Tag Archives: marijuana

A Stoner’s Break-Up Story

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Malmo Heartbreak

Malmo Heartbreak (Photo credit: Paul Stuart Iddon)

It was the first week of my Junior Year at Hudson High School.  I knew it had come time to break the news to my then girlfriend Madiera that I was going to break up with her, because I was digging on my ex-girlfriend and best friend Harmony all over again.

Madiera gave me a lift home from school on the day I knew I had to do it.  In usual fashion we packed a glass pipe full of bright green herb and smoked it in her grey Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme as soon as we pulled out of the school.  Ironically, she asked if we could go to Hudson Springs Park to hang out, which was the place I had spent time with Harmony a couple days before.  It was the place where I had realized I wanted to break up with Madiera.  Madiera and I would usually go to the park to fool around and party.  I knew this time was different.  We parked in the parking lot of the park and finished the bowl of weed.  Then we went for a walk down the trail around the bend of Hudson Springs Lake.

I’m doing my best to remember here, because I was stoned constantly in these days, and particularly in this moment..  Madiera and I came to a clearing off of the beaten path of the trail where no one would likely venture.  A lot of the talk was plastered babble of which I don’t remember.  I know she had a look in her eyes like she wanted to kiss me and maybe get something happening.  At some point I said, “We need to talk about something Madiera.”

A dark silver cloud seemed to be cast over us as her demeanor shifted.  “What, Ben?”

I went on to tell her that I wanted to break up with her.  She protested at times in desperation, and in all my shallow manipulation I couldn’t bring myself to hurt her.  I still claimed that I loved her, because somehow I thought it was the right thing to say.  We babbled on in circular stoner language, and she was saturated with shock and anger.  I felt like a toothless weasel.  I’d reach in at times to hug her, not knowing what to do.  She was in anguish.  At some point amidst our mind-baked cackling and rambling she did ask me about Harmony.  I told her we had hung out and I did have feelings for her again.  This enraged Madiera even more.  She wouldn’t believe me that nothing had happened between Harmony and I.  I knew it almost had but luckily we hadn’t completely crossed the line.  Madeira drove me home and we shared deeply awkward goodbyes.

I did find out later that Madiera had hooked up with a guy on the same weekend I had almost kissed Harmony.  She had been at a Frat Party and gotten drunk… ending up osculating (which only means kissing) with some unknown kat with a flat-top hairdo and the 1997 equivalent of Axe ‘Kilo’ body deodorant emanating from his pores.  It made me not feel as bad about what I had done.

But Madiera was heading into her senior year, and we had truly been close friends, though maybe not eternal romantic lovers.  She was heart-broken.  She did slip into heavier drugs shortly after that.  Her anger for me magnified for a time.  I deserved it for what I had done to her heart.  She dated guys sporadically and opened herself to total relational freedom.  Yet I lived my life much like a confused squirrel beside the street pavement of existence- running around aimlessly with only a prayer at not getting smashed by the reality car of absolute authenticity.

Harmony and I were together again.  I felt as if I should update her on the magnitude of drug intake that I was used to.  Harmony liked to smoke a little ganja here and there, but mostly filled her habitual nature with cigarettes… She smoked Marlboro Mediums, and she occasionally dug into mixed cranberry juice and vodka to fill and inebriate her Friday nights.  She was nothing near the caliber of crazy I was.

I was smoking at least $150 worth of high grade pot a month by this time, and usually more.  I was inhaling 15 cigarettes a day, almost a pack.  I was able to consume 9 beers in a couple of hours and mix them with a high amount of dope smoke in and out of my lungs without vomiting for the next hour afterwards, and usually got drunk at least one or two nights a week.  Harmony had to catch up to me.  Now that I had been all the way around the proverbial sexual “bases” in the hanky-panky baseball diamond more than a few times, I would have to convince her to join me in that area too.  I was foolishly excited to get her up to date in my new-found world of vice!

Harmony was not so quick to join me.  She was cautious, and hadn’t violated her own continence like I had.  She was also alarmed by the amount of marijuana that I consumed.  I lied and told her I would cut down a bit.  This just meant that I would smoke more of it by myself than in public.  Thus my habits deepened in the caves of secrecy.

But Harmony was good for me in so many ways compared to where I really was within myself.  She rekindled an inspiration and love in me I felt had been veiled behind a fog for some time.  We would certainly have weekends where we drank a significant amount of vodka and cranberry juice, and sit on her friend Dana’s roof smoking cigarettes.  One night, Harmony got drunk enough to vomit on the roof.  I took care of her to help her feel better.  Secretly I was always more wasted than everyone else around, because I would enter into the party after smoking grass on my own.  My higher tolerance for poison also gave me an ability to look after Harmony and her friends.  They didn’t have the annihilated guts to consume venom like me.  I partied like an insane 22 year old living in Miami, Florida.  I was only 16, and living in the suburbs of Hudson, Ohio.

