It was the fall of 1982 and I was back in school. A duality begins to control the way I live my life. Externally, I looked like I had everything together. Inside, it was all falling apart. Amazingly, I had maintained some semblance of sanity when it came to school. I had managed to make it through my sophomore and junior years without getting into too much trouble. I even excelled in some areas. I decided in my sophomore year that I was going to play football. Even though my physician was adamantly against it, I was committed to being on that football field and found a doctor who would sign my physical release form. My obstacles in regards to playing football didn’t stop there though. The governing body for Pennsylvania’s school sports was not going to let me play either. We battled it out for two years with the school system finally winning by making a rule that I could only play if I was able to make it onto and off of the field without any prosthetics or help of any kind. Because of my commitment on the practice field and appearance in one game I was awarded a high school letter for football. I looked at the letter as an embarrassment for many years. I felt that I hadn’t earned it. Then one evening I was discussing it with a friend and they reminded me that as far as my coaches and teammates were concerned, I had. Just because a state school system that was more concerned with law suits than my accomplishments prevented me from more game time, it didn’t take away from the fact that I had done what many other people would only dream about.
Also during that time I had really began to shine as a performer. I was awarded lead roles in musical presentations of “Hair” and “Godspell” as well as a lead in the full production of “Oklahoma”. Music was a saving grace for me. It was the one place that I felt comfortable. No matter how bad things got, I always knew that I could find comfort in music.
One of the most powerful moments in my life came when I was in 11th grade and we were doing the “Godspell” production. My mother had been in a car accident that had crushed her thighbone into 42 pieces. She had only been out of the hospital for a couple of weeks and was committed to see me do my solo performance. She had made arrangements to be brought to the auditorium in a wheelchair.
I spoke with the choir director and left him know that I wanted to take the wireless microphone and go out into the audience to sing my solo to my mother. After much discussion, he finally agreed. On the 3rd night of our show, my mother arrived and was wheeled into the back of the auditorium. When the music began for my solo, I sang the first verse center stage, then made my way into the audience for the first chorus. When I began the second verse, I was standing by my mother. I kneeled down by her chair and finished the second verse and chorus before starting back to stage. As I walked up the steps to the stage, I noticed that about half of the choir was in tears. To be honest I didn’t even really understand why until a group of them approached me the next day. Soon I understood the power that a person can have when they share their emotions through music.
This point was driven home even more for me when I was a senior. I had been chosen to play Jud in the musical Oklahoma. For those of you not familiar with the story, Jud is not the nicest guy in the world. But there is a scene where the audience gets to see into the heart of this lonely man. He is singing about being alone and how his life is so empty. We were doing a performance for the junior high students and I was going out to do this particular number. From my perception it was the least known song in the whole production, and I wasn’t really that excited about going out to do it, especially in front of these younger kids. As I sat there with the audience blocked from my view by the spotlight in my eyes, I put myself into the song as best I could. I guess there was more of Jud for me to relate to than I knew at that point. I finished the song, and as the lights went down, I was amazed to see the whole auditorium come to its feet with a standing ovation. What an amazing feeling. Here were what I expected to be the harshest critics I could ever perform in front of, kids between 12 and 15. And I was doing a song out of an outdated musical by our generation’s standards. And as I looked out into the crowd, I was overwhelmed by the love and energy I got from these junior high students.
At the same time, my duality begins pulling me even farther into my drinking and drug use. I had embarrassed myself on the way home from Hershey when I slammed into Kent. Where was I going to find another group to party and fit in with? I mean, who else parties like bikers? I had already created a distance with the Tech that had us acting more like acquaintances than friends. The kids in my school were nowhere near the partier I was. And no one would understand the lifestyle I had started to live. So I began living a dual life. I would party with whoever I could party with, while doing my best to fit in with everyone else and be accepted. At the same time, I was out looking for the next level. Well, it didn’t take me long to find my new crew of “friends”.
As had become my habit, I would sit in class looking like a party had run over me. One afternoon, I was approached by a student teacher from the local college who was in my algebra class. He had seen me riding with the biker gang, and also saw us going into some of the local bars. He was curious and we talked for a while about what it was like to cruise with them and party. That was when he told me about his fraternity and invited me to one of their upcoming parties. I was 17 years old when I went to my first frat party, and found the next “higher level” of partying.
