All of a sudden, I was getting supplied with almost any substance I wanted.

Something unexpected happened as well.  As my confidence grew, and my crazy habits multiplied, two of my ex-girlfriends came back into my life.  It’s true what they say about some women becoming attracted to notorious characters.  It’s as if my criminal ways actually made me more appealing to them.  I don’t know why living life on the edge is attractive to some people.  Maybe it’s because life in the middle is so mundane.  I know now that one can live a righteous life on the edge, living radically in pursuit of Jesus, but back then I only knew the terror and risk involved in infamy and self-destruction.

Madiera, my ex-girlfriend from two summers before, was in the same wild party scene that I was in, and we began fooling around again and partying together.  Because I was so inebriated all of the time, I didn’t take it seriously.  But Madiera began to speak again of being in a relationship with me.  I led her on to believe that I was romantically interested, and we continued fooling around and partying.  Madiera had continued to be a close friend to me, and because she appeared in a moment of ethical weakness and personal despair, I gave in to my own manipulative intentions.

Then low and behold, the answer to what my dreams were at the time came true.  Harmony came back into my life.  She had begun to party more heavily as well.  However, as in the past, she had high standards for getting back together.  She wanted to know that she could trust me, so she didn’t get in too deep with me right away.  But we did party together and kiss and talk about how we were going to get back together…

I had never been the type before this to date a variety of girls simultaneously.  It could have been because my parents were always faithful to each other.  I never wanted to be in anything but a serious relationship.  I had personal lust problems with myself, but always remained devoted to one girl at a time.  Drugs do deteriorate the pure intentions of the heart. Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted. (Titus 1:15)  When a person fills their mind and life with venom, the vision and judgment within the conscience become blurred.  I just wanted to be high and have fun.  I was so high all of the time, I didn’t care that I was about to deeply wound the hearts of two of these girls, or maybe all three.

It was also quite a juggling act.  I would try and fill my week with plans, seeing all three girls at different times, making sure they didn’t overlap, and making sure to be secretly romantic with each of them so that no one would let the word out and get me caught.

The decision didn’t enter my mind on who to choose until I had delved in deeply.  I was a hopeless romantic.  I didn’t treat relationships casually.  I made all three of these girls think that I loved them and they were the only ones for me.  This was the most I had mastered the art of lying, though nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. (Luke 8:17)  All liars, even the most effective ones, get caught.

One night, by some wild stream of events, I partied my mind out.  It was Christmas break of 1998.  Jamie and I decided that we should try a newer drug called Ecstasy, which was the street name for a drug derived from components of mescaline and methamphetamine called MDMAhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDMA  I had been told by some of my new Raver friends that Ecstasy would turn my mind on to new waves of compassion and understanding.

People in the late 90’s called being high on X “rolling”, because it would release so much serotonin in your brain at once that your eyes would constantly roll up into your head from the overload of dopamine.  It’s amazing how the enemy of our souls and the nature of humanity encouraged the search for chemical compounds that create an artificial experience of elation and higher consciousness.  It’s straight out of a science fiction novel, because in the wrong hands, manipulation of this level could be used for serious mind control.

I took two little blue pills with butterfly designs on them.  Jaime also took “two blue butterflies”.  I can’t describe the events that followed, because so many other drugs were being consumed with these… speed, marijuana, and the old standards, caffeine and nicotine.  Our minds were blurred and floating.  I only remember being in Jaime’s room at her parents’ large, brick house on a man-made lake in the nicest neighborhood in Hudson, Ohio called “Canterbury Place”.  It was 3 am, and we were listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”.  With the effects of the butterfly ecstasy pills pounding our brains, the music was emotionally moving to us.  We were babbling in poetic riddles about it.  The ecstasy also persuaded us that we were truly in love, and had finally found our destiny in each other.  I wrote a poetic song right in the middle of our intense experience called “Two Blue Butterflies” that deified Jamie and I as little demigods of our own Kingdom of escapism.  The words still ring in my mind and memory, as I revisit that night of incense and candlelight, which is a pale illusion and lucid dream to me now.  Ecstasy, Jamie, Dark Side of the Moon, and my non-ethical, elated ego created a moment of false salvation in this experience.  I still remember the song I wrote and it’s lyrics, they rang out;

Floating by a candle

In the pale shade of moonlight

Waiting for my love’s destiny

To rise towards me

In the middle of the sunrise

Kiss the sun, and I find myself as one

Rising like a luminescent cloud in the star filled sky

I’ve been waiting so long

To be taken up above where I belong

Think it’s you that I’ve been dreaming of

My beam of light, will shine bright

Like everlasting time

Like withstanding the endless glow that shines in your mind

And in your heart

In your eyes…

I always knew before that writing a song for a girl would capture their heart.  But something about this wild, drug-induced moment was deeply intense.  To this day, I don’t know if Jaime and I had really fallen in love in that moment.  We were definitely great friends and attracted to each other, no doubt.  But the effects of Ecstasy on the mind are described as:

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDMA#Subjective_effects)

This completely describes the situation that Jaime and I were in.  I was convinced that these were true emotions I was feeling, and I wanted to give up everything to chase after this idealistic, utopian dream-world we had created.

I soon told Madiera that I was in love with Jamie, and we had to break it off.  By this time it was almost Christmas.  What a wonderful Christmas present!  She cussed me out and told me I was an insensitive jerk (though she used another descriptive noun).  She was crying and angry with me.  In my drug haze I didn’t even care or feel the least bit of remorse at the time.  Drugs make an altered reality outside of the ethical realm of true existence more appealing than actuality.  I probably smiled at Madiera as she broke down, and told her things like; “It’s ok, it’s ok!  Everything is beautiful…”  I thought that I was on a higher plane than everyone, and it made her hate me more.

I also broke it off with Harmony, who had once been my first love, though something deep inside me felt it was wrong.  I was riding a high, and didn’t want it to end.  I knew Harmony wouldn’t approve of my use of harder drugs, and Jaime would.  I broke the news to her, and was so high when I did it that I came off completely calloused and detached.  She cried and cried, angry and hurt that I would betray her like I did.  I didn’t know how to care about her anymore.

I didn’t have chagrin for God, or myself, my parents, or anyone who really knew me.  I wanted to chase the Elysian fields of Ecstasy, and it wouldn’t be long before I would make popping disco biscuits and hanging with Ravers a regular weekend habit.

Doing Mushrooms at Prom

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Nathan Hale HS Prom, 1983

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

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

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

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

Oh the jealousy, the greed is the unraveling

It’s the unraveling

And it undoes all the joy that could be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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