I had never been one of the ‘cool kids’ in my eyes. But in 7th grade, I got into a fight on the last day of school, over something stupid, and I was declared winner. That kind of opened the doors to do what these other kids were doing – and it wasn’t necessarily good things.
That summer I spent a lot of time at this place in my town we called “Devil’s Trail”, or the “Trail” for short. I had my first beer and I think I smoked my first cigarette there. Then later on in the summer, I started smoking weed with these kids. One of them had older brothers who were a bad influence on him, and it was readily available to him, so we smoked it. And then we eventually got our hands on K2, and we were like “Oh, it’s awesome. Scientists made it, so it’s safe”.
There’s a couple things in my life that I regret, and that’s one of them.
I started spending less and less time at home. I don’t know what my parents thought was going on. I don’t remember what I told them I was doing or where I was. But at the end of the summer I got caught smoking weed, and they put me in full lock down for like 3 or 4 months. And for a while that was probably the extent of my smoking – freshman and sophomore year I dabbled in it, but it seemed like every time I’d do it I’d get caught. There would be occasions where I would get away with it at first, but it would always come back to bite me. My stepdad was a corrections officer and I lived with my Mom, and they were keenly aware of it, so it was really hard to get away with anything.
But at the end of my sophomore year, we went to my stepsister’s “wedding”. (I use that term loosely because she was a lesbian, so it wasn’t an actual wedding; it was just a little celebration of her and her girlfriend.) And afterwards I stayed up there with one of my brothers, who was always staying the night over there and getting drunk. I was like, “Whatever, I’ll stay here and we’ll have a good time. It’s fine.”
And I smoked.
Up until this point I probably hadn’t smoked for like 6 months, and I had been really adamant about not smoking. Because I just got tired of being in trouble all the time. But I smoked that night…and it was a lot of fun. I remembered why I had started smoking in the beginning. So after that I started again like anybody does, like “I’m only going to do it once in a while.”
Well it quickly progressed, and my junior year was spent in a haze of weed smoke. I didn’t feel normal when I wasn’t high. I started skipping my first two hours of the day – I had a welding class at another school that wouldn’t notify anybody if I wasn’t in class, so I eventually just started skipping it.
And then I got in trouble with my parents again, because they caught me skipping class. And that was just, the worst. I would get depressed if I didn’t smoke; and after they caught me, I couldn’t smoke, I wasn’t allowed out of my house… I just fell into this funk.
I made up my mind that I was going to kill myself.
So the first night they let me out, it was Halloween and we were going to my brother’s football game. I went out to drink with my friends before the game, and it’s kind of foggy from there. I don’t remember exactly what happened, I just know that something happened, and the next morning I woke up in the hospital. I was put in the behavioral ward, because they thought I was a threat to myself. Which, I guess I was. I mean, I had had a plan and everything. But that whole incident kind of averted me, and I was like, “Alright, whatever, life’s worth living.”
When I got out, I immediately went back to what I was doing before. I was smoking weed again, and my parents had started letting me off the hook about it. Basically, if I didn’t bring it home, they wouldn’t say anything to me. So I just stopped bringing it home.
That winter, one of my really good friends died of cancer. She and I had known each other since 5th grade, and all of the people in my little pothead group were really close to her. Her death dammed everything up. We started smoking more and more, and higher quantities.
And then, New Year’s Eve, all of my friends tripped acid for the first time.
For me that was a big no-go. Like, absolutely not. I told them I’d watch them to make sure they didn’t kill each other, but I refused to do it. They kept telling me that it was great, but I was pretty adamant about not doing it.
And then, sometime in March, I tripped for the first time.
I didn’t really know how to feel about the first trip. But it was kinda fun. One of the most defining moments of the trip was, I was chewing on it, wondering when it was gonna kick in, and I took a Snapchat. And the picture changed colors. This was before they had that black and white filter, but it went black and white, and my face was all pixelated. And I saved it, because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating it the next day. Sure enough, when I woke up, the picture was the same. It was one of the weirdest things.
One of the things about acid is, you can ask yourself questions, and something inside of you will answer. It stimulates different parts of the brain. It’s a really weird drug. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
But, every time I tripped, I’d feel like I was on the next chapter of a book. And I felt like, if I could just get to the end of this book, I would know something that changed the world. And this developed a love for LSD for me.
I tripped every week for 13 weeks straight.
On the 13th trip, I decided I was going to trip during the daytime. Like, I heard it’s supposed to be fun, but I had only ever tripped at night. So I put two tabs on my tongue – which wasn’t the most I’d taken, but it certainly wasn’t a little bit either – and I drove to Walmart to wait for it to kick in. See, at this point in my life, I was also selling drugs to buy more drugs; and along with that, I’d steal alcohol from Walmart and sell that too. I was just going down a horrible path. My parents didn’t even know what to do with me.
And as I’m leaving Walmart, the acid starts to kick in. I didn’t really feel it as much as notice the effects – like cars going by and leaving tracers. And what a tracer is, it’s the outline of where something once was, and you can still see the color and everything. It’s kind of like when you’re taking a panoramic photo and someone’s slowly moving, and you have these pieces of their head in the picture.
So I pull over, doing the “responsible” thing – I also use that term loosely – and I call the kid who sold it to me.
Me and Max, we’d known each other since the 3rd grade, though we had never really ever hung out. But I called him and I was like, “Hey I’m starting to trip and I’m driving. Will you pick me up?” And I asked him if he wanted to hang. So he picked me up.
We were just sitting in his car smoking and listening to music, when at some point during the trip, I noticed that the music was narrating what we were doing. And then I looked around, and the world literally looked upside down to me. Like, everything just looked wrong.
