Tom C.

tomcDOB: 2/8/44; Los Angeles. My addiction will always tell me,
You’re better than me.

My addiction will always tell me, I am not enough. And if I listen to it long enough I’ll use.

I can’t live with those feelings, that’s why I used when I was fifteen years old, because I couldn’t live with those feelings any more.

Basically what I always like to tell people is somehow I ended up an addict of the hopeless variety. I used drugs for twelve years. My first drug was alcohol and was followed by pills and pot. I started using in 1959. I used for twelve years. I used everything that was on the streets then. I did all my getting loaded in the Sixties and anything that came out I tried. I shot, used my first needle, in 1965 and continued to shoot dope for the next six years.

I haven’t used any drugs since October 20th, 1971 at this point, but I might add I don’t have the background of what you would consider most drug addicts. I ended up on the streets.. I lived in parked cars. I’ve begged money. I’ve broken into houses. And yet I grew up in a family like, I always like to say, Ozzie and Harriet.

Both my parents are still married. They love each other. I was a wanted kid. I grew up on the right side of town. I was a wanted baby. I was touched, loved, held. There was nothing . . . I never heard my parents argue hardly. I’ve never seen them loaded. I just came from the T.V. show families of the Fifties. It was incredible.

And yet the fun thing is one of my first memories of knowing that something was wrong was the day I ended up going to nursery school. My first day . . . I guess that I was actually kind of left and was put with my own peers, and I do just remember walking into that room and feeling that everyone else had it together and I didn’t. I was different. And I know right then that if I would have known anything about sniffing glue or shooting heroin or any of that other stuff, I would have used — to take away those feelings.

So that feeling of separateness is what started then, when I was like four years old, not feeling like I was enough. And that kind of went on and on and on as I was growing up, all through school, isolating me, always feeling like I couldn’t even talk to women because I was so weird and da dat da dat da . . . You know, just my head was always telling me that I was no good and not enough.

And then, when I did find my first drug, like I said was alcohol, when I was fifteen years old, all I do is remember that took away that feeling. That took away the feeling that I wasn’t a part of. I remember that first night. I drank a whole bunch of booze that was mixed together, and whiskeys, wines, everything. As it went down it burned, it made me gag. I ended up throwing up that night. I ended up blacking out.

And yet I wanted more when I woke up the next day, because I remembered one thing: it took away that isolation, and that separation feeling. That’s kind of the way it was from then on.

The next thing was glue. There was pills. There was pot. There was lots of psychedelics, lots of LSD and all of it. I always wanted more of everything.
What’s real important to me though is that the drugs quit working at some point and I wasn’t even aware of that. A lot of the fear, a lot of the separation had come back. I was one that smoked pot.

From the day I started smoking pot, in about 1961 or 1962, and smoked it right up to the end. And yet I got to the point I couldn’t even walk into grocery stores and buy food because I was so self obsessed and so paranoid behind the drugs. And yet I was always chasing after that first time I got high, trying to make myself feel better, trying to make myself feel a part of . . .

One real important thing for me is that I did do all my using in the Sixties. And there was quite a, shall we say spiritual movement in the United States at that time, and I was going to all the “love in’s” and I had the long hair and I had a beard and. . . but I didn’t feel free inside, I just didn’t feel free. I would go to those “love in’s” and I would just feel real isolated and separated.

And there was also Tim Leary and Richard Albert, were two Harvard professors at that time in the Sixties, and were experimenting with LSD, and they were talking, and also there were all these guru’s coming to the United States at that time. I was like taking the LSD and I was reading all these books and I was listening to Tim Leary and they were talking about all this freedom and joy within this spiritual experience you could have.

All I know is that I wanted what they were talking about, because I was full of fear. I was full of isolation. And I didn’t know how to get it. And I just kept on using. And the drugs weren’t, they just weren’t working.

What did happen with, is that I was studying one of the Eastern Masters. His name was Yogananda. And I remember this very clearly, that I used to shoot methadrine and sit down and try to study my lessons and meditate after shooting speed and obviously that didn’t work.

