Confessions of a Heroin Addict

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Notes From a Binge and My Debut Poetry Collection



Hey. My debut poetry collection is out soon. Here’s a poem that didn’t quite make the final cut but I wanted to put it out there anyway. Thanks for reading and check back here for updates. I will let readers here know as soon as it is available on Amazon. I hope you can support me in making this big step. Many thanks for reading. 


Notes From a Binge


London Underground smells of oil and flesh –

people like iron fillings around magnetic trains.


I’m obsessed with urinating.

Back home, at the toilet, squeezing treacherous bladder, wring it dry.

I know it is holding liquid back.


Collections of itches

around my chest, abdomen

and particularly the backs of knees.


Smoothed foil. Black-blob leaves slug-like trails…

Smoke in foil tube.

Suck it like a loving whore.

Turning the taste in hungry mouth…

starlight and mulled spices.


Sleep in solid lumps.

10 minute mini-comas.

Like constipated bowel movements.

Eyes close,

the finality of church doors,



What to do When You Spend all Your Money on Cocaine in a Foreign Country


There are brown, sun-cracked fields in every direction marked by clumps of small, rocky emanations that pop like moles in a fairground “wack-a-mole” game. But we can’t see any of that. It’s nighttime and the queue to get through the large, Jurassic Park-style gates into the festival wouldn’t shrink until dawn.

I have already a) finished all the cocaine brought with me and, b) been burned buying more off some Portuguese ne’er do well. It’s 2008 and the financial crisis is raging like a tsunami through the bank accounts of the world which probably explains the increase of grifters this year. They spawn like mosquitos in the infested puddles left by the passing wave.

They probably operate with friends they met growing up in the impoverished farming communities that surround the nature reserve and lake where the festival takes place. In the previous fortnight they have mixed their batches, preparing for the hippy influx: two parts crushed Paracetamol to one part baking soda and a sprinkling from a clear Ziploc bag full of white powder – benzocaine, a harmless numbing agent that mimics the numbing effect of cocaine when applied to gums as a quick test of authenticity. It was the tingling sensations in my gums and the nerves of my teeth that convinced me to exchange 100 Euros for a wrap of this crap.

That guy would be one of many charlatans at the festival hawking a universe of fake drugs, from tiny, star-shaped LSD masquerading as mescaline, to dangerous concoctions of amphetamines sold as ecstasy. The grifters will probably escape into the night, unpunished, pocketing their ill-gotten gains. With a bit of luck, their success will make them over-confident and they will eventually learn the error of their ways at the fists of an irked customer, finally coming to regret their ersatz production as they lie bleeding into a Lisbon gutter.

The portents are ominous, even before the tarot cards of the festival fortune tellers begin to turn.  My friend Andy, Layla and I scout out a campsite near the top of a hill, beneath the shade of a scrubby Mediterranean tree. Unfurling the tent Andy and I try to erect it. But the frame is wrong and doesn’t fit. “Shit, I think I picked up the wrong bag,” said Andy shaking useless metal poles from the canvass. Exhausted, we wrap ourselves in the canvass of the unleavened tent and fall asleep.

The next morning is surprisingly cold; we are soaked in dew. This hot country is apparently not as hot as expected. Indeed, at this elevation, the nights can be expected to be damp and chilly. We stare at the abandoned poles and shiver with despair.

Layla allows us to share her tent for the next few days until she meets a smooth-skinned boy and turfs us out. I find myself homeless, ambling around the site in the dark, a celtic-patterned throw as a sleeping bag. The morning light hits my face and someone is telling me to leave. I walk out of the public marquee in a state of dishevelment as well-slept and slim women file past to begin an early morning yoga session.

The only real cocaine I later find is strong and expensive. I buy from a dreadlocked Peruvian beneath a tree decked out in day-glow mobiles dangling from its branches. I somehow (perhaps conveniently) fail to notice that the last of my money is being handed over. The next day as I awake, shivering in a tent with a head that feels like a rotten bookshelf, I realize that I have less than 50 euros left, three days to go and a long trip back to the airport to fund.

Worried, I walk along a row of wooden food shacks. Smells of curry, hearty chorizo and barbequed pork prick my hunger pangs. Stalls sell nuts and berries rolled into balls; flaked in coconut dandruff. Plumes of steam rise with a whoosh in front of a hungry hubbub of hippies – half naked and dazed. The longest line runs up to a stall where, behind dining table-sized pans of primary-coloured curries, a heavily pregnant Thai woman leaps from pan to pan, ladling the curry onto portions of soft rice. Despite the skin around her eyes drawn tight with effort, she smiles sweetly at every customer. This looks like a good place.

