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A Guy and A Guitar - Part 3: Lows and Highs

Most people who knew me growing up would say I was a bad apple. For someone who eventually became a teacher, I was one of the worst students. More on that later. I got into trouble a lot. As a youngster, I was a clown always seeking attention for the wrong reason. People would have thought that my middle name was detention. I was not even a teenager when I started drinking and smoking. And of course drugs came soon thereafter. Those habits scarred me for a long time even after I gave them up. I thought it was fun at the time, but I was causing damage to my brain and body. My personality was definitely changed in a bad way. What still bothers me to some extent is that I became a cliché. Rock ’n’ Roll and substance abuse - how common place. I would like to be able to say that I was different. That I could think for myself rather than succumb to the peer pressure, but I chose poorly.


Thankfully, I did have enough sense to give up drugs after a few years. I did drink a little for some time after that, but it was not to get drunk. Smoking took many years to quit. Now, I don’t put anything like that in my body. I have become very disciplined with my health, but that is a topic for a later time. I don’t have many regrets in life, but my encounter with drugs and alcohol is probably the biggest. After I stopped using, I did still hang around the same circle of friends that I used to party with (for a short while). I’ll never forget that as the sober guy in the group, I got to see just how dumb they really were when they were wasted. Here’s a tip kids - just watch others for a while who do these things before you get drunk, high, or do anything questionable. It won’t take you very long to figure out that you are much better off staying sober. Those so-called friends that I used to party with? They ostracized me for not wanting to get high with them. Steer clear of those groups if you can, but the reality is that you may have to deal with those kinds of people sooner or later.


So where’s the guitar part of all of this? That was one of the reasons that I decided to stop doing drugs and drinking so much. I didn’t really ever play drunk or high. I didn’t need to. Guitar playing always took me to another world. There is a place of joy that I get from playing that instrument that drugs could never touch. It somehow became apparent to me that the substance abuse got in the way. I remember talking with a friend one time and telling him of my concerns (he was not a part of the same click I mentioned earlier). I told him that drinking and smoking pot made me lazy and ultimately a poor guitarist. He said something like, You don’t want anything to get in the way of your guitar playing. You’re getting good and need to keep that going. If pot gets in the way then maybe you need to stop getting high.


I haven’t seen or heard from that guy in over 30 years. He probably doesn’t even remember that conversation, but I’m glad we had it. Though there were others reasons that helped drive me to clean up my act, this got the wheels turning in the right direction.


It’s interesting how a person can be around you for only a moment in time, but make an impact for life (either good or bad). As a teacher, I have had conversations with thousands of students (maybe tens of thousands). My guess is that most of those have been forgotten, but not all. What I hope is this, that more of those conversations have had a positive message rather than a negative one.


I welcome feedback,

JP

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