About every song on the top of the radio in September of 1997 was not to my personal taste, except maybe Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”.  These were days where the thundering guitar and explosive drums of Jimmy Page rang in my ears constantly.  I wanted to live in the world that Robert Plant sang about in “Misty Mountain Hop”;

Walkin’ in the park just the other day, Baby,

What do you, what do you think I saw?

Crowds of people sittin’ on the grass with flowers in their hair said,

“Hey, Boy, do you wanna score?”

And you know how it is;

I really don’t know what time it was,

So I asked them if I could stay awhile.

I was a 16-year old kid and it was 1997.  Something in me longed to meet with these gypsies of the 1960’s and 1970’s, of which Robert Plant seemed to speak about…  these songs spoke to me of a concocted utopia where people constantly took drugs, rapped about wild philosophy and listened to music.  I wanted to recreate that world in my little sphere.  My hair was longer…  almost to the point of pulling it behind my ears.  I bought more tie-dyed shirts.  I longed for the world of Woodstock and the hippies to come alive in my existence.

I didn’t know the darkness that lurked, unveiled behind this façade of beauty and hedonistic freedom.  I was attracted by the outer skin of it, and not the inner soul of the beast that hid himself behind.

Let’s Hotbox and Talk of Parallel Universes

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its too late

its too late (Photo credit: smokershighlife)

Clam-Baking, or what is now called “Hotboxing”, was a way to get higher on dope by shutting the Air Conditioning and rolling up all the windows in a car, then smoking as much ganja as possible, letting the car cloud up so that one would be breathing in THC infested soot with every breath.

My friend and former drummer, Duane and I would get together often at 10:30pm on weekends to devour hot fudge sundaes after a clam-baked car ride.  We’d cloud up the car and inevitably stumble out like a couple of circus clowns stumbling out of a Volkswagon Bug, a thick fog of vaporous, toxic smoke traveling out of the car doors behind us.

We’d come up to get a table…  Duane would murmur, “Uhhh…  two…”  to the hostess.  To which she’d reply, “Smoking or Non-Smoking?”  We’d both grumble, “Uhh… smoking… yeah thanks man…”  (a true wanna-be hippie kid uses the word “man” as a noun, adjective, exclamation and verb… the same goes for modern hipsters or whatever you want to call us)  We’d then sit down to an endless cup of cheap, burnt, caffeinated brown water and begin to chain smoke, spouting out one wild psychadelic idea after another, and sooner or later, we’d eat a hot fudge sundae or something else that calmed the craving that pot often produced (which is aptly called “the munchies”).

Duane and I were always interested in the spiritual side of things.  Marijuana certainly fueled our out of the box ethereal pursuits.  Once Duane and I were talking over a hot fudge sundae, stoned out of our minds on dank weed.  I had what I thought was a profound revelation…

“So check this out Duane…  seriously man!  Listen to me dude!  I’ve figured out the answer man.”  I exclaimed.

“Yeah…  what?”  Duane replied somewhat apathetically, yet with a gleam in his eye.  He knew I loved to think and say totally insane things, and this was definitely going to be another one.

“Like did you ever think we were totally on an atom man?”

“What?”

“An atom bro, like an explosive little sphere…  a MOLECULE!”  It must have looked wild to have my eyes open up so wide when they were so beet red.

“Uhh…  ok.”  Duane muttered.

“Yeah, like we’re on the earth…  right?”

“Yup.”  Duane inhaled a huge hit of his Winston cigarette and blew it out.

“And like, when we die…  if we’re like filled with good karma maybe we go to this next race man…  This race of giant DEMIGODS man.  And THOSE KATS are the ones that LOOK DOWN on OUR UNIVERSE as like a LITTLE ATOM!!!”

“Wow man, that would be crazy man!”  Duane’s interest perked up.

“And guess what too bro, guess what???  Like there could be MILLIONS OF ATOMS in that dimension…  earths just like ours man!  PARALLEL UNIVERSES!  In fact man, in fact bro- think about this…  THINK ABOUT THIS!  What if in ALL THOSE UNIVERSES- two dudes like me and you are having this EXACT SAME CONVERSATION RIGHT NOW!  Isn’t that frickin’ crazy man?”

“Yeah man, and like there’s another dimension beyond that and another beyond that!”

