Tag Archives: Jesus

God, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll

Standard
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.

Busted With Weed

Standard
Marijuana small

Marijuana small (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s something that happens in the heart and soul of a young man when he begins to taste of criminal adrenaline.  I learned to lie more effectively, and my drug habits increased.  This made me hungry to delve into madness more deeply.

Every chance I got, I was smoking dope, or “bud” as we called it back then.  I began to understand that there were different levels of marijuana quality, and the higher the quality, the more expensive it was.  I sampled stronger weed.  I smoked by dumpsters during rock concerts with people I didn’t know.  I jammed with older high schoolers that smoked in their parents’ basements.

One time I was smoking a pipe with Maxwell Clancy, a well respected doper in the 12th grade who always had high quality stuff, in the school bathroom during lunch.  The hall monitor of the school who we had named “Hall Hitler” walked in.  I was deeply freaked out and sure I was busted.  I put the pipe in my pocket, spurred on by Maxwell to hold onto it, and not realizing that I could potentially take the heat for him.  Hall Hitler came in, declaring loudly, “Alright everybody!  Get outta here!  Stop smoking and doin’ whatcher doin’!”  As we walked out of the bathroom, with our high coming on, Maxwell walked up to me, likely afraid that I’d steal his pipe.  He asked me to hand it over to him.  I cupped it in my hand and handed it over.  Hall Hitler came up to us and barked, “Hey!  What was that you handed over!”  Maxwell babbled something in court jester fashion, running off like a carnie circus man.  Hall Hitler confronted me, and I told him all I had was a lighter.  I pulled it out of my pocket.  He let me slide with a warning and an after-school detention.

Somehow, experiences like this just furthered the hunger for mayhem within me.  Duane and I had heard of some older friends who planned on going to a “Rave”- an all night illegal party in the city of Cleveland, Ohio that would surely have lots of drugs, girls, pumping techno music and colored lights.  The thing was, I’d have to sneak out of my house in the middle of the night on a Friday night, and they’d come and pick me up.  Everything was set for me.  I had an eighth of an ounce of greens in my pocket, and they were heading over to get me about a block away from my house to avoid suspicion.  They were coming to get me at 1:30am, and would get me back by 6am, just in time to sneak into bed before my parents woke up.

I snuck out of the house carefully and slowly, making sure that our English Springer Spaniel “Nick” wouldn’t wake up.  I crept out of the back porch door of our little ranch house.  I walked through our backyard into a neighbors back yard, and before long was out on the street in the middle of the cool March evening.  The stars were out, and it was a little bit chilly.  I lit up a Camel Light cigarette and waited.  Looking at my watch I realized it was 1:32am.  No sign of them yet.  I waited some more and finished the cigarette.  My watch said 1:41am.  Where were they?  I decided that it was all a bad idea.  What if I got caught?  What if they never came and I got caught for nothing?  I began to head back to my house.  I felt the horror run through my veins as I saw the dining room light on from a distance.

Panic ensued.  Should I ditch my large bag of weed in a tree?  Should I throw out my cigarettes and lighter?  I was freaking out.  I just decided to admit that I was outside smoking a cigarette, and left the dope in my pocket.  My parents would be mad, but at least it would explain the smell, and I would maybe get grounded for a weekend.  No big deal, no big deal at all…

I creaked open the door and came inside.  My parents gazed at me in horror.  “What are you doing, Ben?  It’s almost 2am!”  My Mom vehemently asked me.  “Ummm…  nothin’ Mom, I was out smoking a cigarette.  I’m really sorry.  I only had one of them, I won’t do it again.”  I replied squeamishly.  Then the axe came down.  Just like in 7th Grade once before my Mom asked me, “Empty your pockets, and let’s get rid of these cigarettes.”  I fumbled for a lie.  “I don’t have em’ Mom!  I only had one that I got from a friend!”  Really, I had a pack of Camel Lights that was almost full.  “GIVE THEM TO ME!”  My Mom barked back.  I carefully pulled the pack out of my pocket, trying desperately not to pull the bag of green buds out with it.  Then she yelled the words I didn’t want to hear.  “PULL OUT EVERYTHING, BENJAMIN!  I WANT TO SEE THE BOTTOM OF THOSE POCKETS!”  I pulled out the weed.

Jesus was talking about religious, charlatan fakers when He said; “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” (Luke 12:2)  He was addressing living a duplicitous religious life.  But the phrase applies to every scenario.  People eventually get caught…  no matter how well they think they can hide it…  Even those that try to hide their misgivings their whole life will be found out after their death.

My parents were shocked.  Somehow my Dad just could’t believe that I would ever do any of this stuff.  My Mom had been suspicious all along, because she was a little less idealistic than my Father.  I was to be grounded for one full month.  No sneaking out, no hanging out with friends.  I was only allowed to play music with my friends under supervision.  Also, they made me cut my hair short.  My curly-haired girlfriend at the time, “Adah”, broke up with me shortly after, since I couldn’t ever come out to hang out with her, and I think she really dug my hair.

