My father wasn’t a religious man. He was a technical one. Though he often entertained the idea of the supernatural existing alongside us and of aliens hovering above, he was primarily a man of science-based thinking. The closest thing he had to religious beliefs was some vague “something unknowable” must have created everything but it was nebulous and very un-Christian.
One of the very few right things he correctly in raising me was to allow me to find my own beliefs. While he had his belief in some sort of quasi-god-not-god, he never pushed me into believing the same. He rarely spoke of those beliefs. You would more often hear about his belief in alien life in the universe than you would a god that created it.
This being said, after we moved to the United States (after the divorce when I was 5 or 6), we moved to Kansas and started going to church on Sundays. I don’t remember much outside of it being boring and my being upset that I didn’t get to have the cookie with everyone else (later to learn it was a much less exciting communion wafer and not a sweet, delicious cookie). I don’t even have a memory whether it was Christian or Catholic. There were long, tedious sermons I was made to suffer through then a kind of Sunday school for us kids afterwards. What little I remember from the sermons, I can recall even less from classes that followed. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t molested but who knows? This was Kansas in the 80s, there was a male teacher/pastor, and it is Christianity/Catholicism we’re talking about here.
Attending church didn’t last long. A month or two at max. The experience was lost on us and neither of us gained from it anything of merit. Looking back, I wonder if our presence in church was a way to meet people or integrate ourselves in this new community or perhaps even offer some sort of stability in both of our lives. I haven’t a clue and I can’t quite ask a dead man.
While I wasn’t a Christian, I did in my younger days believe in “God.” Nothing from church instilled this belief into me and it certainly didn’t come from my father. Everyone around us believed in God. Everyone on TV and in the movies believed in God. George Burns even portrayed God in a couple of movies. And I shouldn’t say I believed in God. I understood God was real. God existed. As real as you or me. I also understood ghosts, Bigfoot, aliens, the whole cadre of modern make-believe monsters and fairy tales, existed.
I also believed in magic. Magic was as real as everything else. I was enamoured with every decent magician my little eyes came across. I was amazed at all the tricks and trickery they masterfully produced. So amazed that I wanted to become a magician myself. I would visit magic shops on our trips to Vegas and be taught small tricks with foam balls and with rigged cards. What little money I had would be spent on sets filled with tricks and secrets. Preteen me was quite the fast-paced learner and picked up things very quickly.
This newfound knowledge ignited a fire in my to pursue magic harder than before. Not because magic was making me happy. Just the opposite. With every trick I learned, with every gamed gizmo I acquired, I became more disappointed. I learned magic wasn’t real. That man didn’t actually create a bird out of thin air; it was hiding in his sleeve the entire time. That man didn’t know which card was mine; he forced me to pick a specific card. Magic wasn’t magic; it was deceit and cheating. Before I turned 10-years-old, everything I thought started to develop cracks. Because if magic wasn’t real, what else isn’t real? If these magicians were lying, who else was lying?
I endured a terrible childhood. I was truly terrified that my father was going to kill me. I grew up wishing I found out I was adopted, hoping my real father/parents were out there. Someone who could raise me with love. Someone who didn’t act like that hated me and everything about me. I prayed I was adopted. I prayed for the abuse to stop. I prayed for the ridiculing and malicious comments to stop. They never did. If God was real and all-loving, why would he let this happen to me? Daily? Relentlessly? Why would every woman my father dated also treat me with malice and brutality, instead of love?
Over the years, my doubt grew. I began making demands. “God, if you’re real, you’ll do [thing] right now.” I was scared to think it at first, afraid of some other-worldly punishment but I did and nothing happened. I’d think those demands more and more and nothing would happen. Then I’d whisper my demands. Perhaps God couldn’t hear me. He didn’t respond to my whispers. He didn’t respond to my speaking. He didn’t respond to my shouting.
But surely God existed. There simply was no other option. He was ignoring me. Neglecting my calls. I understood neglect very well. It was the only other mode my father operated in. There was mental/physical abuse or neglecting me. There was no in-between. God must have operated the same way.
What didn’t neglect me was the television. The only parental figure who was always there for me. The only thing in the house that showed me any affection or love or warmth. Sitcoms like Roseanne and Fresh Prince. Movies like Clue and Wizard of Oz. Then there was stand-up comedy specials and Comedy Central. Specifically from George Carlin on the former and clips of Penn Jillette on the latter. Both of these men openly and humourously spoke about an alternative to believing in God that simply never occurred to me before: don’t.
I was already familiar with Penn because in my search to learn about magic, he was one of the few magicians openly revealing how tricks were done. He also talked about Atheism but it George Carlin was the primary force that really opened my eyes to disbelieving.
Where learning the secrets behind magic tricks opened the door to me questioning everything, Carlin’s stand-up obliterated that door. What he said made sense (and was hilarious). I began to question everything. I read the Bible and so much of it didn’t make sense. I started learning more about actual science and where we came from, learned about peer-reviewed evidence and carbon-dating, and learned about evolution. I learned how to think critically. If something didn’t make sense, I’d look into it until it either I understood it or decided it didn’t exist. I had, over the course of a few years, just as I was entering puberty, become an Atheist.
Carlin’s material on religion and Atheism, for lack of a better term, was a revelation. The feelings of emptiness and meaninglessness and uncertainty and worthlessness I had in believing in a god were stripped away. It wasn’t me that was unworthy of an answer from God, it’s that there was no God. For the first time, I felt a sense of hope and fulfillment that partially-Christian ideology never did.
Being a non-believer in a small mountain town with a population of about 2,000 where there are more churches than there are places to eat wasn’t as troubling as you’d expect. There was no pushback from my father (either in his neglecting or abusive states) nor were my open lack of beliefs ever really met with derision or hate. Most people (almost all of whom were believers) simply accepted my state of non-belief.
The only area of issue came from my English teacher during my Junior year of high school. Every school day would start with everyone standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. I did, just as everyone did, without much thought. Despite my being a self-proclaimed Atheist for many years, I’d never really thought about the words of the Pledge. Then one day, I realised the “under God” part and my standing and pledging while reciting that part was a validation of a thing I didn’t think existed. So one day I didn’t stand. I didn’t make a big production of it. Didn’t call attention to it. I simply remained seated when the disembodied voice over the intercom asked everyone to stand for the Pledge.
My teacher told me I had to stand. I said no. “You have to.” “No, I don’t.” “Why do you think that?” “Because there is no god and I can’t pledge to something that doesn’t exist.” She was offended, like what I had done was a personal affront to her and everything she ever believed in. She eventually relented, perhaps assuming it was a phase. The next time I had her class I still didn’t stand. She claimed I had to stand but I didn’t have to place my hand on my heart. I still declined. The next time she told me I had to leave the room while everyone else stood for the Pledge. I still declined. You could see the indignation on her face every time, plain as day. It got to the point that when the morning announcement to stand was coming around, she would be burning me to a crisp with her fiery gaze.
When I became an adult and started doing drugs (specifically mushrooms and LSD), I began to adhere to a pseudo “spiritual” belief system. Some mishmash of Buddism/Taoism. When the entire world melts and twists into colours there aren’t yet names for, you truly do believe you’ve seen God. Those beliefs wore off shortly after the drugs did. But in the decline of my drug usage, I did explore various other religions. Perhaps there was an answer out there, I simply hadn’t found it yet. It was would completely asinine to think I had everything figured out without truly researching all the options.
I spent many adult years learning about various religions. Buddhism, Paganism, Judaism, Mormonism, Islam, Taoism, and found none of them to be factual or believable. Sure, each had their good parts, but those good parts all boiled simply down to “Treat other people as you want to be treated i.e. don’t be an asshole.” And that’s something I could do without the aid of a nonsensical religion. There was no morality inherent to any religion I didn’t already possess (in fact, nearly every religion is rife with amorality).
I proudly reclaimed my lack of belief when I reclaimed my sobriety. Usually, the opposite happens. Usually, when people sober up, then find religion and cling to it as hard (if not harder) as they did drugs. Not me. I returned to my natural state of non-belief. Though I never really found the label “Atheist” comfortable. I don’t think it’s strong enough for me. The definition of Atheist is “a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.” I don’t disbelieve or lack belief, I’m thoroughly convinced there is no God or gods, just as I am that I have skin covering my body and clothes covering most of that skin.
Not only that, but I find belief in fictional stories made up thousands of years ago by people who didn’t have a firm grasp of what caused illnesses or lightning, to be devastating to the psyche. To believe in the lie that is religion is to be receptive to believing other lies. To believe in a God is to believe in those who claim to believe in God. Belief in falsehoods allows other falsehoods to seep into your life. It invites charming liars and fanciful stories to have merit in the lives of believers. Liars and stories that are demonstrably false to everyone not blinded by belief.
And I get why people believe. Some are raised in belief. Some choose it after a loss or a tragedy. Some marry into it. The belief in God or gods or an afterlife is comforting. To think there is something to look forward to after this life, especially if your life is/was a disappointment. To think something or someone is looking out for you, who cares about you unconditionally, really is a beautiful thought. The opposing thought that there’s no one watching over us, that there’s nothing after we die is a frightening proposition.
But it’s the truth. There is no God or gods, there is no afterlife. There is only this moment, right now. So be good to each other. We’re all we have.
When it comes to the old Star Trek vs. Star Wars debate, I fall on the Trek side (truth be told, I prefer MCU overall, but that’s an entirely different blog post). I like the overall optimism of Star Trek. It feels more real and science-based, whereas Star Wars feels more like fantasy. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s simply not what I prefer. That being said, nearly every Wars movie I’ve seen has some good qualities. Even the prequels had new ideas and concepts (even if they didn’t quite “gel” in the end). No Wars movies were outright bad to me. Rogue One, Empire Strikes Back, Mandalorian, and Last Jedi are the best in my opinion (I know Mandalorian isn’t technically a movie, stop yelling at me). Everything else labelled Star Wars is entertaining and has redeeming qualities of some kind in my eyes.
Not Rise of Skywalker. It was dumb. It’s the only Star Wars movie I thought was dumb. It’s so dumb I can’t muster a better descriptor than “dumb.” If I were an actual Star Wars fan I would be livid over what Disney made here. If something like Rise of Skywalker was done to Star Trek or the MCU, fiery hatred would be seething out from my every pore for all eternity. I would shout my unbridled anger and pain from the highest mountaintops for the world to hear until I forgot what words were. It’s wildly inconsistent, sloppy, nonsensical, derivative, and dumb, dumb, dumb.
