Tag Archives: Lysergic acid diethylamide

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.

A Stoner on Local Cable TV

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The Human Condition [a tribute to René Magritte]

The Human Condition [a tribute to René Magritte] (Photo credit: [ piXo ])

One of the worst things about drug addiction is the tolerance factor.  When one uses drugs frequently they need more and more of them to get the effects they once experienced.  This was the case for me as April and May of 1998 rolled around.  I had been using harder drugs like psychedelics and prescription speed.  My marijuana use was through the roof.  To get any effect from using pot I would have to do 4 or 5 times the amount that I normally did to even feel it, and at times I didn’t even enjoy it any longer.  This did a number on my lungs.  There were times at the end of a dope smoking session that I would feel as if I could barely breathe.

It’s amazing the illusion one cultivates in the midst of addiction.  Doing wrong is fun for a fool, but living wisely brings pleasure to the sensible.  (Proverbs 10:23)  It’s a horrible thing to have your health deteriorating at the age of 16, but when you’re high you almost don’t care.  As time rolls forward you convince yourself that committing slow suicide is the way to go.  People used to ask me at the age of 16, “So Ben, what do you see yourself doing with your life?”  I would answer, “I don’t know man.  I might not even make it past 20…  But I’m going to party as hard as I can until then.”  Drugs had become my god.  I even believed that my destiny was destruction, and my glory was in their shame, because my mind was set on earthly things.  (Phil. 3:19)  I was even willing to die because of drugs and for drugs, because they seemed to give me my only moments of manufactured happiness amidst the desperation and brokenness of the social order I observed around me.  On the outside I was the court jester, a king of fools, a peace-child wanna-be sixties hippie, and on the inside I was growing more cynical and angry every day.  The alienation that one experiences in the midst of chronic drug use is profound and deeply devitalizing.

Despite the popular music of 1998, early 90’s bands like Alice in Chains began to sing the lyrics of my existence.

Down in a hole, feelin’ so small

Down in a hole, losin’ my soul

Down in a hole, outta control

I’d like to fly but my

Wings have been so denied

In moments alone, stark moments of sobriety which lasted only minutes and hours, I was buried in a hole.  I was lying to everyone I really cared about- my girlfriend Harmony, my parents, and even some of my friends.  In fact, many of my friends were becoming afraid of me.  I began to identify more with people who I once thought were too crazy or too criminal to associate with.  There were strange moments when I longed for my childhood again…  days when I felt untainted and more innocent.

Where was my soul in all of this?  I suppose I had buried it beneath the mounds of drugs, alcohol, and lapsed memories.  My conscience had been hardened in so many ways.  I didn’t care if I turned in homework at all, and I had no problem lying all of the time.  It didn’t matter to me if everything around me crumbled.  “These are all things that society just expects me to do man…”  I would reason to myself.  I may have kept a calm exterior because I was self-medicated all of the time.  But deep inside my world was spinning out of control.  “If there is a God out there he definitely wouldn’t want anything to do with me”, I often thought in my darkest moments.  I would just do another shot, smoke another bowl, pop another pill or drop another tab to try and forget about my deeper thoughts.  To me, God was a distant memory, a figment of my childhood imagination.  “Maybe God doesn’t really exist”, I thought.  “Maybe just the moral, do-gooders of the world made him up to feel like they’re better than everybody”.  These were the honest reflections of my mind as I became more marginalized by the mainstream people of my little microcosm of culture.  “No one will ever really love me”, I thought.  “Nobody really wants to understand me or know me”.  “I’m all alone in this world…  in my addiction and misery”.  I would’ve mustered the strength to pray if I thought someone was listening, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that.  How was I even sure that anyone was there?  Nobody really cared anyways, I thought to myself.

Even music had become an afterthought for me.  It was ironic, because I had originally thought that drugs would enhance my music.  Quite the opposite was true.  In years before, I had written between thirty and fifty songs a year.  In the year of 1997, I had only written about twenty songs, which were getting increasingly weird.  The recordings I made contained more mistakes than ever, and my vocals were out of key at times.  Even the sound of my voice deteriorated as I assaulted it daily with a variety of smoke, sleepless nights and hard living.  Throughout the winter and spring of 1998, and all the way into summer, I continually worked on the recording of one eight-minute song, and kept scrapping parts because I was too constantly intoxicated to produce anything of musical value.  I certainly hadn’t found the inspiration that I thought would come from LSD…  Lucy was so far away in the sky with diamonds that I couldn’t make out her distorted face in the clouds.  The only happiness I experienced was chemical… fake… and I began to view everyone and everything through that lens.  ”What a bunch of fakes and phonies” I thought about the world and society around me.