But I do remember something. I was reading one of the lessons one day and they said, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” And that just bounced out at me, and I just . . . I knew that I was lost. I saw other people free. I saw other people taking LSD, having spiritual awakenings and feeling full of life and love.

I went to other gurus and got initiated into different meditations. I saw people fall at their feet and burst into tears in absolute joy and freedom. And all I did is go use drugs again. It just wasn’t working.

And as I look back today, I’ve been clean almost seventeen years now, and as I look back today, I really see that I was on, I was a seeker, I was on a path. I was just, I just wanted to feel whole inside. I just wanted to feel okay about me. I just wanted to fill that hole in my gut, and I didn’t know how to do it. And the drugs had quit working and I was lost.

I had lived in Hawaii since 1962, and I had gone back and forth. And in 1967 I was back in Hawaii, living out in the country, out on the North Shore of that island. A woman moved in next door to me out there that changed my life. She was an older lady and she had had problems with drugs and alcohol before.

When I met her, what happened was that I spent the next ten years traveling around with this woman and what was given to me was a gift. I was introduced to a way of life, a spiritual path, where it showed me how to live. It told me that I didn’t have to use drugs today. I didn’t have to use today. I was given a way of life that I try to follow on a daily basis.

I haven’t found it necessary to use today and I have found my place in life. I feel, I feel today that my assigned role in this lifetime was to be a drug addict. And being a drug addict and going through the pain and the misery that I had to go through brought me to this inner thing, brought me to that place where I had to go within.

When I was using drugs I used to want to go to India to sit in caves with Masters for twenty years and find that light inside, find that place inside. I thought that was the way to do it. And when I finally accepted that my path was being an addict, and that the drugs were my converters, the drugs were my catalyst to go within, and find that place inside where I have learned to feel okay about myself.

I’ve been taught, I’ve been given some spiritual principles to live by. And as I work these principles in my life, on a daily basis, I’ve gotten to know myself. I’ve found direction, and I haven’t found it necessary to use drugs one day at a time for a long period of time now.

I have just accepted that this journey I’m on is not an easy one and that it takes a lot of persistence. It takes a lot of work on a daily basis.
I really believe that I am an addict and I will always be an addict and that if I use again I’ll be right back in the cycle of using on a daily basis. I used for twelve years and I was a hopeless addict. I shot dope for six years.

I lived on the North Shore of Oahu most of the time of my using, so I never ended up going to jail or anything like that. It was living in the country. So nobody bugged you out there. And like I said, what is real important in my story is that I was searching for God. I was searching for a spiritual release. I was caught I up in that Sixties movement of the Eastern stuff and the psychedelics.

And on the North Shore we used to climb up on the mountain tops and take LSD and try to have experiences. But I was like I said. . . the drugs didn’t work for me. I was always paranoid and self obsessed. And when we would be sitting there on high doses and trying to meditate, I was real aware that I was totally self obsessed and thought everybody else was ascending and I was just like stuck, picking my nose down there, wanting to move or clear my throat, or do something and I just couldn’t do it.

But what’s real powerful, like I said, when I was reading those Yogananda lessons, and it had that part about when the student is ready the teacher will appear — that did pop out, that did mean something to me. It was very symbolic to me, as I look back, because it was right at that time I was back in Venice, California.

I was really strung out on methadrine and shooting it just all day long, all night long, and really just totally strung out. I was living with my girlfriend and she got pregnant and they knew everything that was going on and they just helped us get out of town. I mean my house was being watched. It was just . . . I was going down the tubes fast.

My parents helped us get over to Hawaii and we went to Hawaii and we lived on the North Shore. And we found a house and at that point for a minute there I didn’t for me, I thought I was clean then. Because I was just smoking dope again and taking LSD and smoking hash and doing it all for spiritual reasons and getting into Tim Leary and doing all that stuff.

