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[ Personal Narratives ]

Boyz In The Shwa

#VoicesInRecovery

I’ve heard many alcoholics share on the matter of wether they were born with the disease of addiction, or if it came about later in life. Many say they’re not sure when they crossed that invisible line of addiction -to which there is no return- but they are sure they were drunk when they did so. 

I know that ever since my first drink, I was drinking to get drunk, to feel different. Many of my friends did as well. But the majority of those friends eventually grew up, perhaps they were just hard drinkers, but not alcoholics, not many of them.

I was a different story. I didn’t grow up. My age grew, but my emotional IQ did not. I became consumed with an obsession for alcohol and other mind-altering substances, and that was always my main focus. The roots of that drinking/drugging career grew out of my youth in my home town. 

The following is the origin story of my addiction. The names in this story have been changed to protect the guilty (*Note: for mature audiences only).

It was a fast youth, a blurred youth and, some would say, a misspent youth. The story of my tawdry and mixed up life begins in the dormitory town of Oshawa. To those who lived, loved and drank there it is known as the Shwa. And I shall continue to call it the Shwa throughout this narration. Until mid-high school at the sultry age of sixteen I was a good goy. A boy, who listened to his parents, went to synagogue, studied hard and a boy with innocent thoughts.

It was at the age of sixteen, New Year’s Eve, 1986 when I had my first drink. That drink would be the first of many drunken nights which would then lead to drugs, sex, balcony hanging and a multitude of life threatening, yet wonderful events.

The first time I got drunk it was an awful mixture of vodka and Coca-Cola. It tasted like gasoline with a cola bite. But in that dark celebratory night of my youth I became enlightened in the numbness as the alcohol took my mind and floated it to a level I had never been to. I had found my solution. As AA co-founder Bill Wilson put it, “I had arrived”.

It was then I began the first of a thousand lessons on how to handle myself during an inebriated situation. There’s not much of that fateful night that I really remember What I do remember is wandering out into a star lit night on the eve of the latter side of the greedy decade. I was by myself, at one with God, the stars, the air and a handful of firecrackers. As I lit the latter I forgot to let go. My finger numbed at the feel of the cherry bomb exploding in my hands. I entered onto an escalation of inebriation that would take me to the top floor of life’s experiences before I would jump on to the slide which would plunge me into an ever increasing rate of degradation and memory loss—a bottomless pit where even the occasional hooker and line of coke was not enough to bring me to the top of that escalation again.

But I digress. At the age of 16 I hung around a bunch of guys with many women entering into our adventure seeking, yet depraved, lives on a regular basis. My two best friends of that wonderful, youthful, era were Cal and Nick. Nick was the leader of our threesome and introduced myself into the seductive world of breasts, pussies and tongues – what could be done with the beautiful anatomy of girls. Years later I would switch roles with Nick teaching him the finer methods of what a little cocaine could do to make the night go by. Nick, Cal and I were what was called Metal Heads in the Shwa. We were head bangers, long hairs, dope smoking—beer drinking—jean wearing bad assess. Or at least, that’s how we thought or ourselves. In those steamy, summer days in the Shwa there was but two groups one could belong to if one was considered a partier. The Metal Heads or the Funkers.

We were Metal Heads and so were our women. At that age, most likely any age, we went out with girls younger than us. With the help of Nick and Cal I latched on to a sweet girl by the name of Melanie. Cal and Nick each went out with friends of Melanie. There would be many adventurous nights with those girls. Nights of sexual exploration, which, of course, were always accompanied by what we considered to be the nectar of the gods. What any good Shwa boy, probably any Canadian boy, could not get enough of—cold beer and dope. 

Dope could come in many forms hash, weed or oil. Back then oil was what we mostly got our nimble fingers on. Nick was a master roller. An art I would not perfect until the ripe old age of 25. Nick did not just roll joints—No—he rolled artwork. He roller single papered, double papered even tripled papered joints. He would make these contraptions called guns, double barrels, many I can’t even recall. Two could smoke a double barrel at the same time. Bottle tokes or bots were also a favourite of ours. Picture the end of a cigarette with a piece of hash burning on the end. You would insert this lovely piece of ingenuity into the bottom of a big ass two litre plastic pop bottle. Fill the bottle up with the hash smoke and then inhale deeply. (For better inhalation you would get someone to press your chess while you leaned against a tree, that was great but it could end in a lack of breath and deep illness, those were power bots). Hold your breath until you cough. The dope smoker’s saying goes, “if you don’t cough you don’t get off!”

