I remember the first time I took ecstasy like it was yesterday. It was October of 1999, and I had been going through a difficult time in my life the past few weeks ever since I found out that my best friend and my ex girlfriend were now officially an item. My friend Mickey called me around 10pm and told me to come by his cousin’s house because he had something to show me. I drove right over after work and walked into the living room to find three of my guy friends all chilling out with big smiles on their faces.

“Here, take this” Mickey said to me, “You’ll thank me for it later.”

With that he handed me a small white pill the size of an asprin with the impression of Tweety bird on it. I didn’t know what to expect, but within half an hour I started having these ridiculously positive thoughts and I felt like there was absolutely nothing wrong in the world at that time. I was even enjoying the Eminem song on the CD player which was totally weird because I am not a fan of rap music at all, but for some reason, it sounded fucking awesome. I knew I liked this drug from the start and I never knew where it would take me, but believe me, I was ready to find out.

I kept doing ecstasy for the next few months as my friends and I would find ourselves out in Philly at the clubs dancing to EDM back when it was still called Techno music. The variety of pills kept coming. There were Mitsubishis, double stacked Ferraris, and some weird colored ones were popping up, but our favorite from that time was definitely the triple stacked Rolls Royces. We were rolling all the way into the year 2000.

However, for me, that all came to a crashing halt on April 1st when I found myself getting shoved into a police car outside of a club in Atlantic City at 4 in the morning. Now I know what you’re thinking…this is where I went to jail, got clean and sober and found God by reading the Bible everyday, right? Well, that is exactly the opposite of what happened.

Through some finagling, I found a way to convince my Mom that rehab wasn’t the right course of action for me.

“I’m not a drug addict Mom, I’m just depressed! I need to get out of this town!”

I guess I would have made a good actor because somehow that worked. Next thing I knew, I found myself behind the wheel of my car in the middle of the country as landmarks I had only seen on postcards and on television past me by, until I stopped in Las Vegas.

I had the most intense feeling of deja vu when I walked into a motel called La Concha on the strip right next to the Riviera which is going to be torn down later this year, and across the street from the Stardust which was imploded back in 2007. I stayed there a few days, bought two red CKs from a strange dude in Studio 54 who charged me $25 a piece and then hid the pills inside of two blow pops. Sure, I overpaid but at the time my initials were actually “CK” so I just figured that must be a sign that I was on the right path and I felt confident that this was where I needed to be. Plus, I had two blow pops. Win win.

I didn’t feel anything for like and hour and a half when I was in the club, but holy fucking shit….when I stepped outside and walked across the overpass between the MGM and NY NY it was like I was looking at Las Vegas through a kaleidoscope. When I got back to Jersey, I had a plan to move to Vegas and immediately booked a flight back the very next week.

I was there about twenty four hours before I decided that it wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought to plant my roots in a town known for houses that don’t have basements. I couldn’t get a driver’s license without a local residence, and I was running out of money when I found out that all the casinos drug test their new employees which meant I was destined to fail, or at least had to wait three months before I could even take the test.   I started to doubt myself and this grandiose idea that I came up with a few weeks earlier. I was searching for something, but maybe I wasn’t going to find it in the desert. With five more days in Vegas before my flight back to Philly left, I said Fuck it, I’m going to go out and walk around this town and see where it takes me because above all, I trust myself to know what’s best for me.

After walking down the Strip, I found my way into Club Utopia.   I don’t know why I chose to walk in there on a Friday night by myself, but they were playing good music, and I was armed with a sense of rhythm and a pair of orange glowsticks that caused this one guy to run over to me and strike up a conversation.

His name was Mitch and he had never seen orange glowsticks before. He was amazed at their color and so grateful that I let him use them, that he showed his gratitude by pulling out a lunch baggie full of ecstasy and offered me as many as I’d like. I took one, ate it, and spent the rest of the night hanging out with him and this girl we met on the dance floor who was wearing a see through shirt with duct taped X’s over her nipples.

A couple days later, I met up with Mitch while we were sober and we had lunch. I was looking for a way out of Jersey, and Mitch was there to give me the opportunity I was looking for.

“Why don’t you come live with me in Seattle?” Mitch suggested. “I can get you job, and you’ll make a lot of money.”

Seattle? What the fuck did I know about Seattle other than that’s where grunge music was born and it rained a lot. Also, why was this guy being so nice to me?   I thought about it for a full thirty five minutes before I realized ANYTHING was better than staying in New Jersey, and I accepted his offer.

“Alright.” I said. “Let’s move to Seattle.”

I lived at Mitch’s parents house about a week before Mitch went to jail for failure to appear in court. I didn’t see him for months after that and I found a job at an Olive Garden where I would hang out with co-workers and smoke pot and drop green CU’s.

This went on for awhile at one point I remember accidentally doing a 180 on the I-5 when my ecstasy kicked in on the way home from the club. Luckily, someone, somewhere was looking out for me. I did however fuck up Mitch’s car, and eventually my coming home at 3 in the morning, dropping three to four e-bombs a night and smoking pot in his parent’s backyard caught up with me.

