After that weekend, I started leaving my childhood behind and looking for the next place I could fit in. Alcohol was becoming my constant companion, but now I needed to find somewhere that I could feel wanted. It was getting to the point that whenever I was around the Tech, I would do more and more things that would leave me feeling embarrassed and worthless. I became the outsider as my attempts to fit in became more outrageous. I had thought that by being the best drinker, I was being accepted, but my drinking was taking over my life and pushing me farther from the Tech and my family.
It was around this time that I saw something that would change my life forever. We were in school one afternoon when we were informed there would be a “special presentation” in the auditorium. We weren’t told what it was about, but I can still remember walking into the auditorium and stopping in my tracks as I saw all this musical equipment on stage. There was a rock band that was going to perform and we were there for the show.
By this point in my life, music had become a part of my identity. I was singing regularly at my family’s church as well as being invited to sing at other churches in the neighboring counties, and was also being asked to sing at weddings. I was becoming quite popular for my talents. I was also at the point in my life where I was just starting to really get into rock and roll.
The band kicked into some of the most popular rock and roll songs of that time. I sat there spellbound as the lights flashed and the music blared. The singer had complete control of the whole crowd. It was amazing. I knew at that moment that I was leaving my childhood behind. Even though I enjoyed the attention and energy I felt when I was singing, there was something different about this kind of performance. I knew that I wanted to do what he was doing. No longer was I interested in the church choir and my little solos for the congregation. Now I wanted the energy, the excitement that I saw these guys create in front of hundreds of people.
I became focused on learning how to become part of something like what they had created. I started following the band and going to any show that I could. I would follow them to carnivals, fairs and other school dances in an effort to get to know more about them and how I could become a part of this amazing group I had found. It wasn’t long before the drummer and I became friends and soon I was hanging out on stage behind his drum kit while they were playing.
Within a few months I got my chance to become a part of the band. They were having trouble with the lead singer because of his drinking and drug abuse and needed to find someone new. They knew that I was a good singer and that I had experience in front of larger crowds; the only problem was that at the time I was 14 years old. This was a working band that played in bars and they didn’t want to risk the problems involved in having a 14-year-old singer. They let me audition, but after a band meeting, they decided to give the singer that was with them one more chance.
So as quickly as my dream appeared, it vanished. But the seed was planted. While I was auditioning, there was another guitar player there who heard me sing and we decided to form our own band. For the next year we looked for other musicians that would become the rest of what would be my first real band. The group lasted for a year and maybe only played 5 shows, but I now had the experience of being on stage in a rock band and was infected with the performing bug.
It had been almost a year exactly when I got a call from Rich who was the drummer for the first band I had auditioned for. Since that first audition a lot of things had changed. I now had more experience from having played in my own band, and had also been chosen for two lead roles in major musical productions that our high school had presented. Not only that, but physically I had matured to the point that at 15 years old, I was being mistaken for someone who was between 18 and 20 yrs old. I was towering over my peers at a little over 6 feet tall and 200 pounds. Rich and I had seen each other over the year when I would go to see his band, or when he came to see mine so we had maintained contact and continued to build our friendship this way.
Rich called to tell me that they had fired Jimmy again and that there was no way they would let him sing for the band again. He also knew that I was having trouble with my guitar player and wanted to know if I would be interested in joining them. Now you have to imagine, to me, Rich’s band was the “ultimate band” in my eyes. I was star struck in a way, and to be asked to become their singer was a dream come true. It took me less than a minute to say yes, and Rich and I began a musical partnership that would span several band projects over the next 10 years of our lives.
It was around this same time that I would enter another phase of leaving my childhood behind that would change the way I looked at, and participated in the world. One of the things that was common for the mountain kids was riding motorcycles. When I was 11 or 12 my uncle Dick had taken the time to teach me how to ride his dirt bike, and even though negotiating the mountain trails was a challenge because of only having one leg, I was addicted to the sensation that came from being on a motorcycle. I bought my first street legal motorcycle when I was 15, and started risking excursions into the closest town before I even had a license. Since I had started playing with the band and because of the experience with my cousin’s fishing rod, I no longer felt that I was a part of the Tech. I had the band, but because of their firing Jimmy and the risk involved with my being so young, I didn’t drink around them. So I continued searching for a new place to fit in where I could keep up my party identity.
I can still remember the feeling the first night I saw them. Have you ever seen something that mesmerized you? Something that was so overpowering that you sat there almost in a spell? I was sitting on my motorcycle parked along Main Street in Lock Haven, PA. The big thing for teenagers to do then was what we called “Cruising the Circuit”. In Lock Haven, the “Circuit”, was an area that was about 5 or 6 blocks long. And from about 6PM until Midnight, it was full of kids driving around in their parents’ cars, blasting music and drinking.