“Yeah, and another below us and another below us!  The atoms we’re looking at in a microscope are like LITTLE UNIVERSES with little beings like people that we CAN’T SEE!!!”

This is the kind of stoned chatter that would fill up a Friday or Saturday night from time to time.  Of course, I’m leaving out all the colorful expletives that we used.  It was thoughts like this that began to birth a spirituality of my own invention.  It was not a spirituality that brought me peace, assurance, clarity, focus, graciousness, love, or purpose.  It was a spirituality that furthered my confusion and existential despair, and yet philosophically justified my personal vices and desires.

I began to write concept albums, searching for the real meaning of life on earth, and reaching out for answers in the universe.  One album actually concluded with the words of the final song “Spiral Dimensia”,

“Don’t stop exploration, the answer will be found.

The mysteries of life will be set free.

Searching for the final answer, all intentions so profound

Feeling insignificant, a speck of dust

On a plane of dimensions

That stretch out longer than in infinity

A never ending spectrum

And we move on with no consequence?

Is there a God who looks upon us?

Are we all alone?

Is there someone out there?”

And they were sung with a raspy, off-key, haunting tone.  My spiritual search had truly begun, right in the middle of drugs pounding my brain.  Who was I?  Where was I going?  Would I even make it past age 20?  Age 18?  Was there some vague power out there?  A demigod?  A Cartoonist who wrote the story of our lives, and was ready at any time to crumple up the pages of the story and throw them into the trash?  Was there any real meaning at all to anything I was doing?  My parents’ had once said in the middle of a fight with each other and me, that if it weren’t for me being around, they’d be divorced.  Did I have a purpose?

Chinese Food Slingin’ Stoner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you know what it is?”

“Ummm…  It’s beef man.  Right?”

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

“Oh man!”

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

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

The Guy With the Bong

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A bong with a circular carburation port in the...

A bong with a circular carburation port in the front of the bowl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yep, back in my Junior Year of High School, I was “the guy with the bong”.

My girlfriend Harmony and I were seemingly doing getting along as winter crept into the year of 1997.  She had a greater moral conscience than I, and refused to give in to sex and rampant drug abuse.  We fooled around on the edge of these things, but she always kept her standards higher than mine.  At the time, I was somewhat frustrated, but held her in such high esteem that I chose to respect her wishes.  Looking back now, I realize that she was doing the honorable thing.  Yet in a culture that appeared then as it is now; driven by sexual tension and immediate gratification, it was more than difficult to maintain such a level of perspective without some sacrosanct sentient being empowering us.  I was driven by mere carnal knowledge and the hunger of now…  the present need…  genitive satisfaction.  Therefore, God gave me up in the lust of my heart to impurity, to the dishonoring of my body among anyone who would join with me. (Rom. 1:24)

After all, my views about God were varied.  In my mind, “He” could have been an “It” or “She” or even an alien or unseen cosmic force.  I wasn’t sure that God existed.  In some of my more paranoid moments I may have questioned whether God was there or not.  Mostly, I felt that God was some impersonal type of force that got kicks out of watching people on the earth make a mess of themselves.  I may have pulled this idea from Greek myth, because the Greeks believed that their gods were truly making a mockery of them and out to play tricks on and destroy the people they had authority of.  Mostly God to me at this time was a figment of my imagination.

I could have written the lyrics myself to “Sex and Candy” by Marcy Playground.  (Go ahead and play the video, you know you’ve got to hear it again fellow 90’s junkies!)  www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KT-r2vHeMM

I smell sex and candy here

Who’s that lounging in my chair

Who’s that casting devious stares

In my direction

Mama this surely is a dream

I was living in a pseudo-dream world.  THC from constant marijuana smoke was consistently floating around in my brain, causing wild philosophical madness, strange dark creativity and depression, as well as apathy, sloth, lapsed superego reactionary prowess, and a deep narcissism and hedonism that stole my entire being and spread around my soul like red food dye in a glass of ice water.

Along came New Year’s Eve, 1997 to 1998.  I worked carry-out with all my friends who were employed at Tai-Wah Chinese Restaurant.  It was the busiest night of Chinese carry-out all year.  We were slinging Sweet & Sour Chicken, Beef & Broccoli, Egg Foo Young, and Fried Rice like wild ping-pong players on speed.  We knew the reward would come, a New Year’s Eve Party at Cynthia Plum’s house complete with endless alcohol and reckless abandonment.

We got out of work after a busy night.  I was such a bum in these days that I didn’t bother to change out of my work clothes.  After all, I was the guy with the bong.  Mitchell, Harmony, Doug Rankin, Chris Plummer, Dinah Sortec, and others all piled into cars and we headed over to Cynthia Plum’s house, ready for wildness.

