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Where the Grass is Greener

Journey of the Search

By Chris ColemanPublished 7 years ago 6 min read

As a child I was always the good kid. I was the teacher’s pet, never misbehaved at school, homework always on time. At home I was the ideal child, I didn’t throw a fit and I always ate my vegetables. I lived an ideal life. I was never around drugs or that kind of lifestyle. My mom did everything she could to keep me away from things like that. Despite my serene background, I still found my way around to the other side of society, what conservatives call, the "counterculture."

Throughout my childhood I found myself more curious and ambitious as my teenage years approached. Recalling memories as early as 8-years-old, I always wondered about an altered state of mind. I was familiar with alcohol as a substance, as my father was a chronic alcoholic. Although I had never drank any at the time, I was curious. I was old enough to know that it was alcohol that had destroyed my parents’ marriage. I was, nevertheless, interested in what things like marijuana and alcohol did to people. Why did anyone bother to drink, and sometimes worship, that foamy yellow drink? What was the interest in smoking some plant that I had never even seen?

I was 13 the first time I used marijuana or any mind-altering substance, for that matter. Instantly, I had fallen in love. And what started as a fun hobby to do with friends, quickly turned into a lifestyle the likes of only the rich and famous see. Almost overnight, the teachers pet that everyone knew and loved turned into a rock star who couldn’t play any instruments and who didn’t have a band.

I wanted to live that rock star lifestyle for as long as I could. I was a young teenager who made a habit of waking up on a friend’s floor dehydrated, red teary-eyed from the night before. Only it wasn’t just the night before. It was last night, and the night before that, and the last week before that. Before I knew it, I had ceased all activities that didn’t revolve around altering my state of mind. Thinking about it now, I can still taste the 99 proof liquor, that artificial peach flavor still stuck on my tongue. I used to love a fresh Georgia peach. I will never be able to eat peaches or enjoy anything peach flavored again; a taste aversion created from countless times of having my head in the toilet or outside over a railing.

Down the line, I discovered drug counselors will always insist that there is a deeper root to everyone's drug use. They will insist that you are hiding a pain, suppressing an emotion, or trying to forget your problems. I found myself battling with these generic D.A.R.E warriors every time I tried to explain to them that I was not running from anything, but sprinting toward something. I wasn’t sure what I was running towards, but I believed drugs were the best vehicle to get me there. It was the journey not the destination. Although, my journey would not come without consequence.

I saw the inside of my first police car at the age of 14; a simple possession of marijuana charge. Days later I found myself in the brightly lit room, standing in front of a man in a jet black robe with thinning white hair and deep wrinkles that made him look centuries old, surely from years of omniscient judgment. This man held my future in his hands. I looked behind at the officer standing by the door and had the slightest thought of making a run for it, at the same time I knew I didn’t have a chance. I stood staring at this man in black. I couldn't help but think that I will never understand how one man with a gavel can decide whether your future is worth being unraveled or not. And that’s why I was here, wasn’t it? To convince this man, who held the power reserved only for gods in his gavel that my future was worth something to somebody. I looked to the left and saw the rather fat woman wearing some odd ugly color tan suit with a large briefcase that probably had every bit of information about me known and, although I didn't even know her first name, I already had a deep hatred of her. The woman had been warded by the state to prove to this mysterious man in black that I was a criminal, a menace to the rest of society, and she was just about to sing. I stood there in the blinding spotlight of the overhead white lights as the man in black spoke in a deep monotone voice. He spoke for what felt like hours. The only word I heard was guilty.

Juvenile detention is much different than that of the local county jail or state prison. You have the least amount of privileges in juvenile jail than any other level. It's unlike county jail, where you are in a room, essentially an open dorm with numerous other males, or prison where inmates have the opportunity to interact with other inmates. In juvenile detention you sit in an 8x10 room with two books for 23 hours a day and you are not permitted to sleep during the day. You leave your cage only for meals, to shower, and for an hour of organized para-military style calisthenics, and you do not speak to anyone ever! The goal is to effectively desocialize you and rebuild you from the ground up. Rarely does this ever work.

Over the next four years, I would return to West Central Juvenile Detention Center to be resocialized over a dozen times. Every time I got released, I would go right back to the rock star lifestyle that I held so high. The loss of freedom at one point became a sense of mild relief. Losing my freedom gave me a vacation from the tiring, drug-fueled life I attempted to live. I wish I could say I learned some life changing lesson while spending months of my life there or that I came out a religious god-fearing man. I wish I could testify that the correctional system had actually done what it was designed to do. After around the 10th time the police had busted me on an underage consumption charge, the courts realized I had a problem with alcohol and other drugs. Instead of jail, I was given the opportunity to go to a treatment center in contrast to the juvenile detention center that was clearly ineffective. Over the course of the next four years I would experience three different rehab centers, all with a different approach, all ineffective.

They say too much of a good thing is bad. But how much of a bad thing is okay? It was at the second treatment facility I was sent to that answered this question for me. It was a routine blood test that had the answers we were all waiting for. Just how long could I keep this up before it was over? The question still rings inside my head. Inside your liver there are enzymes that help the liver do its job of cleaning toxins out of your body, essentially a filter. When you use alien substances or drink toxic mixes, it makes your liver produce more of these enzymes that eat away at your liver. For a person my age, your enzymes are supposed to be between 120 and 150, mine were around 350. I was only 16. I was told that if I continued to live my valued lifestyle, I would have cirrhosis by the age of 25. The high life was no longer so high.

My favorite author, Hunter S. Thompson, once said, "So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?” And that truly was the question here wasn’t it? Did I want to live the celebrity life and brave the storm? Or play it safe and merely exist.

I think at some point most of us discover that the things in the movies don’t really happen, the life that the media portrays as the social norm doesn’t truly exist. The life that rappers and rock stars sing about in their songs is unrealistic, Simply unfeasible. It's just not something that can be efficiently done. The choice had to be made. Did I want to live the fabled rock star lifestyle and risk losing my life? Was there even a way to have fun and really enjoy life without the use of a substance? I knew there was no way I could use any drug in moderation. I've always had this notion that too much was just enough for me. This time was no different; this storm is better experienced securely on shore. In reality, for me it was almost 2 AM and this was the last call.


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    CCWritten by Chris Coleman

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