Maybe it’s the way I look, or the way I talk, or write, or act, or wrestle...I’m not sure, but I get accused of being on drugs, a lot.
I’m not. Never in my life have I been a frequent user of any psychoactive chemical other than caffeine; which I do use strategically to get my procrastinating ass in gear, to get sh** done.
When I first got involved in wrestling, at seventeen years old, I would get offered alcohol and cannabis more often at events than I would hanging out with my heavy partying high school friends.
“Nah, I don’t drink or smoke.” I’d say in my not-open-to-negotiation-voice.
“C’monnnnnn!” They’d say in their Just Say No Era stereotypical peer pressure voice.
“No.” I would say in a way that indicated that what I actually meant was “Go f*** yourself”.
People would often end with, “I didn’t know you were Straight Edge.”
I didn’t know I was either. Before I started wrestling I had never heard the term, but I started wrestling as CM Punk was starting to build an underground following of fans, both in the ring and in the audience, so people assumed I was on the same team.
“I’m not ‘Straight Edge’, I just don’t need drugs.” Would be my go to reply, after I learned what the sh** they were referring to. I would add emphasis to the word ‘need’ as indication of my judgement: people who use drugs are weak, and I’m not weak.
“Sounds pretty Straight Edge, to me.” They might say.
“I don’t need to join a religion, or gang, either. I’m just a person who can deal with their problems.” I would most likely answer.
Around that time, I was dealing with my problems by the meditative practice of creating visual artwork: drawing and painting, mostly. I had become highly influenced by works of the Spanish, Surrealist master Salvador Dalí, who had reached World renown before my grandparents were born.
Dalí’s work was violent, sexual, and really f***ing weird; basically everything I loved in the World as a mid-teen. He made really pretty paintings that reminded people that they were going to die soon enough and, as I interpreted it, how they were living was bullsh**. I became a fanboy.
Not only was Dalí’s artwork wild and confrontational, his personality was, as well. With his trademark thin, styled, long-horn mustache, slicked back hair, flashy clothes, and walking stick, he was almost as interesting to look at as his art; almost.
With the non-verbal permission to be a full-on weirdo from a Spaniard, who died back when I still was poundin’ down Pedialytes, I allowed myself to take on the persona of an eccentric artist type. I let my hair go long and messy, I layered colorful clothing, I wore unmatching shoes, and carried around a pencil that I had taped plastic vines to. I took up the habit of actually doing all the random silliness that popped up in my head, which mostly just revolved around creating a little harmless chaos around the too neat for me World by saying and doing stuff that made people go “What the actual f***?” Which were all great for my sense of identity, healthy self expression, and for the continuation of my virginity.
Without my teenage angst phase of Destroy This Fake World With Art, I don’t think I would have had the sculpting slabs to go through with the wholly surreal act of trying to become a professional wrestler.
Shortly after becoming a wrestler, though, I took on a different persona: the hardcore-dedicated athlete. No more of that artsy-fartsy giraffesh**, I’m a serious wrestler. I explained to myself, as I patterned a false personality after people who actually had that personality.
Several years of switching up identities and having to say “no drugs, no alcohol, not straight edge” later and I was at a bad show, at a bad bar, at a bad point in my life, and when my buddy who has known me for years, and was just saying it in jest, offered to buy me a drink I said, “Sure.”
I thought he might look at me like: I thought you didn’t ‘need’ to drink. Instead he looked at me like: I never thought this day would come! Oh, hell yeah!
What proceeded was one of the funnest nights of my life.
Okay. So, maybe I do need it. I reasoned out afterward.
I started partying a little bit after that and it was really healthy for me. Yes, healthy. Yes, for me.
Since I hadn’t done much experimenting with social lubricant in High School and I’m naturally shy, I had never in my whole life imagined how much fun making friends with random people could be. I learned that I didn’t have to spend a lengthy familiarization period with someone before I could show them my real, unguarded personality.
Wow. People really seem to like me when I’m drunk. I thought. I should probably study my behavior when I’m drunk and apply it to my life when I’m sober.
While my body and brain were behaving wildly, my conscious mind was busy taking notes. The data collected was interesting.
Drunk Jason was:
• Friendly - not polite but genuinely treated everyone like a good buddy.
• Free - of self conscious fear of being judged by others, and self conscious judging of others.
• Happy - unselfconsciously smiling and laughing.
• Present - not thinking about the past or future.
• Attentive - interested by the World around me and the people in it.
• Playful - silly, wild, my...myself.
