Blast from the past: My first ever post


A4A Clipping

There are 107,000 gay guys online at this very moment. But somehow, on a Saturday night, in one of the gayest cities in America, I can’t get a single person to keep meKirk Photo company. Not even a single person to chat online with me. Here’s a picture of me, for the record:

I would certainly date me, to be frank. I’m good looking, good in bed and good to people in general. But I know where my past has caught up to me, and I want to take this moment to bare my soul and let you, whom I don’t even know, get a glimpse into my life and history and see why I’m now inside on a beautiful San Franciscco Saturday night writing a blog, struggling for any meaningful interaction with other people.

I am going to quote another blog article that resonated with me.

Being beautiful is a burden. People look at a beautiful person and have a wealth of stereotypes at their fingertips. Those who are beautiful try in vain to compensate for the connotations attached to their appearance. In the back of their heads, however, there is always one lingering thought, an oft-spoken phrase: you’re nothing but a pretty face.

Beauty creates a strong sense of expectations – attractive people must live attractive lifestyles. But the pressure to constantly perform breaks us down much faster than the aging process. By my late teenage years, I was actively suicidal. I couldn’t perform at the level that people expected of me based on my looks, and it took a strong emotional toll. Why didn’t I have more friends? Why couldn’t I be Funny Quotemore active in the social circuit? Why wasn’t I popular at school? Perhaps, in retrospect, I’m the only one that asked these questions, but they were relevant nonetheless. The more desperately I tried, the more miserably I failed.

It was finally in my early 20s that an opportunity for a real breakthough came about. I was accepted on a full ride scholarship to law school in San Francisco (I lived in Seattle at the time), and I enthusiastically took the school up on that offer. While my undergraduate experience at the University of Washington had certainly been a step in the right direction, socially, nothing prepared me for the whirlwind of activity that was the San Francisco social scene. School, first of all and most importantly, carried the largest social burden, but as a gay male I also felt the need to represent myself in theCastro Flag Castro area. I have to say, I succeeded well, in all areas. I was elected by my entering class of roughly 250 students to represent them in the student body as a second year law student, to coordinate all their social activities. I had grand plans and the support to carry them out. Nothing stood in my way.

Except one thing. I hadn’t been in a serious relationship since age 16, if that one could even be considered serious, because of my abandonment issues. Abandonment = isolation = loneliness = ugly = worthless. Is that how the equation goes? I certainly had no doubt at the time. Nevertheless, I quite riskily embarked on a relationship with a boy around my age, mid twenties, in business school at the same university. We dated for perhaps three months. After that I left for a study abroad program sponsored by the school. We intended to maintain our relationship while I was temporarily abroad, but several weeks in, he called to break up with me while I was stranded in a foreign country. And I simply could not handle the stress. I immediately overdosed, was rushed to the ER, and then medically evacuated back to the US for further psychiatric evaluation. Over the following 24 months, I had no less then 14 additional overdose (OD) attempts. At first, they were related to this incident. Then, if I went out the bars and didn’t get hit on “enough,” I would go home and OD. The standard for what my life was worth dropped exponentially with each passing day, and my doctors were desperate for a solution. So desperate, in fact, that the State of California, on my 14th OD, refused to provide any additional care until I went back home to my parents’ in Seattle and completed mental health treatment there.

Green FairyWhen you’ve already been through the wringer, tried every medication and therapy approach there is to try, by age 26, you start to feel either that you’re invincible for having survived it or that nothing really matters anymore anyways. So when I was offered drugs in exchange for sex, for the first time ever in my life (no, not even weed or cigarettes), I unhesitatingly jumped. Now, two years later, full-blown drug-induced psychosis having taken what was left of my sanity (at least temporarily), rehab having sent me back to the psychiatric ward and The City struggling to help me struggle to make ends meet, I sit at home alone on a Saturday night, wondering how to start over in the process of making friends and getting a new life.

Kirk Rehn
rehn.kirk@gmail.com · 415.799.6248
www.facebook.com/rehn.kirk
· Twitter @sfboy1983

Currently playing in my iTunes:
A State of Trance 2011 CD1 (On the Beach) – Armin van Buuren – A State Of Trance 2011 (mixed by Armin van Buuren)
http://www.last.fm/music/Armin+van+Buuren

Related posts by me or from around the web:

http://thoughtcatalog.com/2011/eye-candy-the-burden-of-beauty/

tweetmeme_url = ‘https://sfboy1983.wordpress.com/?p=19’; tweetmeme_source = ‘artbychancesf’; tweetmeme_service = ‘bit.ly’; tweetmeme_hashtags = ‘abstractart,sf’;

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Facebook migration


Hi all,

Although I am not giving up on the WordPress blog format (although I have been less than vigilant lately about posting!), I have moved my “central” page to Facebook under the name Midnite Runners. I would sincerely appreciate it if you would take a moment to follow the link, review the site, add any comments, questions or reply to existing threads, and please please “like” the page. Many admin and advertising functions are limited until I can prove that I have a loyal base of followers (that’s you!).