“Are you on something?” Mitch’s Dad asks me at 8:32 in the morning.

“Absolutely not.”

Of course he could see right through that lie because my pupils were the size of nickels and the steering column in the “Death-scort” was twisted the wrong way. It wasn’t too long before I knew I was wearing out my welcome.

I left Mitch’s parents house and moved in with Racquel, a girl I knew from work. After that, my life took an unexpected turn. She was a little younger than me by seven years, but emulated everything I wanted in a girl. Her skin glowed and was complimented by her bright green eyes and dark brown hair. I was immediately drawn to her, and in my mind I fell in love even though we were never officially a couple.

We learned things from each other, and we talked about our lives and how we both had been hurt before, and how we both wanted to be able to love again.   We bonded like good friends, and we rocked out to good beats, and we shared new things with each other we had never done before.

She introduced me to Thai food, I introduced her to ecstasy.

We would hang out and play music and dance around the apartment all night and I filled four journals with thoughts and ideas that were coming into my brain faster than I could write them down. We found a way to find ourselves again through finding out who we are not. It was cathartic, and experiencing that feeling with her reminded me of what it was like not to hurt anymore.

One night, we were driving back from Denny’s when her and I started to notice something odd happening.

“Did you see that?” Racquel said. “The lights. They keep turning off.”

These odd occurrences had been happening when we were together. People would stare at us when we walked into a room like they had seen us before, and the street lights would flicker or turn off completely when her and I drove by, and every time we looked at the clock it seemed it read 3:33, or 2:22 or 11:11. It was happening all the time and was happening right after her and I would ask a question about something or when one of us would give an answer to each other. It wasn’t happening just when we were high either, in fact, it rarely happened when we were.

“What do you think it is?” I asked

“I don’t know.” she said

“Do you believe in God?”

“I do.” She said. “Is that what’s going on here?”

Neither Racquel or I were very religious, but there was no denying that something was trying to get our attention. After explaining the occurrences with my highly educated friend Robert, he suggested I pick up a book called “Conversations With God.”

“I think you find this book when you’re meant to find it.”

That sounded so prophetic, but then again, what did I expect from a guy we used to call “The Oracle” back in high school. I went to Barnes & Noble the next day.

“The book” as we called it summed up how my whole life I had always believed in God, but I didn’t believe in organized religion. It affirmed to me and Racquel that we could talk to God without having to be part of some church. It professed that we already had all the answers to the questions we seek. Now I knew I wasn’t crazy because Racquel was experiencing it too. She and I quickly accepted these books as our new bible and in a way I knew that this was where we were supposed to be because it happened so organically.

After reading the first two books and going back through my life I started to see how the whole time maybe it was like…. God was everywhere. It started to all make sense to me. The lights, the number game, the fact that I found my way out of Jersey through some stranger with a baggie full of white crosstop ecstasy pills in Vegas, and the fact that there were no cars driving behind me that night on the freeway. The whole time it was God showing me the way. Hell, maybe God was even in that first pill I took.

I loved the idea that I came to these new beliefs with her, however, not everything in this world is meant to last forever. Taking ecstasy was fucking expensive, and that coupled with some of the domestic issues we were having started to break us down. Although Racquel and I had found this new spirituality together, even the cosmic powers that be couldn’t keep a 19 year old girl and a 26 year old boy with relationship issues together forever. When we fought, we would write passages from “The Book” on a dry erase board in the kitchen as a message to each other. I think we were both having a God complex.

“I suggest this: Enjoy everything. Need nothing” She wrote

“Needing someone is the fastest way to kill a relationship” I wrote back.

Eventually, we moved out of that apartment, and went our separate ways and I had to live alone for the first time in my life. One night before Christmas of 2001, I took a little too much X and I started to feel sick and broke out in a rash on my arm. Maybe that was God telling me to take it easy.

I eventually left Racquel, Mitch, the really good pot I used to smoke, and the city of Seattle in the spring of 2002 when I knew there was nothing left there for me….again. Looking back now, I may have jumped the gun a little too soon. When I got back to the east coast I noticed I was a little different than everyone else and I had definitely changed and my friends who hadn’t seen me in two years noticed immediately.

“So, you’re eating a caesar salad with your fingers, and you found God by taking ecstasy?” My friend Melissa said to me.

“Yeah. Why is that so hard to believe?” I said as I wrapped my romaine lettuce around a piece of grilled chicken and shoved it into my mouth.

Ok, I get it. I’m probably not going to fit in with some people here anymore, but no one was happier to find out that I had found my faith again other that my mother, a devout Catholic who has probably prayed for me every night since the day I left New Jersey back in July of 2000.

“I am so happy to know you found your spirituality again! See, prayers really do work!” My Mom said.

They definitely worked Mom….maybe not in the exact way you think, but they worked.

Look, I never planned to find God through doing drugs, but that was the end result and I’m ok with it. My life changed the day my friend Mickey handed me a pill and told me I’d thank him for it later. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I had never taken it. Perhaps I would have turned into an asshole, or I would have gotten more depressed, or perhaps I wouldn’t even be alive to tell this story today.

Hey Mickey, if you’re reading this now, thanks for that.