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Sharing From My Heart

   Welcome to my story. I am going to tell you a bit about me and what it was like and what it is like now. There will be no exaggeration or drama. Just the simple truth. I tell you this story not to glorify or seek pity or sympathy but because maybe someone will connect to something here and not feel so different or alone. If you truly want to know me, read about my life.  Although my recovery has afforded me great relief from the past it can be uncomfortable and even painful to write about it.  So, I will add more to the story slowly over a period of time.

   My story starts simple enough in a city in Canada. I was born in the fifties to parents who were alcoholics. I am the fourth child of seven. My early memories are few. I do recall the slum we lived in. A small cold flat in a run down part of town by the harbour. There were many times the power was shut off because we did not pay the bill. The flat was infested with huge rats called warf rats. They were as big as cats. I was terrified of them. At night I would hear them scratching and scampering around the house looking for food. I wouldn't get out of bed for fear of being attacked. Many nights I wet the bed and just laid there till it was morning and the rats were gone. I hated living there. It was cold and dark and cramped.

   My earliest memory of friends was when I was five. A boy who lived across the yard was having a birthday party. I was asked if I wanted to attend. I was thrilled. The only thing bigger then my smile were my ears. They stood out proudly on a head that sported the latest crew cut. That is another story.

   Anyway, I went to his house and we all went bowling. I had never been bowling before and I was very excited. They had a contest and I was told I had won a prize. I anxiously waited to see what I had won. I was given a gift wrapped present. I torn the wrapping off and exposed a stinky dead fish. I had won last place. Everyone pointed and laughed hysterically. I was devastated. I ran into the washroom crying. I never felt so humiliated and alone. I promised myself I would never go to another birthday party. I kept that promise.

One of the most embarrassing events for me happened when I was about 8.  I continue to wet the bed most nights.  My parents, especially my Mother was very frustrated and angry.  She decided to send me to school smelling of urine.  I was teased unmercifully by the other kids.  I was given terrible nick names and taunted for a few years after.  To help try and resolve the bed wetting problem, I was sent to the hospital where I was subjected to a painful process that was embarrassing and humiliating as well.   I  stayed for 3 days.  When I returned home I was terrified to pee because it hurt so much.  My Mother had to hold my hand every time.

   Another memory I have is when I was in my early teens. I was teased a lot by the other kids at school for being different. I was poor and I wore hand-me-down clothes. To add fuel to their teasing, I was forced to go to church from school because I hadn't been baptized. The rest of the kids called me a lot of names. I felt so alone. I was sad. So sad.

   I was a big time loner by now. I wanted so much to be a part of something - to belong. But, it seemed as if I really was stupid and ugly and worthless like they all had been saying for so long. I totally withdrew from people and played by myself quite a bit and with another kid that was considered "retarded". I was grateful to have him as a friend but I didn't fit in with him either. We lived in two different worlds. So there I was again, with someone, but so alone.

   I don't recall much about a lot of my childhood. Unfortunately it is the negative things that stand out. When I was about 12, I thought I had a slick way to make some fast cash. I went around to a few people's houses and collected the paper money. I wasn't the paperboy but I had helped him so they paid me. Well, I got caught. The paperboy took me to peoples door and had them identify me. When I got back home my Dad had been drinking and he was furious. He beat me up really bad. He punched me several times and eventually I was knocked down some stairs. I made my way to my bed and there I laid until my Mom came home and found me. She nursed me and comforted me. I remember the fight she had with Dad afterward. It was loud and nasty. I knew I had been bad and now I was also the reason for my parents fighting. I curled up in a ball under the blankets and prayed it would stop.

   There were many, many nights of fighting in our house. My Dad was a big drinker and he got mean when he was drunk. Shit, he was even mean when he was sober. He seemed to resent us kids for his miserable existence. There were beatings for all of us and some of the time we would be forced to be witnesses as someone got the belt across the bare behind. Once during my early school years, I was trying to learn my times table. I was struggling. Dad warned me that I had better get it right when he asked me. I was scared. I continued to study but finally he called me. I told him I wasn't ready but he decided otherwise. After making mistakes, he use the belt on me and sent me to my room. A few minutes later he called me again. Again I made mistakes and again he used the belt on me. This went on for the entire evening.  I was black & blue as I crawled into bed. Dad accepted no excuses. He only knew one way to convince someone they were wrong or to teach them something - force.

