Life seemed on the up-and-up, and all was going well until my father came home one day to tell us we were moving from LA to Charlotte, North Carolina. I can’t speak for my mother, but I was fucking crushed.

It was the early nineties, and I was around fourteen years old and perfectly happy spending the rest of my life in Southern California. I had just made the football team at my new private school in Anaheim, had landed the girlfriend I wanted, was establishing my popularity, and already had the reputation for being the crazy poet who held nothing back when given a pen and blank piece of paper. All of this came crashing down. Within one week, all of these things faded into memories, and I was on a plane landing in Charlotte.

Once again I was the new kid, starting a new school, had no friends, and very quickly felt lost in the concrete-lacking, Bible Belt town of South Charlotte, America. What was hip and cool in LA was not hip and cool on the East Coast. I was almost instantly labeled an outcast and weirdo. I had gone from being a popular, football-playing poet to a “nobody,” and I didn’t know how to deal with it.

It was at this point in my life when I came up with the chameleon coping mechanism. If you told me something was cool, I would blend right into it with the goal of becoming cool for you. If you have never tried this coping mechanism—don’t! It steals your soul because the more you change to please others, the more you lose track of your true self. I honestly believe that this coping technique is what caused me to try drugs in the first place. God, if I could only go back in time and use my balls to stand up for what I thought was cool . . . what I thought was hip.

Back in those days, education was a priority, sports was a priority, and betting my allowance on baseball games with my father was a priority. All of that disappeared so fast, it baffles me. It almost seems like overnight, all of that changed, and this new image, this shell of character, had taken over my soul, taken over my passion—and I wasn’t so blinded by the thought of being cool that I couldn’t realize that my entire life was crumbling underneath me.

So at my new private school in Charlotte, I had slipped to the ranks of outcast. The only friends I made were also outcasts and were as far as possible from the sporty, popular kids we referred to as the Glory Boys.

This gave me a chance to focus on my writing because my outcast posse consisted of long-haired musicians—what the Glory Boys referred to as Art Fags.