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Major Lee High, The Final Mission

In last week’s episode, Sandy and I went over to Tommy’s to get high. Tommy took the hugest bong rip ever and made weird noises with his face. Then he passed the bong to Sandy.

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I needed to watch her do it and survive, then maybe I could do it.

Sandy took a hit, stuck out her little tongue – which she always did when she smoked – and then immediately coughed all the smoke out like a total spaz.

I felt better.

Tommy passed the bong to me.

“Try to keep it in your lungs as long as you can. The longer you hold it in, the better the high.”

OK. Wow. I was about to do drugs. I would’ve felt cool if my knees weren’t shaking so hard.

And if I wasn’t wearing yesterday’s underwear.

Tommy put his arms around me.

“I’ll light it, you put your finger on the little hole here and let go right before you feel like your gonna cough.”

He lit the bowl. I sucked. The little green bud turned red. So did my face. What felt like a fire started to grow in my lungs.

I took my finger off the little hole. A Cumulonimbus cloud of smoke went rushing into my already burning lungs and I immediately coughed like I was dying of TB.

After about the run time of Dazed and Confused from Song Remains the Same – my God seriously Jimmy Page give it a rest – I stopped coughing and it was my turn again.

I hit it again, this time a tad more cautiously since I now knew all the smoke in the chamber was going to shoot directly into my lungs once I took my finger off that evil little hole.

The bong went around a few more times and next thing I knew Sandy was gone and I was on the moon looking down at earth.

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Toto?

And Tommy and I were kissing.

“When did we get on the moon?”

“You’re high as a billy goat!” Tommy was grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

“Maybe yes I am but that still doesn’t explain how we got to the moon and how will we get back and my mom’s gonna be so mad.”

This was the beginning of my obsession with my mom being mad at me when I was high. She lived in my high psyche. It was unfortunate.

It was fun and scary and thrilling all at the same time. I knew I was in Tommy’s room, but I also knew that Tommy’s room was on the moon, so it must’ve been a spaceship.

Cool.

Then there was a knock at the door, which made absolutely no sense to me.

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” Tommy repeated over and over again as he gathered and hid his paraphernalia.

“You have to get out of here. It’s my mom.”

Uh-oh. I knew moms were bad. Even in my oblivion, I knew that much. They were the Jabba the Hut of my Moonage nightmare.

My adrenaline kicked in and increased my fear by a trillion. In Tommy’s room I was in a spaceship; out there I would be just floating in outer space. I was afraid.

Good thing I had my spacesuit on.

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Ground control?

I exited the cabin and fell into some sort of alien shrubbery. But then I started floating, so I was cool. The whole antigravity thing was neat, but discombobulating. It was hard to know which way was up and which was down.

It was blackness for a long time. Thankfully I never hit a black hole. After floating in space for what felt like days – although time is relative in space, you know – a white metallic something appeared in the distance.

Was it a spaceship? Would I be rescued? After all, I was probably about to run out of oxygen in my spacesuit.

I floated toward the ship, but not fast enough.

Why not swim?

Brilliant idea. I did the breaststroke and got to the spaceship much quicker than just floating around. I was figuring this shit out right quick for someone without NASA training.

It was a spaceship! I was saved!

I swam to the driver’s side. There was a huge mirror object. It had a smaller mirror inside of it that made my reflection go all wall-eyed. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Why would a spaceship have a mirror? Let alone two?

This was my last memory of the evening.

The next day I experienced what would be the first of many retold stories of what I did the night before. Ends up Sandy found me making swimming motions with my arms and staring in the driver’s side mirror of their RV parked in the driveway. The only words she could make out of my babble were spaceship and mom.

Sigh.

So we went over to Tommy’s that night and got high again.

 

Major Lee High, Mission 1

This is part 1 of a 2 part series about the first time I smoked pot. I highly suggest listening to Pink Floyd while you read it for maximum pleasure.

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I was an astronaut. Once. Kind of.

Sandy and I were kickin’ it watching Days and chain-smoking when an amazing idea popped into her head.

“Let’s go over to Tommy’s and get stoned tonight!”

She did this a lot. Sandy was the kind of girl who would have to share her inner thoughts the moment an idea popped into her head or I think she may have actually exploded. Like Scanners, but not just her head. And I’m not kidding, spontaneous combustion is a very real phenomena, so it was a bad idea to silence people like Sandy… or it could’ve gotten messy real fast.

“Sure,” was my normal reply to Sandy’s ideas. There was rarely a reason to say no to one of her sudden ideas. They generally ended in hi-jinx, hilarity and sometimes handcuffs.

OK, only that one time…

“Have you done it before?” I was only drinking and smoking thus far. I was nervous at the prospect of adding drugs to my milieu.

“Yeah, Tommy got me high once, but it didn’t really do anything. He says I need to try again.”

