Tag Archives: LSD

God, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll

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Abstract Art, Dubai

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

The Psychedelic Orchestra Bus

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The Common Vision Bus

The Common Vision Bus (Photo credit: Vicki & Chuck Rogers)

In the Spring of 1998 The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” was high on the charts.  My life was a reflection of it’s message.

No change, I can’t change

I can’t change, I can’t change

But I’m here in my mind

I am here in my mind

And I’m a million different people

from one day to the next

I can’t change my mind

No, no, no, no, no, no, no

I can’t change

I can’t change it

I was truly lost in my own mind.  I was truly “a million different people from one day to the next”, and didn’t really feel I needed an identity anymore.  I was who ever I was around.  I was wherever the party was.

I had never felt before as much as I did then that I was literally rolling with the wind.  It seemed wherever my feelings led me was where I would go.  I had no rules, and no boundaries.  My days were a blur, a mysterious haze of the unknown.  All up until this point in my addictive pattern I hadn’t really had many “sobering moments”.  It’s funny how drugs do this to a person’s mind.  The beginning stages of partying came with a few intense consequences…  I got busted and arrested.  I got into dysfunctional relationships, my grades in school were sinking, and my relationship with my parents was more strained every day.

However, the lure of being high always drew me back in.  None of these things seemed like fair enough warnings at the time.  I got busted, so I would find a way to lie and sneak around more…  which could have potentially gotten me into more trouble but I didn’t care.

I got into dysfunctional friendships and relationships with girls, so I found a way to keep them seemingly functional by lying and partying with these people all of the time.  It’s funny when you begin to surround yourself with “drug buddies”.  They feel like real friends, but really you’re just on the same substances all the time, and without the substances the connection could be lost.  In the middle of the party scene it’s so hard to tell who your real friends are, because everyone seems like they either want something from you or are out to get you.

My grades in school were falling apart, but I was convinced that it didn’t matter.  I assured myself that I would probably be a famous rock n’ roll tragedy someday, like Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix.  Who needed good grades when they were headed for a life beyond anything school could offer?  I didn’t have a plan to go to college.  I wanted to get high and make art.  I didn’t care anymore if I made some great impact on the world, and if I did, it would be my own ascent to notoriety and subsequent fall to chaos and oblivion.  Or…  I would work at a Burger joint or something…

My relationship with my parents almost seemed non-existent.  They were workaholics.  At this time in our lives they fought and swore at each other all of the time.  We never talked.  We avoided each other at home.  They never asked me how my day was going.  I would leave the house all night and come home at 10pm, which was my curfew on school nights, and 12pm, which was my curfew on weekends (I realize how lenient this was now!)  Normally, I would show up an hour late.  My Mom would get in my face about it, and I would blow her off and go up into my room.  I was behaving like some adult far before his time, though in so many ways I was a little boy.

Junior year in High School was certainly a time when all my peers were beginning to think about their “future”.  People all around me were studying hard, signing up for college courses they could take in High School to get ahead of the time, and starting to look at where they might apply for colleges.  I, on the other hand, was the guy with a bong and a guitar.  Though to be honest, I hadn’t played the guitar much lately…  Secretly, I resented my peers as they moved forward in life, and left their trail of dust in my stoned face.

And beyond all of this, psychedelic drugs were now a part of my life.  At the time I was convinced that LSD was some sort of window into a new world, a spiritual door.  I resonated with people like Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey who seemed to think that LSD opened up ones mind to the hidden spiritual forces within and without.  During late 1966 and early 1967, Leary toured college campuses presenting a multi-media performance “The Death of the Mind”, which attempted to artistically replicate the LSD experience. Leary said the League for Spiritual Discovery was limited to 360 members and was already at its membership limit, but he encouraged others to form their own psychedelic religions. He published a pamphlet in 1967 called Start Your Own Religion, to encourage people to do so. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Leary)

Much like Timothy Leary, I wanted to show people about my new religious experience.  I was ready to turn others on to this weird drug, and really believed that I was helping them.  It seemed easy to adopt this religious view at the time, because I grew up being told to find or create my own spiritual path.  There was no thought that I could blaze a legitimate trail to any sort of salvation or redemptive love during this period in my life.  If I would have known what was about to transpire in my mind  in the next few months, I may have thought twice about the journey I was undertaking.

The Orchestra, under the leadership of the sweet and gentle Mrs. Bush, was to take a bus trip to Chicago to compete in a regional orchestra competition.  My good friend Mitchell and I were both in the orchestra together, along with a number of our friends.  Of course, I hatched up a crazy plan to turn this entire trip into a psychedelic experience.  We had an 8-hour bus ride, and 2 days in Chicago.  The choir would be travelling from Cleveland to Chicago too, right in a bus behind us.  My girlfriend at the time, Harmony, was in the choir and on that bus.

