I have suffered many substance abuse addictions throughout my life. Not all addictions involve substances but can also include addictions which are emotional. I won’t be speaking about these because I do so in another book; however, I will document and share my history with particular substances.
My first encounter with cigarettes came about at age four. My earliest memory of it was when I was four years old, on a porch, my mother’s friend offering me a puff on her cigarette. I’m not sure what I was supposed to do, except what I had seen her do. I pulled smoke into my mouth and I blew it out. I don’t recall if I inhaled or not. I just remembered seeing smoke leaving my mouth. I would imagine, today, had I inhaled, I would have coughed, but I have no recollection of any discomfort or coughing, but I did have an interest, seeing smoke leaving the mouth and/or nostrils of others. I wanted to emulate what I saw. I won’t state it made me feel grown-up as others will use as the reasoning behind children smoking, because an addiction doesn’t make people feel grown-up. I liked what I did and perhaps it might have been her way of preventing me from following in her footsteps as a smoker; however, it would not only generate an interest and constitute my first substance abuse addiction for the major part of my youth into my early twenties.
By age eight, my friend Kenny and I would puff on cigarettes regularly as we went to and from school. Now as I think back, I wonder why my mother never mentioned it or reprimanded me for certainly she had to have smelled it on me. I cannot remember it then being a concern, probably not having the sense to do so. Smoking was a major part of life then. Television shows, radio ads, magazines and normal life made smoking very common. Again, I’m not sure had I learned how to actually inhale by then. With him, too, I learned about White Owls. I remembered him getting one and sharing it as we walked home. I can remember the flavor of cherry in some type of cigar. These I tried to inhale and after having a fit of coughing, soon I was able to take small amounts into my lungs and exhaling like what I had been exposed. I enjoyed it. (Looking on the Internet I have learned—today, cigars come in many flavors. Glad I’m not smoking today. Would only have made it that much more difficult to kick the habit.
One of my memories, too, was in learning how to procure “smokes”. Going into the neighborhood drugstore, the one where we used to steal “Playboy” (magazine) and proffer to the shop clerk a handwritten letter saying she (mother) was sick and sent her child to buy a pack of cigarettes. At that time it was “Kools”. Never had any problem. I remember using their machine in order to buy cigarettes when they had one installed. Didn’t need a note then. Just a quick move while having the clerk distracted.
I can honestly say by the time I reached sixteen I was fully addicted. One of my brothers found a pack hidden in the pocket of a coat my grandfather had given me. My mother had me sit and explained the dangers of smoking, her being in the health field and then asked the question of all questions: “You are aware of the dangers and yet you want to continue smoking?” I did. I was then permitted to smoke but only outside. She herself I had seen her smoke one cigarette my entire life. She was not a smoker and rumor had it she’d smoke one a year.
My grandfather would allow me use of his car, during Sabbath afternoon into Sunday morning. I think it was more convenient for me since I had my license to drive my brothers and whatever friends who needed a ride instead of them having to come out for afternoon services especially when the weather was not good. Again, thinking back and remembering driving with the windows down trying to clear out any remnants of the smell before returning the car on Sunday morning when I came to do my chores in my grandparent’s home, which gave me a little money for my week at school.
The following year, after graduating, I would live with my father, while working at IBM. One could smoke in their offices then and I did. I was working in a department where my boss, his secretary and others in the department smoked and smoked heavily. My ashtray was constantly overflowing and that’s how we lived. It was acceptable and nobody was spouting health-wise quotations or encouraged those who smoke to quit.
Two years later, about 19, traveling with a gospel singing group from the college of SUNY (State University of New York) at New Paltz, I would be invited to drive along in their caravan, during spring break. I remembered one of the members commenting, when we were driving at night, “I would always know where Roy’s car was because it seemed every five minutes there would be a cigarette sparking when it hit the ground.” Yes, I was, by then, a chain smoker.
At some point beginning about age 20, I would make attempts at stopping. From tossing my cigarettes out of a four story window, would only have me discretely looking for them early in the morning, carrying them gently back inside where they’d be placed on a cookie sheet drying in the oven. Those were in the days before there were 24 hour stores and convenient marts.
I remembered being late for a class and ran up three flights of stairs thinking it more convenient than going to the center of the building to get to the elevator. I was wrong. At my age it should not have been a problem, but it was. I had trouble breathing and believed my three pack-a-day was the problem. By then I was smoking Salem 100’s Premium Length and enjoyed having that smoke in the morning, after a meal, with a cup of coffee and just before bed. I would never, ever say I did not enjoy smoking. In fact, I would smoke today except for the fact it would kill me.
So, how did I stop?
My first wife smoked. Her parents smoked and her brother and his wife smoked. We all smoked. I often thought the many dogs which lived in their home probably smoked when the lights were off and everybody went to bed. It was Thanksgiving ‘78. Cigarettes were fifty-six cents a pack and the news they were going to sixty. I thought that was just too much to pay. When I began buying them they were a quarter a pack. I believed I was in love and it was my wife’s birthday, and I remember saying to her, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you, without these things robbing me.” And, I stopped. She left soon after but my habit never returned and that would tell me I stopped for sure. The trauma of going through a divorce at 21 after having been married little more than a year would not be reason enough to return to what had been a successful severance.
The only other time when cigarettes were ever used was 23 years later when using crack cocaine I would use cigarettes to make ash in order to smoke the drug. At no time had I never had an urge to inhale and I’m grateful I did not. I would have to admit cigarettes were probably the worse addiction I had because it was legal and could be purchased more easily than illicit drugs and nobody fears getting caught by the police. Secondly, although my usage of crack cocaine was devastating and except for the blessing and grace of God, nearly destroyed my life, I would still state cigarettes were the worse because while cheaper, more accessible, they also began in the earliest part of my life, my formative years. Those things we learned which become “us”, is much harder to kick.
