Background Reflections on 12 years of drug sobriety & music
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV
This blog post is surely the most personal one I have ever publicly written. My intentions are not to raid the huge international synthesizer Facebook groups or even to evangelize, but to find just a handful of people that share or are curious about the unique traits of being new people as followers of Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah and electronic music fans, to join in fellowship at Uptown Oscillators. Names omitted to protect the innocent and not so innocent.
This year I have been drug sober 12 years. I don’t keep track of dates, or celebrate anniversaries so I couldn’t tell you exactly. I have had a few extremely small ‘slips’, the last one was about half that time ago. By my counting though, the real change, the time I really figured out and put into practice that I cannot manage this in any portion, format or setting whatsoever, was after my 50th birthday, 12 something years ago. I’d have to write a book to put the whole story out there, but here is a part of my testimony.
1960’s and 1970’s
Like most youth of my generation, I started getting high in my teen years and music figured prominently. Girls, drugs, and rock and roll were the very essences of life for me, or so I thought. Through my teen years, most of the music I listened to was drug-influenced. I had a particular taste for psychedelic music but I also loved grinding guitars and pounding beats. Synthesizers were new instruments back then. All modern rock music was new-ish, and especially electronic music. The more off the beaten path the music was, the more I liked it. Extreme was good, in my personal behavior as well as my music tastes. My drug use was with pretty much everything. Experimentation was the name of the game.
Kid in a candy store was an apt description for me.
Like many then, I grew up on the Beatles, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, the Pretty Things, onward to Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Roxy Music, Eno, New York Dolls; the list is long… Even though somewhat rare, synthesizers, mellotrons, noise effects, etc., had my full attention even then.
As my teen years came to a close, I had managed to destroy most of the promise of my youth with drugs and personal chaos. Mostly though, my ‘solution’ was I needed to be better at it, I really didn’t see the core of my problems.
As I entered my 20’s I moved from the suburbs I grew up in, to the city, went to work, got married and began to start a family. My music tastes were Punk, New Wave and Reggae. Gary Numan, Public Image, Pere Ubu, Devo, Ultravox, Colin Newman… again, the list is long.
My city friends tended towards white collar and musicians. A more interesting and successful sort of drug users. We smoked weed like crazy and dabbled in cocaine. A friend of mine I knew since kindergarten was in a band Special Affect, saw a lot of those guys, bands and friends of theirs. My friend and I spent a summer in 1980, smoking skunk weed, listening to Jah Wobble and watching General Hospital, useful activity like that…
The extent of my spirituality was a friend of mine explaining to me the meat, dairy and parve Jewish eating rules to me at the now gone Bagel Restaurant on Devon Avenue in West Rogers Park.
Special Affect broke up, parts became Ministry, Thrill Kill Kult, and Concrete Blonde. I was totally enamored of new wave synth pop, Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode… Industrial became increasingly my favorite genre, Front 242, etc. After the 1st Ministry album there were personal conflicts and drug dramas; I left the circle of chaos…
The 1st time I noticed Jesus knocking on my door was in the 1st half of the 1980’s. I even considered myself saved for some period. It didn’t really show in my life though. With hindsight, I consider it a drug fluctuation. If you ever wonder to yourself, did Yehuda finally burn out when he became a believer in 2016? The answer is no, and I know this because I know exactly what a burn out salvation is. I had one. My 1980’s ‘salvation’ was a drug burn out, 2016 is the real thing and proves it every day.
After this, focused on the behavior of the church people I knew I became somewhat anti-Jesus, though still spiritual. I began to hew closer to my Jewish roots, though mostly culturally. I grew up in a mixed Jewish-Christian though 100% secular family.
The mid 1980’s were big for me. My first marriage finished disintegrating. The 1st of my great pains was my children moving to another state. Life was in flux. My career began to take off. I increased my drug use. I dated fashion models. I dined nightly in expensive restaurants, ran around downtown mostly in a suit and tie. I had a friend that dealt cocaine, the consequence for me being that I had all the free mother of pearl cocaine I wanted. Cocaine was the symbol of success in many of our eyes. Harmless of course, just fun, wow, were we deluded or what?
Some of the most memory erased periods of my life were in the late 1980’s. I can’t even remember what I did with my beloved Gibson SG Jr. or Moog synth. I quit cocaine in 1989, my then fiancee gave me an ultimatum, cocaine or her and I chose her.