It was so dumb, I almost wrote a version of the above for my first ever movie review on Letterboxd (a great social network for movie lovers, follow me on there, yeah?). I ended up instead rating it 2 and 1/2 stars (out of 5). But one friend of mine gave it 4 and 1/2 stars on that site. I couldn’t understand why. Or how. Every other friend I’ve spoken to about Rise of Skywalker has shared (some version of) my disappointment of the film (some not so strongly, some more so).
I talked to my friend about his feelings about the film. I asked him why he liked it. He said quite earnestly, he simply loves Star Wars. I pointed out the various story and filmmaking elements I strongly disagreed with and asked his thoughts about those raised points. He responded that he was satisfied there’s new Star Wars media to consume, regardless of the quality. To him, none of it is bad because it is Star Wars. As much as I like Star Trek (and the MCU even more), I’m not automatically enamoured with every entry in either series simply because it’s part of the series. There are some bad Star Trek and MCU movies and TV episodes. Some are really bad. And some are outright dumb.
What the fuck does any of this have to do with the mad orange ape-clown in the White House? The Star Wars mindset my friend has is analogous with the majority of Trump supporters (for the record, he is not himself a Trump supporter – he might like dumb stuff but nothing that dumb). The ape-clown’s supporters accept and love everything he does en masse because Trump is the one doing them. And that is absolutely terrifying. The blind adoration of any person or entity is mind-boggling and frightening to me and any rational, thinking person.
Trump says he’s anti-war, anti-interventionist, and wants to usher the United States into isolationism and they cheer. He brings us to the brink of war and interferes in the affairs of other nations and they cheer. He said (while campaigning) he’d rarely go golfing (and definitely not go golfing as often as Obama did) and they cheer. He golfs (at the time of this blog post) over 200 times and they cheer. He says he’s against prejudice and racial/religious hatred and they cheer. He says derogatory, defaming comments about people of different religious and racial backgrounds and they cheer. Says he’s against “Socialism.” He signs an $867 billion farm bill that reeks of “Socialism.” Anything that falls out of his orange-powdered lips is cause for celebration amongst his most devoted. These aren’t contradictions or lies, they’re part of the overall “Trump” package they adore.
What is something that you believe the president has done well? pic.twitter.com/UlFeaOtTVR
— Vic Berger IV (@VicBergerIV) January 10, 2020
But it’s not just his Cheeto-worshipping followers that concern me. Nearly every one of the “adults in the room” that were with Trump in the beginning has been fired or resigned, leaving only sycophants as his counsel. Warmongers and white nationalists and End Times zealots. Many of which are very smart and understand manipulation intimately. They might act idiotic on the television, but most of them know exactly what they’re doing. Same with the ape-clown in chief. Sure, he’s batty, he lies, he don’t understand words good, but he is a master manipulator and has surrounded himself with similarly talented people. Ones who do what he wants them to because it fulfils their goals. Ones who manipulate him, because it fulfills their goals.
And no matter how obvious it is, no matter what any measured, rational person says or proves, the ape-clown’s supporters will keep on supporting. There’s nothing he can say that will drive them away. There’s nothing that can be said about him that will drive them away. Many worship him, truly worship him.
Some see Trump as a messiah (if not the Messiah). Some see him as the bringer of the End Times. I fear, with the faithful’s continued support and the aid of his trusty Yes Men, they might not be wrong about him ushering in an actual apocalypse. But hey, as the world burns and a mad orange ape-clown as the match, at least we’ve got a dumb Star Wars movie to entertain us in the meantime.
I am depressed. I have depression, though I guess the popular terminology is I “suffer” from depression. I’ve “suffered” from depression as far back as my memories go. Everything from a young age has always felt empty and meaningless. Very few things filled me with joy or brought about any real sense of happiness. I felt like that as a small child, I felt like that throughout adolescence, I felt like that in my young adulthood, and I continue to feel that as I swiftly approach 40 years of age.
I don’t know if “feel” is the right word. I have a lack of feeling. A true emptiness. So much seems utterly pointless and devoid of even the glimmer of positivity. Every single thing is dry and repetitive and unyielding in its potential disappointment. Each day is the same as the one that came before and the one that came before was shitty.
The times I’ve reached true happiness, or what I perceived to be happiness, are few and far between. Every time I’ve been on a film set has been truly joyous. Brought together with various artists and technicians who collectively create magic on film for all to see. To wield our imaginations to create something bigger than ourselves. Manufacturing better worlds. Telling stories. Sharing our souls. I haven’t done a lot of film work but every single one has been momentous to me and deeply moving.
Doing drugs made me pretty happy. When you’re blitzed out of your mind and scraping the bottom of Heaven, there’s no room for depression. Not until the comedown. But the easy cure for that is simply more drugs. This isn’t to say I did all the drugs I did to escape depression. Far from it. I indulged in drugs to have a good time. And I had some great times. There were low lows as well and I’m absolutely certain my years of drug use have left their indelible fingerprints all over my psyche (and not for the better). Drugs were an escape for me, but not from internal issues. I didn’t really notice I wasn’t depressed on drugs until I stopped doing drugs. It was looking back at those partying days that I realised that I wasn’t burdened with my usual doom-and-gloom. I wasn’t “suffering” from my usual depression when I was high. I was too busy feeling good to feel bad.
There have been other times. Spending time with friends. Being with lovers. Personal accomplishments. Dancing. Travelling. They’ve all brought tidbits of joy. But my mind is a poison landscape that quickly and irrevocably finds ways to spoil those moments. I have this beautiful gift of seeing the absolute worst of any given situation, whether it’s true or not. It’s as inherent to my nature as breathing is. There is a constant, dull cloud that hovers over the potentiality of anything good around me. Taking every available chance to rain down and make all good, bad.
They say depression stems either from genetics or environment. I think I’m blessedly unfortunate enough to have gotten it from both. My father “suffered” from depression for quite a while (a fact I learned in my adulthood when our relationship slowly went from abuser-abusee to something resembling tolerable acquaintances). My grandfather too endured depression but succumbed to it 20 years ago when he ate a handgun. Inherited depression obvious, but my upbringing in a mentally and physically abusive environment invited depression into nearly every facet of my life.
While I’ve talked about the abuses I “suffered” growing up quite a bit, I’ve barely scratched the surface. Mine abuser was an expert at the unseen abuse. The unprovable. I don’t think it was intentional. My father wasn’t the sort of conniving man with the forethought to think about what marks physical abuse would leave on me (and prove he was abusing me). It was just easier for him to verbally and mentally abuse me. It was his second-nature. I learned later in life, after my father’s death, that he himself was abused by his father (my grandfather). Perhaps grandpa treated dad the same way.
Perhaps that’s what he thought love was. “Tough love” or some such machismo bullshit. I don’t know. I didn’t even truly understand what I went through as a child until recently. The last few years, as the veneer of mourning his death wore off, I started being able to look back at my childhood with impartiality. Understanding the things done to me weren’t normal or healthy or proper. Some of it came through in my book Accepting Gravity. Some will come out, I’m sure, in future blog posts and stories.
It feels weird to talk about depression. It’s easier for me to talk about past drug use and past abuses because they are just that. Past. I’m detached from them. I’m speaking about history. But depression is ongoing and oppressive. I don’t know how to address it with the same level of certainty and control as I can with many other topics. I certainly don’t want to talk about it while I’m actively depressed. I don’t want to talk about or do anything when I’m experiencing a heavy bought of depression. All I want to do is watch garbage television and practice immobility. I still eat, brush my teeth, go to work, go to sleep, slap a plastic smile on my face, but inside is a vacuum. I’ve never been so depressed that I can’t get out of bed, so I suppose that’s a plus.
Those few times I’m not depressed, that I’m actively feeling good and I’m not faking it, well… who wants to talk about being depressed when you’re having a rare bought of feeling good? To think about even the slightest, tiniest, slimmest bit of depression when I’m not actively depressed is inviting depression back in. When I’m happy, I can’t risk soiling it with depression by thinking about depression (let alone talk about it). I have enough depressing thoughts (memories, regrets, past mistakes, missed opportunities, unrealised dreams, etc.) during the bad times, I don’t want any during the good.
It’s also hard to talk about depression because it’s a sickness people can’t see. If you say “I’m depressed” there’s always some jackass who says “Just be happy.” Imagine saying to someone who has a broken wrist “Just don’t have a broken wrist” or someone with cancer “Just stop having cancer.” Great. Thanks. Why hadn’t I thought of that? Fuck me! I’m sad, why don’t I just be not sad? Brilliant! Thank you for saving me with your insight!
There’s a multitude of reactions that follow “I’m depressed” like a fucking plague. Virtually none of which are helpful. People mean well. Most people are beautiful, caring individuals who don’t enjoy knowing others are suffering. Maybe there are helpful words and I simply haven’t yet heard the magical combination of vowels and consonants that will make everything better. Perhaps there is a magical phrase at the tip of someone’s lips just waiting to cure all that ails me and it’s one simplistic platitude away from hitting my ears. But I doubt it.
The best analogy I ever heard about depression (that I’m going to paraphrase badly because I don’t feel like looking it up) is something like: depression is like when you grow up and see other kids playing with their toys and garnering joy from them, but when you look at your own you feel nothing. It feels like that, especially when I’m out in public in a “fun” environment. I see everyone else having a blast and I feel nothing. My being present and my not being present have absolutely no difference. But most times, my depression makes me feel more like a single balloon floating helplessly away from everything, only to eventually pop and float no longer.
This isn’t to say I’m suicidal. I’m not. There have been a couple of half-assed attempts long ago, but nothing with the correct amount of “follow through.” Despite everything, I don’t actually want to die. I’m simply tired of being alive. I see slim positivity in anything past, present, or future. My being alive and my not being alive have absolutely no difference.
My depression gets in the way of me getting anything truly productive done. I’m a musician who’s barely produced music. A writer who’s barely produced writings. The only consistent thing I’ve produced over the years is more internalised depression and that depresses me further. A fun, never-ending cycle. I don’t get work done because I’m depressed. I’m depressed because I don’t get work done.