Oh, just think of the accomplishments we would’ve made if we put our determination into, say, school.

Tommy’s eyes were always red and half-closed. It seemed like he was stoned all the time. And I’d only ever experienced one-word conversations with him.

Until this night.

Sandy and I waited until dark and sneaked into Tommy’s room. Of course, I was wearing a skirt – with a closure – so getting in the window without showing Tommy my underwear was a bit of a challenge… and then… a failure.

And I was wearing my Thursday undies on Friday.

Mortifying.

But Tommy didn’t seem to mind – he actually smiled. It was the first time I ever saw him smile full-on, besides his permanent stoner half-smile.

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Hi. I’m glowing.

Once I awkwardly gathered myself, I noticed that I was glowing. And that I had a shit-ton of lint on my navy shirt.

And Tommy’s smile was, well, green.

Sandy ate shit getting through the window, as she was about as clumsy as a puppy who hadn’t grown into her feet yet. She grinned a big yellow grin and I could count the cat hair on her leggings.

I dared not ask what was wrong with the lighting in his room, as I was quite sure it was intentional, but I now was even more scared to do drugs because I already felt like I was in an altered state.

I wish Sandy would’ve warned me that Tommy’s room was possibly the raddest place on the planet. I would’ve definitely chilled over there a helluva lot more had I known. Maybe she was scared she’d lose me to his room.

But I doubt he would’ve watched Days with me and his parents didn’t let him smoke in the house so that was a fat chance anyway.

And he never talked, but Sandy talked all the time, so those two cancelled each other out.

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The walls were covered with Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden and Metallica posters. But the coolest part was that I felt like I was in Hawkeye and Trapper John’s “swamp” on  a glow-in-the-dark M.A.S.H. set. He had that army green netty stuff everywhere.

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Point if you think army green netty stuff is badass. 

I was immediately bummed I never even thought of doing that to my room.

He just had a twin mattress on the floor, but his room was so cool that it didn’t even need a waterbed with a mirrored headboard. The funny light was at the head of the bed emanating a bluish-purple beam. The bed had netting all around it and I wondered if he was scared his room was going to be suddenly invaded by big ass bumble bees or may flies.

It was now Out of Africa meets M.A.S.H.

I must admit I did feel protected from any impending infestations of overly large insects.

He put on Dark Side of the Moon. The three of us sat on his bed as he packed his large glass bong with weed. Thankfully he knew it was my first time so I didn’t have to pretend to know how to smoke out of that thing. I’m sure I would’ve found a way to burn my face off and, even worse, embarrass myself.

“This is a bong. It’s the only way to smoke. Gets you super high and it’s a really clean high.”

Shwew. I definitely wanted a clean high, whatever the hell that meant.

“I’ll take a hit to show you how it’s done.”

This was the most I’d heard Tommy speak. Ever. By like a zillion. He was really in his element. Then he ripped that bong like a true pro. I was impressed.

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Rip it. Rip it good.

But it got weird real fast. He held the smoke in his lungs with fierce determination. His eyes started to water. His face got red and started to contort. And I wasn’t even high yet. This was a bad sign. What the hell had I signed up for? It was too late to back out.

Then a noise came out of his face. A noise that frightened me. A noise I would never allow to come out of my face the next, oh, 8,000 times I got high.

It sounded like he was about to sneeze and fought it, but sneezed anyway without opening his mouth ever. Or kind of like the sound Felix Unger made when he was cleaning out his sinuses.

He started to tremble. My fear intensified. I was scared he might have a seizure or something. How would I explain this sordid situation to my mom? Jesus man, exhale already!

After about the run time of all nine parts of Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Tommy finally exhaled enough smoke to fill the room, coughing all the way.

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Tune in next week to find out if I inhaled! Hint: I did… I just realized that was a rhetorical question. I also am very happy that rhetorical was on my 10th grade vocabulary test because I use it quite a bit. Vermilion? Not as much.

Suicide & Sandy

I tried to kill myself in Woodshop class.

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I couldn’t take one more day of the pain of having plural bullies and a singular friend. I was at the drill press working on my badass coat rack when it occurred to me that I could murder myself.

Quicker than Michael Jackson could Shamone Hee Hee, I pushed the drill bit into my wrist and turned it on. There was only one problem I hadn’t anticipated – it fucking hurt.

BAD.

Faster than Cyndi Lauper could waffle iron the side of her head, I turned the drill off. There was some blood and I actually managed to drill a small hole in my wrist, but it was nothing a Band-Aid from the school nurse and a Woodshop Incident Report couldn’t remedy.

My scar ended up being shaped like a lightning bolt. Yes, I was the pre-Harry Potter of suicidal kids.

Attempting suicide ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me because I finally didn’t give a shit.

I was ready to smoke at Stoner Wall.

