Growing Up with Autism

Growing Up with Autism

Hello everyone this is Erik Johnson. Today I’m going to talk about my Asperger story from beginning to end, and hopefully this will help a lot of people out there. It’s going to be uncensored. I’m going to just get right down to the nitty gritty and hopefully tell my story in an effective way that can help any of you out there with your struggle with Asperger’s or Autism. Here’s Growing Up with Autism.

Growing Up with Autism

So I just discovered some more pieces to the puzzle talking to my mom yesterday on the phone. I really wanted to get down to it when I started stimming. I rocked back and forth. So she said when I was two years old, I started rocking on a rocking horse, you know with the springs attached to the horse and she said I used to rock it’s so hard that I would lift up the front end of the horse, and I could rock on that thing a couple hours at a time. 

It seemed to really be my choice of entertainment as a two year old. My parents were building a sailboat in their backyard. This is in Newport Beach, California, and I used to eat my cereal and rock and watch them out the window, building the sailboat. 

So I just learned that yesterday from my mom. Then when I was three years old I graduated to a mini rocking chair that my dad had used to rock himself when he was a little boy. So they handed that down to me and I used it when I was three years old to about five years old.

Couple traumatic events that I want to talk about, just to set the scenario of the scene of my trauma, with my Asperger’s and addictions later on in this video. But when I was four years old, I asked my mom about any trauma that I don’t remember.

She said that my dad and I were sailing to Long Beach to meet my mom and my sister and so it was just my dad and I sailing, and he was keeling the sailboat over really far and I was down below in the cabin. I apparently freaked out. I was screaming. I was crying, and he couldn’t come down and get me because he was steering the sailboat. 

So that was a traumatic event I don’t remember. And I was down in the cabin for, I don’t know, half an hour to an hour before he could come down and soothe me. So, imagine being on a tilting sailboat with, you know, plates falling out of the kitchen into the galley. I was just bawling my eyes out. 

Another memory is me watching a marching band in school in kindergarten, and the noise of the drums were so frightening to me I started to cry in front of a girl that I thought was cute, and it was so embarrassing to see her tending to me, you know, asking me what’s wrong Are you okay, and I was so embarrassed I had to leave. I went to the nurse’s office and, you know, went on from there. 

Another incident that I didn’t know about that my mom just told me about was when I was five years old and in kindergarten. I hated the teacher and she wouldn’t let me go to the bathroom, so I peed my pants and basically the whole class teased me. 

I don’t remember that, but that was very traumatic because I’ve done hypnosis recently. I went back to a time period that was around that time. I didn’t know what I was working on but it was a classroom environment, and I just pictured being in class and being embarrassed and nervous. So, lo and behold, it was probably that memory that my subconscious wanted to work on. And a lot of emotions came out of that session. 

So I basically loved rocking back and forth and I was self soothing, or stimming, when I was two years old with the rocking horse. So later on, I had unique hobbies, I enjoyed playing by myself. I could ride my bicycle around in circles for hours at a time, along with my rocking back and forth while looking out the house windows.

I got into a fantasy world and I would just think all day long while rocking. I had unique hobbies I used to play with electrical wiring that my dad would bring home because he worked for the telephone company. I would wire my lunch box with all these colorful wires. 

One time my dad gave me a drill for Christmas. It was an electric drill, and instead of drilling holes with it I used to just gun it and watch the sparks fly inside the electric flywheel. I also used to smell the exhaust of the flywheel. It smelled like electrical ozone, you know, and I loved smells, I loved diesel smoke, I loved diesel exhaust. I love the smell of gasoline. My dad’s sailboat had a diesel motor, the rhythmic motor would make me fall asleep and a couple minutes when I lay my head on the deck of the sailboat just loved repetitive sounds and repetition in general. 

So I really did not like school, and in my teen years. I just wanted to listen to music and rock and then I was also tapping a lot on the furniture with wooden spoons and my mom just decided, you know, let’s just get you a drum set when I was 12. So I started playing drums when I was 12. 