The Thai woman and her French husband employ me at minimum wage and I join a mother and her son who is around my age. For some reason the mother insists I call her “mumma” too.  What they were doing there I forget, or never ask, maybe they are homeless… The last three days of the week-long festival I spend in the back of the wooden stall chopping crate loads of vegetables to the pulsating sound of Psytrance bassliness. I don’t miss the party. Our small crew is a family – an oasis of safe routine in the hedonistic haze.


Shane Levene’s Heroin Art

Shane Levene is an artist, writer and poet. Still going strong after (by his own estimation) over 60,000 injections of heroin. Here are some of his latest work – pictures created using burned heroin and a little acrylic. If you like this check out his new book, THE VOID RATIO (





Stay Sober or Die


Hi all,

I just wrote an article discussing the role of religion in rehab and recovery from addiction. Check it out here:

I’m really busy right now but stay tuned I will be back with some good ol’ fashioned dope stories soon

My Favourite Drug Poems


The Suicide Kid


Charles Bukowski


Famous poet, Charles Bukowski was a heavy drinker. His poetry is built of crisp Hemmingway-esq sentences about life on skid row – “poetry with balls,” as he once said.

“The Suicide Kid” is about the dance between suicide and alcoholism. The narrator wants to end his life so he goes to the worst bars “hoping to get killed” but instead he is greeted by patrons who buy him drinks. This raises the question, was he serious about wanting to die? Or was it easier for this tough-as-boots lush to go looking for death than admit his own loneliness?

The anger and sense of self-destruction is shown in the short, sharp lines. And the narrator’s drunkeness is revealed by breaking the lines mid-sentence to mirror the jumbled speech of a boozehound. Whatever the deeper causes of his actions, they are hidden by these effects.

But there is a sense of humour here too. In the final lines, the narrator recognizes his own ridiculousness, ironically bemoaning the fact he’s lived to 72 which demonstrates that, not only did he fail to kill himself once, he failed to do so again and again.
I went to the worst of bars
Hoping to get
But all I could do was to
Get drunk
Worse, the bar patrons even
Ended up
Liking me
There I was trying to get
Pushed over the dark
And I ended up with
Free drinks
While somewhere else
Some poor
Son-of-a-bitch was in a hospital
Tubes sticking out all over
As he fought like hell
To live
Nobody would help me
Die as
The drinks kept
As the next day
Waited for me
With its steel clamps
Its stinking
Its incogitant
Death doesn’t always
Come running
When you call
Not even if you
Call it
From a shining
Or from an ocean liner
Or from the best bar
On earth (or the
Such impertinence
Only makes the gods
Hesitate and
Ask me: I’m



Charlie Smith

“Heroin” is a poem about junk and love. For the narrator, heroin is an infatuation; a relationship that shares the comforts and anxieties of marriage. His supply chain is tenuous, “like love – it could dwindle,” a line that reveals the anxiety the narrator feels about his habit and his lover. On the other hand the “graciousness” of heroin is reflected by his partner, who “seemed not to mind who I was.” For Smith, the ups and downs of love can be found in marriage and heroin.

Sparse locations like the porch, the railroad depot and the bench outside the church conjure the open spaces of the narrator’s country home. This spaciousness mirrors the detachment of the junky, “nodding on the rock” because, when high, time seems to expand and real life seems a great distance away.

Temporal distance is also a theme; the many years the narrator spent trying “to conjure her back into the world” reveals the final loneliness of his life and the bitterness of the final lines drives that point home by implying that he would exchange his “handsome” pay in order to return to times past.

I left a message for my editor to send copies of the contracts
to my new agent,
and then I read a passage about how no one talks
about heroin anymore, and the old life came back to me,
it was early yet, I hadn’t used heroin for years,
I was one of the few rural junkies in the nation,
one of the few who tended cattle, there I was
nodding on a rock as the cows, stiff with unendurable shyness,
stumbled up to me. My wife and I would eat mashed potatoes
from the pot and lie out on the porch smoking reefer
until it got too dark to see. I bought the drugs
from my friend at the railroad repair depot
just off the main line from Norfolk, Indochinese material,
Long Bin—to Guam—to Fort Ord—to VA—then by Mr. Fixit train to me,
traveling in a nylon medic’s bag. I never trusted
the supply—like love—it could dwindle,
or simply give way,
the flexed utensil, like one of those measuring sticks
you unfold and lay across a map; anybody could step on it.
I loved the graciousness of heroin, the way everything externalized
and obvious in the daylight opened its shirt and revealed its soft pale breasts.
The world slept curled in its own foolhardiness.
And my wife came carefully over the blankets to me and seemed
not to mind who I was. We inserted words
into spaces in the rain. For years I remembered the words
and whispered them to myself, half thinking I might
conjure her back into the world. They never caught us.
We missed them on the way to Mexico, to Puebla,
where eventually the line gave out. We slept on a bench outside a church.
It was two days before she died without regaining consciousness,
as I say in the memoir they are paying me so handsomely for.



