Sure . . .
I have good memories of bad things. This is why I kept doing them, which makes sense because nothing is addicting when it feels bad. The truth is many of the things I did felt so good that I began to explore and branch out to find other ways to feel even better.
Nothing like this begins with tragedy. It was all in fun. Stupid games like, Ring and Run become bigger and better. It starts small—like prank phone calls or small plots of youthful mischief to kill the boredom.
Drinking started with stealing sips of adult beverages whenever I had the chance. Then I became brave enough to dare and learn what happens when I drank enough to feel the results. It was like daring the world and dancing on the edge between safety and trouble. I found a different kind of rush and it reeked in the new form of an incredible rebellion.
This was the kind of rush that rubberized and numbed my senses, sort of medicating, and placating the mind, appeasing the straight-line, boxed-in life of rules and regulations, and then it transformed me from who I was into a euphoric, carefree, and beautiful rage. This allowed me a chance to scream back at the world and feel the benefits of a perfect adrenaline.
Sure, I threw up the first time I was drunk. I threw up nearly every time I drank . . . but I saw this as part of the trade. I saw the sick moments that followed with my head pressed against the side of a porcelain toilet, begging for the room to stop spinning, and retching up the contents of my stomach as the price of admission. The end of the night was truly rough—but the beginning was not. The beginning started with a few drinks and the untouchable feeling that makes it safe to howl.
Drinking excused my behavior. It helped me dare the line between safety and danger. True, my actions were wild and bad; however, being wild and bad was part of feeling good.
Yes, I have good memories of bad things. They are not all clear memories—but I do have some good ones. I recall the early stages of my craziness, which was also drug-like. I enjoyed the wild times.
The line I walked between safety and danger was also a way of soothing the edges of an otherwise jagged and regimented life. I was made to follow rules. I was sent to school and told to listen; I was told to follow instructions and do well in class, but I struggled when it came to understanding the subject materials. I struggled in math and reading comprehension. I had difficulty in each of my classes because I lacked the voice to explain my struggles. As well, I lacked an understanding environment. I was learning disabled, and simply put, I fell through the cracks of the educational system.
My teachers were mostly old and impatient. They called me stupid. Told me I was a loser. Not all were like this—but the ones who were supportive could not counteract the hard words I received from the teachers who were not.
Often, I was compared to my older brother. And though he too had his own troubles in the classroom—he was also seen as a town hero. He was popular, strong, and liked by most. Girls liked him too. Girls would ask me, “How come you don’t look anything like your brother?”
“Why are you so much smaller than he is?”
And of course, “Why aren’t you good in sports? Your brother is.”
My teachers remembered him well. Some of them poked fun at his antics in the classroom. However, only one of my teachers was disrespectful of my brother. For this, I will only refer to him as Mr. T.
Mr. T had been leaning in to me about my brother. He used words that no teacher should ever use when describing a former student. Mr. T kept on. He would not stop—even when I asked him to.
On one occasion, Mr. T finished taking attendance. He jokingly shot another insult about my older brother. He compared him to a dog, but I did not see the humor in his joke.
When I responded, “Hey, Mr. T . . . speaking of dogs, when was the last time you walked your wife?” His blue eyes opened wide and became red with anger. His sparkling gray, comb-over hair, covered his balding head. His somewhat tan but aged skin was wrinkled. He quickly looked up at me while standing behind his teaching desk. The blackboard was behind him. He was leaning forward; his knuckles folded in fists and rested upon the tabletop, holding his somewhere near middle-aged body in a supposed posture of authority.
Blood rushed to the teacher’s face as he processed my insult. Then quickly, Mr. T charged over to my desk. He pulled me out of my chair by my ear and led me towards the classroom doorway. He opened the door, pulled me through, and shouted, “You stay right here!”
I waited outside in the hallway for several minutes until Mr. T returned.
“I am surprised at you. What would make you think that it was okay to talk that way about my wife?”
To which, I responded, “What would make you think it was okay to insult my brother?”
Mr. T backed away from me. He straightened up in a posture of realization. Then he instructed me to return to my desk. He never joked with me after that day. He never gave me a passing grade either.
I was only in the seventh grade at the time. However, I use this as a starting point before my choices gained a dangerous momentum.
The classrooms were different than the ones in elementary school. My small world opened to a bigger world. It was a bigger world with bigger classrooms and more students. My time of being kept in one classroom throughout the day changed into shifts of eight periods, not including homeroom. My small world, which consisted of seeing the same faces in the same classroom changed. The lunchroom changed as well. There were no assigned seats. It was more social with different crowds and different cliques.
In my opinion, there was three different sections in the cafeteria. Each section had its own status with its own cliques. One side was the jock side; they were popular and athletic. The other side was the burnouts. They were equally popular; however, they were popular for different reasons. They were the trouble side, which, in some way was an opposition to the jock’s side.
Then, of course, there was the middle section. They were the unknown, mundane, and socially stagnant. They were faceless and unremarkable, which to me, seemed terrifying and lonely.
With all the stress of fitting in and curiosities of my body going through changes; my voice was changing, I was growing, but yet, I was still much smaller than most of the students my age—I was unintimidating and unable to defend myself, both physically and verbally, but more, I was most afraid of being the punchline to a joke which everyone understood except for me
This is when the ideas of experimenting came about. Acting out seemed like a good idea. It was redeeming to me. Acting out was a perfect way to stand on the thin line between safety and danger.
Ever feel lost?
Ever feel put down?
Inferior and insecure?
Ever feel as if the weight on your shoulders is too heavy, only, there is no way to shed if off?
I can tell you this much; it’s very frustrating.
Taking this into account, have you ever broken something in retaliation?
Ever break a window?
Ever pour soda on the hood of a bad teacher’s car, or throw pieces of salami on it so it stains the paint?
Have you ever felt the need to retaliate so strongly, but yet, you don’t have the words to explain why?
Ever have a drink, and then suddenly, all of your problems seem to be gone?
If not, then I can tell you it feels a lot like getting even
Sure . . .
I have good memories of bad things—like pulling the fire alarm in the middle of 3rd period at school—or contemplating the concept of what it would be like to dose a teacher’s coffee with LSD. What others called bad behavior; I called a good time. Sure, it was destructive. It was made clear that I could never be the best in class—so I decided to be the absolute worst.
Parents wonder about their child’s behavior. They wonder about the drug epidemic. They wonder where it came from and how it grew into what it is now. They swear the attitude of their children and the drug culture was never like this before. But they are wrong. And I am proof of this
I link my behavior, drinking, and drug use together. I say they were all surface-level symptoms. They were a way to fight back.
Of course, I wanted to feel good. Everybody does. But I wanted to feel better. In the beginning—it was fun. Times like the nights I found myself on the roof of my old elementary school without any idea of how I climbed up or how I got there was like a rite of passage to me. Every kid wants to test the waters. Only, I went in too deep and nearly drowned in my own excessiveness.
That’s when the fun stopped. That’s when drinking and drug use became more like a job. And it was a full-time job at that. How could I return to a straight mind when an altered mind felt so incredible? Why would I face the firing squad insults by other students or other teachers and feel the sting when I could simply withdraw in my own mental vacation?
Why would I feel when I could otherwise be numb and smile?
Do you want to understand young addiction? Do you want to understand behavioral disorders, depression, why they cut themselves, or why they sabotage their life?
Communicate and pay attention. Look at your child’s frustrations.
Big tip: If you can help them with this—then you can help them with almost anything.
Maybe our children wouldn’t feel so lost if they believed somebody understood them.
I know this would have helped me.
I know how frustrating it is to feel misunderstood.