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The world's longest suicide note.

I write about life with bipolar disorder (a.k.a. manic depression).

All opinions are my own.


Rock Bottom

7 min read

This is a story about quality of life...


You would have thought that rock bottom would come when you're sleeping rough, arrested by the police, thrown into a cell, you've spent all your money on drugs, you've got a physical dependency, you end up hospitalised or locked on a psych ward. You would have thought that losing your job, your apartment and tarnishing your otherwise squeaky clean CV, credit score and other things that are important to give you access to well-paid respectable work, would be the most crushing blow. In fact it's the lead-up to the point where you lose everything that's far worse. Once you're cut adrift and tossed by the wind and the waves, then you might as well just relax and go with the flow.

I woke up this morning, having been awake since 3am, worrying about the tricky transition between two contracts that are worth six figures, annually. It's a nice problem to have, right, to have two companies offering to pay you big fat wads of cash for your time and expertise, but the reality is somewhat more complicated.

I've drained my business bank account, because I've needed to buy plane tickets, book hotel rooms, train tickets and AirBnB rooms. I've been working for three months, but I'm still waiting to be paid - these are the commercial challenges I face. You've got to speculate to accumulate.

I have borrowing facilities available to me, but a substantial portion of my income is wasted on interest, paying for the money which I've needed for cashflow. Cashflow is tight when you're only managing to work 12 weeks a year, because you've been so unwell. I was hospitalised with DVT and both my kidneys had failed. I was hospitalised after a massive overdose - a suicide attempt. I was hospitalised and sectioned for mental health reasons, for my own protection. These are considerable obstacles to earning money, despite the fact that I discharged myself from hospital against medical advice, so that I could struggle into the office and not lose my job... but I lost it anyway. After my suicide attempt I struggled into the office, but I lost my job anyway.

I'm struggling into the office every day. I'm working Tuesday to Friday, for 4 hours each afternoon. My colleagues look at me like I'm taking the piss, as I saunter in at lunchtime and leave soon after 5pm. I travel across the country on a Tuesday morning, and I travel back the other way on a Friday evening - over 3 hours each way, which some people might scoff at. I know that there are many people who do long commutes, but I doubt many of them do them in the same year they were hospitalised as many times as I've been, due to medical emergencies.

This is my rock bottom - I'm only able to work about 16 hours a week, but it's killing me. I woke up this morning and I'm properly physically sick. If it hadn't been for the fact that I had to check out of my AirBnB, I would have stayed in bed. You'd have stayed in bed too, if you felt like I do. This is rock bottom - struggling along and barely managing to survive, even if you think that my situation is not very desperate.

I'm quite qualified to tell you what's desperate and what's not, because I've slept rough on the streets; I've lived in 14-bed hostel dorms and psych ward dorms. It's not a competition. Either you accept that I know what rock bottom looks like, or you don't.

What you can't see - because you only look at the good bits - is how quickly my life could unravel. I've got no safety net; I've got no cushion. My life hangs by a few slender threads. Of course I accept that I've had a run of good luck, such that I haven't ended up bankrupt and sleeping rough again. Of course I accept that I've had a run of good luck that there are still opportunities available to me; there's still a slim chance that I might rescue myself from my desperate situation.

There's an infantile attitude that I have to constantly suffer, like life is simple and all I need to do is get a job stacking shelves in a supermarket. You don't understand how real life works. You're not acknowledging reality. In reality we can't just abandon all responsibility and pretend like it's not psychologically destructive to lose hope; to have our dreams shattered. Loss of status and having a black mark against your name is a big deal. Being chased by debt collectors and bailiffs is a big deal. Having court summonses and court judgements and being sued into oblivion is a big deal. Getting fines and charges and all the other things that get slapped onto a poor person whose life is imploding, is a big deal. Real life... REAL LIFE involves earning as much money as you can, so that you don't have to take a calculator with you to the supermarket and ration out the value-price beans. Your infantile fantasies that we can just abandon everything that society holds dear - bank accounts and credit checks - and instantly switch our lives to be free and easy... this is complete and utter horse shit.

The reality of life is that there's a great deal of precarity. It might not look like it, but I've worked very hard to get myself back on my feet and I'm still a long way off. It might not look like it, but I couldn't have put in any more effort; I couldn't have handled any more stress - it's enough to give the most stable and secure person that you know a massive nervous breakdown. Eventually, we all reach our breaking point. We can't tolerate mental torture forever.

I've got my 3+ hour train journey, then a night in one place, a night in another, a night somewhere else, then it's back on the train, back to my job, time to check into yet another AirBnB I've never set foot in before. I need to buy two birthday presents, get a haircut. I need to do some washing. None of this is beyond the wit of man, but I'm so mentally and physically sick that I need to spend at least a week in bed, but I can't. I've got to keep the plates spinning.

Yes there are parents out there who are stressed out of their minds. Yes there are starving Africans. Fuck the fuck off. You think I've only got nice problems to have? You think my life is rainbows and puppy dogs and candy floss? Fuck the fuck off.

This is my rock bottom, because I want to throw everything away. It's too much effort. It's too much stress. It's causing too much anxiety. It's too exhausting. You think what I do is easy? If it's so fucking easy why isn't everyone doing it? If it's so easy, why aren't more people bouncing back from divorce, losing their home, drug addiction, alcoholism, bankruptcy, trouble with the police, mental health problems, suicide attempts, physical health problems and all the other things that bury people? Why aren't more people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and getting themselves back on their feet?

It feels like I'm really close to a breakthrough, and that's what makes it so hard. All the time I'm thinking "it's only another 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months... until I'm all fixed up and back to health, wealth and prosperity". It seems like it's no time at all, but that's because you're an idiot. You just don't understand how the shortest possible time can feel like an eternity, when you're in agony; when you're in such distress.

So close but yet so far.




Cold Turkey 2

12 min read

This is a story about sequels...


Two years ago, I was experimenting with my blog. I thought it would be profound to write a public suicide note, record a video and go jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. I thought I would get sacked from my job and illustrate how the stress would push me into acts of extremism. I decided to sleep rough close to the skyscraper I had been working in. I thought I was going to starve myself for 25 days and spend Christmas Day in a tent. I thought I was going to kill myself by going on hunger strike.

For 25 days I wrote an advent calendar type series of blog posts. The whole thing was leading up to the punchline: boxing day. Really, what I was doing was building up to the revelation of the truth: that I'd had problems with addiction. It was a big admission. It took a lot of courage to be honest.

Why did it take me so long to acknowledge my problems with addiction?

Generally, addicts don't get a very favourable hearing. Addicts are amongst the most stigmatised people on the planet. If you're looking for a sympathetic non-judgemental ear, it's probably best if you don't mention any addiction problems you've had until somebody's got to know you.

So, people had to get to know me.

My friends, family and work colleagues knew me. Those people who've gotten to know me have seen that I'm an OK person. I'm not a monster.

But am I a monster?

It's surprising how little it takes for us to question everything we ever knew about a person. Sometimes, there's a revelation about a person that can completely shake our perceptions of them. Suddenly, it's as if a person we knew well is a stranger to us, and not just any stranger: a horrible nasty stranger who's going to rob us and kill our children and eat them. Everybody knows that addicts leave a trail of HIV-infected needles lying around everywhere they go, especially in areas where children play. Everybody knows that addicts enjoy nothing more than random acts of killing. Also, if you discover that somebody's had problems with addiction, you can pretty much forget everything you ever knew about them.

Hang on a second though.

How quickly can you completely re-evaluate an entire person and decide that they're a completely worthless hopeless junkie, who'd rob you without a moment's hesitation in order to score their next fix? How long does it take to write somebody off completely and dismiss everything you ever knew about them? Why are junkies just so damn easy to hate and what happened to the person you used to know?

While there are some very unfortunate people whose morals will be corrupted by their addiction, that's not the case for most addicts. Not every addict is a liar, a cheat, a thief and somebody who would recklessly endanger the lives of your precious children. Not every addict is flakey, unreliable, untrustworthy, unscrupulous and immoral. Not every addict is worthless, hopeless and doomed to forever seek and take drugs. Not every addict is a menace to society, and should be treated like a leper: shunned from work, friends, family and all the other things that give us a functional life. Not every addict should be marginalised and demonised.

Of course, I write with a vested interest. I don't want to be mistreated. I don't want the stigma attached to me.

So, why don't I share my stories of addiction anonymously? Why don't I join Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous and Crystal Meth Anonymous, and while I'm at it Gambling Addicts Anonymous and Sex Addicts Anonymous? Why don't I keep quiet and just pretend like I'm normal? I don't even take drugs.

