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This week we bring you Chapter 10 of  HIGH Confessions of a Cannabis Addict By Leonard Lee BuschelLeonard 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.



Chapter 12 

Blackmail, Paris, Doors, Miles Gone 


My intoxicated fiancée, Laura, had just gotten up on stage to re-create her famous, extremely erotic, almost downright pornographic LA pole dancing moves at New Georges, the local live music dive in San Rafael. At that moment, I am getting a little pissed off over her exhibitionism. My friend Marian Bach invites (really, cajoles) me into the handicapped bathroom to show me her new black garters and seamed stockings. 

I don’t think I did more than touch something, but the next morning Marian comes over to my house, insisting I made a date with her. I tell her that she must have misheard me because I’m now engaged to Laura, who is asleep in the bedroom. Marian barges into the house and starts yelling about what I did the night before. I ask her to leave to no avail, so I have to pick her up and carry her outside. She starts yelling into my open bedroom window, so I have to choke her to shut her up. Then I carry her to her car by her neck. She takes off, but 10 minutes later, calls me screaming that she wants $1,000 compensation for the bruises on her wrists and neck, and she is coming over in an hour to pick up the damn money, or she’ll tell Laura “everything.” 

She also threatens to call my son’s Waldorf School and tell them what his father does for a living. I have a feeling the school knew what I did because whenever there was a class trip to the planetarium or main library, I was always called to be one of the drivers. I guess they knew I worked from home and could usually get away for the day. At that time, a couple of the Dead had their kids in the same school. It was fun seeing Phil Lesh dropping off his little dead head, and Jerry Garcia depositing his daughter at the door on many mornings. They weren’t the only celebrity, drug-using parents. The school did a couple musical shows a year, and the house band was made up of the rhythm section of Hot Tuna. 

“Laura, Laura, wake up” I said, shaking her shoulder, “There are two important things I need you to do.” 

“What?” She’s groggy but willing. 

“In about a half-hour, some girl is coming over. Two things: Give her this thousand dollars.” 


“And don’t believe anything she says.” 

I would have been happy to have given Marian the $1,000 myself, but Eddie and Steve were picking me up soon because we had a tee time for 11:00 a.m.

Laura agreed without question. Having been a professional stripper in LA, I guess she had heard stranger things than this. 

My engagement to Laura was intense but didn’t last long. I had to ask her and a daughter to move out because her old Jaguar wasn’t really breaking down every other day. She just needed an excuse to go see her mechanic to smoke crack. I had quit freebasing and snorting coke. Taking the high road, I only snorted MDMA. When drug addicts are lying, they’re not really lying. They’re just surviving. 

When I was in Paris with the love of my life du jour, Melissa, and we went to visit Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris, early in the morning on no sleep, after drinking and clubbing all night with some Parisian bohemians, writers, and scalawags, making memories that have lasted to this day. I was high as could be, the only appropriate way to visit Jim Morrison’s grave. I threw up on Chopin, also buried there, and Melissa passed out on Gertrude Stein. (That was fitting. Get it?) As we were leaving Père Lachaise cemetery, there was a full-blown French alcoholic offering us a pull on his unceremoniously, un-chilled half-gallon bottle of rot gut. At least it was French rot gut. We accepted. The man’s nose was as bulbous as W. C. Fields, who when asked why he didn’t drink water, famously answered, “Because fish fuck in it.” 

On August 4, 1968, I was 18 years old and saw Jim Morrison and The Doors perform at the Philadelphia Arena. The arena also hosted wrestling shows most notably Ray Fabiani’s Mat Time. Some new, enterprising promoter rented the hall and booked The Doors. During their performance it was 100 degrees inside the arena. This new, enterprising promoter decided to save money and not spring for the A/C. 

Everyone had taken their shirts off, including some of the ladies, but that’s not what made the evening so extraordinary. It was . . . his voice. I realized Jim’s voice was incredibly beautiful, though the nature of his music was raw and hardcore. His voice was angelic. For me it was witnessing the beginning of time and not The End. If you want to hear a gorgeous song that’s not necessarily upbeat, go listen to “The End.” When Jim yells, “Father, I want to kill you” and “Mother, I want to . . . (SCREAM) . . . you!” Fill in the Freudian exaltation here. I thought The Doors would last forever. But, as you can see, I had to visit Jim’s grave while I was in Paris. 

Cool coincidence. On August 4, 1994, EXACTLY 26 years after seeing The Doors in Philly, I went through the doors of Betty Ford and have never gotten high again. Jim died on July 3, 1971. According to Sam Bernett, a Paris nightclub manager, he died of a heroin overdose. 




It’s New Year’s Eve 1993. I’m still with, or back with, Melissa and we have a great night planned in front of the fireplace and on our knees. This well-provisioned party was crashed by her son Fang. (A child’s name certainly conceived in someone’s dark unconsciousness.) At exactly half-past nine, as I’m three-quarters to third base, and only one sheet to the wind, Fang appears in our foyer. We never locked the door because the police station was at the corner, and we knew that would be a good deterrent to the local breaking-and-entering crowd. 

