DOB: 1/6/51; Coney Island.
I always wanted to have fun and never be responsible for any of the fun that I had. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
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I was born on Coney Island though I only lived there for a couple of months. Then we moved to a place up in Queens, Howard Beach. And I remember growing up in a very lonely period.
I was very much — a lot of stuff going on in my head and never anybody to share it with and being afraid to share it with people. I grew up with a lot of fear, fear of anything, from darkness to conversations with people. And always had this committee going on in my head that I never understood. I never knew what to do with it.
But basically it was all about feelings. I never knew what to do with feelings. So I learned very early to stuff them. It was real easy for me to get attention as a child. I would act out. I would be the devil’s advocate. I would do some kind of a prank and I got attention in my family. And it would be a way that I used through my adolescence and childhood to get people to like me.
I always felt like the outsider. I always wanted to belong to somebody, to some crowd, to be a part of something. But I never really felt part of anything. I always felt very much different from everybody. And I had two sisters, an older sister and a younger sister, and I recall my early days — I was very close with my younger sister. I was able to use her like a partner in crime kind of thing. I used to do a lot of pranks with her and was able to somehow to get her to take the blame for them.
That was — it was something about getting over in life, getting something done and not being caught for it. That was a real important attitude that I had as a kid. It was like, what can I get away with? What can I take from life and not be responsible for?
Just little instances, when the typical behavior was I’d be sitting in the car with my sister and maybe I was five years old and maybe she was three years old, or six and four, something like that, and I pulled the cigarette lighter out of the car and touched it with my hand and then I would push it in again, get it nice and hot, then I’d ask my sister to do it. You know, things like that that were kind of mean, now that I look back at them, and I thought we were just having fun.
I always wanted to have fun and never be responsible for any of the fun that I had. A lot of my childhood was those kinds of pranks, writing on the wall with crayons and making a joke about it and not getting caught. It was a lonely childhood; I felt afraid of things.
One incident I remember, coming down to Florida. My family used to go down to Florida on a regular basis and we have this family down there that we visit. There would be this one person that had cerebral palsy and he was in a wheelchair and he had an enlarged head and this scared the shit out of me. I was so afraid of this person. I remember when he would be wheeled into the room I would have to run and hide.
These kinds of things to me, I felt that they were not normal. I thought everybody should be able to handle these things. I couldn’t handle life. Life was just too overwhelming for me. So I looked to escape. And I escaped in early childhood from it, with this committee going on in my head, and being able to basically live a life of my own within and not really share it with anybody.
Something happened when I started going to school and had peer groups and things like that. And then there was the days that we started to drink the pints of wine behind the school kind of scene and it was like I hated the stuff.
I didn’t like the taste of it but somehow I wanted to belong to the group of guys and this is what they did so I did it. But there was something else that I got out of it, you know. There was a moment of peace of mind, so called peace of mind that I got out of using drugs, that early on that I realized was a great place to hide. Hide, hide from the world.
Through high school there was the experimentation with all the different drugs and I never really thought that I would ever become an addict. Consciously, I don’t think I ever thought about it but somehow I had this intelligence factor that always said, “You’re too smart, you can always figure things out.” It was always about results. I was really good in school but I didn’t work at all. It was never studying or never the pet. How do I get good grades? And that’s what I did, I got good grades. I cheated, I stole tests.
I was the captain of the math team, I remember, and we had this big competition. I remember stealing the answers for the team. That was the kind of academics that I did. It was again that attitude of, how can I get over on the world and not get caught and look like a hero, kind of thing.
And then people would like me. The thing is I always felt like shit about myself. You always paid the price no matter what you did and it didn’t matter that nobody ever caught me or punished me for things. It was like I did the damage to myself. And that was like a self imprisonment.
And then it was the Sixties and the hippie times and it was really — that was my glory. Those were the times that I really loved: being up at Woodstock and experiencing free love and peace and happiness and drugs.
The drugs were great then. I enjoyed those experiences. They were enlightening and it was the acid days and the mind expanding days and university was like that. It was all about demonstrating and I don’t know, somehow it all felt right then.
But some experiences happened at that time that kind of turned it all around. I had this one thing where I was busted for some drugs and then there was a whole scene and I had to turn to my father, who at the time I was trying to push away and break away from, to be on my own, this desire to be on my own, to stand on my own, to make money on my own, to be able to support myself.
So I did that by dealing drugs for a while and I got caught and I was scared and I turned to my Dad and he bailed me out of jail. It was just this whole big thing and I was really worried and everything like that. And everybody was talking about pinning it on me and I got all this big paranoia and everything and I called my Dad. He said everything will be all right, he’ll help me out, he’ll take care of it, not to worry.
It was like two days after I got out of jail from that bust, on that night. It was about one o’clock in the morning, and about six o’clock that morning he died of a heart attack. And that was 1972 and that was the turning point of my drug use. From that point on the drugs were no longer fun, life was no longer fun, life was a lot of pain, living with this guilt. I felt I killed my Dad. I had this tremendous thing of why am I alive and he is dead? The only way I could live with that was to not feel.
So I used drugs and I just continued to use drugs to wash away all these feelings. Feelings hurt. It was like this desire to be happy, this desire to enjoy, enjoy life, that was always the motto through my life. People laughing seemed to have a good time. So I thought that’s what you had to do was laugh. But I had a hard time laughing from that point on and the only time I really thought I was enjoying myself was when I was unconscious.