I would take tons of LSD and go up on the mountain tops, sit on the beach all night, looking, searching, praying for something to happen, reading, all these books by these Masters. And they would talk about the White Light and they would talk about the joy inside and I just was so desperate to find that. I was so scared. I was so alone.

We used to sit around in big circles passing the hash pipe around and nobody would be saying anything and I always thought that it was because I was there. I was just so self obsessed and the minute that I would leave, I knew that everybody would have a party. That would get started because I had left the room.

I was just so scared of life I couldn’t work. I couldn’t even go shopping. My girlfriend that became my wife had to do the shopping. I couldn’t function. I was terrified of life. I actually was just terrified of life, and yet I kept reading about this freedom, about this joy, and this love, and this light, and everything like that. I wanted it so bad.

All I know is a lady moved in next door to me and there was a beach house actually for sale or for rent right on the beach, which was next door to mine. It was a four bedroom house and the lady appeared in the neighborhood and she there was a key above the door and she just unlocked it and moved in.

And the following weekend the real estate people came out to show the house and she said, “Would you please turn on the electricity.” And the guy said, “Lady, you can’t live here.” And she said, “God told me I was supposed to be here.”

And actually what happened is, she was there for another six months. And this lady told me her name and she told me she was an alcoholic and a drug addict. And I had never really, I guess I figured I was an addict and an alcoholic, but I had never heard of that. In those days you didn’t hear about it, wasn’t publicized, you didn’t hear people talk about that.

So what happened is that she started a meeting at her house and a lot of addicts from around were attracted, a lot of young people were attracted to her. I remember going to my first meeting, and it wasn’t so much that I heard that other people used the way I did, and that they were clean, that brought me back to my second meeting. What really stands out in my head is I heard a gentleman that night talk about his fears and his inadequacies and that’s what brought me back to my second meeting.

It was the first time in my life that I had ever heard anyone else share that they were scared inside. First time I had ever heard anyone talk and cop-out that they had had fears. That they didn’t feel like they fit in. That they didn’t feel like people liked them. That they felt separated from life. Nobody had ever told me that they had felt that way.

I actually walked around feeling like I was the only one who felt that, and that brought me back to my second meeting. I was ready then but really I wasn’t ready. I mean it was three more years. That was 1968. For three more years I bounced in and out of the meetings. It took me three more years to get clean.

And that was the worst three years of my life, because I had found out that I had the disease of addiction and yet I couldn’t stop. I would get clean for two weeks. Then I would think it would be okay to smoke a joint as long as I wasn’t shooting any dope. And pretty soon I drank a beer and then I would take a pill and then I would be strung out again. And this went on and on for three years.

In the year of 1970 I stayed clean two different times for three months. It was right before Christmas, well actually it was around right before Christmas 1970, I had three months clean and I smoked one joint and drank two beers and I went into convulsions and I thought, well, I am allergic to this stuff.

It hit home. There was something different about me than other people. And yet that started off that cycle again, and two weeks later I took a Red and a week later I was shooting dope again and that last run lasted for eleven months about.
And what happened is that I shot dope every day for ten months. I drank daily, I took pills daily, and I shot lots of cocaine — reds, yellows, heroin, anything that I could get my hands on. I ran out of dope one time and shot vin rose wine. I shot Nodoz tablets.

I wandered around the North Shore in my bathing suit and had my outfit down my trunks, you know, in an envelope. The North Shore was full of young people, all, lots of dope fiends out there and yet I would walk into houses and people wouldn’t even want me there. I had really gone to the point where I knew I was never going to get clean again.

The lady that I had met had gone to Europe. She was traveling around the world, carrying the message that people didn’t have to use drugs. A lot of people went with her and I was left on the North Shore by myself. I knew I was going to die. I just waited many times. I did overdose. I fell over a few times with the needle still in my vein and somehow came out of it.