If you haven’t been following me over the years, what started as a blog about my harrowing, sometimes humorous, often horrifying experiences with being diagnosed and labeled and living as a person with Borderline Personality Disorder. This is a much misunderstood illness, a much maligned diagnosis by laymen and professionals alike, and so it often goes un- or under-treated because the patients/friends/family are “manipulative,” or other such epithets. Looking at the diagnostic criteria for BPD, it is no wonder that patients experience such actions and emotions and elicit such dramatic responses. Looking further, at the real lives people with BPD face, have faced, do suffer with and live with every day, there is no question that much research and support remains unmet and unfinished.

My book, a collection of my blog articles, doesn’t attempt to clinically interpret my trials and tribulations. Instead, I tell a story of day-to-day life living with BPD. The experiences leading up to my diagnosis, and most likely a probable cause of the diagnosis, are discussed at various stages, and my life post-diagnosis is detailed in a rambling prose style of writing, mostly unstructured poetry with some short essays.

If you or someone you know or care about is or may be suffering from BPD, the one thing I have found universally true is that there is a dearth of literature written for the patient. When I went looking for support, I found clinical manuals on how to “deal” with borderline patients, I found the much-lauded but tragically critical book “Walking on Eggshells,” and various other clinical research studies and other books written for and directed at the families and friends of sufferers, again meant to provide assistance on “dealing” with the BPD patient. Nowhere, in the millions of books that Amazon carries, in the thousands of books at local booksellers, did I find a book written and directed at the sufferer. Some came close, but none captured the essence of what I was feeling and experiencing. I found this void unacceptable, and chose to publish my blog articles as a self-published book on Amazon, published through createspace.com, a subsidiary company. I don’t make much money off these sales, but my goal is to raise awareness and provide support, not get rich. I want to reach out to the fellow sufferer and let them, unlike me, know they are not alone. No, I have no instant cures or even long-term “fixes,” I do believe that BPD is a life-long illness that at best can be “managed,” but I definitively and adamantly do not subscribe to the widespread assumption that non-BPD-patients  must “deal with” the sufferer, as if the patient is an animal at a zoo, caged, with warning signs to not provoke the beast, and instruction manuals on how to walk away (i.e., break up with or divorce) from the animal without fear of him breaking the bars of the cage and taking down the world in rage. I think BPD patients can learn to have control over their emotions, to the extent that there is a self-awareness of when the emotions are misaligned with the intensity or reality of the present situation, and I think that the emotional response, while always present, can be diminished by allowing rational thought into the feeling-thought-action cycle and start a feedback loop that allows for a deeper understanding of the situation that is not black-and-white, that is not “the sky is falling,” but that analyzes and copes with the present moment, recognizing the impossibility of controlling the situation, without rendering oneself as having given up control over themselves. I believe that we can control ourselves even when the situation is uncontrollable, and that may be the ultimate goal or desired outcome of treatment.

