Confessions of a Heroin Addict

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The kitchen was warm and the thick white wooden table was softly lit by wall lights. I looked around the table. There was my father, aunty, uncle and my landlord who was a family friend. Cups of tea in front of them. What was I supposed to do? I opted to take on the same expression of concern that rotted on their faces.

It had been three days since I was last high and my guts filled with a driving need to get some fucking drugs. The withdrawal was weeks in the past, the memory twisting a fading like burning paper. I wasn’t physically hooked yet but the mental addiction was strong as ever.

I looked around the table and prepared myself to say anything they wanted me to say in so I could leave and run to the streets where the heroin was. My stomach glowed with pleasure at the ability to deceive and string them along. It was twisted, how I felt as if I was doing something noble, like lying to soldiers about the whereabouts of a freedom fighter. Despite of everything I still needed heroin. I needed it to protect me from the savage spikes of reality.

“You know quitting is a process”, I said, the words were like honey on my lips, “like when I gave up cigarettes, I have to do it a few more times to learn that I don’t like it or need it any more”. It was a masterpiece in bullshit.

“I imagine rather than stop instantly, I will tone it down and down until I don’t do it at all”, I was even convincing myself. I had to convince them to stop worrying. If only they would stop interfering I could somehow learn to take heroin responsibly.

“We can get you into a rehab if you that’s what you need,” said my aunty nudging my dad,

“Yes of course, if that’s what you need we can get you that,” he blurted out and folded his arms.

“And I know some really good ones,” added my landlord. “I’ve already been researching online”. I was about to hang my mouth open in horror but stopped myself. In my head, visions of beds and white wards dance; the big Native American from the Cuckoo’s Nest.

How dare they suggest such a thing? I didn’t need rehab I just needed enough money and stability to control my habit, perhaps buy my heroin monthly and ration it out daily. If everyone would stop throwing me out of houses, and worrying my girlfriend and making me live with strangers in the middle of nowhere then maybe I wouldn’t be so fucked up. I could spend my life in a smacky bubble and then the world could fuck off and be dealt with on my terms.

“I don’t think I need rehab,” I said calmly. “I can just go to NA meetings and now I’m out of London it will be easy,” I felt my phone vibrate – probably another batch of gear had arrived.

They bought it. Hell, I bought it. I was happy to go to NA, after all, I could score afterwards. My aunty and uncle agreed to keep me employed at their business even though my work must have been sub-par. They couldn’t fire me because then I would have no money and have to depend on them even more. We were trapped together. Heroin savages your self-discipline. I only managed email my work to them at the last minute. It was riddled with errors.

My Dad was relieved that I still had the job because he did not have the spare funds to support an unemployed junky son on the other side of the world. He just wanted me to quit and get back to normal. For him, it seemed to be a simple matter of hitting the off switch. But to me, sitting there, at the centre of their drama I felt simultaneously brilliant and disgusting – brilliant for being the centre of attention and disgusting for needing it, seeking it and ruining the privileged life I had.

I looked at them, the low light being soft on their aging features. They seemed to come from some Valhalla where beautiful logic. It was baffling how they got their lives to flow so smooth. If I only came from that place.


A Personal Message

by Steve Raymer

by Steve Raymer

Hello all

First off, I want to thank you for reading and supporting this blog. It’s been quite a few years now and the messages and encouragement has really helped me define a new career for myself as writer. It’s really helped my confidence.

Right now, I am writing a full blown memoir. The whole story, from beginning to end. It begins when I first start taking heroin, goes through my addiction, falling in love, going rehab, leaving rehab and relapsing.

I don’t have an agent or publisher. I am living with my parents while I write this so I can devote time to the project without having to worry about meeting the rent. I barely go out. I scrape by.

And that’s fine. I get a lot of satisfaction from pursuing something I have wanted to do since I was a kid. But at some point I am going to want to publish it.

So I am considering starting a Crowdfunding campaign to raise money to help me finish, edit, design, print and distribute the book.

I am just considering it now. The biggest hurdle is getting the word out there to enough people. I know this blog gets around 2000 hits a month so I’d like to know how many of you would be interested in supporting me personally by donating and helping promote a crowdfunding campaign.

