To continue my story about how I ended up going through hell and back…more than a few times, I introduce you to my college years.
After graduating high school, I attended a small University of about 3000 students in a small town outside of Philadelphia. Going into college, I was in full “cocky, badass mode” as I saw it. I smoked cigarettes, didn’t have feelings, thought I was tough shit, and drank alcohol like it was water and I was dying of thirst. I assumed all these things made me a man. I did not attend any of the “get to know you” events during orientation, as I was too cool for them. Interestingly, during this time I had no contacts for either alcohol or cannabis (my two mainstays at the time); I was forced to go from smoking every day to nothing. This is when all my emotions, insecurities, and depression swept in and I did not know how to deal with it. I met few people during this time and stayed inside writing poetry. Really sad, depressing, dark poetry. But it helped. I wish I had kept up this practice. Anyway, I eventually introduced myself to other people from my dormitory and after a month established a core group of friends. I do not think about it much, and I feel bad that I haven’t kept in touch with them, but they were instrumental in me becoming the person I am today.
Looking back on my high school days, I was obsessed with being “cool”, “masculine”, and not being a “pussy”. My friends during those days were what you would call the bad kids. They all came from broken families and had never really received the love I had been fortunate enough to experience from my mother. However, never having a father forced me to obtain lessons on how to be a man from my friends. They were very harsh and critical. Very traditionally masculine. Showing signs of any weakness would mean being berated as being a pussy, a worthless piece of shit. Emotions were stifled and problems were solved with violence.
But in college, the friends I had came from loving, caring families. (I don’t mean to say coming from a broken home equals dysfunction in an individual, merely that the lack of love and support from a broken home tends to create an insecure person) They were allowed to express their emotions, be “silly”, and show weakness. Things that at the time I thought made them weak and made me better than them. However they were able to truly connect with other human beings, and as I perceived myself to be on a pedestal, I could not do the same. But I had no idea that was the cause. So for the first year of college, I was the “tough guy”. Getting into fights after having drunk an enormous amount of whiskey. Me, being a Jersey boy, was infinitely cooler and tougher than any of them. And I liked that feeling. Yet something was missing. I could not connect with the opposite sex. I was in no way in touch with my feminine side, and if it was suggested that I even had a feminine side, I would lash out.
After the first year, I went home, got a job with the county government’s summer program, and worked as a laborer in the bridge department. I cherished these days, as it introduced me into a world I knew little about (the world of blue collar workers). The level of sophistication of these men was crude, albeit it had a sense of comradery. I enjoy working with my hands and physical activity. I would often be told I was, “working too hard”, which I found amusing. I was just working hard, as I was taught to by my grandpa.
Going into the sophomore year, things changed drastically for the better. I still had my core group of friends, both males, and females, and we had gotten close. Our school had a very good study abroad program and me and my group decided we would spend 6 months studying in Australia at Macquarie University, outside Sydney. I still remember these as the most amazing months of my life. I will never forget how new and exciting everything was.
We had parties nearly every weekend, small get-togetherss with no more than about 20 people. I was loud and obnoxious, but fun and hilarious. I would no longer get as violent when I drank, and generally had a great time. This started attracting the attention of the opposite sex, and I began hooking up with a girl a year older than me after those parties ended. In those days I was virgin, and had no problem admitting that to the world. So we did everything but have sex.
However, a couple months into the year and it happened…albeit on accident lol. Either way, I still remember walking from her apartment to mine afterward and being on top of the world. However, I was slightly disappointed. The circumstances were not how I pictured my first time to go, and I was set on changing that. The next weekend, I had a few people drinking in my room along with my girl, let’s call her Katherine. After midnight I asked them to leave and Katherine and I had the room to ourselves. I told her to go to the bathroom and not come back for five minutes. Confused, she obliged and I set to work. I lit candles I had bought the previous day. I lay rose petals on the ground and bed, and started my playlist that I had made with the knowledge that she enjoyed Frank Sinatra. When she knocked on the door I pushed her against the wall and kissed her passionately. She was surprised. I simply said that the first time I had sex was important to me and I wanted to do it the right way. We made love that night and she had an orgasm for the first time in her life. I didn’t aggressively pursue her, but my actions that night showed her how caring and vulnerable I could actually be, and she was smitten.
We eventually started a relationship, after she broke up with her current boyfriend. I still don’t know why she stayed with me in those first few months, because I was extremely insecure at that point. I called her a bit too often, got upset when she didn’t want to spend every second with me, and generally was scared she would abandon me and did everything in my power to control the relationship. But she didn’t. She stayed with me and I am thankful for that. I know without experiencing true love from another woman who was not my mother, I would never have been able to become sober. We went to Australia together and had some pretty amazing times. We traveled together everywhere and became very close during that time.