Having grown up Adventist, my appreciation for caffeine would occur once I got out of the house. I don’t think I had my first cola or coffee until I was well past my 18th birthday. While I was smoking quite regularly, my beverage still consisted of non-caffeinated drinks. I learned to first enjoy RC cola, later Coca-Cola and then Pepsi. Coffee was learned after getting tired of drinking hot chocolate out of the machine at work and then wanting a bit stronger since I heard it was good for those mornings when sleeping was not achieved hanging out. I never considered myself an addict to caffeine until in my early 50’s when I found I needed to have it in the morning and a cola with my dinner in the evening. It was then I decided to eliminate from my diet.
To date, I’ve even done away with decaffeinated coffee as well as colas and other caffeinated beverages. However, there are times when I can be tempted to drink when getting breakfast at fast-food places or when there is a good coffee ice-cream available.
I had my first puff on a joint at age eight. I didn’t inhale and it was only one puff. I felt nothing nor did understand what I was supposed to feel. I didn’t actively smoke weed until I was about sixteen getting high in a friend’s basement with others on the street. I never liked the sometimes cough it produced but I did enjoy the type of high I got.
When I moved away and got my own apartment was when I would dabbled in larger amount of reefer. Helped a friend purchase a pound the plan he was going to repackage and sell and repay the debt, which he never did. I think we smoked most of it. I would later find using a pipe more advantageous because I could never roll a marijuana cigarette.
What I did enjoy is smoking and having sex. What seems like hours was only minutes and definitely one of those, “Was it as good for you as it was for me?” Masturbation while under the influence became intense to the point I could actually hear the orgasm, or so I thought.
In my thirties, I was given some good stuff which could have become addictive because although it would make me sleep, I was never rested. I enjoyed toting to bring on the sleep but it seem I woke up even sleepier. To keep it from become addictive, I flushed the remains in the toilet.
By my early forties it would be my last use. I found a dime-bag and since I did not have a pipe other than the now empty crackpipe, and didn’t think I could sell it and get a worthwhile rock to hit, I decided to use my crackpipe and found I could smoke it just as well. Maybe a bit too well! It would be the only time I found myself hallucinating and spiders, one of my greatest fears, all over the room and falling from the ceiling. It was such a scary event it would forever seal the deal on using it again.
My relationship with alcohol would begin with the normal cheap wine kids were most likely to use back then: Boones’ Farm and Ripple about sixteen years of age. By age eighteen I learned to drink beer. When I was sixteen, two older cousins took me to a bar and got me smashed on a lemon-flavored drink which had the room spinning and me praying at the porcelain goddess. A bright light flashed and later found out they’d taken a photo of me puking in the toilet to be given to my mother. They’d hope it would have been a lesson learned but it only reinforced wanting to get high later in life using alcohol.
My hard liquor usage, whiskey I learned how to drink by sealing sips out of a bottle my mother kept for guests. Rum and coke I would drink when clubbing, and while I never was a drinker to the point of it being problematic, I don’t think I’ve exceeded the number of fingers, on both hands, the time when I have ever been drunk—purposely.
On one occasion, an uncle invited me out. It would be the only time I would get so stoned on weed and “Black Bull Scotch” it would have me doing, “The Hustle”, which I could never accomplish sober. It would be only time, too, when I would walk dead into a wall trying to get outside to become refreshed. I fell asleep, rather became unconscious while outside in a blizzard.
Two suicide attempts while in my forties had me mixing first beer and then Tequila with sleeping pills. The first attempt had me out cold and unconscious for 48 hours and the second resulted in my being transported to the hospital to have my stomach pumped and then committal. I never liked the taste of alcohol, but I can vouch for the tremendous high it gives but it’s too quick to leave and I don’t like vomiting, so I learned not to like it very much.
Tried it once, about nineteen and enjoyed the high although I don’t remember much about it.
Tried it once and was definitely the drug I could have used—addictively, had I had access and the nerve to use it more frequently. I had taken a “tab” and probably too much because I was affected for three days. It began on a Saturday night and just wouldn’t stop. I was sent home from work on Monday because of behavior which was not what my associates had come to know me and it was determined something was wrong.
I experienced paranoia when driving thinking every car was heading in my direction. I could not remember if I responded to questions and so I repeated the answer which brought attention to my condition from fellow-workers. What I liked about the high was the ease it went down, no smoking, no burning and no smell. I liked the experience of hallucinating, seeing musical notes fly out of speakers and the music coming alive visually. The Ohio Player’s, “Rollercoaster” had me on that rollercoaster and enjoying it, which is not something I like in reality. For years afterward, even after the single dosage, I wondered if I would ever experience those “flashbacks” which I never did.
My first exposure was in my early thirties. I don’t recall enjoying it because it never got me feeling the high which I liked, which brought on hallucinations. All it did was relax me, causing my body temperature to rise too noticeably and caused sexual arousal which killed any ability to perform while under the influence. I was not addicted to the normal street bought product. When I was exposed to a higher grade, a more purer form of it, which was brown, then and only then did I know I wanted to have more of it. And this search for it brought me to the drug of choice which became my favorite: Crack cocaine.
From age 32 and for the next 15 years I would come to love this drug which would ruin my life and set me in a course I had no idea existed. I spent a lot of effort having already written my story because of this drug and will not repeat the history but refer you to the manifold writings I have already done regarding it.