Confessions of a Heroin Addict

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And God Bless Us

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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.”

Armageddon

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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

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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 http://junkphilosopher.wordpress.com/ thanks for all your comments and help

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

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Hello Everybody

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

Read it here:  http://www.thefix.com/content/sectioned-NA-relapse-heroin-sponsor2059

 

 

 

It

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

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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.

Welcome to My World

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Introduction

commuters_1464345cYou won’t catch me on commuter trains and half past eight, a free line at half nine and I’m still not late – these lines were piped into my head as I sat, staring out the window of my commuter train dreaming of colour and travel. I remember singing along to these lyrics a year or so earlier and now look at me: another fetid suit on a Monday morning train except my train came at 7:19am. I had taken to standing at the same spot of the platform each morning where I knew the doors would open right in front of me and I would access the least packed carriage and squeeze myself into a tiny seat.

In the mornings people would sleep and doze in the carriage – yawning with hypnotized eyes. And in the evenings, full of rage and stress, the same people would exit the city striding, desperate to capture the remaining seats on their train home. The carriages then would smell of fast food, wet leather and trousers. Sometimes the trains would be late and the stress would ball-up inside me until I wanted to vomit out the whole horrible scenario.

One journey I remember being significant. I was sat on a tube train in my suit hiding behind a newspaper and on stepped two punks, a man and woman, who sat directly opposite me. She had bleached spiky hair, a leather vest top, tartan skirt, fishnets and black boots. He wore a red and green mohican, leather vest, tartan trousers and boots. I burned with shame. You see, I had been a punk once and now look at me in my salaryman.

The dream of success ended then and there. The dream of a well paid job, nice apartment, disposable income, taxis, theatres, cocktails. When I entered the world I never knew the terrible cost those things come at.

I looked at the punks: two magnificent fingers stuck up against a system that pours people into cubicals or “hot desks”. A system that, in a mad nod to individuality, created “dress down Friday” only to impose even more rigid controls on exactly what “dress down” means.

You won’t catch me on commuter trains and half past eight, a free line at half nine and I’m still not late. I half quit, half was fired from my only proper job within the year. Since then I’ve been a confidence coach, a junkie and a writer. This is my story.

 

How to Piss Off a Roof

Treorchy_St_No_11_200612_002 It was 6am in early March and the sun was rising and, for the first time in months, it felt warm. We climbed out of the bathroom window onto the small roof below and basked in the newborn sun, enjoying the end of winter.

I can’t remember whose idea it was to go for a walk. We had been inside the house lockedon a coke and alcohol binge since the previous afternoon ordering booze to the door and changing the music every two minutes. The world outside had since taken on a Shangri-La-type of significance; we felt anything could happen. So we went walking through the stone warrens streets of Cardiff, under seagulls, our breath crystallising in the sunlight.

We came across a small building site; a new house was being built at the end of a row of terraces. Dragging aside the metal gate we squeezed our way into the site and began to explore the skeletal structure. The floors were intact but there were no walls or roof, just the bare bones of beams. We climbed up the scaffolding like kids on a climbing frame until we stood on a roof beam with just the cool sky above us.

I looked over peaked roofs and the first stirrings of downtown traffic with the sea in the far distance and I was struck by beauty while, in the sky above, an aeroplane layed a line for God himself.

My friends were disappearing down towards the cement mixers and bags of gravel on the ground floor but I stayed up there; rapt. I took out my cock and pissed a steaming yellow line 40 feet down on a half-built patio below.

The wind was cool on the tip of my penis and the sense of freedom was boundless.

Rehabulous

Fingers deep in the weedsack
Squeeze the caffeine out a teabag
Break out of rehab
-Jehst

Small tower block against a grey February sky, just outside London, cigarette butts like confetti around the entrance, we climb the staircase, footsteps echo, smells of dust and cleaning products. It was my aunty and I, suitcase in my hand, on our way to the rehab offices on the second floor.

The double doors made a squishy sound as we pushed them open and we found oursleves on a corridoor of offices. The secretary directed us a few doors down. We knocked and Chris answered. He was like a car salesman drizzled in twelve-step humility; he gave me a nondescript handshake and offered me a seat.

‘How you doing?’ he asked

‘OK, fine” I replied,

He asked me the usual questions, what drugs I was addicted to, how much was I using, when was the last time I used and then he produced the contract all clients of the rehab had to sign. I was to agree to the following rules:

1)    To abstain from using any form of mind or mood alerting substance including alcohol. This includes medication that has not been prescribed or sanctioned by our Doctors or authorised members of their medical team or a senior member of the rehab team.

2)  Not to mix, associate or spend time in the company of anyone who uses any form of mind or mood altering substance.

3)  To not collude with, or enable any peer to use any form of mind or mood altering substances.

4)    To not spend time with any person who has been discharged or self discharged from any drug or alcohol treatment facility.

5)  To not allow any peer to use your mobile phone.