I am not embarrassed to say that I, by and large, manage my symptoms entirely through medication. I have seen therapists in the past, several of whom I grew to be very fond of because of their understanding of the situation and recognition that small steps were huge accomplishments. They taught me that focusing on the present moment can lead to clarity and insight, but also not forgetting to take into account past interactions and similar situations so that a holistic impression can be made that is less black-and-white and more shades of grey, accepting that a certain present response to a situation is just that, a present response, but instead of acting on that response, it should be considered in the light of the “bigger picture,” where past interactions help to mediate the emotionality of the situation and force one to first think before acting. Perhaps a friend has disinvited you to dinner. Your immediate feeling is that you are seen as a parasite, as a leper, etc. But feelings are just the start of the cycle. Taking those feelings, accepting them as valid but perhaps incomplete, start the thought process of pulling apart those feelings and examining them piece by piece. What really are you feeling? Offended. Under offended you might find that you feel embarrassed. Most commonly, BPD patients feel anger, overwhelming anger, but are unable to clearly express what the anger comes from, what it means, and why it exists. Anger is a secondary emotion. Other primary, or fundamental, emotions contribute to and combine together to rise up to a level where so many factors conflue that there is no way to feel anything but anger, if only anger at the realization that other person’s actions have created such a barrage of emotions. But under that anger is the hurt pride, the embarrassment, the confusion (why did this event occur?), the uncertainty as to an appropriate response, the desire to isolate this event and view it through a black-and-white lens, instead of, perhaps, taking past behaviors into account or present knowledge into account (remember, the present knowledge exists or can be discovered once one realizes that emotions are but part of the feeling-thought-action feedback loop and is willing to entertain the idea of receiving further input or information), and, again, perhaps, realizing that the party host had ultimately decided it was just going to be a family affair, and really she had cancelled invitations for many of her friends, and that you were not singled out. Or, perhaps, you were in fact singled out, but not because your actions were “strange,” “weird,” “unexpected,” etc., but because the date or location had changed, or the theme of the party was different than originally planned, or that you were, correctly or mistakenly, believed to be unavailable on that particular date. Perhaps, in the worst case scenario, there were bad feelings between you and another party guest, and instead of putting you both in the same room, she decides to hold a separate party to which you will be invited, and not the other person. Could she have stated all that clearly in the dis-invitation letter? Perhaps. But perhaps she didn’t have time to explain, or thought it was self-explanatory, or explained it in a way that didn’t make sense to you, or any number of other possibilities. Our tendency as BPD patients is to jump to conclusions based on the information directly in front of us, not accounting for the fact that our interpretation of the information may be biased, or that further information is available, if only it could be requested. Maybe further information is unavailable. Fine. Just repeat the above process and slow down and break down your feelings into the primary emotions that give rise to the anger (which generally is the emotion that is most commonly felt), then imagine alternatives to each primary emotion that is felt, imagine that your intuition may be flawed, not because you’re stupid or have an illness, but because most people, in general, have unacknowledged biases that go into their thought processes. It only takes one counter-example of why, say, you feel embarrassed, which really represents a lack of self-worth, which really means that what you “feel” is that you are unloved (and you extrapolate that to mean you are unlovable, in a generalized sense). But what you might “think” as a counter response to the feeling is that your friendship, say, has stretched back several years, and this one incident, even if it was rude, was probably not intended to be rude and is certainly not intended to ruin the relationship that you have enjoyed for so long. Perhaps you decide to take “action” based on this counter example, and call your friend, and ask why you were dis-invited, and you find out that, say, the caterers fell through and the entire party was cancelled, or that there was suddenly not enough food, fun and games for the original plan to remain feasible, so several people were disinvited, but that another event will be planned that includes you, because, as you remembered after thinking about it, you are friends and she enjoys being around you and is very sad it won’t work this time, but is sure you’ll understand. Give her that benefit of understanding, instead of lashing out, and you won’t be seen as an “eggshell” personality, a person to be “dealt” with, but as a responsible, caring individual that may be a bit more sensitive than most, but that doesn’t let their emotions run their lives, rather relying on rational thought and acceptance of new information. Doing that makes you stronger than most people, in general, who all too often let their emotions guide their actions. Un-linking actions from emotions and letting the thought process separate the two not only gives you space to more carefully choose your actions, rather than let your feelings give immediate rise to actions, but it gives you back the control you yearn for so desperately, that sense that life doesn’t happen “to” you but that you are an essential part of the equation and that you have a choice as to what you do, with whom you do it, how it is done, when and where it takes place, and whether participation at all is in your best interest. That type of examination is your rational mind super-ceding your reptilian brain (your “gut feelings”), takes you out of your animal cage and puts you back into the society you so longingly crave. Crave no more, be part of the change, change your thought patterns, let your feelings be inputs, not outputs, and you’d be surprised at how much control you really do have.