Our relationship continued throughout college. Since she was a year older than me, she graduated first and settled at a nice job in a travel agency. She was an avid traveler and still is. I struggled through college, but passed every class and graduated even though I switched my major very late in my college career; which forced me to take both junior and senior psychology classes simultaneously.
Her love for me was true and real. It was a concept that was, and in fact still is, foreign to me. I have a deep-seated feeling that I am not enough, that I am bad, scarred irreparably, that there is no way someone could love a piece of shit like me. But she did. I didn’t understand why she did, but I was very grateful. She softened me in a good way and allowed me to share my feeling with another person without being judged or criticized. As you will see, things took a turn for the worse in time, but I am so eternally grateful for every second we spent together. Without her, I would not know what romantic love really is and might never have known. She helped me realize that I can connect with another human being in a deep and meaningful way. Something my friends from high school have NEVER experienced.
Now although these great, emotionally maturing things were happening at school, I would still go home on the holidays and the summer. And even though I subconsciously knew that my friends from re great people and had more positive qualities than of those people I went to high school with, I always identified myself as one of them. I felt torn, on one hand, I was a somewhat sensitive, caring person in college. But with my high school friends, I was a man’s man- showing no weakness. Berating others for being a little bitch who did show weakness. My friends in college even noticed the change in my voice when my high school friends would come and visit me at school (and bring drugs). My high school friends would pick on my college friends, and constantly make fun of them for being little bitches, mostly behind their back. This cemented those ideas in my mind, and I was faithful to my high school friends over my college friends.
In junior year, things started pretty much the same. I was still with Christine, we had become even closer and she would often visit me during the summer months. Then, during one break in the fall, my high school friends invited me to their apartment at the Jersey shore for a night. Having no car, I asked my Christine if I could borrow hers, and she obliged. The main thought on my mind for visiting my high school buddies was drugs. Whenever I hung out with them there was always weed being smoked, but now my friend had a xanax connection. He would pick up 500 2mg xanax bars regularly and was staying at the aforementioned apartment. I always struggled with anxiety and had only tried xanax a couple times, never really feeling that euphoric and not enjoying it as much as other drugs. But it was a drug and I wanted it. So I proceeded to drive from Pennsylania to Atlantic Highlands, NJ to spend a night drinking, smoking, and popping xany bars with my buddies. It was a night I will never remember, and never forget.
My Worst Night Prior to Heroin Addiction
I arrived at the house during the evening and instantly noticed something different about my friends- they behaved strangely. Their movements were very slow and clumsy, their speech was slurred and faint, and they had a far away look in their eyes. Basically, they were walking zombies. All of them fucked up on xanax. And I needed to be at their level. I immediately bought all I could afford, only about 3 bars, and popped one in my mouth, washed down with a beer. An entire 2 mg xanax bar. At the time I had no idea how strong that actually was, but I just assumed one pill of anything wasn’t bad, so that’s only what I started with.
I remember drinking another couple beers, but being increasingly upset that I didn’t feel the euphoria I wanted. I wanted to feel great, on top of the world, but instead felt empty and hollow. “Weird”, I thought in my mind, “aren’t drugs supposed to make you feel good?…I must just not be taking enough.” So I popped another 1 mg into my mouth, chewed it, and followed up with a beer. I then remember my friend asking if I wanted to snort one with him, and of course said yes. I remember snorting it, remember the terrible, chemical taste of the alprazolam in my nose, and then blackness.
I awoke the next morning in a hospital bed, IVs in my arms, and my mother crying in front of me. My mind was still far away, but I managed to ask the question- “Where am I? What happened?” My mother explained that I had been attempting to WALK from the highlands to my girlfriend’s apartment in Pennsylvania. The police had picked me up, as I was swaying quite a bit and it was 4 in the morning. I was searched and was found to have 3 xany bars in my pocket, and was promptly taken to jail. However, as I sat in the jail cell, the police officers noticed that something wasn’t right with me. My mother reiterated that the police said I was looking “grey” and promptly called for an ambulance to take me to the hospital. I remember nothing. They treated me for Tylenol overdose (to this day I’m still confused why) and administered charcoal to soak up the remaining drugs I had in my system. I stayed in the hospital for a few more days and when I was released I learned of the full scale of my little drug bender. I had been indicted for possession of controlled dangerous substances as well as other offenses. I had apparently broken into a home in Atlantic highlands, was charged with trespassing, and some other charges. My mother was distraught. To this day that event has scarred her brain and I feel so guilty because of that. I also feel guilty because I kind of got away without a scratch. I remember nothing of the experience, so I don’t feel the full range of emotions one feels when they have fucked up badly and have been arrested. My mother spent over 20,000 dollars in lawyer fees and court costs to ensure that nothing would stay on my record. Everything expunged. My shame, guilt, and embarrassment skyrocketed after this event. I fell into a deep depression, hiding it well, but I withdrew from my college friends and quit drinking. My girlfriend was my world then, and she supported me with unconditional love. But something changed in me during those months.