I grew up in a conservative Baptist home in southern California, the second youngest of 4 children. My earliest memories being of my parents as missionaries in Suriname, South America. My father, a pilot, was flying supplies in and out of the local jungles. When we returned to the states it was a typical childhood. Yet looking back I can see the beginnings of what spelled trouble later on. I went to church with the family at least twice a week and was involved in the youth groups. On the other hand, I was starting to hang out with other children from the neighborhood. This is when I started roaming the streets and getting into trouble. It started out as minor things like shoplifting, smoking cigarettes and “show and don’t tell” with the local girls, but trouble none the less.

My brother was a rebel metal head and quickly became like an idol to me. He gave me my first taste of music outside of what my parents listened to. Iron Maiden, Megadeth and the like quickly became my go to choice. He was also involved in other substances that I was naive to. Once I learned what they were I was scared of them, so I pretty much stayed away from what he was doing.

I was growing up at this point and discovering myself and all the new things my body was doing. There was a neighbor kid in high school who I somehow became friends with. He had a messed up family situation and I wanted to be there for him. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know the extent of his family situation and how it had affected him. My family situation wasn’t perfect, but this was beyond my experience. He gave me my first introduction to things like mental illness, pornography and homosexuality. I didn’t understand what was going on, as I was just starting to think for myself and explore things outside of what my family allowed. It took years before I realized how profoundly he had affected me, and the guilt and shame that would come later from what he had done. Soon after, his mother committed suicide and he ran away from his father. I never saw him after that.

Right after this my younger sister became ill. She came down with a flu, and she was in a coma within a week. Doctors could not figure out what was wrong. They put tubes in her head and had her covered in wires. They finally diagnosed her with Reye’s Syndrome, which is essentially a swelling of the brain. The swelling continued, and the doctors said it was cutting off the circulation to the brain. If she survived, they could not guarantee she would even be able to speak. Her heart gave out a week later, and I kissed her lifeless face for the last time. She was 9 years old.

She passed away 2 days before my 14th birthday in early December. I remember the shocked faces of the people staring at me as I made my way crying from the ICU. I ran to the chapel in the hospital for some reason and asked why. There was no answer and I was all alone. This was the point when everything I believed in shook to its foundation, and it all crumbled down after that.

My family tried to console me in their own way. An uncle told me not to turn to drugs, and even tried to teach me surfing. But I couldn’t handle all the preaching I was getting from them. If there was a God, why would he take her of all people? “He has a plan that we don’t understand” was the standard answer. Other family members spoke harshly of me and my brother’s rebellion and questioning. My wool was blackening by the day.

To be continued…

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