To cope, I took solace in booze and drugs. Fourteen is way too young for that stuff, but with no one watching over me, the Kingdom of Reckless Trouble was mine. All mine.
Of course, it wasn't long before I was in the hospital too.
Whacked out on LSD, weed, cocaine and ecstasy all at the same time, the emergency room doc gave me a fat dose of charcoal and sent me and my splintered personality out the door.
That's when the panic attacks started. I'd be sitting in math class when an iron cage would wrap itself around my lungs. I'd sweat profusely and feel like my mind itself was on fire.
One day I ran out of class, out the building and into the nearby church.
I sat in the congregation gripped with fear as I stared at the cross, hallucinating that it was covered in snakes.
The youth pastor found me and took me under his wing over the weeks to come.
No religion involved.
Just counseling through the fallout of my psychotic episode with too many drugs and the inner darkness that had propelled it.
When he learned that I was a voracious reader, he gave me books.
One, in particular, would change my life.
Better than that, it helped me develop the ability to keep changing it.