In Ohio, at Hudson High School, during the spring of 1998, the teachers had gotten tired of a bad contract and decided to go on strike.  This meant that we would get a lot of press from the local news stations.  This also meant that they would try to set up a system to keep us in school.  They sent teachers in to substitute and pick up where the others had left off.  But because of the strike we knew there was no legal requirement for us to attend.

I remember when the cameras from the local news showed up at our institution.  All the students had decided to march out of the building and skip at 10am.  There was nothing anyone could do about it- not the school board, not the cops.  When 10am arrived, we all marched our way out of the temple of learning in great defiance.  I felt like I was part of the late 1960’s.  The cameras from the news station were there as we walked out.  I was definitely out of my mind when I saw them, and was yelling expletives as they passed by…  I was shocked that I didn’t make it on the local news that night at 11pm.  Looking back I realize how silly I was to think that they’d put a loudmouth kid swearing at the camera on TV.

This began 18 days of freedom from responsibility.  It was like summer vacation.  We never went to school.  Of course I started to go completely out of control.  I was using more than I ever had before.  I honestly don’t even remember one detail about those 18 days.  I just know that I was let loose like a wild, untamed golden retriever in a vacant candy store.  I was bound to leave a trail of devastation behind…  and have no idea exactly what that devastation even looked like.

I do know that we had RockFest for our Junior year of High School after the strike was over.  I was playing bass in a psychedelic cover band with mostly guys that were older than me at the show, and was invited to play one acoustic tune on my own.  The Hudson local channel had come to film the performance and interview the performers.  I only heard about this afterwards, because they had supposedly interviewed me and I had absolutely no recollection of even talking to them.  But there I was, on local TV for all the parents of Hudson students and local authorities to see me.  I never watched what I said, but people told me that I acted completely insane and babbled in incoherent riddles.  I do also know that I played the song “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd acoustically when I had my solo spot.  I invited an older friend, Willie Martin, to sing with me.  At one point I was addressing the audience;

“Hey man…  is Willie Martin out there?” I said into the microphone before an audience of about 300 kids.  “I need him to come up and sing with me…  Yo Willie, where are you brotha?  Haha…”

I was told later that I kept asking for Willie to come up, for about 3 minutes.  He had been right next to me on the microphone to my left for about 2 of those minutes.  I do remember only the moment when I looked over and saw him.  I exclaimed,  “Oh man, there you are!”  and everyone was laughing at me.  I officially had the reputation of being a complete stoner.

The summer of 1998 was about to unleash me into a wild realm of reckless existence.  My friend Mitchell began to become afraid of doing harder drugs.  He backed away from my pursuit of deeper aberration.  I was beginning to hang out in the haunts of my town with the freaks, drop-outs and super bohemians.  I had friends in their twenties who dealt drugs.  I was stepping into a world of danger that I knew nothing about, but I didn’t care where it led me…  whether it be insanity, prison, or even death.  I know that my parents were afraid for me, but I didn’t care what they thought anymore.  I didn’t want to follow any rules except the voice of id.

My Bad Trip on LSD

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LSD

LSD (Photo credit: Max Sparber)

Acid is a mysterious, strange, and unpredictable drug.  I know a varied audience of mixed background and belief will read what I write, so it’s so important not to lie.  There are times when one takes acid, or any other drug for that matter, and it feels in that moment as if it’s the greatest, most euphoric, meaningful experience of your life.  However, there is no guarantee of this happening consistently.

Drugs are the ultimate Russian roulette of the mind.  For the extreme magnification of ecstasy, meaning and inner revelation that can come from drug experiences, there is also the extreme opposite.  When one has a bad drug experience it is REALLY terrible.  There have been many people who have never returned home to the cocoon of sanity after having a bad trip or a number of bad trips on LSD.  This is the great deception.  For further thoughts on why I believe a great force of evil is behind the lure of drugs, read this post:http://benjaminbradfordwhite.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/satan-is-a-drug-dealer…-reflections-on-genesis-225-37/

Syd Barrett, who was the original singer in the band, Pink Floyd, was an example of a man who completely lost his mind on LSD and psychedelics.  Many have said that he was also schizophrenic.  I’m not sure whether that is true or not, but I do know that the guy did an ungodly amount of acid in a very short period of time.  He became like a walking vegetable by the time that the end of 1967 rolled around.