“Why aren’t you at that party?” we ask in unison, as if an impromptu Greek chorus. 

“They kicked me out and said I can’t come back unless I bring them some pot.” 

This poses a moral dilemma. I am a pot dealer, with pounds of weed in a suitcase in the other room. I planned on a cool night of hot romance with the woman I was madly in love with. Except now this kid is the ultimate teenage buzz killer, looking for a bud to go back to the party with. What would you do? Well, I didn’t do that. In hindsight, I would have been far happier had I given the kid a lid and taken him back to the party, where redeemed, he would have been joyously included, almost as if they actually valued his presence. But no, I would not give pot to a 15-year-old just so I could have sex with his mother. I must have been temporarily insane or smitten with the morals I always knew I had.

Therefore, with her son home for the duration of the now cancelled inebriation celebration, I did what any disappointed morally trapped drug dealer would do—I took enough Valium to knock me out well before Auld Lang Syne. The ball was dropping in Times Square. As were my hopes for a happily ever after with Melissa. I honestly didn’t want to greet the California New Year conscious of my emotional vulnerability to overturned expectations. With my sex addiction to Melissa, and her sex addiction to every Tess, Deb, and Harriet, I really thought I could not live without her. With my passion addiction, my codependency, my enabling, my attachment, my obsession, my love, and my need for her, who I could not live without, I felt a despair to my core. In the course of our relationship, suicide was not a regular guest but did do an occasional walk on. An example of my self-serving self-centered view of the universe, I considered that evening one of the “worst nights ever.” 

Note: It takes 5 mg of Valium to negate, undo, or nullify every four lines of coke snorted. Some of you old coke fiends out there probably think I’m a lightweight. If I wasn’t a lightweight, my lights would have been turned off years ago. I valued the moderation techniques I applied to my using career because they allowed me to be high on weed and booze for 26 years and high on coke every day for 13 years. 




I smoked my breakfast, drank my lunch, and snorted my dinner. Did I have a choice? Of course. Was I consciously choosing to use an endless array of mind and mood-altering substances after weighing all options? Of course not. I didn’t get sober for seven more years after I almost died. Even with all my excesses, when I did smoke heroin, about a dozen times, I realized that if I continued, I would be making a choice to ruin my life. Yet I kept using coke and Ecstasy, pushing the envelope, challenging God and these substances to prove me wrong.

Most Americans are not well-versed in moderation. Being very American, the “less is more” concept eluded me. If one line of coke is good, twelve are better. But I never wanted to become a junkie. Everyone knows that HEROIN addiction is bad for you. I hope they teach that in high school! I know most people would say that’s too late. There’s a fine line between educating about the dangers of drug use and introducing the realities of drug use. YES, it will make you feel a euphoria that only kings, queens and lottery winners experience, and then you quit or die. It’s that simple.

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but an ounce of sugar may trigger the need for medical intervention. I was into sugar by the spoonful, pot by the pound, and coke by the kilo. And heartaches? I had heartaches with each new relationship—heartaches by the dozen.

There was a painful time in my life when my brother and I weren’t talking to each other, until one night he called me to tell me that Miles Davis had just died. He knew I’d rather hear that from a loved one that some Caucasian commentator on the 11 o’clock news. We re-bonded over our undying love for Miles. We were both feeling kind of blue. And we’ve never been out of touch ever since. 

The conversation brought back a vivid memory from Philly years ago. The pink sunlight was peeking in through the frosted apartment window while the phonograph needle on the old cheap record player was stuck in a groove on Kind of Blue. The same line, over and over and over, while Tina Badame was vomiting, and it became as if her retching was an intentionally overlaid track on Miles Davis’s masterpiece. This blending was a most heavenly way to end a perfect night of weed, booze, blow, and sex. The sunlight of dawn, the expansive release (retching) of a gorgeous woman, and the music of Miles Davis, Paul Chambers, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Wynton Kelly, and Bill Evans. Can there be a better heaven? 

After I hung up the phone with Brother Bruce, I grabbed my transistor radio knowing that KJAZ would be playing Miles all night. I grabbed a blanket and my girlfriend’s hand and we walked to the park at the end of the block. As we laid down, we saw a star shooting across the sky. I don’t know if that was Miles waving good-bye to us or Miles playing his final note in a silent way. 

You can buy a copy of Leonards book HERE



Leonard Buschel is a Philadelphia native, and a very happy Studio City resident. He is a California Certified Substance Abuse Counselor with years of experience working with people struggling with addiction. He attended Naropa University in Boulder, CO. Mr. Buschel is the founder of Writers In Treatment whose primary purpose is to promote ‘treatment’ as the best first step solution for addiction, alcoholism and other self-destructive behaviors. Leonard is the director of the twelve year old REEL Recovery Film Festival & Symposium®, and for seven years has been the editor/publisher of the weekly Addiction/Recovery eBulletin®. He also produces the annual Experience, Strength and Hope Awards® in Los Angeles.

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