“Lose This Skin I’m Imprisoned In” - The Clash
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash https://tinyurl.com/57n2xre5
Once I got deeply into drugs and alcohol, I became extremely invested in this being my persona, and largely definitive of who I was.
I was, in my mind, part of a massive like-minded community of Heads. That was the term in the ’70’s during my high school and early college years.
Being a Head meant that you looked at the world through a druggy haze and that you most likely were anti-war and anti-establishment. You weren’t “straight.”
Now, if you were old enough, or looked old enough and/or had some decent fake ID, you could go into a bar or a store and get alcohol. No problem. Throw the keg in my trunk, the cases in the back seat, thank you very much. And off we go.
Stroll up to a bar, order a 7 and 7, and wander over to the jukebox or the pool table. No problem.
Scoring drugs was a different deal altogether. This is where the brotherhood of Heads came in. We were largely in it together, flying under the illegal radar and helping each other to cop and to carry.
There was a language and a communion. Not that it was all peace love dove, because dealing and buying meant money and ripoffs, too many stems and seeds in the bag, cocaine cut w/ some useless powder, and various jerks looking to rip people off in any way they could.
They’d get a bad rep, and if you knew their rep, you’d stay away.
But if one could build a circle of people that were “cool,” you’d generally be good to go. Enough people were slinging weed and hash and all kinds of pills, including “mescaline,” which is in quotes because who knows what it really was.
So, I was a Head. I was “cool” in the circles of knowing who else was “cool,” and whom to stay away from.
As a Head, I used to believe I had it figured out, that I was beating the game of life because I was a rebel and I knew the true way to be happy.
Not just me, but we.
Me and the gang that watched from a rooftop as the LSD was wearing off and the sun was coming up and workers were embarking on their inglorious commute and we’d just had another wild night and were about to go sleep it off all day - we’re the ones who had it figured out. Life is about feeling good, and nothing makes you feel good like some drugs and booze, right? Right?
We looked down, literally, on those who lived in the straight world. The ones who listened to Mommy and Daddy and Boss Man and Drill Sergeant and Gym Teacher.
We knew they were LOSERS. Of course we did.
We knew the way.
And in this was communion and camaraderie.
I burrowed my way deeply into this skin.
Even as the crowd thinned out, and friends moved into different phases of life, I dug my heels in and stayed committed to this identity.
I had a fantasy of myself as becoming an old guy with long hair and a beard and a cool look, sitting in a rocking chair with an ever-present joint in my hand, dropping righteous and hilarious philosophical ideas to my friends and family. A wild man, calmer and more tame, but still waaaay out there.
When I got clean and sober, I had to shed this skin. Letting go of the identity I’d invested in was painful. But the path was clear. I mourned my old self, and I mourned the comfort of using alcohol and drugs, but I worked to reinforce the fact that it was over for me.
I needed a new way of seeing myself in the world.
Discovering this was long and torturous at times, but the openness and freedom I felt were so much more real than the chemically induced “freedom” I’d had, especially as I ended up snared in the jaws of addiction. No freedom there.
I found a different mindset.
I decided I want to live life having feelings and to face my life as straight on as I can.
Real feelings, not those created and escalated by drugs.
Ups, downs, successes and disappointments, love, loss…you name it. I’m in. All the way in, with a variety of identities that change according to where I am and what I’m engaged in, ie. employee, husband, brother, filmmaker, actor, friend, et al. And overriding it all is the fact that I need to stay sober, again, today.
I love being free of the chains of being a Head.