So I spent a lot of years being partially unconscious. So I thought there were lots of ways to find happiness. I thought that if you had money then you would be happy. So I pursued money and I made that a goal: to be happy. And I acquire money and it didn’t work. I thought that maybe if you got married and had a wife and tried to have a family kind of situation that would work.
So I tried that and that didn’t work either. I tried a lot of different things to get something, to get some inner peace again. It was like I tried to recapture those days when I first started using drugs that I felt so free and life was just like one day at a time kind of an attitude. What can I do today to enjoy myself? But it was always this thing of taking. It was never really, what can I give, it was always what can I take. So it was like, how do I get back onto that path?
Well, somebody suggested trying therapy. So I went into therapy. I figured that might be an interesting project. So I learned how to talk to a therapist. I learned to use the correct jargon and I learned to use the right words to get him off my back and it was a five year experience of spending a lot of money on thinking that I am going to help myself but again it was fooling myself. It was really drugs is all I really wanted. And that’s all I craved for. I just wanted to be in a state where I didn’t feel anything. And everything else I did was to camouflage this to everybody else in the world.
Well, I’ll try going into a rehab, or I’ll try stopping this way, or I’ll just lie about it. And I remember being in group therapy and we would march in to the bathroom and we would throw the drugs down the toilet and everybody would clap and say, “Mitchell is not going to use drugs anymore.” But I was just fooling them. It was like I wasn’t honest with myself. And somehow all these experiences of like fooling myself and really not being honest with myself and not dealing with reality. The reality was my life was totally unmanageable and I couldn’t stop using drugs.
So I had to hit a bottom. And it came when I had a girlfriend at the time and she attempted suicide and again I went into another rehab to clean up and something happened when I was in this rehab. I don’t know if you want to call it a spiritual awakening or it was just my time. I believe it was my time. I believe I had enough. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. It was a way.
In this rehab there was these meetings that came in every night and I saw people that were addicts like me. They spoke like me. I understood them. I understood what they were talking about. That they said they were not using drugs. And this became a way out for me. It was like a door that I never saw before and it kind of changed my whole life.
It’s been about four and a half years now since I have used anything and it’s about a whole new way of attitudes towards life. It’s like new attitudes towards the world. I no longer believe that I am the center of the world, you know, I always thought that I had to be the center of everything that went on. I believed that everything that went on around me was either happening to me or for me, and somehow I don’t believe that any more. I think I am more a part of something much greater.
And this was a relief. This was really a relief when I found this out. It’s almost like a rebirth. A rebirth learning that there is another way.
Learning that there is a possibility to live a life, a loving life, a giving life, and getting something from that. I always thought that I enjoyed things because they were given to me. All of a sudden it became, what can I do? This was a whole new concept for me. It was revolutionary. I never believed that that was something that I was capable of.
And somehow the path kind of turned around at that point. And I believe that today my path is on that line towards how can I be a giving, human being? What can I do today for somebody else? These four and a half years have been the most exciting years of my life. I have experienced freedom to travel. I never thought that I would be able to travel. I’ve experienced people. In the last five years of my using drugs there was not much contact with the outside world. There were not too many people that I let inside, you know, that knew what was going on inside me.
But today my life is rich because of the people that I am involved with. It’s not that perfect all the time. I can be easy on myself and say I am on a road or a path towards something that’s about to be a better person, to be someone that is there for other people. But it’s not always perfect and that’s okay too.
It’s something — it’s like an exciting adventure. Each day is like, what can happen today? And it’s all not that important anymore, you know, the daily problems in life are really not that big. When I can take away my ego and my image and my pride and the things that really block me and keep me from other people, these walls that I put up. So I allow people to see who I really am and see who they really are and to just — to be — just be able to be in the moment.
It was something that I always believed while I was using drugs, that tomorrow will be better and somehow through the times that I have been clean I believe that each day the moment is what really counts. It’s no longer, well, when this happens I’ll be fine, or if I have this outside thing to fill this inside hole in me I’ll be okay. It’s learning to nurture my insides, learning to be vulnerable, learning to take risks, something I never did.
It was always like a con. I’ll do this, but I gotta get something in return for it. Those are the times that I sell myself short. The times that I really feel at peace with the world is when I am not asking for anything. And I have experienced that feeling in the last four and a half years. This is something that I believe is worth living for. It was like a self imposed imprisonment that I had.
I don’t think anybody could have done to me what I did to myself those years that I was using drugs. I really believe that the hell I created myself was — there would be no jail, no physical situation, that could have been more devastating and today I am learning to let go of those things, to be easier on myself, to be gentle with myself, to be gentle with other people.
It’s like I can say these things, but to use them on a daily basis takes vigilance, takes discipline, takes consistency, things that I am learning about today. It’s like I don’t think that I have to be perfect. I really believe today that I don’t have to be perfect.
Each day that I stay clean I can pat myself on the back. The early days when I was clean, it was so easy to feel good just because I was not using drugs. Somehow, as time progresses and I feel that puts more conditions on what needs to be right for me to feel good, it gets a little more complicated, and I think that the times that I simplify it, I remember where I came from, or where I am going now. It’s all too good. It’s all too good.
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