Funny you should ask ... Tim Gamble

Have you ever done drugs?

When I was in grade school, the idea of taking drugs never came up, although my mother did have me on anti-anxiety medication when I was 9 years old. I was involved in a horrific car accident on Halloween night in 1958. My older brother and sister and I were trick-or-treating for UNICEF. We belonged to a local nature club called the George Grinnell-Junior Natural History Club. The President was Paul D. R. Ruthling, Pablo, owner of the Aztec Studio Shop in downtown Scottsdale. I was standing at the entrance of the Lulu Belle bar and restaurant on Main Street in my Halloween costume with my UNICEF milk carton begging for change from the patrons coming and going. When it was time to go home, we all met at the Aztec Studio. Pablo counted the change collected by all the kids. It was a record haul.

The parents came to pick up the kids until there was just those of us left from the Arcadia neighborhood where I lived. Pablo was responsible for driving each of us home. Eight of us piled into Pablo’s car, three kids in the front and five kids in the back. We had just turned on to Camelback Road heading west from 68th street when we were struck head-on by another car. It wasn’t exactly head-on. Half of our front end was hit by half of the other car’s front end. The car went spinning off into a vineyard on the north side of the road. It was extremely fortuitous that the accident happened in front of a house where a nurse was living. She heard the accident and called the police and then ran out into the field to see if she could help. First let me say that no one died in either car, but the scene was horrifying. Pablo was squished up against the steering wheel. The steering column had bent straight up from the force of the crash. Marsha went through the windshield. She was the most grievously injured. My face hit the dashboard before I was thrown clear of the car. My brother and sister were trapped in the backseat. My sister only had a few bumps and bruises, her friend had a broken leg. My brother had a broken nose. I don’t remember what happened to the other two.

I was lying face down in the dirt when I woke up. There were lights flashing and people shouting and running around. I remember my mouth felt funny and I put my hand up to touch it. Two of my teeth were in my hand. I heard the nurse cry out as she laid me back down, “There’s another one over here!” The next thing I remember I was in the operating room at the hospital. The doctors were discussing what they were going to do. One doctor said I had to much head trauma to put me under. The other doctor said he could try hypnosis. I remember the light just above my head and the three people standing over me. The doctor pulled out his pen and started the old, “You’re getting sleepy. You can only hear the sound of my voice.” As he waved the pen in front of my eyes. I remember every word he said, as if it were yesterday. He gave me three instructions. You will not fall asleep. You will not feel any pain. Your face will not swell up for two days. I could see what they were doing as they sewed my face back together. Their hands moving about, tying the knots and the scissors cutting the sutures. I could feel the tug of every stitch. It didn’t hurt. I only had 32 or so stitches. Marsha had almost 300.

I was wheeled off to a ward and placed on my back in a bed. I stared at the ceiling until the doctor came in and told me it was okay to fall asleep. When I woke up, I had to pee. I started to get up and fell on the floor. The nurse came running over and told me not to get out of bed again. I told her I had to pee. She gave me a plastic cup and told me to pee in it. Breakfast was through a straw. Lunch was through a straw and so on. I peed a lot. On the third day in the hospital, the doctor came in and checked his handiwork and told me it was okay to swell up. I don’t know how that worked but it seemed to swell up on command. And things began to get achy. Weird. I hadn’t had a bowel movement yet. I knew I had to get to the toilet, or I’d have to use the bedpan. I wasn’t going to use the bedpan. I carefully made my way to the floor without falling and I inched my way to the toilet. I climbed up and did what I came to do. So far so good. When I stood up, I used the sink to steady myself before I was going to crawl back. I caught a glimpse of my face in the mirror and fainted dead away. The nurse found me on the floor and hustled me back to the bed. She admonished me for being so stubborn and told me if I didn’t do what I was told she’d strap me to the bed. She didn’t have to. There was no way I wanted to run into that monster in the bathroom again. When all was said and done, after a few weeks in the hospital, I had lost three teeth, had my upper and lower lips sewn up and had a brain concussion. I was a little nervous being in a car after that, so the doctor put me on a big red pill. I hated that pill. I don’t know what it was, but it made me quiet and dull. I quit taking it after a couple of years.