I’d also smoked to the point that I didn’t even remember what I was on, and I kind of started freaking out.
Then Max changed the song that was narrating everything going on, to a song that didn’t have a beat to it. It was this guy talking about how at night he has so much fun; how he’s the life of the party, how he can drink and smoke a bunch. But then when the music finally stops, all he’s left with is his addictions and he’s all alone. He has nothing.
I started freaking out again. I wanted to know why the song didn’t have a beat. But Max told me not to worry about it, and then he switched the song again. And the next song – it kind of told how I was living. It talked about selling drugs, living for the worldly things and how, like, when you die that’s probably just it. And that part really started scaring me.
Max changed the song a third time, to this song that was talking about everlasting life and how you need to live a certain way. And by now I was really freaking out. And then Max asked me, “Which one would you choose? Which song sounded better to you?”
I wanted to say the one about everlasting life, but I didn’t. I said “Of course the one’s that gangster.”
The music got switched off, and I could hear the narrating music again. Max started going on about how acid’s the ultimate cross between the Father and Son, and he was signing the cross – going from his forehead to his heart, then his left shoulder to his right. And he did this like 4 or 5 times. He was saying a lot of spooky stuff, and he seemed enveloped in this darkness. I was terrified.
Then all of a sudden we were back where he picked me up. He asked me if I wanted to smoke more, but I was more interested in getting out of there.
As I’m getting out of his car he goes, “If you keep hanging around me, you’re going to have to make a choice. And that choice is going to come sooner rather than later.” Then he left.
That choice came on the last day of school. I was at Max’s home – it was me, 1500 people, all of my friends, and all of Max’s friends. We had just clam-baked his basement; we had passed around bongs, bowls, blunts – anything you could imagine putting weed in, we had in that basement. And then we’d moved outside to play hacky sack.
There were too many people for one group, so we split off into two – me and my friends, and Max and his. And while we’re playing, Max calls me over to his group and he starts asking me if I want to play hacky sack.
Immediately I got this uneasy feeling. Just the way he said it, and the way he was holding himself. And the way he kept asking me if I want to play hacky sack.
Then he asked me, “Your name is Caleb Coleman, right?”
Max had known me since the 3rd grade. But he kept asking me if that’s my name. Finally I said, “Yes, Max. My name is Caleb Coleman.”
And as soon as I said that I heard that music again. That music that seemed to narrate the scene. Except this time, it was telling me that today was the day that I had to make my choice. I looked around the yard, and everybody, even my friends, just looked evil. And one of my really good friends was standing behind Max going “I wanna play, let me play, Max. I wanna play hacky sack.”
I realized that, whatever choice I had to make, it wasn’t to stay here.
At the time, I was wearing this shirt that had really come to define me personality: it was a Grizzly High baseball jersey. I dipped Grizzly, and I lived my life high. It was the perfect shirt for me. But as I was leaving, I took it off and threw it in the back of my buddy’s car. Under it I had on this grey Led Zeppelin shirt with the fallen angel on it.
Max only lived 3 or 4 blocks from me. So I grabbed my longboard and started heading home, when I hear this voice telling me to turn around.
At the time, I didn’t believe in God. I was an atheist, I had no faith whatsoever. I’d told my parents there wasn’t a God. But something told me to turn around that day, and now I accredit it to God, because of where I ended up.
I had no idea where I was going. But I turned around, and I just started crying, and begging Christ for forgiveness. And then I looked up, and I was at this church. And I heard God telling me to knock on the door.
No one answered the first time I knocked, so I went to the next door and knocked again. This pastor opened it, and I started crying harder, and telling him everything that I had done wrong. I told him how horrible I felt, and that something had told me to come to the church.
As I’m talking to this guy, my Dad calls and asks me what I’m up to. When I told him I was at a church, he didn’t believe me and started getting mad. But I insisted I was, so then he wanted to know what I was doing there. I was like, “What do I say?” And the pastor told me to let him talk to my dad.
Fifteen minutes later my stepmom came and picked me up, and I told her everything that had happened. And then I told my Dad.
Probably a month before this happened, I had gotten kicked out of my Mom’s house for getting in a fight with my stepdad. And one of the requirements to live with my dad, who only lived like a mile away, was that I had to go see his pastor friend, Jeff. I told my dad it wasn’t going to change anything, but I agreed to it anyway.
One of the things Jeff kept telling me was that Christ is the cure. I kind of ignored him. That wasn’t the truth for me. And I started asking him all these questions to try and stump him…but he answered all of them. Until that point, it had seemed like no one could answer my questions about God.
Then Jeff says, “There’s a reason you’re here. Do you really think your dad wouldn’t have taken you in if you didn’t agree to this? You’re obviously searching for something, because nobody would just agree to this.”
“You’re going to find the truth sooner or later, regardless of what you believe,” he said.
And that was about a month before Max’s party.
After I got saved, I started going to church and switched up what I was doing with my life. I got involved with the youth group at my dad’s church. I went on a mission trip like a month after I got saved too, to Tennessee to minister to inner-city kids. I had probably read one book of the Bible at that point, and that was the book of John.
Now I’m torn between doing mission work and becoming a pastor. I recently signed up for a prison ministry at the juvenile detention center here, just so I can hopefully talk to some kids who are similar to me or will actually hear what I have to say.
Caleb “CJ” Coleman is a freshman Biblical Studies major at Cedarville University. He enjoys hip-hop music and freestyle rap. “I can write raps a little bit, but I’m trying to get good at it.”