Dope smoking is the perfect thing for an amateur druggie to start with who wants to work his or her way up to the professional drug abuser I would later aspire to be and finally become. A professionalism that brought you to new levels of degradation each with its own level of depravity, which is the only way to keep the true, be it false, romanticism of any drug taker pure. Without depravity and downward slopes one cannot find the life learning experiences to truly discover self-learning and fulfillment.

It was a night of cool air and drunkenness when I lost my virginity to the sweet Melanie. It was the week before Halloween, Cal and Nick and I plus another friend had gathered at the Shwa household of Nick’s. Accompanying us were Melanie and three of her idle-minded friends. After just a few beers we were naked and in pairs neutrally spread out across the family room of Nick’s bourgeoisie home. I spent a good hour going down on the lovely Melanie. An art I took to like coke heads to a mirror. I swear to God her pussy tasted like honey mixed in with heaven and I couldn’t get enough of it. As the night drew on it came time for me to become a man in the society of Shwa youth.

Melanie and I had moved to the corner of the bar. I spread her agile legs apart and stuck my small, but thick, penis into her. She felt the penis immediately and screamed for me to take it out. Twas a good thing too because as soon as I exited that lovely womanhood I blew my load all over her stomach. Thank God for that because if there was one thing I did not want to fall into was the Shwa habit of impregnating a young lass before ideas of marriage even entered the picture.

So there it was—I had lost my virginity and Melanie did too. I might as well add fully naked in front of three other couples. Soooweeh! Later that cold, dark and memorable night the six of us walked back to the girls’ high school, where their parents thought they were attending a dance, to drop them off. Now, I don’t want to brag or anything, but among us guys Melanie was considered the hottest out of her clique. Nick specially thought this. As we stood and kissed our women good-bye a strange thing occurred—Nick grabbed Melanie and began to make out with her. Now most guys, especially Shwa guys who are scared of their own sexuality, would get pissed at their buddy and begin a physical confrontation. But I was a true believer in the guru of love—Nick—and followed his lead—a lead I would follow on more than one occasion. Standing there watching him tongue my girl in a most erotic way I just laughed and grabbed his girlfriend and began to make-out with her. Cal and our other buddy followed suit. Before we knew it all four of us had experienced the distinct kiss of each of the young girls there that night. It was a spontaneous act which would be one of many in the long drug-ridden, sexually stimulating, life I would lead.

* * *

It was at this time that I really began to get into music. I’d listen to Q107’s top ten at ten every night to learn the music of my tribe—my clique. My grandmother had recently died and I used my inheritance to upgrade my guitar from an unknown brand called a Mann to a Fender Stratocaster (over a decade later I would sell the same guitar for $200 worth of crack). The Fender was all black with a black scratchboard. Oh the orgasms over this guitar. At this period in my life it was my proud and joy. I was also a songwriter of sorts. The boys and I used to have what we referred to as bush parties. That’s where you gather a mother fucking load of beer and wood and head out into the woods, surround a bon fire and drink to your heart’s content. These glorious parties would inevitably be busted by the cops.

It was in grade 10 that I wrote my first and maybe most memorable (at least to the people who have heard it) tunes. Inspired by a girl I would stare at on a constant basis in English class, it was entitled “Blow Job Lips”.

Blow job lips Blow job lips My girlfriend has blow job lips (Chorus)

The feel real good, They feel real nice, They’re bright red, And they’re cold as ice

They pucker out straight as pin, Jump in bed and I’ll shove it in

Don’t need Chapstick! Don’t need lipstick! Don’t need any stick! Except for my stick!

Blow job! Blow job! Blow job lips! (x2) Chorus

This song was a rip-roaring success and pretty soon all attendees at our bush parties would sing along to this musical renaissance of my youth. Later I got Nick into the drums. One of my acquaintances sold Nick a cheap pair of drums along with cheap lessons. We could sit in Nick’s basement for hours playing Blow Job Lips over and over again. It was a great time. Once I added a distortion pedal and flanger pedal to the mix the music never stopped. Add to this the occasional joint and we could play to our heart’s content.

