I can already hear the yawns. Believe me, if I was on the other side, I’d be yawning as well. The internet is full of atheist blogs, over-run with political blogs, and science blogs aren’t exactly few and far between. With countless options and only so many hours in a day, why should you spend your time reading Foster Disbelief?
Honestly? *lowers voice* That is a damn good question, and one that I don’t currently have an acceptable answer for. At my previous home, “The Amazing Adventures of Foster Disbelief,” I never provided a compelling reason for you to spend your time reading my writing. I served up predictable posts that ended up being nothing but pale imitations of the blogs I loved. Rather than separating myself from the crowd, I blended in, and in the crowded blogosphere I faded into the background.
But I do have a perspective that other bloggers do not, a perspective that I hope will interest a few readers. That perspective comes with my past, a past that provided an education not from universities, but from prison, rehabs, and the street. Atheism and science saved my life, and that is a claim that not many of my fellow bloggers can make. Not everything that I will post here will be related to my history, but when I write about the War on Drugs it is not from the point of view of a detached scholar, but from eyes that have served state prison time for non-violent drug offenses. When I discuss religion, it comes from a mind that was perfectly content to throw this life away to the needle until I realized this is the only life I will ever have. Cognitive dissonance affects all of us, but it almost cost me my life, my family, and everything I ever cared about. I do not have a PhD., nor even a degree (yet), but I do have intelligence and experience that may someday interest a few of you.
I plan on dealing with my past in some depth here at my new blogging home, but as an introduction I’ll provide a rough sketch of my history now. I have two sisters, but I was a change of life baby born 16 years after my siblings, so I was in effect raised as an only child. My parents were lapsed Catholics; while I was raised celebrating Christmas and Easter and believing in Jesus, I didn’t see the inside of a church until my early teens. My father was a diabetic coal miner. The disease forced him out of the mines and into random odd jobs before eventually claiming both his legs, and then his life. My mother is a martyr. She survived breast cancer when I was twelve, considered it a miracle and returned to the church with a vengeance. She dragged me along with her.
I excelled in school until it bored me. Then I made it through on the subjects I didn’t have to put forth effort on; English, History and the Social Sciences. The A’s I’d get in those subjects offset the D’s I received in Math and the hard sciences. I took the SAT’s in 7th grade as part of the John Hopkins Talent Search. Standardized tests always placed me in the 99th percentile. I always had potential, I just pissed it away.
Rather than study, I spent my teen years engaged in the type of rebellion you only find in white, middle class suburban areas. I smoked a lot of pot and sang in a few punk bands. I moved to Tampa, Florida after graduation for a bit of time before coming back to Pennsylvania, attending IUP, and promptly failing out. Surprisingly, not going to class and spending homework time smoking pot didn’t exactly work for me in college like it did in high school. Imagine that. I moved to Williamsport, PA after my failure at IUP, got my life together somewhat and once again found myself back in the Altoona area. I got a good job in the food service industry and transferred the few credits I actually completed to Penn State, earning a 3.9 over three semesters.
For many people the switch to hard drugs happens early. For some, marijuana or alcohol actually are gateway drugs. I am not one of those people. I had no interest in hard drugs. I had learned to control my pot smoking, quit taking LSD, and other than the occasional Ecstasy pill had settled down into a cycle I could control and succeed with. Then I broke both of my feet. (Broke may be an understatement here. Shattered is closer to the truth. 37 breaks in the left, 23 in the right. It’s a long story, I’m sure I’ll go into it at some point.) I was in a wheelchair for three months. I was lucky enough to have great health insurance from my job, so I didn’t end up with huge medical debt. But what I did end up with was a taste for opiates, and very rapidly I found myself crossing every line in the sand I could draw. From Percocet to Oxycontin to snorting heroin to shooting heroin. Once the fall started, it didn’t take long. Every time I thought I hit rock bottom, I would grab a shovel and dig a little deeper. I picked up a felony along the way, and made stops in county jail and then state prison. Visited both rehabs and halfway houses. Attended more twelve step meetings than I can count, and tried every way to quit anyone suggested to me. Through it all, I always believed in something greater, something more than this life. And to be honest, I was perfectly content to spend this life higher than fuck until I got to whatever came next.
This may be the first time anyone has ever put these words together in a sentence. The Evolution/Creationism debate saved my life. Not directly, and not immediately, but my interest in the debate spawned my interest in science, which led me to Michael Shermer, Carl Sagan, and PZ Myers. It brought me to rationalism and skepticism, and eventually to atheism, which gave me the stunning slap to the face that this is the only life I get. I wish I could say that I immediately gave up drugs and turned my life around, but this is reality and we all know reality doesn’t work that way. But for once I actually wanted to quit, and eventually, with the help of methadone treatment, I did. My life is far from perfect now, but I am clean, I am clear-headed, and finally attempting to use some of this potential I spent so many years wasting.
So that is my history in a nutshell. We’ll flesh out the story in way too much detail as time goes on, but that should serve as an introduction. Perhaps it even interested you. After all, I don’t see too many science bloggers who also happen to be ex-junkie felons. Unless I’m just missing them. (If I am, please send me links.) So please feel free to stop back and look around. Other than the War on Drugs and general atheist ramblings, you’ll also find quite a bit on cognitive dissonance, evolution/creationism, and anti-vax. And if my writings are of no interest, please check out the blogs on my blogroll. Those bloggers truly deserve your readership.
I hope to someday be able to say the same about my own blog.