Tag Archives: Hudson Ohio

Chasing After the First High

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don't get high on my supply without me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vomit and Tears

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Puking and Driving

Puking and Driving (Photo credit: Mike “Dakinewavamon” Kline)

Fall was always my favorite time of year.  The Fall of 1996 in northern Ohio was complete with sun-kissed luminescent leaves on trees like every color of a neon, ultra-violet rainbow.  The chill in the air lent itself to thick button-up shirts and sporting my blue and black winter hat with flaps on the ears.

Sublime’s “What I Got” and The Wallflowers “6th Avenue Heartache” were filling the ears of listeners during the autumn of ’96.  But I was still a classic rocker to the core.  I carried around a big yellow Sony Walkman with Korg studio-headphones that looked like ear-muffs.  I wore it in the hallways of school and filled my brain with Led Zeppelin 3 and The Beatles’ ‘Revolver’, as well as Lenny Kravitz and Jimi Hendrix originals.  By this time I had so many recordings I had made on my own that they became a regular part of my listening too.

I smoked pot weekly.  It had become normal for me.  In the midst of my creative pursuits I had a disdained disinterest in school, sports and the functional, healthy ways of life that I saw my peers embarking upon.  I smoked Camel Lights, about 5-10 a day.  I lit up in the bathroom sometimes, but mostly before and after school.  The nicotine rages would kick in at the end of the school day if I hadn’t had a cigarette, which is why I would sometimes sneak one in the lavatory.  Lots of others in the school did this.  The boys bathroom wasn’t even allowed to have doors on the stalls because the teachers and hall monitors wanted to police the students constantly for puffing on cigarettes.

I also acquired a fascination for drinking hard liquor.  I learned the wild ride of pumping a bunch of it into my system at once.  I would mix it all of the time.  I would drink Whiskey, Cognac, Rum, Gin, and Vodka in any order at any time.  Straight shots, Screwdrivers, Rum and Cokes, you name it.  My parents had a liquor cabinet, and I learned that they’d less likely catch me drinking if I combined a bunch of different liquors.

By this time I had been convinced to “go out” with Jaen, who was Duane’s ‘blind date’ at the homecoming dance.  It was odd, because Jaen was 17 years old, and I was only 15.  I could tell she had never kissed anyone, because at one point we kissed and it was about as awkward as seeing a clown at a bus stop.  I hung out often with Jaen and her group of friends, which included my blind date, the cool hippie-girl, now turned friend and party buddy Elysia.  We would have parties, and find parties to go to.  There would always be beer, liquor or dope.  We began to learn the madness of mixing the three as well.

I was still in love with my ex-girlfriend and now best friend Harmony also.  We talked all the time on school nights and weekends.  We shared all that we went through with our relationships.  Something inside of me always felt that I was dating people just to see if she would become jealous.  She would definitely ask me questions about girls I was with, including Jaen.  I would act like I really dug them, but I was just hoping that Harmony would admit her feelings for me.  She began to give me little notes at school.  I kept them all in a shoebox.

I loved to raid my parents’ liquor cabinet before going out on social functions.  By this time, Duane, our drummer from Mulberry Tree, could drive.  He would drive me all over the place.  If my parents happened to be at work at the time I would raid the liquor cabinet and fill myself with alcohol, then call Duane and have him come and pick me up.  Sometimes we’d have plans, so I’d take some shots before and find myself falling all over the place, making a total fool of myself in front of our friends.  It became a kind of image.  People would say, “awww…  Benny’s at it again!”  I became that guy.  I was the intoxicated guy, the one that was drunk at 3pm, the one that was stoned at 8am in the morning at school.  I lost weight rapidly.  I eat Vivarin caffeine pills all the time to try to keep myself alert when I wasn’t wasted.  I dropped to 135 pounds, and earned the name “Skeletor” amongst my friends, because I always had dark circles under my eyes and was bone-thin skinny.  I also had a huge puff of hair on top of my head, making me look like an oblong q-tip.

One day Duane had planned to come and pick me up, just to hang out at Arabica, our favorite coffee house, to smoke cigarettes and drink coffee.  I decided to hit my parent’s liquor cabinet, since they weren’t home.  I drank an insane amount of liquor.  I drank it all straight, mixing Gin with Rum and aged Cognac.  I took a huge swig of pretty much whatever they had in the cabinet.  I felt a twinge each time in my throat as it burned down my esophagus and into my guts.  I certainly hadn’t had much to eat.  I probably drank the equivalent of 15 shots.  Duane showed up in the driveway and I got in his car.