It was around this time when the family life at Nick’s place was rich with strife. He eventually got kicked out by his mother. Nick’s parents had divorced a few years before and his father was living in Toronto. Nick’s mother owned several houses in which she would rent out. After staying at my place for a week Nick eventually moved into an apartment at one of his Mother’s properties. Talk about your party atmosphere. There was an ever available supply of weed as the local drug dealer from Nick’s high school lived just down the street. I remember one party where the biggest bag of weed I had ever seen was just laying on Nick’s table for the grabbing. I rolled on the biggest, yet loosely, rolled J’s I’d ever rolled before, this was still many years before I perfected the art of creating the perfectly rolled joint.

We would get drunk and stoned on a regular basis. This would be a foreshadowing of the party lifestyle I would eventually enter into upon my graduation from high school and my entry into university.

Our sex lives continued to be fun during these light hearted yet youthfully stressful lives.

* * *

The greatest thing in the world for a Shwa boy to do is get out of the wee pathetic dormitory town into the big City of Toronto to see a concert. My group of buddies were of no exception and jumped at every chance we could. One of the first concerts I was allowed to attend in Toronto by the parentals was Alice Cooper. He was my favourite musician in this highly influential period of my life. I had a great many of his albums, including Love it To Death; Billion Dollar Babies; School’s Out; From the Inside and the theme ridden Welcome to my Nightmare. I quickly got Nick into the wild and thought provoking Cooper. We tried to get Cal into it but he preferred the bands from the 60s and 70s. Nick and I would sit for hours in his abode deciphering Cooper’s lyrics, discussing what we thought the deeper meaning of each song was. So with it was with lofty aspirations of a fun filled, thought provoking, evening, Nick and I boarded the GO Train and set out to TO.

At this point in time Nick and I each had the traditional heavy metal head’s garb of a tattered jean jacket and blue jeans. I had got a buddy of mine to air brush Alice Cooper on the back of mine and Neil had one as well. At some point during our stint with the Godfather of shock rock Nick had gotten himself into a violent drunken mood and taken a butcher knife to his jean jacket—or what he thought was his jean jacket. I stumbled into his kitchen and realized he had sliced up my jacket. So it was with Nick’s jacket, now mine that I proudly wore on our trip to Toronto. One good thing about this jacket was that Nick had made these holes in the seams of it which we could hide our fully rolled joins in for the concert.

We exited the GO Train and went to the subway. Except for a few times when we were in Toronto with our folks we had never been on the subway, subsequently we became lost as we tried to make our way to the great Maple Leaf Gardens. We finally arrived at the MLG and made our way to our seats. Upon the way I purchased a program and a T-shirt for the ritual of wearing a concert shirt the day after to school.

As the opening band began I frisked through the jacket and pulled out one of the “Js” we had rolled. The first “J” I pulled out was at least 12 inches in length and although when rolling it Nick and I had smiled with glee at the thought of smoking this big, fucking, Cheech and Chong joint, we now became nervous because it stood out more than a virgin amidst a band of Oshawa sluts. As we sat pondering and discussing what to do a fellow Cooper fan leaned over and told us not to worry because the ushers and security guards smoked a shit load of the stuff themselves. So with a flick of the Zippo we sparked the “J” and got a great tone on to welcome our god—Cooper. During the theatrical show of Alice we smoked more and more doobs until it seemed like we were floating over the stage. At one point during this huge guy sitting directly in front of us asked if he could buy a few spliffs. We sold a few for two bucks each. Nick wanted to split the cash because he had rolled them but I had paid for the shit so I kept the money for myself. After seeing the final scene of the concert where Alice was beheaded in a guillotine we made our way back to the Shwa. It was about 2:00 AM when my stoned head finally hit the pillow. I thought I’d be able to sleep in after such a late night but my Mother would hear of no such thing. So in the wee hours of the morning it was off to a day of school with images of Alice dancing in my mummified brain. At least I got to show off my T-shirt.

