EVERY TIME I TRY TO CATCH UP TO MY LIFE, something stops me. Different people making claims on my life. Old friends telling me new friends aren’t true friends. All friends trying to convince me that I can’t survive without them.
Then there are the pay-for-hire get-off-drugs professionals with their own methods and madness. They help, they hurt, they welcome me into their institutions … and, well, their madness.
Welcome to my life.
Two years ago, my life was self-restricted to a sober living house, meaning that I walked through the doors of my own free will. Within hours, I watched the game of communal free will get stepped on, laughed at, and batted around like a Ping-Pong ball.
One of my fellow patients was a rocker chick just turned twenty-one. She had a problem with depression. We met in the lounge and talked the night away, smoking cigarettes, exchanging words of comfort.
“Am I pretty?” she asked me.
“You are beautiful,” I told her.
“Everyone says I smell because I haven’t showered.”
“Everyone can get fucked,” I told her. “When you’re depressed, you’re not exactly in the mood for a shower.”
She told me a story of grief and confusion. I listened. When she was through, we hugged good night. She kissed me sweetly. She wanted more.
“We can’t do this,” I said. “It’s not right. Not now, not here.”
A day later, I was approached by one of the counselors whom I considered a first-class shit talker.
“Rumor has it that the two of you were intimate.”
“What’s intimate?” I asked.
“She obviously has a crush on you.”
“Okay. What of it?”
“I heard you two had sex in the Jacuzzi.”
“No Jacuzzi,” I said. “No sex. Besides, who has sex in a Jacuzzi?”
“I want to know what happened,” she insisted.
“We were flirtatious. That was inappropriate. So we stopped.”
This young woman was confronted at our next group session. Sixteen hours later, she sliced her leg down past the fatty tissue. She was a cutter. They took her out of the villa and put her in a psych ward.
What can I do about it?
I write a poem, “The Little Villa and Painted Egg.”
Minds squall, alcohol, heroin
The man, the boy, the girl
The little villa where you live
You need to fill that pain inside
Xanex, Valium, barbiturates—they ease the easy side
Of all you fucked-up managerial types
You love to rule by what you say
Not by what you find
Beautiful garden, Easter eggs, those that you never really had
You stole our experiences and stole our baskets
That’s how you found twenty-one out of fifty-seven
THAT WAS LAST MONTH. This week I’m home dealing with those who “manage” my business life, those who, for their own purposes, direct my moves. They are my partners, assistants, and drug coaches (whom we call “minders”). There is no peace, not for an hour, not for thirty seconds. Someone is always showing up with calculated suggestions and implied instructions. I don’t know, but I think I’ve done pretty well for myself, even during my long-lasting, narcotic misadventures—all without the protective bubble of paranoid employees, partners, and helpers—er, minders.
Meanwhile, the facts are these:
It has been eight and a half years since I shot dope and nearly three years since I did coke.
I still drink. A regular garden-variety boozer, I am like any other barfly or drink-alone kind of guy. My relationship to liquor is not romantic the way I once envisioned my love affair with dope. I struggle to stop drinking, but I don’t see it as suicidal. In any event, I’m not drinking today. Today I’m inviting you into the middle of my life and the middle of my head. My heart feels a bit closed off because I’m realizing that there are few people, if any, that I fully trust. That’s an amazing statement to make and brings me to what may be the purpose of this book.
How did I get to this point? One word could probably suffice—loss.
I’m searching for explanations.
Someone recently gave me a T-shirt that said, I’M IN LIKE SEVEN BANDS.
There is a Stone Temple Pilots story to tell. There is a Velvet Revolver story to tell. There is a love story to tell. And a drug story to tell.
AMONG MY GREAT LOVES is that category of substances called heroin. Narcotic alkaloids. Derivatives of opium. I describe this stuff lovingly. I do so at the risk of high irresponsibility. It is not my intention to mislead anyone looking to live a righteous life. God knows that the shit will kill you, inside and out, soul to the bone. At the same time, I am committed to an honest assessment of the wreckage of my past. I loved opiates; I hated opiates; I am attracted to opiates perhaps the way John Keats was attracted to death. One hundred ninety years ago, the romantic poet wrote “Ode to a Nightingale”:
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
With thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
IS DEATH THE MUSE? Is rock and roll the nightingale? Are opiates the key to unlocking the magical kingdom where colorful flowers fade to black? Why should anyone—especially a kid or a man who suspects that he or she may have talent—be drawn to such a kingdom?
I don’t know. Except that the pull is visceral. It may also be an act of self-loating or anger against home or society or even the human condition in which the promise of death shadows us from those first fresh moments of birth.
I think of the young woman overwhelmed by a compulsion to cut herself. The compulsion is heartbreaking and bizarre, but maybe not bizarre at all—maybe it’s simply the most honest compulsion of all because it gets to the heart of the matter. My long opiate-dazed days and sleepless nights were all about cutting myself emotionally. When I got high, the last thing in the world I wanted to do was party or interact with other human beings. I retreated to the dark corners of my room and my life. I stayed alone and disappeared down black holes where no one could find me. I couldn’t find myself. I didn’t want to find myself. I became invisible. Or, as I put it in the song “Dead and Bloated,” “I am smellin’ like the rose that someone gave me on my birthday deathbed.”
© 2011 Scott Weiland
A02: David Ritz
Bio: David Ritz is the only four-time winner of the Gleason Music Book Award. He has collaborated with Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Smokey Robinson, and Don Rickles. He also cowrote, with Gaye, the song “Sexual Healing.”