Confessions of a Heroin Addict

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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

heroin crop

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.

Agreement

The following is a poem I drafted while on the nod last week. My intention is to try and capture what it’s like to be on the nod, at the mercy of  disjointed but pleasent thoughts. If anyone has any comments as to how successful they think this attempt is I would love to hear them.

To all those readers who are concerned at my recent Radiohead-esq move into the avant-garde, don’t worry, I plan to write a a straight-up non-experimental post soon. It will probably detail the time when I got thrown out of rehab for cooking home made drugs in my room.  Subscribe to the blog to make sure you don’t miss it.

And to anyone new who is not into this kind of thing, please scroll down and you may find what you are looking for there.  Many thanks for reading X

Agreement

Sleep is

five minutes
nodding to
a methadone blowjob

yeah…

John’s nodding –
he’s my friend

why -
was I

at that
party?

I left
a compliment

for my uncle
on the opening
of his Wine School

to sleep

I fill
my ears
with foam

and bloom a rose,
glistening

Police!
At Chalk Farm Station
in scalding neon

I haven’t
seen
sheep
for days

we had a lovely
chat over coffee,
‘Good is the perfect position for you’,
she said

then I had a job interview
to be
a gluttonist

Camberwell Road
is bare
under the

morning fog

must find
must find Birkbeck
must find my pickup
must find…

gorgeous
women eating
stolen carrots

sleep is

a million pieces
sprinkled
like
salt

over the night

the overground
is running now
and we,
the potent and poignant,
remember,

in
sleep
this is a
blurry translation

 

 

Before/After

Before

KFC – Illford High Street, sense of loneliness, it’s in my guts, it’s profound as a baptist preacher, the hope of relief is tenuous, down to my last dealer with 40 minutes to wait,  he has to wait for his dealer to visit him, in dealer speak “40 minutes” means that it might not even happen, behind my aches, I miss my friends who have lost their companion who disappeared into a drug-fug bubble, paranoid, addicted, thriving London, the impossibility of control, sitting in a glowing glass-fronted KFC fried chicken house, it’s rush-hour and traffic is flowing by and it’s winter, dark outside, passers look inside, near-empty restaurant, just me, an art installation on the subject of alienation, a couple are other people, sitting opposite each other, they must be about 17 or 18, the boy has a pencil-thin chinstrap beard which his girlfriend strokes, loud syllables emanating from the glass doors, collage-age boys, high on the rush of adulthood, music, it’s surprisingly tasteful, echoes on wall tiles and stainless steel tables and chairs, my stomach aches from Pepsi, craving heroin, relief from humanity, I know it tenuous, and if this deal does not work out, it is too dangerous to try and score through homeless people, with the nationwide heroin drought the odds of getting anything approximating heroin through an unknown source is minimal, I’m not even that desperate, no physical dependency, just a mental habit, the impossibility of control, an hour, a stroll up Illford’s ugly high street, praying, polluted lungs, fingers hovering over the redial button, checking the time, five more minutes, aha, the light is blinking, I’ve received a text, no, it’s a trick of my mind, sigh, it’s tenuous, call, he answers, sounds upbeat, “15 minutes exactly”, not another 40, it’s 15, looking good, assuming his dealer is on his way now, hungry junkie, a belly full of French fries and large Pepsi, “I’m getting some normal stuff and some proper peng but the peng is a bit more expensive”, “Peng all the way”, walk back, high street, walk into coffee shop near the station, the code to the toilet door is given to customers only, clear message: if you are a junkie and want to fix in our toilet you’d better have a good memory or buy a coffee first, it’s a test, too wasted to remember the code? Denied, my anticipation is aimlessness, outside an ownerless dog frantic running with a limp lead chasing, sit down with myself, curly-haired men speak foreign over espresso cups, probably Turkish, the noise is overpowering, I forget, feeling ill, generaly suffering, want to feel better, knowing it’s bollocks but going along with it anyway, a non-paying customer enters the toilet with the waitress keying in the code for her, mild sense of unjustice arising, passing, police cars outside, stream of noises and blue, I hope they are not going to intercept my drugs, opiate release, still not here, removing my red sweater, swallowing paracetemol, veins swell, five steps you’re over, nervous system boosts but it’s decaf, settle back down disappointed, call, “this number is currently unavailable”, shit, shit, shit, shit, sip bitter coffee, worried, so close, the chance, he can’t pick up, he has turned his phone off to avoid having to explain to his addled clientele there will be no drugs tonight, heart beating sickeningly fast, call, he answers, “ten minutes”, return to the coffee shop and head straight to the toilet with a fistful of drug, I have the receipt in my hand, it’s locked, constipated bitch occupying, bitch leaves, smoke, smoke, heart stop bangs on the toilet door, impatient customers disturb me, leave, feeling almost better, into a train station toilet with an empty cooker brown filter and needle packet on the floor, saying it all.