* * *

The next big concert I attended was Pink Floyd. As before my good bud Nick attended along with our perpetually lying friend Manny. I had known Manny for about three years and he had the terrible disease of never being able to the truth (years later we would meet up again as we both became Friends of Bill). He’d even tell blatant lies when he knew he’d be found out. On numerous occasions I would be in the back of an automobile where Manny spun a yarn to the rest present in the vehicle that day. He would make up the most miraculous tales and I’d be involved. I knew for sure that what he said about me was never true and he had to know that. To this day I cannot figure out why he did it so often. The lies were never for any profit money wise, sex wise or drug wise. I guess some people just have different bad habits. Mine was drinking and drugs and his was lying. Of course, in the years to come the drinking, drugs and other adventures I would get myself into would lead me into such a maze of lives I almost didn’t find my way back out.

So there we were Nick, Manny and I aboard the glorious GO Train, brown bags in our hands for a wee nip of booze to lead us to the CNE for the much anticipated concert. Once again I was wearing the Levis jean jacket with a treasure trove of joints in the inner lining. When we bought our GO tickets Manny and I bought to the Exhibition stop but for some reason Nick got his for Union, one station before Exhibition. No one seemed to care as we sat back and sipped our liquor looking forward to the night ahead.

We easily found our seats for the concert. The whole stadium was filled to capacity as we awaited the mastered of psychedelic fair.

Once the instruments began thousands of joints were simultaneously lit and a cloud of dope smoke, I had never imagined, lingered over the outdoor venue. Pink Floyd is just the concert to see when one is in the throes of a doobioso ecstasy. As the band performed a large pig floated around the stadium bobbing its head to one and all. It seemed to me like it was shitting on us but that just added to the joyful mood we were all in. We had smoked all but one huge joint which we were saving to last. Manny and I went to the take a leak and Nick stayed to keep our seats and hold on to the spliff we were eagerly awaiting. As Manny and I walked through the crowd to get to the washroom Floyd started playing one of my favourite tunes, On the Turning Away. Manny and I stopped and listened intently to this fine ballad. The song finished, we took our squirt and quickly returned to our seats. Upon our return we told Nick to light up the spliff. He replied, that he had no such spliff in hand. I knew he was the last one to have it and instantly told him so. Upon this revelation he openly admitted to having quaffed the whole thing himself. There wasn’t much we could do then as the spliff was in the Nickster’s lungs and he was too stoned for a verbal lashing and, frankly, I was too stoned to give a verbal lashing. So we made do with second-hand smoke, volunteered by the thousands among us.

The last song Floyd did before leaving the stage was “Comfortably Numb”. Tis a grand song. As I swayed back and forth to the music I became fully aware of my surroundings and realized that I felt at one with this mass of 60,000 odd people. It was a grand revelation—one that would not repeat itself until my attendance at the 2005 AA World Conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada – and AA one was much more spiritual. The concert was over and off we trudged to board the GO Train. We went through the gate but alas a problem arose. Nick’s ticket was for the next station on the line and he could not board here. Still in a stoned haze we made our way to the next station via subway only to find we had missed our train.

Back to the TTC we went and traveled as far east as we could go attempting to re-enter the cess pool of culture that we knew as the Shwa. The last stop was in Scarborough a good four cities away from where we were heading. Manny ended up calling his father who, accompanied by Manny’s virginal sister, picked us up. It was the wee hours of the morning and the dope was wearing off. I realized it was Nick’s fault that I wasn’t home snug in my bed dreaming of huge pigs floating in the air. I turned to air the grievance to the lad and saw that he had fallen asleep, later leaning his head on my shoulder.

* * *

There were many more concerts I attended with Nick, Cal, Manny and other of life’s wanderers from my group of Shwa buddies. There was the time we attended Def Leppard and I managed to purchase some hash in the parking lot. After getting stoned who do we bump into but the high school goddess Teresa Bedford sitting on the hill of the premises awaiting the gates to open. From our position at the bottom of the hill we could see right up the fair maiden’s skirt, getting a grand view of her lovely panties and our over-imaginative minds raged with sinful thoughts of the untouchable fruit hidden behind those panties. Alas I ruined this unexpected sightseeing venture by lying on my side and peering right into heaven’s gates. A sight still vivid in my mind.