Nobody thinks that gambling addicts inject packs of cards, so why is it that when you think of me - an addict - you immediately imagine dirty needles? Where did the OK Nick that you used to know go? Why did you eject the pleasant memories you had of me, and replace them with an imagined version of me, where I was mugging grannies for their life savings?

It's necessary for me to concentrate on the prequel to my story, in order to receive a fair hearing. I need to explain that adverse childhood experiences, an abusive relationship, stress, burnout and mental health problems, all created a fertile environment in which to grow a substance abuse problem. I need to explain that my mood instability - bipolar - predisposed me to reckless sensation seeking, such as substance abuse. I need to explain that my motivation was self-medication, not getting high. I sought relief from symptoms, not enjoyment. I was trapped and I needed a way out. I chose the wrong one. I made a mistake.

We might take a quick glance at a situation and utter the words "why don't they just...?". Why don't they just what? Leave their abusive partner? Stop moping around and get out of bed? Stop taking drugs? Move somewhere else? Sort themselves out?

When you're secure and happy, everything looks pretty easy. All people have gotta do is get a house, a job, a sexual partner, friends, hobbies and interests, a loving family, a supportive environment, a healthy lifestyle, coping mechanisms, substantial financial resources and favourable socioeconomic conditions. That's it. That's all. Just get on and do it!

For some, remaining addicted is not about the ongoing want for drugs, it's actually slow suicide.

That last point is worth re-iterating. One of the reasons why some people won't stop taking drugs, is because they don't want to live anymore. They literally don't care if they die. I would say that most addicts are very well aware that their addictions are going to kill them, but they carry on anyway - they're committing suicide, slowly.

Looking at teens and twentysomethings who smoke, we might see that there's a general belief that "it'll never happen to me". In our youth, we tend to believe we're pretty indestructible. By that same token, we might assume that a drug addict believes that they'll be one of the lucky ones, who addiction will spare. I don't think that's the case.

As an addict, it quickly becomes apparent that control has been lost and you're on collision course with health problems and early death. Repeatedly, the addict will have extremely aversive experiences which scream loud and clear that the path of addiction is going to lead to death and destruction. Do you think every lecture about what an addict is doing to themselves falls on deaf ears?

Equally, do you think that addicts just don't care? Do they want to die?

Committing suicide - including addiction - is not about wanting to die. Suicide is driven by hopelessness and inescapable awful feelings. If life only has pain and misery to offer, why wouldn't a person choose early death? If building any kind of liveable tolerable life is an insurmountable task, what hope is there? Who'd want to spend the rest of their life miserable, depressed, anxious and in pain?

It's easy to say "keep putting one foot in front of the other" or "take things one day at a time" because you don't have to live through that misery. It's easy to ask somebody else to tolerate the intolerable, because it's not you who has to suffer: it's them. Eventually, a person can conclude that there aren't going to be any good days, or that the few pleasant times don't outweigh the multitudinous bad times. On balance, one might conclude, life's not worth living.

When you've made that decision that life's not worth living, it's pretty hard to find any reason to not have that next hit of drugs, even when the drugs are killing you.

I write to you today clean, sober and with no intention of obtaining and taking drugs.

However, I think it's highly likely that I will take drugs again, both recreationally and abusively. The number of protective factors - friends, family, work, money - have increased, but my life is still very badly broken. There are innumerable things that predispose me to relapsing onto drugs, and on the flip side there is a huge list of things I've got to fix or get in my life in order to have enough on the other side of the scales to balance things out. I look to the year ahead: what do I have look forward to other than hard work, living out of a suitcase, paying off debts and otherwise scrimping and saving? I'm sorry, but I'm not exactly thrilled by the prospect of living off sandwiches that I've made in a hotel room, spreading the mustard with a shoehorn.

But, perhaps also there's a desperate desire to self-sabotage because life was simpler as an addict. Even the synthetic cannabinoids have enough of an attractive intoxication for addicts to jettison the stress and strain of paying rent and bills, and having to hold down a job, in favour of homelessness. The bureaucratic burden of civilised society is wearisome and ridiculous. The form-filling and pointless makework of bullshit jobs is absurd. It's not just about the drugs - it's also about dropping out.

You'd think that dropping out would be a terrible thing. You'd think that the shame of the loss of status would be unbearable, but it's liberating. You know that you have to work hard to keep up your mortgage or rent payments. You live in constant fear of losing your job, which would quickly lead to eviction. When you become homeless, it's a relief - a thing you feared the most has happened, and it's not as bad as you thought it would be; somehow you manage to cope.

I'm averse to the idea of a miserable dead-end McJob. I'm averse to the idea of spending any more time stressed out of my mind, helping my boss get richer; helping my landlord get richer. I'm averse to the idea that the peanuts that most people get paid, in any way compensates them for giving up the prime years of their lives. I don't see that society is working well for most people. I see that stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health problems are rife. I see that suicide is the biggest killer of the group of people who are our most productive members of society. That's not fair.

So, I need to find a middle way. I need to find a way that's not suicide, not drug addiction, but it's not a miserable dead-end job either. I refuse to get a bullshit job that pays peanuts. I'd rather die.

At the moment, I'm clean from drugs and I'm working a very well paid job. I'm learning stuff. It's stressful, but it's not boring. I'm increasing my value - my employability - as well as doing a good job. It feels fair.

I'm starting 2018 at a considerable disadvantage. I'm deeply in debt. I don't have a girlfriend. I don't rent or own a home. Why bother?

It's been 6 months since I had an addiction. I'm clean. Why would I even write about addiction? I've won, haven't I?

In fact, addiction is always there: a dependable companion. Very little effort is involved in resuming an addiction. Addiction will always be everything you expected it to be. Addiction never disappoints. Conversely, a happy functional life with all the components necessary to make it work, is very very far out of reach; almost unattainable. You might think that because I'm only 6 months away from putting a lot of the pieces in place, that it'd be easy. 6 months is no time at all, right? In fact, 6 months without all the things you take for granted, might as well be a billion years. It's never going to happen. Try getting in a bath filled with ice cubes. Try holding your hand over a naked flame. What you perceive as quick and easy is not quick and easy when you're in pain.

My present situation might look infinitely preferable to my life as an addict, but it's not. Addiction could last me forever - until the day I die - but what I have today is only temporary; it's fake. I can't stay where I am forever. My contract will come to an end and I'll have to find another job. I'll need to rent or buy a place to live. I need to keep moving around: 3 and a half hours on the train, one-way, and moving from hotel to hotel, AirBnB to AirBnB... always moving on. I'm tired, even though it looks like I should be well rested. I'm stressed, even if it looks like things are going in the right direction.

Addiction's there as a one-stop-shop. Addiction means that I can stop pedalling so damn fast. Addiction means relief. Addiction means there's an end in sight. I'd be a liar if I didn't admit that when I'm alone with my thoughts, I don't immediately think that addiction is infinitely preferable to the mountainous task ahead, to merely build a mediocre life of disappointment and depression; boredom and bullshit.

Going cold turkey doesn't prove anything.




Drug of Choice

8 min read

This is a story about cyclical patterns...

Me with pills

In 2014 I was homeless and addicted to drugs. I got myself a job at a bank, got myself a place to live and paid off all my debts. Then, I lost my contract. I went to a shop in Soho and bought two packets of a legal high powder and proceeded to undo all my hard work. Within a matter of weeks, I was back on the supercrack.

In 2015 I was homeless and addicted to drugs. I got myself a job at a bank, got myself a place to live and paid off all my debts. Then, I lost my contract. I went online and bought two packets of legal high powder and two packets of legal benzodiazepine tablets. Within a month, I was back on the supercrack.

In 2016 I had a lovely apartment. I was clean all summer. I went on holiday. I met an amazing girl who I was totally in love with. I wrote my first novel. I had a brilliant Christmas with my girlfriend and her family. Then, I got myself a job at a bank. My left leg swelled up to twice the size of the right leg, both my kidneys failed, I was put on emergency dialysis and I had to be admitted to hospital for a couple of weeks, on a high dependency ward. Then, I lost my contract. Within a fortnight I was back on the supercrack.