Again I had only one or two friends, best friends in school I didn’t like to play in groups. I was very shy in school. Okay. Then, in my teen years I became rebellious. I didn’t like the teachers. I just wanted to be a rock and roll drummer. 

My dad bought me a go kart, I could go and just drive the go kart in circles on a track. One of my favorite pastimes was riding the go-kart. In fact, one of my very first, when I discovered alcohol, which I’ll get to in a minute, it was like bliss and a bottle. It was like a magic potion that allowed me to feel free and I could speak my mind. It felt like all this pressure was coming off of me when I drank, but my first drinking and driving experience was in that go kart with wine coolers. 

So I was getting pretty rebellious. My dad couldn’t control me. I believe that he had Asperger’s as well because he had intense hobbies that he focused on with all of his heart and that’s a trait with Asperger’s is that we focus, we laser focus on one thing at a time, and it could, you know, be something that lasts for years. 

I collected stamps, I collected batteries, weird electronic gadgets that I would find on the side of the road. So my dad was very controlling and he was a perfectionist and I have that trait, as well. When I do things they have to be absolutely perfect and if anyone distracts me from my routine, I would be very upset and I could hold grudges for years and if friends teased me I would never let it go. 

So eventually, I dropped out of high school when I was 17. I started to drink more and more. I listened to music constantly. I was rocking and listening to music constantly. That’s what I loved. I discovered hard rock when I was 12 years old, And I thought it was like the second coming of Christ or something, probably the Antichrist, but I discovered Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne, and I used to close my eyes while rocking and visualize getting them back. You know, getting all the bullies back and getting the girl. 

I could never get the girl, I could never get a date. I went to homecoming in high school with a girl and she wanted nothing to do with me. She just went with me because my best friend wanted her to be my date because I couldn’t find a date, and it was very embarrassing. 

So, basically I dropped out of high school when I was 17, and I slept on friends’ couches. My dad kicked me out officially when I was 18. And I started experimenting with harder drugs, and I still rocked, but it was more limited because I was staying with friends. 

Then I eventually got a Volkswagen van and I lived in that and thought I was a hippie, started playing hacky sack and started experimenting with psychedelics and listening to more bizarre music, more abstract music, I was really fascinated with artists that had schizophrenia, and at one time when I was 18. I told one of my friends that I wanted to be insane. 

I wanted to be different. I knew I was different, but my subconscious was leading me to these people that were abnormal because somehow I related to them. I knew I was different. So I was really enamored with abnormal artists. 

Then when I was 20 years old, my first girlfriend was 20 years older than me, and she turned me on to the Beat Generation writers, and we drank a lot of wine. I read poets, you know like Allen ginsburg and I read William Burroughs and jack Kerouac on the road and Ken Kesey One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and just loved abnormal people because deep down I knew I was different, but I just didn’t know who I was or what I was, and my parents never even mentioned autism or Asperger’s, they didn’t know anything about it. 

So I was basically left on my own, to battle this life. Luckily I did not have depression. I had more anxiety and when I would drink all of this pressure lifted off of my shoulders, from my dad suppressing me all those years, and bullies teasing me in school and even the teachers physically assaulting me when I drank I felt like I was invincible and I would become manic, and I could literally stay up all night while I drank, and I would talk to everyone. I could almost, like it was a limited time, to be myself and feel truly free, and to talk without feeling shy or introverted. 

Alcohol really was like Ritalin to me. It just made me feel like Manic. I was just manic. I could stay up all night and I used to drive my car around looking for people to talk to when I was drunk. Because I didn’t feel like I could talk at all from the ages of 1 to 17. I was very shy in school, very shy and very apprehensive, but I loved words. 

I started reading and writing poetry and that’s how I met this woman 20 years older than me. I shared my poetry with her. I was a dishwasher in a restaurant, she was the cook, I thought she was interesting, she had tattoos and wore black leather, and she was an artist that did really cool stuff. And so I I shared my book with her poetry and she came back a few days later and said, You know, this was amazing. I love your writing. Would you like to come over for some wine? 