Another concert we attended was when Alice Cooper returned to TO again. This time there were about eight of us. As the concert started we began passing joints back and forth. They were coming from both the east and the west of me. Being seated in the middle of our capricious group I always managed to have a joint in hand. I was currently suffering from a chest cold and the ole lungs did not like this on-going stream of smoke I began choking whenever I took at breath and had a mini-fi t just as Alice was about to hang himself. A whole of Halls package later and I was better again, well better than I was.

The crowning achievement of my concert going career was AC/DC. Ah yes, the AC/DC concert. What a day, what a night, what an experience. My Shwa boy buddies and I had been anticipating the concert for months. My good friend Mick and I decided to forgo an afternoon of unmotivated education and skipped the last two periods of high school. We went to his place to split a bottle of Eastern Europe’s best vodka with little bit of orange juice as a chaser. One thing I learned from that day and evening was that vodka and orange juice did not agree with me. (I repeated that lesson the second time the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series – but as Hammy Hamster says, “that’s a story for another day”). So there we were at good ole Mick’s place downing Screw Driver after Screw Driver and by 4:00 PM I was trashed, bug-eyed, whatever drunken cliché you want to use, I was toasted! Mick’s sister, who he lived with, was getting pissed off at me as I kept declaring over and over again how much I loved my girlfriend and wanted to call her. Finally, our buddy Cal picked us up in his yellow Datsun which we called the banana mobile. It was Cal in the driver’s seat, our buddy Big Bubba in the front seat and Big Bubba’s brother, Little Bubba, in the back seat with me. Well Cal began weeding in and out of traffic like a looney on that grand Canadian highway known as the 401. By the time we reached Ajax, the city not the cleaner, I was puking my guts out. By the time we reached the parking lot in Scarborough to take the LRT to the legendary Maple Leaf Gardens the back seat floor was overflowing with my puke and, who knows, maybe some of my vital organs (at least that’s what it felt like). As soon as the car stopped three doors opened immediately and my fellow concert goers rushed out of the car and began to breathe some cool, fresh air. I was left in the back seat barely conscious. My buds finally dragged me out of the car with puke hanging down my nose as well as hanging off my shirt and pants. Before I knew it I was being dragged along frozen laden grass, shirtless. The next think I remember is leaning against the car still shirtless and beginning to freeze. Roger, one of the Shwa buddies, had the state of mind to take an extra sweat shirt he had and put it on me. The next thing I knew we were riding the LRT to the Scarborough Town Centre to get more booze. Comatose as I was a small part of me wondered if I would partake of it (foreshadowing of the addiction that would overtake me later in life).

We got to the Scarborough Town Centre and my Shwa boys leaned me against a pole telling me not to move a muscle. They were very impressed with me upon their return to the pole, 20 minutes later, as I was perfectly still and had not moved a muscle. We finally made it to the concert and even in the pukotic state I was in I was still able to get pissed off because we missed the opening band, Cinderalla. But AC/DC finally came on and in my somewhat comatose state I watched and listened to these heavy metal gods. I finally came alive during the encore, which happened to be “For those about to Rock”. I kept leaning over the railing screaming along with the other fans. A few times I almost fell over but the swift hands of my Shwa buddies were able to prevent me from falling into the people below us. As cannons donned the stage and Brian Johnson screamed into his microphone, “Shoot,” I screamed, “I’m back and I’m pissed off.” It was a grand ending to a grand concert, at least that’s what my buddies told me. We finally got out of there and to the subway but not before seeing some fool’s Tranzam windshield being smashed in. The guy had parked it right in front of MLG. Not a good idea when a drug frenzied crowd who had just seen AC/DC were coming out.

Upon returning home I dropped my puke ridden clothes into the laundry hamper and went to sleep. The next day my Mother asked me if I had drank and thrown up all over myself. I told my mother that some guy sitting behind us had thrown up all over me. She told me that she was pretty upset when she saw that vomit on my clothes. I told her I was pretty upset when that guy vomited on me.

* * *

Grade 13 ended and we entered our last summer as Shwa buddies before we all went our separate ways. Some would be going to university, some to College and others would seek their own education through the school of hard knocks. However we were determined to have one last blast. The Shwa boys gathered in vans and cars and headed to the Sand Banks, a provincial park near Kingston. Nick who now lived near Kingston, going to college, had agreed to meet us at the camp site.

