I was never sure how this began. I looked back at my life to see if I could figure this out. I looked back as if it were an old movie I saw, in which, I know what happened. I know who the characters were, but to me, this was the same thing as sitting in a movie with subtitles I couldn’t understand.
I looked back at the things I had done and the situations I created. I looked back at my self-inflicted wounds and the internal battle scars, which refused to fade.
I thought about the kid I was and the person I wanted to be, which was never the same. I was frustrated. I was angry. I was lost and searching for an answer. I needed something to help soften the sharp edges of my existence.
I explain this the same way I always explain depression and anxiety or mental illness of any kind. I was losing. I was losing my life the same way water loses to a drain. I was stuck in the vortex and spiraling out of control, down through the misery. I needed something to help me. I needed to find anything I could to alleviate the stress disorders and calm the nerves. I needed something to feel unobjectionable, as if it were to anesthetize myself and be unhinged for the moment.
I wanted something to solve the boredom and counteract the endless insecure ideas that unraveled in my head.
I needed this because, see, I had no idea why I thought the way I did. I wanted to find a way to appease the anxiety and soften the uncomfortable factors of my surroundings.
Don’t like me?
So what? Who cares?
At least I have this!
To the best of my ability, I needed to find something that would help me dull the sound of my inner voice. I wanted to stop the internal narrative and quit the predictions that played out in my head.
The truth is I was that kid. I was that kid next door with parents that never suspected it would be their kid in their home.
More and more, I became that kid. I was the kid in the hallways, screaming at the top of my lungs and living out loud, but yet too petrified to say anything truthful or ask for help. I claimed to be my own rebellion. I claimed to be me, an individual, but yet, I wore the same badges and same colors as the rest of my knucklehead friends.
I was that kid, longhaired and wild. I found my place in the circle, which might not have been pretty, but at least I found something.
I say I was angry but more accurately, I was outraged, And because I was this way, I would make sure everyone else knew that I was outraged and that they should be outraged as well.
If I was to look at myself—and I mean if I was to really look at myself and rebuild me from the ground up; then I would have to start from the ground up.
The drugs started young. Very young, in fact. And I’m not sure how this took off but everything seemed to happen quickly.
Maybe it was a night in a playground when I drank too much and thought for sure that come Monday, the kids from school who saw me would all make fun. But they didn’t. Somehow, I was cool. And I was never sure why. I was drunk. I smoked weed. I acted like a fool. I was like fucking 12 years old and yet, come Monday, I was part of something.
I heard people say things like, “Hey, did you see what Kimmel did on Friday night?” And I liked that.
Maybe it was the fact that I could let the mask slip without feeling anxious. Maybe it was the feeling that for a second, I didn’t have to worry if I fit in or not. I didn’t have to be the tough kid in the crowd. I didn’t have to be a genius or an athlete. I could just be wild.
I have never been sure why there is a huge fascination for the drug culture and the crime scene. I was never sure where the attraction came in. Somehow, there was something cool to being in trouble.
Plus, no one ever picked on the crazy kid. And since I couldn’t be tough, I couldn’t be strong, then God help me because at least I could be crazy.
I fell into this. I feel deeply as a matter of fact. I saw things and put myself in places to see things that no kid should ever have to see.
I think I was somewhere around the age of 14 or 15 when I first had a gun put in my face. I was somewhere around the same age, the first time I saw a bullet pass through someone’s flesh.
As a sober young adult, I had the opportunity to speak in classroom settings and auditoriums. However, whenever I spoke, I never exposed the details of what I did—I only spoke about why.
I only spoke about the way I felt and the ideas in my head, which I was trying to run away from.
There was nothing cool about my life. I had been thrown out of two schools. I never got out of the 9th grade. I never went to a prom or took driver’s education. I never had the basic rites of passage that come with basic teenage life.
No, everything about me had lost like water to a drain and above all things, the last thing I ever wanted to do was glorify or romanticize this.
I have been asked by teachers and admins about my presentation and asked, “Why don’t you talk more about the drugs?”
I told them, “I don’t do war stories. There’s no honor in almost killing myself. Instead, I place honor in the way I live now.”
The last thing I wanted to see was a kid go through this and feel the same things with no way out, no idea how to find help, no idea that they are not alone, and that yes, people can get better, and yes, they too can turn their lives around at any given moment.
I remembered a time when my school had outside speakers come in to tell us about their stories with drugs and alcohol. I remember a girl standing up in front of the classroom. She talked about climbing up to the roof of her home and sitting there with a bottle, drinking alcohol and just watching her town and her life go by.
I remember thinking about what she said and there was something fitting to this story, which gave me an idea —and so, when I went home, and when I had the chance, I did the same thing.
I climbed out of my bedroom window, stepped out onto my roof, climbed up to the top, and just like she said, I drank and watched my life pass me by.
I identified with the behavior and chose this for my own because my behavior became my voice. I had been taken to places for help. My Mother tried to have legal intervention as well. I was supposed to be placed on something called a P.I.N.S. petition, which stood for Person in Need of Supervision.
One day, Mom took me to an outpatient rehabilitation center for youth. I was taken inside to sit with a counselor. I was asked a series of questions about my behavior, which I denied, vehemently, and swore up and down that I did not do drugs.