Just as the Pink Floyd were becoming an international hit on the music scene, Syd Barrett tripped himself into oblivion.  Here we can see him on “American Bandstand” being interviewed by the late, great Dick Clark:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MMMN0VZmYw

You can see from this old piece of film that there was a “look in his eye, like black holes in the sky” as the lyric about him from “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” stated in 1975.

It’s strange to say it now, but around the time of the summer of 1998, I became enthralled with the story of Syd Barrett and his brain’s demise in the midst of psychedelic pop stardom.  I found books and archives about him.  I listened to his solo music after he had gone off his rocker.  I mostly listened to “Piper at the Gates of Dawn”, Pink Floyd’s seminal first album, where Syd was at his creative height.

I suppose it was a combination of anger, marginalization by friends, estrangement from my parents, and bewilderment towards the existence of God that led me towards wanting to “ride the edge” of sanity.  As the summer of 1998 kicked in… my summer before senior year of high school, I delved into the most extreme use of psychedelics ever.  I quit my job at Tai-Wah restaurant, and pledged to “trip” my way through the summer.  I hadn’t viewed yet into the wisdom of Solomon, when he said, “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”  (Ecclesiastes 1:14)

Quite the contrary, I believed that my pursuit was full of meaning at the time.  Somehow I believed I would come out on the other end a changed person… for the better.  The words of the ancient prophet Isaiah didn’t ring in my ears; “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20)  I suppose, in ignorance, I believed that everything I was about to encounter was good, full of radiant light and sweet to the taste.  All of my experiences on psychedelics had been good thus far, and I didn’t think I would go too far like Syd Barrett did.  I would just skim the crest of the cliff of craziness.

At this point, I was playing drum set in a steel drum band with a group of my friends.  The band was loosely affiliated with our High School, but we played almost all of our events outside of the school.

The greatest gig we ever did was playing at the Cleveland Museum of Art’s annual summer art parade.  It was a sunny, hot and humid Ohio day~ ninety degrees and clear skies.  David Wilt was in the band.  At this time he was my regular supplier of psychedelic drugs.  He had hits of blotter acid with him, and I bought a few from him.  We egged each other on that we ought to take it before we played in the parade.  Of course it didn’t take much to convince each other, David took a hit, and I took 2, about an hour before we were going to play.  At this point, even David was more sensible than me.  He didn’t want to be too out of it while we played in the parade.  I wanted to be completely delirious.

We had all our instruments on a long, rectangular float.  As we set everything up I began to feel my body going numb.  Our band’s director, Mark Bush, asked me if I wanted to play the drum set or push the float in the parade.  I mumbled in spaced-out confusion, “Uhhhh…  yeah man I think I’ll push the float man.”

This parade was the craziest parade I’ve ever seen, especially because of my state of mind.  There were people walking around on stilts with wild, colorful masks and streamers flowing behind them in the wind.  The masks were representative of many different cultures of the world:  Chinese dragons, Indian elephants, African tribal witch doctors, and native American eagles.  The colors were of starburst yellow, purple indigo, crimson red, electric orange, and many more.

We made our way into the parade.  I was pushing one end of the float and a girl, Darby Plum was on the other end of this rectangular apparatus.  As we moved on in the parade and played our Caribbean style, Jamaican, reggae-funk, the acid started to beat down in my brain.  Right in the middle of the parade, I was experiencing what is called the “peak” of my trip, where the effects of the drug were the strongest.

I literally felt like I was in Candy Land, all of these freaky people on stilts with masks on making a child-like visual landscape before my wild eyes, I was enthralled beyond description.  There were moments where I literally stopped in the middle of the parade, just to stare at all that was happening around me.  Yet I also had a duty, to push this float.  A simple duty it would seem, but there were times when the float would reach a 45 degree angle, with Darby Plum doing her job pushing on the other side, and me standing there, a long haired hipped-out kid with his tie-dye shirt on, staring at these gallivanting masked minions which practically seemed to be staring into my soul.  I barely was able to do my job of pushing this float through the parade, because I kept stopping to stare at all that was going on.  I had the whole band on my case too, saying, “C’mon Benny!  What are you doing?  Push the float!!!”