   I don't mean to sound all gloom and doom. There were some nice memories for me. When I was about 8 I got my first bike and I was thrilled. My Dad took me to his place of work and we purchased a bike that had been fixed up after being donated. Hey, I didn't care what color or shape it was in. It was mine and with it came a bit of freedom. Now I could go places. Now I had something of my own. I loved that bike. Kinda silly but true.

   Growing up in a low rent housing development had it's benefits. There were a lot of kids around. All summer long we played baseball. Every day, all day. It was great. I wasn't great but being there, a part of, felt good even if I was last pick for a team. I never did anything special. Never made a great catch. Never knocked in the winning run. No sir, I just played like a little boy was supposed to play. I recall running home once between games and drinking a whole bottle of powdered milk on the back step while my Mom watched in amazement. Then, I raced back to the ball field. Yes, there were good times growing up.

   We were a large family and there wasn't enough attention to go around. Mom tried hard but she needed a lot of pills to hang in there and then she really wasn't there anymore. It was a lot of pressure for her. Raising 7 kids pretty much alone. We all had to look after ourselves and so we did. Unfortunately, we drifted in different directions and our family continued to fragment. My oldest brother was in a lot of trouble with the police and this just made things that much harder at home so I tried to stay away as much as possible. I was living in a pretend world. When I would visit other guys houses and see the way they interacted I was confused. It all seemed so strange to me. This wasn't the way it was at my house. But, I couldn't tell anyone my nasty secrets. So, I continued to go deeper inside myself. Isolated from reality more & more. I was so alone. So alone.

   As I entered my early teens I was frantically searching to fit in somewhere - anywhere. I just wanted to be a part of. In the summer months I was very fortunate because we had 3 baseball fields to play on every day. I wasn't very good at baseball but I was another warm body that filled a position. I was usually picked last but that wasn't as bad as not being picked at all and there was a guy who fell into that category. So, every day, all day, in the summer I played ball and I felt a bit like one of the gang. The winter was a different story. As hard as I tried, I could not skate on the ice. I skated on my ankles. When I reflect back on it, I can't help but smile a bit. However, at the time it was another reason for ridicule. I was getting the message reinforced from my parents and from my "friends" that if I wasn't good at something I was a loser, a bad person, worthless. Strong feelings were a part of these messages and it was hard not to be extreme about it. I only knew what those around me told me. I only knew I didn't measure up.

When I was about 13, a boxing club opened up in my neighborhood.  I went to check it out.  It was interesting.  One of the guys there encouraged me to participate.  He was a trainer.  He seemed like nice guy with a genuine interest.  This brought a new excitement to me.  I joined the club and went every night.  It was tough but so was I.  I had a determination and a need to succeed.  I practiced and trained and pushed myself.  I was in excellent physical shape.  And, I was having fun.  The people I was around were positive and caring.  I developed a relationship with them.  I looked forward to going there every day.  

The Canadian Light Weight Champion was a local guy.  He was using our club to train.  He also needed people to spare with.  I was his guy.  Pretty much every day I would box with him for a few rounds.  I know he could kick my ass - remember, he was the champ - but I was thrilled to be in the ring with him.  He taught me so much.  I was a fortunate guy and I knew it.  We became fast friends and I idolized him.  We went on a few road trips together to boxing tornements.  I liked this family very much.  There was a strong sense of contentment in me.  I continued to go to the club and I improved a great deal.  I was a shining star they said.  Two years now and my efforts were paying off.

I had this one guy - Gene - who was my trainer.  He would be my go to guy.  He was great.  He took a special interest in me.  I shared my family live background with him.  He offered me friendship.  I took it gladly.  He invited me to his place.  I had never been to a "place" before.  Damn, he had his own apartment.  I was impressed.  I stayed at Gene's place a few times.  We talked about a lot of stuff.  I remember staying over one night but could not remember anything about it.  This happened again and again.  I finally realized what was happening.  He was drugging me and feeding me alcohol.  I do not like to think about what else went on.  But the cold truth is that we was abusing me.  It was a horrifying feeling.  I was discusted and hurt.  I was so angry.  I felt aweful.  I felt evil.  I felt bad.  I felt like killing myself.  My God ... my God.  I made excuses but I did not return to the club.  I was so lost, hurt and alone.

