Growing up in a depressed area, it seemed as if most people turned to alcoholism or other forms of substance abuse. Addiction, while it is generally approached willingly, is definitely a disease, and should not be treated as a criminal offense – unless it involves other such infractions of the law, i.e. drinking and driving. The downside is, that like other mental conditions, it is outside of the social norm, and therefore labeled as “taboo.” Most people with these type of problems do not seek help until it is unfortunately too late. I grew up in a household where my parents were no strangers to self-medicating. My father was able to use substances recreationally without really becoming dependent upon them, but my mother was bitten badly by the alcohol bug when I was growing up. She was hospitalized a handful of times when I was young because of it. Finally, when I was 22, she drank herself to liver failure, and ended up in a coma for two weeks. Luckily enough for her (and me) she survived the ordeal and came out of it a much better and stronger person, who I am exceptionally thankful to have in my life.
After surviving my mother’s demons, I decided to take another approach at life. I decided long ago that I would take on all obstacles and obstructions sober. My head-on approach has not necessarily made me a better or more successful person, but it has thankfully allowed me to remember all of my stories on the other side. For that I am thankful. There has only ever been one time in my entire life where I accidentally went down the rabbit hole; it wasn’t necessarily by choice, but like most other mistakes I have made, it centered on a girl.
The summer of 2014 was quite an adventure. I had been working as a traveling ukulele salesman for over a year. My exact title was District Sales Manager for Hohner, USA. My job was selling products and setting up promotions in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Mississippi. I love traveling, but going to these states never quite felt like I had the home court advantage. By mid-summer, I was offered a change of scenery, and was promoted to the Northern California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado territory. I jumped at the opportunity. Right around the same time as this territory change, my girlfriend of the last fourish years had come to the realization that we were just not working out. I was simultaneously upset and relieved; upset because no one likes being broken up with, but relieved because I, too, realized that we were not getting along so well. She broke up with me the day before I left for a work trip to Colorado. This meant that I was going to make an effort to meet new people in Denver, and attempt not be a sad miserable bastard the entire week I was away from Richmond.
My attempt to meet new people went amazingly well, and I found solace in the arms of strangers more than once that week. While I much prefer being happily in a relationship, I am always quite happy to explore my awkward social skill set. I tend to treat the world like a giant sociology experiment, and that week, I just happened to be pleasantly rewarded. Throughout the week, I went out on two dates, saw a burlesque show, played pinball, had root beer on draft, and worked my ass off visiting most of the musical instrument stores throughout eastern Colorado.
My flight out of Denver was ridiculously early on Saturday morning, so naturally I thought the best thing to do would be to stay up all night. When my Friday night date fell through, I thought the next best idea would be to explore the city all night. I ended up getting a couple dozen doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnuts, whom I commend for not taking the easy way out with the spelling. Doughnuts over Donuts every time!
I arrived at the airport around 4:30 am for a 6:30 flight. I truly believe no one should be up that early, but thankfully it still felt like nighttime for me due to the complete lack of sleep. Being the overly upbeat guy that I am, I took it upon myself to play doughnut fairy with anyone who took the time to greet me or ask me about the giant pink box of doughnuts I was walking with. If any semblance of niceness came off of anyone, they were offered a doughnut. This might have seemed rather odd, and who knows, it very well may have been, but this is my life, and I often feel like I am a living cartoon. I shared my doughnuts with a security guard, a random older couple, and a handful of other strangers before I arrived at my gate. At my gate, I was approached by someone who was easily the most attractive person I had seen at any airport ever. She may have been a yoga teacher, and she was immediately interested in my doughnuts. She and I spoke for a few minutes before our flight to Charlotte, North Carolina was ready to take off.