So we made it to the end of the parade, and I don’t really remember much of what happened after.  This was one of the best LSD experiences I ever had, because the visual display and happy feeling at the parade was so positive.  Granted, I did an embarrassing job of pushing the float along, but I wasn’t in any way traumatized by the experience.  This is the great trickery that lurks within the pursuit of drug “enlightenment”.  One has experiences that lead them into perpetual beguilement.  I was thinking to myself, “Man, LSD is the greatest thing that exists!  I can’t wait to have another trip!”  But one can never predict the situation they will find themselves in.

But much like a mountain climber who wants to defy the odds and reach a higher peak of danger, I wanted to go deeper into the rabbit hole…  I was about to have my first bad trip…

It was a dark and dreary July evening.  My friend Mitchell had come over to my house to help me record guitar tracks on a song that I had been working on for 3 months… the only song I had recorded in the past 3 months…  an 8 minute opus called “Trilogy”.  Again, I was the kind of guy that wrote 4 or 5 songs a month at least back then, and psychedelic drugs had put me on a weird tailspin, giving me a deep, confusing case of writers’ block.

I had scored 2 hits of acid the week before at an infamous hole full of hardcore hippies and drug dealers called “Nelson’s Ledges”.  These were where the hard-core druggies spent a lot of time.  I went there to jump off of a 15-foot cliff into the deep water below, and had run into some space pirate hippies that sold me two hits of what they called “Wizard of Oz” blotter acid.  They told me it was really strong, and recommended taking only one hit.

While Mitchell and I were recording, I popped both hits on my tongue.  Within 30 minutes, I began to feel the numbing effects and body buzz taking over my entire anatomy, and it was peculiar, because it normally had taken an hour before.  Mitchell was finishing up his guitar tracks.  At one point, he looked at me and said, “Are you alright man?  You look kind of freaked out!”  I tried to ignore the fear that this statement had instilled in me, but I was alarmed that this LSD was stronger than I was ready for.

The next memory I had was being at a party, about an hour later.  This party was full of drunken people that had once been friends of mine.  Because of my heavier drug use, they had distanced themselves from me.  I remember a moment when Braden Sipes came up to talk to me.  He was drunk and mocking me, saying, “So Benny, how you been buddy?  You been “TOKING IT UP” lately huh?  Hahaha…”  The words seemed to echo and his face distorted as he said it.  All around him, shadow mites of darkness swirled around in a tornado of madness.  I barked back at him;  ”DON’T MOCK ME OR I’LL STRANGLE YOU RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!!!”

It was as if a phantom had entered into me in that moment.  Some kind of demon of a dark force of which I knew nothing of.  I only know that this moment of anger seemed to overtake my entire brain and body at that moment, and I had no awareness of who I was.  Braden stared back at me in fear for a moment, and then walked away…

The trip continued, and is a blur in my memory.  I know that the effects of the LSD went completely haywire.  I was in a dark fantasy world of which I 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 your 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…

The next memory I had was 3 hours later, being in my parents’ living room.  It was midnight, and somehow, my friend, Duane, had come to keep me company.  We were watching a re-run of the show, “The Wonder Years” on TV.  Whatever I thought in my mind, the main character of the show, Kevin Arnold, would become before my very eyes.  I thought of the Ku Klux Klan for some weird reason, and he grew a hood on the TV.  I thought of a werewolf, and he turned into one before my very eyes.  I told Duane, “I’m freaking out man!  I can’t control my mind…  I hate this man!”

Duane looked at me in bewilderment.  He was tired from smoking pot earlier, and told me he had to go home.  After all, it was midnight and he had a curfew to keep.  I begged him to stay with me and not leave me alone.  ”Duane, please man.  You can’t go.  I will die man, I WILL DIE!”

Nonetheless, Duane had to obey his parents’ rules.  He went home.  I was left to myself and the effects of this evil drug.

I looked on the ground in my parents living room as I sat there alone, and afraid out of my mind…  What appeared to be glowing ravens engulfed in fire began to appear in a pattern all over the floor and the walls.  They were intertwined in a pattern of hieroglyphics.  I looked on my hand and they were imprinted all over me as well.  I felt for certain that I was about to die and these patterns I was seeing represented all the horrible things I had done.  I sensed that a swift judgment was about to come upon me.  I was doomed… cursed.  There was no way out and I would leave this life condemned forever.