My book shows clearly that, in many places, at many times, I felt out of control, I let my feelings do my talking for me. I felt that so much control was taken away that the one single thing I still had control over was my life. And even that could be taken away. So, all too often, I chose death, to prove to myself that I had a choice over my life. It took years to begin to learn how to make choices, choices that I deserved to make, picking out a brand of ice cream at the store, recognizing that I can’t control everything, but I can control what happens to my own bodily integrity, and, eventually, I learned that the abusive situations I had placed myself in were not situations where I did have control over my body, and that I had the choice, the right, the dignity and the self-respect to walk away. That’s not an easy or light decision. My book ranges in topics from my many suicide attempts to repeated rape, abuse and violence, to drug addiction, homelessness and my experiences with prostitution. I am a gay male, and many of my stories revolve around experiences common to the gay lifestyle, but perhaps uncommon, unheard of or unacceptable to the general public. My response is that knowing, or understanding, life through another’s lens is beneficial to all involved, may lead to greater empathy and understanding of how life treats certain groups so differently than others, and, even if being gay is just unacceptable to the reader, the harrowing experiences I faced, regardless of the sexuality involved, were real, were far too common and often far too deadly. You don’t have to be gay yourself to step into the shoes of another. You simply have to accept that everyone’s experiences are different, but, in the case of BPD, they often merge into the same experiences over time. I want to express, in my book, the simple fact that no one who suffers from BPD is alone, they are not the first or last to experience the mental and physical trauma that results, that others have gone through it and survived it, and, I hope with all my heart, that someone out there who may be scared, alone and suicidal, can read my book and see that suicide, yes it is always an option, but perhaps its not the only option, perhaps control over your life can be found in smaller ways, in smaller things, but represent just enough control that you no longer have to prove your control by taking your life, but prove your control by, even, taking the first step to simply read my book in an attempt to better understand yourself. The act of choosing and reading a book requires a great deal of control, and taking the time and effort to understand what is being said requires emotional and mental control. These may seem slight or even overstated, but I assure you, it is only in the small matters that we can begin to build up a life where we find ourselves in control of larger and larger matters, life-changing matters, matters that don’t happen “to” us but “with” us or “because” of us. Knowing that it is possible to transform from a person with a bottle of pills in hand ready to overdose to becoming a person that has poise and integrity, a person that embraces life, because they chose life, just this simple knowledge may prevent those pills from being swallowed to forever take away our ability to make choices that are within our control. You may not know it, you may not think it, but look around you and see where, in the smallest things, you have control, and celebrate those successes as reason enough, for now, to live. It would be hypocritical of me to say that suicide should never be an option, I understood far too well the desperate need to prove control by ending your life, but once that’s done, there is forevermore no control. By choosing, actively choosing, unwillingly, even, choosing, to wait one more day, one more hour, one more minute before swallowing those pills, you’ve just exercised control over your life, which was your goal the whole time. So take that minute, that second, to think about what control you do have – swallow the pills or set them aside – and be proud of the fact that you alone have that choice, and every time you choose to set the pills aside, you’ve exercised what you considered your “final” choice, the choice of life or death, because you’ve chosen life. That is an incredible act of self-control, a badge you can wear with pride, and every time that choice comes up again, remember that choosing life is taking control of your own destiny for the remainder of your natural life. That’s powerful. I wish I had chosen life more often. I wish I had seen that just having that choice made me more powerful than I ever thought possible. I thought I had to, that I must die in order to prove I had control. I am extremely lucky, through the miracles of modern medicine, the care of friends and family and interventions by my doctors and therapists, to remain alive and relatively well. I don’t know if I’ll ever again try to take my life. I really don’t. I may sound here like I’ve experienced a moment of nirvana where everything suddenly makes sense. To my knowledge, no such thing exists. So what I’m telling you here is applicable to me too. These words aren’t empty, not coming from a place of judgment or superiority, but from someone who has legitimately suffered through the worst that BPD can throw at you, and yet still survived to live another day. I wake up every morning knowing I’m still alive. I may not always be grateful of that fact, but the reality of the situation is that, somewhere along the line, I made the ultimate choice to choose life, and as a result, I’m still here. And maybe I’ll have a good day, or even, perhaps I won’t, but either way I have retained control over my own personhood, I am learning to gain control over what brand of ice cream I select at the store, and I hope and am striving towards a goal that I can one day be rid of the negativity in which I so often find myself, the abuse and violence that permeates my existence. This book isn’t a self-help book, it isn’t a tale of hope, per se, it is simply a tale of a life lived with BPD, a life that you may well live too, and a tale of slowly learning what it takes to survive in a dark world, a world that often renders us so emotional that we break, but not, I repeat, not a black-and-white world, but a world in shades of grey, if only we can learn to look past the boundaries of what we know and experience and embrace the grey that makes life not just possible, not just survivable, but, dare I say, perhaps even enjoyable. That’s my story. That’s my message. That’s my hope. For me and for you. For everyone of us who suffers from BPD, for everyone who loves or cares for someone with BPD, and for everyone tasked with the responsibility of “dealing with” the BPD patient. Once you no longer have to be “dealt with,” once you’ve reached the point where you, instead, are yourself “dealing with” the situation, interacting with it, not letting it act upon you but rather acting as an agent with the power to influence your surroundings, once you’ve reached this point, you’re no longer an “eggshell” or a bomb about to explode, but a person who is proud, who can hold their head high, who can walk confidently into society knowing that they have the tools to make it, to survive, to thrive, to succeed. Yes, you can be that person. I have faith in you.

Please use my Facebook page, following the link at the start, to post comments to this blog. I reserve the right to take any responses I receive directly on this blog, which I deem applicable and appropriate, and repost them on Facebook in order to generate more conversation. I want to hear from fellow patients. I want to hear from those who have had encounters with BPD sufferers, I want to hear from those who take care of, in any fashion, a BPD person. In short, I want to hear from you and generate a conversation about the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the rich lives that are lived and, perhaps, shared with others similar to yourself. Don’t be shy, if you don’t feel comfortable posting on a public page, e-mail me at rehn.kirk@gmail.com or hit me up on Facebook Messenger, and let’s have a chat. I’m not a therapist, that is my formal disclaimer, but I have some experience under my belt and if you need to express your fears or frustrations, or share your accomplishments, I want to know about them. Partly, I’m just selfish, I want to know because I want to always remember I’m not alone. But I use this public posting platform because it’s not just me that needs to know that, its every other person in my position. Gay, straight, lesbian, bi, black, white, Indian, homeless, housed, starving, well-fed, drug-addicted or sober, we all share something in common, and I want to bring out our commonalities, not our differences. Its far too easy to point out how and why someone is different, and to, from there, jump to the conclusion that their lives and stories are not applicable. But dig a bit deeper, and you’ll find that they have the same fears, the same stories, the same experiences that you have, maybe in different ways at different times, but that that wall you put up dividing yourself from others only hurts yourself, since breaking it down, having empathy for others, builds up self-confidence, not fear, it builds up understanding, not bias, and, finally, it builds up integrity and control, giving you the option and the tools to choose life, just one more day or hour or minute, just long enough to remember that of which you are in control, that of which others like you have found themselves to have control over, and to remind yourself that death, while the ultimate form of control, forever excludes your personal development and growth into someone that has greater control than life or death, that has greater control than brands of ice cream, that, in fact, has control over their entire environment, how they interact with it, and whether they choose to stay in that environment. Control is so much more than setting aside the poison pill, it is actively choosing to engage in life so that the control you desperately seek comes to you in ways you never imagined possible. I smile at the thought you might choose life and find your own path to control, it makes me happy to think that your simple choice of choosing life has led you to a life of true happiness, and it makes me proud, whether I know you or not, that you have made the biggest choice of all, the choice to choose life, and you have put yourself on the path to success, to happiness, to humanity, to becoming someone ruled not by emotions and fear, but by rationality, becoming someone that is not numbed to this world but exuberant about the possibilities awaiting them. That’s you. Tell me about it. I’m listening.