Eating LSD for Breakfast, and Experiencing Hell

Standard
Mayor Hall and Lucifer

Mayor Hall and Lucifer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I slipped into deeper depression in the Fall of 1998 than I had ever experienced before.  The summer seemed like a vague memory, and all quests for the omniscient faded into a vague fog behind me.  I had tasted and seen of the chemical darkness.  I was going to jump back down into the chasm of addiction more deeply than ever.

I was a senior in High School.  I was failing all of my classes, and I didn’t care at all.  I didn’t do homework or put in effort.  I may have had little stints where I would try and be sober and grades would start to rise, but then something would happen again and I’d be back to my old tricks.  Just to illustrate well, I was taking seventh grade math in sixth grade, and by twelfth grade I was taking tenth grade math, so I had officially fallen three years back academically.

Because of my misfit academic career, I was in a freshman level geology class.  I was the only senior there.  I had long hair far past my shoulders by this time, which was pulled behind my ears and swooping out on the edges.  I had a goatee that made me look a bit like a devil, and always wore psychedelic shirts featuring the Grateful Dead, the Beatles, Zildjan cymbals, and bands like Yes and Rush.

My girlfriend Harmony and I had broken up.  I was a scholastic ignoramus.  My creative passion for writing and creating music was at an all time low.  My addicted mind could only go back to the desire to do harder drugs again.  I had lost my way towards joy even more than before, and could not sleep unless I had done wrong; I was robbed of sleep unless I had made someone stumble. (Prov. 4:16)

These are how my nights before slumber went; I would lie awake with a guilty conscience, restless.  I would have to drink a beer or pack a pipe full of pot and smoke it just to sleep.  If not, I would be left to my thoughts.  Regrets would swarm around my mind like a legion of angry yellow-jackets, stinging my brain.  I would think of my parents, and how we had come to despise each other so much that we constantly fought, yelled and cursed.  I would think of my ex-girlfriend Harmony and the fact that she had found a new boyfriend.  I would think of all the people I had dragged down, who were living a drug infested life because of my influence.  It was too overwhelming to bear, so I would medicate myself once again, just for a night of inebriated slumber.

I was stoned all day, every day, mocked by those younger than me in High School.  I started to take LSD more intensely than before.  I would eat it in the mornings before school for breakfast with a bowl of Frosted Mini-wheats and a joint for dessert.  I would end up in strange situations at school every day…

One time I was in geology class, on acid, and having a rather bad experience on it.  We had a teacher, Mrs. Albee, who was a kind, loving and compassionate lady.  She even put up with my strange antics in class, trying to love and understand me (while occasionally making a joke towards me, which was completely understandable!).  On this day, I was having a very bad moment in my trip.  The walls were breathing, and dark shadows were everywhere, as if the power of hell was alive in the room.  I noticed something strange about Mrs. Albee.  She had what looked like a white force field around her, and none of these dark shadows and images could penetrate it.  It scared me so badly that I actually yelled out, “Whoa!!”  Then I came out of the intense wave of the drug, only to realize that an entire class of freshman were laughing at me, this crazy drug-addled maniac who had just publicly exposed his madness.

I found out later, that Mrs. Albee was a follower of Jesus…

Another time, I was on LSD with my friend, Kristian, who was angry about his Mom divorcing his Dad and leaving his home in Orange County, California, to move in with his new stepdad, whom he hated thoroughly.  In all his bitterness, Kristian would often join me on these drug escapades.  We were tripping, and I pulled my car, a 1988 Buick LeSabre with 250,000 miles on it, into his driveway (I had finally obtained my driver’s license at the age of 17).  We got out of the car and locked the doors, and I realized that I had left the keys in the ignition, with the car still running.

“Oh man, what are we gonna do???”  I exclaimed.

“Dude I don’t know!”  Kristian replied.

We knew that we would have to call the cops to unlock the door, and I had drugs and paraphernalia in every crevice of that car.  I grabbed a baseball bat from Kristian’s garage, and smashed the small, triangular window behind the rear passenger window, to bits.  We unlocked the doors and turned the car off, then duct-taped the window with grey tape.  Things like this put my flagrant drug habit on display for the world to see.  They used to call my car “The Shwag Wagon”, and people would flip a coin to not have to sit by the cold, duct-taped window while riding with me into dens of mayhem.

Deep down, I was coming apart at the seams.  I would use LSD 2 or 3 times a week, even during school.  All the friends I once had became afraid of me, because I was going crazy.  I was depressing and frightening to be around, I’m sure.

My trips began to go into a deeper realm of darkness than ever before.  There would be times when I would see skeleton shaped heads weaved into the carpet in my room.  I would stare at the floor and it would turn into a frightening scene- souls in turmoil who were being tormented in a place of punishment.  When I would see images like this, I’d ask those who were tripping around me, “Dude, do you see that?”  They would always reply, “Yeah, totally.”  We’d then describe the hallucination in detail to each other, realizing we were seeing the same thing.

