Dope Sick Love
It was always Nia with her wicked grin and swinging hips. Her dirty blonde hair and laughing lips.. She was why I was standing at the small, anonymous door of a North London drug clinic in the summer of 2009. The metal buzzer felt cool on my fingertip.
“Yeah, it’s Dylan,” I said into the box. As it buzzed, I pushed the shatterproof door open and dragged my broken heart inside.
“So what drugs are you having problems with?” The thirty-something counselor wore a baggy T-shirt and glasses. I avoided his calm gaze..
“Mostly cocaine,” I said. “And GBL and Codeine pills. Oh, and I tried heroin a couple of times. But mostly it’s the coke.”
“And what led you to come here for help?”
“My girlfriend and I broke up,” I blurted out. “It was to do with all the coke… I keep borrowing money off her… Her friends hate me. I just want to get her back.”
The counselor looked down at his clipboard. “I’m happy to assign you a key worker and we can go from there,” he said. “Come back next week.”
Outisde the clinic my mind simmered with shame and regret. A sense of freezing cold isolation juxtaposed with the summer afternoon and busy people who flowed past me. I think I catch them giving me a wide birth. I cannot afford more cocaine and alcohol binges… but heroin is ₤10 a bag… I thought only of escape as I boarded a train to Soho in Central London – a place where denizens of the underworld feed on the shoals of tourists who crowd the narrow streets. A place where I knew I could score dope.
Nia and I had been together for just under a year before we split. She was a London girl, streetwise and under-loved and I was a passionate boy from the suburbs – arrogant and insecure. I fell deeply in love with her and she worshiped me. But the weight of insecurity on both sides put strain on the relationship from the start. I dealt with the fear of not being good enough by drinking and taking drugs, she by maintaining a constant circle of admirers ready to take my place if things went wrong.
She was beautiful. Nia was evidence against the claims of the vicious critic in my head, a comeback to all the accusations that I was essentially unlovable. After all, if I have a beautiful woman on my arm I can’t be that bad can I?
It was more of a breakdown than a breakup. I began the destruction by sleeping with a woman who, when I look back on it now, was probably a post-op transsexual. She had a large frame and fake tits and had propositioned me on the street in a rough area of East London one Friday afternoon. My cheating was pre-emptive. If Nia hadn’t already cheated she was bound to when she realized what a terrible person I was.
The next day, Nia and I had a party to go to on a boat on the Thames. I had been up for around 24 hours, drunk and paranoid. I had even scrubbed my penis in case Nia could taste condom on it. To this day I still don’t know if she insulted me or if I imagined it. Either way I found myself storming home determined to teach her a lesson. I ignored her calls for a week.
Our dual form unraveled over those silent days. My actions hurt us both deeply. Even after communication had resumed it was unclear where we stood. Then one day Nia had a new boyfriend and that was that.
I started to make the connection between my drug use and the tendency of my life to turn to shit at regular intervals. It was this realization that lead me to the door of my local drug clinic that day.
Nia and I broke up at a time in my life when my support structure had blown up. Nia was gone, my parents had moved to China and I had alienated my friends over the years by scornful and selfish behavior. I was left at the mercy of my rabid beast of a mind.
The self-loathing would begin as soon as I opened my eyes in the morning. Often, I could barely drag myself out of bed. I worked from home in an uninspiring job as a PA so I didn’t have any co-workers or routine to keep me sane.
I started using Heroin regularly, scoring in Soho in London’s West End. It was my life raft. It gave me something to arrange my day around, something consistent to hang on to. I felt it would never reject me, never break my heart, never sell my home and move to China.
On top of my detestable self, I carried the guilt and shame of our breakup like Jacob Marley’s chains. If only I hadn’t taken so much coke. If only I could afford to take her out. If only I hadn’t ignored her calls for a whole week that time…these thoughts looped in my head and Heroin was the “off” switch that gave me peace.
Nia and I stayed in touch as summer became autumn. I had been relegated to one of her “back-ups” and I was determined to move up the ladder. She told me that her casual boyfriend was planning to move to New York. We were sleeping together before he was on the plane.
I told her I was clean from Cocaine and ready to make a new start… which was true. I was off Cocaine. Nia believed me, hell, I believed me. She didn’t know about the dope and, like all inconvenient actions and their consequences, I drowned it in an ocean of denial.
Besides, the dope helped me. For the first time in our relationship I was able to depend on something other than Nia. When I was high, I was gregarious and confident. I think we both mistook this improvement my spirits as a sign of new maturity and personal growth. Cautiously, she took me into her bed more often.