If you feel like you’d like to help with this project please say so in the comments below. Don’t worry it’s not a comittment, I’m not going to show up with a lawyer – I just want to gauge interest

Thanks again for reading and commenting. It really has meant a lot.

Many thanks

Scoring – Extract from My Memoir


I needed a new connection. I found Paddy sitting in the sun on the concourse leading to Manchester’s famous Piccadilly station. He had a small black puppy on a ragged rope end and a hat full of small change.

I squatted down and asked him if he could help me score. He jumped up immediately,

“Sure, sure follow me.” He spoke in a quick Irish patter that was difficult to understand. I had to get him to repeat half of everything he said. We walked together through the station.

“Follow me lad, follow me, so you just a casual user like?” He was conversational and would inject his speech every few seconds by yelling “Suzy!” and tugging the puppy away from whatever it had become interested in – which was everything apart from the direction we were going.

We emerged at one of the back entrances to the station and started walking towards a mash overpasses and footpaths. I turned back to Paddy, he was very short – not much over five feet with a barrel chest, arms full of tattoos and short black hair and blue eyes. A bike had suddenly appeared. Suzy scampered around, sniffing the cool, blue metal.

“Where did you get that?” He shrugged

“’twas unlocked.”

We walked on. He was good company, we chatted most of the way. He was listing all the dealers he knew, not to impress me, but because no-one had listened to him for some time so all the information he had that might be of use poured out.

“And yasee, there’s this black kid, he has the best stuff but he’s always late, and then there is the Asian lads but I have to travel to moss side to get their stuff, but my god, they have some strong coke, I never do the powder like, but this was different, proper blows your socks off like.”

We entered an estate of low rises.

“This is my place here,” I was surprised, no connect had taken me back to their flat before. Slightly nervous I walked inside, “you’ve texted him already yeh?” I asked,

“Yeh yeh, course, he only meets me here he does, better than outside, you want a cup of tea?”

He handed me a mug of tea while I sat on his sofa in the kitchen/living room. It was surprisingly neat and tidy.

“Gotta keep things clean, like,” he said taking a seat on the armchair opposite the TV. Behind the TV were French windows leading out into a communal, concrete garden, the curtains were drawn and the winter sun made them glow.

“Suzy!” The dog was jumping up on me. Paddy grabbed her collar and shoved her away.

“It’s really fine – when is he –“

“Suzy!” The dog cut me off, hopping excitedly around me, “Suzy c’mon.” He wrestled the dog off me, grabbed my mug and went over to the kitchen sink and started furiously washing up. Suzy had lain down and was eyeing me with enforced somberness.

Paddy’s phone rang.

“Yeh, yeh, OK, yeh I’m here now man,” he turned to me, “he’s here, givuss your money,” I handed him ₤15, “and what about me?” he ventured, I handed him another ₤15. He disappeared through the door and I heard the front door open, a brief conversation and he was back.

He dumped the gear on the coffee table in front of me,

“Ya need foil do ya? Hang on,” a roll of foil landed with a silvery thump.

“Suzy!” The dog, excited by the foil dump had started jumping on me again. Paddy grabbed her and put her out in the hall and rushed back. He started tearing open a small lump of white crack which he boiled into a solution and injected into his groin. I averted my eyes from this heinously reckless drug use and sucked down my own solution.

There was a knock at the door. Paddy disappeared and then returned followed by a ratty man in an oversized coat. He was carrying a TV which he dumped on the floor. He looked over at me and nodded. I returned the acknowledgment and busied myself with taking heroin just to prove I wasn’t a cop or anything.

The man and Paddy started having an esoteric and animated discussion – something about his girlfriend and lost drugs. And then another needle was produced and his friend turned his back on both of us dropped the front of his pants and injected the crack into his groin.

The two of them sat down, slobbering and chomping down their jaws, talking fast about nothing. Luckily by this point, my bliss was too intense to find any of this disturbing in any way. Paddy looked at my dope,

“Can I have a bit, just a bit to take the edge off,” I reluctantly allowed him to take a crumb of the gear which he proceeded to load into a syringe.