In 2017 I had a lovely apartment. I took supercrack. I tried to quit the supercrack. I got depressed. I tricked my doctor into giving me California rocket fuel - a combination of venlafaxine and mirtazepine antidepressants. I went hypomanic and split up with my amazing girlfriend. I bought enough supercrack to last me two years. I went insane with stimulant psychosis and was thoroughly beastly towards my amazing girlfriend. I ran out of money. I moved to Manchester. I got another girlfriend. We broke up. I tried to kill myself. I spent a couple of days with a machine breathing for me in intensive care. I got sectioned and got locked up on a secure psych ward. I moved to Wales. I wrote 42,000 words of my second novel. I got myself a job at a bank. There isn't enough time left in 2017 to get back on the supercrack. I'm worried I'm going to relapse in January. I haven't lost my contract yet.

Fluid in my leg

If we dip into each year a little bit more closely, 2014 was a really dreadful one. I was an inpatient for about 14 weeks. I lived in a bush in Kensington Palace Gardens and slept rough on Hampstead Heath. I was in two rehabs. I lived in a 14-bed hostel dorm, but that was actually one of the highlights. I abused a lot of benzodiazepines and amphetamines, as well as the supercrack. I got in trouble with the police. Twice.

2015 looks tame by comparison. Although I abused stimulants and 'downers', I had a couple of visits to a lovely family in Ireland, who looked after me. Strangely, it was working 12 hour days and working 7 days a week that exhausted me and tipped me into hypomania. I spent a week suicidal on a psych ward then suddenly decided to fly to San Francisco. I went straight to the Golden Gate Bridge, which I had contemplated jumping off. I was sober for 120 consecutive days. I deliberately got my contract terminated, because I had ethical objections to what the bank I was working for was doing. I started blogging.

2016 is unusual - perhaps there is no easy pattern we can spot - because I got myself clean and into work much earlier than I'd managed in previous years. I worked a whole contract - notably not for a bank - without going mad and getting sacked. I got a good reference and my team were really pleased with the way I ran the project. My life was quite stable. However, I was a sneaky bastard. I was using supercrack and benzos in secret, and lying to my amazing girlfriend to cover up my drug abuse.

2017 was off the charts. I've never been so sick. I've never been so close to death. For the first half of the year I had binge after binge after binge. I abused opiates, sleeping pills, tranquillisers, club drugs and stimulants. My drug abuse was definitely going to kill me. I had a physical dependency on benzodiazepines that looked impossible to cure - how was I going to escape from the death trap? I decided I couldn't escape, so I took a massive overdose. The hospital gave me a 50:50 chance of pulling through.

I'm worried that I'm repeating old patterns of behaviour. I always go back to the banks when I need money, because they pay so well and it's the quickest way of digging myself out of debt. I'm living out of a suitcase, moving from AirBnB to AirBnB. It's exhausting and stressful: factors that tipped me into hypomanic insanity back in 2015.

What is unusual is that I'm going into the New Year with a contract in place: I have my job and it's going well. I'm starting 2018 with money on the way, as opposed to the fear of bankruptcy and eviction. I'm going into next year with far fewer stresses than I've had for a very long time. Perhaps it's good that there aren't even any girls in the picture at the moment. Love and sex always have a bit of a destabilising effect on me.

Writing this summary of my hit-and-miss boom-and-bust crazy life, I wonder if I'm doomed to forever repeat the pattern.

One thing that's notably different this year is living with a family. I care about them. I imagine what it'd be like if the kids asked "where's Nick?" and the answer was that I was dead, or as good as dead because I'd relapsed onto supercrack.

This year, I quit supercrack, tramadol, codeine, dihydrocodeine, diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), zolpidem (Ambien), zopiclone and pregabalin. I was prescribed venlafaxine, mirtazepine and lamotrogine, but I don't take any of them now. I had 30 consecutive sober days during October. In fact, I was sober from more or less the start of September to early November. My brain has been completely drug-addled at times, but I'm clean as a whistle at the moment - I'm unmedicated and I'm not taking any mind-altering substances. I don't drink caffeinated beverages.

I'd like to tell you that I feel wonderful, but I don't. I have a cold. It's winter. Winter is shit.

You might look at all the times I've tripped up and conclude that I'm bound to trip up again. However, you might look at all the things I've fixed and conclude that I'm pretty good at fixing up my life when it's fucked. All I've got to do is bring together all the different elements: friends and family, work and home, money and rest and relaxation, stability and exercise and hopes and dreams, love and romance and sex. Easy, right?

If you're wondering what my drug of choice is, and thinking that it's supercrack, you're wrong. Look more closely at the picture at the top of this blog post. What's that thing in-between my legs? It's not my male member, it's a wine glass.

Hello wine my old friend

With closer examination of my entire adult life, we can see that alcohol features heavily. In fact my latest job came about as a result of being friends with a lovely guy who's an alcoholic. We spent a week getting pissed, when I was supposed to be finding my feet with the new job. Somehow, I've managed to drink my way through a very successful career. Without booze I'm somewhat out of kilter. Without booze, how would I self-medicate for my mood fluctuations?

Yes, without booze, my bipolar disposition rages out of control. I work too hard. I take everything too seriously. I fly off the handle.

I'm not genuinely suggesting that booze is harmless or the cure of all ills, but it's been such a big component of my adult life that I don't really know how to cope without it. How would I have survived the recent stresses and strains of a 2,500 mile round-trip, to go and gather money from the latest bank I'm working for, without alcohol? How would I square away my deep unhappiness with the work I do, with the need to earn money, if it wasn't for drowning my sorrows? Alcohol might be a terrible solution, but it's the one I've got and I know it works.

Is it lunchtime yet? I'm not an alcoholic, because I don't drink in the morning. I just make sure I lie in bed until it's after midday.




Penultimate Day

4 min read

This is a story about relapse...


I've downed a whole pint of cold crisp refreshing lager before I've even realised I've done it. How I came to be in the bar in the first place is unclear, but I've greedily drained the contents of the pint glass and replaced it on the tabletop. A sense of "what have I done?" sweeps over me. Although I feel guilty - I have let people down; I have failed - I immediately decide to have another pint, and another, and another... until I wake up.

This morning was the first morning all year - more or less - that I didn't wake up and immediately think about reaching for a packet of pills.


Hold your horses - things are a little bit more complicated. What would you do if you suffered from chronic pain? Would you just grin and bear it?

Perhaps the medication I have been taking for pain has inadvertently helped me to stay off the booze. Now that I only have one more day before I stop taking pain medication, a subconscious desire to get drunk has returned with a vengeance.

Every time I see beer & wine, I imagine that it would taste amazing and I get a mild craving to consume some. However, thankfully I can remember that alcohol didn't taste very nice after I stopped drinking for a period of over 4 months.

There's no reason why I'd stop taking my prescribed pain medication and become a teetotaller, except that I want to clear my head - I'm desperate to see what my brain is like, without the intoxicating chemicals I've been putting into my body.

My dream last night was very vivid, and the feeling that I had accidentally failed in my mission to temporarily abstain from mind-altering substances, was the strongest feeling: I was devastated. Then, in my dream I decided that if I was going to fail, I was going to fail spectacularly.

The fact of the matter is that I haven't failed at all. I'm spectacularly successful. Very few people are able to beat the demon drink, and especially not at the same time as quitting physically addictive medications and overcoming a heap of other shit too. I'm a motherfucking world-leading expert on sobriety and getting clean.

Skin-crawling anxiety, suicidal depression and a warped perception of time, means that the hands of the clock barely move as I wait for my brain to recover sufficiently, so that I can feel slightly better.

I wait. I wait and I wait and I wait.

To say that I'm white-knuckling the journey to being totally clean from all substances, is cruel and unkind. To accuse me of being some kind of "dry drunk" or to suggest that I'll always be an alcoholic and an addict is ridiculous. If labels and stigmas are going to follow me around forever, I'll be more than happy to return to substance abuse. I aim to confound prejudices - there's no point in suffering pointlessly.

Trust me - I'm suffering a million times worse than I ever did before, even when I was in the depths of stimulant psychosis. Even when I was in deep shit and completely messed up, that lasted for the blink-of-an-eye versus the round-the-clock awfulness I'm having to endure at the moment. I might've thought I was going to die at times, but now I really wish I had died.

Tomorrow I have 24 little hours to endure and then my recovery starts properly - every day after tomorrow takes me a little bit closer to normal brain chemistry. Every day that I manage to stay clean & sober after tomorrow will allow my body to restore itself to its natural state of homeostasis.

It's going to be like the world's shittest Christmas Eve.




Habit Forming

3 min read

This is a story about breaking the cycle...

Handful of capsules

Two of these medications are addictive. Half of these tablets are dietary supplements that can be bought from a health food store. As I stop taking three prescribed medications, withdrawal side effects that I'm suffering from include: insomnia, anxiety and panic attacks. Why stop?

