Cash took his first pill in 1957
Johnny Cash took his first pill – an amphetamine tablet called Benzedrine – in 1957. He was instantly hooked.
“It increased my energy, it sharpened my wit, it banished my shyness, it improved my timing, it turned me on like electricity flowing through a light bulb,” Cash recalled. For the next ten years, Cash was addicted to pills. “Every pill I took was an attempt to regain the wonderful, natural feeling of euphoria I experienced the first time. Not a single one of them, not even one among many thousands that slowly tore me away from my family and my God and myself, ever worked. It was never as great as the first time, no matter how hard I tried to make it so.” And Cash tried hard to make it so.
The damage that it did him was all that the movie Walk the Line showed and even more. At one point, Cash decided that he couldn’t stand to live with it anymore. In his autobiography, Cash explained what happened:
I just went on and on. I was taking amphetamines by the handful, literally, and barbiturates by the handful too, not to sleep but just to stop the shaking from the amphetamines. I was canceling shows and recording dates, and when I did manage to show up, I couldn’t sing because my throat was too dried out from the pills. My weight was down to 155 pounds on a six-foot, one-and-a-half-inch frame. I was in and out of jails, hospitals, car wrecks. I was scraping the filthy bottom of the barrel of life.
Having lost all hope, Cash traveled to Tennessee to Nickajack Cave, a series of deep caves he had visited before, where spelunkers and explorers had sometimes lost their way and died failing to find a way out. Cash intended to share their fate. He parked his Jeep, went in, and crawled for hours – until the batteries in his flashlight gave out. Then he lay down in the dark to die.
Cash said in the dark he experienced an encounter with God, and he realized his life was not his own to throw away. With newfound hope, he decided to start crawling in the dark. Miraculously he found his way out. And when he emerged blinking in the sunlight, he was dumbfounded and confused to find his mother and June Carter waiting for him. “I knew there was something wrong. I had to come and find you,” his mother told him. She had traveled all the way from California.
Relationships; Addiction; Hopelessness; Suicide