We continued to talk sporadically throughout our journey to Charlotte. She was seated behind me, so I took any excuse to turn around and strike up a conversation. Once our plane landed, we stood around talking some more and ate another doughnut together. After our doughnuts, she offered me a mint before our respective flights out of North Carolina. I assumed she was offering me a mint to be nice, since I had just shared some of my amazing breakfast food with her, or maybe just because I had bad breath (a hint mint, so to speak), so I thought nothing of it as I ate the piece of candy, which resembled a large green Jolly Rancher. It happened that our connecting flights were across from each other in the next terminal over, so we proceeded to talk while walking to our gates. She broached the subject of alcohol and drugs, and I let her know that I don’t do any of the above. She laughed, and said something along the lines of, “Except weed right?” to which I let her know that I have never done that, either. She didn’t say much else, because we happened to arrive at our gates, and my plane happened to be boarding.
My last flight was about an hour long before finally making it home to Richmond, and I couldn’t wait to get home. I loved the traveling aspect of my job, but every now and again, I really missed my dog, Vonnegut. About twenty minutes into my flight, I started having a hard time reading my book. The words just weren’t making any sense. I tried to say something to the guy sitting next to me, but my words just weren’t coming out, and whatever he was saying kind of sounded like the adults from Charlie Brown.
Right about then was when I started to panic.
I felt as if I had a stroke, but I couldn’t tell anyone, because no one could really understand me. I tried to hit the call button for the flight attendant, but failed at it because I felt so heavy. The guy who I was failing to communicate with thankfully saw what I was trying to do and pressed the button for me. The flight attendant came over, and once I realized that verbal communication was out the window, I pantomimed that I would really like a drink of water. I guess I looked pretty bad, because she gave me the large 1.5 liter bottle of water, and when that one was promptly emptied, she replaced it with another equally large bottle. The water sort of helped me felt a little bit better, but I still felt as if everything was out of sync. It was like watching a dubbed foreign VHS tape, where every time you see someone’s lips move, the voice over comes out as if the tape is being eaten by your VCR – you know the audio is there, but for one reason or another, it reminds you of the satanic messages people used to supposedly hear when they played certain records in reverse. Luckily enough, at this point in time, my body decided it had enough, and I blacked out for the remainder of the flight.
I startled awake when the plane was landing. I felt a little queasy, and attempted to reach for the vomit bag in the seat pocket in front of me, but I didn’t get it in time, and I awkwardly heaved the previously consumed water and doughnuts all over the aisle of the plane. Thankfully, once again, my body lost consciousness, and when I opened my eyes I was the last passenger on the plane. I am really unsure how the guy sitting next to me got around me, but I am extremely appreciative that he didn’t just shove me out into the walkway filled with my semi-digested food. To the credit of the airlines, when the flight attendant realized I was semi-coherent again she asked if I needed a wheelchair, which I declined, believing that I was going to be okay. Instead, I promptly fell onto my face in the aisle of the plane. I didn’t go down without a fight though; I am sure my flailing arms did minor damage to the contents of my bags, as well as the other seats in my immediate vicinity. I picked myself up from the floor of the plane and sloughed the remainder of the way to the front of the aircraft. I only had to sit down one more time before I made it to the jet bridge. I was really proud of my walking skills until that fateful step from the plane to walkway once again had me doing a full face-plant.
I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out what was going on. I couldn’t stand up properly, so walking was almost entirely out of the question, and all attempts at communication thus far had left me feeling less than satisfactory. While attempting to escape the jet bridge, I felt as if I was from one of the 90’s commercials for V8 juice. My body was at a weird angle to the wall where the only point of contact was the side of my face and possibly my shoulder. The rest of me was too preoccupied with keeping my bags and the remainder of my box of doughnuts in one piece. Since I was balancing myself with my face on the wall I only stumbled a handful of times before reaching the main airport corridor, but while exiting into the main body of the airport I quickly realized how critical of a roll my face on the wall was actively playing in my balance so once there was no more wall I quickly found myself, once again, face down on the airport floor.