It’s a depressing position to have. I don’t see a silver lining. I don’t see a hopeful end. No light at the end of the tunnel. Usually, a blog post like this comes from a place of accomplishment or hope. I have none of that. I am as depressed writing this as I was before I wrote this. I will likely be as depressed when I proofread and share. I wish I could tell you that I have hope for the future. I could actually, but I’d be lying and the entire purpose of me writing this blog is to be truthful (and truthfully, I’ve written so little in his blog in 2019 because I’m busy being depressed). In fact, I’ve started and restarted this particular blog entry countless times, each restart fueled heavily by depression.
It doesn’t help that most of us are depressed. Perhaps that’s why we frown on negativity on the Internet. People only want to read about good, happy things. They want to “Keep it positive.” No one wants to read about depression when we’re all enduring it. The planet is dying beneath our feet. Dictators are usurping governments left and right to the cheers of the electorate. Less and less money is going to less and fewer people. The future is a dark cloud hovering above all our heads. And in all honesty, little will likely change for the better. We’re too easily distractible. We’re too complacent. We’re too afraid of change. It’s easier and more satisfying to worship at the altar of the new Star Wars movie than it is to find a measured solution to homelessness. It’s easier to fear foreigners and immigrants than it is to find a way to abolish all the imaginary borders on a planet we all share. It’s easier to believe talking heads on television than it is to turn it off. I don’t begrudge anyone their distractions. I’m as guilty as anyone. It’s a big world with a shit ton of problems and it’s easier to be depressed than it is to come up with valid, working solutions.
My dog brings me joy. Simply looking at this tiny, innocent, fuzzy pile of cuteness fills me with what I imagine happy people feel all the time. It’s disgusting how cute he is. Every one of his traits delight me to no end. He’s one of the few constants in my life that brings me unbridled happiness (in the present). I have friends, family, a partner, all whom I love tremendously, but my mind finds ways to ruin those. Doubt constantly tries to pollute them, pushing me away from them (or forcing me to push them away from me). My failings in those relationships are entirely my illness, not theirs. But depression has never found a way to ruin the dog. If I could figure out why and apply that to everything else, I think I’d be in a good place.
I am trying, though. I haven’t given up. I have just enough willpower to not give up. Writing this post is a step towards something better. It may not be hope exactly but it’s a slow movement towards something resembling hopefulness. A tiny light at the end of a giant, dark tunnel.
I am beyond fortunate to be able to sit here, healthier than I’ve ever been in my life, and recall my drug days with candour, detachment, and a touch of whimsy. The damage done in my youth because of drug use has been great but not insurmountable. I lost nearly everything I own in 2002 because of irresponsibility and insobriety. I have tarnished friendships and made the lives of people I cared deeply for worse simply by being in their lives. And I suffered a bit of dental damage from not taking proper care of my teeth.
I’ve also had some of the most amazing times of my life while high. Beautiful times touching the sky and dancing in waves of bliss. I’ve seen things otherwise unimaginable. My mind has been opened to ravenous possibilities. My imagination set on fire. And through my drug use, I’ve been able to accept many aspects of myself otherwise denied and ignored, as well as come to terms with many of the destructive and detrimental elements of my childhood.
Throughout my years, after all my experiences (good and bad), I’m left with an opinion that isn’t a popular one: addiction is not a disease. Not in the slightest. I don’t deny that substance use (no matter the substance) changes the brain and how it works over time. I don’t deny that people can become physically dependent on drugs, especially things like alcohol and heroin. But a disease? No.
There was never a point where I felt overwhelmingly compelled to use any substance. Where I was completely and utterly helpless. Powerless to do anything other than consume a drug. Not once was I at home fiending uncontrollably to get high, forcing me to call around to several dealers to find something to get high off of, then retrieve money, then gone and met up with them, exchanging money for goods, then gotten high. That’s not a disease. That’s behaviour. That’s desire. That’s habit.
A friend of mine confessed to me of his gambling addiction several years back. He said he was compelled to practically drain his bank account whenever he was near a slot or poker machine. I suggested simply, “Then don’t go around slot or poker machines.” He was perplexed by my response. My callousness. I’m sure whenever he confessed this problem to others, they showered him with pity and faux-understanding. I presented him with a simple solution. The puzzlement on his face was that of someone who’d been presented with something that had never occurred to them before (or had never been offered before).
Telling people they have a disease allows people who struggle with drug use to clutch desperately onto a feeling of helplessness. It excuses their behaviour in a way that permits them to use with more regularity. The thinking goes from “I really want to get high right now because I’m bored” to “I have to get high right now because I’m sick.” Most people who struggle with drug use have an emptiness inside them. Telling them they have a disease legitimizes that emptiness and subconsciously emboldens the desires to consume drugs instead of finding healthier ways of coping.
Proclaiming addiction a disease is no different than using scare tactics to frighten children away from trying drugs. It’s ineffective and dangerous and misunderstands deep-rooted issues. The best way to tackle the drug use/abuse problem is truthful, earnest education and understanding. Not telling people things like they are “powerless over their addiction” and their lives “had become unmanageable.” The first step of the 12 Step programme literally states “We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.” What a crock of shit.
Every drug I’ve consumed and written about I’ve managed to quit without once feeling powerless. Because I did not feel powerless, I was empowered enough to be able to quit on my own volition, without support groups or cessation drugs. I was able to recognise and engender within myself the willpower to quit numerous intoxicants cold turkey. I had the strength to stop using and stop consorting with those who were using because I never once believed I was powerless. And while aspects of my life might’ve gotten a bit out-of-control on a couple of occasions, never once did things become “unmanageable.”
This isn’t to say addiction isn’t a problem. It is. If you or someone you know is struggling with drugs then reach out and talk to someone about it. Needing help is not a sign of weakness. Struggling is not a sign of weakness. Everyone needs help and struggles at some point(s) in their lives. Never accept any feelings of helplessness or hopelessness. Most drug use is caused by boredom, loneliness, and/or pain. All can be cured simply by reaching out to someone – anyone. Even if emotional pain is your root, there are options outside of drug use. Talk about it, write about it, dance about it. Time heals all wounds but constant drug use stops the clock.
We’re living in an age where cannabis is being legalised across the country (and psilocybin mushrooms are starting to follow suit). In virtually every state and country that has adopted some form of decriminalisation/legalisation/regulation death from overdoses, drug-related crimes, and overall drug usage has declined. If today I wanted to buy a little weed, I can walk 2 blocks from my house and get regulated, safe, pretty decent weed at a pretty decent price. There’s no shame in admitting cannabis use anymore. There should be no shame in admitting to using any drug, regardless of its legality. Talking leads to understanding. Understanding leads to education.
Hopefully, someday, we’ll decriminalise and regulate all drugs. If people had access to clean, regulated drugs (even “hard” stuff like cocaine and heroin), we’d see the number of overdoses due to drug contamination decline rapidly. How many stories have you heard of someone overdosing from fentanyl-laced drugs? Regulate those drugs so that people know exactly what they’re using. Many of the Schedule 1 drugs like LSD and ecstasy as much less harmful to the body than legal “safe” drugs like nicotine and alcohol.
Across-the-board legalisation and regulation can only happen through engaging in open and honest dialogues about drug usage, with honest education about drugs and their effects (good and bad), and the understanding that addiction isn’t a disease that renders you powerless. Harm reduction instead of scare tactics. Treating users with respect instead of belittling them.
I don’t regret my past with drug use. It’s brought me to where I am today and for what it’s worth, I do think I would’ve been worse off in life had I never gone down the path I went down. Do I wish I’d made some different decisions? Sure, at times. But overall I don’t spend a lot of time lamenting what was or wasn’t. I fully believe that if I would’ve been properly educated about drugs and their effects (instead of ineffective lies via D.A.R.E.), my life would’ve turned out very differently. A lot of people’s lives would have.
That’s why I’ve wanted to write this 10-part series. There isn’t enough honest, open dialogue on either side of the drug issue. The anti-drug side likes to over-exaggerate facts and the pro-legalisation side likes to underplay facts. Neither wants to say there’s both good and bad to all drugs. That there’s a grey area. Drugs, when used for fun, can be a really great time. As a crutch, drugs seem momentarily supportive but in the long run, they are lofty and create more problems than they solve.
If you’re having trouble with drugs, stop using drugs. That’s my overly simplistic and maybe even a bit flippant advice to you. If drugs are ruining your life, then stop fucking doing them. You can handle whatever comedown follows. Trust me. Things might hurt but only momentarily. If you have a hole inside of you that aches, reach out to someone instead of reaching out to drugs. It’s okay to ask for help. Struggling does not make you weak. It’s easier than it sounds because addiction is not a disease and you are not powerless. Look at me. I did all sorts of drugs and quit them all with little-to-no issue and I’m prattling idiot. If I can do it, anyone can.
It’s incredibly easy to look back at my drug heydays with a sort of fond reminiscing. I have an almost nostalgic, candy-coated hindsight when I think about my past drug experiences. How could I not? To paraphrase the brilliant Bill Hicks, I never killed anyone, I never robbed anyone, I never raped anyone, I was never arrested, and overall I had a really great time.
The truth of the matter is a little less simplistic. There were bad times. Numerous ones. I’m sure even Bill Hicks had his number of negative experiences. But when you gain distance from a thing, the memory of it grows sweeter with time.
Before I ever tried a single drug, I used to be quite the little liar. Small stuff to make my life seem better and less lonely than it actually was. When you grow up in an abusive household, you learn quickly that lying makes everyday life a little more palatable. When you grow up gay without any positive influence around to help you understand what that means, you lie to yourself instead of figuring yourself out. Why face actual reality when you can manufacture your own?
Drugs only exacerbated this deceitful trait. What were once small lies born from a lack of confidence became grandiose in hopes of impressing people. Methamphetamine specifically empowered this habit. Meth was also quite good at bringing out all sorts of other negative attributes. Emotional instability and an almost bipolar ability to go from happy to violently angry were regularly on the menu.
The Bill Hicks quote includes “I didn’t lose one fucking job.” I did, however, lose a couple of jobs while on meth. While they were my first ever “real” jobs and one could argue inexperience played a part in my terminations, I have no doubt my meth usage at the time was the primary factor. Especially the lying I engaged in whilst high/working. I was late constantly and lied about the reasons why. I lied about getting specific tasks completed. I lied about why things weren’t done.
I even stole from a couple of the first few jobs I had. I also did a bit of shoplifting around that time. Nothing major and never from friends or “regular people.” I had convinced myself at the time that stealing was okay because it was solely from corporations who not only didn’t care about their workers but could also afford to have a few trinkets relieved from their possession. The stealing stopped when the meth use stopped. The lying took a few years before it stopped. It dwindled over time from outright lies to exaggerations to implied untruths to what I’d like to believe is me currently at my most honest.