I tried to make my way through the night.  I had no one I could reach out to…  at least not that I was aware of…  I so desperately wanted to call my girlfriend Harmony, but it was 2 a.m.  I was sitting there in my bed freaking out, seeing the scroll of my life laid out before me in an interconnected life pattern that engulfed all of reality and nature.

The Goo Goo Dolls song “Iris” was high on the charts in those days, and it’s chorus accurately described this profound alienation:

And I don’t want the world to see me

Cause I don’t think that they’d understand

When everything’s made to be broken

I just want you to know who I am

I just wanted someone, anyone to be there for me.  I was too afraid to reach out to a higher power of any sort.  I felt too condemned, too dirty, too crazy and broken.  I wrote Harmony a long letter, describing my fear.  That carried me until 3 a.m.  Then I pulled out a VHS tape that contained the movie, “Forrest Gump”.  I began watching the 3 hour long feature to try and calm my fretful heart and mind.  From the moment where the feather began to lilt in the wind in the opening credits I was pulled into this movie like never before.  I cried practically the entire time it was on.  I was afraid for my soul…

As the sun arose at around 5:57 a.m. and the feather lilted in the air during the closing credits of “Forrest Gump”, I realized that the acid was finally beginning to wear down, and my wearied body would finally be able to sleep.  I cried as I watched the sunrise, and had a moment where I was simply thankful to be alive, and sane.

I had no understanding or knowledge of any religion or spirituality at this time.  But this profound feeling was very real.  I learned only years later that I was experiencing something on earth that Jesus talked often about…  This video is a very grim, but accurate picture of the way hell is truly described in the ancient scriptures:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxCKxxRU_s8

My Near Death Experience on Psilocybin Mushrooms

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Dried Psilocybe cubensis magic mushrooms.

Dried Psilocybe cubensis magic mushrooms. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One would have thought that one bad trip would have deterred me forever from the dark, uncontrollable mystic realm of the psychedelic trip world.  Because I had survived without slipping into insanity, I would jump and fall down the rabbit hole again.  The next time would be more severe than ever…  the most intense trip I had ever had.

“Intergalactic” by the Beastie Boys slammed the billboard charts of August of 1998, as the summer of my Junior Year came to a psychedelic dénouement.  Don’t get me wrong, I was into the Beastie Boys.  But I had an entirely different soundtrack playing behind the hazy, multi-colored, chaotic mind-trip of that summer.

There were songs I listened to then that seemed to make perfect sense to me at the time.  I read the lyrics and listen to the melodies now, and can remember this revelatory feeling I felt then.  However, they seem to be strange, nonsensical riddles to me today.

I loved songs like:

Matilda Mother, a lilting nursery rhyme rocker by Syd Barrett and the Pink Floyd:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFgYdFkRA3I

A Day in the Life, a view of the newspaper headlines through the lens of psychedelic eyes by John Lennon and the Beatles:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xljFT44Y1Y

I Am the Walrus, a nonsense song that gives a window into the madness of tripping by John Lennon and the Beatles:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDfXo_jRFbI&feature=related

and Burning of the Midnight Lamp, a song which I always took to describe the insomnia that came with an intense drug experience by the Jimi Hendrix Experience:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rEBz–bWVY&feature=related

One song was “Mountains of the Moon” off of the Grateful Dead’s palindrome sprinkled 1969 album, “Aoxomoxoa”, which can be heard here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MiOKj84cOk.  Some of the lyrics state:

Cold mountain water, the jade merchants daughter,

Mountains of the moon, electra bow and bend to me.

Hi ho the carrion crow fol de rol de riddle

Hi ho the carrion crow bow and bend to me.

Today, I know that there are a great variety of influences in these lyrics, and they are a strewn together array of poetic suggestions.  The line about “Mountains of the Moon” may have reffered to Edgar Allan Poe, and “Electra” may have referred to the Greek goddess.

