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If you lived in LA in the ’80s, and didn’t do ridiculous piles of coke, you’re an asshole. That shit was amazing. Kids today don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. Shit now has been stepped on more times than a welcome mat. Back then the first line of coke made my face go numb, getting a little on my gums made it hard to talk, and coming down felt like a heart attack. Maybe rock stars or pro athletes get shit this good still, but the ’80s were the last time that regular fucks like you and me got pearly clean coke.

I was 19, going to junior college in Santa Monica, which ranked just below a Grateful Dead parking lot insofar as scoring drugs was concerned. I scored full ounces of mushrooms, entire sheets of acid, and weed was constantly being smoked in front of the student center. I showed up on Fridays whether or not I had a class, just so I could get the lowdown on the parties.

One look at me, and you knew I was strung out, high, or coming down. I didn’t eat, sleep, or blink for days on end. Everyone knew I was up for smoking, drinking, or snorting anything you had on you. The last person to figure that out was my roommate, who freaked out when he realized it.

My roommate was so scared by my drug use, he called my parents and told them.

Illustration by Paul O'Sullivan

I had the only sober roommate in the LA County area. My roommate was a conservative fundamentalist Christian. Just two years before, I had been one too.

I spent three of my teenage years in a evangelical cult in Boston. I preached at subway stops. I asked strangers to church, fighting for evangelical territory with the Moonies and the Nation of Islam. I converted people to our group, and slowly took all of their material possessions from them. After seeing the extremes that were way past the line of what I could handle morally and ethically, I tried to take a step backward into fundamentalism.

Fundamentalism wasn’t that great either. I saw corruption first-hand at the core of every church I walked into. I witnessed rampant hypocrisy and prejudice throughout the memberships. One Sunday night, while preaching in some bullshit town in Arkansas as part of a preacher-training program, I lost my faith on the mike. The very next Friday I was in the trailer park getting drunk.

Coke was a white chunky powdered tractor beam pulling me to Southern California. I was gakked on it two years before I did my first line. I’m telling you, the coke was that good. But I couldn’t leave religion completely behind.

There were two cultures I understood: hardcore Christianity and the drug world. Anything else was a foreign experience. It made perfect sense to me to move in with two Christians. I thought I could live with them and hang out in the drug life. I was wrong.

My parents wanted me to meet them at a Christian rehab center in Reno. I agreed. I went of my own will for the intake session. By our religion, I knew that if I denied their request, they would likely never speak to me again. I still wanted them in my life. I thought I could go and convince them I was fine. Somehow I thought I could work it out.

I stayed up all night doing coke the night before I left, and even did a line right before I got out of the car at the airport. When you’re doing lots of drugs and you run into a crisis, the best solution seems to be to throw more drugs at it. It’s not just with blow or heroin, watch how it works with coffee, cigarettes, pot, and sugar. It seemed like the right thing to do.

It shouldn’t surprise you that I don’t remember the details of the intake session. I don’t know if my parents were there for the first day or the second. I’m not sure if I was there for two, three, or four days.

My parents were barely fifty, but they looked much older. My father had aged from the stress of his work, and my mother had just undergone cancer treatments. It was the first time that they looked old to me. They were angry and yelling and crying all at the same time.

What I remember more than anything was lying in the dark in the bottom bunk of a bunk bed, coming down, thinking my heart was going to explode. Being high, my heart beat the beat of orgasmic elation. Coming down, my heart beat the beat of panic and fear. If you haven’t done coke, I should tell you, the last thing I could do was sleep. It felt like I broke that thing in me that sleeps, that I was unable to die but eternally suffer alive. I wanted to pray, but it was like screaming into a bucket. No one would hear me.

There wasn’t a psych eval in the ’80s I couldn’t beat. Ironically, what saved me then was the training I got in the cult years. We were taught how to beat the trick questions so we couldn’t be locked up by nonbelieving relatives. No one at intake could prove that I was a danger to myself, and I was free to go.

Bucky Sinister

Bucky Sinister is a poet and comedian from San Francisco. He is the author of All Blacked Out & Nowhere to Go. His debut CD, What Happens In Narnia Stays In Narnia is available through Talent Moat records. Photo by Raina Bird.

Paul O'Sullivan

Paul O’Sullivan is cooler than a polar bear’s toenail. You can find him online at

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