Being on drugs with little-to-no responsibilities was terrible and amazing at once. I rarely paid for drugs because I was the fun drug guy people wanted to hang out with and do drugs with. I hardly ever traded cash for any drug but there was a greater cost paid. I behaved with rampant selfishness that has cost me several friendships. I mistreated people emotionally while I was high and while I was coming down from being high. I used my friends, I lied, I cheated, and I took my comedowns out on them (and not just meth comedowns, ecstasy ones could be just as bad). While I’m sober now (save for the occasional drink of alcohol, puff of cannabis, or the once-or-twice-a-year ecstasy experience), the burnt bridges of my past cannot be rebuilt, no matter how sincere and deeply felt the contrition.
Despite losing a couple of shit jobs, stealing a couple of meaningless items, and losing a good number of decent friends, I’m still lucky overall. The amount and frequency in which I consumed drugs should have killed me. Many aren’t that lucky. I knew people that weren’t that lucky.
I had a friend, P. He was a decent, upbeat, good-looking, fit guy. Held down a well-paying job. Went to church and treated everyone he met exactly how he wanted to be treated. When I quit meth at the end of 2002, he allowed me to live with him rent-free for a while so that I could get away from all the meth-users I had surrounded myself with. Without asking for a single thing, he gave me a safe place to get the meth out of my system without a hint of judgment or impatience. He was truly a beautiful soul and he’s one of the foundations that helped me get my life properly sorted. While I liked to do drugs, P loved doing drugs. We’d done ecstasy and smoked pot a couple of time when I briefly lived with him.
When I moved out of his place, we’d hang out on occasion. And every time, he was asking about drugs [which I either usually had on me (mostly ecstasy/marijuana) or knew where to get]. He was indiscriminate in his drugs, he simply wanted to be high. But it was cocaine he craved more than anything else (and one of the few I had no interest in and didn’t know where to find). Over the years as I became soberer, each time I’d run into P his life seemed worse. Degrading slowly. He told me about getting arrested for DUI while on cocaine. He started looking unhealthy. There was a hunger in his eyes I didn’t fully understand until I found out in 2013 that he died of an overdose in 2011. I never learned what drug finished him off. It didn’t matter. I miss him tremendously and think about him often. I am a better person today for having known him and I know many others who knew him would say the same. P and I were on the same path for a short amount of time. I got off that path, but he kept walking until he could walk no further.
I knew a woman, M, who was your classic tweaker. She loved meth more than her own children (who’re the ones I was friends with, not her). When her high wore off, she was in physical pain. I never knew if her ills were real or imagined but one particular memory sticks out: she’d come down from the meth and had back pains so severe that she went to the emergency room. Being that I was friends with her kids, I went with one of them to visit her. This was 2002 and we wear all tweaking at the time. From her hospital bed, the first thing she asked us was if we had any meth with us so she could get high. She legitimately wanted to smoke meth from her hospital bed in the emergency room.
She too died from an overdose. M, despite smoking methamphetamine for decades, found out that even she could consume too much of the stuff. I was never that close to M but I too think about her often. She was the exact opposite of P in almost every way. Where he was generous and calm, she was selfish and bombastic. And yet they met similar fates because they didn’t know when to stop.
Unfortunately, I have more examples like P and M. Someone I grew up with and was one of my closest friends in and after high school also died of a cocaine overdose. Another friend of mine from heroin. Even worse are the people I know of who, to this day, are still chasing their dragons and drowning themselves in intoxicants. There was a lack inside each of them that needed filling and they believed that drugs were the solution. It’s an emptiness I intimately understood and still understand.
When I reflect on my drug days, even if I’m somehow referencing things in a positive light, I’m always thinking of all my friends and acquaintances. The friends I’ve wronged and who rightfully cut me out of their lives. The people I know who’ve died from overdoses. The people still using, still tearing down that path to bliss. I count myself lucky, but only by the slimmest of margins.
Alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, meth, ecstasy, cocaine, mushrooms, mescaline, and LSD aren’t the only drugs I’ve done or tried. Those are simply the major ones that warranted their own posts, either because of interesting stories involved in their consumption or because the “weight” of the drug needed to be explained. In-between those stories are some smaller, less impactful experiences.
In 2000 (after tobacco, but before meth), I started dabbling in pills. At first, it was “herbal ecstasy” ordered off the Internet from unscrupulous websites. This was during the point in my life where I was unable to swallow pills whole, so every pill consumed was chewed to foul-tasting oblivion. This meant the herbal ecstasy (and whatever concoction of chemicals and minerals were contained within) was also chewed up. Chewing the pills up instead of swallowing meant the effects are experienced differently. With the herbal ecstasy (and to this day I don’t know what those pills contained), I felt a little lighter than normal, but nothing remotely close to the highs of alcohol or cannabis. I only ever took the recommended dose, which was something like 4 or 5 pills.
Over several months, I had ordered various ecstasy-like “alternatives” from various websites to try. I had wanted to try ecstasy and living in Tonopah, herbal alternatives promising the ecstasy experience were the closest I could get. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), none of those herbal supplements got near the actuality of MDMA/ecstasy.
Around that same time, I was given some Ritalin by a friend. I only took 1 at a time (chewed, naturally). They had little noticeable effect on me. I tried them several times more but felt virtually nothing each time.
When I visited Vegas in 2001 (a few days before I would try meth for the first time), my friend B gave me a Percocet. I’d never taken an actual prescription drug except for one time when my legs were injured when I was 11 or 12 (also chewed). The Percocet, like every other pill, was gnashed in my teeth in lieu of swallowing whole. This time I felt the effects and they were nice. I was relaxed, numb. Body loose, mind mushy. Similar to marijuana but honestly a lot more enjoyable. I ended up falling asleep soon after consuming the 1 dose of Percocet.
I came down with a serious bought of pneumonia in fall of 2001 and was prescribed Codeine (in liquid form). It was consumed for its intended purpose (I ached all over from the coughing and it hurt to breathe at times) but still that same mushiness I felt from Percocet months earlier was present. I received another Codeine prescription a year later (2002) for another serious lung issue (which happened when smoking cigarettes and meth regularly). I wasn’t in that much pain that time around, so the Codeine was consumed at a minimal so that it could be consumed later recreationally.
In 2003, I was given a pill of Morphine by a friend. By this point in my life, I was away from meth and on a “healthy” regiment of marijuana, ecstasy, mushrooms, and whatever prescription pills came my way. The morphine was taken immediately (swallowed this time, due to my years of eating ecstasy) and enjoyed more than any other opioid. I was a strange combination of functional and completely, blissfully numb. I was operating a body without pain receptors and a mind without the ability to worry. While ecstasy was and will always be my favourite, Morphine was a close second.
I’d only ever been on Morphine 1 other time and that was in 2016. I had been in-and-out of hospitals for a mysterious abdominal pain (that goes undiagnosed to this day and unfortunately still recurs) for several days and the only thing that solved my pain was a Morphine injection. This was the only time in my entire life (at the time of writing this) that a drug had been injected into my veins. It was a rush like no other, It instantly cured me of my pain and returned me to a blissfully numb existence. For several hours, I was as free and happy as a child. After 15 years (at that time) of having done drugs, I finally understood the allure of injecting drugs. Back in the day, we lampooned the idea of shooting up but after having Morphine administered to me in that manner, it sort of made sense for the first time.
In 2004, I was given Xanax by a barely-known acquaintance at a party. It was what we kids used to call a “Xanny Bar.” I had already been drinking and didn’t know that the bar was meant to have pieces broken off for consumption. I swallowed down the entire bar. I don’t remember much of that night, other than having an amazing, fuzzy time. During the following years, I’d be given Xanax and would have a pretty great time while one it. I actually had anxiety and would take the Xanax in broken-off-pieces (as intended) before going out in public. If I wanted to feel the “high” off it, I’d have 1 drink of alcohol or take a second piece off the Xanny Bar.
The Xanax high was essentially one of forgetfulness, but I rarely used it for recreational. I was illegally using Xanax for its legal, intended purpose. I also came to learn that Xanax is the perfect thing to consume while coming down off of any number of drugs (ecstasy included) to ensure a sound night of rest.
Xanax became the only other drug I actively sought out (ecstasy being the primary one). Even Morphine, which I enjoyed more than Xanax, wasn’t something I searched for. During these years, I would take virtually any pill placed in my path. There were anti-depressants, muscle relaxers, anti-psychotics, pain relievers, but rarely did I ever try to acquire them. More often than not, pills were mentioned as being not wanted and offered to me, rather than my inquiring about them. Ecstasy and Xanax were the exceptions.
In early 2002, after I left my first group of tweaker friends and met an all-new, second group of tweaker friends, I tried ketamine. Some of my new group and I had taken a trip to California to go to a rave called “How Sweet It Is.” Our first night there was spent at a California friend of theirs’ apartment, rolling on ecstasy (what we affectionately called “Roll Parties”). The rave was the next night and was cancelled, so we ended up back at that friend’s apartment. Ketamine was on the menu. I’d never tried it, but being 22 and eager for experiences, I had zero apprehension in trying it. A line was prepared for me and I snorted it up. It was a weird sort of burning I could only describe as “pasty.” The effect was similar to having a couple of alcoholic drinks, but my mind was slightly more clear and focused. Apparently, one can do enough ketamine to go into a “K-Hole” where you’re essentially unable to move and your vision narrows into a tunnel or “hole.” Several in our group continued doing lines in order to achieve this result (myself included). None of us reached that plateau.
Ketamine left me underwhelmed. Over the next few years, it would come around and be offered to me. I’d do a little bit, feel slightly relaxed and more malleable, but I never experienced anything that memorable. The last time I did it (in 2004 or 2005), I was already on a couple of hits of ecstasy and when I sorted a line of the Ketamine, it made me nauseous. I never touched it again.
In summer of 2002, a friend had ordered some AMT from the Internet and sold it to us. This was around the time that “research chemicals” were starting to pop up all over the Internet and were 100% legal to purchase. Research chemicals were a clever way to circumvent the DEA and anti-drug laws. All someone has to do is change the chemical makeup of an illegal drug ever-so-slightly and it suddenly becomes a new, legal drug. 2C-B (a drug that’s purported to be an experience like LSD and ecstasy) is illegal, so they dabble in the lab, changing one little chemical, and it’s suddenly you have 2C-I, which is perfectly legal. When they ban that, some retooling gets you 2C-E, and so on.