The lovely folks at the airport didn’t take too kindly to my exploration of their floors with my face, so they quickly cordoned off a small section of airport seating just for me and my increasingly sore head. The airport emergency medical team scooped me up from the floor and proceeded to poke and prod in an attempt to figure out what was wrong with me. After repeatedly informing them that I do not do drugs, they started asking me about what I had to eat and drink. They first thought it might have been the doughnuts, but after a couple of slurred repetitions of my tale, they started to think it was my candy, or as they kept referring to it, “the pills I happened to be on.” The first handful of times they said “pill,” I tried to correct them and let them know that the only meds I ever take are prescription Adderall and something for my allergies, but after trying to correct them, I eventually just gave up. I was obviously on the drug pills! They also thought it was monumentally funny that the drug addled idiot they scooped up off the floor had a giant box of doughnuts, so they continue to laugh it up while they passed me off to the ambulance team.
The ambulance crew was told my story of taking pills in the Charlotte airport, and like any game of telephone, they embellished it slightly, so now it turned out that I traded doughnuts for pills! I must be some mastermind to be able to turn this water into wine, but I appreciated their fantastical imaginations. They called in to the hospital that they had a 30 something year old male, who was drugged on some form of green pills that were acquired using doughnuts as currency. They also had come up with the theory that I must have also been drunk, because they hadn’t seen anyone that messed up from any pills that they knew about. I again tried to correct them, but the story was just getting too out of hand, and my communication skills were still slightly less than satisfactory. I didn’t hear all of the banter exchanged between the two EMTs, but I definitely appreciated their good humor. I just wished it wasn’t fully at my expense.
Eventually I arrived at the hospital, where they wheeled me into the emergency room and proceed to treat me like a criminal. The most condescending person I have met in my entire life just so happened to be the emergency room doctor. He kept repeatedly asking me how much I had to drink, what kind of pills I was on, and what other drugs I had in my system. In a bout of lucidity, I informed him that I had none of the above, but that I did have a piece of candy, some doughnuts, and a lot of water. He got a little snippy, and let me know that they would take blood if I would not cooperate. He asked again what color the pill I took was, and I informed him that the candy I ate was green and minty. He asked if I was sure it was green, so I angrily responded, “I am not sure because I am fucking colorblind, but yes I did think it was green.” Right around this point in time, my roommate arrived at the hospital and helped relieve a little of the palpable tension in the room. The doctor proceeded to take my blood and disappeared from the room, while a much nicer nurse took my basic information.
An hour or so passed while waiting for the results of my blood work before the doctor sauntered in the room and snidely asked how I was feeling. My normally laid back roommate was getting visibly angry with the tone the doctor took with me; I felt as if I was on the scene from Spaceballs where Dark Helmet was surrounded by assholes, and the doctor is clearly Dr. Major Asshole. He delivered the fateful news that I had large amounts of THC in my system. I proceeded to ask him numerous questions concerning the existence of weed candy and other such related topics. I told him that I have not smoked anything, nor have I eaten anything that I knew to have drugs in it, so I figured it had to have been the candy. He promptly informed me that there is no such thing, and shook his head as if I was clearly making the whole thing up. I wish I knew then what I know now, because I would have just sent him one of the many articles you can readily find about the stuff online. Instead of filling his head with actual facts though, I just let him know that I wish I had a pair of dueling gloves, so I could ride to his house on horseback, slap him across the face and promptly challenge him to a duel for my honor.
With the help of my roommates, I got home. I felt a little woozy still, but numerous hours had passed by so I figured I would “come down” soon. I am quite close with my parents now that I am an adult, and I wanted to share my awkward unintentional first drug experience with them. I told my father first, who laughed about it and passed the phone to my mother. My mother, on the other hand, didn’t think it was funny at all, and proceeded to scream at me for not listening to her about never taking candy from a stranger. She’s right, but I clearly could not tell her that; I am a grown person! To the best of my ability, I always attempt to make the best decisions for myself, but this time, I guess mother knew best.
I honestly don’t think that the angelic stranger intentionally dosed me. I think she was not doing so to be malicious in the slightest. I have thought about it quite extensively since that day. I believe that since we live in a culture that is often quick judge people based on their appearances, I may have just fallen victim to looking too much like a social stereotype. I have tattoos and had a giant box of doughnuts, therefore I must be into the weed, right? While the answer is obviously no, I can see why she may have thought she was doing me a favor.
Note to self: Don’t share doughnuts with strangers.