“I used to take this stuff, but I’m clean now, clean as a whistle, just the crack, you know and that’s only occasional, I got an interview next week, with the job centre – Suzy!” The dog was scratching on the door.

His friend turned to me, sniffing the air,

“Ah you smoke doya?” I looked at him blankly,

“You ever pinned it?” I shook my head, I knew the needle led to the next stage of desperation and this stage had been painful enough, I didn’t want to risk it.

“You will soon,” he said and winked at me.

I exhaled and made my excuses. I didn’t want to have to share my dope any further. As I strolled back, the autumn trees rained leaves and shook me like love. The streets were quiet. I looked down, the stolen bike was in my hand; I had paid Paddy ₤15 for it. The ride back to the station was quick and easy. I floated home like a ghost caught in heroin smoke.

The Last Time I Took Smack

6_woman_heroin_aidsLondon – cars like pilot fish explored trenches. Behemothic buildings stood darkly. A sense of being among metal and stone.

I was walking fast, my long grey coat flickering. The smell of gas fires and central heating mingled with traffic fumes. Sounds of conversation and garish music from the swinging doors of the cafes and pubs.

I checked the diary entry in my glowing Blackberry. “Amari Baraka, free showing, Birkbeck College,” it said. Beneath that was a screengrab of Google maps. I looked around the dark roads as people flowed past.

I had been holed-up in my parents’ house in the country for the last year – away from civillisation and the drugs that oiled it. I would get two months clean and then find a way to score, perhaps on a trip to visit friends and even using the now defunct online drugs market, Silk Road.

My friend and I had planned this trip a week ago by email. It was his 30th birthday and I was able to make my visit to him coincide with a meeting I had planned with a city girl interested in funding deadbeat poets.

Before leaving I told my therapist about the trip. “Are you worried about being around old triggers?” He asked.
“Not really, I think I’m over it now”
“How long has it been?”
“Nearly three months which is the longest time ever”
He gave me an indulgent smile, “Well done,” he said.

I turned onto the car-filled thoroughfare of Euston Road and felt a familiar tingle bubble in my belly. Gaining momentum the feeling started to swam in my skin before bursting into consciousness. Fuck, I used to score here.

It rushed back, those days when anticipation caught in my throat and I could barely breathe for need of the drug. The orgasm of the tear in the plastic wrap and the flowing brown powder hitting metal. Angelic release. Sobriety was mundane in comparison. Learning to live within normal boundaries of emotion and behaviour had been a mourning process.

I had stopped walking. My eyes took in the dark alleys where I used to meet my dealer. Well, the dealer usually stayed in a nearby stash house; it was the runner, a kid under the legal age for prosecution, who’d meet me. I’d spot his gangster bob coming down the street, he’d whistle and I’d follow him to the nearest dark corner. “Nice trainers,” I’d say by way of conversation.

I was about to turn and leave when my phone vibrated. I looked and felt my heart burst. I hadn’t heard from my dealer in over a year. He knew I was clean. I hadn’t received one call and no text messages either. And then, just as I stood yards from his turf, there was a text:
“On. 10/10 banging gear. Delivery on orders over 2”.

Let’s say, instead of heroin, I had been reminiscing about an old girlfriend. I had been stood looking at roads where we walked hand-in-hand and the pubs where we drank and, at that moment, with no word for over a year, she texted me – that would be a sign, right? That would be a sign that I should meet up with her. Which lead me to wonder in that moment – do synchronistic events include heroin?

Probably not. I shoved my phone back in my pocket and walked away. That wasn’t me any more. I had changed. I wasn’t interested in smack. But the idea had already settled deep in my stomach where it rested – a pleasant, warm pressure.


The film was projected on the wall of a small lecture room high in the university building. The crease-faced poet was bawling lines in between the bellows of a jazz trumpet. Absorbed by his performance, I forgot about the drug. For five minutes. And it then it was back. That old anticipation growing in my guts.