Myself. Huh. That's...weird. I thought when I looked back over my mental notes. Why the f*** would alcohol bring out the “real me” with strangers? Why am I not “me” around people I don't know well? Oh, yeah. Right. Because I'm not on guard. Because when I don't have a wall of insecurity separating me from the Universe, I don't feel so Godd***n lonely, so Godd*** scared.
Shortly after I started drinking-on-occasion, I was at a party at my friend’s house and very inebriated. My friend lived beside a graveyard. Even when sober, I’ve always enjoyed the quiet scariness of cemeteries; so, in my drunken jolliness I recommended to some of my fellow partiers that we visit the heavily wooded, unmaintained, familial resting place of an all-passed family.
With cell phone torches lit, we crossed my friend’s yard onto a forest path. After a short walk of creepy noises being drowned out by liquored merriment, we arrived at the small plot of gone-on-ones.
It took a little finesse, but I was able to get my barbarian friends to show some respect and reverence for the departed. After about a minute of relative silence, in which the creepy forest noises were allowed to prosper, one of my less enthusiastic about confronting morality buddies said decidedly, “This is f***ing spooky, I’m going back to the party.”
After a chorus of “me too”s, I was left alone in the middle of a graveyard, in the middle of the Fall, in the middle of the woods, in the middle of the night.
Like anybody might, I laid down in the tall grass beside a grave and stared up at the full moon. I imagined my lifeless body laying there being consumed by worms, breaking down through decomposition and being absorbed by the Earth, and an apple tree taking root in the compost-of-me. I saw the tree growing large enough for children to climb on for fun, like the one my cousins and I used to enjoy, not so long ago. I pictured the fruit it might bare being eaten by birds, the birds by snakes, the snakes by foxes, and so on. For the first time, I actually felt...not logically thought, but sincerely felt...that I was apart of the Universe. Then, for the first time in my sleepless-due-to-thoughts-of-my-mortality memory, I wasn't scared of death.
It felt like a black hole had been removed from my chest. The shadow that had been stealing all my best moments had disappeared in the light of realization.
For so long, I would be lost in happy moments only to be found by the terror tinged reminder that, “You're going to die and the World’s going to go on without you.”
That last bit had always been the hardest to accept. Somehow, though, just the uninhibited-by-alcohol thought of being reabsorbed into the womb of Mother Earth and redistributed in a billion births had me feeling eternal and, subsequently, at peace.
I floated back to the party and was quiet for the rest of the night.
This is where Walt Disney Studios and the alcohol pushing corporations might end the story, but, of course, my love affair with alcohol doesn't quite end “happily ever after”.
I had gotten the transmission; learned what Professor Alcohol had to teach me. Instead of taking my degree and moving on with life as an adult, like I planned, I allowed myself to continually get talked back into going back to hang out at campus. Which made me feel as lame as that sounds.
What would you call someone who uses a medicine to get well, but continues to use it after they're well?
“Never in my life have I been a frequent user of any psychoactive chemical”, that's true, but, for me, even infrequent, only when it's free and to be sociable, was abuse. Of course, I had to learn that the hard way.
After having some psychological, emotional breakthroughs (as mentioned in Part III), I was making huge progress in becoming a better, happier, person. Then I got drunk in Canada and slapped a man in a bar for insulting me. Depression followed.
I was amazed to be able to quickly recover from that regret fueled depression, through the understandings and practices that I had begun to cultivate.
I was right back on the path to ending the cycle of depression. Then I got drunk and trashed someone else's hotel room with vomit. Regret and depression followed.
Third time's a charm, right? Nah, f*** that sh**. I'm not an idiot: I know when I'm being an idiot. I don't need alcohol, ever again. Thanks for the life lessons, kind professor, but it’s time to move on with my life. I reasoned out afterward.
So, I vowed to abstain from the taking of intoxicants.
All that any medicine I've ever taken, that was worth taking, did was remind me of my true nature. Which is something I've learned that I could've learned without them. Nothing was added, only cleared. So, If you feel you still need that chemical reminder, I get it, but hope you will remember responsibly, memorize completely, and move on.
As for me, the freedom from being secured to the ground-of-false-perception by the gravity of insecurity has sent me free-floating into a space where high has no meaning at all, where creation, maintenance, and destruction are all expressions of the same face of space and time as we experience it, where I touch a reality so real it’s surreal, from where I hope to bring back art to express to you my joy of living this little life of mine.
If that makes me seem “high”: oh well, but, to quote one of my biggest influences, “I don't do drugs, I am drugs.”