I was the guy with the purple bong.  I had a quarter ounce of strong weed all saved up and ready to diminish throughout the evening and share with whoever was ready and willing.  I packed up a bong and filled it with cran-grape juice on the car ride over.  A couple of friends took a hit or two, and then began to quit on me.  “C’mon man!”  I yelled in my stoner accent, “It’s New Year’s guys, don’t quit on me!”

Misery loves company folks.  I was so constantly high, that I couldn’t take it when people didn’t want to party themselves sick and crazy just like me.  I finished the bong by myself nonetheless, and the party had begun.

The night was filled with a haze of nicotine and THC smoke, beers being “bonged” down my throat, or in other words swallowed in one gulp, with the help of poking a hole in the bottom, and cracking open the can at the top, while sucking down the cheap barley and hops through the hole.  We only drank Natural Ice or Milwaukee’s Best beer, the cheapest and most similar to urine-flavored beer on the market.  We just wanted to get a buzz and lose our inhibitions.

At one point in the during the night I went out in the snow covered Northeast Ohio night to take a leak in the woods.  I don’t know why I didn’t choose Cynthia Plum’s restroom to do so.  I think I just wanted to go outside and look at the stars.  I did gaze at the stars when I had found a pine tree to take a whiz on.  I gazed up, thinking, “man I am SOOOO wasted!”  I was lost in the universe and eternal supernova sky above.

I walked in and exclaimed, “Hey guys!  Ready for some more weed?  Hahahahahaha!>(**#&$”

I had my bong raised in the air.

Everyone pointed down toward my pelvic area and began to laugh hysterically.  I looked down and realized that I had tinkled all over my pants.  I suppose I hadn’t aimed very well and hit a pine branch that had sent it down my pant-leg.  “Oh man guys, I didn’t pee myself man!  I totally just missed when I wizzed outside!”  There were no explanations that could save me at this point.  My friends just continued to point and laugh.  Luckily Harmony had gone home by this point so she wouldn’t have to witness my humiliation.

I begged Cynthia Plum for a pair of her father’s pants.  She only said, “Sorry Ben, you’re on your own! …”  She looked down at my pants again and exclaimed,   “So gross!”  I spent the rest of the night in a basement room, by myself, smoking Camel cigarettes…  the lyrics of “Sex and Candy” ringing in my head.

Mama this surely is a dream, yeah

Mama this surely is a dream, dig it

Midnight came and went without me.  Eventually I got a ride home.  I don’t really remember.  I only know that the pee had dried and I passed out in someone’s backseat like a crazy vagrant.

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.

The Last Bad Trip on Shrooms

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It was two days after homecoming, where my girlfriend Jamie and I had skipped out to take a light dose of the psilocybin mushrooms we had purchased a half-ounce of.  Jamie was back at her boarding school in Pennsylvania, and I was left with more than three-eighths of an ounce of these stinky brown fungi (shrooms smell like feet and taste like poop, for those that don’t know).

Before long into that evening, I was around a group of wily friends.  Brandon, my black friend who had a sweet afro with an afro-pick in it, and loved George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, and Alex, my friend from Greece who grew hydroponic marijuana in his closet and could have been a professional graffiti tagging artist.  These guys were heavy into the drug scene, just as I was.  It was an inevitable recipe for disaster that I was around them with a large amount of psychedelics.

We were hanging out with a group of various friends, and before long, I took Brandon and Alex aside and told them I had a large bag of mushrooms.  “Hey guys, do you want to take a dose with me tonight?”  I asked them.  I couldn’t resist for long.  They both agreed and came with me into a room away from everyone.  I pulled out the massive amount of boomers from my pocket.

“Holy crap man, that’s a lot of mushrooms Benny!”  Alex exclaimed in a British-Greek accent.

“Yeah dude, let’s just take part of em’.”  Brandon added.

“No man…”  I said, wanting to be shocking and extreme as always… “Let’s do them all…”

I always had a way of persuading people towards insanity.  “The devising of folly is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to mankind.” (Prov. 24:9)  Even though Alex and Brandon wanted to do a smaller amount of mushrooms, I forced my opinion on them, and we divvied out three massive doses of these unpredictable spores.  We were each going to eat about an eighth and a half, or three-sixteenths, or six thirty-seconds, or twelve sixty-fourths of an ounce.  Before they or I could change our minds, we had already ingested the mushrooms, and we were on our way into the crazy wilderness of our minds in the summer evening.