After

My consciousness is fraying and unraveling. I am writing leisurely now. I think my handwriting is nicer. On my way to my connecting train, a pretty Somali woman (there is no other type) drops a shopping bag which I return, smilingly, to her grasp. When I sit down on the carriage removing my coat and bag to place on the seat next to me, I notice the heating is powered to offset a much harsher climate than this mild evening but I enjoy it anyway. I relax and start itching which is a side effect of the Heroin. But apart from the scratching, not a lot betrays my illegal state of mind. To the outside observer I’m just a leisure pirate riding a train home. My angst, which powered the beginnings of this writing, has melted and my pen draws itself slowly forward writing everything and nothing. I notice a pair of shoes to my left. They are open-top (I am not sure of the correct term), with a slight heel and the colour of sunkissed skin and there is a ribbon above the toe. Her face is obscured by a partition and all I can see is the bottom half of her slim body, curved in jeans, leaning against the train’s hard plastic wall. A whisper of lust passes through my groin. I fantasise about showing her these lines and her falling in love with me. On my other side, a man answers his phone in a burst of syllables in a foreign language. My writing hand is aching but I have missed my sullen craft – ah, who could ever name it better? I love the act of making words for no other cause than communication and free from financial need. Under Heroin’s watchful gaze, my holiday is drawing to a close and I know this is no place to stay and soon I will be far enough away from cruel, sweet London. The train carries on in intermittent bursts. I pause my efforts with the top of my pen placed on my lip. Opposite: the hooded, the suits and the paper-rustlers. A robotic lady announces the end.

 

Regulars will notice this is a reworking of  an earlier post. I went back to the original draft and redrafted it from there and I think this version is sufficiently different to deserve it’s own post. Thanks, everyone, who reads this x

Badbonez

Junkie writers are notorious for linking their work to music. From Burroughs and Bop, to O’Niel and Britpop, to Shane Levine wanking-off over Tindersticks.

So what kind of junkie writer would I be if I didn’t mention what I had in my earholes all the time I was walking London streets with a fistful of drugs?

Grotesque Times for Addicted People

It was a small bathroom. At one end was a typical white bathtub with a limescaled shower and greygreen plastic shower curtain pulled towards one end. A typical sink with a hot and cold tap and a soap dispenser bottle that was decorated with pictures of flowers. Directly above the sink was a mirrored bathroom cabinet. After the sink and cabinet is the toilet. Inside the toilet was some yellowed water and a scrap of tissue paper floating on the surface. No smell. Clean white carpet on the floor. And I was there, standing in front of the toilet trying to make my opiate-relaxed muscles squeeze the urine from my full bladder.

After about 20 minutes I have managed to squeeze half the piss from my bladder and decide that will do. I push the handle and there is the sqealing-whooshing kind of sound from the old pipes and the bowl starts to fill with water. It’s not flushing, it’s filling and it keeps filling and I watch it impassively. My urine diffuses in the new water so you would hardly notice that it is unclean, the tissue paper is circles on the surface then the system gurgles to a stop. The water has stopped just shy of overflowing and the toilet bowl is a full, white enamel and the dark opening below. It looks like the still open eye of a corpse.

I shut the ceramic lid and forget about it. It is late at night and my three housemates are sleeping-off their night in the local pub ready to wake up and go to work in the morning. I return to bed and watch my consciousness skirt the edges of sleep. Now I am standing up in a black room and my head is being replaced by a wooden mask with the face of a dog except the crown opens up and the wood splinters and flares out into a circular shape. As the mask is placed over my head from above I feel my face and head begin to disappear. I begin to panic and scream as I realize that instead of filling the mask the emptiness inside slowly erases me. The sound of my scream wakes me up. I get up and head back to the toilet and notice that the water level has returned to normal.

