My first recorded photograph with my father and sister Debbie. The journey began in La Mesa, California, in the summer of 1961. ” Flip through a stack of school yearbooks from my childhood or adolescence, and more often than not you’ll find one of those gray silhouettes, or maybe even a big question mark—the great scarlet letter of yearbooks! Like a lot of kids who bounce around from school to school, town to town, I was frequently absent and thus became something of a phantom, a sullen, red-haired mystery to classmates and teachers alike.To this day I still have trauma caused by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.I don’t get all excited around Christmas, because I still have a hard time believing everything that goes along with the holiday (and I’m speaking as a man who now considers himself a Christian). I love my kids, I love my wife, and I want to celebrate with them. I had a beautiful wife and two wonderful kids, a nice home, cars, more money than I ever dreamed of. You see, behind the façade, I was fucking miserable: tired of the road, the bickering between band members, the unreasonable demands of management and record company executives, the loneliness of the drug-addled life. He even became a weapon to be used against me, to keep me in line. My mother was a maid, and we lived off her salary along with a combination of food stamps and Medicare and other forms of public assistance. In some cases I could have done with a little less intervention. Mind-fucking religious weirdness (in my case the extremes of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Satanism)? By this time I was a world-famous rock star—founder, front man, singer, songwriter, and guitarist (and de facto CEO) for Megadeth, one of the most popular bands in heavy metal. And so I went off to Hunt, Texas, hoping this time the change would stick. Oh, not in the literal sense of the word, but in the sense that he was referred to by everyone in my family as someone to be feared and despised. A moving van would show up in the middle of the night, we’d pack our meager belongings, and like fugitives we were on the run.I blamed almost all of it on the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
WHAT DO YOU do when you’re a lonely kid, a boy surrounded by women, with no father or even a father figure? I played with a lot of plastic models—miniature replicas of Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney, whose rivalry was re-created nightly on the floor of my bedroom; tiny American soldiers stormed the beach at Normandy or invaded Iwo Jima. Well, this particular world, the world in my head, was the safest place I could find.
Then I’d get to school, and while everyone stood with their hands over their hearts during the Pledge of Allegiance, I’d have to stand quietly with my hands at my sides. I was a pariah, always getting picked on, always getting smacked around, which really hardened me.
When the other kids were singing “Happy Birthday to You” and blowing out candles, I’d stand mute. I remember going to work one day with my mother, in a very wealthy neighborhood called Linda Isle in Newport Beach.
AA—and this holds true for most rehabilitative programs and treatment centers—is a fraternity, and like all fraternity brothers, we like to swap stories. He was angry, yelling, though I don’t recall the exact words he used. What I do remember is the sight of the channel locks in his hand.
As usual, I’ve brought only modest expectations and enthusiasm to the proceedings. You see, I’ve learned more about getting loaded, more about how to get drugs, more about mixing drinks, and more about how to bed the opposite sex in Alcoholics Anonymous than in any other single place in the world. Oh, there is one—the time I was down the street, playing with a neighbor, and for some reason Dad came strolling up the driveway to take me home.