In my mind, I flash back to a time years ago, and the image strikes me with peculiar clarity—the dismal boarding house where I lived when I was newly sober, the shattering acid flashback with its neon cockroaches skittering across the dirty ceiling. Then, further back in the recesses of my mind, the original bad trip: bloody slashes like knife wounds leaping out from a whirl of furiously moving geometric patterns.
That night went on for days, it seemed, when I lay alone on my bed, paralyzed by the horror of it all, staring awestruck at the ceiling. In a way more real than surreal, I felt I stood on a ledge and looked down. It was the ledge of my own sanity….
At length, the patterns shifted and receded, and I was back. Closer to sanity—forever changed, if not ruined.
On the 6th of each month, I send out a monthly newsletter to my subscriber list. I’m not entirely sure how I settled on that date. Maybe it’s because my birthday is November 6th, or maybe it was just happenstance. Whatever the case, I rarely request feedback, though I often ask my readers to tell their friends and colleagues about my work.
This month, I requested some very specific feedback, in an email with the tongue-in-cheek subject line Whaddya Want From Me? I asked my subscribers what they’d like to see more of in those monthly missives.
To my surprise, I got a reply that said, Tell us a drunk tale.
Well, hell, I can do that.
Active Means Something Different To Me…
Like most people with long-term sobriety, I also have a bit of colorful history that preceded it. In my case, the decades of sobriety now exceed my “active” years by a factor of three to one—about 30 years sober that followed a history of around 10 years—but some of those years brought adventures that would send a chill down any parent’s spine.
The quote above, from my recent novel Whizzers, is a case in point. Filled with much more autobiographical material than my previous three novels combined, Whizzers blurs the lines between a fictional version of me who travels through time and the actual me, with many of my real-life experiences. Some date from childhood, but others include the active years.
It was July, 1986. A buddy of mine came over to my parents’ house, where I was staying alone while they vacationed in Nova Scotia. We each took a hit of LSD, and I figured we’d be in for a night of hilarity.
Unfortunately, my friend had just taken the exact same dose the previous night. So while I began to feel the effects within the hour, he got no effect. A few beers along the way, and he was ready to head home and go to sleep, whereas I knew I’d be up all night.
After my buddy went home, my girlfriend at the time stopped by. She had zero experiences with psychedelics—and would eventually add spice to her own story by “upgrading” from dating me to dating a guy who dealt coke and carried a gun—but she was worried about me.
I assured her everything was fine, don’t worry about me, and so on. But it was not an enjoyable visit. She left, and now I had a good eight to ten hours ahead of me, alone.
The Ultimate Buzzkill
Thinking I’d listen to some fun music, I tuned the radio into a syndicated program called “The Grateful Dead Hour.” Right at the beginning of the show, the host announced that Jerry Garcia had slipped into a diabetic coma, and then queued up the dirge-like classic Mission In The Rain.
Already feeling jangly, my state of mind slid down like a snowball rolling down a hill. Like said snowball, it went faster and grew larger as it descended. Before long, I was alone and in a state I can only describe as dumbfounded.
It wasn’t just that I was a Deadhead, or that my mood had been shaken by the disappointing experiences with my friend or girlfriend. Anyone who has ever used these types of drugs will know that they shouldn’t be taken in an uncontrolled environment. Avoid all news, don’t answer any phone calls, and for God’s sake, don’t be alone. Those were all no-brainers when it came to psychedelics.
The scene above from Whizzers is pretty accurate. I can still recall, with morbid clarity, the Freddie Krueger-like slashes that appeared in the shifting patterns on the ceiling above my bed, where I lay transfixed, utterly alone. Just riding it out, as it were.
So there you have it—a true story of surviving the bad old days. Not exactly glamorous, but then, not much of that stuff really is, at least from today’s perspective. And isn’t that really what it’s all about?
For more tales of insanity and survival, check out Whizzers online from your favorite retailers.