Dahlonega, GA (Rainbow Gathering) - 2018-06-22

Savage: I grew up in the ghetto of Columbus, Ohio. I got my ass whipped severely on a daily basis by kids in school. It was racial. I wasn’t the only white kid, but you could play spot the white kid in our school. On top of that, my dad was pretty damn abusive. Some physical but mostly mental. And my grandpa was sexually abusive to me.

At age 12, I started doing drugs. I went straight to the hard drugs. I started with cocaine and heroin. I got strung out. They sent me off to three different rehabs. They were rough so, I coped with it by running away and doing drugs.

Then when I turned 18, it got even worse. I stayed on the streets of Columbus. It was winter and I would wake up to my tent collapsed on me due to the weight of snow. It’s 14 degrees out. I’d go out, fly a sign, and make a hundred and some odd dollars for heroin and go back to my tent. That would be a repeat thing over, and over again. My dog, I took good care of her. Myself, I didn’t. I had no self-worth. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere.

BW: Had they diagnosed you with anything at this point?

Savage: Bipolar with manic tendencies, ADHD, but I grew out of that. As an adult, they just stuck me with PTSD.

BW: Did you ever tell anybody about your grandfather?

Savage: Yeah. At 13, when I went to the first treatment center. I broke down and told my counselor because other kids were talking about it. It made me feel safe like, these guys are talking about it so it’s time to get it off my chest.

It was a big turmoil with the family. My grandma was in a psych ward for suicide. My uncle went up to my grandpa with a .45 and almost blew his head off. After that, it came out that my grandpa had done it to [other family members] too.

It took me a couple of years to be able to cope with what happened. I forgave my grandpa. I still talk to him. I give him hugs and say, “I love you, Grandpa.” And he . . . he even apologizes occasionally. I’m like, “There’s no need to be sorry. Things happen. That’s life.”

But I still have problems when people touch me. I’ll accept hugs but don’t touch me out of nowhere. That freaks me out.

As I got older, I ran. I ran because I was stealing. I was stealing for my habit, from stores. I never stole from individuals.

On October 15, 2014, they took me to jail for it. And then they tried to enhance the charges. So I left Ohio, strung out. I didn’t have no drugs on me. I just put my pack on, and me and my dog left.

I made it to San Antonio and was two years clean. Started working my ass off. I lost my job and ended up on the streets and started using heroin again. [I’ve been off and on since then] and now I’ve been going through withdrawals . . . I’ve been trying. Like when I say I’m in recovery, I’m trying.

Relapse is part of the recovery. You’re always going to relapse. I mean, not always but yeah, the majority of the people do relapse. You gotta keep yourself around positive people. You gotta have a really good network of people that you can talk to.

BW: Does being here at the Rainbow Gathering help?

Savage: Oh dude, this place is awesome for it. Ever since I’ve been here I’ve not touched anything besides pot.

BW: Why do you think it helps?

Savage: It helps because this is a community. It brings people together. Most people here are severely against that drug. When you say, “Dude, I feel like relapsing”, your brother or sister here is gonna come talk to you like, “Yo, you shouldn’t do that. You’re too good of a person to be going down that road.” And I like the woods. The woods help you heal.

BW: I notice you have a service dog. What’s her name?

Savage: Bailey. She’s used for PTSD. I’m jumpy around people. And then when I get lots of people around me, it gets bad. I start getting a panic attack. She gives me comfort. She’ll come up here and put her head in my lap, and just sit there and stare at me. And then, I’ll pet her. To come out of a PTSD attack you just have to breathe. Just breathe. And then you have to have some kind of comfort to bring you out of that PTSD attack and she is my comfort.