You can find my book on Amazon here, or direct from the publisher here. Choose whichever you like, I think the pricing and shipping speed varies, so check them both out if you’d like. It is available in e-book format, which is offered free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers, or it also comes in a lovely paperback format of my own personal design. If you purchase the book, please be kind, and pass it along. I would love to have this book presented to local booksellers in your area, and please let me know where it is accepted, if it is accepted. I want to see a tattered, used copy of this book lying around, having been read forward and back, passed from friend to friend, envisioning the path it took, the stories it told, and the people it helped. And, of course, please be so kind as to leave a review on Amazon. Its very simple, just click on your account, select orders, then select review. Star ratings are fine, but a personal touch would make me so grateful and, given the byzantine process by which Amazon chooses to promote certain books over others, would help my book achieve a higher rank in Amazon searches and ultimately bring this book to light for so many others. Your purchase, your sharing and your review help others find this resource. And your comments here or on Facebook would fill me with gratitude, give me hope, give you hope, give others hope, show everyone that the trials you face are not faced alone, that the successes you experience can or may be experienced by others, and that its ok to be scared as long as you know that fear is just an emotion, one which you can learn to analyze and control. So seize control of yourself, your life, your destiny, and let’s start a conversation.

Thank you all, much love, and I look forward with exhilaration to further discussion.

Kirk Rehn

rehn.kirk@gmail.com

FREE BOOK PROMOTION – AUG 26th


Hey all, I’ve decided to expand my outreach and run a promotion to get a FREE copy of my book through Amazon. I want my story and message spread far and wide, so I’m helping you help me to get my story out to the public. Please do take advantage of this promotion, and in return, please leave a review on Amazon or share your book (or encourage them to purchase a copy) with friends, loved ones or even therapists who may so desperately need the support (your therapist likely has little hands-on knowledge of BPD, this is a non-clinical resource they may find useful for themselves or their BPD patients). Don’t forget your local used bookstores or other retail outlets as additional alternatives!

Purchase Borderline Affairs Here

This promotion runs ONE DAY only, on August 26th, ending at midnight local time, so please set a reminder to get your copy as a gift from me to you.

With much love,

Kirk

Borderline Affairs Sample – “Rush”


This is a second poem included in my book “Borderline Affairs.” I will continue to release occasional samples, although I am restricted from releasing the full manuscript. If you like what you see, please consider a purchase of the paperback or ebook format on Amazon, just search for “Borderline Affairs: A Memoir.” I hope you enjoy!

———

Feel the rush
Feel the blush, of happiness
Feel spun
Feel one, with nature, with your body, with your fellow man
Feel damned

Salvation lies, it would appear, in the bottom of a bottle of pills
Feel the chill
Fed to Hell
But that Salvation was not mine to have

Where do I turn for a savior?
Where is my god?

Flicker of flame, shadows in the dark
Rolling, bowling, watching shit arc
In the glass pipe, crystal clear,
Smoking, slowly, now faster, now breathe, inhale, take in the rush
Don’t let go til you’re full
Let your mind wander, crazy, tripping
Tweaking
Poring over every detail, every line, every lie

My god, my salvation, is not in pills
It is in these rocks of glass, shattered, before me, ice, blue, chill,
These are my poison pills

And when they go down, they go down easy
Feel the rush
Just a crush
That takes me to a whole new world, spinning, soaring, up above the clouds,
So high
So fine
All that, is mine

But when the time comes, I fall,crashing, slamming my head against the rocks below, racing towards the cascading water, ready to suck me in
This is my sin

But I’ll take it, anyday, over that other life you promise, over that other God you worship, over those verses selling sin, not salvation
I’ll take my chances, thanks

I’ll take my baggie and my pipe
And the clouds surrounding me, embracing me, comforting me