All through the question and answer session it trembled in my skin and when I left the building I tried to walk away from its incessant call. If I could just make it to the tube and put some distance between myself and it…

But the phone was already out of my pocket. I disassociated, as if something else moved my hands as they pressed the buttons to call the dealer. It felt good not to fight anymore. As if I had been holding onto a rock and I had finally let the torrent take me and I was now weightless on the cusp of a waterfall.
“James? Long time bro!” said the dealer. Junkies brood dragon-like over their contacts so I had changed my name to mask the fact I was stealing good numbers from their phones.

“Just head to Chalk Farm, take a right out of the station and wait up there, he’ll be there soon.” The location was on a quiet residential street. It was 10pm when I got there and waited, leaning against a stone garden wall. No-one else was around and I was as conspicuous as a lemon.

Back was the old impatience. Junkies spend half their lives waiting for dealers and that was not something I missed. It wasn’t too late to leave but I felt anchored to the process. The part of me that wanted to use was finally out and it wasn’t going back without a struggle.

It was the runner with a limp. He was older than the rest of them. Probably a junky himself funding his habit by street dealing. “Three yeh?” drug dealer conversation is nothing if not functional. He silently dropped three tiny plastic footballs into my palm. Shoving his hands in his pockets he ambled away. I turned around and walked back up the dark street.

The rush wasn’t the same. My heart sank with the futility of trying to recapture those days where I ran heedless with heroin. I knew too much now. Rehab had shown me the desperate shells that human beings can become when caught in addiction and I couldn’t unlearn all that stuff.

But the bags stayed in my pocket. There was still enough titillation at their presence to prevent me from throwing them away.


I inhaled a good hit of heroin and reclined, softly knocked out, on my friend’s bed. He had shown me around that morning: the fridge, the communal kitchen down the hall. He was staying at his girlfriend’s place round the corner. I had thanked him for the loan.

The next morning there was still two balls of dope left. My tolerance was way lower than it used to be. But now I wasn’t thinking clearly. The best way forward, it seemed, was to smoke it all. I left the flat and went to find my friend swinging his keys on fingers blackened with soot from heated foil.

On the train to visit my friend whose birthday it was, I rocked between sleep and wake, and wrote te poem that become, “Agreement” (also found on this blog). After returning from a failed birthday night where my lack of enthusiasm for partying had to be explained away with old excuses of tiredness I stood in front of his flatmate in my pants, swaying and dreaming that I was being seductive.


Two days after returning to the countryside I was in my therapist’s office telling him the whole story.
“Urgh I just don’t want to that again; it’ll take two weeks before I begin to feel normal,” my therapist silently rested his cheek on his hand. “It was strange though,” I continued. “To get a text from my old dealer at the exact moment I was in his area thinking about him…”
“Maybe you needed to take the drug once more,” he said.

The next time I thought about heroin was four months later when an attractive girl had invited me out with her friends. Her friend Brian liked her too and saw me as a threat and her other two friends were entirely charmless. Blaming myself for the lack of connection with any of them, my mood went downhill enough to consider using drugs to aneathatise my suffering.

It was then I realised, fuck, I hadn’t even thought about heroin for four months – the longest time I had been without the drug since I had started using it four years earlier.

There had been no struggle and no thought of relapse either. The urge to use had just gone. I thought back to that last time in London, how the events had come together in such a weird synchronistic way and what my therapist had said about it. Could it have been a coincidence?

And God Bless Us


This is another extract from my memoir. I’m currently on my second draft. If you want to find out what happens when I get to the airport you can find that elsewhere on this blog.

It was late December and my China trip was approaching. I had thought about placing a few bags of smack up my ass and somehow smoking some lines in the plane toilet. But I knew those toilets had highly sensitive smoke alarms and China takes a dim, murderous view of drug addicts. Maybe I could inject? No, if you want to inject like they do in the movies it takes practice, as a newbie on a moving plane, I would shred my arms and get blood everywhere. I would have to come off heroin before going. It was probably for the best. After all, my habit was getting out of control. I had done the heroin experience and it had been fun, interesting and horrible. Now I knew people weren’t messing around when they spoke of its elusive power. So in the weeks leading up to the trip I tapered my use until I was using for two days and taking two days off. On my days off I caught up on sleep and did a little work.