If you're doing something that seemingly provides no benefit to your life, but is hard to stop, then why are you doing it?

The list of things that I could be said to have enjoyed habitually has grown to an extensive list that includes sex, spending money, alcohol, stimulant drugs, benzodiazepines, sleeping pills, painkillers, pornography, computer games, reading, arguing with people, work, masturbation, driving fast, junk food, music and just about anything else that makes life liveable. Strangely, my current day-to-day life includes almost none of these things.

Given my natural tendency to binge on anything I enjoy, perhaps it is abstinence that I am now taking perverse pleasure in the over-indulgence of. I barely have the words to describe how truly dreadful it is to be withdrawing from the most addictive chemicals on the planet - abstaining from alcohol & benzodiazepines can be so hard on your body and mind, that you will die from seizures. Why on earth would I choose to go without the things that would salve the aching that my body has for anxiety & stress alleviating substances?

It was suggested to me that my choice to go without all the things that would help me feel better, is akin to a kind of self-harm. Writing this now, I'm inclined to agree. All the stress and anxiety that I have avoided for years is all hitting me like a sledgehammer. Everything I've ever enjoyed and seen as a reason for living, is barred from me for reasons of self-denial.

Perhaps this is a kind of meditation. Like a monk who takes a vow of celibacy, through this difficult period maybe I will learn something that I would not be able to whilst indulging in the terrestrial temptations.

There is a deliberate alteration of my behaviour, of course. I have decided to deny myself alcohol and my prescribed medications (yes, this is in agreement with my doctor, yawn). I could very easily continue to drink alcohol and take pregabalin, not to mention illegal narcotics and prescription drugs which I could obtain through the black market, but I choose not to. I do not stop because I have an incentive to do so; I stop because it is hard and it is interesting - I'd gotten a little bored of my wanton excesses.

I could write and write and write - perhaps the armchair psychologists amongst you will speculate that I have simply transferred all of my multiple addictions into an addiction to writing.




Blue Tablet

6 min read

This is a story about customer service...

Bedside table

Amongst a small group of my friends, we have all found that a medication called pregabalin - marketed as Lyrica in the UK - has been useful to us, but also has adverse side effects and is difficult to stop taking. Pregabalin is quite good at combatting anxiety and improving sleep, which are obviously the desirable effects: most of us have stress in our lives, and struggle to get enough high-quality sleep. Personally, pregabalin is an effective treatment for the phantom limb pain I feel, due to damaged nerves - I can't feel my left foot. Pregabalin is far better than the opiate painkillers, which left me sweating and nauseous at times. However, stopping taking pregabalin leaves me feeling anxious and gives me insomnia - what goes up must come down.

Soon pregabalin - "the new Valium" - will be scheduled as a class C controlled substance, which makes it much harder to obtain a prescription, and possession without a prescription could be punished with a criminal conviction.

Here on the psych ward, a man screams for a "blue tablet". Perhaps more blatantly obvious as an addiction, another man attempts to wheedle more Subutex (buprenorphine) out of the staff - he's been droning on about having his dose restored from 8mg to 16mg, because he is being weaned off the synthetic opiate he is addicted to. I can hear this guy, who is obviously no stranger to our prison system, chopping and snorting drugs his room. The man who screams for a "blue tablet" is actually asking for a 10mg diazepam pill - blue in colour - which is Valium. Our screaming friend decides he wants to leave hospital, and the staff tell him he can't leave because he's going to take heroin. "It's my body! I do what I want!" he screams. Then, he starts getting abusive.

Early on in my hospital detention under section 2 of the Mental Health Act, I ask a nurse if she can nip to the shop to get me a 4-pack of beer. We lock eyes for what seems like an eternity. I maintain a completely straight face. Then, we both snigger and she regains her composure. She jokes that we should have a big piss-up on the ward. With a different nurse, I tell her with a straight face that they have forgotten my methadone and she immediately unlocks the cabinet containing the opiates that are so coveted by some patients here... I hastily tell her that I was joking, but she still continues to search my medication chart. Do I look like a junkie? I certainly don't have track marks on my arms or other identifying features of an injecting drugs user, such as abscess scars.

A doctor comes to take my blood. She doesn't shut my bedroom door. Three men, who I know were heroin users, peer into my room and I feel bad that I didn't ask the doctor to close the door or get up and close it myself - surely the sight of a needle going into a vein is going to be a terrible trigger. There's good evidence that addicts' brain reward pathways are activated when they see drugs and drug paraphernalia for just 33 milliseconds, which is less than the 40 milliseconds that a single frame of cinema film is shown for.

Having been detoxed from my physical dependency on benzodiazepines and alcohol, I find that I crave nothing more than a few drinks in the evening - some wine or some beer - to take the edge off the stress and anxiety of my situation and help me relax during what is a fairly dreadful clusterfuck of issues with employment, housing, accommodation and my health. However, I don't want to sabotage my treatment and recovery.

I'm incredibly grateful to the NHS, for accidentally detoxing me while they were treating my deadly deliberate overdose - my suicide attempt. Being physically dependent on a medication is to be shackled to it - to stop taking it would cause seizures and potentially death. There wasn't a 'buzz' that I was chasing with booze & benzos. I was using mind-altering substances to soothe my jangled nerves: self medication.

Am I glorifying drug taking, or making light of serious matters? Don't be so ridiculous.

An epidemic of illicit opiate use sweeps across the United States, with the number of overdose deaths and addicted babies born, skyrocketing in the past few years. An epidemic of mental health issues has pushed the services that are there to support those who become unwell, to breaking point. Only a wilfully ignorant person would turn a blind eye to what's happening all around us.

Carfentanil - a synthetic opioid - is so powerful that an aerosol of it could be sprayed in a packed metropolitan area and cause hundreds of people to die from respiratory arrest. This drug is being sold as an adulterant in bags of heroin, in the United States today. In the UK, carfentanil's less potent - but still deadly - chemical cousin, fentanyl, is quite common now in batches of street heroin. If you're worried about terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, these things have already arrived on the shores of the US and UK, in the form of incredibly deadly chemicals that are available for sale to anybody with the money.

My fellow patients are unrelenting. There's been a 2-day nonstop assault on the staff, as the patients attempt to get a tiny amount more synthetic opiate out of the doctor. There's not much else to do on the ward, and whatever medications the doctor has decided to write on their chart will remain fixed for a whole week. I guess they've got nothing to lose apart from their 30 minutes of escorted leave from the ward. One patient has done a runner, sensing that the doctor's decision has not gone the way he would prefer.

"You've not done anything wrong. You can come back and you won't be in any trouble" a stressed looking nurse is saying down the telephone, to the patient who has gone AWOL. Meanwhile, a patient takes breaks between harassing the staff for 8mg more Subutex, in order to chop and snort lines of white powder in his room - presumably he has a plentiful supply of his own drugs, which he wishes to supplement with a legal prescription.

I try to calmly await my section tribunal, despite the chaos outside my bedroom door.

It should be noted, that the quality of care does not vary with one's behaviour - the staff are supremely professional - but good manners are declared as the number one thing that every staff member wants, on a notice board that tells the patients a little more about the team of people who look after us.

Good manners cost nothing.





6 min read

This is a story about the gutter press...

Ordinary world

It was some time in 2009 or 2010... I forget exactly when. My life consisted of a mortgage, a house, a cat and an Apple Macbook laptop computer. Thanks to an alarmist sensationalistic tabloid newspaper, my attention was drawn to what were commonly referred to at the time as "legal highs".

In a game of cat & mouse, the government attempted to legislate against clever chemists, who could cook up concoctions that would evade the laws more quickly than they could be passed. "Meow meow" became an iconic drug of choice, for grown adults who have a right to choose what they put into their own bodies. We don't have policemen at the bottom of mountains and cliff faces, telling climbers that it's "too dangerous" for them to scale the treacherous heights.

The irony is, that I was a posterboy for a life of conformity that we are all supposed to aspire towards - I had the millstone of debt around my neck and a life of indentured servitude to look forward to. Despite my hefty income, I was destined to spend over 20 years - the prime of my life - servicing the unreasonable debts that I had been forced to incur, simply to have a secure place to live.

A decade earlier, there had been a nightclub - The Chunnel Club - which ran an event every Friday called Trinity which had two railway arches in London's Vauxhall. Under each arch, DJs played very distinctly different dance music. A drug dealer stood by the toilets and for £10 per tablet, one could purchase a 'Turbo Mitsubishi' which packed a powerful punch of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)... more commonly known as ecstasy.