I had given up all hope and knew I would never make it back, never be able to recover again. I just gave up. And I think that is real important because I don’t know what to tell any other dope fiend in this world that’s stopping to use drugs, you know, except you use until you’re so fucking sick and tired of it you can’t do anything else.

And all I know is that if you’re not ready, the drugs will get you ready. And I guess I just sort of surrendered to drugs and knew that I wasn’t going to get clean and I waited to die. I don’t know what happened. I didn’t go to bed on the evening of October 19th, 1971, and think all right, I have had it, tomorrow morning I am going to wake up and get clean. That didn’t occur to me.

I woke up October 20th, 1971. My wife had left three months before that with my daughter and I had my two year old son with me. Why she left him with a dope fiend like I was at that time, I’ll never know. But I think it was the grace of God that probably kept me somewhat grounded, a little bit.

But I woke up the morning of October 20th, 1971 and I had heroin in the house, there was alcohol in the house, and there was marijuana in the house. And for some reason the second I woke up I didn’t get loaded like I usually did. I picked up my son and I walked across the street to the beach, a place called Shark’s Cove on the North Shore, and I will never forget.

It was a very overcast morning. It was gray, and I sat down on some lava rocks and I looked down at the water, I was kind of sitting on a shelf up high above some other rocks. My son was crying, I was crying, and I wanted to commit suicide. I wanted to throw myself into the rocks. I knew I just had had it. I couldn’t get clean, and I couldn’t use. I was at the point that I was just ready to die.

And something happened. To this day I don’t understand it. But the longer I stay clean the more I kind of understand what happened. But all I know, it was like somebody threw a blanket around me, a very warm blanket, and I felt a peace inside, I felt held, I felt secure. And a voice went through me, and I just remember as clear as anything it said, “You never have to use again.” And at that point, at that moment, I just had a peace inside me that was incredible. And I picked up my son.

There was one other addict that had gotten clean in the group of people that I was with that didn’t go to Europe, and he was on Maui at the time — another island. I had no money to my name. I picked up my son and I went across the street to my house. I packed up a suitcase. I had some candles that I had been making and I grabbed a big mushroom candle and I started hitch hiking into Honolulu, which was forty miles away, and I tried to sell the candle all the way into town, and I couldn’t.

I got to the airport, I got in line to buy my ticket to Maui, and by the time I got to the booth I had sold the candle for the exact amount I needed for an airline ticket. I didn’t know where my friend was on Maui. I just hitch hiked into Lahina, looked over and saw one of his brothers on a corner, and said, “Where is Tom?” His name was Tom also.

I walked in and I found him. I walked in and said, “I am ready. I am ready to do anything. I am willing to go to any lengths to stay clean.” I haven’t used since that day and like I said, I shot dope for almost ten, or eleven months every day that last run, and just used like there was nothing left to do but use.

I really know today I had a spiritual release. I didn’t go through one second of withdrawal. The obsession to use drugs was totally lifted out of me that morning on the beach. Needless to say life hasn’t been always easy since then. But I haven’t had an obsession to use drugs.

My life started off when I got clean. I am just walking forward and trusting, even from that day that I just had no money and I went to the airport, knew I was going to get to Maui somehow, and I did. At that time the woman that I had met was in Europe traveling around. I saw this woman go around the world twice with no money, no visible means of income.

What I was told in the very beginning is that if I put others first, if I try to live for others, if I try to work the principles, spiritual principles, in my life and share my life and be open with others, that all things would be added on to me. I traveled with this woman for ten years and saw her put these spiritual principles into practice.
And in those ten years I have lived in tents on the beach.

I have lived in mansions on the beach. Through, just through the idea of following, she followed her inner guidance. And this is a basis that I got when I was given the release from drugs that . . . That, that’s it, the bottom line, you put this stuff into action. You either believe it or you don’t. You know, it’s not that I believed it. It’s just that I followed along with her. I saw what truth meant. I saw what happened. I just know that as I look back over the last seventeen years I have been through tremendous amounts of pain in recovery. But I haven’t used.