My aunty and uncle had arranged a little Christmas gathering for me, their son and my brother and sister. I brought Penny, my girlfriend, along with me. I was not a day off heroin and I went on the nod around the Christmas tree. I remember everyone laughing as my eyes began to close, I would briefly hover between consciousness with a slack expression on my face, and then my head would drop. “We’ve never seen anyone this tired”, they chuckled, “when was the last time you slept, last year?” I smiled, only dimly aware of their festive shapes.

A couple of days later and the heroin was out of my system and my nerves were jangling like sleighbells in the snow. Indeed, snow was falling and forming china-white clumps in gutters and around the doorsteps of London. The heater in Hans’ old estate car blasted hot dry air my face as my toes thawed. The back filled with shopping bags. As the smack has worn off I noticed a sullen pain in my jaw, now I was sober and it felt as if my back teeth were being prized off with a cold screwdriver. I rubbed my cheek worried. I was supposed to fly to China in two days. My thoughts whirled around this and then Hans, not known for his tact, dropped the bomb,

“I think you should move out”, he said. I was shocked and appalled,

‘But mate I’m not doing anything wrong’ I said, playing innocent. This annoyed him, “look it’s becoming a problem, Meagan and Dan are moving out because of it”,

“They told me it was because the rent was too high”

“It’s also because they’re scared of you, you look terrible you’re up at all hours of the night… even the neighbours have been disturbed when you’re coming and going so late, you don’t move quietly, it’s like bang, thump, all night”. Scared? How pathetic, I thought. How can anyone be scared of me? All I practically did was stay in my room and smoke gear; that’s all I wanted to do and they didn’t know that I was doing it every day. For all they knew I was doing it as much as I told them I was – a couple of times a month. What a load of crybabies. And then I said,

“Look, I’ll stop, I promise I will, I’ve been toning it down recently anyway”, my heart was racing, maybe this was the time to stop, deep down I knew that things were getting out of hand. Hans went quiet. He was tactless but not unkind. “I’ll think about it” was all he said. I stared out of the window. The snow came down.

“You have an infected gum”, said the Dentist. It was the next day and he was probing around my mouth with blunt rubber-gloved fingers. “Your wisdom teeth have pushed it up and you have been chewing down it on it – didn’t you feel any stinging?”

“Nothing until yesterday – then it got really bad”. He looked surprised and then a miracle happened.

“I’m going to prescribe some codeine for the pain and some disinfecting mouthwash – I suggest you try and chew on the left side of your face until it’s better”. I tried not to thank him too profusely. The codeine, combined with my tapering meant I would certainly avoid going into withdrawal in China and it would be legal to take it across the boarders. It was Christmas miracle. I paid the high cost of the emergency appointment and went to pharmacy. I made sure to save the receipts and slips.

The snow laid a couple of inches thick all around and when I arrived home I found Dan outside smoking and Hans with him. It was the first time I had seen either of them since the awkward conversation yesterday. Dan exhaled a cloud of smoke into the frigid air.

“We’re just really worried about you mate”. I’d heard this old ruse before; how dare they be worried? I wasn’t doing anything other than a little bit of heroin every now and then, I still had my life in order and I paid the rent didn’t I? Fucking crybabies, I always knew they were squares.

“I’m not addicted, I can stop any time, I’m stopping now, I’m going to China and when I come back that will be it”. They didn’t look like they believed me. “Come on, don’t chuck me out Hans just give me another chance”, I was begging my two oldest friends not to chuck me out. What right did they have to do this to me? “OK, if you stop then you can stay”, Hans relented.

“What about you Dan?”

“Well Meagan wants to live with Anna so that’s all sorted for January”, he said. See I knew it wasn’t just about me, I nearly said as much to Hans right then. I watched Dan exhale more cigarette smoke, “you know who the real addict is here, it’s you, I don’t smoke”,

“Yeh but smoking won’t kill me”, Dan retorted,

“Yeh it will”

“Look you can’t compare smoking to fucking heroin”, he came back, “heroin can kill you instantly with an overdose or something”.

“But I can stop – you can’t”, by provoking him I was taking a small revenge for the indignity of having to beg for my place in the house,

“I think they’re both bad”, Hans said playing the diplomat,

“Are you serious? Like smoking is anything like as bad, at least it doesn’t turn me into a rambling moron”, said Dan and flicked the butt into the snow.