We soon smoked dope after ingesting these dastardly cow poop growths, so I don’t remember much of what happened immediately after.  The next memory I had was driving in Alex’s car.  Alex drove a little gray 1990 Ford Fiesta, and he had tagged the ceiling with all sorts of permanent marker graffiti artwork.  I looked up at the ceiling of his car and the lines started to swarm and merge together.  I looked out at the road in the foggy Ohio evening and saw the yellow lines in the middle begin to twist and turn in snake-like, serpentine locomotion.  I exclaimed at Alex; “I think these boomers are kicking in strong man!”  He glared back at me with a maniacal glance; “Oh yeah Bennnny!”  They were starting to take over Brandon’s mind as well as he giggled uncontrollably.

The next thing I knew we were at some party.  The moon was full in the foggy sky, and it felt like we were in a horror movie.  Life patterns squirmed on the grassy ground, filled with phantoms of death and fear.  My mood began to sink into a malaise.  All of a sudden I realized I hadn’t seen Brandon in awhile.  “Where’s Brandon man?”  I muttered in a complete stupor to everyone around me as they stared at me.  Then I looked out into the grassy field and saw the outline of Brandon’s afro.  I ran to him as if I had found a long lost friend after twenty years of separation.  “Hey Brandon, are you ok?”  I yelled in worry.  “I don’t know Ben, I’m just not happy.  I feel like I’m in hell.”  Brandon replied.

As soon as fear, worry, or objects of conscience are introduced into a trip, the whole thing goes sour.  This is why psychedelics are truly evil.  In my mind, they are the expensive chocolate in the Devil’s candy store.  You have to abandon your moral compass to enjoy the experience.  When you do that, it leads to violence, hedonism, sexual permissiveness, manipulation, lying, and more.  But Brandon had just done the thing that would make this trip go sour.  He had introduced the fear of an eternal afterlife apart from God into the mix.  Deep down, I was afraid of the same fate, because God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.  They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them.  For, ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. (Romans 1:18-20)  I may have been ignorant of God’s true loving character, but I was not ignorant of the fact that the life I was leading was totally wrong, and that I was paying consequences for it.

The next memory I have was being at Alex’s grandma’s house.  Alex was completely unhinged and roaming around the house babbling in Greek and English, trying his best not to let the intense high overtake him.  I began to mention serious things about death and God, because I was growing weary.  He stared me in the eye and yelled at me; “Shut the f*** up man!  Don’t talk about that right now!”  This made my fear worse.  Brandon had roamed off again into some unknown corridor of Alex’s grandma’s house.  Alex continued to roam around babbling, trying to fend off the madness that was impending.  I saw a spider on the wall that seemed about half the size of my body, and seemed to stare into my soul as the fear grew.  I panicked and felt as though I was dead, dropping to the floor.  I scrambled and ran for the phone (this was 1999 and we used land-line phones still).  Alex was cursing me, telling me to stop it and calm down.  I dialed my parents’ number, and much like the bad trip on mushrooms in the summer of 1998, I fumbled through telling them that I was freaking out.  I told them where I was and pleaded with them to pick me up.

I don’t remember my parents arriving.  I don’t remember the drive home.  I do remember watching a family movie on the Hallmark channel that night, and it was the scariest movie I had ever seen, because the old man’s face on the TV’s skin was melting off and he looked like Satan.  Everything looked like the devil’s territory that night, as the foggy moon melted away in the sky.  At one point, sitting in my parents’ living room, I looked in the carpet and saw a being with a gargoyle-like head began to emerge from out of the ground.  This being, seemingly male, had serpents flowing in and out of his belly.  I harkened back to thinking of my friend who had done so much acid, that he saw Satan pop out of the ground and rip out his heart.  My entire body received a chill like never before.  I swore in that moment that I would never touch psychedelics again.

I was like a desperate little child that night.  I begged my parents to camp out in the living room with me in sleeping bags, for fear that I would freak out and trip into a permanent nightmare.  I was afraid that the proverb I would later read would come true, that “the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.” (Prov. 24:20)  I was so afraid to die at this point that my fear began to shape my life in a different direction.  It may seem a paradox to many, but it is true that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.”  (Psalm 111:10)  At this young age of seventeen I may not yet have truly “feared the Lord”, but I was beginning to fear my mortality in an intense way, and it was magnified by taking psychoactive drugs.  It wasn’t the drugs themselves that were causing the fear.  I was having normal thoughts about life and the drugs intensified them and made them potential catalysts for insanity.

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

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Toilet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I flushed it down the toilet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To escape the rage of a deadly king…

There along the banks of the Nile,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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