The 1990’s – Greed is good but then crashes
Without doubt the 1990’s were the most financially successful period of my life. My fiancee and I married, eventually quit weed to have kids. Life was a North Shore suburban success dream to some eyes… I became semi-observant in my Judaism, kosher home, shul on Holidays, all the ritual events, blah, blah, blah.
Eventually after the kids were born we both started smoking weed again. I hated the suburbs though, she didn’t and to make a long story short and super simplified, that whole chapter came to crashing and I mean crashing end. The 2nd of my great pains was the kids from that marriage being alienated from me and blammo, 1998 I’m back in the city. Girls, drugs, and rock and roll again! Yay or so I thought.
Next, I have to say there was a long time I couldn’t talk about the 1990’s and 2000’s. In corporate employment, relationships like romantic or tenant, you just can’t always be who you really are. The wild 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, everyone gets. 90’s onward, not so much. Fortunately I’m a new person in Christ, I work and live in a ministry that gets that; I also have no criminal record or other impossible to get over actions. Not everyone is so blessed.
Another thing I will mention, is that until the 2000’s, I was a fairly arrogant person. I thought I was really smart. I thought my Rothschild genes made me extra-special. At those points, even in the pits of poverty or drug addiction, I had a closet full of Brooks Brothers and Armani suits and oxford shirts, and my casual was dry cleaned and pressed Polo shirts and khakis… I always thought I’m not that kind of drug addict or that kind of poor person. Wow, was I wrong though…
2 kindred spirits, Marilyn Manson and Infected Mushroom
OK it’s 1998, I’m in my loft apartment, joyous for having escaped (or so I thought) an extremely abusive situation, but lonely, damaged and smoking weed 24/7. I’m concerned I might have to take a drug test and fail without 30 days to clear out (but not enough to be sober!) and my ex-friend, a physician, suggests Vicoprofen as a solution that will clear out in 3 days and he can drug test me privately to be 100% sure. I never did end up getting drug tested, but I sure did like Vicoprofen.
At the same time, I met my future common-law wife of 8 years, and guess what? She was also lonely, abuse damaged and loved Vicoprofen! And not only that, but synthesizers, grinding guitars and pounding beats!
Marilyn Manson’s The Dope Show was our theme song, and our ‘home’ rang out with Manson, Skinny Puppy, Nirvana and increasingly as we fell into our lull, bands like Infected Mushroom. She had a trust fund of sorts, and we moved to a really nice loft in the West Loop. FYI to be clear, none of our addictions included needles. Tooters not shooters!
It is true that I was in so much pain and so damaged, that without her and our opiate addictions, I likely would have committed suicide. Even as it were, I begged G-d to let me die in my sleep many a night. Instead, G-d began a work in me.
I began to lose my arrogance. I saw much suffering and poverty, some innocent, some not so much. I began to grasp how much help people needed, how the odds were stacked against them. I began to really understand racism. Still I was too sick myself to help anyone else. My capacity to empathize with others, began to grow. I eventually yearned for sobriety and the freedom from drugs, which now for the 1st time in my life I felt powerless against. I truly do not regret this part of my life though, for it is from this pain that the love of G-d sprung forth.
In 2006, I left that relationship. It was hard, for I loved that woman but I knew neither of us would survive, that it would be impossible to stay sober living with another addict. Death would be the only thing waiting for us otherwise. Now, I rather doubt that removing the bond of drugs and abuse, there would be anything left to our relationship to pursue, but I do pray for her, she is a generous loving person, unfortunately with a life crippling addiction. I guess you always feel some guilt when you are the one that gets away…
Anyone that thinks quitting an opiate addiction is just a decision or getting past the withdrawal doesn’t have a clue. It takes years. It’s crazy hard. Finally achieving sobriety in 2006 after cold turkey, methadone, suboxone, anti-anxiety and sleep meds therapies, I still spent a few years just getting my act together. As I mentioned, I left my significant other. I also left my home, every friend and pretty much my entire life. Little is worth death my friends, no matter how much you need it or want it.
Opiate addiction IS a serious sickness, only 11% manage to get past it, pretty grim. It may be better now, but in my day in the US, an unemployed single person of my age then could not get medical insurance. Maybe if you were together enough or loved enough by someone, you could maneuver the maze and get in some kind of medical treatment, but I couldn’t.
