Thursday, April 8, 2010

Death's Headache

Take a second and think about where your head was at while in 5th and 6th grade. Your kids also, if you have any. Playing in little league or soccer maybe? Cub scouts or Brownies? Practicing their clarinet or violin? Going to church? Maybe just going to school, playing, having sleepovers, and enjoying life?

I'm sorry to say it, and I'm certainly not proud of it, but I was getting high... At first glance it may seem that I was probably just another bad kid. You know, fell in with the wrong crowd or something like along those lines. I wish that was the case…

I wasn’t doing it to “be cool” or because of “peer pressure,” I was doing it to escape. Obviously, I couldn’t label it at the time, but I was clearly “self medicating,” at an early age. Back then you didn’t need to be 18 to buy glue, spray paint, lacquer, or pretty much anything kids “huff” today.

Do you know that at one time, cough syrup contained codeine? And that you could buy it right off the shelf? To be honest I didn’t buy much of it, I usually stole it. And it wasn’t just me! I had friends (if you want to call them that) who did it also. Isn’t it strange how humans have instinctual onboard radar, that seeks out others like themselves?

I didn't sniff glue because it made me feel high. It did it because it made me feel dead… It was how I coped with the insanity that was my life. I didn’t have to feel what was really going on around me. I paid a price for it though. I used to get the most terrible headaches. Death’s headaches... But that didn’t stop me because it still felt better than my reality.

They say that “sniffing” or “huffing” clearly damages and kills brain cells, I’m sure it’s true. Add to that the alcohol, weed, hash, Thai stick, speed, whites, reds, rainbows, stumblers, horse, opium, angel dust, coke, mescaline, peyote, PCP, LSD, and only God knows what else I used over the next 15 years, and I’m surprised I’m able to sit here and type this, many years after the fact.  Please don't take what I just said out of context. Consider what you've read about me in the past and I'm sure you'll understand that it wasn't really about having "fun,"  it was about escaping and not having "real" feelings.

If you don't recognize a lot of the words in the last paragraph, pat yourself on the back. That's a good thing.

People say you have to really keep your eyes on your kids at all times, because it is so unsafe "out there" today, and because there are so many perverts and weirdos out there now. When I hear those things, I always think that the people saying it are very fortunate that they had a “safe” and “protected” childhood. I’m here to tell you that it’s no different now than it was then.

The only thing that's changed, is that there are more people now and everything is made public on the news, or in newspapers. Back then people kept things quiet. Many things happened, but they stayed within the family. Secrets…

The seedy underbelly of life has always existed. Some of us saw it  and some of us didn’t. If you weren’t exposed to it, thank your lucky stars, gather your kids around you, and make sure they aren’t exposed either.


  1. It really is amazing that you're here to share your story with us. We're lucky. :) And as a high school teacher I can agree with you that nothing has changed at all. Kids still do the same self-destructive things they have always done. And what's sad is that even if your kids aren't doing it, they can't help but be exposed to it just by virtue of being in school or in sports or online with their friends.

  2. The cycle that you went through happened to many, and still is happening today. We all do the best we can using what we have. Thankfully you made it through that time to be able to look back and appreciate that you are still here! We are glad that you are sharing your secrets, because we also have our own, and welcome you.

  3. When I was 13, for only a couple of months, I took up smoking pot on the occassional afternoon. I'd steal away to the horse corrals and hide out in the tack room with a joint and a cactus cooler. I remember feeling incredible guilt as the horses would watch my every movement. They just wanted me to feed them, but I thought (stoned out of my pre-teen mind) that my childhood friends were saddened by what I'd become.

  4. "I did it because it made me feel dead…" That passage made my mouth open and it stayed like tat until the end of your post, once more. In sixth grade, I was playing outside and writing screeplays with my friends to present them at some year-end show. I didn'thave a worry in the world, but it's not because I took anything to make it that way. I'm still awed and shocked at the tough--a euphemism--childhood you had (or didn't have) Keep writing.

  5. I didn't start drinking until seventh grade - in fifth I started cutting. I don't think children really do these things because it is fun only. As somewhat healthy adults we have a chance to see an adult abuser and report, or whatever else is necessary.
    Pat, we are brothers of the same horn unfortunately. This is all I'll say this publicly. I am not as ready as you to deal out loud.

  6. Sarahjayne - Yes, there are lot's of different reasons why kids do the things they do. You just gotta make them aware of what's going on out there and hope they don't fall prey to too much "peer pressure," or that their peers aren't of that ilk.

    K. - I can understand that. Many kids are going to be exposed to, or even use some type of drug, at some point. Most times it doesn't go much further than that. But some times it does... Part of my problem was that all the kids I was attracted to, and them to me, were also totally screwed up. So there wasn't any positive peer pressure that I was exposed to.

    Mama Tink - You are right, most people have something lurking in their memories. When it comes to myself, there are no secrets. There will be some more painful entries in the future. Hats off to my various therapists through the years...

    Sarah - I saw kids like you going about their lives. I couldn't let myself think about it, or about what was going on at home. That's where the drugs and drinking came into play. You can't feel the sadness if you can't feel anything at all.

    Jhon - I feel you Jhon. Back "in the day" nobody was looking, nobody reported a damn thing. I agree with what you said about "fun." There was nothing fun about it. I've had a lot of therapy dealing with all my childhood stuff. But even now, years later, I'm surprised how good it feels to actually tell the story. It's like maybe I'm sweeping out the ashes...