“What do you mean?

“You don’t make any sense any more man, you just start talking and it’s like you’re on a different planet, you don’t sleep, you’ve put on weight”, we were both breathing fast, the breath steam rising around us like dust in a cattle fight,

“I look fine”

“No you don’t”. Suddenly I switched back to being contrite – was this what he was talking about? Mood swings?

“I know I’m going to stop, I want to stop”, I moaned. This wasn’t fair; I just wanted to be left alone to take my heroin in peace, why won’t people leave me alone? What business is it of theirs what I do in my own room?

“I hope you do, look if you go back to normal, there’s no problem”, he said. I was back to anger again – fuck him, why can’t they accept me for who I am? Normal! Who wants to be normal? Fucking squares.

“Yeh” was all I said, looking down. “I’ve got to go inside and pack now.”




Let me escape from this dream -
indolence and ice-cream.

Among empty bowls
are the days where I lost my soul

and sat in dreamless coma -
that early release from creation.

I’ve always been
the reluctant life incumbent

seeking escape in infestations
and embattled spaces.

But this is beyond fun,
I held the smoke too long

and now my brown is burnt -
I regard it with

meagre attention -
I’m the star of my own Armageddon.

My life is trapped
within these heavy stencils -

half the time scoring
and the other half snoring.


Thanks for your comments everyone. I feel like I have been only posting odds and ends recently. I’d like to do a full on old-school smack story soon. Narco-porn forever. Peace x

No Surrender


I was in rehab reading the Big Book of Alcoholic Anonymous.

Deep down there was a hope that maybe I could live without drugs. I was open to learning more. I read the story of how AA was founded and then I turned to their method for staying sober. It made no sense to me. It was all about God. Well, any half decent God would avoid me like the plague so I skipped to the end where there were around 20 first-person stories about drunks who got sober.

I was gripped by their descriptions. I turned page after page, living vicariously through them, drinking their drinks, running from their cops, begging for their morphine. I closed my eyes and imagined it all trying to feel their oblivion. But every story ended in the same way: a conversion to AA and a clean boring life that was so much a happier then the rot and decay they left behind.

It was a scam. These fine young rebels were subsumed into the system they had tried to destroy. It horrified me to read about these great sparks being defeated and turneded into AA nonsence-peddlers. And now the same was happening to me. Drugs made me who I was, I was a star, I was a rebel, I was a hardcore drug addict and I loved it, damn all these people, damn this fucking society for pathologising my need to escape from the fuckery they have created. It is they, everyone else, who has the pathology because they collude with a system that is so unjust people go to bed twitching with stress, unsmiling and struggling for survival while the rich get more and more miserable in the whirlwind of their own greed. It was they that had the problem not me. My drug use was a reasonable response to their reality. I was the rockstar Buddha with my own noble truths,

1) Existence is suffering
2) Suffering is caused by existence
3) In lieu of suicide take heroin to numb yourself and hopefully overdose and die and finally get to rest from all this fuckery.

I looked around the rehab. The other clients were practicing some play. It was like a hellish pre-school. I turned back to the book.


– This post is dedicated to Syd over at thanks for all your comments and help

The Day I Tried to Have Myself Sectioned – An Extract From My Memoir



Hello Everybody

This entry has now been published on the excellent addiction blog, The Fix 

Read it here:





morphine self protrait
It came for my money
And I gave all I had,

It came for my jewellery
And I pawned it for cash,

It came for my clothes
And I sold all that stuff,

It came for my friends
And I gave them all up,

It came for my job
And I let that go too,

It came for my love
I said, “take her, I want you”,

It came for my family
And they hung by a thread,

And then it was enough;
I tried living instead.


The Wedding


Shit I can’t sleep. I can usually sleep. Shit I’m gunna get withdrawal. Damn, this is how it starts. Am I sweating? Yes, my pajamas are sticking to my legs. It’s slimy sweat too – thick with toxins like withdrawal sweat. Shit, I have to go in… four hours. Damn, why can’t I sleep? Shit.