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Stoner Wall today. Normally covered in graffiti.

Band-Aid on wrist, this determined badass found her spot on the wall. Months of observational study paid off:

  1. Lean on wall, do not free stand.
  2. If conversation ensues, simply turn head to side or stare off into space without looking at friend. (Friend understands protocol and will not take personally.)
  3. Pull smokes out of pocket, not purse. Especially if you’re a dude. Hard pack is preferred. If new pack, flip pack upside down and beat into palm of hand. This is called “packing.” Then flip one smoke upside down. This is called a “Lucky.” If using a soft pack, be sure to flick out cigarette and put in teeth without cigarette touching fingers. This takes practice.
  4. Light up with lighter on high. Flame must be a minimum of three inches high. Do not light heavily Aqua Netted bangs on fire. Exception to rule is Zippo[1].
  5. Pretend to inhale.
  6. Extra points for smoke rings.
  7. Look very relaxed from hit, as if life is so hard that you need to smoke.
  8. Put free hand in pocket, but not same pocket as smokes.
  9. Flick cherry off with finger instead of stomping out.

I looked just like everyone else, except I was still wearing ruffled plaid shirts and cords and everyone else wore mullets and jean jackets with Iron Maiden Iron-ons.

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Sandy was one of the only other girls at Stoner Wall. She hung out with a mullet-head named Tommy whose eyes were always bright red.

She bounced up to me, far too perky for the stoner crowd.

“Can I bum a smoke?”

I pulled out my stolen soft-pack of ugly-ass brown Mores, aka, the grossest cigarettes ever invented, but when at the mercy of New Dad’s choice of smoke and being cool, they were my only option. And my only connect for Kools, Eve, had moved to Fresno.

“Tommy has Camels. Come on.”

I followed Sandy to Tommy’s spot on the wall, grateful that the lameness of my smokes was unspoken. Could this girl actually be nice? It was doubtful.

She bummed two of the shortest cigarettes I’d ever seen from Tommy. I was used to Mores, which were approximately a foot-long, but these were even shorter than my Kools. And there was no filter.

Pretending to inhale was challenge enough, but now I had the added challenge of tobacco collecting in my mouth. I took Tommy’s lead and picked the tobacco out of my teeth and flicked it.

Flicking was a big thing with the smoking-crowd.

Sandy was super animated and talked really fast. She told me that she and Tommy had been neighbors since they were four, they lived two blocks from school and she could get cigarettes from The Sev with a note from her mom, but she didn’t have any money so she was out.

I immediately offered her my leftover allowance.

She counted it and calculated that we could buy one pack of brand-name smokes, or two packs of generics. Then we’d get one each. And they made generic menthols! This was a good day indeed.

We took off for The Sev. Tommy had detention, so he stayed behind. Of course, he didn’t tell me that. Actually he didn’t speak at all. Good thing he had a friend in Sandy. She talked enough for all of us.

Forged note in hand, the two of us moseyed up to The Sev counter. I hid my trembling hands in my corduroy pockets. The thought of getting arrested was mortifying, but my fear of never having a friend was just a touch larger than my fear of the consequences I may have to endure.

There were 8th graders everywhere, in line, at the Slurpee machine, hanging out in the parking lot – I’d somehow stumbled upon the Mecca of after school cool.

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They still exist.

Now I wanted to get arrested. I fantasized about how many ranks of the badass scale I would go up with everyone watching as I was handcuffed and put into the back of a cop car. A sense of calm came over me. I pulled my hands out of my pockets.

The clerk looked over the note, looked up at Sandy, and handed over the cigarettes without question.

I knew this was when Sandy would bolt, but once we got out of eyeshot of the 7-11 clerk, she handed me my change and a pack of smokes.

“I owe you a pack when I get my allowance.”

I knew she’d never repay. I knew this was the end of our friendship. I knew she’d probably start bullying me tomorrow.

“You wanna come over and watch Days?”

I fought the urge to look behind me for the real friend she was talking to and to ask her what the hell “watching Days” meant.

Five minutes later, I sat in Sandy’s den on my very own Lazy Boy watching Days of Our Lives and chain-smoking generic cigarettes. There was a huge overflowing crystal ashtray on the small table between us. I occasionally gasped or pretended to tear up so she’d believe that I’d been following Days for years.

Through the smoke-haze, the figure of a tall, middle-aged, redheaded woman approached. Oh my God, it was Sandy’s mom! I mashed out my cigarette immediately. We were so busted.

“God dammit Sandy open a fucking door for Christ’s sake!”

Then she pulled a smoke out of Sandy’s new pack.

“I thought you had a carton, why are you bumming mine?”

This was unlike any home I’d ever been in. I wanted to live here. Yesterday.

Sandy looked at my wrist. “What happened?”

“Oh, nothing. It’s stupid.”