The alcohol quickly began to kick in as I lit a cigarette and smoked it out of Duane’s window.  I don’t remember much of what happened, just that Duane was amused with how tanked I was.  What transpired after wasn’t amusing at all really…

The next thing I knew we were at the coffee shop.  I tried to sit down but I kept having to put my head in my arms on the table.  Everything was spinning out of control.  I had been drunk plenty before, but this was another level.  I got up and stumbled to the bathroom, running into every table and chair on the way, falling over on the ground, running into people.  I got into the restroom and grabbed one of the 5 blurry toilets I saw spinning around in a kaleidoscopic whirlwind.  I aimed my mouth into it and spewed out what seemed to be an endless flow of poisonous vomit.  I don’t remember much of what happened after that for a period of time…

The next thing I knew Duane and I were sitting on the pavement in some obscure area behind the Acme Plaza in the town of Hudson, Ohio.  There was puke all around me.  Duane had bought me a loaf of bread to eat, and some water.  I was trying to eat and drink…  everything went blank after that…

The next thing I remember, Duane and I were in my room.  He had really gone out of his way to look out for me.  I had gotten myself into a shower and changed my clothes on my own somehow,.  The problem was, my old clothes stank like grandma’s cough medicine and barf.  I was laying in my bed and Duane was telling me he had to go.  He had to take off before my parents’ got home, in case I would get busted.  Since I was obviously drunk, like an insane vagrant stumbling in the streets, it was apparent that I would be found out.  I was as obviously impaired in my judgement as the princes of Zoan in Egypt were in the time of Isaiah the prophet in the five-hundreds, B.C.  The Lord had mingled within her a spirit of confusion, and they would make Egypt stagger in all its deeds, as a drunken man staggers in his vomit. (Isa. 19:14)  Like an ancient analogy coming to life, I was a drunken man staggering in his vomit to be sure.

My parents got home.  I don’t remember much of our conversation.  But I do remember being at the dinner table.  They told me if I did this again, they’d take away all my instruments and not let me play music.  I started weeping and crying like an alcoholic.  “Don’ take away my moooosic man…”,  I whimpered.  I was to be grounded yet again.  Though they threatened to take away my music, they didn’t, just friend privileges and freedom to go out on weeknights and weekends.

Many original songs would flow out of these struggles.  I was earning the reputation as a seriously troubled kid.  I certainly wouldn’t cease smoking marijuana, drinking, and smoking.  Though I learned to hide it better.  For some reason I couldn’t get enough.  The life around me continued to shatter and crumble.  All I cared about was the next buzz and the next song.  The lyrics and melody of Smashing Pumpkins’ “Muzzle” rang in my head like a soundtrack and anthem…

I fear that I’m ordinary, just like everyone

To lie here and die among the sorrows

Adrift among the days

For everything I ever said

And everything I’ve ever done is gone and dead

As all things must surely have to end

And great loves will one day have to part

I know that I am meant for this world

My life has been extraordinary

Blessed and cursed and won

Time heals but I’m forever broken

By and by the way…

Have you ever heard the words

I’m singing in these songs?

It’s for the girl I’ve loved all along

Can a taste of love be so wrong

As all things must surely have to end

And great loves will one day have to part

I know that I am meant for this world

And in my mind as I was floating

Far above the clouds

Some children laughed I’d fall for certain

For thinking that I’d last forever

But I knew exactly where I was

And I knew the meaning of it all

And I knew the distance to the sun

And I knew the echo that is love

And I knew the secrets in your spires

And I knew the emptiness of youth

And I knew the solitude of heart

And I knew the murmurs of the soul

And the world is drawn into your hands

And the world is etched upon your heart

And the world so hard to understand

Is the world you can’t live without

And I knew the silence of the world

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8bfBKVVv0Q

Chinese Food Slingin’ Stoner

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English: Chinese food at a restaurant in Barri...

English: Chinese food at a restaurant in Barrio Chino in Mexico City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s safe to say that in the Fall of 1997, I definitely had an expensive and ever continuing drug, cigarette and alcohol habit!  My parents’ abundant allowance that they generously bestowed upon me wasn’t enough to keep up with my high-caliber lifestyle.  I had to get a job.