Had it not been for the tabloid newspaper printing articles about the legal drugs accessible for sale online, I would have been blissfully unaware of what treasures there were to be bought on internet. I quickly discovered that an analogue - a chemical cousin - of MDMA was readily available for next-day delivery via the Royal Mail.

By 2012, the long arm of the law had abolished the purchase and sale of most of the chemicals that posed little significant risk to my health and wellbeing. Thankfully, Gawker (a website) had published an article that pretty much provided a step-by-step guide on how to access the dark web, and the Silk Road drugs marketplace. I was in a position that no wealthy middle-class person would expect to find themselves: with an unlimited choice of illegal drugs available at my fingertips.

It should be noted at this point that I've never had a drug dealer. This should be re-iterated: although I purchased drugs off one reliable dealer in a club in London, I never knew his name nor have I ever scored drugs from a dealer in the conventional sense. For the uninitiated, this means having a bunch of phone numbers stored in your contact list, and ringing round to see if the narcotics that you desire can be supplied - to 'score' in the colloquial vernacular.

When one 'joins the club' of middle class guffawing overpaid twats, very often one is insulated from the seedy world of illegal narcotics the scruffy shitholes where drugs are sold from, by the most enterprising individuals who can't quite escape the life of poverty that seeks to forever keep them in their tracksuits and council estates.

God bless the internet - provider of drugs to people who would otherwise not have a fucking clue where to get them from.

It cannot be understated, the role that the media helpfully played, in drawing my attention to matters that I would otherwise have been blissfully unware of. I had no idea what "meow meow" was or that it could be bought online just like a product that one might purchase from Amazon dot com. I had no idea what Tor and the Silk Road were. I was familiar with Bitcoin, but only as a digital currency that happened to tickle my geek gland in around 2010. These terms might be gobbldegook to you and I applaud your ignorance, for it has protected you from an underworld that you never want to plumb the depths of.

From Tor and the Silk Road, arose the Black Market Road, Agora, Alphabay, Hansa and Dream Market, plus a million other wannabe imitators. Silk Road 2 - the sequel - was briefly the best place to purchase narcotics online.

Ronald Reagan - an actor - and his wife Nancy, started a completely insane moral crusade against human nature that spawned technological innovation, making it easier than ever before to access high-purity drugs at rock-bottom prices. I had no idea what "just say no" meant as a child, growing up, but by the time I reached adulthood I owed a great debt of gratitude to the Regans' legacy, of ensuring an unending supply of easily accessible powerful narcotics.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and many of the things that we take for granted today in our advanced industrialised society, were born as a result of the arms race and the space race. It seems so hilariously ironic that the attempts by the FBI, CIA, DEA and other US law-enforcement agencies, to destroy the drugs business, has resulted in a far more efficient system that can reliably deliver whatever I want, next day. God bless America, and her moral crusade to turn us all into debt-laden consuming automatons, who do not question authority and the need to relentlessly replace the shit we buy - designed to become obsolete within a year or so.

For every dark web marketplace that is shut down, another 10 will spring up in their place. The authorities' efforts should be applauded, because they are pushing the innovators to invent solutions and technologies that far outpace governments and their systems of societal control.

The founder of the Silk Road was a naïve young man who knew very little about technology - the ease with which he set up a site selling the best part of a quarter of a billion dollars of drugs per annum, is truly astounding. I mean, the guy was a fucking amateur - the trail he left is still all there for all to see, all over the internet... just Google "frosty" and "Dread Pirate Roberts".

God bless the gutter press, for keeping me informed of developments in the narcotics supply chain.




Winning Friends & Influencing People

15 min read

This is a story about trying too hard...

Coke can

"You've got to meet my friend..." she enthuses. "Can [my friend] stay at your place on Saturday?" she asks, well in advance of the weekend. "You two were separated at birth - you share the same spirit animal" she tells me. The pressure to get along with this new person - talked about in reverential terms - is immense.

She's planning a meal out. At the restaurant, I'm told that I'm going to be sat specifically next to this over-hyped friend, because it's assumed that we are going to get along like a house on fire. That's an arson joke, but we'll get to that later.

Friday - the night of the meal - all my new friends-to-be had signed a card to welcome me into their lives. There was a helium balloon on the table, like at a 5-year-old's birthday party. Nobody ever went to such elaborate lengths to make me feel a sense of belonging; acceptance. I was almost moved to tears, but I had a job to do that night: to meet & greet and make a good first impression.

We were eating dinner - Brazilian barbecue meats - and my 'spirit animal' was sat in the corner of our booth, not eating. It was announced - against her wishes - that she had been on a 4-day drug binge, taking what is colloquially known as "meow meow". Unsurprisingly, an exclusive diet of powerful stimulant drugs does not give you an appetite for anything of nutritional value. Sitting in a restaurant is probably the last place on earth I'd ever want to be after a binge like that. I decided to temporarily park any "getting to know you" chit-chat with her until a time that my spirit animal was in a better place, physically & mentally.

After dinner, the group began to fracture. There were some who wanted to go to a packed noisy pub selling lousy overpriced drinks, and others who preferred to come back to my nearby apartment, where we could all have a comfortable seat on my big couches, and converse without having to shout - a bona fide middle-class thirty-something cliché: the house party.

One reason for the success of the house party is that it's a far better environment for the consumption of recreational drugs. I'm not foresworn from drug use, but to me, addiction is not a social activity. My general personality and attitude - no fear & everything to excess - had led me to drug overdoses of supercrack that put me in hospital with multiple organ failure. My drug taking was not recreational - it was abusive, reckless and akin to playing Russian roulette with a 6-bullet revolver loaded with 5 bullets.

If you have successfully made yourself a comfortable wealthy middle-class life, it's your mortgage repayments and other household bills that keep you awake all night, not powerful Class-A narcotics. To lose just one night of sleep and have the mentally destabilising effects of recreational drugs, has a profoundly negative effect on the week that follows. I never noticed that my weekend partying had a negative knock-on effect on me when I was young, but now my age has now become a factor.

One of my new friends - who's the same age as me - did the sensible thing and headed home at a reasonable hour. He had his sister's wedding on the Saturday and he appointed me as the responsible adult, in charge of putting the girl who was going to drive him to the wedding, into a cab, in time for her to then drive a gazillion miles across the country. "How are you going to stay awake and concentrate on the road after partying all night?" I asked her. "Amphetamines" was her answer. I can't fault her logic - if it works for fighter pilots, then why wouldn't it work for an ordinary car driver.

Fighter pilots have "go pills" and "no-go pills" which are taken respectively at the beginning and end of a mission. I offered to make her one of my special "no-go" preparations, so that she wasn't wired as hell at the wedding and clearly off her nut on speed, but she declined.

At the first ever party I've thrown in my new apartment, it was snowing. When the "good stuff" started to run out, Billy Whizz came out for a run. The white dusting on a makeup mirror started to become a hybrid mix of different substances. Molly came for a visit too.

Predictably, like any party that Charles is invited to, the whole room was talking over the top of each other and making boastful claims. For some reason, my reaction to this was to admit that I'm a grower not a show-er. This prompted one of the guys to claim that he was both a grower AND a show-er. Having been dared to get my dick out and show him I duly obliged in front of my guests. This guy then took me in the kitchen to prove one part of his aforementioned claim: he did have a substantially proportioned soft penis.

I then asked the room for their opinion on a classic ethical philosophical dilemma thought experiment, knowing that it would provoke lively and entertaining debate. Soon, this prompted a couple to leave the party, almost without saying goodbye because they were still arguing about the 'right' answer to a question that divides legal, moral and scientific opinion. "Bullseye" I thought to myself.

With Charles still having a strong influence on the room, oneupmanship raged out of control. We ended up comparing scars. While the girls were not exactly thrilled to show off any evidence of self-harm, me and the guy with the big [soft] dick debated who had the better scar from an operation. This segued into "who's spent more weeks in hospital?" as I steered the competition towards "who's the most insane?" knowing that I would easily be the undisputed champion.

At this point I was getting a bit bored with the war of words, so I just rolled up my sleeve and slashed 3 or 4 cuts into my arm with a kitchen knife. I then became immediately aware that I was so desperate to impress my new friends that I had just mutilated my body in a sudden act of self-harm.

