“Some of you are so blind that you’re heading for a ditch and you don’t even know it.” from ‘The Cross and the Switchblade’ by David Wilkerson
Being on LSD made me do mad, crazy things. None of them was ever deliberate. None of them ever worked out. It was just the law of unintended consequences. I would act in the moment, but the problem with tripping out on LSD was the moment kinda looked different to you than it did for anyone else. For instance, whilst walking down a street, you maybe see cracks in the pavement and the dirt. Me? I saw the pavement as covered in pure glass. It was beautiful. I was walking on the purest glass you had ever seen. That was my reality. You maybe saw the weeds growing up through those cracks, but I would see the most incredible and lush vegetation you would ever think possible.
When I saw people it was like a scene from “The Matrix (except that was still a lot of years in the future). All numbers and stuff and my brain whirring away trying to figure out the purpose. The problem? Yeah, there were problems. LSD did not like things out of order. Everything had to fit into how the memory recalled it before.
One of those days when things were not quite normal left me with a gaping hole on my lip and the back of my head. It went something like this:
I was 16 years old, (what an eventful 16th year I seemed to live). I was on a bus heading back to Easterhouse from the city centre (or the toon). It was a very cold, and horrifically wet November day. The rain really was hammering down. Anyway, myself, GC and SS were upstairs on a bus, thick with the acrid smell of cigarette smoke and with our view obscured by the fog of 30 odd people calming themselves on its toxins. I could not tell you where we had been and how we ended up on the bus, just where we were going. We were on our way to Duntarvie Road shops. They were our shops, well I say shops, and they were, but they were also the centre of the Easterhouse Young Aggro (our gang) universe. The meeting point, the hanging point. Where we got our alcohol and, sometimes our drugs.
As we were laughing and joking on the bus, we noticed PM. He was from the Drummy, another gang area. He was quite a no-nonsense young guy and had a reputation as a bit of a fighter.
We did as we all always did when a member of another gang was spotted. We started giving him it tight and shouting abuse at him. Telling him what we were going to do to him. In fairness to PM, he never backed down or shrunk away (have to be honest I would have) but instead, quite calmly said: “Come on then, aff the bus, here”. We looked and laughed. The bus was approaching the stop just facing Easterhouse Health Centre, and as I stood at the doorway watching PMwith GC and SS behind me, I noticed he was carrying a holdall, and even more intriguing, his other hand was inside the bag.
That’s when I clocked he already had his hand on what looked like the shaft of a hammer.
“Look, guys,” I said, mockingly, “he’s tooled up”.
The bus was absolutely crammed with people, it was teatime and it was dark and wet. As it rolled to a stop and the hiss of the hydraulic doors sounded like a fight bell, PM jumped off the bus and I immediately threw myself after him, grabbing the arm that was reaching into the bag at the same time.
We both fell onto the saturated pavement, rolling around getting even more wet fighting for control of what was obviously NOW an axe.
The adrenalin surged through me as the LSD seemed to give a superhuman strength, knowing the moment had various outcomes.
I gave an almighty pull on the axe, seemingly welded to the grim grip of PM, and as it swung free.
CLUNK, the sound of it hitting the back of my head. Momentarily my grip loosened as my thoughts seemed to bounce around with that horrific hollow clang that goes along with a bang to the head. It seemed like an eternity, and as PM tried to rise and escape I think, I grabbed for the axe again. I was so good at this fighting with a weapon under the influence of drugs thing that I broke it away from his grasp and, with the axe suddenly free and moving under its own kinetic energy, came lurching towards my face.
This time full on the mouth. We were back in a wrestling match. GC and SS had, the whole time been trying to get PM, launching kicks at him and trying to pull us apart, but understandably given the odds he was like a man possessed. He was also a very good fighter.
Finally, I got to my feet and launched a kick at PM as he scrambled along on the river like pavement. He got to his feet and made his escape. I think in the moment he just had the most sense out of the four of us. I threw the axe after him, reminiscent of the many cowboy films I had seen as a youngster. The Indian’s tomahawk chasing down the dark emptiness. It missed and landed on the grass at the side of the bus stop.
We picked ourselves up and I remember GC very clearly saying “Your lip’s cut, Paddy.”
I put my hand to my mouth and checked for signs of blood, but there was none. So off we headed, thinking nothing more of it.
I know I have mentioned the rain, but for the next bit top work, I need you to know that it was almost torrential. it was like walking under a fire hose all the way back across the Buywell car park and the pitches. All the way up Duntarvie Road. We made our way into Charlies. (His actual name was Mohammed Hussain) and I shouted on Margaret, who was facing the myriad of sweet jars that 16-year-olds should have been buying and enjoying. Margaret was Margaret Campbell. A local lady respected by most of us that hung around the shops. I got on well with Margaret.
“What is it Stuart?” (no Paddy from the adults) as she began to turn around and face me. “Is ma face cut?” I asked, still oblivious to the actual damage as there seemed to be no blood.
“Let me look” she said as she turned around.