    Thanks to everyone for reading and for your supportive comments.

  7. Knowing quite a bit about your childhood, I would say you had some pretty good reasons to want to feel 'dead'. I think today you are pretty happy...or at least I hope so...

  8. The 5th and 6th grade part, totally blew me away. How in the world did you keep from getting addicted? I sure admire your openness and grieve your tragic childhood. (and thank my lucky stars)

  9. Wow, that's quite a roll call of hallucinogens. I never knew cough syrup had codeine as well. No wondered I loved it so much. Again, the true measure of person is if they learn from their mistakes. That I think you've done in tenfold my friend.

  10. I am just in awe of your writings and thank the lord you are still alive after doing all the things so you could feel dead.

  11. Drugs have never been an option. I'm allergic to even the smell of pot. My chest closes up and my heart starts racing. I did get hooked on Benadryl when I was 10. It made me sleep and I liked that. But that's about it.

    I do understand wanting to feel dead.

    With all those drugs you took, it is pretty miraculous that you're around today.

  12. I was one of those "spared" individuals who wish that everyone could've had parents like mine. They weren't perfect, but I sure wish I could've shared them with so many kids over the years. I've always wondered about whether things were really as different today as even before your time. I heard my mom talk about my alcoholic grandfather and some of his behavior, but not very often and most of the time with defense (like they defended him). In passing I heard words like "hit us" or "drank A LOT" or "mean", but they were hush, hush and I was always left to wonder since he died long before I was born. I am convinced that you were spared for many being the good that you are doing even now by sharing & the encouragement you give so many of us. I've said it so many times before, but it is heartfelt - thank you.

  13. After reading your earlier posts, I can totally understand why you would want to feel dead. Glad you are alive to share your story!

  14. Pat, I am so, so sorry. You are a very strong person to have survived such a time in your life, and for that, you are to be congratulated.

  15. Amazing that you are here to tell about it. The power of the human spirit to rise above adversity is truly amazing.

  16. In college, I had an assignment where I would interview three family members: one that was ten years older, one that was twenty years older and one that was thirty years older than me....

    The family member that was 30 years older than me said that there was less teen pregnancy and children were safer.... We had to read their answers aloud, and the teacher was quick to point out that these things didn't happen less, the media coverage was less....

    We just had a huge blowout with my little brother. There have been a few times that we've been over at my parents house, and my brother has been playing with my son, and when we're not looking for a second, he quietly took him upstairs to play with him.... I'm not saying that my brother would injure or do anything to my son, but my job is to protect my son, and not let people sneak away quietly to be alone with him....

    So my brother storms out of my birthday dinner at my parents house because he's feels like he's under surveillance (which he was) and then calls me the next day and tells me that he's upset with me because I don't let him babysit my kids. He wants to watch them alone, because it's not fun to watch them when I'm there.... He literally sat on the phone with me for 20 minutes demanding that I let him watch my kids alone.... Just drop them off at his house, he says.... I haven't talked to him since that conversation....

  17. I don't know how many of those who've commented are young, but from my experience, it's essentially impossible to grow up now without at some point coming into contact with or viewing the 'seedy underbelly'. It seems to me that now, the only way to avoid it is to essentially be a shut-in. A homeschooled kid. And that has problems of its own. Of those things you mentioned, those that are 'huffed' truly worry me the most because they can still be gotten more readily than anything else and at the same time, are far more immediately damaging. I recognize a few of those drugs as being explicitly harmful and many as being negligible, but that specifically is something that I am very glad you escaped from, as well as avoiding being addicted.

  18. I'm so sorry you went through this. I don't think suffering is ever "good," but sometimes it can make you strong. You certainly seem to appreciate all the good things and people you found later in life. Here's to survival!

  19. Amen to everything you've said Pat. Whatever helped you survive all the abuse is not up for anyone to judge - besides positively. You were in survival mode and being resourceful. In my day, liquid paper was inhaled like crazy. Kids found their own unique ways of coping.
    So glad you've got a great life now.
    Hugs, Robyn

  20. It's a fine line to walk, these days. I remember my mother telling me that if I wanted to try something, to tell her, because she'd get it from someone she trusted. So of course I never asked her, and of course I got them from all the wrong people.

    I've got a 16 yr old now and his drugs are coca-cola and his computer. And before anyone laughs at that, well, that combo can be just as injurious to his health as anything else. But we're working on it...

  21. These comments are worthy of blog posts in their own right. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment!

  22. I remember this from when you first posted it and it felt so jarringly familiar. I don't think we were as friendly yet back then as we are now, so I didn't comment. It is bookmarked here though, I noticed that when I clicked the link from your comment.

    You and I have walked such similar paths. I struggle through things now and I look to you for inspiration. You made it. I can too. You give me something to look forward to. There are days though when I just wonder when will the seemingly constant fight ever end...

    Yes, it does get easier. And no, it's not nearly as bad as it once was... But there always seems to be a struggle. I guess that's just the way of it.

    Thank you for reminding me of this post. It's just what I needed all over again.

  23. I'm glad you went back and read it again. Thanks for doing that and for the nice words.
    I think it's important to remember that every trial we go through prepares us for the next one. Most of the population has no idea what you've been through and what you've experienced. They would never have made it to adulthood. You are one tough SOB and a resilant human being. I admire you for what you've done and what you continue to do. Seriously...


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