How Metal Saved Me: A True Story

By Neil Rodrigues

How Metal Saved Me

My name is Neil Rodrigues. I wanted to write this because of the antithetical way that the masses look at all of the metal genres. While the music is still demonized it is being more readily accepted albeit toned down by the industry quite a bit. Even that will change now that the means of being able to cut an album is becoming more readily available now. I am grateful for this but believe me, the industry finds ways to get in our way no matter how much power we have to control the means of our own fates.

Now with that in mind I want you all to understand that I don’t write this to depress anyone. Only to inscribe in blood the point. Into the lids of your eyelids, it goes, with a rusty carving knife. So here begins the story.

My life was not at all sunshine and hookers. Not by any means. The downhill slide began with my mother who had a nasty habit of consuming mass amounts of Vodka and Heroin. She had idea that she needed to do the mother thing occasionally. She would want me to visit even though she would leave me with a friend who liked to starve me. For what reason I have no idea. I was 3. At age nine I was introduced to my step mother who used to like beating me for fun. She was a nurse so she knew how to do it without leaving much in the way of bruises or broken limbs. Her fun was terrorizing me. Not that I wasn’t used to it. My peers at the school did a number on me before I got home. I beat them all eventually but not before they did their damage. What broke me out of the first cycle? Metal.

Every day and night my world became Metal. While I had listened to it, as I could, since 1979 I lived in a Military town that had delusions of Redneck standing. The turning point though was when I was 16 and found my first Metalhead friend. Someone who was just as demented as I was. Once that happened we found places to buy metal, listen to metal, and in 87 I started taking rides to San Francisco with more Metalheads. I had found them along the way while playing in Thrash Metal bands. The whole thing was a gentle tornado that ripped me apart and whispered loving tones into my ear. I went to dozens of mind altering Thrash and Death metal concerts at a time that is known to be the Classic Era of Bay Area Metal. No matter how many times I was beaten or humiliated, one run through the Mosh Pit was all that it took to break me out of it.

After this all started I took control of my own life. I was kicking and elbowing bullies to the ground. It wasn’t in my nature but I learned that I could defend myself and do so well. I then fended off the Step-Mother with a baseball bat and walked out the door. Never to return. It was my first Golden Age.

Well, after a time I graduated High School and entered College. Unfortunately my Metalhead friend left for the Navy and I had to stop going to the concerts. I had to finish my certification in college. At 22 units a semester and a part time job I had very little time for anything else. The college did not think it was funny that I listened to Godflesh in my car at full volume in their parking lot either. Aggies usually don’t. Aggie is a rough term that the Normals use for Agricultural people. Whatever that means. I define it as Wannabe Redneck.

So I finished my certification while wading through the Shoal Juice of the Country Music Elite and became a certified Heavy Equipment Technician. Something that has a history in the area of being a relatively high paying job. 2 months after I certified though, I was run down by a car.
A drunk non-citizen ran me down with his brothers Chevy Corsica doing 45 MPH. It landed me in the hospital with 12 breaks in my right leg, 3 on my left arm, a concussion, crushed bowell, and a dead left ear. Needless to say it slowed me down a bit. Thankfully at the time, my old Metalhead friend was visiting from the Navy. He saved me. He called the ambulance and held me down when I tried to get back up and into the car to drive home.
So to shorten this up a bit I am going to skip the details of recovery as I have never fully recovered. I moved to Montana with the father of my Metalhead friend who was also one of my best friends. An ex-Vietnam Vet, Marine Corps 3rd Division and also a metalhead. I still speak to him and visit occasionally.

While I lived in the Montana area near him things were ok again. While I at the time attributed this to being in Montana I am starting to now understand the truth. This was my Second Golden Age. Even with the disability I survived the harsh winters of Montana with minimal resources. Carving out a life for myself working at a Feed Store and helping people with their computer problems. Believe it or not, Libby, MT is not a mecca of technology.

About 3 years later I felt the destructive nature of US corporatism catch up with me. A company called W.R. Grace poisoned the area with Vermiculite years before causing Lung Cancer in many. The US Government, in their infinite wisdom, decided to allow the company to Superfund the site.  Allowing them to buy up all of the land poisoned for pennies on the dollar. The economy in Libby collapsed and I was sucked back to California. And when I say sucked, I do mean California. Neoliberal capital of Civilization. I use the word Civilization lightly.

My time back in California was again a vortex into the 9 pits of Dante’s Inferno. To wrap it up in short order, I got involved with an abusive woman who took dump trucks of Crystal Meth on the side. While I was able to involuntarily get her off of the Meth, she found other things to do with her spare time. Hell for a while she even got me into it. Me! The chemical-less 1950s ideal kid with dreams of life long employment, kids and a white picket fence. Of course the fence was nailed into a pentagram but white picket nonetheless. For those who wonder, I don’t take anything anymore. I weaned myself off of it as soon as I could and now the only things I take are high blood pressure medication and the occasional IGA.