It was Friday night before my best friend’s wedding that was scheduled to begin at 3pm on Saturday in a small village close to the town I grew up in. I was trying to sleep on a sofa-bed in a squalid bedsit in a dreary town – one month out of rehab. I had a coach leaving at 6am to take me to London and from there I planned to catch a train to the countryside. Everything would have been fine if I hadn’t relapsed the previous Sunday.

A piece of foil… a tiny bag… a lighter… inhale…. earthy-sweet taste… relief, relief, relief

It was only supposed to be one afternoon. I mean, Sunday afternoons are always depressing. Doubly so if you’re an addict newly birthed out of rehab, and only allowed back a couple of times a week for aftercare: that essential dressing on those roaring wounds: that essential gaffa tape on those screaming mouths in your head. I wanted a break. Just for one afternoon to bathe my screaming, bloody soul and silence the gnarled thoughts that gripped and poisoned by flowerbed mind.

But of course, heroin has a habit of making you feel even worse when you come down. So on Monday I sat on my bed with my head in my hands with the indefatigable rage in my head impossible to bear. I tried to be strong. Every cell was filled with willpower and focused on keeping my arse on that bed. But you can’t hold back the tide. The need was there too, it was everywhere, my whole being yearned for that medicine: the one solution I had for my pain.

I lasted minutes. And then I was on the move. The contents of my broke-ass creased in my grubby palm. The relief was instant – even before I left the flat. The trapped energy evaporated from my muscles and a feeling of intense anticipation awakened me. I walked through glorious woods: the smell of boot-churned mud and wet leaves, the blazing blue sky and the chilled air that promised autumn and gas fires.

There were no ticket barriers at the train station in my afterthought of a dead northern suburb. I stepped aboard the train and prayed not to see a ticket inspector. 10 minutes later I was out and walking fast. Junkies and police call it “walking with purpose”: it’s the fast, intense movement of someone absolutely fixated on getting somewhere as fast as possible. I scored at a homeless shelter from an anonymous junk slave. It took all my willpower to wait until I got home to suck heavily on that foil straw.

The click of the lighter bursting into life… the faint heat on the fingers… the mercurial brown blob… the vapor… grasping with my lungs…. relief, relief, relief.

It was now Tuesday and I really had to stop using. If I stopped now, I would feel a bit shit for a couple of days but come up smiling on the day of the wedding. I propped my laptop on a cardboard box and considered the internet; murky sunlight filtered through the mildewed windows.

Vapor like angels… sucking… fill my head with light… it’s coming out of my pours… the light beaming… so warm… so compassionate… this is how it should be…. Relief, relief, relief.

And here I was: 4am Saturday morning. I had managed to stop using on Thursday after a four day binge. Now the main question was if I would go into withdrawal during the wedding.

Heroin withdrawal affects people differently. How quickly you will get it depends on your body, the type and purity of the drug and how long you use it continuously for. Also, when it starts can be different for different people. Some heavy users go into withdrawal within hours. For others it may take days. I had been on the gear again for four days giving me a chance of contracting some symptoms the severity of which could not yet be ascertained. One of the first you will get is sleeplessness.

I didn’t sleep at all that night. The taxi arrived at 5:45am and I was ready in my suit. Hollow-eyed and plotting: if I can score in London, then I can smoke a few lines, just a few, enough to get my head straight and be there at my friend’s wedding, smiling like I mean it and not vomiting, sweating or sneezing over everyone. Yeh, that’s a good idea. God, I hope I can hold out throughout the coach journey.  

We stopped at a service station. I had very little money. After I smoked my cigarette my all-encompassing craving needed a new object to fixate on (the process: craving, fixating, acquiring and using was a technique I used to block out the horror inside me that raged like a burning sandstorm). I filled a paper bag with expensive Pick’n’Mix candy at the service station shop and shoved it under my jacket. The thrill and guilt played in my stomach as I walked sedately from the shop and sat back down on the coach. After 10 minutes of scoffing the sweets my blood sang with sugar.

I emerged from Victoria bus station in into the roar of London: the angry red buses, the beetle taxis, and the people rushing like hamsters on a wheel. I smoked a cigarette and thought of scoring. But it was too late. The wedding began at three and I was already far behind schedule. And anyway, a few lines will just turn into a few more and soon I will be a pin-eyed stumbling wastrel embarrassing myself and possibly ruining the wedding. No, no. Better just get my arse there and hope I don’t go into withdrawal.