It didn’t matter to anyone there that I was still in high school, at least if it did, they didn’t voice it in a way that I was made aware of. I could drink and smoke some of the hardest partiers in the house under the table, so I was quickly accepted. I soon left the biker gang behind and was spending all of my free time at the frat house where it was a constant party. No matter what time of the day or night it was, you could always find someone who was willing to have a couple of beers, or smoke a joint.
This continued through my senior year and into my first semester of college. I moved into one of the dorms and began what became my unique college experience. I was at different fraternity and sorority parties 5 out of 7 nights of the week, and the other two nights I would be out drinking by myself. I never did any of my assignments and would miss classes continually. By the end of my first semester, my grade point average was so low that my advisor suggested that I withdraw before they asked me to leave college.
As I talked about before, in the middle of this fiasco that was my life, I had managed to get into a band. I had started playing with Rich in what I consider my first professional band when I was still riding with the motorcycle gang. We would play at the local VFW halls, carnivals and fairs. During my senior year, we even played at the frat house to over 300 people for their big “Spring Blowout”. It was the following year at the second Spring Blowout where I would run what was now a familiar pattern of embarrassing myself, and disappearing.
Spring Blowout was a major event for the fraternity and the student population. They would get anywhere between 40 and 50 kegs of beer, and the party would last for the whole weekend with a band performing on Friday night. This was the second year that they asked our band to perform and for me, it was an honor. I loved being in that spotlight. After consuming two bottles of a sweet liquor called Anniset, and an unknown amount of beer, I found myself lying on top of Rich’s drum set with pieces of it scattered around me on the floor. He was looking at me in disgust. Needless to say that was the end of the band, and my beginning to look for a new place to hide.
I was 18 years old by this point. I was on the verge of being kicked out of college, the local police were now constantly watching me because of my reputation, the band I was in had just broken up, and I was an embarrassment to the fraternity. So much so, that when it came time to pledge to become a part of the fraternity, I was actually blackballed (the majority of the fraternity voted against my application for membership).
I want you to imagine how badly you have to mess up to have this happen. This was the fraternity that I had spent a year and half at on a daily basis. I had disgraced myself so much and embarrassed them so bad, that I was voted out when they chose who they would accept as pledges.
My now familiar instinct to disappear arose, and I decided that I needed a change of scenery. It was the spring of 1984 when I found myself on the way to Baltimore, Maryland. My old guitar player had moved there to go to college, and I hoped to track him down and start another band. So began the next and most turbulent chapter of my life. My drinking would escalate even more, as would my troubles with the law and the effects on my family.
< Chapter 3:4 Chapter 3:6 >
The Warrior Sage Chapter/Section
Who Is Willard Barth?
Preface - Exploring Strength And Weakness
Chapter 1:1 - The Process Of Self-Awareness
Chapter 1:2 The Stages Of Child Development
Chapter 2:1 The World Changed Forever
Chapter 2:2 The Vicious Cycle Begins
Chapter 2:3 Losing Faith
Chapter 2:4 My Dark Secret
Chapter 2:5 Where Is The Love I Was Promised?
Chapter 3:2 The Road To Alcohol Dependence
Chapter 3:3 Leaving My Childhood Behind
Chapter 3:4 Escaping Responsibility; The Joy Ride Ends
Chapter 3:5 Living A Duality Begins
Chapter 3:6 Out Of Control
Chapter 3:7 Crossing The Line To Insanity
Chapter 3:8 The Black-out Drinking Begins
Chapter 3:9 Facing The Music
Chapter 3:10 A New Beginning
Chapter 3:11 More Lessons To Learn
Chapter 4:1 The Final Party
Chapter 4:2 A Moment Of Clarity
Chapter 4:3 My New Life Begins
Chapter 4:4 Sober - Time To Face The World
Chapter 4:5 The First Year Of Sobriety
Chapter 4:6 Major Change Comes In Year Two
Chapter 4:7 My Daughter Is Born April 20, 1992
Chapter 5:1 Life Changing Decisions Follow My Daughter's Birth
Chapter 5:2 Recognizing The Voice Inside
Chapter 5:3 The Empress Hotel
Chapter 5:4 A New Chapter In My Life Begins
Chapter 6:1 Finding My Way Home
Chapter 6:2 Falling Into Place
Chapter 6:3 A New Awareness
Chapter 6:4 Personal Finances And Personal Development
Chapter 6:5 The George Washington Story
Chapter 6:6 Letting Go So Others Can Grow
Chapter 6:7 The Wrap Up
Jump HOME from Living A Duality Begins