LEARNING TO DIE
Part One: “Fatal Attraction”
I always thought I would never even try a “hard” drug. My dad had told me many horror stories of his friends that “never came back” from heavy acid trips and although he never mentioned that he had tried cocaine, speed, and heroin until after I was well into my own bouts with addiction (and recovery), I had been given enough information through his stories of girlfriends lost to addiction, through public education, and through the scare-tactics of the churches I attended as a child, that I was certain that the “harder” drugs were too dangerous to even try.
That being said, I still experimented heavily with alcohol and marijuana, consuming both semi-regularly from the age of 16 until my introduction to cocaine later in life. I had tried pot once, in a very small amount, before moving out of my hometown, at 16. Later that year, I decided my only escape from my mother was to choose voluntary psychiatric care at a nearby mental hospital for a few months, and when I got out I went to live with my father and to attend a nearby alternative high school. There, the common practice after school was to go see the school pot dealer in the woods across from the school and smoke up with him. I’m not sure how many times I did this, perhaps a few, but I know that I stopped when I had an experience that scared me straight (as far as going out in public when I was stoned).
One evening after smoking out in the woods, I got on the county transit bus to go home to the neighboring town where I lived, stoned out of my gourd. I fumbled with my change for a long time, dropping quarters on the floor and stumbling around while picking them up. Finally, I finished paying, got my transfer, and sat down near the front door. When I got closer to home, a man in a dark blue sweat suit, carrying a navy blue gym bag that proclaimed in bright white letters across the side, “POLICE,” walked up to the front of the bus next to me, leaned over next to my face, and inhaled deeply through his nose. That sniff seemed to last forever, and it freaked me the fuck out. I was frozen in place. He finally stood back up and said, “Sorry, I just had to do that,” and he exited the bus.
My mind spun faster than a gerbil wheel, my eyes watched the window through the back for following police cars, my heart jumped every time we went to make a stop, certain that uniformed officers were planning to board and take me in every time those doors opened up. I finally made it home safely.
After that, I only toked up when I didn’t have to go anywhere or when I was sure I wouldn’t encounter anyone else while I was baked.
As far as alcohol went, I was able to get a hold of it regularly. When I was at parties for older friends, I would drink to excess, getting pretty sloshed, then taking the bus home to my grandparents’ house where I lived with my dad in the basement. He never said anything about me coming home smelling like a distillery, maybe because never really got into any trouble that way and I always came home, albeit pretty early in the morning.
However, one episode encouraged me to be more moderate in my drinking. When I was 17, I and three other friends decided to try to finish off a full half-gallon of Everclear in one night. I woke up two days later, praying to a god that I no longer believed in, hoping that he would just let me die. The pain in every cell of my body took at least another three days to subside, and after that I didn’t drink to blackout ever again, usually I drank to get a small buzz going, and then would switch back and forth between alcohol and water to stay just a little buzzed.
Things changed the year I turned 30. The fall before then, I tried mushrooms for the first time, having a pretty intense and partly uncomfortable trip, in which I lost my fear of death, or so I thought. Shortly after, I was introduced to whip-its (nitrous oxide) and the wonders of its anesthesia. Mushrooms did not become a regular part of my experience, but nitrous did from then on. Nitrous, along with the things I would later substitute for it, would soon change my world.
Later will come Part Two: “Blowin’ in the Wind”