This inevitably led to a conversation with my parents.  “Uh Mom…  I think I want to get a job.”  I said one day, with long hair pulled behind the ears and a stony grin.  “Wow, you do?”  My Mom replied with an astonishment that offended me.  “Well, yeah Ma!”  I replied.

My friend Mitchell worked a Chinese restaurant called “Tai-Wah”, at a plaza in Hudson, Ohio.  He answered phones and took carry-out orders.  He got fed free Chinese food constantly.  They were hiring people to take carry out orders.  It seemed like a good gig to me.

I came in to interview with Linda Leung, who likely had a long Chinese name that started with “L”, but went by an American name to make things easier for her customers and friends.  Linda had a unique personality.  She was animated during the entire interview, saying in a thick Chinese accent, “If you Mitchell’s friend, you must be good boy!”  Linda defended the High Schoolers that worked for as if they were her kids.  She hired me.  She had no idea what I was up to behind closed doors.

On went my job at Tai-Wah.  I would answer phones and take carry out orders, making sure to bag them and scoop little white containers full of rice for each order.  I would often grab large nuggets of General Tso’s Chicken out of the carry out boxes when Linda’s husband, the head cook, Bill Leung, wasn’t looking.  Bill also had a long chinese name that started with “B”, but used an american version for convenience.

And I was often high at work.  Sometimes just a little, sometimes too much.

One day I was really stoned at work and kept telling Linda I had to use the restroom every 20 minutes or so.  I would go into the restroom and goof off, or chew on marijuana stems.  Linda began to get suspicious and angry.  “Ben, you are a bad boy!”  She yelled.  “You do the drug!  I can see it in your eye!”

“Ummmm… No Linda I don’t do drugs.” I replied deliriously.

“You have to get back to work!  I can’t run front register and take carry-out order on phone!”  Linda yelled, and then the phone rang and she picked it up.  “Hello, Tai-Wah!  How are you?”

I worked with a dishwasher named JinJing, who was a pure original from China.  Linda told me about her once, that she was one of the red children under Mao Zedonghttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Guards_(China)  Linda seemed to speak of her as if she was a criminal maniac.  She had a rough edged personality and silver teeth.  She only knew one phrase in English, “You go home!”  JinJing would get annoyed with me in all my doped up antics, and often yell this phrase at me.  Later on, we became pretty good friends.

One night, Linda and Bill made a special beef dinner.  They would always cook for the employees at the end of the night.  They asked me to be the first to try it.  I ate some of the beef with broccoli and Szechuan sauce, paired with steamed rice.  “How do you like it?”  Tim asked me, with a snicker and gleam in his eye.  “Uhhh… it’s alright man.  Pretty good I guess.”  I replied with all my cotton-mouthed marijuana teenage hunger.

“Do you know what it is?”

“Ummm…  It’s beef man.  Right?”

“No, it is tripe.  It is cow stomach!”

“Oh man!”

Linda and Tim laughed furiously.  I think they knew I was high all of the time.

While peers of mine in High School began to look at colleges in their Junior Year, save money, and plan what they would be in their future careers, I began to get paychecks from my $8 an hour doing carry out.  They would be immediately spent on large bags of dope, cartons of cigarettes and cases of beer.  I had no plan for the future, just a plan to fry my brain and live in the spirit of carpe diem.  If I had only known then what it would lead to…

The First Time I Did LSD

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pupil  of doooooom

pupil of doooooom (Photo credit: Aero Racer E)

The humiliation of being a flagrant drug addict gets old, and brings one to myriad crossroads.  On the freeway of addiction one road sign reads; “It’s time to cut back”.  Another sign reads; “It’s time to quit altogether”.  Yet these signs are small and seem to speed by in an incoherent blur.  They unnoticeably lurk in small font on the side of the road while the vehicle of life is travelling at seventy-two miles per hour.  Then, a large, green exit sign with huge white letters states what has seemed obvious all along; “Try new drugs” it exclaims in your face.  It seems to beckon to you like a side road hotel after a 10-hour road trip.  You slow down and prepare to exit, to a new freeway, and a new wild ride where you do not know the destination at the journey’s end.

