Saturday, July 04, 2009


I wanted to be tough. I wanted to be right on, down with that, running in the streets with my new friends from the gang. I wanted people to live for and to die with. I wanted zip guns and fighting and colors.

I was not tough. There was no gang. I had never been in a schoolyard fight, never mind a gang war.

I wanted to be part of the Woodstock Generation. I wanted to be a dirty hippy. I wanted bare feet and free love. I wanted groovy music and dancing and drugs.

I was born ten years too late. The head shop would not tell me how to find drugs to get high with. Walking barefoot hurt my feet. I was afraid of sex, I liked elevator music, I was quiet and clumsy.

I arrived in the seventies. For one summer I walked around in a raincoat with a hole in the pocket, furiously clutching my seven dollar bag of oregano. I smoked it on a footpath in Branch Brook Park, the one that led to a view of a factory. I smoked my oregano joints and the factory workers on their break would wave to me. Rock music gave me a headache but I was good at pretending.

I listened to enough rock music to begin to like it. A high school buddy turned me on to the real thing and I liked getting high. I got blasted as much as I could as often as I could. In spite of the paranoia which was a side effect of marijuana highs for many years, I persisted. I got high before school every day and after school too. I got drunk at high school dances.

I wanted to be one of the cool people. I wanted to be flamboyant, a character, a starving writer. I was none of those things. I was just another stumble bum in the bars, just another sub-adult trying to re-capture a youth I had never experienced. I wasn't even a leftover hippy. I was a garbage head. I took whatever drugs you had. Through it all -- throwing up in toilet bowls and on walls of various bars, blacking out while driving home, passing out -- I never found what I'd been looking for.

I gave up. I gave up the alcohol first. And the acid which had produced a bad trip. And the cocaine which had only given me a post-nasal drip. I'd been immune to cocaine. Got more rise out of a chocolate bar. I gave up the pills, the hash, bloody marys with peppermint liquor chasers. I kept my pseudo-street attitude. And finally, grudgingly, I gave up smoking marijuana. That hurt badly. I lived through the pain.

Fast-forward. Almost twenty nine years later. Much has happened. I've gotten jobs, lost jobs, had great jobs, terrible jobs, mediocre jobs. Some people have had the nerve to die. Others have the nerve to keep on living. I survived a house fire and a serious motor vehicle accident. And I survived and continue to survive my own attitudes. I lived through a prolonged rape, a kangaroo court, injustice. I have laughed and cried. I got some of my stuff published. I got a few close friends and many acquaintances.

There is something about not having to get high, not having to yield to my addiction on a daily basis that is freeing. I don't surrender to my addiction today. I surrender to health. Today, I remain free from the bondage of active addiction.
The streets I walk today are not the streets of my adolescent fantasies. I have risen above the lie, truly free to pursue new and terrible dreams.

sapphoq on life