But as I listened to these words sung by the late Jerry Garcia in August of 1998, especially after the bad trip I had on LSD, they would make me weep.  My drug exploits were described in the words.  I wanted the “Mountains of the moon” to bow and bend to me.  I wanted to control the universe, or at least my universe.  I didn’t want to be controlled by any authority, no higher power, no institution, no parental figure, and no teacher.  I wanted to be my own authority, and create my own reality, my own sphere of belief and understanding.  I only realize now how misdirected my pursuit was.  If I could step into a time machine and speed into the past I would yell into the ears of the young, broken 17 year-old that I was.  I would exclaim, “Stop it man!  You don’t need to go any further!”  But you see, I had no idea the depths of insanity and despair that I was headed towards.  There was, however, a merciful omniscient One beyond the clouds who knew of where my journey would end.  He was about to give me the greatest glimpse of beauty and freedom that I had ever seen, and right at the moment when I least deserved it.

For some reason, I was able to deceive myself into thinking that the chemical nature of LSD was the reason why I had a bad experience.  I was persuaded that more natural substances were safer, because they grew from the earth.  One of these substances was the chemical “psilocybin”, which is found in magic mushrooms.

These mushrooms normally grow on cow dung, but are also grown by dedicated individuals that desire to cultivate a more potent species.

We had hippie friends, a couple named “Adam” and his girlfriend “Zen” who grew these mushrooms in their home and sold them.  I had bought a batch of mushrooms from them earlier in the summer, which had grey caps and faded white stems.  They weren’t a potent batch, and I decided to eat about an eighth of an ounce of them right away.  What ensued was a wild body buzz and a case of the unstoppable giggles that I couldn’t control.  I would stare at myself in the mirror for fifteen minutes at a time, puffing out my cheeks and watching my face inflate like a balloon, and then laughing and falling about myself.

I had convinced myself that mushrooms were the cleanest, safest trip.  I had danced with LSD and the demonic for awhile, probably about twenty trips or more, and the last one had been a view into hell itself.  In my mind, mushrooms were different.  I was convinced that they were a positive drug, more natural, and only gave one colorful, cheery hallucinations.  I had no idea of the deep, Lewis Carroll vortex that I was about to plummet into.

Not long after my bad LSD trip, a week after to be exact, I scored a quarter ounce of mushrooms from Adam and Zen.  They had home grown this batch using hydroponic growing methods, and Adam warned me, “Look man, don’t take a lot of these at once, alright?  They’re a lot stronger than normal!”  They certainly looked different than the other grey mushrooms I had bought from them, they had red caps, and the stems were bright white, and gooey.  The mushrooms were moist to the point of almost being slimy.  I assured Adam, “yeah man, no worries.  I’ll take a low dose.”

The next day, I woke up in the morning with this large bag of dangerous shrooms in my nightstand drawer.  My parents had left early to visit a mall somewhere in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio.  I had the day free and the overwhelming urge to trip on these psilocybin fungi.  Something dark, oppressive and heavy possessed me to eat a large amount of these red-capped mushrooms, mostly small ones, which had a more concentrated amount of psilocybin than the larger caps.  By the time I was done eating them I had made it through about sixty-six percent of the quarter ounce bag.  I had shunned the advice of Adam to eat a lower dose.  On top of that, I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet!  The realization of this alarmed me and I quickly ate sixteen saltine crackers, then I licked my fingers, and drank a glass of water.

I would often do impulsive things like this without a plan for my day.  I only knew that I was about to trip completely out of my mind, and that was my only agenda for the day.  I quickly phoned up my friend, Riley, who had acquired an interest in psychedelic experiences like me.  “Hey Riley, how’s it going man?”  I said on the phone.  “Good Benny, what’s up buddy?”  Riley vibrantly answered.  Riley had an intense personality, and could quickly go from being a vibrant, positive person to being angry and throwing things across the room.  “Dude…”  I said, “I just ate a butt-load of these red-capped mushrooms that Adam and Zen sold me, and am about to trip my brains out.  C’mon over and let’s hang out bro!  You can call up Adam and Zen…  and maybe take some too and we could trip together?”  Riley was always up for a chaotic experience, and replied, “Sure Benny, call em’ up and set up a time to meet, I’ll be by to pick ya’ up in 10 minutes man!”

I got a hold of Adam and Zen, and they agreed to meet us in Cuyahoga Falls at the Best Buy Department Store parking lot with a bag of these mystic, red-capped shrooms for Riley to take.  I even offered Riley some of mine, but Riley wanted some for himself, so we set up the deal and were on our way.

As we entered the Freeway ramp onto Route 8 South going towards Akron, Ohio, I began to start tripping.  The funny thing was, it had only taken Riley 7 minutes to pick me up, and maybe another 10 minutes to get to the freeway ramp.  I had eaten the mushrooms about 25 minutes before, and I was already tripping, and getting uncontrollably high.  I don’t remember anything that I said to Riley on the drive, just that he was amused by my crazy comments.