Despite the ominous portent of the previous night’s insomnia I was feeling OK – almost chipper. I was happy to see my friends and also terrified of their opinions. Some of them were school friends that I hadn’t seen for ages. Some of them (including the bride and groom) I lived with during the worst phase of my addiction… it’s always great to see old friends.

I caught my train out of London to a small commuter town I grew up in. There, I met Tim on a in a red-brick square under a shady tree. We had sat there as teenagers, high on LSD, smoking, pretending we were in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas… Fear and Loathing in Littleford we had called it. Now here we were, both recently out of rehab, both newly relapsed and trying to hold it together for the wedding.

We sat there looking at the rich people in their shiny cars. The optimism of youth had faded and we were shaken by the sudden cruelty that can blow in on life’s wind. We hadn’t meant to be addicts. But this is what happened. And while our friends and peers were getting married and getting successful, here we were: unemployable, barely alive in shabby suits and aching for heroin.

A mutual friend picked us up from the square and delivered us to the wedding half an hour late. We sat at the back. It was a small ceremony in a small evangelical chapel. Poems on love were read. A Churchillian grandfather made a speech on the importance of faith in God in a successful marriage. And then we threw confetti and smiled for photographs.

“You’re looking really well” an old schoolfriend said. “I’m really glad you’ve sorted yourself out”, I made agreeable noises. If only he knew.

The reception was at the groom’s mum’s house. A delightful English cottage with a garden large enough to hold the 100-odd guests. At the back was a marquee (it rains frequently in England) and a number of tables where catering staff were serving drinks and heur d’ourves.

After a couple of glass of Champagne I felt a bit better and quite a lot sicker. My digestive system was still paralyzed by dope and the booze felt as if it was fermenting in my stomach.

The photographer began to arrange people in the low-angled summer sunlight. I felt a fraud posing for photos with the other happy, normal people. So I found a girl to talk to. I had kissed her in a grimy pub a few months before and distracted myself with her bright blue eyes and slender figure and wondered what her pussy tasted like. She remained cold and stiff as the gin and tonic in my sweaty hand.

It was time for dinner and speeches. Tim was also drunk by now. He was sat on a table a little away from me. He was like me, an addicted alien trying to appear normal. Addicts are so obvious to each other. We recognise other people who use the same fitting-in tactics that we do. Some are obvious: people-pleasing, showing-off, lying to make ourselves seem important while others are more subtle like the slightly over-earnest way we listen to a story, of course the most obvious is the copious amounts of booze and mind altering substances we cram into every orifice in our sick bodies. The Best Man made a lame joke; Tim punched the air and drunkenly yelled “yeah” much to the chagrin of his table.

The party was a dud. By 11pm most people had left and the dancefloor floated with debris and frumpy women dancing with little girls to 80s pop hits. We’ll just find some crack, have a smoke and come back: that was the plan as me and Tim stumbled out of the cottage garden towards the local pub where we could find a taxi. The destination was Basham, a commuter town a few miles away with a strong undercurrent of poor immigrants and gutter punks.

There was no crack. We waited in our suits for an hour in an unlit backstreet between a warehouse and a building site. Eventually the dealer showed up and handed us three bags of cool, brown heroin.

We smoked it using foil from an Amber Leaf rolling tobacco pouch. I first burned the plastic branding off to reveal the thin foil underneath – a technique I learned from the ex-cons I met in rehab. We had a little relief by this method but it the foil was too thin and we were burning the drug. So we walked a half mile to an all-night petrol garage.

We stumbled in under in our best suits, drunk, red-eyed and hollow-cheeked to purchase a roll of the cheapest tin foil and a lighter. Then we walked around the back of the carwash opposite and spread out on the pavement breathing in the sickly, mind-numbing fumes, one after the other.

The pain of alienation was gone, the loneliness, the anger, the despair of seeing everyone else so functional, the hatred of them and the hatred of ourselves for being the way we were… relief, relief, relief.


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