With the theme returning to dares again, my 'spirit animal' dared me to suck my own penis. I explained that without an erection, it would be a difficult act to fulfil, but in the spirit of the dare, I asked if she would be content to see me lick my own foreskin. She confirmed that it would satisfy the conditions of the dare. Without hesitation, I dropped my trousers and got my soft penis as close to my mouth as I could, and then pulled my foreskin until I could touch it with my tongue - it was actually easier than I thought it would be. Obviously, there are not that many people - especially growers not show-ers - who would drop their trousers and suck their own dick for the amusement of their guests. This was a far more impressive feat of courage than cutting my arm with a kitchen knife.

After that, the number of crazy anecdotes that I could tell were stories that all revolved around a similar theme: being hospitalised or locked up in police cells. The stories that drug addicts tell are not that varied or interesting.

I decided to demonstrate my culinary skills in the kitchen. With an unspecified secret ingredient - some of the snow that was falling earlier in the evening - I gave a practical demonstration of a chemistry experiment. Namely the conversion of a salt to a "free base" where water, carbon dioxide and sodium chloride are isolated as 'useless' byproducts. This chemical reaction allows a salt with a high melting point - which would combust in the presence of a naked flame - to be altered into a crystal with a low melting point, allowing it to be vaporised without burning.

With sodium bicarbonate mixed with the mystery ingredient, in a spoon, a few droplets of water were added. The carbon dioxide fizzed away in a delightful effervescent chemical reaction. A few pinches of sodium bicarb later and we reached the point where the fizzing stopped. Then, I heated the spoon and boiled away the salty water, leaving only the "free base" crystals.

What would you do with this crystalline substance, one might ask?

Well, first, you need to take an empty beer or soda can and make an indentation at the opposite end from the bit you drink out of. Then, perforating the thin aluminium of the can with a pin, you can create an area where air may enter the can, when you to suck on the end you'd normally drink out of. Another option - if you can find such an object - is to take a hollow glass tube and put wire wool (Brillo pads work well for this) into one end.

Having allegedly made this concoction and strange contraption - which was all part of me showing off what a badass I am - I had allegedly demonstrated how to make crack cocaine and a pipe to smoke it. There couldn't have been a more "fuck you - I'm fucking hardcore" demonstration of how 'streetwise' I am, unless I'd whipped out some rubber tubing, a thin aluminium spoon, clean pins (hypodermic syringes), a small ball of cotton wool and proceeded to 'cook' a batch of heroin and prepare it for injection. I've never injected heroin by the way, although I did have fentanyl - which is 1,000 times more powerful - injected into me in hospital. Most people are afraid of needles and associate needle use with people whose drug addiction has led them to a completely dysfunctional life that consists of a miserable merry-go-round of theft/robbery/prostitution, 'fencing' stolen property, scoring herion and then getting high until there's no drugs left and there's only 4 hours until you get "junk sick" and have to repeat the whole exercise again.

Before I put the last of my party guests into a taxi - my friend who was driving to the wedding - at about 6:30am, three of us insufflated a few final lines of white powder, allegedly.

My spirit animal had a nice time until the drugs started to wear off, and then cognitive impairment, a drug-induced panic attack and akathisia (inability to stop twitching/tic'ing and/or jiggling of legs) left her in a rather sorry state where it was pretty clear that she was suffering from an unpleasant ordeal. I tried laughing at her. I tried telling her to stop being such a wuss, given the relatively 'mild' binge that she'd been on - just 4 or 5 sleepless nights, and relatively low doses of very impure drugs. In the end, I took pity on her and made her a little shot glass with things to cure her anxiety, replace lost dopamine and serotonin, and basically put her to sleep - there's no 'magic bullet' for insomnia and sleep deprivation, but sleeping pills damn well help. I threw all manner of things into my special 'comedown cure' that would ease her suffering. She was talking gibberish; she couldn't understand what I was saying, and I had to spend 20 minutes trying to maintain her concentration and eye contact for long enough that she could swallow what I'd prepared for her. Then, finally she fell asleep with a look of calm on her face. I don't mind babysitting the occasional person who's going through the consequences of 'self-inflicted' shit, but it would have been inhumane to let her suffer unnecessarily.

Saturday night, I made her another concoction that would prevent "the Sunday from Hell" where the consequences of an outrageous drug binge were brought into sharp focus by the need to start work again on Monday. "I want to order a pizza" she announced at about 11:30pm, having swallowed the curative remedy only 10 minutes earlier. "You have 10 minutes to get into bed, otherwise you're going to pass out on the floor" I warned her. My earlier good work had moved her out of binge mode and into a state where her appetite had returned, but 8 more hours of quality sleep was vital for both of us. The die was cast.

10 minutes later, I pulled her mobile phone out of her hand - the pizza company's number half-dialled - picked her up from the floor where she had collapsed in a most unladylike position, and carried her to bed. I was so tired that I could barely see straight to send a couple of texts before I passed out too.

After 9 hours sleep, we both awoke feeling pretty damn refreshed, considering the way we'd abused our bodies. I'd improved her average daily sleep time for the week, from 2.5 hours to 5.3 - more than 100% better. Ideally, we would all have perfect sleep hygiene and get 8 hours a night. I needed to end her drug binge, save her from many hours of unnecessary suffering and let her catch up on desperately needed sleep. I was giving her a fighting chance of not losing her job, thus spiralling even further downwards. This is about the best you can ever hope to do for an addict until they're ready to acknowledge that their addiction is rampaging out of control. Addiction always leads to complete & indiscriminate destruction of your entire life, health and will prematurely kill you.

I incurred the wrath of my 'spirit animal's' best friend for not condemning her addictive behaviour. Do I have the moral authority to lecture anyone on their lifestyle? I know better than anybody else I've ever met, how you can go from riches to rags. Supercrack was the paving stones of the road to Hell - hospitals, police cells, hostels and sleeping rough. I overcame my addiction to one of the most powerful drugs on the planet, as well as dealing with the total destruction of my life - divorcing my wife, selling my house, losing my job. So it would seem that if anybody's got an opinion that's worth respecting, it'd be mine. However, humans' relationship with drugs & alcohol is way more complex than "this is bad for me so I'm going to stop"... otherwise nobody would take drugs, get drunk, smoke cigarettes, drink coffee or energy drinks.

We live in a world where we try to find somebody with anatomically opposite genitals to us, squirt some love snot into them, and then spend the next 18+ years looking after our blood and mucous covered alien-like midget progeny, that was painfully ejected from the girl's sex hole. Human behaviour does not follow purely rational rules.

Human use of intoxicating beverages and preparations of plants that contain bitter alkaloids - with the intention of seeking psychoactive effects - is behaviour that's almost as old as cave painting, making fire and sharpening pieces of flint to make spears.

My kidneys are over 50% recovered from my last hospital visit. The facial tic that was caused - quite literally - by brain damage, has now repaired itself. The people and places that are no longer in my life because of supercrack addiction, have been replaced by a new city, new home, new job and new friends. Yes, it could've been worse, but believe me... nobody needs or wants to be told the bleedin' obvious. If it was just a case of saying "fire is hot and will burn you" and "knives are sharp and will cut you" then we'd see a 100% reduction in those injuries, by the bullshit logic that we need to nag and shame addicts into fixing their dirty little habits.

Often an addict is conveniently labelled as a black sheep, and becomes entertainment for the group that surrounds them. Lots of concerned hand-wringing and "we need to do something" empty talk goes on, but all that really happens is that the addict becomes a pariah, with nobody nonjudgemental left to turn to - it's the loneliest thing... lonelier even than being a homeless person injecting heroin under a bridge. Trust me: to spend time in the company of addicts and alcoholics who make no secret of their loss of control and the destruction of their lives, is to gain a nonjudgemental social support network that can make the difference between life & death. Fuck any condescending prick who thinks they're a moral authority who can sit in judgement and save you from yourself. Even with my stories of drug-induced insanity, hospitals, police cells and psych wards being by the far the most extreme you've ever heard, I can't tell an addict or alcoholic what to do with their life.

To hear the same hectoring, lecturing bollocks from people who [do or don't] know what it's like to realise you've overdosed and you've got 30 seconds to dial 999, or just let yourself die... it's not working, is it? I don't know if you've seen the stats, but only Portugal is winning "the war on drugs" and the way they're doing that is to destigmatise and decriminalise drugs, despite immense pressure from the United States to stop saving lives and improving the wellbeing of the Portuguese people.

So, that was the weekend that was full of drug-fuelled insanity that would supposedly trigger me to relapse back onto supercrack. Bullshit.




A Man Slept Here

11 min read

This is a story about winos...

