I really don’t think I’m a bad person, but I know I’ve made some very bad choices in life and done some horrible things. I have to admit, most of those incidents involved either my being under the influence of drugs, or in an effort to obtain drugs or alcohol. A few were spontaneous acts, random mistakes. At this point in my life, I am motivated towards change and believe that only by documenting and confessing my past mistakes can I truly wash the wreckage of them from my past.
I’d like to understand myself and to be understood. I wasn’t born a misfit and I wasn’t raised to do ‘bad’ things. Quite the contrary. My mom and dad are upstanding people, educators who work hard and follow the rules. They’ve always taught me to think before I act, make good decisions, and correct my mistakes. I’m not sure how I so wrongly interpreted those lessons. Looking back, I suppose I can see the progression from bad to worse, hindsight is 20/20, right? But I never imagined how bad things would become before they’d start getting better.
I began writing the manuscript for this memoir on my 28th birthday. I can’t say I celebrated 28 because I was sitting in a jail awaiting judgment on a probation violation. I expected to spend 6 months behind bars on that occasion, but because of my decisions and a shoddy justice system in this country, I was release 20 days before my 31st birthday. I’ll pick up where I began on my 28th birthday, March 8th, 2009.
I don’t think there were really signs growing up that I would become a drug addicted criminal. At least not until I started using drugs at the age of 13. I was always a bit of a trouble maker and class clown- nothing serious, but I remember quite a few times my teachers in elementary school would call home to discuss my behavior with my mom and dad. I was always a thrill junkie, enjoying anything that is forbidden or dangerous. Maybe thats one reason I so easily gave into peer pressure when I was first introduced to marijuana.
I suppose I’ve always been a little bit eccentric, both in my thoughts and my behavior. I can’t say that I’ve ever really felt I fit in. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to, I’ve just always felt so analytical about life, people, and situations(not to mention myself) that it has been hard to feel like an active participant instead of an objective observer. I remember explaining to my mom at about 10 years old, as feeling like an alien trapped in a human’s body.
I honestly can’t say where this prevailing attitude came from, but I realize that it has played a huge role in the development of my personality. I should also mention that personality, and its components have been a perplexing interest of mine, an obsession even, for my entire life. I’ve spent an awful lot of time considering the development of personality, ego, and how consciousness interfaces with the physical body(know in psychology as the mind-body problem). One of my first realizations regarding these issues is that no one person ‘owns’ their personality. No one is really all that unique. We are more like a construct made of the countless influences inflicted upon us by our experience. We are all biological entities that are essentially programmed by the culture, social class, neighborhood, friends, and family we are surrounded by.
But I digress. I know my first experience with pot was as much out of peer pressure as out of sheer curiosity, but the more I used, the more I questioned the conventions of society. I’m sure much of that was also caused by my entrance into puberty and adolescence(I was 13). This questioning of conventions was one of the factors that made drugs appealing to me. It might be refereed to as ‘thinking outside the box.’ Not to mention that having been drunk a few times already, I felt like pot was less inebriating, and thus, I reasoned, more benign(safer/better) than alcohol.
When I was about six years old, we moved from Lakewood to Jester Estates. It was a short move actually less than two miles away. Lakewood is a small neighborhood in Northwest Austin and Jester is adjacent and up on a hill. Jester was a nice and growing neighborhood, quickly expanding and enveloping the surrounding forests.
Being the adventurous kid that I was, I loved living in Jester. I’d spend hours roaming the hillsides, building forts, and enjoying nature. On the off chance that I got bored exploring the forests. I ventured into construction sites of houses being rapidly built, always another source of amusement.
I had a love for a sense of adventure and I was a fiend for danger. I see now that my first addiction was to adrenaline. I liked doing anything that could get me hurt or in trouble. It was always best when I would just barely escape unscathed.
By the end of seventh grade, I was smoking pot several times a week and had taken LSD several times. I don’t think I was truly an addict yet, but that would surely change during the summer between seventh and eight grade.
