Hippies reified “soft drugs” and demonized “hard drugs.” Of course, their categories weren’t all that consistent with reality. Marijuana is certainly a soft drug and heroin a hard drug. But hippies classified speed as a hard drug and cocaine a soft drug. What sense does that make? They are both speed. The thing that struck me most forceably about all this was that the hippies were all about the “white light” view of life. In other words, they were goody-goodies. Punks embraced hard drugs because they weren’t afraid to explore the dark side of life. I like that quality of punk. So my speed use became, in my mind, an expression of my punk mentality.
Speed is hard core. Agreed. But there is nothing so hard core as heroin. As such, heroin had a negative allure for me. Somehow I found a group of people on methadone maintenance who had a group that was standing up for “opiate consumers” as an oppressed minority. The methadone clinic was run by a doctor who, outrageously, for his profession, actually believed that junkies were human beings and treated his clients as such.
I made friends with one of the members of this group, a smart, attractive woman named Wendy. In my rebellion against druggies who separated soft from hard, High Times, in particular, I wanted to create a ‘zine of my own. Wendy joined forces with me and we created Drug Heresies. I used what I had learned working on punk fanzines for the style. Although the ‘zine was deliberately tacky or non-slick, in some ways, I was obsessively perfectionist. I had a manual typewriter but I insisted on having justified margins. To achieve that, I typed everything twice. The first one had “/” marks at the end of every line. They, I retyped each line with an extra space snuck into the line to expand it. Speed gave me the energy to achieve this little vanity.
I had my first shot of heroin with Wendy and Victoria. My new friendships enabled me to get very high quality product, Persian Brown, in fact. It felt like going up in a hot air balloon. Victoria got sick, poor dear. I was too euphoric to care. Speed moved me from the audience at punk shows to behind the stage. Heroin moved me out of the venues entirely. Life was great in those early weeks. Every day was an adventure. I wasn’t doing much but it was still fresh and exciting. I was seeing a therapist and, with his signature, I was actually able to get on Disability to support my needs, including drugs. Of course, that wouldn’t last forever so I did some detoxes. Various kinds. They all got me off temporarily but I always went back. I tried one of those therapeutic communities. I stayed one night. It just wasn’t for me.
I looked around for ways to support my habit and turned to the oldest profession. There’s a reason it lasted so long. Trouble was I was getting a little old to turn tricks. I got some business but not enough. The final solution was methadone maintenance with the friends I had made. Now I was one of the gang at Fort Help. Like the others, I went to this coffee shop after dosing and hung out. I loved it at first. The methadone was really strong until I got a tolerance. And my Disability benefits were about to end. I had to go back to work. It was a hassle, balancing my visits to the clinic and getting to work on time. As the effect of the methadone waned to a mere state of normalcy, I returned to using speed. Of course, we had to submit to random urine tests but I had developed a fail-safe system of always passing the tests.
With my life fairly secure, I turned to other interests. I read The Spiral Dance by Starhawk and learned that witchcraft was really a religion older than Christianity which had been forced on the peasants against their will. WICCA was a spirituality based on the worship of Nature. That made a lot of sense to me. Worship Nature in all it’s imperfect perfection rather than a fictitious “creator” of that nature. And I liked the idea of redeeming a religion that had been so demonized. I took a class from Starhawk’s organization, Reclaiming, and joined Church of All Worlds, a neo-pagan church based on the novel, Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. I liked the people in CAW. They were down-to-earth but also interesting. I was glad we didn’t have to do any freaky, ascetic things like eat vegetarian. I had long since given up my raw, vegan Walker-inspired diet as too restrictive. I also joined the Women’s Spirituality Forum, led by Z Budapest. Their spiral dance at Samhain (Halloween) was the most exciting.
I subscribed to The Green Egg, the CAW magazine, of course, and wrote in it. One month, there was an article about Stranger in a Strange Land in terms of Aleister Crowley’s Thelema (a religion channeled from a spirit called Aiwass, encompassed in The Book of the Law. Crowley had become the head of the esoteric masonic group Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) which he reformed in his own image. The main ritual of OTO was the Gnostic Mass, a symbolic celebration of the Great Rite (sexual union of the God and Goddess). I had been getting bored with paganism. Ceremonial Magick seemed like the next step to a deeper and more interesting.
The article in The Green Egg, which turned out to be a series of three, was called “Whence Came the Stranger” by Adam Rostoker, a member of CAW and also of OTO. I was intriged enough to gather a group to go to the next Gnostic Mass which took place in Oakland. What I saw and experienced blew me away. We walked into this ordinary-looking wooden house and saw a room full of intellectual-hippy-looking folks smoking cigarettes around a long table. In the next room, there were more hip intellectuals not smoking. I had done some preparation in advance, reading the instructions and text of the Mass. I dressed in colors I saw described, white and gold. People noticed that right away.
What I had seen hadn’t prepared me for the Mass, itself. As informal and laid-back as the people had been in the outer rooms, they were pure discipline in the temple. The contrast impressed me a great deal. And, while they had maintained the purity and focus of a proper magical ritual, they allowed some looseness, and freedom which didn’t interfere with the seriousness. For example, after receiving communion, everyone turned around towards the congregation and says, “There is not part of me that is not of the gods.” But one woman said, “There is no part of me that is not of my best friend, Niki.” I knew I had found my spiritual home.
I became a regular at the Gnostic Mass and soon had made arrangements to receive the first initiation, Minerval. This took place in the home of Lola, a Ninth Degree. I was initiated along with another woman. It was wonderful and followed by a feast. I liked that. In addition to the Gnostic Mass and the initiations, there were the Rites of Eleusis, a Qabalistic series of rituals celebrating the different sephera (corresponding to the planets in the solar system). I participated in every ritual they had. I played each role in the Gnostic Mass (even that of Priest). I was in the Rite of Jupiter one year and lead the Rite of Sole another year. I worked my way up to Third Degree and weaned myself off methadone. I was serious and intense until Victoria and I had to move. We moved to Concord, on the other side of some hills. I planned to keep up my participation but I didn’t do it.