All Photographs + Text Copyright 2012 Christopher Keeley

Three early traumatic events.

Three traumatic events that probably affected my early psychological development and contributed to my becoming a juvenile delinquent occurred while I was in first grade. The combination of these three unfortunate events may also have contributed to the detrimental progression of the disease of addiction at an early age for someone as young as me. My acceptance of the disease concept model for addiction is that I was born an addict. I was pre-disposed genetically. The social influences, as well as the psychological effects, contributed immensely, but the cards were already dealt, because I have the addict gene. Obsessive-compulsive behavior was naturally ingrained in my persona from as far back as I can remember. I have learned to harness this dilemma through my art and daily living. Channeled into a healthy work ethic, an addict like myself can achieve many accomplishments on the job or in a professional career. I have great skills at avoiding reality. Self-centeredness is the core of addiction.

I repeated the first grade, as my mother tells me, due to no fault of my own, because I was never given the opportunity of attending a Kindergarten class, owing to the fact that we were stationed in Bamako, Mali, West Africa. I spoke French because of my nanny. I acquired a taste for Cr¸me de Menthe, an alcoholic liquor. I loved hanging around the swimming pool drinking the green stuff watered down with ice. I loved swimming so much that the adults gave me the nickname of Ņwater rat.Ó

The first traumatic event I kept as a secret for many years, which is extremely hard for a child. I was six years old and playing with fireworks with my next-door neighbor, Steve, who was eight years old at the time. We were in an alley across the street and I lit some fireworks on top of some trash. The trash caught fire as well as the veranda of the house directly across the street from my parentsÕ house on Livingston Street.

Steve says letÕs split, as in banana split. We hopped on our bikes and fled. A short time later Steve investigates the damage, and says there is a fire and the whole alley is filled with smoke. I fled to my house and hid in the third floor attic. I could hear fire engines and my heart was pounding so hard. I didnÕt tell a soul. There is a saying that goes you are only as sick as your secrets. I learned at a young age to keep secrets and to be dishonest. I was also fascinated with fire and matches, bordering on pyromania.

A second early childhood traumatic event that I remember from when I was six years old that could have possibly contributed to my becoming an addict was an accident that occurred while I was walking to school.

The professionals say addiction is hereditary (physical), why we use, the importance we give to using, the priority of using in our life, how it fits in our value system, we use to get high, loaded, to escape. What it does to us, when we use, it changes us, psychologically and spiritually. The three components that make up addiction are our families, genetics, and social influences. Our friends, peers, and other influences, and social conditioning, meaning our society is geared to the state of the quick fix, take a pill, drink to celebrate, party, have fun associated with escaping and drinking to get drunk, to be more creative under the influence of mind expanding drugs.

In the first grade I was walking to school with my cousin, India, maybe the first or second time that I attended first grade. I failed first grade so I am not sure which year it was, probably the second time in first grade. An older boy with a group of friends was on the sidewalk, and he challenged me to a fight. He ended up tripping me, and I fell into some broken glass, which cut a huge gash into my knee. This caused me to have somewhat of a limp. But the gash was serious enough to disable me for the next nine weeks. I was rushed to a doctor for immediate surgery. I was given Morphine. I now recall loving that euphoric feeling of being numb all the time. The same warm feeling of being safe in a womb.

I received enormous attention and was laid up in bed. I was given lots of gifts and I could watch television all day long. I donÕt recall even having schoolwork. I do remember the Morphine and the painkillers given to me. I also probably had some sleeping pills. I donÕt remember any detoxification process or withdrawal. When my stitches were taken out, I remember having a little pain, and I also remember being medicated to the point of oblivion. I also recall getting so much attention and presents that the traumatic event wasnÕt so bad after all. I remember getting a slide projector with filmstrips, which was a lot of fun. The best part was missing all that school, and the boy who tripped me got in lots of trouble. For once I wasnÕt the one in trouble.

During this time period I was going to Sunday school at a church located at Chevy Chase Circle. I, however, would not always put money in the collection basket, because there were too many candy stores on the way there, and on the way back from Sunday school. I would spend the money my mother gave me to put in the church basket on candy. I took advantage of any independence for my own benefit, and later on to my own detriment.

A third traumatic event during my first grade years occurred one day when I was walking home from school with another boy. We were not allowed to walk home via Connecticut Avenue because it was dangerous. We decided to do that anyway because it was quicker to go that route than the route that was officially designated and shown for us to use.

At Military Road and Connecticut Avenue, we crossed at the light, and because we were only three or four feet tall (my friend was considerably shorter than me), any car making a turn would not be able to see us. A lady or a man made the turn off Connecticut Avenue and ran over my friend, missing me by inches. He was almost instantly killed and the accident eventually took his life. I was devastated, shocked, and I felt guilty because I knew we were not allowed to take that route.

An ambulance took him away and the police took me to my parentsÕ house. We parked out front and waited for my mother to come home. My mother sees us and says, Oh no, what has my son done? The policeman says to my mother that I was a hero, and that my friend was in a serious accident. My mother gave me money to have banana splits with another friend at the neighborhood drug store soda fountain, around the corner from our house on Livingston Street. The policeman declined my motherÕs generous offer of a banana split.

I have memories of visiting my friend in the hospital after he was revived from near death, but I believe he never completely survived the accident

Chris was a cross dresser at an early age, 1968
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