The subject of drugs didn’t come up again until I was in high school. Everybody was trying to score some marijuana or pills. Some of the kids I knew tried smoking banana peels thinking that would get you high. Some were drinking cough syrup for the dextromethorphan. Others were “huffing” glue. I remember thinking, “These people are nuts!” Shit really hit the fan after Timothy Leary’s 1966 Playboy interview, extolling the virtues of LSD. At this point I drank on occasion, only to remind myself why I hate drinking, but I’d never tried any psychedelics or cannabis. A lot of my friends had and told me, “You don’t know what you’re missing.” So, during my senior year in high school, I did try a few things. Marijuana just made me slow and stupid. I didn’t like the feeling of not being able to concentrate. Even with alcohol I could summon my wits but not with marijuana, so I crossed that off my list of things to do. My friends, by this time, were all getting stoned. Drugs were becoming more and more accessible. I watched them fade into social oblivion.

One Saturday in the spring of 1967, I was at a friend’s house across town. There were about 15 people there, most of whom I didn’t know. One fellow asked me if I wanted a tab, a commonly used reference for a dose of LSD. I said sure and put it in my shirt pocket. He said, “No, you have to take it now.” I thought about it for a second or two then I popped it in my mouth and swallowed the pill. He told me it would start working in about 25 minutes and the “trip” would last for about 12 hours. I had my mother’s car, and I needed to get it back to her before this stuff kicked in. I grabbed my friend who also took a pill and raced back across town to my mother’s house.

I just pulled into the driveway when I started to have some effects. I opened the back door and handed my mother the keys. She asked me if I wanted to stay for lunch. I told her no and headed out the door. My friend Charlie, who had taken LSD before was already tripping. We walked down the street, across a field, and a busy lane of traffic until we got to a Circle K convenience store. I went in to buy something but by now I didn’t know what. I was in a new world of light, motion, and color. Charlie had to use the restroom and went to the gas station next door. I was staring at the money in my hand not comprehending anything. Luckily a friend from high school came into the store and saw that I was hallucinating. He quickly shuffled me out of the store into a waiting car with two of his friends. I told him that Charlie was missing. They grabbed him as he came out of the restroom and put him in the back seat. I asked the fellow who was driving the car if he knew how the radio worked. He said, “Like this,” as he moved the dials with his fingers. I said, “No, it’s like this, as I moved my hands in and out over the radio, matching the movement of the pulsing hallucination. He laughed and told the other kids we need to go up to the top of 56th Street. And off we went. 56th Street goes about a third of the way up Camelback Mountain and ends with a spectacular view of the city. I was still fixated on the radio when we got to the top. I looked up and saw, as if there was a giant spoon stirring the view, everything mixing and moving. I started getting nauseous and had to close my eyes. That was worse. Someone in the back seat calmly started telling me to “maintain, maintain.” Things did get better. I can’t remember exactly where we went from there, but I do remember enjoying all the color and motion. I remember staring at my hand for what seemed like hours. We stopped at a gas station so the driver could use the restroom. I looked up and to my horror the gas station was being swarmed by paisleys from the bottom up. I turned around to tell Charlie to “look out!” The car had elongated, and the image of Charlie was quite a distance back when I yelled at him. It freaked him out as he sat bug-eyed and crouched. After that Charlie wanted to go back to Joe’s house, so they dropped him off.

I continued with the kids in the car. The driver, his name was Charlie too, (I just didn’t use his name before in this story so it wouldn’t be confusing) took me to his house. He told his mother that I was stoned, and he was looking after me until I “crashed” (another term for coming down off the drug). That evening we went to a teenage nightclub, The Fifth Estate, near Tempe. I was still swirling in my mad world. I went inside and the strobe lights and acid etched slides were more than I could handle. Everyone there was whispering “maintain” in my ear. I went outside into the parking lot. There was a van being hand painted by several kids. They asked me if I wanted to join them. I sat down on the pavement and started creating a painting of the paisleys I saw eating my world at the gas station. When it was time to go, and I should mention that time had no meaning, Charlie put me back in the car and headed home. He dropped me at my mother’s house. I walked past her trying not to engage. She asked me what I’d been up to, and I replied, “I’m not sure yet.” She told me to go to bed and sleep it off. When I woke up in the morning everything was back to normal except for the motion trail effect of moving my hand across my view. To this day I still see the motion trail.