Austin’s weather in the summer is usually dry and hot. Not particularly the most comfortable weather for enjoying the outdoors. The kids I hung around with in Jester were, for the most part, trouble makers. Actually, for some reason, although it was a relatively nice and affluent neighborhood, it seemed to produce a high percentage of trouble makers. Maybe it was something in the water.
One of my closest friends, Brooke, lived about half a mile away. Brooke had an older brother named Reece, who was my sister’s age. I think it seemed cool to hang around older kids, but, I also felt more similar to Reece than I did to Brooke. Brooke was a little wild for my taste and had a habit of getting into more serious trouble and often fights. Nonetheless, I spent a lot of time over at Brooke and Reece’s house. Both of their parents worked long hours so I was a safe, unsupervised place to hang out and smoke pot.
Sometime during that year my dad and a college were offered a book deal to write a text book. He was given an advance which he used to purchase a color printer and a color scanner. In 1994, there were still fairly expensive and uncommon items to be found in a home office.
I liked playing around with his new gear and quickly was showing my dad how to use it. As a test of its quality, I tried scanning and printing a dollar bill and ended up printing the back side upside down. Nonetheless, it was pretty cool and gave my 13 year old mind some ideas.
A few days later, Brooke was over at my house and I dug that experiment out of the trash to show him. He was impressed and thought it would be funny to play a prank on his brother. I agreed. We decided to print up a five and get both sides upright. This time it came out. I threw it in my pocket and we jumped on our bikes and headed down the street.
Our prank worked. Not only did we fool Reece and his friends, we impressed them, Jay, one of Reece’s good friends and another kid from the neighborhood had a proposition for me. Could I print off a supply of twenties and trade them for some pot? This wasn’t really anything to thing about. In fact, how could I refuse?
Two days later, I had a few hundred dollars in fake bills and we were rewarded with a free half ounce of pot. For a 13 year old, this was encouraging and motivation. Every day I saw Reece or his friends they were requesting more fake bills. Over the next month and a half, I worked my way up to printing 100 at a time. I didn’t know where all those bills were going and I didn’t care. For the first time in my life, I felt important…in demand.
And so things continue. Over the next month and a half, I printed bills once or twice a week whenever more were needed. I really didn’t concern myself with getting caught because I was never the one spending em, but on July 4th, 1994, the inevitable happened.
Brooke and I had spent the night before tripping on acid. His parents were out of town for the holiday, so we had the house to ourselves. Sometime around noon, Brooke and I were sitting in the living room clearing the cobwebs from our minds when we heard a knock at the door. Brooke was extremely reluctant about answering it because our bodies were still exhausted from the night before. He got up and I followed him to the front of the house. Out through the glass stood a man in a suit, late 40’s to early 50′. Brooke stepped out on the front porch to talk to him and I sat down on the stairs to watch. I could hear him ask about Reece.
It was pretty much an open and shut case. I did it and they found me. But due to the lack of juvenile federal criminals, there don’t exist any federal juvenile detention centers. Therefore I would pretty much be let of the hook. I was asked a plethora of questions and given some interesting details. I learned that over $20,000 of my fake currency had passed and found its way into banks. I learned there were five different serial numbers used on the bills, equaling five different serial numbers used on the bills, equaling five different counts of counterfeiting. I learned that had I been an adult I would have faced 44 years of prison time.
The detectives wanted to know how I came up with the idea to print money. They wanted to know if I was selling it and what I was charging. I lied. I said that it was my idea initially, but that I was being pressured by the older kids to continue and receiving nothing in return. They wanted to know how much I was printing at a time and if I was cutting it myself or leaving it uncut on the page. Again I lied… I was leaving it uncut.
I never had to appear in court or before a judge. I assume it was decided I had learned my lesson and wouldn’t do it again. I was told I needed to stay out of trouble for two years and the case would be sealed. My dad would be able to retrieve his computer equipment at the end of the investigation. I got lucky. My family was relieved.
At the time I didn’t realize how lucky I really was. Things pretty much went back to normal for the rest of the summer. In August, I went with Brooke and his family to the Bahamas. That experience was like a turning point in my life. I believe that is why I truly became an addict.
Before going to the islands, my drug habit consumed me only a few days a week. I enjoyed getting high, but I could pretty much take it or leave it.