This week we bring you Chapter 10 of HIGH Confessions of a Cannabis Addict By Leonard Lee Buschel. Leonard Lee Buschel is an American publisher, substance abuse counsellor and co-founder of Writers in Treatment, which supports recovery and the arts, and executive director of REEL Recovery Film Festival, focusing on stories of addiction and recovery. This week, we bring you the Preface to whet your appetite. Follow us weekly for more delicious chapters of this incredible story.
Hey Mama, Can This Really Be the END?
Parenting is not as easy as they make it sound in the Good Housekeeping magazine. As easygoing as she was, my mother had her share of anxiety-provoking moments. Now remember, my mother was not unaware of my vocational aspirations to become a drug dealer. Up to age 79 (her age when I got sober), she always thought something bad would happen to me. There’s an old saying that a mother can often share about a son like me: “Every time I hear the phone ring, I don’t know if it’s the hospital or the police calling, and I often picture you dead in a gutter.”
I did have a death-defying incident that even my mother’s clairvoyance could not have predicted. The incident was certainly drug related. One night, at age 37, I was nocturnally socializing with my friend and roommate Steve D. and a friend of his in Studio City, snorting coke and downing endless bottles of Heineken. When I finally laid down to sleep, as the sun was coming up, and those awful birds were starting to sing, I had a massive asthma attack brought on by dehydration and my completely collapsed bronchia.
Luckily, we hadn’t taken the usual 6:00 a.m. “let’s get to sleep now” 10 mg Valium. When I fell against Steve’s bedroom door, he was still awake. He saw that I was suffocating and completely blue. He immediately called 911. I was dying. I could see myself dying. And I didn’t want to die. I was dead set against it.
It was the worst, most horrible and frightening experience of my entire life. While dying I was being catapulted through deep space, a million miles of the darkest hell imaginable. I was almost dead. Seconds from the end. No white light, no tunnel shimmering a beckoning plea. I was silently screaming louder than the foghorn on the Titanic. I was hurtling into unimaginable darkness. Blackness, but much blacker than that. Screaming, SCREAMING into the abyss, an abyss so dark and frightening. So horrifying flying through the tunnel of DEATH with NO RETURN. But I did—return that is. I saw my son’s DNA floating in the cosmos and knew I had to make it back. I fought the will of death with all my might. I could not let Ben grow up without me. I wasn’t going to become my father.
The next thing I was conscious of was my mother’s voice. But she lived in Philly, so where was I? Maybe I really had died. Then I heard other voices and realized I couldn’t see. I was blind. I thought I was blind. I didn’t know it, but my eyelids had been taped shut.
I heard the nurse’s voice saying, “He’s conscious now.” She peeled the tape off my eyelids. They had been taped shut because the doctors gave me so much adrenaline and morphine that my eyelids wouldn’t close and my eyeballs would’ve dried up and cracked. My throat was in excruciating pain. The nurse had just taken the ventilator out of my throat after two days of having it breathe for me to keep me alive.
I later found out that North Hollywood Medical Center had called my mother in Philadelphia and told her that she had better be on the next flight to LA because there was a 50/50 chance she’d be flying home with her son’s body. The doctor later told me that if 911 had been called a half-hour later, I would’ve died in the ambulance, slowed down on Riverside Drive in morning traffic. I was minutes from being pronounced DOA. I had two sons, 8 and 10-years old at the time. Imagine . . . how different their lives would’ve been had I never woken up from almost dying
I hope when I die the next time it’s not that bad. There are very few records of horrifying near-death experiences. I have to reread The Tibetan Book of the Dead and see what it says. I try to rehearse for it. Meditation is a rehearsal for dying, for letting go. Hopefully, I’m inching toward a successful letting go then . . . I don’t know when.
When I was released four days later, the thought of not drinking or doing blow never crossed my mind—not even for a split second. My only health-improving lifestyle decision was to switch from vodka to Bombay Sapphire gin, which has herbs in it, so I thought it would be healthy like a tonic.
Great blog! I’m new to this and would like to catch up and read the whole blog. I’m only able to access chapter 9 and 10. Could you help?
If you type in “High Confessions of a cannabis addict” into the search area all chapters will come up for you.
Great anecdote. Reminds me of a time I was nearly choked to death in an active addiction brawl. I fought like hell to stay alive and need to remember that every time I pick up I’m putting myself back in that choke hold, a powerless victim. I’d like to get in touch with the author as I wrote a 200 page rough draft book of my addiction and recovery struggles.