And that was the beginning of my 10-year friendship with Sandy, my addiction to Days of Our Lives and my love of smoking indoors.

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[1] Zippo’s were so cool that flame length didn’t even come into play. Unfortunately, I was never rad enough to even figure out where to purchase one until I was about thirty. Zippo protocol was also very complicated. It included, but was not limited to, flipping open AND shut without using one’s fingers. One either had to open the lighter on one’s jeans, or simply with the power of a forceful flick. The opportunities for dorking-out were far too many for this new smoker, and Bic disposable lighters came in three-packs. With savings like that, Bic won out.

 

Goodbye Sandy

I met Sandy toward the end of 7th grade at the graffiti wall where all the smokers hung out. She had porcelain skin, dyed hair, tiny feet and balls of steel.

You guys get to meet her next week. You’re welcome.

We were best friends for 10 years. Our addictions brought us together and then tore us apart. I watched the sparkle in her eyes fade as her parents divorced, she gave her daughter up for adoption and her father died. Yes, she was not the only person on the planet to suffer loss, but it was simply too much for her.

Sandy struggled with drug addiction her entire life. She used meth daily until she lost all of her teeth. Then she quit meth. Unfortunately, she switched to abusing prescription medications and those eventually killed her.

She was only 43-years-old when she died.

I write this blog because I think my misadventures drinking and using are pretty hilarious. Reno is hilarious. Sparks is beyond hilarious. And all of the characters I met along the way made me who I am. It’s healing for me to find the humor in my tumultuous upbringing.

But I could write this blog a very different way. It could be dark as hell and very tragic. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to be a funny post. Because losing someone to addiction isn’t funny. It’s simply fucked up.

There are no hard or fast rules. Some drug addicts can quit their drug of choice and can drink and use recreationally. Others cannot.

Sandy could not.

I’m coming to believe addiction as a disease similar to cancer. Some cancers are so aggressive they simply cannot be overcome, some cancers are defeated completely and some return. The relapse is generally harder to defeat, just as the return of a cancer is often. Some people beat cancer five times!

Sobriety was never on her radar. She knew I was sober, but she didn’t understand why I had to quit everything. Her brain was also damaged from all the meth.

The Sandy I knew died a long time ago, so this grieving process has been very strange for me. I’m happy that she’s with her dad again and I’m sad for all of us left behind. It’s the death of the hope of a miracle. When an addict gets sober, it’s a miracle.

I’ve been working a 12-step program for a long time, yet there was no magic cure I could offer her. Christianity saved her mother and sister, yet they couldn’t save her. In my experience, the only thing that could’ve saved her was a Higher Power.

So am I saying God hated her? Absolutely not. We’re born with free will – the will to surrender to something bigger than us to solve our problem. Maybe her disease was just too terminal for her to surrender.

Or not. I don’t know.

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The best way I can illustrate this is comparing addiction to Godzilla. The addict is a little, teeny, tiny ant. Godzilla is ginormous and breathes fire. And here’s the worst part – nothing, and I mean nothing, feels as good as hanging out with Godzilla.

When Godzilla and the addict hook up, it’s limos and glamour and excitement all the way. We feel like we’re in heaven, but when we want to go home, when we get tired, Godzilla says “Oh hell no, little ant, we’ve only just begun.”

I have no idea when Godzilla’s going to be done partying and the addict has no vote for when we’ll stop. Only the monster has the power of choice and he can choose to squash us at any time. That’s the risk we take to hang with the biggest and baddest of them all.

We have to stay far away from him, but it’s not easy. I have friends who hang out with him still and assure me that he’s cool. I get in my car and there are billboards with him looking fly in a tuxedo. He looks so good it’s hard to remember how bad he truly is for me. He even comes to me in my dreams.

In L.A., I can actually call Pink Dot and have him delivered to my house.

I got in his limo after 15 years sober and he almost flattened me. Every time I’ve even looked in his direction, he’s been on to me. He’s magnetic. He says things like:

“Girl, we haven’t hung out in so long you don’t even know me anymore. I’m so much more chill now.”

“I promise we’ll just have a couple and then I’ll take you home.”

“You’re so boring now. What happened to the party girl I remember?”

If he gets me, it doesn’t matter how hard I fight, only an act of Providence can save me. I cannot fight him on my own. He only laughs at my feeble attempts.

I’m an ant, remember?

All of the knowledge I have about the disease does nothing for me if I go near him. He’s too magnetic. The years I’ve been sober only make him want me more. I cannot rest on my laurels because he’ll be right there, Gucci sunglasses on ready to go.

I miss Sandy. I got to be there after her family made the impossible decision to unplug her (because her brain was dead), and I got to hug her and kiss her and stroke her hair before she left this realm. I just returned from her memorial and my heart is heavy.

But I know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that none of us could’ve saved her from Godzilla.

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