When I was in my early thirties, my father asked me if I ever experimented with drugs. I told him I did when I was in high school. He asked because he was having some difficulty with my stepbrother. It seems he’d been busted with some marijuana. I told him I tried it, but I didn’t like the gummy consciousness of being stoned. I also told him that I experimented with LSD. His eyebrows raised in disbelief. “Tell me more’” he said. “I’m curious.” I recounted the few times I took the drug. I told him it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. He was surprised at my answer and asked, “Why’d you give it up?” I told him I saw what it was doing to my friends, taking them down a path they would never recover from, and I knew it would take me too, so I quit, went to college, made new friends, and never looked back. “What of your friends now?” He asked. I ran into some of them at my 10-year high school class reunion. It was sad to see how little had changed. Some were just starting college, some were just getting out of rehab, and some were content with their life underground using and selling drugs. He asked me about Marc, my stepbrother. I told him to hope for the best, there’s no guaranteed outcomes. Marc did turn out fine although I don’t know if he still uses.

I suppose everyone has a bout with prescription drugs. I’m no different. It was early April 1991. I had the late shift at work and wasn’t due in until 1 pm. The grass was growing unevenly in patches on the front lawn. I decided to fire up the lawnmower and give it a trim. It was always hit and miss to see if I could get the mower started but this year it started easily. I keep a pair of old loafers in the garage and use them as my “mowing shoes.” I put them on the floor of the garage and slipped them on my feet. The left shoe had some wiggling inside. I figured it was some unfortunate bug, so I stomped my foot and proceeded to mow the lawn. When I was done I put the mower away and removed my shoes. I went upstairs to get cleaned up before going to work. I stepped into the shower and immediately felt a strange sensation going up the inside of my left leg. I felt it go from my leg to my hip to stomach thinking this won’t be good. The next stop was my heart. I braced myself for the fall, but the sensation kept on traveling up to my neck and my head. When it reached my head, it felt like someone had just taken a hammer to my skull. I finished getting cleaned up, took a few aspirin, and headed off to work.

I’d been at work for a few of hours with this raging headache. Sandy called me when she got off work to say hi. I told her what had happened and asked her to look in my shoe when she got home and tell me what was in there. She did. It was the remains of a black widow spider. She said you should probably go to the doctor. I told her I was the only manager there and I wouldn’t be able to do that until after 9 pm. The next thing I knew the phone rang and it was the poison center at Porter Hospital. They told me that they just had a conversation with Sandy, and I was to meet her at the poison center. I told them I couldn’t get there until about 9:30 pm. They told me that it wasn’t optional. Either I got in my car immediately or they would send an ambulance, but either way I was going to the hospital. I deputized one of the office assistants, gave her my keys and codes, and left for the hospital.

The headache was like a hammer hitting an anvil, bam, bam, bam… I met Sandy at the emergency entrance. I was assigned a young female doctor. She hustled me off to a screened in area and asked me to describe what happened. Sandy gave her a tissue with the spider carcass in it. She said, “Usually the cure would be worse that the bite, but it seems you absorbed all the poison through the soft tissue under your toes. I can give you a shot of Valium for the pain.” The nurse, a six-foot six tall moose, gave me a shot in the fanny. The doctor came back in about twenty minutes and asked me how I was doing. I said, “No change.” She told the nurse to give me another shot. He did. The doctor came back in and asked me again how I was doing. And again, I told her there was no change. She told the nurse to go again and this time when she came back, I was flying high as a kite. She said, “Good, I need to get some information from you.” She asked me if I new who my doctor was and I pointed at her and said, “You are.” She looked a Sandy and said, “We may not have needed that last shot. Take him home and we’ll complete the paperwork tomorrow.” She gave Sandy a couple of prescriptions, and we left in Sandy’s car.

When we got home, I went straight upstairs to bed. We’d been home for a few hours when the medication was starting to wear off. The pain was substantially worse than before. Sandy said she was going to try and get the prescriptions filled. She eventually had to go back the 20 miles to the hospital. By the time she came back with the medication, I was in real trouble. I took the combination of pills the doctor prescribed. Within a few minutes, I was laying above my bed and by “above my bed” I mean I couldn’t feel what I was laying on. I asked Sandy, “What did you give me?” She looked at the bottles and it was a combination of Vicodin and Valium. I said “Holy crap. You got to try this!” She said, “No thank you!”

I know now why it’s so easy to get hooked on prescription medication. The stuff is awesome. I also know why it’s critical to have someone around who has enough sense to keep you from falling into the abyss. I did come to the same conclusion when I came down from the high and told her we better get rid of this stuff, it’s dangerous.

So, to answer the question, yes, I’ve done drugs. I prefer to live in this reality. I enjoyed the competitive edge it gave me over my peers. While they could not see their futures because they were living in a world that has no future, I would excel in the real world. Although the real world does have its pitfalls.



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