This is why I believe that LSD uncovers a spiritual world that is hidden from us in every day life.  It is not a world of beauty and kaleidoscopic wonder.  It is a dark world, bereft of light and joy.  I would read of a place three years later that seemed similar to this place, a place that Jesus talked of in Luke 16:23.

As I entered the vile sub-culture of acid-freaks, I would hear stories of trips worse than my own.  One thing each person seemed to have in common was that they would literally experience hell.  I had a friend, a drug dealer, that took so much acid one day that he literally saw Satan jump out of the ground and rip his heart out before his very eyes.  I had another friend that went to an underworld, where he saw demons and minions gnawing at the souls of men.  Mind you, many of us had no belief in these things, but this drug would cause us to experience them.  I, for one, had no knowledge of the Bible or any religious upbringing or instruction, so it couldn’t have been a figment of my imagination.  The whole world of it was just plain strange and scary.

This is the cycle of addiction.  As Lenny Kravitz sang in November of 1998 on my Buick Lesabre radio in Cleveland Ohio, dialed to 100.7 WMMS radio;

I wish that I could fly

Into the sky

So very high

Just like a dragonfly

I’d fly above the trees

Over the seas in all degrees

To anywhere I please

Oh I want to get away

I want to fly away

And that was me.  I just wanted to experience an altered reality.  Even a dark reality deceived me into being better than my own.

Before you run to judge the life of a drug addict, remember this; They are enticed into a hole that they don’t feel they can dig themselves out of.  Sometimes the reality they have created for themselves is worse than the reality within their addiction.  They are truly stuck in hell.  Escape seems like a better route than dealing with all the destroyed friendships and family relationships.  It’s a vicious cycle.  An addict needs someone to penetrate through all that garbage, and give them a dose of reality and honesty, laced with love and compassion.  God gives this stuff out freely, and uses His true followers to dispense it on others.

Eating Ecstasy and Falling Falsely in Love With the World

Standard
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.

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

Standard
Toilet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I flushed it down the toilet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To escape the rage of a deadly king…

There along the banks of the Nile,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Denoument

Standard
English: Jesus Christ

English: Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I sit now, writing this last excerpt on my thirty-second birthday, July 20th, 2013, thirteen years removed from that climactic moment when the Lord of the Universe made Himself known to me as I made myself known to Him.  I’ve been married for what will be nine years this August to an amazing, talented, wonderful girl named Sarah.  We love each other more each day, even through the trials that we face in life.  We have an amazing firecracker of a daughter named Charlotte, who just turned one year old on July 12th.  I have been officially off of drugs for twelve years, if you count a little relapse I had in the summer of 2001.  I have actually never even been legally drunk, because the last time was at the age of twenty.  If you want to see my spiritual story in a nutshell, check out http://benjaminbradfordwhite.wordpress.com/about/.  There you’ll also find other blogs that I write specifically about topics centered on Jesus which also deal with culture, philosophy and other such things.  Obviously you’ll see that it wasn’t a candy-coated journey after my initial “conversion”, because I had so much more to work out and understand.

And I could say the same now and forever.  I haven’t figured God out completely, nor will I ever until eternity arrives in its fullness.  But He has brought me joy that sustains itself through darkness and happiness.  He has given me a hope and meaning that carries me.  It makes me the husband and father I had always dreamed to me, and makes all the negative temporary “highs” that happen in this life, whether from money, kicks, substances, feelings, recognition, power or control, revealed for what they really are- worthless.  The only thing that is of any value is what He has given us, and He has truly given us so much on this earth to be joyful about- like good music, married sex, coffee, and sunrises to name a few.  His power at work in me has truly produced love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in me that isn’t a fabricated, plastic, Ned Flanders phony façade.  They’re rather genuine virtues that have unveiled themselves through suffering and being molded by His power to move my character away from itself and towards His (John 15:1-17).  And like I said, I have so much further to go- in all of these areas.  But I know this one thing for sure, that I can’t wait until I am given a new body that doesn’t desire to destroy, devolve and devour, or as the Bible would describe it, sin (1 Cor. 15).  I know that Jesus will one day return and establish a perfect Kingdom.  I long for this beauty and perfection to be known, and desire to live a life of love and service to His people and all people until it does.

And potentially the greatest freedom of all is knowing that I no longer need to numb myself with drugs or other things to avoid reality.  I have found that the Bible actually explains reality as it is, and though I know I’m viewed as being insane for believing it and embracing it, I have actually found a greater clarity, peace, and love for everyone I encounter because of it.

I love the words of Paul.  He was a man who was once such a religious whacko that he went around trying to murder early followers of Jesus.  He thought they were blasphemers and polluters of the ritualistic Judaism that he thought he perfectly kept.  Jesus got a hold of him, and he became a man who was willing to suffer, be beaten, and driven out of town for his love for Jesus.  I’m not Paul, but I relate somewhat to what he was saying, and I think in most ways he was a normal human being like all of us, not some super saint.  These words prove that.  I’ll end the story with them:

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:12-17)