Give Me What I Need

John Cooper Clarke

British punk poet, John Cooper Clarke began performing in Manchester clubs in the late 1970s inspired by breakneck bands like the Ramones. His influence remains to this day with one of his most famous poems, “Evidently Chickentown” featuring on a dark episode of the Sopranos.

In “Give Me What I Need” Clarke reveals the tunnel vision of addiction. The narrator is trapped in a world where “imminent disaster and misery abound” and the only solution is to get what he needs.

He doesn’t care about anything else, laughter is “frivolous” and his favourite literature lies “strangled in the weed”. The pain of self pity and resentment is added to the narrator’s chaotic lifestyle and, as the negativity builds up, the more escape into drugs is inevitable.

While Charlie Smith compares Heroin to love, for Clarke it is divine, “immaculate connection” is a pun on Jesus’ “immaculate conception,” and it is the only miracle the narrator is interested in receiving.

Poetry and laughter, how frivolous the sound
Where imminent disaster and misery abound
Les Fleurs du Malcontent lie strangled in the weed
You may never know what I want, but I know what I need.

A victim by profession; blame it on the girl
With the vacant possession of the sedentary world
I believe in miracles, it’s written in the creed
Immaculate connection.
Give me what I need.


 The Unknown Poets of Crazy Town (extract)

Shane Levene

Shane Levene is an artist, poet and writer who is about to publish his first novel, “Waiting for John”. His online collection “Poems of the Underclass” draws on his experience growing up in London’s slums.

Drug abuse tumbles down generations and blooms in different lives over decades; in “the Unknown Poets” Levene examines the heritage of his own addiction. His attitude is ambivalent, while the piteous states of his characters are revealed in their shocking wholeness, the narrator never looses compassion or respect because they inspired his writing.

The House of Poets is a desperate place but also one of tenderness where the narrator is exposed to the oral traditions of Ireland and the Caribbean. Their stories are the “royal blue blood” in his BIC pen, but he also inherits the “rotting throne” of their trauma. In the end, the narrator takes no superior stance, he is there too, “protruding from the mucous membrane,” just as part of the rot as anyone.

And it was a House of Poets
For poetry was in the house
But this poetry wasn’t of ink
Nor made for the page:
It was vomited up the walls
Pissed into beer cans
Shit into plastic sacks
Carved into faces
Raped into the unconscious
Exposed through open trousers
Born out of wedlock
The Black bastard child of Margaret Thatcher
The Verse of the Dead and Dying
A Degenerate Stanza of living
And I was there
Protruding from the mucous membrane
A polyp of youth
With Royal Blue Blood
A cheap BiC pen
Heir to the rotting throne.




Howl Part II (extract)

Alan Ginsberg

Alan Ginsberg was a revolutionary poet who was no stranger to recreational chemicals. The inspiration for this extract of his famous poem, Howl came from a peyote trip where Ginsberg witnessed an LA hotel morphing into a slavering demon. Naming it Molach, after the Biblical deity who demanded child sacrifices, Ginsberg used that image to critique the machinery of industrial capitalism. Molach, then, becomes the epitome of unchecked capitalism – insatiably greedy and callous.

Peyote, like other psychedelics, is known to illuminate the ineffable aspects of human consciousness such as love and fraternity, but it can also reveal the shadow side of modern culture in all its unchecked plundering of the Earth’s resources. Ginsberg captures this message in language that seethes with the incandescence of an Old Testament prophet.


What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls

and ate up their brains and imagination?

Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable

dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys

sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!

Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless!

Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!

Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone

soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch

whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of

war! Moloch the stunned governments!

Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is

running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies!

Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose

ear is a smoking tomb!

Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose

skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless

Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the

fog! Moloch whose smokestacks and antennae crown the


Hope you enjoyed that. It’s a departure from my usual dope stories but more will be coming soon. This was originally meant to be published  in a magazine but the copyright holders demanded we pay thousands of dollars in order to share these poems. Apart from Shane over at memoirs of a heroinhead who doesn’t believe in such sillyness

Team Me


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


I’ve now decided to go the traditional publishing route for now and try and find an agent. We’ll see how that goes.


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.”