Since I had embarked upon the LSD experience, Harmony and I began to experience turmoil in what seemed to be a close friendship and dating relationship.  After her bad reaction to the first time I had taken a trip, I had decided to keep all my trips a secret.  Since that time I had done acid about 3 times, and never told her.  In my mind I was hoping that she would eventually decide to try it herself and then she would join me.  I figured until then the secret would hurt no one.

So naturally, I told all the friends who were dropping acid with me not to let the secret out to Harmony.  This is how a ball of lies begins to spin out of control.  It’s like a snowball at the top of a mountain covered with snow, and as it rolls on in turns into an uncontrollable avalanche.  The torrent hadn’t arrived yet, but the momentum was building.

So we set out for Chicago on a high quality bus, which the orchestra had completely for ourselves.  The inside of the bus looked like the interior of an airplane, comfy seats, bathrooms, and wide windows.  I was thinking at the time that this would be an amazing “trip”- with the double meaning intended.

I had sat next to Mitchell, and our friend Adam, and older friend Dirk, who was a senior and deeply into the drug scene.  They had all agreed to try this crazy drug on the bus ride.  It was an 8-hour trip, which was exactly how long the drug would usually last.  Mitchell, Dirk and I took some.  Adam was pensive.  The bus hit the road towards Chicago.

As mine began to kick in I had a conversation with Adam.  He wasn’t sure he wanted to try it.  “I just don’t know, Ben!”  He said.  “I mean, everybody knows me as this good Catholic kid who loves Jesus and gets good grades…  but I have this side of me that just wants to get high and now even try this…  what should I do?”

Adam must have been looking for a reason to go against his conscience.  After all, he was asking me, Benny White, to give him advice on whether he should keep being a “good kid”, or delve more deeply into the abyss.

“Look man.”  I said, “If anything at all bro, this stuff will make your spiritual life better.  It’s the most amazing experience someone could ever have.  Who knows, maybe it will bring you closer to Jesus!”

I can’t believe the things I used to say.  If I would have known that Adam would have become immersed in the drug scene and given up his faith in Jesus, maybe I would have had a different piece of advice.  I was like the serpent at the tree of knowledge, and it wasn’t long before Adam put the little piece of paper on his tongue and joined us on our kaleidoscopic bus ride.

It’s important to say that I had no real deep thoughts about God or the afterlife during this time.  Jesus was just a vague religious figure to me.  He didn’t have any significance as anyone with deity or preeminence- those things were open to the eye of the beholder in my view then.  If I ever had thoughts about God, they were strange, creative, random ideas about who He/She/It might be.  I didn’t know or think of God as a person that could be understood.  The only times that I had thoughts about any moral failing and desperation were moments when I had upset my girlfriend, Harmony, or when I was having a moment of self-loathing.  These moments may have driven me to some form of penitence, but if things went back to smooth sailing for me I would quickly be able to return to a state of wanton hedonism.  I didn’t care about cosmic consequences or some type of divine purpose, because I was ignorant of these things.

I imagine that we came off like a bunch of goofy fools to every other participant in the Hudson High School orchestra on that bus.  But when someone is that high, at times they can be completely unaware of their surroundings.  I don’t remember much, but I’m sure we were blurting out things that made no sense and acting crazy.

There is one thing I remember vaguely.  We stopped at a rest stop to get lunch, and the choir bus behind us stopped too.  Harmony approached me and asked me to have a cigarette with her.  I nervously agreed, feeling out of control.

As we spent time talking I must have been babbling in strange riddles and acting scary and zoned out.  She asked me what the heck was the matter with me.  I told her I had smoked some pot before the bus trip.  She looked at me with suspicion.  The lies continued.

The bus made it to Chicago.  We spent time hanging out at the hotel, of which I don’t remember much at all.  I do remember that night though.  We had more hits of acid with us, and were planning on taking them when we visited the Art Institute of Chicago.  Mitchell and I were always the impulsive and crazy ones though.  As we were coming off of the other trip, we decided to take 2 hits each of this other stuff we had…  at midnight.  We were rooming with Adam and another friend, Brett Smith.  We didn’t tell them what we had done, though they obviously figured it out later.