Up high, there is no lie, everything is fine, and we go higher, and higher, reaching towards the sun, breathing deeply, exhaling and exalting at the bliss, oh what I wish, it all would stay forever

Keep me, I pray, in the clouds above
Feel the rush
Feel the happiness
Feel spun, at one, at peace, with yourself
This, you see, is my new love

No poison pills
Elixir of life instead
This time, better off in my head, than dead
And I sit, spinning, waiting for my rocket to come
With all this, be done
Rejoice in the sun
Where we all are becoming one

#mylifematters Part VIII


Three little words changed my life, forever. You’d think that, just coming off a suicide spree, as I’ve affectionately named the preceding portion of my life, one would naturally turn to larger questions: What is life? What is the meaning of life? Why have I been chosen to live life, instead of succumbing to death? Any of these questions would be perfectly rational. Prisoners have converted for lesser sins. But I’m a proud atheist. Decoding that, actually, was the first moment of freedom I’d ever felt in my entire life. I was no longer in bondage, no longer a slave, no longer subordinate, no longer living in fear, no longer praying so many unanswered prayers, no more religion, with all its trappings that just cover up what it’s all about: profiting off fear, easing the masses, making social policy the role of the church, not the government. All of these churches have successfully done for millenia. The Catholic Church, especially, so enduring an institution, one wonders at times if they should be Catholic just to see what the fuss was about. Fuss is an appropriate word for catholicism. I was raised in a simple church with simple beliefs, closer to Quakers than Catholicism. Our church wasn’t even called a church, it was known as a “meeting hall.” This, supposedly, ensured that there was no single preacher to dominate the congregation, but rather that each member would contribute their share to enrich the general welfare, the general spirit, the general knowledge. It worked, to an extent, like one would expect any focus group to work. And, undoubtedly, the award of salvation is a strong motivation to exert oneself and exhort oneself to praising God. If that wasn’t sufficient, the punitive measures taken against congregation members who stepped out of line effectively beat us into submission. We saw that earlier with my mother. No, we were far removed from catholicism, with its Idol worship, its trapping, its preaching, its exhortations against sin, its removal of the gospel from the trust of the laity into the hands of an omniscient priest. That last part, particularly, stuck in the craw of my church. We had such a heavily footnoted Bible that it seemed like it was our duty to interpret and understand the Word of God. That was no matter to be left to be interpreted for us. No matter that the footnotes and copious extraneous works were, in fact, our Gospel, treated with more respect and reverence than the Bible itself. We were blindfolded, tricked into believing that we held the power of knowledge, but really, we were powerless. We could be talked into anything so long as there was a de minimus justification. I can’t stress enough the power of brainwashing. The catholics had tried it, during the dark ages, but we’re ultimately unsuccessful. Ironic, really, that our church praised Luther and Guttenberg for bringing the Word to the masses, when, ultimately, we took over the interpretation, so that access to the text was a prerequisite for understanding but not sufficient for understanding. In fact, it was heretical to make up our own interpretation of verse. Those matters were done for us. I love to relate the story, not that I know much detail, about how a young couple entered the flock, as it were, and were so surrounded with doctrine and preaching and worship and lifestyles that they, smartly, fled, and in the process, sued the church for brainwashing. I envy them. They saw, so much earlier than I, what a fraud the church was, what a fraud the concept of God was, what an abomination that hierarchical structures could breed such dependence and obedience, in the name of enlightenment! Well, anyways, the church quite handily had a fund available to settle such lawsuits, and the matter was dropped. I have no idea how many other people were paid off to keep quiet. How revolting. So, yes, the day I realized that God didn’t exist was a moment of true freedom, and would profoundly affect my life by allowing the choice and power to determine my own values and standards, with great deference to philosophical giants, to the power of Logic, but, ultimately, it was my choice and my decision alone. There are, I strongly believe, certain Hobbesian rules and principles that no man can run afoul of, such as murdered, without bring society back into a stats of nature, which was so “nasty, brutish and short” that no man could desire it, in fact, that every effort would be made to maintain a society in order to avoid devolution into the state of nature. Religion, for many, handily played the role of organizing mankind and providing a common enemy, the devil, which is always effective for holding disparate groups together. Like a nation losing its grip on its populace, the mere invocation of an enemy that would destroy us all gives rise to a sudden, strong sense of nationality, of civic pride. Hitler knew this, and the Nazis were one of the finest examples of how any group of people can be held together by banding them against other groups: Jews, gays, communists. Simply declare those an abomination, and you suddenly held the power to take over the world. Anyways, religion, as it were, is simply the opiate of the masses, the drug we’re fed to keep us subservient. I’m not a radical,  not recommending overthrow of government, in fact, I love government. Strong government is the best antidote to religion, by providing a sense of belonging and community without invoking unnatural spirits and ghostly beings. Government is truly an atheist institution; it is the refutation of this principle that causes so much strife and warfare. Our own forefathers saw this, that there must be separation of church and state. But we never learn, and those who don’t learn are doomed to repeat the mistakes of their past. So it is.