We arrived at the Best Buy in Cuyahoga Falls, and Riley bought an eighth of these cursed mushrooms from Adam and Zen.  We decided to go in and look around at Best Buy for a bit.  This was 1998, and Best Buy stores had signs depicting the music artists, bands and movie stars who topped the charts of popularity.  These apparatuses hung in the air from the ceiling.  I looked at these signs, and the skin from the faces of these people, which looked like demonic aliens from another world, began to melt off of the signs and drip into the aisles below.  I turned my head slowly towards Riley, and said, “I don’t feel so good man.  Do I look ok to you?”  Riley laughed, and it sounded like Dracula’s laugh to me.  He responded, “It’s funny man, but right when you said that, your face turned completely green!”

I don’t remember the car ride to Riley’s place. I do know that we got to his house and he immediately ate some of these red-capped psilocybin mind-destroyers.  He ate about half the amount that I did.  By this point I was in total hysterics.  I couldn’t walk without losing motor control and falling on the ground.  I would go from uncontrollably laughing to manic crying and sorrow.  Riley was becoming afraid of what these mushrooms were about to do to him!

I talked to Riley’s cat, Oscar, for awhile, and thought that he could see inside of my soul.  I looked at Riley’s carpet and saw what appeared to be life-size bacteria swarming around and multiplying.  The magnifying glass on the world below was getting larger than I could take.  I went into the bathroom and saw a swirling carousel of angry little fairies swarming around my head.

Fast forward a mind-time-lapse into an hour later…

We were outside.  The sun was shining with myriad clouds in the sky.  I began to have my “peak” experience on this horrible, intractable mind explosion.  I went to a realm of every color.  I went to the land of purple, where Riley looked like some sort of indigo monster from hell, and creatures of a violet tint scattered all around the grass around me.  I also experienced orange, yellow, red and blue realms.  I looked out into the grass and saw a silhouette shadow of a tormented man’s soul reach up from under the ground into the sky, seemingly longing to touch the edge of heaven’s gate or some form of luminescent light, a relief from torture.  But he was just as quickly sucked back underground to continue in his vexation.  I didn’t have any beliefs at the time, but I somehow knew that this man’s soul, and this affliction, was eternal.

I picked up the phone to call my girlfriend Harmony.  Our relationship had become so estranged.  I had to make things right.  I spoke out loud to Riley, in as intoxicated an accent as I’ve ever had, “Dude, if she doesn’t answer the phone I’m going to die!”

The phone rang once…  I paced facing the southeast, and murmuring statements of hope and promise.  “I love this girl, I know she’ll answer, I know she’ll be there!”  I looked like I belonged in a mental ward.  The phone rang the second time…  I paced towards the northwest, becoming the manic opposite of the contra-positive direction, I yelled out, “I know she won’t answer, I’ll die, I know I will!  I’m doomed!”

I paced back and forth four times as the phone rang in what seemed to be synchronicity.  Harmony’s answering machine picked up.  I yelled out to Riley and the universe, “That’s it.  I’m dead…”

I literally dropped to the ground with my arms folded across my chest like a corpse.  Riley told me about it later.  He said that my face went completely pale and he thought I was dead for good.

When I hit the ground, I lapsed out of time and space.  I saw the sky fold up like a book and there was a black abyss beyond it.  I felt my soul leave my body and was sucked up beyond the clouds.  I had no concept of the duration of this, and everything felt eternal, like a dream.  Visions of the end of my life also flashed before my eyes like a 24-hour movie in seconds of time.  I saw Harmony and my family crying as I was carried out of Riley’s yard in a stretcher towards an ambulance.  The entire scene of my death was played out before my very eyes. I do then recall seeing a man in a robe, holding a staff.  He met me in the air, and he waved his hand and sent me back down.  I actually saw my body lying there, as cold as a cadaver, as I sped back towards it as if I was falling from a skyscraper directly back into it.

