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Dopamine Addict Anniversary

Twenty years ago this month, six months after my graduation from Missouri State University, I finished writing a novel.
An original copy of Dopamine Addict, a novel I wrote 20 years ago.

Twenty years ago this month, six months after my graduation from Missouri State University, I finished writing a novel. I had never written a novel, a fact which is painfully obvious in hindsight. My writing skills resided in poetry. However, I started writing after being arrested for insane reasons—the police officer thought I had been driving while under the influence of that sweet dank icky sticky. He pulled me over for not using a turn signal. Springfield, Missouri, is fucked up in that way. I can't imagine what marginalized communities in that city have to go through.

The thing is, I had never smoked weed in my life at that point. The only drug I liked was nicotine, and in spite of my bad boy poet persona, which I carefully cultivated, decisions I made concerning drugs and alcohol were still very much driven by puritanical Evangelical Christian principles. I barely drank, for example. My drug, my real drug, was being loved by women.

But I was very poor. And being poor was all I had known. I grew up with almost nothing, with a father who constantly told me (and my siblings) that we were a financial burden and constantly reiterated through the years that his responsibility for my livelihood ended when I was 18. So I moved out when I was 18. I did end up going to college, but that was because of a gas station manager named Howard and not my immediate family. No one in my family valued higher education. Education outside of Christianity was evil.

My life in college was the result of taking out as much in student loans as I could and living off of them. And at this point, I had graduated and was living off a part-time job working at Webster University as an IT guy. And because I was so poor, my diet was mostly Mountain Dew and cigarettes and I didn't sleep very much and well—listen, I looked very strung out.

The whole incident scared the living shit out of me, a very strong catalyst for taking a hard look at my life—who I was, what I did, how I treated the people I loved most, and most importantly, it became a reason to change who I was. Due to my arrest, I was stuck in Springfield until my court date with nothing better to do. I didn't have a good tech job waiting for me. I didn't know where to go to find one. My friends were growing up, getting married, and I was beginning to realize how little I had with no job, no prospects, and now an arrest which I was worried would properly fuck my future.

So I began to punish myself. Which is the only real skillset my father gave to me.

The goal of writing the novel was to chronicle myself as a piece of shit. I didn't want to grow old and romanticize my past (I wasn't sure I would live past 30). I didn't want to give myself the luxury of making myself any kind of hero simply because I was older and wiser. I wanted to remember the truth of it—that I was traumatized (though I didn't realize it at the time) who used women and sex to feel better about myself. I wanted to remember how horribly I treated my friends and loved ones. How self-centered I was. I wanted to draw a line in the sand that said this is who you are.

The hope I had was if I did all those things, I could choose to make different decisions going forward. And then I could be a better person.

I'm not sure if manifestation is real, or if writing words down for poetry or novels takes into account your intention, or if these works of words are really like casting spells, but it worked.

After my court date, where the state had no evidence for my wrongdoing but I still had to do 40 hours of community service at the YMCA, I moved to Austin, Texas. I met Vida there, eventually got a shitty job, but my foot in the door, got married, and then the universe kicked into high gear and through a weird chain of events, I got a job in Santa Barbara and then my life slowly turned into what it is now. A pretty fantastic thing. I've been traveling the world for 13 months, am going back to my home in Santa Barbara next week, and I've finally returned to writing poetry. I'm even getting published in a few places.

Two decades goes by fast. Happy Anniversary, Dopamine Addict. And to Dax, the main character—thank you for having the strength to chronicle what a piece of shit you were. And then—changing.