Rambling as that may have sounded, I intended it to highlight how important this next event was, so important that even God had no power to intervene.

It started so simply. I was up in Seattle, after my parents had hauled me home, and was living with a friend, Frank, in a wooden boat moored at Lake Union. It wasn’t a houseboat, those were sneered upon, nor one of those flimsy plastic shells people so love to revere, but rather an original wooden boat, two cabins, two bath, galley, living room and dining area, all below deck, and a large and spacious upper deck that proved quite sufficient to hold even the largest parties. Frank was, frankly, conservative and religious, but the  topics of homosexuality and religion never came up, so we were able to forge a relationship anyways. So it was that I was up in Seattle, having hauled my laundry by bike from the dock to the laundromat a mile away, and I was just sitting there in the lobby waiting for my laundry to buzz. It was a beautiful summer day in Seattle, the kind of warm, sunny day, with rays of light glistening and sparkling in the water, with green, soft grass and just a hint of a breeze, the kind of day that makes Seattle worth living in the rest of the dreary, rainy, gray year. I was, like I said, doing my laundry, playing on my phone, killing time. Well, not “playing” exactly, more like cruising. I was on the mobile version of Adam4Adam, which I think I mentioned before as being the new gay.com, although that still existed. This new site allowed you to choose individual pictures of guys in the same neighborhood as you, and strike up a conversation. Their profile would already list their age, height, weight, body build, hair color, and, conveniently, sexual preferences, including whether they wore protection. Despite all the trappings of providing a “social forum” for gay men, it was, in all respects, a sec site, a hook up site, a site where sex was the first and last thing on every mind of every guy in every profile picture. This predated Grindr, which took the same concept but made it location based by GPS. Phones capable of that weren’t ubiquitous back in the day (Oh how I’m dating myself), so the best we had was what the person listed as their neighborhood. This worked until everyone realized you could only seen other members in the same neighborhood; it wasn’t long before every profile listed “Capital Hill,” the gay part of town, whether that person lived within striking range or not. So it wasn’t always easy to find someone that was literally in the same neighborhood. I suppose that’s asking a lot, to have a cute guy in the same neighborhood, online at the same time as you, looking for all the things you’re looking for and having all the qualities that you find attractive and, conveniently, lived right next door. Straight people don’t expect so much. In fact, there’s a comic expression of “s/he was the One for me,” as if the location didn’t matter. So convenient that most people found their “One” often within the same area code, and looking a lot like them (racially, at least). I find myself sidetracked again. Because the point of this was to say that I was cruising for sex online, on my phone, while I was waiting for the mundane task of laundry to finish so I could go have some fun and enjoy this very pleasant day.

Generally, I was fairly successful online, meaning that I usually was able to find a guy I liked, nearby, that liked me too and wanted to meet. Well, fuck, actually, but once in a while there was coffee involved. So, at this time, there was  certain guy I was talking to, trading innuendos back and forth, hunting without saying that we found each other attractive. Finally, it came right down to it. He invited me over. I said yes. Now, here come the three little, innocuous, innocent even, words that changed my life forever. His next message: “do u party?” Aside from the glaring observation that he couldn’t be bothered to type out the word “you” was the equally glaring observation that this wasn’t a well formed sentence of the English language. “Party” was being used as a verb, not an adverb or pronoun, not a “party” like an event that people attend, not a “party” like being a “party boy” that lived for the gay clubs. Not, just the word “party,” as an action in itself. It didn’t actually catch my attention as much as I just made it seem; there was just enough unusual about it, though, that I followed up with something like “I like parties.” It’s true, I did love a good party. His response: “do you know what party means?” Well, let’s not drag it out here, just tell me! My response: “obviously not in the same sense as you’re using,” or something to that extent. The response came a few minutes later, as if he was formulating just the right definition, just the right choice of words, to explain his intentions. Finally, the reply came back: “it means Tina.”

Let break for a second to process. Some of you may be street savvy and quite familiar with this term. Others, like me, had never heard it before. I mean, I knew Tina Turner, and Christina Aguilera, if you wanted to stretch the usage of the word, but I’d never heard of something called “Tina,” as an object, a thing, maybe even an event but certainly not referring to a person or place. Vaguely, truthfully I knew what was up. I knew, without knowing, that he was offering me the chance, for the first time, to experience drugs. There, I said it. He wanted to do drugs with me. I didn’t know what “tina” was, but I understood what he was proposing.