They were sharing a bed and Mitchell and I were on the floor in sleeping bags.  As they tried to get to sleep the acid kicked in.  We were up all night giggling like little boys, and mocking Adam and how he behaved on the drug while we rode the bus.  He had heard every word we said, and they had gotten no sleep because of us.  Mitchell and I stayed up all night, hallucinating in the dark…  looking at the streetlights casting shadows on the wall.  We got up in the morning as the sun came up, and walked into the parking lot, feeling like we had been through hell.

Adam confronted us about how we had slandered him the next morning, and we felt like jerks… sort of.  We were so high we thought he couldn’t hear us.  Hard drugs really do make one unaware and careless about other people’s feelings.

Mitchell and I hadn’t entered slumber land for an entire night, and we were then carted in a bus to downtown Chicago.  Mrs. Bush unleashed us on Michigan Avenue, the main drag of metro-Chicago, and told us to meet back at a certain time to visit the art museum.  Mitchell and I were completely out of it.  Dirk thought we were idiots for taking LSD the night before, and he was certainly right.  I was about to be introduced to a new drug as the effects of sleep deprivation psychosis kicked in.

Dirk had these little pills that went by the name of “Adderall”.  He crushed one up for me and told me to snort it, and it would keep me awake.  These were prescribed to kids who had ADHD, and had methamphetamine in them.  He told me it was a light version of speed, and would keep me wide-eyed.  I told him, “Dirk, I’ve never snorted anything before!”  I had always sworn that I would never do anything like that.  Dirk assured me, “Don’t worry man, it’s as harmless as a cup of coffee bro.”  For some reason I believed him.  Again, in the mind of an addict the consequences are never clear, but just the immediate gratification of the moment.

I snorted 20 mg. of Adderall and woke up instantly.  We went to the Art Institute and Dirk and Adam took acid.  The museum was certainly filled with incredible art, and they mocked us more for not waiting to do the drug there.  Adam had forgiven us, at least in appearance, for what we had said about him the night before.  We trudged our way through the art museum, a bunch of unhinged teenagers as we were.

Later that night we went to the orchestra competition.  It had been a long day.  I had blown my mind apart with drugs, and was rapidly deteriorating from the Adderall.  It came time to give our orchestra performance.  We waited for our turn to set up, and before long it was time to play.

The melody of the strings lilted in my mind like a cacophony of slithering amphibians and gooey pudding in my mind.  I was so out of it that I couldn’t even make out the refrains and changes in melody.  This was odd for me, because music had always been such a passion of mine.  But I hadn’t even written a song in months…  my life had become engrossed in the LSD experience.  I was lost.  I was floating like a dingy feather into the ethereal wasteland of the stratosphere.

These thoughts rolled through my mind, and all of a sudden everyone was staring at me…  “Your cue is coming up!”  Dirk whispered to me.  Before I could even think where we were in the piece, I took the handles of the Zildjan cymbals in front of me, and clanged them together with great force… completely off beat.  Mrs. Bush stared and me in shock, and rolled her eyes.  Everyone in the orchestra tried to keep from laughing.  We got last place in the competition.

We got a night of sleep that night, and it wasn’t nearly enough.  Then we awoke early to head home the next day.  I hadn’t barely seen Harmony the entire time we were on the trip.  I was avoiding her for fear she would find me out.  We did make a stop on the way home and I found her.  She looked so mad at me I almost couldn’t look her in the eye.  I had been doing more of Dirk’s Adderall to try and stay alert.  Harmony came up to me and looked me straight into my bloodshot, dilated-pupil eyeballs and said, “Ben, you look like crap.  You look like you got run over by a truck.”  Of course I back-peddled.  “Oh Harmony man…  ha ha…  I’m just all tired and stuff.”  I said this as I was in a rushed speedy frenzy.  “Ben…”  She replied, “What are you on?  You don’t even seem like yourself!  I feel like I don’t even know you anymore!”

“Look Harmony, I’m cool!  I’m just tired, ok?”

“Yeah whatever Ben!  You’re a LIAR!  That’s what you are!”

“Fine!  Just leave me alone then!”

(Of course there were many variegated epithets used in our dialogue which I’m not displaying here.)

We boarded the bus and continued our ride home.  I was more depressed than ever.  Would Harmony dump me?  Would she find out that I was snorting pills and eating acid every weekend?  There had to be a way to keep her in the dark, I thought.  My whole life was beginning to collapse.  Everything that mattered to me was crumbling.  I looked out into the rainy night and the streetlights that lined the route 80 turnpike.  The “Welcome to Ohio” sign rolled up past us.  We were on our way home, but in so many ways, I was further from home than ever.

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.

Eating LSD for Breakfast, and Experiencing Hell

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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.

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…