G-d was working on me throughout this time. I thought he ignored my prayers for death years earlier, but I was so wrong. My empathy for others was growing in leaps and bounds. I began to understand others troubles and challenges without direct experience. This was new for me, being a learn things the hard way kind of person.
I bought a Taylor acoustic guitar and started strumming. It got stolen. Broke my heart, let me tell you! I saved up, bought another less expensive guitar, kept strumming… [Be patient synth lovers, synths win the contest in the end!]
I still considered myself totally broken, pretty sure my life would never be of value. My self-esteem was healing but not fully yet! I continued to attach myself to broken or abusive situations.
I married a wonderful woman, however her other personality was an alcoholic. It didn’t work out, we divorced in 2016 after a 4 year relationship. Yehuda 0, divorce 4, hmmm. OK maybe marriage isn’t for me, we’ll see.
During that relationship, I began working for the homeless as an activist. Truly this was more satisfying to me than most of my life, how bizarre, working for others benefits me? There is no hope for me but maybe I can help others or make a small corner of the world a little better I thought…
I can’t speak for everyone but in my experience G-d can speak to you, but your brain may need some time after addiction to rewire enough to listen to G-d.
In my homelessness activism I met a number of people from the Jesus People USA, an intentional community that also runs one of Chicago’s largest homeless shelters. I can’t even begin to describe the love and the acts of kindness I saw, yet they were completely human and non-judgmental. My curiosity welled. They were the only people that seemed to sense the pain I was in from my disintegrating relationship, but patient while I was a deer in headlights…
One night, alone in my bed, I prayed to G-d. I didn’t challenge him, I just said G-d/Jesus if you are real I want to know that. For the first time in my life I didn’t tell G-d how I expected him to be, but was ready to follow him as he exists. Now seriously, you may be or have been like me, in the US, it’s pretty easy to think Jesus is a right wing Republican conservative hater, but he’s not. Hit me up later if you want more info on that subject.
Then finally I could see G-d’s love for me
Unexplainable, but for days after that prayer I became uber-conscious of G-d, uber-conscious of Jesus. Trust me, this is a wild ride for a Jew! I couldn’t ignore it though. And on another completely separate subject, that intentional community Jesus People USA, I wanted to be a part of it. But I thought it wasn’t an option. I had all these imaginary suppositions, none of which were true. I learned later, imaginary suppositions are very common among people outside the community. As it turned out I was offered to consider living in the senior housing there, said I had no income at the moment, the answer was consider joining the community. I was flabbergasted, thinking to myself I don’t even believe in Jesus. I really wanted to be a part of Jesus People though.
And make no mistake, on the first completely unconnected subject, I was a domino ready to fall for Jesus, but I don’t think anyone knew that. I moved in the community and became a part of the Jesus People USA ministry. Still my uber-consciousness of Jesus just kept growing, it wasn’t going away. I researched and immersed myself silly in history and science. I couldn’t disprove it.
And like a domino I did fall, within less than a month after moving, I became a believer.
I don’t believe there is an experience common to all, but mine was unmistakable and unexplainable. If you have never felt the love of Jesus in his true followers, you are really missing something. If you have felt the love of Jesus directly like I did, G-d’s spirit in your body/mind, it is a truly awesome experience.
I felt the love of G-d and the love of G-d’s followers (and I’m not talking ‘thoughts and prayers’ here, I’m talking real action). Even my ex-wife-to-be at the time said “wow this is real with you, I can tell”. It was markedly different from the ‘burn out salvation’ I experienced in the 80’s, no comparison.
And now today…
I’ve been a follower of Yeshua for over 2.5 years, and even though I live in a super musical and alternative environment, I’m trying to build a stronger electronic music community of believers and interested.
Yesterday, I saw a real funny fake magazine cover called ‘Delusional SynthOwner, Start your mid-life crisis NOW!’ This may be true for me even though I think I’m past qualifying for mid-life, but hey it’s a healthy addiction for me, hopefully you too, and music is glorifying to G-d.
So please join us in the Uptown Oscillators Facebook Group! It’s a group, it’s yours as much as mine, it’s about all of us. Please post your testimony or share your gear/music. Hope to hear from you!
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