Cardboard city

If you've ever spent a night in a cheap sleeping bag, you'll know what it's like in the small hours of the morning, when the temperature plummets and you can't get warm - you're frozen to the bone and your body shakes to move your muscles, burning energy to heat your blood, which keeps you awake. All you can think about is how nice it would be to be snug and warm and cosy. A rough night will teach you to appreciate your duvet, blankets, heating boiler or furnace, roaring fire and other sources of warmth, like spooning with your sweetheart.

I've slept on a glacier, and it's horrible how quickly the ice leeches away the heat from any body part that strays off your sleeping mat. Concrete is just the same - without some insulating barrier between you and the floor, the cold seems to rise up and enter you... your lips turn blue and your teeth chatter.

In this city of concrete, brick & cement, limestone and granite, there are far more homeless people than I'm ever used to seeing. I've been homeless and slept rough in London. The UK's capital city is a magnet for those seeking to improve their fortunes, through employment opportunities, begging from rich tourists or simply the high quality narcotics.

"Have you scored?" yells a man behind me, to a man at the other end of the road. It's 9:30am on a Wednesday, and these two beggars look familiar to me. My ten minute walk to the office takes me past almost 15 men, who all congregate along the route between the city's two main railway stations - each with their own 'patch'. Some sit quietly with a paper cup on the pavement in front of them; eyes downcast but intently watching the world go by in their peripheral vision. Some look me square in the eye from several hundred metres away - well aware that I am pretending to not notice them - before timing a polite and muted "spare some change please?" request to perfection... all I can say is "sorry mate". Some linger at an intersection, where they step into my path... "excuse me" they say, and my eyes flick up to meet theirs... they know immediately that the element of surprise has not worked - I saw them before they saw me - and I continue my walk undiverted.

How do I know that it's a man who slept rough in that doorway, and he was probably an alcoholic and/or a heroin addict? If one wishes to be pedantic, I don't.

Speaking frankly, a woman who sleeps rough is is at risk of becoming a rape victim at some point. Another unspeakable and unpalatable truth is that a woman in the grips of addiction is not going to spend her nights having her body illegally violently sexually violated against her will, when she could spend that time turning tricks - there are an insatiable number of punters for blowjobs and sex - to pay for just enough heroin and crack to numb the pain of another shitty day of human existence.

What I say is not sexism, prejudiced or anything other than the situation as it stands in the UK - sadly, there are enough rapists out there to make sleeping on the streets a dangerous thing for a woman to do, so our local government will ensure that they are not complicit in any acts of rape or sexual assault that get perpetrated on the streets, though their negligent inaction.

A single man with an alcohol and/or drug problem is not considered to be vulnerable enough to be housed by the local government. In fact, the alcoholics and addicts who line the busy thoroughfares of this bustling city, are viewed as a liability with regards to giving them money and a place to live. "They'll only spend it on drink and drugs" completely misses the point about cause and effect, but statistically it's proven to be mostly correct. Council houses (a.k.a. social housing) and apartments have been turned into absolute shitholes by so many men in the past, that the local authority treats their homeless adult single male population like a plague of modern-day lepers.

Thus, I can make an educated guess that this almost entirely unused fire exit doorway, was where a man laid his head to rest last night. He was probably a heroin addict, but this means nothing - whether it's a symptom or the cause of his destitution is a non sequitur, because homelessness and addiction are intractable. It is as if we ask "which came first? the eggshell or the egg yolk?" without considering the ridiculous notion of having one without the other, and completely ignoring the chicken.

The United Kingdom was flooded with cheap alcohol during the boom years of the 1980s, when the British pound sterling was strong versus the French franc, and enterprising men and women set off across the English Channel to bring back vast quantities of wine. France grew grapes and fermented them in a country that was predominantly rural and agricultural. England, by comparison with our nearest neighbour, has dense areas of population clustering around factories, coal mines, steel mills, dockyards and other organs that were necessitated for the functioning of an empire, as well as the defence of the realm.

Heroin's quality and availability once fluctuated wildly in the UK. The fields of opium-yielding poppies flourish in Afghanistan and Thailand, but the trade routes - the Silk Road - were at the mercy of incredible geopolitical forces. Now, thanks to the intervention of the USA and the UK in illegal foreign wars and 'regime' toppling, the supply of high-quality cheap narcotics has never been in more rude health.

If you think a homeless heroin addict single man is a fool and a failure, you are wrong; completely wrong. If you think in terms of 'bang for your buck' a £10 bag of heroin is going to get you a lot more fucked up than £10 of alcohol. If you think that injecting drugs is insane, you haven't considered the insanity of putting something you've paid your hard-earned money for, into your acidic stomach, where nearly 1/3rd of it will be destroyed. The rational thing to do is to put 100% of your intoxicant directly into your bloodstream.

If we followed the logic of the homeless man, we would all have a canula in one of our veins, and we would pay £1 for pure ethanol to be squirted into our bodies from a syringe, whereupon we would be immediately intoxicated to the point of near-blackout.


Before we go any further, I should make it clear that I am not advocating injecting drugs - or drug abuse of any kind - nor have I ever injected any drugs, or had another person inject me with narcotics.


If one wishes to consider the desperate plight of an addict or alcoholic, one only needs to think about the period when many homeless men would drink methylated spirits. Methanol differs from ethanol chemically, but methylated spirits - known colloquially as meths - has been deliberately poisoned by manufacturers, in an effort to discourage human consumption, without success. I can buy 5 litres of meths - roughly the same volume as 7 bottles of wine - for around £10, but to drink it would kill me. Out of desperation to avoid delirium tremens, which can cause seizures and death, alcoholics will drink small amounts of meths to self-medicate for their physical dependence on alcohol, despite the fact that it will cause them to go blind.

The war on drugs and the war on terror have now created a reliable supply chain, whereby the most powerful narcotics on the planet are available at unsurpassed purity and at rock-bottom prices, as never before witnessed in human history.

Competitive free-market economics has given rise to a swathe of pharmaceutical giants, vying to innovate with new medications that are 'better' than anything seen before, in a race for profits. Fentanyl and carfentanil were born into this world in the 1960s and 1970s, respectively. Carfentanil is so potent, that an aerosol mist of it could be used as a weapon of mass destruction. Although the Russian government does not officially acknowledge it, carfentanil has been used in a terrorist hostage situation - pumped into a building as a gas - resulting in the deaths of 125 innocent civilians in a single incident, from opiate overdose.

The rise and rise of the zero-hours contract McJob and a hopeless future for unskilled labourers, in the face of global capitalism, has created insecurity and the total destruction of the prospect of happy and contented family life for a scandalous number of men. While pram-faced mothers, with gold hoop earrings and their hair held back tightly in a scrunchie, will be prioritised for social housing, our entire welfare system discourages work and parental bonds. Economically, a single mother is better off than one who stays with the father of her children. Dads have been made redundant by cheap Far-Eastern labour. People respond to incentives, and so we have created a generation of children from broken homes. We have created an unacknowledged mountainous scrap-heap of homeless single male drug addicts, in a society that has no better use for them, other than to let them rot.

We are all familiar with the concept of supply and demand, but there is also something intrinsic in our genetic programming that makes us seek out value for money. It seems obvious that given the choice of intoxicants, I would select 1 gram of carfentanil instead of 1 gram of morphine. An amount of carfentanil the same size as a grain of salt is enough to kill me by overdose - carfentanil is better value for money, being about 10,000 times more potent than morphine.

The opium smokers became morphine addicts, then diacetylmorphine (heroin) addicts, then fentanyl addicts and now carfentanil addicts. The subsection of the population who have abandoned hope are always driven to seek the strongest mind-altering substance that they can obtain, for the money which they beg (panhandle), borrow or steal in order to support their 'habit' each day.

1 kilogram of carfentanil could kill the entire population of the United Kingdom. Carfentanil is produced in bulk quantities in the Far-East, where - ironically - all the manufacturing and mining jobs have gone, leaving vast numbers of men economically redundant.

In this city where I now live, the capitalists drove the cloth-making industry into a race to the bottom, negatively affecting the prosperity of nations such as India, which has over a billion inhabitants. It seems apt that the 'payback' for this global suicide pact should be so publicly conspicuous. Homelessness and addiction are openly on display, as symptoms of a world that is sick with an illness that's called capitalism; vulgar greed and hoarding of wealth.