Meanwhile, I smoked angel dust the night before my interview, which meant I was barely able to hold my head upon my shoulders.
The counselor continued with her questions, which made no sense to me.
“Have you ever had a black out?”
I answered, “Not that I can remember.”
“Do you feel paranoid?”
“What do you mean,” I asked.
“Do you feel like people are out to get you,” asked the counselor.
“What, do you mean like am I crazy?”
“Is that what you’re trying to ask me?”
She never said much to me. It just seemed like she was checking off boxes on the page of her clipboard. However, there was one question the counselor asked more than once.
“Do you play with fire?”
After a while, I inquired, “Why do you keep asking me that?”
“Well,” answered the counselor. “There are some things we can help you with here, and some things we can’t help you with.”
I asked, “So, if I told you that, yes I play with fire, you would say that I couldn’t come here?”
The counselor replied, “Yes, fires are not something we help with here.”
Meanwhile, my Mother was out in the corridor awaiting the completion of my interview. The counselor advised me to wait in the hallway and have my Mother come in. I did as I was told, and in true form, I went out, sat down in the corridor and then lit a fire in the hallway . . .
What else would they expect me to do?
There was no way I was going to let anyone know what was going on inside my head. There was no way I was going to allow them to take away my secrets, which I used to help me find some kind of satisfaction.
There was no way in hell that I was going allow anyone to strip me of my identity—even if my identity was failing, even if I was losing like water loses to a drain—there was no way I was going to let anyone take away my anger.
I was not ready to surrender me or my pain for that matter. In fact, the two of us became close friends. I was not about to let go of me or my depression. No way. Besides, what if I did?
What if I let go of the pain? What if I gave this a chance and tried to live straight and on the up and up? What if I failed and then the pain came back? What would I do then?
As I saw it, I held the pain because this was the only thing I knew. I held on because if I changed, or if I let down my guard, what do I do if I fell on my face?
No, instead, I held my pain because I would rather live in emotional distress than suffer from the anticipation of my pain’s return.
To me, the drugs, the drinking, the life; all of this was a supplemental solution, which, albeit temporary and later degrading, at least for the moment I could have my sense of relief.
Truth is though—
I just wanted to be liked. I just wanted to find approval. I wanted to believe that I mattered. I wanted to believe that I could be good, that I had a talent, and that something about me was “Special,” in more ways than just some crazy kid that had the “Little Bus” show up for him at his house.
And there was something to this for me. There was a taste of regret whenever I looked at my youth. I always thought about the kids that did things like went to parties. I thought about kids that went to school functions—meanwhile, I was somewhere out in East New York, Brooklyn, and falling into a habit.
I have been to the wakes of young teenagers that died from this lifestyle. And worse, I have been to closed casket funerals for young kids that could not be shown because a shotgun blast took off their head.
No one expects it though. Everyone thinks they can beat the odds and handle the habit. And there is something cool to it. I know because I once thought so too.
The truth is my sickness stole my youth. I gave away my freedom. I gave away my rites of passage as a teenage kid. I nearly gave away my life on more than one occasion.
And I see these kids now. And I weep for them. I weep because many of them are too afraid to openly weep for themselves. I weep because they are me and I was them.
I weep because I do not wish this on any kid. In fact, of all thefts, I do not believe there is any theft worse than the theft of someone’s childhood. And damned it to hell, depression and anxiety not only stole my youth; it nearly stole my entire life.
There is a story I relate to. This story was about a time I was holding a flashlight for my Father while he was working with a hammer and chisel. I don’t know why he was hammering or what he was trying to break free. I just know he kept telling me to hold the light still.
Perhaps I couldn’t be still. Maybe I was struggling to be still for other reasons; the truth is, I cannot be sure. But I did my best.
The Old Man was hammering away and on occasion, The Old Man missed the chisel altogether. He hit his hand more than once. He hit his hand to the point where I noticed blood. I couldn’t figure out why he wouldn’t stop. He just kept whacking the hammer down until the piece was removed by the chisel.
I wanted him to stop. I wanted The Old Man to stop hurting himself. But he wouldn’t. I wanted to say something too but I was afraid he would yell and just keep going.
Finally, he was done. And I asked him why didn’t he stop.
The Old Man looked at me and said, “Because that’s when the pain begins.”
Of all the analogies I have ever heard about the outside and inside of drug life and the dysfunctions of family —this above all was a perfect description of how addiction rips through families.
That was me. I never wanted to stop because this was when the pain would begin. And Mom and The Old Man, they just wanted me to stop because they couldn’t stand watching me hurt myself this way.
This why I had to keep doing what I was doing. The journals were never easy but at last, I was able to see light at the end of the tunnel. More importantly, at last, I was finding the bravery to stop and let the pain go.
Note to you:
There are going to be times when everything is hard. Life will hurt. You will fail and fall and there will be times when you believe there is no way in hell, you can stand up and begin again.
Trust me though, you are stronger than you think. You are more durable than you believe and your ability to endure is absolutely incredible.
So ante up and get started
Because otherwise the sickness is incredible!