John Lennon tried LSD almost by mistake with George Harrison in 1966.  They were spending time with a friend that they would later call “Dr. Robert” in a song on the album “Revolver”.  The lyrics lilt in a melody laden with psychedelic oblivion;

Well, well, well you’re feeling fine

Well, well, well he’ll make you

John and George’s friend convinced them to try this new drug, “lysergic acid-diethylamide” and put some in their tea, and said it was all the rage among young swingers and hipsters of the time.  An hour later Lennon described his experience, that they were going up a “lift” (British for “elevator”) and swore that the building was on fire and were in a frenzy, and then minutes later, the fear abated and everything went to normal.  This was the way of the mysterious acid trip…  a game of Russian roulette in the mind.  Would insanity strike?  Insane joy?  Fear?  Reckless abandonment?  Power?  Violence?  Harmony with the universe?

In the second semester of my Junior year of High School in Hudson, Ohio, I joined the Orchestra to play percussion.  I had heard it was an easy gig and we had a sweet-hearted teacher named Mrs. Bush.  Mrs. Bush made music fun and easy, and didn’t have incredibly high requirements for our excellence.  Also, if one joined the orchestra, they could be in the steel drum band with Mrs. Bush’s son, Mark.  This was a larger motivator for me to join, because my friend Mitchell played bass in that group, and aside from all my personal creative pursuits I longed to be busy playing music again.

In the group were a great collection of misfits, including one David Wilt.  David Wilt was six foot two inches tall.  He had long hair that he pulled behind his ears.  He wore tie-dyed shirts and smoked the best weed in town.  He also sold acid.

David Wilt didn’t only find acid to distribute, he actually made it at home.  He had a conversation with me one day about it.  “Hey Benny, I know that you dig smoking dope.  Have you tried acid yet?”  I answered in haste, “Ummm… no man.”

I had a pensiveness about LSD.  I knew that the Beatles and Hendrix did it.  But didn’t this stuff put people in the Looney-bin?  I talked further with David Wilt about it.

“Look man…”  I said, “Isn’t that stuff kind of crazy?”

“No bro,”  David replied, “This stuff is killer man.  You just have to be in the right state of mind to take it.”

“Right state of mind?”

“Yeah man.  If you like have a bad thought, or are in a bad place with weird people when you take it or something, then your trip will go bad.  But if you surround yourself with the right situation and the right people, you’ll have like the best time of your life bro.  I’ve done it a bunch of times, and never had a bad trip!  It’s 10 times better than getting high or drunk, and it lasts like 8 hours!  It’s also cheap man, 5 bucks for a hit, or take two hits if you wanna really trip your brains out.”

The reasoning made sense to me.  In fact, it seemed like taking this drug would even guarantee a good situation!  Just remove any bummer from your surroundings, and it would go well.

I didn’t know then that David meant that you couldn’t have a notion of conscience or awareness of mortality while you were on an acid trip.  I didn’t know then that you couldn’t have a friend around that really cared about your health and well-being, because they would bum your trip.  I only knew that I wanted to get higher than I was before.  And hey man, if this drug helped produce songs like “I am the Walrus” by John Lennon and “Axis:  Bold as Love” by Jimi Hendrix, then I was in.  I wanted to make heavier, deeper, more colorful music like that too.

My theological framework was one that adopted the religious and spiritual views of my heroes.  John Lennon sang “All You need is love”, so I wanted to follow him.  My room was actually a John Lennon shrine.  There were times when I actually believed I was praying to his spirit, and asking him for guidance.  I know it sounds wild, but these were some of the many wild religious thoughts that crossed my mind in the middle of my pursuit of “higher consciousness” or “enlightenment”.  I didn’t have any specific belief about God or gods that may have existed beyond me, just a plethora of ideas that came and went in and out of my mind.

I wanted to write songs like the Beatles did, so the next step of risk seemed to be taking the plunge into heavier drugs.  “So Dave…”  I said to my tall, new hippie friend, “Can I score some of this stuff off of you?”

I also convinced my bass player friend Mitchell to take this stuff with me.  I told him how we’d probably make music like the Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band era.  I told him it would open up our minds more.  I tried to convince my drummer friend Duane to do it with us.  He just agreed to be there with us and get stoned with us while we were tripping.