I am full of sorrow that so many of my fellow citizens are left bewildered as to what happened to their once-great nation, and seek solace in all the wrong places. To help even one man (#frank) exhausted my economic reserves. All I have left is the power to spread word to more people than I could ever manage to speak to individually, using the power and freedom of the Internet. I preach to the converted, so often, but to stop and speak to the abandoned men - each in their 'patch' - is impossible in the face of a capitalists waving a fistfuls of dollars in front of a sea of hungry people.

All I can say to my readers who own computers, smartphones and Internet connections - you have a golden ticket that the man who slept on the cardboard in the doorway last night, does not have. He's viewed as trash, just the same as the remnants of his existence left behind when he awoke and moved elsewhere this morning.




Spread Thin

9 min read

This is a story about succession planning...

Beef bovril

The British have always liked hot drinks.

Coffee shops were terribly trendy in the late 1600s, having been launched in Oxford before springing up across London, where ships that brought the crop of beans to English shores found many willing patrons for the roasted, ground and brewed end product.

Tea symbolises imperial Great Britain. The Indian town of Darjeeling - formerly part of the British Empire - is synonymous with the tender leaves that citizens of the United Kingdom douse with boiling water, infusing bitter plant alkaloids into the hot liquid. "Put the kettle on" are four words that will be said in millions of homes this evening, despite the stimulating effects of caffeine.

Cocoa beans have given rise to hot chocolate, also known as drinking chocolate. Even a small UK food & drink shop will offer all manner of flavourings for hot water. Nestled in amongst the other things that my fellow Brits would categorise as 'hot drinks' I found something that I think of as a powerfully concentrated and flavoured spread, ideally enjoyed on toasted slices of bread - a jar of Bovril beef extract.

The flavour of Bovril is closer to Marmite and Vegemite - or any other brand of yeast extract - than it is to beef, in my opinion. How exactly they "extract" Bovril from a cow is something that I don't really want to think about. I suppose it's a macroscopic version of what they do with microscopic yeast - microorganisms are just the same as cattle really... eating, shitting, reproducing and not doing much else.

In this Bovril-drinking Northern city, conspicuous by their absence are people with skin tones darker than my own and women wearing headscarves. I formerly lived in a region where the population is 46% Muslim. Surprisingly, the Bengali shopkeepers have no issue with selling pork and alcohol to those who are not forbidden - for religious reasons - from eating swine flesh and imbibing the intoxicating liquor created from fermented fruits and grains.

In this unfamiliar part of Northern England, there are innumerable drinking establishments in my local vicinity, as well a vast number of hot food outlets where a bacon or sausage "bap" can be procured as a traditional breakfast snack.

India - before she was partitioned in 1947 - was a nation where Muslims would respect the holiness of cows in the Hindu culture, and reciprocally the Hindus would respect the Muslim rejection of pigs as unclean animals, and alcohol as an addictive intoxicant that places a heavy burden on any society that permits its consumption.

Modern global society still holds strong religious views on the treatment of domesticated animals and the brewing and consumption of alcohol. When we examine the historical evidence using the scientific method, we can see that cows and pigs would not exist today as we know them, without human intervention spanning many more thousands of years than even the oldest religion. Furthermore, we can see that humanity has been intent on its own intoxication throughout the history of civilisation. The Mayans were chewing coca leaves at least 3,400 years before Islam had its golden age, and vastly predates Hinduism and Judaism. Ergo, we must conclude that excluding beef, pork, alcohol and other things from our diet and habits of consumption is a relatively recent 'fad'.

The Chinese are the biggest per capita consumers of pork, while America and the developed nations hoover up vast quantities of refined coca leaves in the form of white powder cocaine and rocks of freebase cocaine, known as crack. Opium, morphine and diamorphine (heroin) are endemic worldwide. Caffeinated beverages - hot or cold - are guzzled by the globe. Alcohol is cheaper than bottled mineral water from desirable brands like Evian or Perrier. Yet, only in the North of England - so far as I know - do people consume a hot drink made from Bovril.

I hate being spread thin. I'm adaptable and I can be sent all over the globe to work with people who observe different cultural traditions. I am relatively worldly-wise enough to not commit a faux-pas, such as eating food before sundown in front of those observing the Ramadan period of fasting. I can pretty much figure out whatever you want me to do, if you're paying me enough and you're not open to persuasion that your ideas are probably terrible in their original unmodified form.

Why have a dog and bark yourself?

Now I find myself juggling the essential task of finding a doctor who will keep me supplied with the medications that I have become physically dependent on, while also settling in a new home in an unfamiliar city. I must also meet the demands placed upon me in the pursuit of enough money to eat, service my debts and give myself more security and freedom of choice.

I'm withdrawing from Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), Ambien (zolpidem), zopiclone and Lyrica (pregablin). All of these drugs work in a very similar way - mimicking the brain's own 'brakes' and calming neural activity. These medications cause a chemical called GABA to be released in the brain, block the brain from recycling any unused GABA, or imitate the 'signature' of GABA itself. The overall effect is tranquillising, stress relieving and aids sleep, but the withdrawal is quite the opposite. In fact, the abrupt withdrawal from any or all of the medications listed can cause life-threatening seizures.

I must juggle social drinking - alcohol is a mandatory social lubricant in most UK culture - with the need to use alcohol as a form of self-medication for the stress I'm under. I also use alcohol as a substitute for the powerful psychotropic medications that my body has become dependent on, like heroin addicts kick their habit using methadone. Alcoholics can break free from physical dependence using benzodiazepines such as Librium (chlordiazepoxide). I'm doing it the other way round, because I know I can stop drinking - I plan on doing so in October, when I will use the excuse that I'm going teetotal to raise money for charity (a.k.a. Stoptober) - as I have done successfully before.

How I ended up with so much on my plate is not really my intended subject of this lengthy diatribe, but in my dark and difficult moments, I am facing a clusterfuck of competing demands on my time and energy, while also dealing with panic attacks and a general feeling of uneasiness and discontent; a false perception of threat, danger and imminent disaster.

My perceptions are not completely warped. Earlier this year, both my kidneys completely failed. Very recently I narrowly escaped homelessness, bankruptcy, destitution and destruction. Unpleasant feelings are a harbinger of a genuine medical emergency - I am detoxing myself without the supervision of a doctor or nurse, while also working full time.

I've skippered yachts and kept my crew safe in stormy weather; I've led groups safely up and down dangerous mountains covered with snow and ice; I've become blasé about near-death experiences, because I've now had so many. I don't think I'm exaggerating or being hyperbolic when I say that I'm facing my life's toughest challenge so far.

The demands placed upon me in my day job seem unreasonable at the moment, but I was desperate for fast cash. I was drowning and I was thrown a lifeline - beggars can't be choosers.

Friends who have submitted themselves to the mercy of the state seem to have suffered greatly from the trials and tribulations of dealing with compassion fatigued bureaucrats. A great many nurses and doctors have told me that I'm 'entitled' to live at the expense of the government - i.e. my fellow citizens - because of the taxes I have paid in my life, and because my mental illness disqualifies me from being 'fit for work'. To put work as my priority, ahead of treatment is something that none of my doctors want, but equally there's a long queue of people who would prefer to sit at home smoking cannabis and playing on their Playstations, rather than flipping burgers or scrubbing toilets for the minimum wage.

Like concentrated beef extract, I'm intense; I'm focussed; I can achieve a lot very quickly. The terrifying truth is that the world applauds anybody who exhibits bipolar behaviours... what happened to all those 'overnight successes' and 'one-hit wonders'? They spent all their money on fast cars, beautiful women, drugs & alcohol, and the rest they just wasted, is the oft-repeated quote.

Once you've figured out a winning formula, all you can do is teach others to follow in your footsteps. If you can train an army of mini-mes to do the grunt work - the heavy lifting - then life becomes more sustainable. Only a fool repeats the same behaviour, expecting different results.

And so, I desperately need to find my successor - somebody to fill my shoes and shoulder some of the burden, allowing me to recover and stabilise, rather than being trapped in a cycle of just repeating things that I've done before a thousand times.

It's hard to find somebody who's willing to do a shitty job, and it's hard to find somebody who's able to navigate their way through the piles of shit and find the better way of doing things. I might be that diamond in the rough, but that doesn't mean it's a great idea to get me scrubbing toilets or flipping burgers, even though I will do if you ask me, pay me and I'm desperate enough.

Having a desperation-driven economy, with most of us spread thinly - stressed out and always on the brink of breakdown and ruin - is a terrible, terrible thing to do to people.

Hunger will drive ingenuity and industriousness, but it's not a sustainable strategy, no matter how much Bovril you have to eat and/or drink.