Cal, Big Bubba and I were working late so we had to go later and left it to our other buddies to get the camp site ready. We ended up showing up late at night, just barely missing the closing of the gates to the campground. We made it to the site and had one hell of a time trying to put our tent up. That night was a tame one as the boys there before us had already drank themselves into a drunken stupor and Cal, Big Bubba and I were drained from work and a long night’s drive. The next day would be quite a different day.

We awoke to a bright sunny day eating bacon, toast and coffee. But soon there-after the beers were opening and the partying began. As the rest of the boys endeavoured to enjoy the beach I had other ideas. I quickly started up a fire and cracked open another cold one and enjoyed myself sitting by the fire under the warm summer sun. Beer after beer went down as I drank myself into a stupor. Despite the plethora of seats around the fire I was paranoid that if I moved away from the one I was sitting in it would be stolen away from me. So I would not move from my spot even to take leak. I would just stand up and take a piss beside the fire. At this point in the afternoon two of my friends were spying on me from the woods enjoying the sight of me pissing so close to the fire. One of my favourite things about camping was making a fire and I was determined to make this one a great. As my two buddies watched I picked up a can of lighter fluid and began to spray a little on the fire. I sprayed once and watched as the flames grew to a great height. Once more I sprayed the fire with glee as the same effect took place. The third time I sprayed the fire I just turned the lighter fluid can upside down and held it over the flames. Boy, was that a mistake. The fire went up as did the can. I started screaming and dancing around as I held onto the bottle. My arm proceeded to catch fire as well as my leg. I was spinning around and around at which point the two spies in the forest ran out and told me to throw away the can. In a big sweeping gesture I threw the can away but the fluid, on fire, streamed out the can like a horse race pissing and a brand new tent went up in smoke. Fortunately the two spies, not as drunk as I was, were able to the douse the flames. I was grateful for their help in putting out the fire but did not hesitate to show my disapproval when they used my beer (Black Label) to quash it. I shouted to them in despair, “not the Label”. But they did not listen to me and went on to waste, in my humble opinion, two Black Label beers. After the excitement was over I returned to my seat by and continued my beer drinking and dope smoking vigil by the camp fire.

The fire was not the only thing that occurred that early afternoon. Later that afternoon a few camp rangers drove up to our campsite. They noted that our fire was not in a safe area and fined. They then went on to fine us for destruction to Crown property as one of us had carved his initials into a picnic table. We were almost fined for burning sumac in the as well. To our luck the rangers left just before Nick came into the camp site dragging a tree he had expertly chopped down. I don’t even want to think of the fine we would have garnered from that endeavour. Later that evening the boys and I visited several camp sites in the area. At one site there were a couple fellow campers drinking moonshine out of a gasoline container. They told us they did this as they could walk around the campgrounds with it and not get a ticket for drinking in public. We all agreed twas a great idea and made note of it for our next camping adventure. As the night wore on and the beer, moonshine and dope were consumed I became separated from my pals. I drunkenly walked around trying to make my way back to our camp site. During my travels along a darken road I happened to come across a park ranger vehicle parked directly in front of me. As its headlights blinded me I knew that I would be fined, being under age as well as drinking alcohol in a public area. I ran towards the cruiser with an unopened beer in one hand and an opened one in the other. I stopped myself beside the vehicle, placed the unopened beer on the ground, and chugged the open one. One of the rangers got out of the vehicle and asked me why I had put the one beer on the ground. I replied, “cause I’m fucking drinking this one.” That did not amuse him as much as I thought it would and was fined for drinking underage. In those days the fine came to $53.75. It was my first fine in my drinking career and it felt like receiving a badge of honour. This type of distorted thinking would be ever-present as the disease of addiction progressed in me.

The next day we were all hung over to the gills and proceeded to pack up and leave for home. With the cost of the burned down tent and the accumulated fines the weekend cost just over $400. Upon our return to the Shwa we proceeded to obtain T-shirts that said, “Last Blast – Busted and Burned.” We were all quite proud of ourselves and this camping endeavour continues to be one of favourite stories to reminisce about as we grow older and try to become more responsible.

* * *

As I look back on those days now I can see the character defects of selfishness, pride, people-pleasing and a whole lot of fear. Unfortunately for me I would not have this spiritual awakening for 16 more years. 

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