We were told that this brand-new research chemical AMT would make you feel like you were on ecstasy, LSD, and meth at the same time. 2 friends and I consumed our AMT (which was a white-ish, powder in a capsule) and after about an hour felt little. We each were slightly more energetic. Slightly “happier” feeling. And colours were barely brighter than normal. It was as if we three were at the edge of being intoxicated by this drug but simply didn’t have enough. This blasé feeling lasting several long, frustrating hours. AMT was made illegal less than a year after that and I never tried it again.
I don’t remember who told me about DXM for the first time but in the beginning of 2003 (just after I quit meth), I was willing to try any drug. I purchased some Coricidin Cough & Cold (the recommended choice for robotripping at the time) and swallowed down much more than the recommended dose (as directed by friends). The experience was not enjoyable in any way. My body just felt weird. Foreign. Imagine the feeling of nausea, but instead of feeling it in your stomach you feel it throughout every inch of your body. All without the urge of having to actually throw up. It felt gross, like I didn’t want to be in my own body anymore.
Salvia divinorum came onto the scene in the early 2000s in head shops all over Vegas. It promised hallucinations when smoked correctly. Smoking it correctly meant having to take a number of big hits of it in succession from a bong. In 2004, my friends and I tried. Some of them felt minor hallucinatory effects. I never felt much off of the salvia and only tried it a couple of times.
Around the same time we tried Salvia, we were able to get our hands on some 5-MeO-DMT. It was some white-ish, clear-ish crystals lovingly sprinkled on top of some marijuana. I took my hit of the stuff and almost immediately began to hallucinate. I managed to hand the pipe off to my friend and stared at the television in my room. We had Aqua Teen Hunger Force on and the animated characters began melting and flowing out towards me. Their voices were echoing and transforming before hitting my ears. I was awash in brilliant colours that don’t yet have names and sounds that exist without description. It was like sitting while a dream rushed over you as if it were a river. The experience only lasts a few minutes before I was eased back to reality. It truly felt like I woke up from a dream and remembering the experience was no different than trying to remember parts of a dream. It was the only time I consumed that stuff.
The single greatest high I’ve ever experienced in my entire life is the combination of ecstasy and LSD. Back in 2001, my first group of tweaker friends talked about the combination of ecstasy and hallucinogens with fond reminiscing. Mushrooms plus ecstasy was “Hippie Flipping.” LSD plus ecstasy was “Candy Flipping.” While combining drugs is rarely a good idea, the aforementioned combinations were amazing and contained little risk.
I don’t remember the first time I “Hippie Flipped,” but I absolutely remember nearly every detail of my first time “Candy Flipping” (and detailed in this post). Mushrooms and ecstasy are quite similar to LSD and ecstasy, albeit less intense. The hallucinogenic properties of the mushrooms complement the ecstasy and enhance its hallucinogenic potential. Likewise, ecstasy enhances the empathic qualities of the mushrooms. They truly make the other a better, stronger, more intense, glowing-er experience overall. Individually, mushrooms and ecstasy begin to wear off after a few hours, so the comedown off both is pretty much in-sync when combined.
But LSD and ecstasy was, simply put, the greatest feeling I’ve ever experienced. All the joy and empathy and connectedness of MDMA coupled with the brilliant wonderment and hallucinatory grandeur of LSD. On ecstasy, I love everyone and everything. On LSD, I hold a childlike wonderment with the world and love every facet of it. Candy Flipping is the closest thing to actual Heaven I could imagine. No other drug, combined or solo, has come close to the sheer beauty of the experience of combining LSD and ecstasy. The sole drawback for me was that the ecstasy will begin to wear off after a few hours, leaving me with a solid LSD trip for quite a few hours afterwards.
Other combinations are not quite as fruitful. While combining cocaine and cannabis (highlighted in this post) was quite the fun experience for me, it’s seldom a good idea to combine drugs, especially ones of the opposite end of the spectrum. I was lucky in my years of experimenting with drugs that nothing serious happened to me. I was severely incautious with what I took and what I mixed it with and am fortunate to still be here today to write about these experiences.
There are two constants in my creative life that have been around since I was a child. The first was a love and passion for music. I sang as often as I could. I was in both band and choir through most of my school years. I DJed. I started recording/producing songs of my own. And there’s a large, secret back catalogue of hundreds of songs and snippets of songs that sit on hard drives. Most are poor-quality, some are half-decent, one or two are good as-is, but all will likely go unheard as I march forward with new material that’s actually good enough to release.
I have a similar story for creative writing, my other constant. I’ve written poems, lyrics, short stories, scripts for TV shows and movies, that go back almost 3 decades. Most of the poetry is complete rubbish, especially the sappy high school stuff. I wrote 100 pages of a vampire story that will never see the light of day because, quite frankly, it is just bad. Trust me. The short stories and scripts have some decent ideas that might come to light in some form down the road but in their original forms will never be released.
When I graduated high school, the sky was the limit. I was always writing and always making music. I was laying out a path to make a career for myself in these creative arts (with some acting/directing thrown into the mix as well). But when I moved to Vegas shortly thereafter, life took a detour that put a near-immediate halt to my creative work. I was too busy partying and doing drugs to really do anything other than party and do drugs.
A few party-hard years went by and I started to (slowly) clean up my act. And in doing so, I started meeting different people. Some of which were in the local entertainment industry. As my new acquaintances and I got to know each other, I got invited to do some non-credited writing on a few Las Vegas shows and a few pieces by other writers. It was extra cash and still being in party-mode, I didn’t mind the secrecy of not being credited.
I wrote additional material for several comedy shows as a “ghostwriter” for a few years. Sometimes it was adding a singular joke or two. Sometimes it was a complete script polish. Sometimes it was suggestions. The gigs weren’t steady in any way and I signed contracts not allowing me to reveal what shows I worked on (even though they’re all long-gone by now), but it was fun at the time and gave me experience (and money for partying).
Eventually, I began to hang up my partying hat in 2007 and started getting my life back on track. I had stopped DJing to start working on original productions. I took the name “wonkknow” that year with the intention of focusing my creative energies into music full-time. And I did work on music, but there was an itch that still needed to be scratched.
One day in 2007, I sat down in front of my computer and started writing. I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to write or wanted to say. Looking back, I don’t even remember what possessed me to sit down and write. But I did. And over the course of a couple of hours, I wrote what would eventually become the first chapter of Accepting Gravity. At the time I didn’t have the title. Hell, I didn’t even know this was going to become a book. It was a brief story, an introduction, into something I wanted to say. Something I had to say.
Over the next year, I continued the story and wrote 9 more chapters (and came up with the title “Accepting Gravity”). 10 chapters in total. A decent beginning for a unique narrative of a book. I had laid out a path in the story without necessarily knowing where it was going. I didn’t write with an end goal in mind. I don’t do outlines. I’m a “pantser” of a writer (someone who writes “by the seat of their pants” instead of a “plotter” who plots everything out before they write).
By the time 2009 rolled around, I had stopped writing this book. It wasn’t by choice, but by circumstance. One of the problems with being a “pantser” is sometimes it’s hard to write without inspiration. Spontaneity has its benefits and its drawbacks. I also had the death of my father around the same time and despite having a shitty childhood caused by him, I was still deeply affected by his passing.
So the book was forgotten. Put aside into a digital pile alongside hundreds of other stories, poems, songs, scripts, to collect digital cobwebs. I’d dust off those 10 chapters once in a while and have people read it. Their feedback was almost always positive. Even the allure of positive feedback wasn’t enough to bring me back to the writing desk.
And then a mad orange ape-clown became President of the United States of America. A reality television star. A white nationalist. A phoney businessman. A brilliant self-marketer. I saw an ugliness usurp the White House and a wide swath of the US populous. A President who says climate change is a hoax as our planet is literally dying before our eyes and under our feet. A President who openly talks out of both sides of his mouth and his worshipers lovingly slurp up every single syllable.
I felt scared. Powerless. What was the country becoming? The world? What could I do about it? I’ve written a couple of songs, made a few pieces of art, but none of those outlets truly allowed me to express my feelings about what was going on in the world. And then in 2017, I remembered Accepting Gravity. I re-read what I’d written a decade before and the story began to truly take shape in a way it never did when I started writing. I didn’t necessarily plot out the entirety of the piece, but I knew what all the notes needed to be.
In summer 2017, I started rewriting. 1 chapter out of the 10 was thrown out completely, but the other 9 were able to be easily reworked into the new story’s framework. The book borrows heavily from my life experiences. Characters in the book are mash-ups of people I’ve met and known throughout the years. As I wrote, I was starting to remember events and occurrences I’d long forgotten, especially the physical and mental abuse I suffered at the hands of my father.
Writing this book allowed me to come to terms with many things from my past, not just the childhood I endured under my father. I learned new things about myself. To forgive myself and others for past mistakes. It inspired me to start this blog. Inspired me to be more open, honest, and direct with people. To be more like the determined person I was before I ever did drugs, while still maintaining the lessons learned from those years of insobriety. Writing and completing this book has changed my life.
Originally, I had wanted to have illustrations mixed in with the chapters, similar to how certain copies of Alice in Wonderland had illustrations (one of the many ways I wanted to reference that influential text). It quickly became apparent that wasn’t going to happen when artists I approached either weren’t interested or didn’t have the availability. For those same reasons, I was unable to easily find art for my cover for the longest time.
After many struggles, I remembered a piece of art drawn by an old friend of mine, Aaron O’Donnell. A beautiful skeleton carved out of wood in a crucified position floating in the air. It was something he drew 20 years ago and gave to me shortly after. Luckily we kept contact and even luckier still, he was one of the people who’d read those original 10 chapters and liked what I’d written. We both agreed that his remarkable drawing would work for the cover of my book and he graciously permitted its usage.
The first draft was completed at the beginning of 2019 and the rewrite finished by the beginning of summer. Being a “pantser,” I feel the rewrite phase is where I really iron out everything that is sometimes missing from that particular writing style. While writing and rewriting, I had a very specific playlist that I feel adds to the story (and you can listen to it on Spotify).