6)  To not enter into any form of illegal activity or enter any establishments where illegal activity may take place.

7)  To refrain from gambling or entering any establishments where gaming or gambling take place.

8)    To refrain from entering into any form of exclusive or sexual relationship whilst engaged in Primary or Secondary Care, such action may lead to discharge from treatment

9)  To refrain from entering pubs, bars and clubs.

10)    To attend all timetabled activities, one-one counseling sessions and complete all written and therapeutic assignments on time and when requested to do so.

11)    To attend 12 Step fellowship meetings of A.A, C.A, N.A, (or other 12 Step fellowships) every evening with at least two members of your peer group. You are expected to attend a minimum of 5 meetings per week

12)    To refrain from using any form of violence or threatening behaviour to peers, staff, visitors, property or members of the community. Anyone who commits a violent act will be reported to the police and charges pursued.

13)    Mobile phones and personal stereos must be handed in to the office each morning and collected each evening. They are not to be used on our premises between the hours of 9.00am and 4.30pm. Mobile phones are not to be used during the first month of treatment and thereafter at the sole discretion of the counseling team.

14)    To abide with the no smoking and out of limits areas. All of the premises are smoke free zones. Smoking is permitted outside where ashtrays are provided.

15)  To be accompanied and supported by at least two peers at all times or as directed.

16)  To respect the confidentiality of all peers, ex-peers and all people including staff involved with the rehab.

17)    To not discriminate against any person. This includes discrimination in relation to age, gender, sexuality, colour, creed, size, religion or social standing. Discriminatory behaviour will not be tolerated!

18)    To take part in random drug tests as and when requested to do so or as directed by the courts or probation services. A positive result and adulterated tests may result in instant discharge from treatment. Refusal to provide a sample may also lead to discharge from treatment.

I was to be without drugs for the first time in my adult life. Shit.

I had nowhere else to go. Over the previous year my addiction to Heroin had slowly twisted my personality until I was full of ugly lies and need. My landlord had thrown me out and threatened to call the police if I returned, my friends had deserted me and my girlfriend had dumped me. I had become a complete liability at work and keeping my job depended on completing treatment.

My parents had sold the family home and moved to China for my father to pursue a new career so my aunty and uncle had taken me in when I was evicted. It was in their house I convulsed and vomited my way through days of withdrawal. And then got high a week later.

The rehab cost ₤6000; non-refundable. If I didn’t complete the treatment there were no second chances. As the initial assessment with Chris finished, my aunty hugged and kissed me goodbye and left me alone. Sobriety approached like an apocalyptical asteroid.

I was shown to the first floor where the rehab was and left to meet my “peers” who stood in clumps and dregs around an open room with smaller therapy rooms behind closed doors. There were two large notice boards on a wall covered in crayon and coloured pictures on the subject of recovery and addiction. There was an area to make tea and coffee, a few faux-leather sofas and tables covered in worksheets and pencils. It was like some kind of hellish pre-school. Someone thrust a hardback book into my hand: the fourth edition of the “Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous”.

The “clients” lived in houses in a shit area of town near to the centre. I was introduced to my two housemates.

Bill was from Manchester, he had a wonky eye from when someone had punched him really hard in prison and a Nike “swoosh” badly tattooed on his right hand. Connor was an Irish skinhead with a working-class charisma. He had been nominated as my “buddy”. It was his responsibility to show me the ropes and he took this job seriously.

Without drugs, my mind felt like a premature baby: helpless, cold, ripped from the womb and out into the blinding light. The desire to eclipse reality subsumed all other thought. I soon became obsessed with trying to find a way of using without being thrown out of rehab.

Those initial days were a text of therapy groups, twelve-step meetings with breaks of boredom. Without drugs and gambling there was little for us to do in our free time then sit outside mall coffee shop flirting, gossiping and shoplifting.

After dinner I would take a small hit from a bottle of GBL that I had smuggled in. Stupid? Probably. But I had packed my bags when I was high and just grabbed the bottle and stuffed it in my bag on autopilot. I ultimately justified it because there were only seven or so hits left and GBL was semi-legal at the time. But it was no substitute for Heroin; I had a massive tolerance to the stuff so it barely registered in my consciousness.

After the evening’s twelve step meeting I would watch TV or a violent gangster film with the violent gangsters I lived with. As well as Bill and Connor there was a polish guy who had a liver that protruded from his guts and Jim who was older and in secondary treatment which meant he had a different schedule to the rest of us.

By the fourth day I had a plan. Cocodamol is an over-the-counter painkiller available from all good pharmacists in the UK. They contain 90% paracetemol and 10% codeine which is an opiod. It would have been suicide to eat enough pills to administer an active dose of codeine but if I could extract the drug…

I needed two boxes of the pills minimum. Three or four would have been preferable but no chemist will sell you more than two at a time and going to two or three chemists in one afternoon would have been suspicious. I needed to find a few minutes alone in a chemist. But the trouble was that you were forbidden to go anywhere on your own. You had to be accompanied at all times by two “peers” or one “senior peer”.