   One day I met some guys from school who were know as the "bad" boys. I was invited to participate in their group. I felt odd and out of place but my desire to be a part of made me want to try. They told me they were getting some money together to get some hash. My thought was "why would they want to get hash?  What the heck is hash?"  Strange. I gave them 3 dollars. Later I found out hash wasn't what I thought it was. We went to a guy's house whose parents were out. In his bedroom everyone was given a straw. I watched as they lit a cigarette and cut the hash into very small pieces. A piece was placed on the flattened cigarette and one of the guys hung over the rising smoke with the straw and inhaled. He stepped back after breathing till his lungs were full and the smoke had stopped flowing from the little dark chunk that was quickly tapped into an ashtray. One by one they did that until it was my turn. I didn't want to do it but I knew I needed to in order to be accepted. So, I hung over the smoke and did the same thing. I stepped back coughing and hacking and everyone laughed. I felt my head get light and I laughed too. We continued to sniff the smoke till all of the small pieces were gone. Then everyone lay around laughing and talking. I wasn't sure what was so funny about everything everyone said. Aside from the initial dizziness, I really didn't feel anything. However, they did so I said I did as well. I was accepted and I was a part of. I remember grinning to myself and saying inside - "this is ok" - "I am somebody" - "I have friends".

   It seemed pretty innocent then but now I can see this was the beginning of some new patterns in my life that would become a big part of every day for me.

   As I fit in with this crowd I found myself doing some things that I said I would never do. Things I never even thought about let alone actually do. Times they were a changing for me. I would get with these guys every Friday night and we would put our money together in hopes of making a purchase that would amuse us the entire weekend. I didn't have much money so I would sneak into my Mother's purse or when my Dad passed out drunk I would take something from his pants pocket. It didn't feel very good to take the money the first few times but later it was just "what I did" and I never gave it a second thought. I was fitting in with these guys and it was important for me to show them that I was like them, that I could come up with the cash, that I was worthy. They would talk to me and ask my opinion. It felt real good to feel equal to.  It felt good to be accepted.

    One of the things we were doing as well was getting together with girls. We would bring them to our hang out and try to make out with them. The other guys would tell me to get whatever I could from them and the more girls I could be with the cooler I would be. I had no idea what "being with" meant but I did know that they expected it from me. I was a good looking guy with a sparkle in my eye. My charm along with a few puffs and the girls were very easy marks most times. I quickly found out what I was suppose to do with the girls. It was weird at first but I got to like it in a hurry. It felt a lot like the dope made me feel. Different, in control, without worry, a part of.  I liked the way the girls would look at me.  I enjoyed their attention.  It was instant gratification and I wanted more.

    I didn't give much thought to anyone's feelings. I was only interested in getting to that great feeling. I would tell girls anything they wanted to hear just to get them into bed. I was starting to look real cool in the eyes of my friends. They were complimenting me constantly. I liked the compliments, I liked the drugs and I liked the sex.   I  liked a lot of stuff by then but someone inside of me resided an uneasy feeling.  I decided it was not nice to feel that so I used more drugs and more girls,  more often.

    As time went on I would find myself missing school now and again. I was using through the week. I was having sex more often and I was experimenting with some other drugs. I had secured myself a spot in the click. In fact, I was one of the "big" guys. The rest would check with me before they would do anything. I became like the leader. I was feeling more and more comfortable with these guys, doing these things.  I especially liked being looked up to.

   My relationship with my parents and siblings was becoming strained. I was not doing well in school. Mostly because I was not there or else I was high. When I got kicked out of school I thought it was great because now I could hang more and use more without interference. My parents were not happy with my choice of things to do with my new found time so they decided to give me the boot. Now I could truly do whatever I wanted to. There was a brief second of fear and sadness but I quickly stuffed those feeling and replaced them with feelings of power. At 16, I was my own man - free.

   What once was a hit now and then to be a part of started to be more frequent and take on greater importance.  There were more parties, more purchases and more reasons to use.  I started selling drugs to support my habit.  At first it was just grass & hash but there were times when other drugs came along and I found I liked them too so I added those drugs to the inventory.  More to use, more to sell, more money to make, more free stuff.  I was starting to discover my favorite new theme word for life - more.

    As part of the drug business there were at times, a need to be an enforcer.  During one of those times, someone got hurt and I was arrested and charged with assault.  My boys thought I was the tough guy and I liked the way they looked up to  me.  It was a big joke to me because my lawyer said it would end with probation so I laughed it off.  We struck a deal with the prosecutor so I knew I would be walking home a free man at the end of the day.  However, it didn't work out that way.  The judge wanted to hear from the guy I beat up.  That guy told everything.  How I had fronted him LSD to sell for me and how he couldn't pay me.  He told him I picked him up, took him somewhere and beat him up.  The judge was very angry and decided to ignore the deal that was struck and instead sentenced me to 3 months in jail.

