Hero of the Underground
Publication Date: July 8, 2008
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I wasn’t afraid of death.
How could I be? I lived under death’s shadow every day. When you swallow eighty Vicodin, twenty sleeping pills, drink a bottle of vodka, and still survive, a certain sense of invulnerability stays with you. When you continually use drugs with the kind of reckless determination that I did, the limit to how much heroin or crack you can ingest is not defined in dollar amounts, but in the amounts your body can withstand without experiencing a seizure or respiratory failure. Yet at the end of every binge, every night of lining up six, seven, eight crack pipes and hitting them one after the other bam! bam! bam! every night of smoking and snorting bag after bag of heroin . . . after all of that, when you still wake up to see the same dirty sky over you as the night before, you start to think that instead of dying, maybe your punishment is to live---to be stuck in this purgatory of self-abuse and misery for an eternity. Sometimes you start to think that death would come as a blessed relief.
Toward the end, I found myself contemplating death again. Only this time I wasn’t going to leave it to chance. I was going to buy a gun, load the thing, place the barrel in my mouth, and blow my fucking brains out.
I sat on my parents’ sofa as I pondered this. All I needed was a gun.
And then all--
of my problems--
would be solved.
JASON PETER grew up in Middletown, New Jersey. He was an All American and a member of three National Championship football teams at the University of Nebraska, co-captaining the championship team. He was also a National Football League first-round draft pick by the Carolina Panthers, where he played for four years before injuries forced him to retire. He is now married and lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he co-hosts a sports radio program, The Spread, for ESPN.
TONY O’NEILL is a poet and novelist whose books include Down and Out on Murder Mile and Digging the Vein. He lives in New York.
“Hero of the Underground gives us a portrait of red-blooded jock as monster dope fiend. It’s a savage, unsparing, eye-popping ride through the dark soul of big money, endless drugs, American manhood, and our national past time---self-destruction. Ex-Cornhusker Jason Peter writes like a soulful badass, and we’re lucky he lived to tell the tale. Had Hunter Thompson been a football player instead of a fan, this is the book he’d have written. Flat-out, mash-your-face-in-the-dirt amazing.” --Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight
"Bruising... more harrowing than usual. Peter’s narrative relentlessly focuses on the brutalizing facts, and it is free from the macho posturing and self-congratulatory navel-gazing common in recovery memoirs. Nightmarishly honest." --Kirkus Reviews
"Wow, I am not sure how to express how unsettling this wound up being, for me. The book is a sledgehammer. When I think about the book, I feel this sort of hollow whistling in my chest. Jesus." --Nancy Rommelmann, New York Times bestselling author of The Real Real World
“I enjoyed the hell out of this book, sped through it like a crack fiend. There will be a lot of interest in this part of the world because of his Cornhusker ties. Nebraska is God’s country, but God, as Peter says, is Tom Osborne.” --Poe Ballantine, author of Things I Like About America and God Clobbers Us All