She had children at a very young age, so she literally had two or three children that were the same age as me or older, I learned a lot from her but eventually I resented her because she was like a surrogate mother. At this time, I was giving my parents the silent treatment.

I hadn’t talked to them for two years, even though I lived only three blocks away from them, they didn’t know where I lived, or what I was doing. I learned that withholding love was my secret weapon against everyone, and when I was 16 to 18, I gave my dad a two year silent treatment. My mom begged me to talk to him and I said no, I’m not going to talk to him and then he kicked me out when I was 18. 

So this woman, I started to yell at her and I used to act out and I was a drama queen and I was just destructive when I was drunk, and she was very patient with me but eventually after four years, she broke up with me and it really hurt me a lot. 

From then on, I dated several women but I was just more consumed with alcohol. They (girlfriends) were more like just a co-companions. I wasn’t really intimate with them, I feared intimacy. In fact, the first woman I was with I couldn’t go all the way with her right away because I didn’t really feel like I trusted her or I could let go. 

So that was a big thing growing up I could never be intimate with girls. I was always awkward and weird. So, basically from then on I worked in the restaurant industry and I worked my way up to flipping burgers, but my main thing was doing art and playing music, and rocking and I worked my way up to rocking 14 hours a day because I worked from home. I started network marketing, which is funny because it’s an extroverted profession. And I put my mind to it, I laser focused on my business and that’s all I wanted to talk about. 

Back to the laser focus, so I had unique hobbies as a kid and I hated school and I needed a lot of tutoring, so I had an English tutor and a math tutor. I also had a drum tutor because I couldn’t read sheet music in marching band in high school. And with the tutors I would always try to talk about my interest I never wanted to do schoolwork, so I would always talk to them about what dirt bike I wanted or what car I wanted, and it got to the point where they really had to say you got to focus Erik, we’ll talk about your hobbies after we finish the homework. But let’s get back to the homework. 

When I was 15 years old, I sold a Lamborghini on the internet. I acted as a middleman between the buyer and the seller and the person who wanted the Lamborghini called my house and my dad answered it. He thought that it was hilarious that I sold a Lamborghini by using his Hemmings book because my dad was into cars, and he started to restore cars. So his laser focus on one thing was car restoration. My thing at the time was basically collecting stamps, then it became music.

Then it became alcohol and addiction started to tear me apart. I had a heart attack when I was 32 years old. Alcohol took over my life, I stopped eating, I was dying from malnutrition, my best friend was telling me that I was going to die within a year, I could barely hold a job, I was wetting my bed every single night and passed out drunk and couldn’t hold my bladder. 

It was getting very scary. I didn’t know if I was going to make it until I was 36. I had been dating a girl that was just as destructive as me and she scared me to the point where one day I decided to just stop everything. I broke up with her and I quit drinking. I almost died from the withdrawals. 

I went back home to my converted school bus. And then I took two jobs to stay busy and I switched to peanut butter m&ms to have a treat at night. I got on Xanax for a little while and a couple cholesterol and blood thinners. But I quit those meds as well. 

Then, it got to the point where I was rocking 14 hours a day but that was my life, my last addiction and so the last 48 days I have not rocked back and forth. And it’s been 46 years of rocking back and forth. So, I know I left out a lot of stuff but that’s the general bio of my Asperger’s, and my addiction story.

So I am still working on my self esteem because I had a lot of guilt and shame; a lot of trauma in my childhood, never felt like I could look people in the eyes because I was, you know, abusing myself with addictions and felt demoralized by them and couldn’t stare people in the eyes, along with the Asperger’s eye contact is already hard enough to do so. Thank you for listening to my journey, leave a comment with your story, hit that subscribe button, and we’ll talk to you soon. 

Here’s more Resources for Asperger’s and Addiction.