Senior peers were people who had been in the rehab over two months and had shown sufficient contrition and submission to be allowed to chaperone new peers to things like doctor’s appointments, shops and chemists. I had my eye on Dave who was a senior peer. He had a thin ponytail and a shy manner.

“I need to go to the chemist to get some cold cure” I said to Bill as we sat outside the mall coffee shop,

“Ok pal, just wait a sec and me and Connor will come with ya”

“No, no, you stay here, Dave will take me, is that OK Dave?” I motioned to Dave who was a sat at the next table.

“Yeh sure” he said.

Bill narrowed his eyes which, given his wonky eye, looked odd. Ignoring his suspicion I left with Dave in tow. The chemist was short walk down the mall corridor. I left Dave browsing and brushing his fingers along the more expensive aftershave bottles and made my way over the prescription counter. All the time the chemist was retrieving my order I spent praying Dave hadn’t come up behind me. I tried not to look desperate and appear as if I had a toothache. Finally I stuffed two Cocodamol boxes in my pocket. If Dave saw anything he didn’t let on.

Later that day, I swallowed my penultimate dose of GBL and began shelling pills from their blister packs. Once I had a pile of 60 pills I shoved the empty boxes, flattened blisters and read-before leaflets into the drawer under my bed along with my GBL bottle and the dropper I used to measure out the correct dose (GBL must be dosed carefully as it is easy to overdose).

The next step was to crush the pills. I wrapped them in a sheet of A4 paper and started to smash them with my lucky stone. Bang. Bang. It was too noisy – they could definitely hear me downstairs. Bang. Bang! Shit. I opened the paper and found the pills crushed into a fine powder. I had already procured a one empty glass and another half full of water. I poured the powder into the bottom of one glass one third full. I filled the glass with water stirring with a knife until the glass looked like it was full of skimmed milk. I filtered out the solid paracetemol by pouring the mixture into a spare glass through a clean t-shirt. I drank the clear solution, full of dissolved Codeine. It tasted head-splittingly bitter. I scraped the white gloop I had filtered out into a glass and chucked it in the kitchen bin before heading out, accompanied by Bill and Connor, to attend that evening’s AA meeting.

It was around 10pm that evening when John knocked loudly on my door, jolting me from my opiate reverie. He was tall, quite fit and had been clean for around six months. Unable to function on his own yet, the rehab supported him in exchange for him enforcing the rules. He went round the houses around 11pm to check on everyone.

“I know ya bin usin’” he said

I shuddered with panic

“I’m gunna ‘ave to search your room, pal, OK?”

He wasn’t asking.

It only took a few minutes to confiscate the empty packs of Cocodamol, GBL bottle and dropper. They were in carrier bag hanging from John’s fist.

“You’d better start packing your bags, pal” he said.

I was heartbroken, I told him I was sorry, crying. John looked pained but remained resolute.

“Look, we might be able to work summit out – just try an get some sleep, OK?”

And he was gone.

The next day as we arrived, I was something of a sensation. In the intolerable boredom of rehab a scandal like this was picked over with relish. Reactions of anger and accusations of “taking the piss” were mixed with admiration of my cunning and drug know-how. Bill was sat next to me with other peers clustered around.

“Ya know ow ee got caught?” Bill said, no-one knew, including me. Bill grinned,

“ee only left tha’ white shite hanging off the bin”

“the paracetemol?” I asked

“yeh – if you tasted it, ya fuckin lips went numb! Jim found it an’ called John”.

Jim, the older housemate, he didn’t have to attend the AA meeting with us had stayed at home and rumbled me. The rest of the group filed in for morning group therapy but I was told to go to the counselors’ office.

Crying and begging:

“I haven’t had a chance to engage in the treatment yet, don’t discharge me, please, give me one more shot, I promise I won’t let you down”. Last night’s Codeine was all gone from my system and my emotions were as raw and childish as ever. Pure horror filled my heart when I thought of leaving, in disgrace, the disappointed faces of my friends and family orbited like evil planets.

The counselor replaced the phone and said she would have to talk to the head counselor and he wasn’t in yet. Waiting outside with everyone else in group I realized that I was dealing with something bigger than me. It was obvious that I wasn’t going to stop using. This was my best chance to repair my life and I had fucked it. And what would be next? The needle.  The vein. The arm tattooed in track marks.

I was faded from the morning’s high emotions and was ready to accept anything by the time the head counselor called me into his office.

“You can’t stay here now you’ve used. It wouldn’t be fair on the rest of the community” he said “but we think you regret what you did and want to give you another chance so we can offer you a place in our sister centre in Manchester”.

Thank fucking fuck for that.

I left almost immediately. Sped away before my antics could infect the minds of the clients. I was sat in a car being driven by an ex addict, ex advertising executive, ex husband. I took a tearful call from my aunty. The rainy smeared landscape passed me by the car heater warm on my legs the future fucked.

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