Brandon Benz / Brandon Benz
I was fifteen years old the first time I smoked weed.
It was a gradual progress towards being a pothead. At first every couple months, to every month, to every week, to everyday, to up five times a day. Growing up as surfer in California, it just seemed fitting to listen to reggae music, smoke weed and ride waves. I could literally get the surf report from my high school because it was on a hill above the beach. Looking back at it weed was my crutch for happiness, no matter what happened as long as I was high everything was cool. I was never really into drinking that much back then, honestly I never really liked the way it made me felt. On weed though, I had so much clarity and creativity. Most of my relationships with girls were all about getting stoned and having sex, sadly this is a really “normal” thing for an American.
At nineteen I began to smoke cigarettes.
All of my friends smoked and I would occasionally have one of theirs. After doing this enough I bought my first pack, and then next thing I knew I was hooked on two drugs. I would love smoking a bowl and then tapping it off with a cigarette. It was the perfect high. I hated the fact that I smoked, I still do. I wanted to be a runner, an athlete, somebody who pushed their body to the limits. How could that be possible if I was a smoker? I would smoke in corners in embarrassment, or ashamed, that somebody I knew at the gym would see me.
At age twenty-one I began to drink a lot more heavily than I ever had.
That is the natural progression of an American boy right? We turn 21 and get wasted? That was definitely me, I had a group of friends that I went out with. We would smoke weed during the day and play video games and then at night hit the bar. There were about six of us, all guys searching for identity in this lost American society. So by 21 years old I was hooked on weed, cigarettes, and now drinking at least four nights a week. It all seemed like so much fun right?
I guess I should mention the mushroom trips. And the cocaine.
Cocaine, the most easily addicted drug on the planet.* I only did it about ten times, but that was a lot in just one year. It all lead to the biggest drug induced party of my life which was the end for me. After that night things just never felt normal again. My view of my friends change, my view of my life changed. I was lost, I wasn’t in school, I had no direction. I continued on this journey for another nine years. I guess if we do things long enough they just begin to feel normal. That’s was using drugs and alcohol to find happiness can do to us. Eventually the serotonin wears out, and so does the happiness.
*Not exactly, but you get the idea.—Chris
I pause to write this because it’s hard for me to get back to mentally. I don’t really want to, but I must.
It was January, time for all those New Year's Resolutions and shit, right?
My friends all worked at a brewery and they were throwing the cliché holiday party. Some holiday parties are classy with a nice spread but this party was more like a college fraternity party. Beer pong, unlimited pizza and all the beer we could drink. Outside in the smoking section were cigarettes, weed, and occasional bumps of cocaine in the bathroom. I managed to get wasted, thinking I was the coolest kid in town because I got the invite to this party. Everybody else would be so jealous of me, look at me I’m so wasted.
The night progressed into these overpaid, over tipped, servers getting a hotel room. Somebody from the party brought two handles of liquor, and a mountain of cocaine. That night I did more lines than I ever have before, it was a new record. I was doing a line every half hour, sometimes two at a time. The night turned into a robotic system, do a line, hit some weed, smoke a cigarette, drink a beer and then repeat. As the night wore on I went for a walk by myself. I guess I was the only one who needed a break from the assembly line. When I was alone I could feel all the chemicals of the coke on the back of my throat. It was disgusting, I could hardly breath, I thought I might throw up, I thought I might die. I couldn’t believe that I was doing this to my body. What the hell was wrong with me? Why am I poisoning myself so much? When I returned to the hotel room the same thing was going on except people were getting a lot more weird. I did the assembly line a few more times until I just shut down. I looked at everybody in the room and thought to myself are they really happy? None of us have anything in common and yet we’re all in the room for one thing and that’s to get high. In all honesty I didn’t really like most of the people in that room. I considered them my friends but other than doing drugs or drinking we didn’t even know each other at all. I wanted to leave so bad but it was a cold January night and by 5 AM it would seem weird to leave right? Eventually we all went to sleep and I woke up and thought to myself what the fuck am I doing? I just took off, I didn’t say bye to anybody and nobody seemed to care. I promised myself I would never do coke again, or hang out with those people.
I’m a fucking liar, three days later I was at the bar, asking one of the girls from the party for coke. She had some, at which point I went to a corner with my friend and did it. Wow, I’m such a strong person right? Wrong. I couldn’t keep anything right in my life. Later that night I called Amy, we were going through another break up but I let her have it. I told her everything negative I felt towards her. I didn’t hold back, I was high on blow and drunk and smoking, no matter what I had this crutch to hold me up. This was rock bottom, I was hitting it fast. After this every time I drank I wanted to do coke, I was visiting my brother in San Francisco a beautiful place to have fun in and all I wanted to do was a line of blow and keep partying. I could no longer be happy with the natural world. I realize now how dependent on drugs I had become. I even lived in what I call a “vacation home,” my older brother who enjoys drinking and smoking was totally accepting of me getting wasted at home. It was chance for me to escape and nobody would care or notice. My brother owned a mansion so I could party like a rockstar and feel like one too. Everything is hard to accept as I write this. I’m having a hard time not wanting to cry.
I finally stepped out, I took a leap off the bridge of drugs and alcohol and landed in an ocean of sobriety and natural love. In a day and age when the self, alcohol, excess are top priority, being sober is almost like a form of heroism. It’s been tough to live at my brother’s now. My path has changed dramatically, I’m trying to have fun naturally and he still chooses to drink and smoke every night. I feel like I’m in a prison there, two nights ago I had a dream I was locked in a prison and had to break out. Last night I had a dream I was kidnapped and had to break out. I have to move out of my house, I’ve debated on moving out of my hometown. This past weekend my brain has been going in reverse on my addictions and re-tracing the steps to when it all began. It seems that every day I’m still detoxing from all the damage that has been done.
This Lightly edited post originally appeared with slightly different formatting on Brandon’s eponymous blog.
About the Author
Brandon is a writer, poet, and photographer. He has been clean and sober since January 3rd, 2016. In his free time he enjoys hiking, basketball, weight lifting, and bike riding. He is currently a student at Monterey Peninsula College and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and English. He currently lives in Monterey, CA.