Let’s back up another step. I was a good kid, followed all the rules, made good friends, made smart choices, excelled at academics, yes, even we to church, for a while at least. I wore khakis, not jeans, polos and button-downs, not t-shirts, parted my hair to the side, not up in a Mohawk or messed up in a bowl cut, both of which were popular. No, I defied style and expectations and dressed my own way. Actually, I dressed the way the church wanted me to dress. And if I didn’t dress that way, not only would my parents find out, but one of various “monitors” might discover and report me. You see, the church kept certain people at certain schools and provided oversight to those students by strategically placed members of the congregation. In fact, there was very little you could do that was not under the watchful eye of the church. One guy, young adult I suppose, had an affair in Mexico, and the church found out and disciplined or expelled him. How they discovered that information  is completely beyond me, but it did mean that I’d better watch my back around town. So, I was a good kid. Even when I left the flock, so it was called, I still performed well academically and socially, proof enough, for me, that religion wasn’t  necessary to the proper function of every day life. Even down in San Francisco, although my morals tipped a little, I was still a good kid, at least in comparison to the lifestyles I encountered. So, when  a good kid is offered drugs, by a stranger, that good kid should be mindful of his upbringing and resist the offer, maybe even calling the police in the process to arrest this drug dealer. That’s what  good kid should have done. That’s not what I did.

Remember, I was fresh off my suicide spree. I still wasn’t happy in life. I had tried, at this point, potentially every single combination of antidepressants, anti-psychotics, anti-anxiety agents and God knows what else. Point is, I’d tried it, and it failed me. Why do I say that? Well, someone who is not depressed does not attempt, thirteen times, to kill themselves. Obviously, I was not happy, and the medication wasn’t helping. So here I was, in pain, depressed, anxious, unhappy and miserable, not knowing what to do or where to go to find relief. I just knew that salvation did not lie at the bottom of a bottle of pills. I’d tried that. So where did it lie? Well, I was being given an opportunity to find out, at least rule out drugs, and I was going to seize the chance. Nothing could possibly make my life any worse, so there was no harm, no foul. And if things improved for me, praise be Jesus, or drugs, as it were. So, I said yes, I’d come party. I finished my laundry, hopped on my bike, huffed and puffed up the backside of Capital Hill, and made my way to his place. You know, I can’t remember his name. What I do remember was what happened.

pop more pills
feel the chill
live the rush
die 
just a crush

an addiction, all my own; a lifestyle, one I chose
may I get another? 
life, I mean
this one doesn’t go down easy

a flicker, flame, beacon in the dark
a spoon, a pipe, doing it on a lark
who hurts when I fall? 
not I
not I at all

a bottle in front of me
a decision to be made
do I take the medicine? 
or swallow the poison pill? 
isn’t that really what I’ve been doing all along?

alice
see through the looking glass
can you still fit through that door? 
has life become just a chore?

drink the potion, my sweet
lie down beneath these sheets
when it’s over it’ll all be over
when it’s done your time has come

hanging on, not letting go
I want to feel the thrill
again
of life
beyond the pipe

I want to feel the rush
of waking, flush
with life

it cuts like a knife

slit your wrists
smoke a bowl
live or die, who’s to care?
who’s to hurt? 
not you, not I

alice fits through the door again
I am ready to embrace this sin
falling out, falling in
sodomy between me
and my pipe
outrage
pathetic

poetic

like a pill about to crush
like the damned who live for the rush
I take my pills
and live the thrill

and
I die
alone
needle in my arm
pills strewn around
who’s to care? who’s to know?
I just wanted to go
through the looking glass, again

-Alice Falls, personal writings, 2014

In this part we see, aside from my deep antipathy towards the church and religion, the first moments, indeed, the critical moment, when I said yes to drugs. I’ll flesh that out in the next chapter. This is getting harder to write as the memories become fresher yet more cloudy. Pun intended. You’ll see.

Before we go forward, I want to be absolutely clear. This is an essay on my life, which includes drug addiction. I neither condemn nor condone drug use. These are individual choices. I won’t sugarcoat the truth, but neither will I pretend that some of the highs, as well as lows, didn’t exist. Love, they say, is a many splendored thing. I aim to show, in a brutally honest fashion, why I made the choice to continue to use, what the effects were – physically, mentally and socially – and what it did to my life, and, for some of you, your lives. Some of you had no idea I was high, there was just something not quite right. Others of you knew, and judged, and ostracized. I’m not upset about that. Drugs are scary and sometimes the only proper reaction is to place some distance between yourself and the situation. What I hope to get across, though, is that I changed, I let the drug change me, but maybe, just maybe, there’s some recognizable part of me left inside this machinery of death. I want to know whether that’s true. I don’t have any answers. I’m going to let you read and see what happened and reach your own conclusions. I’m not looking for sympathy, though I’m certainly not hoping for antipathy; I want, to the extent that one who has never done drugs can, go give insight and provide a platform for understanding. No one lightly chooses drugs, especially, most particularly, not this one. There’s a reason, a good reason, why I chose to subject myself to hell. You see, there’s a little slice of heaven inside hell, and sometimes, sometimes you’re lucky enough to see it, touch it, feel it, caress it, before it’s all taken away again, leaving you in an abyss of emptiness, but never giving up hope that you’ll one day, once again find that slice of heaven.