I wake up properly at around 10am the next day. The single skylight in my attic-room has no blind and lets in a soft-grey light. Each of my limbs feels deadweight and I drag my sack of guts to the edge of the bed and manage to put both feet on the ground motivated only by the thought of coffee and scoring for the drug.

The drug slows my bowls. The constipation gives me a sharp pain in my abdomen, my gas smells like rotting vegetables and when I finally shit it feels like I am releasing a pineapple through my anus. It takes two flushes to get the bastard down into the system.

When I return, the white carpet is grey and damp around the base of the toilet. I open the toilet and find the bowl close to overflowing with clear water. I grip the plunger with a choke hold and pump the system. Nothing. At least it doesn’t smell.

I untangle a wire coat hanger and poke it down into the depths. I can’t feel anything but the water is not going anywhere. I head to the hardware store and shoplift some caustic soda. I return home and fill the bowl with it. Still nothing.

I open my third bag of Heroin. It has been two weeks since I could last call myself sober. I dump its contents onto the foil and heat it until it turns into dark blob that reflects light from my bedroom’s single bulb.

When I return later, the water has drained down into the darkness. The level looks too low to my hazy sight. I grab more caustic soda and pour most of the contents of the bottle into the toilet and tug at the flush handle. There is a rumbling from deep in the bowls of the system which quickly becomes resonant growlgurgle… foul smelling sewage spits up from the depths accompanied with a pale vapor like that given off by dry ice.

A brown water begins to rise up in the bowl with little pieces of shit spinning and floating in it and there is a smell like hundreds of rotting diapers. Then the water drains and there is a sound as if the old water pipes are violently coughing and then a spray of brown liquid squirts everywhere. It’s on the white carpet, my clothes, the walls are spotted with shit. I turn and gag and retch into the bath.

I do the best I can with toilet paper and a damp cloth. I manage to turn the brown stains to dark grey stains. Then I return to my foil and lighter and forget the whole sorry mess.

When I Walked to Work (in Love with London)

When I walked hungover along the south bank of the Thames majestic in its swooping blocked with art galleries and offices and slashed with bridges grey, weeping under the white-ash sky

When I walked on flagstones the same white-ash colour as the sky until I was sure sometimes that I walked in the sky in an upside-down world and my heard roared with hangover and beastliness and I dreamed of drugs and sweet anesthesia

Early morning and the din of the traffic gathered in rivers of metal that bisected the river and fed into the circulatory system of the capital filling the air until clouds and mist and fumes merged into one and you weren’t sure if you were seeing a real world or the sketched memories of someone with Alzheimer’s

And I ascended the steps from Southbank up onto Waterloo Bridge and the whizzing bicycles clicking and chirruping like velociraptors and the barging cars with their angry red sounds and massive buses lumping down the bridge filled with meat and babies and commuters with private gazes and wasted thoughts

I walked on the left hand side, always the left, because in England we drive on the left and we look to the left and cling to the left because that’s what we do and beside me the traffic roared and screamed tearing into the beating heart of the City

And I walked past all this gazing over the barriers and the wide cold water still grey and the other bridges under which boats passed slowly as old maids and through the mist-fumes the great clock Big Ben showing the time like an old man with gold wire-rimmed spectacles and the huge monoliths of the city rose all around and intimidated me

And I was struck with awe at the energy of millions of humans in ant-hive satisfaction going to work and the great machines that moved blocks creating more space and more wealth and the people rushing here and there and the theatres and the homeless and the suited and booted and the tourists clicking in orgasmic fascination and the constant din of industry filled the air

And I walked and walked until I was at my office door, door, great glass door, and an old East London man or African man peered at me unimpressed from behind his desk and security screens and I would avoid his gaze, the noise in my head to great to bare talking and baring the self, and the lift doors were clothes around me and my loins would ache for sex and the sinking feeling in my guts the boredom of rough office carpet, alienation, complete, I made a coffee and sat down to waste the day earning money.

Here me perform this piece with backing track by sound artist, Dan Linn:

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