    Jail really wasn't that bad.  My boy's looked up to me and I didn't much care what others thought.  My sisters' best friend was in a cell close to mine and there was a young guard there who I knew from my old neighborhood who was very good to me.  Drugs were not as easy to get but I did manage to get high most days.

    When I got out of jail I continued to do business in the drug trade.  By now I was looking a bit more mature.  I had grown facial hair and was able to enter a liquor store or bar pretty easily.  I was 17 but passed for 21.  In those days that was the legal age to drink alcohol.  I found a corner in a local bar and opened for business.  I thought I was a great deal smarter after my last ordeal.   I was going to learn from the lessons of the past.  I was arriving at the bar by 10 AM and staying until 3.  I would go home wasted and then return around 7 PM until the bar closed.  Somehow I found my way home again and again.  However, the lifestyle was starting to take its' toll on me.   I was less and less interested in what anyone thought.  Girls were for sex only and guys were for drugs only.  I didn't trust anyone and most of all I did not trust myself.  I was usinng many drugs at once and added alcohol to the daily routine.

    I was becoming increasing paranoid.  I was sure people were trying to get me.  People wanted to bring me down.  By this time I was using all day long.  I was making drug cocktails of whatever was around.  The riskier and scarier the mix the more eager I was to try it.  I was always trying to prove how tough I was.  I was always trying to get higher, to escape farther.  More drugs, more sex, more, more and more. Anything, everything - anytime, all the time.

    I became so entrenched in my addiction that profits and personal use was no longer separate.  I was using more and more of the product and was left owing more and more.  I hooked up with a few other guys to subsidize my drug use.  The four of us carried a variety of automatic weapons, including machine guns.  We would visit people threatening them until they took us to places and people who had drugs.  We would rip them off and often hurt them pretty bad if they resisted. There were times we held people hostage and used them for ransom for drugs or money.  There were more then a few times when we narrowly escaped situations.

    Once I was picked up by a few guys and taken to a place and told to use a bunch of drugs.  I was scared but I did what I was told.  A few minutes later I was driven to a remote wooded area and tied to a big tree.  I was beaten for awhile and then drugged some more.  One of the guys stuck several sticks of dynamite in my pants waste band and threatened to light it if I did not cooperate.  They wanted me to name the other people who had been doing the rip offs with me.  I was so scared I know I pissed myself.  Everyone was laughing and for some reason they decided to untie me.  I made a run for one of the guys and smashed him in the face and then jumped over the edge of a cliff and starting tumbling down until I reached the bottom.  I knew there were some injuries but my adrenalin gave me the strength to continue on.  I ran fast and far and managed to out wit them.

    There were many jackpots over the years.  I pissed off a lot of people.  I was a wanted man by many.  I couldn't buy drugs in my home town for a long time.  I had to send other people to get them for me.

    By now at age 18, I am surely into full blow addiction.

    My choices in life over the previous 3 years had brought me to a place where everything had become extremely negative.  Everyone around me was out for what they could get - I too was like that.  There was a special person - girl - in my life. Well, the truth is she was but I didn't know it.  I did kinda of trust her but truly my ability to trust was thin at best.  Despite hints of feelings for her I chose to continue on my path - it was all about me period.

    As I continued to act out using this that the other thing - everything, I found myself in another jackpot.  I was arrested one early morning and a trial followed.  At the age of 19 was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.  The prospect of such a thing was mind boggling.  I simply had no understanding except that I was a prisoner.  I was an angry young man.  I wanted to strike back - to hurt everyone.  I hated the world.  All of my troubles and the blame I placed at the feet of many people.  The police - for arresting me, the prosecutor for speaking against me time and again, the witnesses for accusing me, the judge for sentencing me, my lawyer for not getting me off, my friends for not supporting me, myself for being so damn stupid.

    I stayed in a local county jail for a few weeks and eventually, after an appeal, had my sentence reduced to 3 years.  The day I was transferred from the local county jail to the federal prison was a very scary day.  I soon found out it was only the first of many scary days.  Although being locked up in the county jail was no picnic, the atmosphere in the prison was so much harsher.  I was face to face with tough mean looking men.  Yeah men.  I felt like a small boy.  It was a terrifying realization to see how alone and vulnerable I was.  I was among a group of hardened men doing anywhere from 2 years to life for anything from fraud & theft to  rape & murder.  Everywhere I looked I saw anger.  Here there was only one reality, the fiercest and strongest were in charge.  Now I was at the mercy of people who frightened me like I could never have imagined.

to be continued ...