It’s a very personal story that’s difficult to describe without ruining the story. The book is non-traditional and personal and metaphorical and interpretive. To give any specificity outside that tagline would risk tainting the reader’s interpretation of it. I’d rather someone tell me what this story means to them than me telling them what the story really is. It glows with the influences of William S. Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson, Clive Barker, Alice in Wonderland, & 1984. The tagline for it is:
Methamphetamine. A severed hand. Holidays. Hallucinations. A woman with blue skin. President Trump. Cannabis. Existential crisis. Tarnec beetles. A pool of blood. An abusive father. An absentee mother. Christianity. Heroin. A talking ear. Climate change. Alcohol. Human-sized cockroaches. Guns. The end of the world. And a message: “Jerry has the answers you seek.”
This non-linear Alice in Wonderland-on-meth combines horror, mystery, philosophy, and surrealism to tell the story of a broken beast of a man struggling with his demons, both real and imagined, throughout a grim 2018 in the dark underbelly of Las Vegas, Nevada.
I’m so very proud of Accepting Gravity. I’m glad to have written something that I can actually attach my name to (outside of music). I’ve attempted to craft an experience rather than a specific narrative. An experiment of a story. Meant to be felt more than understood. Hopefully, I succeeded in that.
Buy a copy in either Kindle, ePub, or 373-page paperback:
Hallucinogens were the last bastion of drug exploration for me. I’d done everything else in the “allowed” group of drugs [i.e. everything that wasn’t heroin, PCP, and crack (even though the latter I did do by accident – read about it in part 6)], except anything that made me hallucinate. I was intrigued by the prospect. There wasn’t as strong a desire to do hallucinogens as there was ecstasy, though. I was thrilled by the idea of taking ecstasy, whereas hallucinating simply seemed like it’d be “cool.” People in my initial group of Vegas friends (specifically P and B) told fascinating stories of what it was like to take LSD and mushrooms and the things they saw. Somehow, despite the litany of drugs we consumed during our brief but intense friendship, I didn’t get to consume any hallucinogens until I’d parted ways with that group.
I’d found a new group of friends who did meth after ending my friendship with my first group of friends who did meth (detailed in part 4). This second group leaned more towards other drugs than they did methamphetamine. They had learned I’d never done any hallucinogens and they procured some “magic mushrooms” for us all to consume in April of 2002. We decided to take them at my apartment (since it had the ideal neon-coloured raver decor, complete with several blacklights and toys everywhere to interact with).
I was warned the psilocybin mushrooms would taste bad but I had no trouble eating several of the dried treats. They tasted earthy with a slightly nutty taste. We had some music playing, all the blacklights on, and we all were talking and dancing and whatever else while we awaiting the incoming trip. I didn’t really feel much and was sitting on my futon next to a friend, R. I don’t remember what we were talking about exactly but I distinctly remember after a while R’s face started melting. It looks like the skin was slowly dripping off his head.
I started laughing and looked away, telling him “I can’t look at you while your face is melting.” It was eerie and weird and magical. I’d never seen anything like that before. Depictions of drug hallucinations in films were nothing like the actual experience. It genuinely appeared like R’s flesh melted like a slow-moving liquid down his face. A scene that was more funny than terrifying. The walls of my apartment appeared to “breathe” by slowly expanding and contracting. Colours were slowly shifting and rotating through the spectrum. New, fascinating sounds were appearing in the music we were listening to. I was transported to a whimsical, cartoonish world where anything was possible.
The experience was fun and brief. After a few short hours, I eased back into reality. Over the next few years, I did mushrooms a dozen or so times. Each experience was essentially the same as the first, except for two specific ones:
Your average “dose” of mushrooms can vary, but 1/8th of an ounce usually guaranteed you’d have a decent trip. Caps had more of what’s known as the “visual hallucination” (i.e. faces melting, colours changing) and the stems were the “body hallucination”). Well, there was one occasion in spring of 2003 were I consumed 7/8ths of an ounce of mushrooms throughout a single night. To be honest, I don’t remember much of the experience except that it legitimately felt like there was a thin layer of bubble wrap under my skin (between my skin and my muscles). Every time I touched my own arm or someone else did, I felt a tiny “pop” (hence, “body hallucination”). Otherwise, I recall floating in and out of my bubble-wrap-infested body while I lied on the couch watching cartoons. It was a fun, if hardly remembered, experience.
The other experience worth noting was when Guido, his girlfriend J, and myself went over to our friend Denise’s apartment early in 2004. Guido had acquired some magic mushrooms that had gold flakes on them and some very strong cannabis. He had made some tea out of the mushrooms but I don’t fully recall if I drank the tea or just ate some shrooms. We put on the film Naqoyqatsi and after 30 minutes we smoked some cannabis to help “kick in” the trip. We then eat were given a “Vitamin C” gumball, which was thought to further enhance the experience.
I was staring at what looked like clouds or waves of the ocean on the screen. My mushroom trip started kicking in, quickly and in overdrive due to all the “enhancements” we took. The scenes on the screen changed to show children suffering from starvation in war-torn countries (which is an actual part of the film). So, I’m staring at these horrific scenes on the screen and I started panicking. I thought I was chewing my own tongue instead of gum. I was seeing intense, fast-moving spirals on walls and faces. I was having such intense closed-eye visuals that I couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or closed. I couldn’t tell if I was breathing or not. I was suddenly extremely paranoid and my fight-or-flight response kicked into overdrive. I couldn’t get comfortable and I didn’t feel safe. And worst of all, I couldn’t think clearly and was questioning my own thoughts. I was having a very bad trip, trapped in a waking nightmare that had only just begun.
The only thing that calmed me down was getting away from everyone and everything. I retreated to a bedroom with the lights off, away from everyone else and away from the music and away from the dark visuals. After a while, Denise’s partner at the time, J, tried to comfort me. He wrapped his arm around my shoulder and kept saying “It’s okay, you’re fine,” but his presence only worsened my condition. He left me in solitude and in my solitude, I had a profound experience that’s hard to describe. If I were a religious person, it was the equivalent to seeing God. I came to understand how we’re all connected on a quasi-spiritual level (I learned over the years that hallucinogens and quasi-spirituality go hand-in-hand).
Eventually, Denise (who I am still very good friends with to this day) visited me in the bedroom. She didn’t say a word. She lay on the bed near me, but far enough away to not freak me out. We sat in the darkness, wordlessly enjoying each other’s company for a good amount of time. And then, suddenly, and without any real reason, we both started laughing at the same time. Suddenly, I was fine and rejoined the party. The visuals had been changed to something a little less alarming and apologies were dolled out for putting on such dire imagery.
Any time I did mushrooms after that 2004 experience, I ended up having a bad trip. Not quite to that severity, but enough to make it so I stopped doing mushrooms completely.
A dear friend of mine in mid-2003 used to grow his own mescaline in the form of San Pedro cactus (it naturally produces mescaline, you see). He would routinely give out cacti to his close friends. I luckily fell into that category. He never bothered teaching how to properly extract the mescaline from the cactus. Oh no. He was the sort to cut pieces off and eat it as is. I would also do the same thing with my own.
Let me assure you, there is no taste on this planet worse than the taste of San Pedro cactus. It is a challenge of the highest order to chew and successfully swallow that foul, disgusting, bitter, gross atrocity. But once you do and you eat enough, you get to trip. The mescaline trip is more intense and longer-lasting than the magic mushroom trip. On mushrooms, if you looked at a piece of cactus in the palm of someone’s hand, it would “breath” and shift hues. On mescaline, that same piece of cactus in someone’s palm comes to life as a worm crawling around.
Mushrooms shifted and changed the world around you and confuses your thoughts. Mescaline makes things in the world around you come to life. There’s still the changing of colours and the “breathing” of surfaces, but with mescaline more than mushroom will you see inanimate objects come to life. Things will dance and crawl and move around on their own in ways they never did on mushrooms. I never had a single negative experience on mescaline the handful of times I consumed it and somehow never vomited from the taste.
There was only one occasion where I had peyote (which also produces mescaline). I ate a dried button about the size of a nickel or quarter sometime early 2005. The flavour was comparable to mushrooms with an underlining bitterness similar to San Pedro cactus. 30-40 minutes after eating it, I started feeling lighter than usual and started seeing colours become brighter and “vibrate” with movement. Then, I woke up the next day in my bedroom. I have absolutely no memory of the trip and my friends/roommates at the time said I was pretty calm, quiet, and very friendly during the entire trip.
The first time I took LSD was at an illegal rave in early 2003. A friend of mine, R found someone selling it on blotter paper, but was suspicious of the dealer (the dealer wasn’t anyone we’d seen before at parties). So R bought 2 hits at $5 apiece and fed them to me (I was more than willing to be the test subject. If I were to start tripping, R was going to buy most, if not all, of this dealer’s supply. If I didn’t trip, then he was only out $10. Over the course of the night, R’s eyes were heavily on me, asking repeatedly if I was feeling anything. I never really did. At this point, I’d only done mushrooms before, so I knew what a trip was like. I wasn’t experiencing anything remotely like that. I did feel good, I reported, but it was hard to distinguish whether I felt good because I was dancing or because of the acid. R ended up not buying any more.
I’d done blotter a couple of times after that, but never to any noticeable effect. Then I was at an underground rave in California with my friend J2 in mid-2004. We’d taken 1 or 2 hits of ecstasy each and he was snorting bumps of ketamine all night (I wasn’t a fan, but I did a bump or two). J2 had disappeared for a decent amount of time and found me dancing on the dancefloor. He was all smiles, saying he found someone selling acid – in liquid form. J2 took me to the dealer, who was using a tiny eyedrop bottle to put several drops on some guy’s purlicue (skin between thumb and index finger). I jubilantly declaimed I too would like to purchase some LSD, to which the dealer replied that he wasn’t sure he’d have any left.
When it was my turn, I gave the dealer $10 (for 2 hits). He held out my purlicue and attempted to squeeze out a drop. Nothing came out. He tried again and again nothing. Then he squeezed a third time and several drops spurted out, much more than the 2 I paid for. He was under the impression the bottle was empty and gave it to me free of charge. I stuffed that in my pocket and went about my rave.
DJ Isaac was spinning hardcore/gabber. I was at the front, watching his set. As I was watching, I saw other people walk up the DJ booth. Some were talking to him, some with each other. One lied down in front of the DJ booth. Some of the people started kissing and fondling each other. Some were dancing and laughing. The more I watched, the more people were joining the small stage area. Kissing and fondling became full-fledged fucking. Dancing became much bigger and bombastic. Laughing became doubling-over in hilarious pain. After a while, I blinked several times and shook my head and all those people vanished, leaving on DJ Isaac on stage. I’d hallucinated the entire group, each and every last one of them.