I bought the weirdest dose of LSD that I would ever buy from there on out off of David.  It was homemade, and not cut into regular doses.  It looked like a bunch of purple, dried-up, crooked jello-glass.  David explained to me that he didn’t divvy it out correctly, and just to try little pieces of it at a time, and eat more if it wasn’t kicking in after an hour.

The moment of this monumental risk came like an adrenaline flood of chaotic fear and excitement.  It was the feeling one would have before going on a rollercoaster or bungee jumping.  Would we make it to the other side without losing ourselves, or would we understand what Jim Morrison meant when he sang “Break on through to the other side”?

Mitchell and I got Duane to drive us to the Acme Plaza where we always hung out on a Friday after school.  I had all this strange purple acid in a little baggie, which I had paid $20 for.  I also had a $40 bag of mid-grade Mary-Jane, a lighter, and a new blue and purple glass pipe I had recently purchased to cement my constant pot habit, and I also had my trusty pack of Camel Lights.

Mitchell and I each ate a small shard of what looked like purple jello glass.  We were totally freaking out.  “Oh man!  We’re going to trip, we’re going to trip!”  Many colorful expletives were used to exclaim our excitement and fear.

We lit up a pipe of dope and passed it around in Duane’s car.  The stoned feeling began to kick in and I don’t remember much of what happened after.  Though I do remember when the acid kicked in.

We were walking towards a large water tower in the town of Hudson, Ohio, and the water tower began to vibrate and pulse.  A body buzz kicked in that seemed to overtake me with total numbness.  I think I turned to Mitchell and said, “Man, are you high right now?” And he said with a euphoric foolery, “Oh yeah man!”  I honestly don’t remember the rest of that day.  But I do remember more of the next time we took it.

Mitchell and I had a history exam to study for.  It was a good front to convince his parents to let us have an overnight study session at his house during the week.  Mitchell and I shared one thing- a crazy streak.  We had a hunger for adventure and wildness, and loved to break rules.  I brought my study stuff over on a Wednesday night the next week, and we faked like we were studying from 8pm to 10pm.  His Dad came in and told us we should go to bed.  I had a sleeping bag on the floor and Mitchell was in his bed.  We ate more of that weird purple LSD that I had.  We actually split up the bag and finished the rest of it- what was probably the equivalent of 2 hits each, because it was certainly a mild batch (something I would discover later).

Mitchell and I were into prog-rock and were listening to an album by Steve Hackett- the former guitarist for the original Genesis (with Peter Gabriel- pre-Phil Collins corniness).  We played his album “Voyage of the Acolyte” – a wild, instrumental, medieval, psychedelic masterpiece.  The acid kicked in, and the song from the album called “A Tower Struck Down” was played about 10 times consecutively throughout the evening.  The song made us laugh like little children with all it’s dissonance and maniacal melodies.  Click on this link to hear it:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxl6RLlKkHI  (Listening to it now I laugh, because I realize how ridiculous it was- yet at that point we literally thought the music was going to make the ceiling cave in!)  We stared at Mitchell’s ceiling fan and watched it rotate, which he had put a blue, red and black lightbulb in.  We began to explain that it was “The Wheel of Fire”, because the fan blades would catch trails of each other and look like a vortex.  The guitar of Steve Hackett wailed through the night, and we got no shut-eye, all the way up until 3 am, when Mitchell’s Dad busted in with grave anger, likely because he heard our hysterics and brain-fried laughter.  “What in the world are you boys doing?”  He exclaimed…  well… he used more expletives than that.  “Uhhh…  nothing Dad!”  Mitchell exclaimed, his eyes dilated and wide open.  “We were just about to go to sleep!”

Of course we got absolutely no sleep, and the sun came up.  We went to school that next day, sleeping in class and telling all our friends about our wild experience.  The Beatles albums like “Revolver” and “Magical Mystery Tour” seemed to make more sense to me, as did Pink Floyd’s “Piper at the Gates of Dawn”.  It would be our own version of the year 1967 soon, and the trip was about to get wilder than ever.

My grades plummeted to D’s and F’s, my relationship with my parents grew more strained.  As for my girlfriend, Harmony, I told her about this first trip and encouraged her to take it with me.  It freaked her out really bad and she wanted nothing to do with it.  She made me promise I would never take acid again, and I agreed.  I decided that I would keep taking it, and not ever tell her.

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.