“Arrrrggghhhhh” she screamed as she dropped the sweet jar she held. “What have you done, thats right through your lip?”
She grabbed a mirror, (I don’t know, it was there) and showed me. I looked at it, and shock, combined with the effects of the LSD made me burst out laughing as I saw my upper lift lip sliced right through and my teeth visible through the gap. By this time the blood had began to flow again as well, (or maybe there was just no rain to wash it away). I also felt the cold trickle down my neck and asked Margaret to check that.
Yep. That was wide open and the blood was seeping out there as well.
Not thinking of the effect it would have on my mum and dad, I knew I had to go to hospital. I knew because Margaret’s last words were “They need stitches, you need to go to the hospital, quick!”
Up I went to our top floor tenement. In the door. Along the hall to the kitchen halfway down. The smell of dinner was filling the house.
“Da I think I need to go to hospital!” I said with not a flicker of either remorse or pain.
“Whit fur noo?” He asked, as mimicking Margaret, he’d drifted from stirring the pot to facing me.”Ya f@#$$g eejit, whit hiv ye done?”
“I fell.” I lied.
As much as my dad was feared, and respected by anyone that knew him. As much as he would always be in fights and disagreements. He would not tolerate any of us being involved in anything like that and had very little patience for it.
“Heather come and see this idiot, his face is split wide open!!”
Sympathy? It was surely self inflicted and not deserving of sympathy. My da knew I hadn’t gotten it falling.
My mum just shuddered when she saw it. Got some material or other and put it over both war wounds. We made our way to Glasgow Royal Infirmary where I was stitched up front and back. Glasgow Royal Infirmary, on these occasions, would always ask how the wound happened as they were supposed to report any assaults etc to the police.
Home I went, and I would love to say that I had learned my lesson and stayed in, suitably chaste.
I didn’t. I went out, up to SS’s sister’s house. Got more LSD, them moaned when the guys would try and get me to go into fits of giggles because I knew it would burst the stitches.
I saw him a few weeks later in the Buywell. Remember I was now “friendly” with the guys from the Drag that patrolled the place. I scored most of my LSD from them and so it was not an issue to be walking around in there. Everyone knew of the flight with PM.
PT, this day says “There is PM, Paddy. You want to get him back. We’ll back you up.” They were just stirring it. PM was actually from their area and they were just looking to split the boredom.
As much as the half-filled bottle of Irn Bru in my hand was itching for payback, I couldn’t be bothered. Also, I was straight so was able to think much clearer.
As we approached each other to pass, though, there was a visible tension. The stitches were gone from my lip and the back of my head, but there was still very much a visible wound on the front, and a bald patch with a red line on the back.
That split second when you wonder if something will be said.
“Alright P..” I said, taking the initiative that I just did not like fighting so hopefully making the get out easier.
“Alright, Paddy” he replied.
We actually stood then and chatted for a few secs, tension and wariness still there, but each giving the other the opportunity to avoid conflict. The other guys disappointed that there was no entertainment to break the boredom of the afternoon.
So what about PM?
In the gang fights that followed over the next decade, he would pop up. He was a fighter and really did not seem to hold much fear.
Then I went to Wales and Teen Challenge.
I think around 1999 I was with The Evidence (Teen Challenge ministry team) in Ystradgynlais AoG (Pastor Kerri Jenkins church, but more about him another time). We knew guys from Victory Outreach (another Christian Rehabilitation programme) were in the meeting, but never really thought that much of it.
As I stepped up to share my story of how Jesus had delivered me from and through addiction, I noticed a familiar face near the back of the small Welsh church.
It was PM.
I had not seen him up close in all those years, and it’s funny how, for a split second, those old tensions arise. Alternate reality. Face from my past here in my present.
I composed myself and carried on.
After the meeting, I could not wait to chat with him. We swapped stories of how we had started out in rehab and ended up as God’s kids. PM looked fantastic and said he had just had enough of it all one day and wanted out of it.
It was incredible.
It was probably the first real time the potential for old gang conflicted injected itself into the new Christian context. God showed Himself strong.
As the VO guys made to leave, PM and I hugged warmly and prayed God’s best for each other.
Isn’t it mad that that ridiculous rainsoaked blood washed episode that could have ended so badly 13 years before, when placed into the hands of Christ, created a love-soaked Blood washed episode that I remember fondly to this day.
Giving even my worst moments to Jesus, He is able to redeem them and give them a new meaning that neither LSD, gangs not intended hatchet violence could ever foresee.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Romans 8:28 NKJV
This blog is part of a wider collection to show the journey that would eventually lead me to the cross of Jesus Christ, my personal redemption, and my journey of faith afterwards. If you would like to know more of my story, please click on my “About” page and take it from there.
If you would like to know more about the Christian response to addiction, or just need hope please click on one of the links below.
Teen Challenge Strathclyde
Teen Challenge UK
Teen Challenge Global
Bethany Christian Trust
Cornerstone Assemblies of God, Maryland
Broken Chains Ayr
Easterhouse Community Church