1985

Trauma: noun

A deeply distressing or disturbing experience. A personal trauma like the death of a child.

PTSD & Traumatic Stress : An anxiety disorder that develops in reaction to physical injury or severe mental or emotional distress, such as military combat, violent assault, natural disaster, or other life-threatening events.

Life truly is an interesting experience. It’s funny how things can change, just by changing the way we look at them. For the longest time, I would share my story to whoever was listening and I would say things like “yeah, I had a pretty normal childhood.” Or, as one of my blurbs from the first book put it, “Herb spent his life like most kids in Georgia, riding bikes and playing baseball.” And though that second one is true, it isn’t full. It lacks so very much.

I just got out of treatment. I had a very steep and dramatic decline in my mental health and was turning to Alcohol, IPAs more specifically as a way to cope and deal with all of the symptoms that came along with such an ugly spiral. Fear, Rumination, Isolation, Suicidal thoughts, Angry outbursts, etc. And it’s interesting to me, the whole “The past ain’t changin'” school of thought. Because, for me, it absolutely did. I went to treatment “for alcohol, and mental health” and came out with a brand new perspective on the story of my life. And in order to accurately try and explain it all, I suppose we should start at the very beginning.

July 12, 1985. Foreigner, Skynyrd, and ACDC blast on the sound system of a local bowling alley in Clayton County, Ga. The sound of pins smashing against each other can be heard from end to end of the building. Pool balls splash as local pool sharks, hustlers, and guppies sip PBR’s and smoke Marlboro Reds. The whole place smells like cigarette smoke and cheap hair spray. High fives go up as a team probably called “The Gutterballs” battles a team probably called “7’s and 10’s” for the league championship, a 25 dollar gift card each and shitty plastic trophy. On lane number 9 a small group has gathered for a Friday night out. Wings, beer, shots of Jack, and more than likely, some key bumps of cocaine in the bathroom. Or Crank. it’s the 80’s, who the hell knows. An Atlanta Braves game drones on on mute on nearby TVs, and some unaccompanied kids run amuck, only stopping by their parents lane to ask for more money to play in the arcade on the other side of the alley.

It’s a normal, hot and sticky summer night in central Georgia. The crowd is average size and average looking for this particular moment in human history and this particular place on the map. Lots of mustaches, big hair, denim, and motorcycles out front. A small circle of people are gathered around the hood of a muscle car smoking some shitty 80’s weed out of a metal pipe while freebird blares through the speakers. Giant yellow moths dart back and forth around the street lights and around the lights of the overhead lights above the bating cages.

Inside a group from the lanes bops up to the bar for a couple pitchers of Budweiser and a couple shots of Whisky, as one of them throws a Five Dollar Bill into the jukebox and another Five into a cigarette machine. The sound of a strike fills the air, followed by the “woooo’s” and “Boom”s of celebration as a team takes the lead over the other.

The group from lane number nine is having the best night ever. And they have their own stories to tell. It’s been such a journey for them already, and they are just out enjoying the night together. A man and his wife, her brother, and his wife, and some friends. They talk about everything under the sun all the time, but tonight its just having fun. Just enjoying being alive. The women from the group all make a trip to the ladies room to pee, and enjoy a couple bumps of cocaine in the restroom, maybe check their makeup and scrunch their hair so it looks fresh and extra big, nice and “Aqua Net-y”. They laugh and crack jokes about the men in their group, and how they “woulda beat that bitches ass if she would have kept goin earlier”. The men in the group decide to take advantage of the women’s absence by heading out to smoke a joint and have a cigarette in the parking lot. All is going really well. They are having the best Friday night out in a while. Work’s good, spouses are good, life is good. It’s a beautiful and warm summer night in Georgia, and no one has any complaints.

The crew reconvenes on their lane and the night marches on! Pitcher after pitcher, key bump after key bump. Open frame after spare after strike. High fives around. Karaoke breaks out in the bar room, and once their game is over, its off to hit those notes! The women sing in a group to “Like a virgin” and the men sing in a group to “Take on Me” as the crowd cheers and yells for an encore. Pull tabs are purchased and played, the losing tabs being discarded into large metal pails. The ashtrays grow increasingly full. The men in the group decide to challenge the women in the group to some team 8-ball with the losing team buying shots for the winners and life is going incredibly well. Another joint in the parking lot. Another pack of smokes from the machine inside the bar. The men beat the women 4 games to 2, in their little best of seven tournament, and back to Karaoke they go! This time the women sing a Stevie Nicks song, and the men sing an ACDC song. Everyone is having the best night ever. It feels so good for them all, to be out and about with zero responsibilities and finally be able to blow off some steam and let the pressures of life wait until Monday Morning. After all, they have earned this. Life has been a crazy journey for each and every one of them, and tonight they’re just gonna cut loose and seize the night!

The night continues to grow later and later. Blurrier and blurrier. Another key bump in the bathroom will set the world’s new slant back to normal, and for the mean time it does! “Late night Bowl” begins and the lanes are darkened over head and the pins become illuminated with various colors and smoke. Now the sound system is taken over by the likes of The Beegees, ELO, and Bob Seeger. The night is picking back up and the crew decides to hop back in for a few more games before they head back to one of their homes for some continued partying and eventually, some food. The place is electric with boogie music, cigarette smoke, Cocaine, and acid washed denim. This is truly a high point in Americana in the mid eighty’s. Hanging out, getting loaded at a bowling alley, with your friends and family. Hugs are shared, funny stories are told, sexual glances are exchanged between partners, dance moves are busted, songs are sang. Our little bowling crew is enjoying one of their best nights in a long time, when the girls head off to the bathroom to pee and “powder their noses” once more the men order up one more round of shots and two more pitchers of beer. The night is drawing to an end, well, this portion anyways. The crew had made plans to reconvene at one of the couple’s houses, just after this game ends, and there are only a few frames left.

The men raise their shot glasses in salute, cheersing to a successful night and toasting to their friendships. Simultaneously, as the shots hit their stomachs, and the glasses hit the table, one of the men feels a tap on his shoulder from behind. He turns his head around to see who was calling for his attention, and he sees his wife standing just behind him. There is a stagger to her stance from all of the chemicals pumping through her bloodstream. She pulls him in close with her arms around his neck, and on his shoulders. She leans in as if to kiss him and slides her face around to the side of his head, as if to tell him a secret in the dark, disco lit late night bowl, “I think my water just broke.” She says to him in a very hushed tone.

Just a couple hours later a baby was born. A baby was brought into this world drunk, and with cocaine in his little system. On July 12th 1985 a baby was born into chaos and turmoil, in Clayton County, Georgia. The baby was me, the couple at the bowling alley that night were my parents. My first breaths on this planet wouldn’t pass a breathalyzer.

My first moments on earth were spent with alcohol and drugs in my system, and my first moments on earth were spent experiencing the first of many many traumas to come.

The year was 1985.

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