It was a warm summer night and I can still hear the sound. Motorcycles. Not just one or two, but a lot of them. They were revving their engines and squealing their tires as they pulled wheelies and raced through the traffic. It seemed like the whole world stopped and watched as these 10 or 15 bikes sped by. I sat there in awe as this group of bikers made the rest of the town stop and take notice of who they were, just by riding together.
I continued to see this same group of bikers around town every night for a couple of weeks before I decided to start trying to blend in with them. I would ride behind them, far enough not to intrude on their group, but close enough to look to those who would stop and watch like I was a part of it.
One night, as I sat along Main Street waiting for them to show up so I could fall in behind, I heard the familiar sound. By this point, I would usually wait until they had completed the circuit a couple of times before I joined in, but this night, they came straight at me. They pulled in, lining their bikes up on either side of mine. I felt a rush like never before. Had I violated some code of theirs? Did my riding behind them offend them in some way and now I was going to be beaten senseless? And at the same time another part of me prayed that I was going to be asked to join their gang.
One of the biggest men I had ever seen approached me. I swear he must have weighed 350 pounds. My heart was pounding with fear as he came closer. He looked at me sitting there on my motorcycle, nodded his head and said “Nice bike.” A sense of relief came over me as the rest of them began to hang out around their bikes and he and I continued to speak. The conversation was very general that night. No one said anything about me following them. In fact, we mostly talked about different kinds of bikes and watched girls driving by. We laughed, whistled at the girls and joked like we had all been friends for a long time. After about an hour or so they got ready to ride and asked me to join them. They were heading to a local bar for a drink and asked if I wanted to come along. I was 15 years old. I had no driver’s license. We were in a state where the drinking age was 21, and these guys were asking me to go with them to a bar. Well, of course I knew I “shouldn’t”, so it’s exactly what I did.
I learned quickly that when you walk into a bar with 15 other bikers, not many people ask you for ID. That night, I engrained myself into the group. We started to ride together and drank nightly. And if they weren’t up for drinking that night, that wasn’t a problem I would go alone. I soon become a regular at several of the local bars, so my age was never questioned.
One of the things we began to do a lot of was to take road trips all over PA, drinking, riding and raising hell. We would decide to meet at a certain time, and just start riding. When we came to an intersection, whoever was leading would pick the direction. Sometimes we had specific places we were going to, but most of the time we were just out to ride and drink. The more that I became a part of the gang; the more I distanced myself from the Tech. Over the next 2 years I was completely leaving my childhood behind and I became completely involved in the world of drugs and alcohol.
It was Kent, one of the bikers, who introduced me to what in street terms was called “speed” or “uppers”. The way we were partying, it didn’t take long for me to develop quite a reputation in regards to my ability to party long hours. I also had developed a reputation in regards to how much alcohol I could handle. I wanted the parties to go on for as long as they could so it didn’t take much to convince me that by taking these little pills, I could drink more, and last longer. These small “miracle pills” became a constant companion for the next 7 years. It was a routine of waking up, popping some pills to get my day started, going to school, smoking pot when I could sneak off grounds, popping more pills to get me through the day, then meeting with the guys at night to ride and drink.
It was around this time that I had my first problem with the law also. Riding with the gang had brought me to the attention of many of the women cruising the circuit. I wasn’t “dating” like my friends in school. But there were a lot of women who would come to town looking to live out their fantasies. And a biker in leather with an attitude, alcohol and drugs was just the fantasy that a lot of girls’ parents warned them about. I lost my virginity at 15 in the back of one of these girls’ cars, and found a new rush of parties and sex. I was living the whole mantra of “drugs, sex and rock and roll.”
One night while in a secluded area with one of these young ladies, a car approached us as we sat drinking and starting to get undressed. When I looked out, I saw that it was a police car. I had just gotten my learners permit, and it was past midnight. That was a time of night that neither of us could legally be out, and we had both been drinking and were, of course, underage. The only logical thing for me to do at that moment (at least I thought at the time) was to start the car and lead him on a high-speed chase through town.
The chase didn’t last long. I was 16 years old when I ended up in handcuffs, bent over the hood of my car for the first time. This was symbolic of my leaving my childhood behind and it was a position I would come to know well over the following 8 years.
< Chapter 3:2 Chapter 3:4 >
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 3:1 Seeking Paths Of Acceptance
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 Storyv
Chapter 6:6 Letting Go So Others Can Grow
Chapter 6:7 The Wrap Up
Jump HOME from Leaving My Childhood Behind