When Nia’s friends found out we were sleeping together again they were dismayed. Things had got off to a bad start between me and them when they had asked me not to smoke crack at their house party. Things further deteriorated when they found me an incomprehensible mess in a crack-smoke filled toilet. They threw me out that night. But Nia ignored their protests with characteristic rebellion and I loved her for it.
Winter came like a drunken stepfather but we were warm in Nia’s bed. In December, we became boyfriend and girlfriend again. Nia’s father had left her when she was young and she yearned for a dependable and strong love – a love which flowed through me in my better moments. There were times when we laid beneath a duvet, softly knotted together, hours falling like leaves in the autumn. We planned our future, named our unborn children, dreamed about the home we would one day share.
But it all started again. Heroin was a crueler master than Cocaine and Booze. It demanded more of my time and money and I was less able to control it. My lies began to corrode our new relationship.
I nodded out all over the place, at the theatre, watching a film, around the Christmas tree. I said it was tiredness. My inability to orgasm was, of course, intentional. I was practicing the Tantric art of sexual continence – a belief that sperm is a source of masculine power and should be conserved. British train services are not known for their reliability but any train I was on was guaranteed to break down or run late. I lost count of the number of times, I started a conversation with the lie, “I’m sorry I’m late, the train…”.
Nia and I were not living together. I had a room in a shared house owned by an old school friend. My housemates were also friends. They were not blinded by love and their suspicions grew along with my habit.
I knew the game was up when the owner caught me using for the third time. He told me to get out citing the late comings and goings, the unpaid rent, the wasted appearance.
“Get out by tomorrow or I’ll call the police.” He yelled and slammed the door to my room. I turned back to my foil and inhaled furiously. The unreality settled back around me. Soon he was back with my best friend in tow, Grant.
“This is over now,” he said. The two of them seemed to be talking out of one mouth. “We’ve told Nia, and your parents are next.”
‘You did what?’ I yelled in panic. “Let me speak to her!”
“You can talk to her when we get you out of here.” Their reasoned voices slowly took control. “Dylan, listen to us. You can’t stay here any more but we can take you to Grant’s house. It’s being renovated. He’ll stay with you while you detox…”
I had no choice, my parents were in China and my boss couldn’t know. As I bundled my things into Grant’s car the next morning, I found myself turning back to the house with righteous tears in my eyes. I looked at the empty building on the cold, February morning and yelled at no-one
“Don’t worry! The Junkie is leaving! The Junkie is gone!”
Later that night, I found myself exhausted but unable to sleep. I passed the next three days in a twilight zone of puke, sweat and panic attacks. I hyperventilated so much my blood become over-oxygenated causing my arms and legs to curl with cramp. I watched in horror as my limbs contorted like dead trees crying out
“oh God, oh God, oh God”,
And then I had a vision of the devil – a bald man, muscles wasted by sloth, huge white belly and spindly legs. He leered at me through rotted teeth. I screamed before sleep came.
“It doesn’t make me love you any less”. It was a week later and Nia was on the phone. “We can get through this”. She was a fiercely loyal person but also vulnerable and scared to be alone. I needed her and she was ready to fix me with her love.
Valentines Day 2010 found me standing at the station of the anonymous town where I was renting a room. I was waiting for Nia to arrive. I had managed to keep my job working from home but I was not sure how much longer I could keep making excuses for substandard and late work. In my hands I held a damp rose – all I could afford.
That evening, Nia and I ate greasy Tapas and drank heavily and tried to pretend that everything was OK. That evening we were sat on the sofa, warm in each others arms, breathing in unison. But it started to happen. I felt my eyes start to travel downwards and my head begin to drop.
I jerked it back up and strained my eyes wide open. I smiled and kissed her. She hadn’t noticed.
I jerked my head out of my nod. Shit.
“You’re back on it, aren’t you?” she said.
“No… No, I’m just tired.” I lied lazily
“Where is it?” she demanded, in pure, fiery anger. She opened the bin and took out a pile of screwed-up foil balls with brown trails all over them.
“You lying piece of shit.” She threw the foil balls at me. We were both crying now.
There was nothing to say. Sobbing, Nia put on her shoes and left me for good. And I did the only thing I could do. I scored more dope.
I expected her to crack within a few days but a week later I hadn’t heard from her. Worried, I called her.
“You can’t keep doing this to me,” she said, her voice flat and toneless.
“I don’t want you to call me anymore.” She hung up.
I threw my phone hard at the bed and sat with head in hands. Nia was gone. My parents were on the other side of the world. My friends had washed their hands of me. I was left with just broken, fucked-up me. I was in way over my head. I made the call – I was ready for rehab.