Tampa Changed Everything…

It’s tough to remember the exact date, but I’m thinking it was near the end of 1998, I was 26 and had been living in Tampa for about a year drinking my face off celebrating the fact that I lived in such an amazing place. It was a long way from my home in Indiana and a huge leap from Augusta, Georgia. The sun never stops shining there and having a brand new VW Convertible made everything even sweeter. The weekends would include hitting the beach, boating or even laying in bed all day watching movies on one of the few rainy days we had. Friends were hard to come by, at least real ones. I was lucky to have 2 or 3 that I could count on but it would have been nice to have more.

You know from my past stories that a few years back while living in Orlando, I had smoked marijuana once and tried ecstasy once, which were both really great experiences, but neither held my interest. Luckily for me, I had never been addicted to anything, and to this day, that still stands, but after spending one weekend in St. Petersburg experimenting with mind altering tablets, everything changed.

My boyfriend at the time wasn’t a millionaire, but he definitely had money and he loved to spoil me with it. So after he convinced me to try those funny little pills again one weekend while beached on a sandbar, I couldn’t get enough. To this day I often wonder why, after my first experience with them I had no interest. Either way, he had the money to buy them and I was a ton of fun on them.

Now, my bestie Techie wanted nothing to do with this new crowd I was hanging with and he often tried to pull me away from them, but I was sucked in and didn’t want out. My weekends were spent awake, going from one afterhour’s party to the next, barely eating and always having a blast. If you’ve never experienced this type of party scene, it’s awesome and you will meet the most interesting people. I would be lying if I said stay away and never try it because for me, the mind altering experiences seemed to open up parts of my brain that had been closed off my whole life.  I’m not telling you to go out and get stoned; I’m also not going to tell you that all drugs are all bad. Alcohol is much worse in my mind, but everyone does it and just because it’s legal, it’s ok. You have to make up your own mind about what you want to put into your body and how you handle it makes all the difference in the world. It’s tough so sit here and tell you about the bad things I’ve done in my life, really tough, and I’m sure some of you are going to judge me and that’s ok. Most of my bad choices have helped me and for that reason alone, I’m glad I made them.

After a few months, the boyfriend and I broke up but along the way I had met tons of cool people who knew how to get more and where the parties were. Eventually I dragged my bestie into all of this nonsense, but to this day, I believe the only reason he came along was because without the safety of having my ex boyfriend with me during the craziness, he needed to be there to protect me. To be honest, I can probably count on one hand the amount of times he ever seemed high. I swear he would carry around the same beer and just fill it with water pretending that he was participating.

During all of this, my job was going well with AT&T and they had just switched my shift from 11 to 7 so I could cover the West Coast. To me this meant that I could party even longer on Sunday nights…life was great but getting very expensive! By the time I cashed my check, it was already spent on bills, a ridiculous car payment, rent that was more than I could afford and now the infamous pills I loved so much. One by one, this small group of friends starting forming, we were like the cool kids in St. Elmo’s fire but the rated D version for ‘Druggie’s’.

1509 was the club where we would all meet; dance until they kicked us out and then the search for an afterhours spot would begin where we could continue to party until dawn and then some. Eventually we all found a place we could hang every weekend, far from the masses, located on a lake and with very few neighbors. This compound was owned by a husband and wife team who love to entertain, were hot, rich, fun and knew how to throw a party!! Pretty much everyone was coupled up but I was quickly accepted into the group as one of the only single girls and trusted by all the women.

Every weekend for around 2 years, this was my home, except when we decided to take our show on the road.  I can’t even begin to explain to you how outlandish our parties were. The majority of them included costumes, DJ’s, nitris tanks with dresses, ate ups, bubbles, fantasies, balloons, feather boas, magic carpet rides, carnies, dunk tanks, lingerie, hotel rooms and so much more……you just had to be there. But overall, I met and am still friends with some of the greatest people you could know. Entrepreneurs, Scientists, Parents and Business Owner’s, all just people who want to escape from the real world and play around in Alice’s land for a while.

That’s why I mentioned earlier that people who experiment with illegal substances aren’t all bad, even the substances themselves are all bad, it’s how you use them. Unfortunately we lost a few friends along the way who didn’t know when to stop, but with anything in life, moderation is the key.  Whether you eat too much sugar and develop diabetes or drink too much alcohol and crash your car, we are all human and allowed to make mistakes. Have fun and enjoy life, just try not to hurt yourself or anyone along the way.

Even though my Boogie Nights lifestyle only lasted 2 years, I have no regrets, not one! Well, I do have one, I neglected my doggie, Mr. Travis, even typing this right now, it brings tears to my eyes, but I made it up to him after I was done. For the last half of his life he lived like a King. Losing a few friends along the way also breaks my heart, my friend Noel, the sweetest soul with the biggest smile, somehow got too wrapped up in all the madness and lost his life; I think about him often and wish he was still here.

In the end, I walked away a better person, they don’t call them mind altering drugs for no reason, those pills unlocked the deep, dark sadness that had plagued me all those years and helped me to see who I really was, which was someone who needed to grow up and change for the better.

Eventually our group disbanded and most of us went our separate ways but I bet that majority of us have nothing but good thoughts about our time at Camp Pico and are happy to say that we dared to be different!! Maybe one day I will give you all of the juicy details of the after hours life, but for now just know that those days of experimenting with drugs are long gone and bittersweet!

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2 Replies to “Tampa Changed Everything…”

  1. Those years sound like fun and educational times, a college degree of sorts. I did pot, hash, meth, etc. off and on for a few years. Part of medicating myself and searching for and discovering myself while having some crazy times. You’ve been embracing life and living large, being a free spirit. Good for you.

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