I remember I hadn’t used drugs for about two years one time, and I remember a lady talking, that I heard talking, that had fourteen years clean at that time. And she said, the way she got fourteen years clean is just didn’t use, when it made no sense not to use. That really hit a bell inside of me, that nobody got it any better than anybody else in this life. That if I don’t want to use drugs on a daily basis then I just have to not use when it makes no sense not to.

That I have had to grow up and walk through some stuff that I was never able to walk through before and just not use, just not put that needle in my arm the first time, or take that first drink, and I’d get through things. I know that through the years these spiritual principles have just popped up in front of me on a daily basis.
I feel that being an addict has been a blessing, actually.

There was a time I wanted to fly to India, and I wanted to follow a guru, or join any other thing that looked glorified. And today I am really grateful that I am an addict, because I’ve been forced to have to live these spiritual principles or I’ll use again. I either have to live them or I will use drugs again.

Like I said, that’s been a blessing, because being an addict I have had a very self centered life and am still very self centered and it takes a lot of persistence. Being an addict, I have been forced to live for others. I have been forced to open my life up and let you in. If I don’t do that I die.

There’s been times since I have not used drugs that I have tried to close my life up. I have tried to think that my life is my life and that I’ve had certain rights and certain things that I was supposed to protect and for me that just hasn’t worked, that hasn’t worked. I have gotten to a point in my life today where I have lost all choice actually. I really have lost all choice. I have to go in one direction or I know I’ll use again.

I have to live the principles that every Master’s ever talked about, that I have ever read about, that Jesus talked about, that Buddha talked about, that Krishna talked about. Any spiritual book that I pick up — the main thing they talk about is putting love into action, love and service, unconditional love, live for other people.

Something that I always hated to hear, always hated to have anybody talk about, because I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to do it on one level but I didn’t want to do it.

If I am to move forward, if I am to stay clean, on this adventure called life that I call it, on this journey, (and I have come to believe a long time ago) there is nowhere I am going. That the whole fun, that the whole thing, is in the journey, the adventure itself, that I am not going to get anywhere anymore.

There was a time I thought I was going to get to that place where I had it together. I used to picture myself with maybe years without drugs and I would have a big following and I would know the truth of life and all that. And as time went on and I was thrown to my knees on many occasions and walked the beaches and told God to up his self and fuck you and I don’t like your path and I don’t want anything to do with it.

I had to give up a long time ago that I was ever going to get it together. And I have found a lot of freedom today. And just knowing and accepting that I am an addict and that any addiction has a lot more to do with than using drugs. Today I am real aware that my addiction has very little to do with using drugs, and that that was just part of it, that my addiction is why I used.

My addiction lives in my head. My addiction will always tell me, “You’re better than me.” My addiction will always tell me, “I am, not enough.” And if I listen to it long enough, I’ll use. I can’t live with those feelings. That’s why I used when I was fifteen years old, because I couldn’t live with those feelings anymore.

Today I have found a lot of freedom by just accepting myself. I am sure that I am different than I was seventeen years ago, but I am sure that there is still a lot that’s the same about me. But I feel like I have a lot more freedom inside today than I have ever had, just because I have learned to accept who I am today and that I am willing to keep walking forward on this path.

It’s been wonderful. I feel like I wouldn’t trade anything I’ve been through. Being an addict was full on, living on the firing line of life. I mean it was powerful. And now today living clean, I feel like I am living on the firing line of life. My life is so full today there is not enough days in the week, hours in the day, to live.

I spent a whole lot of years wandering the streets, sleeping in parked cars, and just wandering endlessly, nowhere to go, nobody to talk to. It’s not that way today. It’s just not that way. I know people all over the world.

And I just feel real blessed to have found the way of life I am given. And that way of life is that way of life of going within, that constant search of getting in touch with myself. I don’t think it’s something that stops. I think it’s something that is a continuous thing, that every day of life, and if I don’t stay doing that I know I’ll return to drugs.

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