I took a deep breath of life giving air and gasped.  I immediately sat up cross legged, and I desperately began to pray to whoever was out there.  This all happened right in front of Riley’s eyes, and he told me about it later.  I looked up into the sky and began to cry.  “Is there a purpose for me?”  I yelled up.  “If there is, give me a sign, please!”  As I said this the wind blew across my face.  I looked into the clouds, and they parted.  A glimmer of sunlight shone on me, and I could’ve sworn that I saw a vague outline of a face behind the clouds.  I felt this wave of comfort come over me, and cried more.  I had long hair pulled behind my ears and my tie-died shirt on, sitting cross-legged in a field and crying.  I couldn’t hear any audible voice, but I could hear this phrase in my heart, that I needed to “play music, and love people…”  The omnipotent force left me and I knew what I had to do.  I had to turn my life around and make everything right.  I had just encountered the God of the Universe.

Years later, I would read passages like Psalm 139:7-12, which would describe this experience:

I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.

Even at my lowest moment of fear, degradation and ignorance, the Lord of the Universe desired to show Himself to me.  I can’t describe this any other way, except to say that He is completely, totally loving.  It’s amazing that He just wants Himself to be known.  He won’t force Himself on anyone, but His beauty is breathtaking, life-changing and filled with wonder.

After this encounter, I ran into Riley’s house, and found anything in his fridge that could purge this poison out of me.  I chugged a half-finished 2-Liter bottle of root beer.  I took two slices of leftover pizza and scarfed them down.  Riley followed me inside, trying to calm me down.  He was beginning to trip himself as well, and after the experience I had a fear began to overtake him.  “Benny, calm down man!”  He said.

An hour and a half later, Riley would call the ambulance on himself, because he was afraid that he was dying.  He actually told me that for one moment of about 7 seconds, he had flatlined in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

“I need to call my parents and have them pick me up man!”  I yelled out at him.  “Where is your phone?!”  It’s as if an insane bout of conscience had overtaken me, and all of a sudden I wanted to change everything in my life.  Riley reluctantly gave me his phone.  I called my parents and my mom answered.

“Ma!”  I exclaimed.

“Ben!  Where are you?  Are you ok?”  My Mom instinctively answered.

“No I’m not ok Mom.  I need you to pick me up at Riley’s house!  I’m freaking out on drugs Mom, I need you to come and get me!”  I babbled on.

“Ben!  Oh my God!  Where are you?”

“At Riley’s house!  Uhhhh…  Dude, Riley!  Where is your house!”  I yelled.

“What’s the address of the house?”  My Mom emphatically asked.

“Dude, Riley!  What is the address of your house?”  I yelled at Riley.

“I don’t know!”  Riley responded.  The mushrooms had started to invade his mind.

“You don’t know the address to your house man?!”  I yelled back.

“Ummmm…  It’s ummm…  ‘Callender Drive’!”  Riley responded in inebriated confusion.

“Callender Drive Mom!”  I said on the phone.

“What’s the house number?”  My Mom urgently asked.

“Dude, Riley, what’s the house number?”  I asked Riley.

“I don’t know man!”  Riley yelled back, laughing an unstable cackle as he said it.

I don’t remember much after that, though I know that Riley began to freak out and go into the worst trip of his life.  I looked out the window and saw my parents with their grey 1991 Cadillac coming down Callender drive slowly, and looking for me.  I ran out of the house barefoot into the street.  I got in the backseat of the car with my Mom and fell into her arms.  I felt as if I was two years old again.  I began to cry and ask my Dad if everything would be ok.  He assured me as if he was the father I had as a youth again, “Ben, everything’s going to be ok.  You’re just freaking out.  It’s the drugs…”  We had a conversation about the mushrooms I had ingested, and they took me to the hospital.

At the hospital, a female Asian doctor had a conversation with me.  “Are you still hallucinating?”  She asked, as hair seemingly grew out of every orifice of her face.  “Uhhh…  yes…”  I replied back with fear.

We ended up back at the house that night.  After a good hearty meal of beef and vegetable soup and bread, I passed out for hours.  I just couldn’t stop crying and mourning over all the terrible things I had done to myself and to others.  I swore that I would get sober.  No more pot, no more booze, no more psychedelics.  I would turn over a new leaf.  The overwhelming realization that there was a God out there who was looking down on me entered my mind, and would never leave me again.  I had no idea who this God was.  What did He want from me?  Was it just a figment of my imagination?  He seemed so real, and yet I didn’t know if I could reach out to Him again.  I would not forget that feeling I had sitting cross-legged in the grass and talking to Him.  It was a memory that would haunt me in the months to come, as things spiraled further down…

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.