We ended up leaving the party and driving to a friend’s house to spend the night. I don’t know how we did it, because J2 was tripping the same as me and he drove when clearly he shouldn’t have. The road was a soothing river we sailed down for what seemed like an eternity, made possible by closely following the car/boat/face of my friend who’s home we were going to. Somehow we arrived at his place in one piece. He had luscious blue grass blowing like waves of the ocean in the front. Trees bending and twisting into intricate shapes on the side.
Inside, his home was a carnival of moving, dancing colourful objects. I busted out the bottle of LSD, which definitely had several more hits inside. My California friend cut up the bottle and did his best to evenly dole out the remaining LSD. A few of us ended up chewing pieces of the bottle to savour up what few remnants we could suck out. The remainder of that night is foggy, but I remember us all doing several hits of nitrous oxide, me taking a bath after everyone went to sleep, and watching Finding Nemo twice in a row.
Acid/LSD took the best parts of mescaline and mushrooms with none of the negative. Every time I’ve taken acid since then, I’ve felt like a happy child wandering through a dream. Eager, curious, thrilled, never scared. Oftentimes, people have bad trips on acid due to the intensity and the length of the “trip,” but not me. There is a clarity of thought when I’m on acid that isn’t present when I’m on mushrooms and I think that “confusion of thought” that mushrooms engender is what would bring about bad trips.
I have so many acid stories, each one could fill up its own blog post. LSD is one of the few drugs that I can clearly remember everything that happened while I was on it (just as long as LSD was the sole drug consumed i.e. not combined with anything else). I’ve seen statues sing and danced, I’ve tasted the colour yellow, I’ve seen people’s shadows come to life independent of the person, heard sweet music in silence, heard inanimate objects tell stories, and so much more. Being on acid is truly like being in a wondrous dream. And not for a couple of hours, like on mushroom. On LSD, you’re in that dream state for anywhere from 6-12 hours.
I did consume a goodly amount of LSD in a short timespan and never once did a single trip on acid come close to the negative things purported by anti-drug peoples. I never thought I was a glass of water that could be tipped over (and then die). I never thought I could jump off a building and fly away. Like all the other drugs I’d tried before it, LSD (and hallucinogens in general) didn’t have the life-ending, ill effects promised. Sure, I had bad trips on mushrooms, but I didn’t irrevocably lose my mind or develop some kind of psychosis. This is the sort of nonsense they said acid/hallucinogens would cause:
The only hallucinogen I’m outright opposed to doing is mushrooms, simply because of a history of bad trips on the things. I would have no issue consuming mescaline or LSD today, but the desire simply isn’t around anymore. Taking LSD is a days-long commitment that I’m no longer interested in. Plus, I’ve seen so many magical and wondrous things, caused by the wires in my brain being switched around due to hallucinogens, that I’m not sure what more there else to see. I’m not sure there’s anything else I want to see. Hallucinogens, for me, had a very specific time and place in my life.
The last time I took LSD was March of 2009 (for my birthday). Guido and I, along with 2 others, took a couple of hits, moseyed to the theatre, timing it so that we’d start feeling the effects shortly before the movie started, got our 3D glasses, and watched Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland with a head full of LSD. It was a hoot.
At this point in my life, I’d surrounded myself with (what I thought at the time were) great people who were more versed in living life than I was without a hint of negative side effects from their drug usage. This included their various histories of consuming drugs. I’d successfully consumed tobacco, alcohol, ecstasy, and cannabis to no ill-effect and was eager to try more, especially after the amazing experience ecstasy provided. I had no real preference or yearning to try any specific drug, except for LSD. P [the quasi-father figurehead of this little group who “inspired” me to try meth (detailed in part 4)] regaled me in stories of taking acid and it really made me want to try the stuff. I’d never hallucinated before and the concept seemed frightening (due to television shows and movies showing skewed ideas of what hallucinating was), alas LSD was incredibly difficult to find at the time.
I never had any desire to try cocaine, but after a Halloween rave in October of 2001, I had my opportunity to. B had found a baggie of the stuff while waiting for us to be searched at the party’s entrance. It was laying on the ground near a trashcan before he scooped it up. Instead of doing it himself, he offered it to me in the days following since I’d never tried it before (and he preferred using meth).
There was enough in the baggie for a couple of 3-inch lines. The first thing I did was dip my finger in and rub it on my teeth (just like in the movies). The taste was slightly-sweet, slightly-chalky, but quickly made my teeth and gums numb.
I wasn’t a fan of snorting drugs. Allergies keep my nose either clogged or runny most of the time, but this was a rare clear day and there really was no alternative to consuming the cocaine. B cut up two small lines, rolled up a dollar bill for me, and told me how to go about doing snorting the stuff (closing one nostril while holding the straw and inhaling through the other). I did the first line with great ease but stopped there. B decided to go ahead and do the second line (“Can’t let drugs go to waste.”).
And I felt… nothing. Physically, I felt the burning-cool sensation in the back of my nose/head as is slipped down my throat, coating all it came into contact with with glorious numbness. Otherwise, I felt no decipherable change. I didn’t feel any higher than before I snorted it. I didn’t feel any more energetic. B suggested it might be “weak” coke and we finished it off to no noticeable effect. Our group retold many urban legends of sorts, one of which was when it came to cocaine and methamphetamine, you only enjoy the one you tried first. I tried meth before coke, so that was the one I felt.
I’d only done cocaine a small handful of times in my life. The second such occasion I was tricked into smoking it in crack form. I was hanging out with this woman at my apartment. She had brought over what she claimed was meth. It wasn’t as crystalline as meth but was milky, almost yellow-ish instead. I was far too trusting and smoked some of it with her and immediately the taste was different. It made me cough almost to the point of nausea, which meth never did. The stuff affected me almost instantly in the most unpleasant ways. I felt high above my own body, yet heavy and jittery. I hated every moment of the experience that could not wear off fast enough. When I told her how I felt and how much I didn’t like it, she said, “Well, it’s not actually meth.” I ended up playing video games to calm myself down while she finished the rest of her “not actually meth.” It was only later when sharing the experience with friends that they told me it was highly likely crack-cocaine I had smoked.
Within my initial group of Vegas friends, our quaint little group of drug users whom I’d initially looked up to, there were only a few no-nos: never shoot anything up and never do crack/heroin/PCP. To do any of those was to become an actual “druggie” and cross over some imaginary line that separated us from “them.” When I discovered I had inadvertently smoked crack, despite having excommunicated myself from their ranks, I heard their judgments echoing.
The next time I did cocaine was shortly after I first met my dear friend Guido in mid-2003. He primarily smoked marijuana and I primarily did ecstasy. I introduced him to ecstasy and he introduced me to what he called “Cocoa Puffs,” which was marijuana with a little bit of cocaine sprinkled on top. That was an all right experience, coke-plus-weed. You’re high like on cannabis, but with slightly better focus and energy. During the early part of our friendship, I smoked “Cocoa Puffs” with him a small handful of times and each time was rather enjoyable, not non-eventful.
There was one time “Cocoa Puffs” was incredible. Guido, our mutual friend J, and I went to a house party near the end of summer in 2003. I’d been off of meth since December of 2002 and we could quite clearly hear partygoers in the next rooms smoking from a meth pipe. There’s a very distinct ritual to the smoking of it that has a very specific sound (and odour). My friends asked if I needed to leave, fearing my being near the stuff would compel me to go and smoke it. I had no temptation whatsoever. Instead, we three along with almost a dozen other people arranged ourselves in a circle and smoked the fattest blunt I’d ever seen (before or since).
We managed to each hit the monstrous thing at the beginning of its journey. Right away, I knew this joint contained more than simply marijuana. I could feel it long before the monster joint made its second pass to me. There was either meth or cocaine mixed in and in amounts much larger than the “bowl frosting” Guido would do. I took my second hit of the stuff as did my two cohorts. The blunt did not survive to make a third round.
This high was fantastic. Outside, my body was calm and comfortable. A log floating on a lazy river. Inside was a rocket ship hurriedly blasting its way towards planets unseen. I was high, yet calm. Energetic, yet docile. A truly wonderful combination that both Guido and I took to nicely. Our friend J, however, had a much worse time. He started freaking out about whatever the joint was laced with. We did our best to assuage his fears and confirmed it was cocaine, not meth, but he hated the experienced and end up throwing up several times (and in several different colours) as we trekked away from that house party.
The last time I ever did cocaine was near the beginning of 2004. A friend had brought some over to my place for a little get-together. Large lines were cut and a bunch of us snorted the white powder down. I again felt nothing, just like my first time consuming it. Everyone else in attendance seemed to be feeling the effects and enjoying themselves. My “I’m not feeling anything” was met with a “That means you need to do more.” We all did more. They all seemed to go higher, while I went nowhere. My “I’m still not feeling anything” was met with another “That means you need to do more.” That exchange cemented my decision to decline and I have never touched cocaine again after that.
While the first time I snorted cocaine I did a small amount, the last time I snorted a great deal. I was equally unaffected both times. I don’t believe consuming via inhalation was the issue because the few times I snorted crystal meth, I felt those effects without issue. The only times I felt cocaine was when I smoked the stuff with cannabis. Even those times, I was underwhelmed. It was fun, sure (especially when smoked out of that gigantic blunt), but none of those times really impressed me to the point of wanting to do this drug with any kind of regularity. I believe cocaine simply wasn’t for me.
It came around one more time, near the middle of 2004. Guido was living with me and his girlfriend came over, sporting a healthy baggie of cocaine. She wanted the three of us to do it and I immediately declined. It didn’t do anything for me and I didn’t desire to try again. Guido had stopped smoking “Cocoa Puffs” months prior and was likewise disinclined to consume cocaine, even with his then-girlfriend. She didn’t want to do it alone and was left with a big baggie of the stuff. In a moment of sheer silliness, I suggested she dump the entire contents into the giant-sized, 7-11 Coca-Cola Guido had. Coca-Cola used to have cocaine in it, I (mis)stated, so we wanted to see what it tasted like with actual cocaine mixed it. She dumped it in and we heavily mixed it up with the straw.
I was the first to try our concoction and I discovered that Coca-Cola, when actual cocaine is mixed into it, tastes exactly like Pepsi.