I was with her for 15 years due to my self destructive loyalty. In that time I took a great deal of emotional damage from her. Beyond that I lost my job at Apple Computer which I nailed down for 6.5 years. While they told me that them firing me was my own fault I knew something was off. I figured out, after the shock wore off that they had falsified records to get me out the door. I found out that apparently I was making too much money for my position. I was fired because I had received too many raises and would not move to management. It was a bureaucratic oversight. The middle management did not want the upper management to see that I was receiving more money than others in the position I was in. Someone threw me under the bus to save their own ass. This after receiving the psychological conditioning (that is a light term) that they would do to us. I won’t get into that. Just know that Apple are not the saints that they like to make you believe.

So I ended up unemployed for about 5-6 years because of the big firing. Also my girlfriend had become more disabled or at least it may have been psychosomatic. The fact that she may have not been able to control herself without the drugs. It wasn’t too bad taking care of her but it wasn’t good either. The doctors had prescribed her a medication for pain called Oxymorphone. We learned later that it is as addictive if not more so than Oxycontin and if taken in large enough doses or insufflated (snorted) it is more addictive than Heroin. I shit you not. Well that ended up with her having hallucinations about someone taking her medication. Like someone was walking into our apartment and taking her pills while we were gone. I found out later that she was hiding them so thoroughly that she could no longer find them. The cycle ended with me finding her dead on our bedroom floor in a pool of blood and brains. She had eaten my shotgun with one of my hot loaded cartridges in the chamber. After all of it was said and done. After I got over the shock and dealt with her estate I found 90 tablets of Oxymorphone that she had hidden. She had killed herself because she had run out. Not that she hadn’t tried to kill herself before, but I had been able to stop her the first 3 times. You have to admit, she was determined. Oh and she had been a Metalhead in her youth but she gave that up for the Rave Community so she doesn’t count.

That brings me to now. Here I am, disabled leg, deaf ear, a butt load of pain, PTSD and a fairly morbid disposition on life in general. That and, DAMN am I an ugly bastard! I am only half kidding.

Here is the punchline though. I spent a year going through the throws of PTSD after her death. You know, the “I signed up for 4 tours in Nam” type PTSD. Flashbacks and everything. I thought I wasn’t going to make it. Corey Taylor was right. I was coming up on the big thoughts of, “Why should I exist?”. As much willpower as I have, the reservoir was dry. Every week I fought it off. Every week was a constant cycle of depression, severe anxiety, memory loss, lethargia, ad naseum.

So here it is, the point. I know you were all wondering when I would get to it. Damn dude! Get Patience!

The last straw had been pulled and I got the short one. I had been in the same apartment for a year beyond her death. Living in the same bedroom with the same holes cut in the carpet where they had cleaned up the visceral remains. My head was about to pop. I was out of money and I now have until the end of May to vacate. I was a mess. Panic Attacks 24/7. Sleeping one day out of three. Apparently when you have that much Adrenaline and Cortisol pumping through your system it can give you a heart attack, aneurysm in some cases and it destroys short term memory. The end was in sight.

That was when I remembered a metalhead friend of mine from college and her Metalhead Son. I thought about seeking out others. At the time I didn’t know why. Then it happened. I found Metalheads Forever. It didn’t seem like much at the time. It was just a Facebook page after all. Then I got there. Started typing and responding. Step by step in the matter of a week and a half the PTSD stopped. I started being able to play my Ibanez again. Started writing again. I didn’t realize it but the cure did not come from a bottle. It came from billions of 1s and 0s being transmitted to me along tiny strands of Silicon. But that was only the vehicle. It was all of you. My community. My family. As I said to someone on Metalheads Forever not too long ago, “It is the old adage of, “Walk a mile in another man’s shoes.””. Almost all Metalheads have experienced trauma, abuse or something similar. For a great deal of the community, these are some of the reasons we get into Metal. To deal with the trauma. Fuck you doc, I have my meds! They were prescribed to me by Tom Araya!

Successful treatment from the Angel Of Death? I may have to think about that for a while. Anyway!

Now I can create without the thought of “Am I good enough?” or “I will fail”. Even without the mental niche of the week which was, “This is what it must feel like to be the living dead.”.  I have found my circle again (Of The Tyrants? JK.). Two days after I started talking in the Metal group my head was clear enough that I contacted my brother in Oregon. I remembered he said that he may be able to get me a job there. So I called again. The metal of my mind had became tempered and sharpened. ( No pun intended, well maybe ) He confirmed my thoughts and now I have a plan, a purpose and the will to make it happen. The only reason that this happened in such short order that could explain the change is all of you. There was no other explanation and the patterns tell me that I am right. I have pulled myself off of the floor with my knuckles and face bloodied and I am ready for the next round.

Once again, yes, I can stand before you in ernest and proclaim,

“Yes I am Morbid!”

Neil Rodrigues