In 1997, I was exposed to Daft Punk’s Around the World and it changed my life. I absorbed as much electronic music and electronic music culture over the years as I could. I would always be seen in quintessential rave attire that consisted of brightly-coloured shirts and the baggiest of pants. I purchased turntables and vinyl records from eBay and taught myself to DJ. I purchased EDM compilation CDs from Wal-Mart and merrily downloaded every possible electronic music MP3 I could find on Napster. I was for many years the classic stereotype of a 90’s raver kid, but without actually attending a single rave.
News broadcasts started doing reports about this new “rave” fad and the dangerous drug “ecstasy” that was synonymous with it. The talking heads on television sounded the same alarm bells they used for all drugs. Loudly and proudly proclaiming how harmful ecstasy was. There was even this hour-long ABC news special about the drug:
At this point in my life, late 2000, early 2001, I’d already tried alcohol, marijuana, and cigarettes to no ill consequences. I was convinced ecstasy was likewise harmless and news specials like Ecstasy Rising had the exact opposite effect me. As someone who grew up sheltered from the world by an unfeeling single parent, the prospect of taking a drug that could make me feel a euphoric sense of love and belonging was fascinating. The fact it was directly related to this raving lifestyle I’d adopted was all too perfect. I had to try ecstasy.
Unfortunately, the closest I could get to a rave (or ecstasy) from sleepy Tonopah, Nevada was whatever rave-themed TV shows and movies managed to come my way. That’s My Bush did an episode where (then) President Bush accidentally takes ecstasy and has a pretty great time. Movies like Groove and Go showed what parties were like and how fun ecstasy appeared. Even the news reports warning of the dangers of ecstasy, when they showed actually ravers on the drug, those raves looked like they were having an amazing experience. There was no “I robbed someone to pay for ecstasy pills” or “I lost everything because of ecstasy.” In fact, users when interviewed often said things like “Ecstasy changed my life for the better.” Ecstasy sounded amazing and perfect for me.
When I visited raver friends in Las Vegas in the mid-2001 (where I tried meth for the first time), I purchased some tablets of ecstasy. 4 tiny red pressed pills with a crescent moon stamped on one side. They said I should try it with them, but I was honestly scared to. Part of the reason I afraid was because I had a great difficulty swallowing pills. Any prescriptions or over-the-counter pills I consumed had to be chewed up. I had such a high aversion to choking that I simply could not swallow pills whole. The other reason was because I was afraid to feel happy.
My childhood was such an awful one that misery and depression were what I was most comfortable with feeling (and fearing my own father). The notion that all that would slip away and I could feel joy and love terrified and thrilled me. I was not scared of trying any drug before ecstasy or after, but ecstasy itself… I wasn’t ready. I ended up trying meth and going back to Tonopah, uneaten pills in hand.
In July of 2001 I moved to Las Vegas and stayed with my tweaker/raver friends. My first night there, I took ecstasy… kind of. Still scared of the experience, I nibbled a little bit off the pill. A pathetically tiny amount that had zero effect on me. I nibbled a bigger piece 30 minutes later, then more 15 minutes after that, and so on until the pill was fully consumed. I kept this secret from my friends in fear of embarrassment. They thought the pill was simply weak because I felt almost nothing, but to their credit they did what they could to make the “first time rolling” experience as good as it could be.
The next night I attended my very first rave. I chewed up half of a red moon pill and have the other half to B, with whom I was living (and would later fall in love with). During the night, he acquired a tablet he said was a “Green Goblin” and split that with me. This time I simply felt good. Nothing near euphoria, but pretty good nonetheless. I ended up spending most of the night laying on the dirt with my head in B’s lap, merely talking most of the night. At one point, a DJ playing a remix of Daft Punk’s Around the World and I leapt to my feet and danced to the serendipity of the moment. It was a sign I’d finally found a home and friends I’d longed to have. The one song that set me on this particular path played at the very first rave I ever attended.
It wasn’t until the third time I took ecstasy that I truly “rolled” on the drug. I’d split another red moon with B (we came to learn that the red moons had a very low dose of MDMA in them, which is the active ingredient in ecstasy) at another rave in August of 2001. B got me out of my shell a bit and we danced (he said dancing would help the pill kick in). When the pill never did, he vanished for a little while. B returned and said he got some white Ferraris and before I could utter a syllable, he shoved a full pill into my mouth. Unlike the red moon I had to chew up, this Ferrari dissolved in my mouth pretty quickly. After I washed it all down with water, I’d asked him if the tablet dissolving like that was normal. He smiled and said it was.
We danced a bit more and I started to feel good. The same level of good I felt at my first rave the month prior, but I also felt a little heavier. My head was a little light. There was a room with couches and I was directed there, while B went to dance some more. I could feel warmth in the back of my skull in strange, tingling waves. This was much more intense than anything else I’d ever felt. I could feel my heartbeat fiercely beating against my ribcage. Warmth was around my belly and I felt nauseous. Then a glowing heat radiated from my lungs with every breath I took. It became more intense with each expansion until my head fell back.
I was rolling. I was euphoric. I felt unbridled joy like I’d never felt before. I don’t remember too many specifics once I was properly feeling the full effects of the drugs, but I recall snippets: trying menthol cigarettes for the first time, my first kiss with a woman, my first kiss with a man, and spending the entirety of the night laying on that couch (oftentimes with head rested again on B’s lap). At one point, B tried to get me up to dance. But once I got to my feet and saw myself in a mirror on the wall opposite the couch, I fell back to being horizontal. I remember telling my newfound friends something to the effect of “I know it’s the drugs talking, but I love you guys” and similar such sentimental nonsense. When we decided to leave the rave, all my friends were convinced I wasn’t going to be able to fall asleep. But I crawled into B’s bed with him (he and K had one of their many breakups at that time and asked me to sleep next to him) and I slept better than I’d ever slept before.
From that moment forward, I knew ecstasy was my drug. Meth, cannabis, alcohol, and cigarettes couldn’t hold a candle to ecstasy. Cigarettes didn’t really affect me. Alcohol and cannabis were rarities that were simply “okay.” Meth was just something everyone in the group did and (at the time I thought) it didn’t have any affect on me. But ecstasy was everything I’d imagined and so much more. I completely understood all those interviewees recalling how this magical little pill changed their lives.
I was feeling a plethora of emotions I’d been denied (and denied myself) for a long time. Not only was I opened up emotionally, but physically. Ecstasy affected all senses. Lights were more vibrant and glowing. Smells were more intense. Flavours (in the form of candy or menthol cigarettes) were extraordinary. And my sense of touch was so enhanced the act of physical contact was profound. Every facet enhanced for the better and lasting for days after consuming pills. Most people would refer to the ecstasy comedown that strikes three days later as the “Tuesday Blues.” I never really encountered those “Blues” (although on occasion I would have wild mood swings a week after rolling).
My initial ecstasy use was intertwined with my meth use (detailed in part 4) and a lot of pills were comprised of more than simply MDMA, so perhaps that led to an atypical comedown. Back in the early 2000’s, ecstasy was available in two forms: pure MDMA in crystalline form in capsules we’d call “Molly” (which was the top-of-the-line stuff if you were lucky enough to find it) and pressed pills. Pressed pills were readily available and often mixed with non-MDMA ingredients. Pills back then were also weaker and, when coupled with extra-MDMA components, allowed you to consume multiple pills in a single setting. The quality has shifted from what it was 15, 20 years ago. Nowadays, it’s “pure” Molly that’s adulterated (and with worse drugs/chemicals than what we were exposed to) and it’s pressed pills that are nearly pure (and with a dose of MDMA 2 or 3 times higher than necessary, providing higher overdose risk than we were exposed to).
Pure MDMDA/ecstasy/Molly hits you in about 60-90 minutes, then you’re rolling and flying high for a couple of hours, then you gently return to normal with little in the way of feeling “cracked out” or being unable to sleep. Pressed pills were a crapshoot. Sometimes they’d contain no MDMA whatsoever and you’d get nothing for your money. Sometimes they’d be tainted with meth or other stimulants (which meant you were tweaking more than you were rolling). Sometimes pills contained trace hallucinogens or research chemicals that managed to enhance and beautify an already beautiful experience. Sometimes there would be haunted whispers of pills being cut with heroin, despite no evidence ever confirming that suspicion. After consuming an adulterated pill, once the MDMA component wore off, you could be still be up for hours hallucinating or tweaking or just generally restless.
The main danger of ecstasy stems from adulterated/dirty pills. Ecstasy can be relatively harmless otherwise. Unless you’re one of the rare few who have an allergic reaction to MDMA, your biggest danger is overheating. Drinking enough water (and not over-hydrating) is the simple solution. The other danger is if you consume too much MDMA or too often. The golden rule we adhered to was that we’d wait two or three weeks between rolls. Unlike meth or marijuana, you cannot continuously eat more pills when the effects start wearing off in order to feel more. Think of your brain as a sponge filled with serotonin: ecstasy squeezes that sponge, flooding your brain and emptying the sponge. You can take a couple more pills and squeeze that sponge a little harder, but you won’t get much out of it until that sponge refills and it takes a couple of weeks for it to properly refill. Continue squeezing that empty sponge and you start doing real damage.
There was a very brief period where I, along with a partner friend of mine, sold ecstasy. It was extremely low-level activity where our friends were pretty much our only customers. Our entire enterprise was engineered in such a way that allowed us to consume ecstasy for free. We’d sell enough pills to purchase our next batch, then instead of selling the rest for profit, we simply ate some of those and gave the rest away. With every new batch of pills we acquired, we’d each eat one before we sold or gave any way. This was our way of knowing what exactly was contained in the pills we redistributed. Our “business model” obviously wasn’t sustainable in the long run.
Ecstasy was the one drug that seemed to have no stigma attached to it when brought up in any social setting. If meth or coke were mentioned, people would recoil. Mention alcohol or marijuana and they’d either likewise be user or had some story as to why they didn’t use anymore. But ecstasy almost always elicited one of two very specific reactions: “I love ecstasy” or “I’ve never tried it, but I’d like to.”
My experiences with and on ecstasy were for the most part tremendously positive. Sure there was the occasional bad time but overall the good ones far outweighed any negative one. It, along with the occasional drink of alcohol and the occasional joint, is something I don’t mind using to this day. Over the last 18 years, I’ve consumed more ecstasy than any other drug and I can honestly say that my life is the better for it. I can’t quite chow down pills every couple of weekends like I used to in my partying heyday (nor would I want to), but it’s still a wonderful experience whenever it comes around.