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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

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nick@manicgrant.com

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Chore

11 min read

This is a story about strict routine...

Washing machine

I don't feel like writing today. I saw something in the news which I wanted to write about and I even started a blog post, but then I kinda lost my way when doing a bit of research. I had selected a photo - different from the one above - and I started to feel that it was unwise to use it because it shows my face without my cunning and infallible disguise. I'm starting to think more and more about how people perceive me and the damage I could do to my own reputation if my blog was read by my work colleagues.

There are certain things that will cause people to look at you in a completely different light. There are prejudices that are so powerful that they can warp reality and turn good people into twisted grotesque imaginary monsters. To write about addiction is to bracket myself with baby-eating, granny-mugging, child-raping, ethnic-minority-murdering, every-other-bad-thing-you-can-think-of, demonised people who are blamed for all the ills in society. Your average injecting crack and heroin addict is going to commit a hundred or maybe even two hundred crimes every year to feed their habit. However, it's a non-sequitur to think that everybody who's experienced a period of drug addiction in the past is an immoral murderous criminal. "Death's too good for 'em! String 'em up!" cries the tabloid press and the public lap it up, even though the vast majority have never been a victim of crime, nor are they aware that the so-called character flaws which potentiate addiction live inside all of us.

I was going to write about that oft-used song lyric: "there's a monkey on my back". I can't say that I ever felt like I had a monkey on my back when I was a drug addict. "I'm waiting for my man" is another famous addiction-inspired song lyric, which again is something I can't relate to at all. In fact I can't relate to any of the addiction references in popular culture. I've never 'scored' drugs from a dealer. I've never been part of a drugs 'scene'. I never adopted a drug as part of my identity - I never wore clothing with a cannabis leaf or some other drug reference advertising my addiction.

There's a lot I don't understand about drug addicts even though I was one myself. I don't understand why many addicts buy crack cocaine when they could easily make it themselves with baking soda. I don't understand why addicts buy their drugs in small quantities. I don't understand why addicts buy impure and weak products at hugely inflated prices. I don't understand why there are heroin addicts when they could easily bulk-buy fentanyl, which is much more powerful. I don't know why addicts don't just stop being addicts and get rich - like me - whenever life gets tough.

Of course, I do understand all those things. I understand that the only difference between me and an injecting crack and heroin user, is that they were exposed to a drug 'scene' which brought them into contact with dealers, street drugs, needles and other drug paraphernalia. Addicts are caught in the never-ending cycle of scoring drugs, turning tricks, petty crime and everything else that's part of the chaotic life of an injecting drugs user, and the only difference between them and me is that I know that there's some hope that I can escape a miserable life of poverty. What hope does your average crack and heroin addict have of earning a 6-figure salary a month after they quit drugs? What hope do they have of ever earning a decent wage?

I've been able to use my wealth, intellect and other privileges - such as my science and technology skills - to research and obtain high purity drugs of the maximum potency at rock-bottom prices. Instead of messing around with £10 bags of crappy cut heroin, I'd do the research and find out what the chemical with the biggest bang for my buck would be, and then buy it in bulk.

What happens when you have access to a practically unlimited amount of drugs and a practically unlimited amount of time to use them, is that you discover the meaning of the word: practically. It's practically impossible to satisfy a desire for addictive drugs. Given enough drugs and enough time, you just die. Eating, drinking, sleeping, personal hygiene, bathroom breaks and other bodily functions are put on hold for as long as possible. There are some addicts who are perfectly functional - they go about their daily business under the influence of drugs and they can carry on like that for years. That's not really addiction though. Addiction specifically means harmful drug use. Smoking, for example, harms the health of the smoker and the health of those who have to breathe their second-hand smoke. Arguably a pill-popper isn't an addict at all, if the pills are not causing health damage. My own addiction took the form of the very worst kind: the insatiable appetite for a drug to the exclusion of everything else, including the basic necessities for human survival.

At some point drug-taking either becomes a chore - it's something which has to be done to stave off the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms - or it becomes so destructive that destitution and death become certainties. I'm sure there are a handful of homeless people who could see that their addiction was making them unable to work and unable pay their rent or mortgage, and they would be evicted eventually, but they didn't want to stop the drugs: they'd rather be homeless, living in a tent or otherwise sleeping rough, and able to carry on with their addictions. Most homeless addicts probably couldn't see any hope of avoiding homelessness if they quit - there was no incentive. The drug-taking becomes a chore and there's no hope of escaping the dreadful circumstances when you fall too far; the health damage is too severe and the behaviour patterns are too entrenched... rehabilitation would take years, and the best possible hope for those people who dropped out of mainstream society for a long time, is that they could become burger flippers, shelf stackers, toilet cleaners and street sweepers. I have nothing against the untouchables on the bottom rung of civilised society, who do the worst jobs for the worst pay, but it's hardly an enthralling prospect to be shackled to a dreadful job which doesn't pay enough to cover rent and bills, and robs a person of their time and freedom. Given the choice, I'd rather be begging on the streets.

My life is a chore. I'm doing things which I've done a million times before - so there's no doubt that I'm extremely capable of doing my job - and I'm working on projects which are exactly the same as every other project I ever worked on. It doesn't matter if it's Space Invaders, torpedo guidance, stockbroker share prices, computers for schools, public transport, investment banking, government... whatever. Same shit different day. I make systems which are just like the old systems. It's like painting a white wall with white paint, over and over and over again.

Life's a stupid pathetic pointless game. Money is the 'score' and the more you have of it the better player you are, supposedly, but everybody starts with a different amount and the ones with the most are cheating the most. There are other ways to score points, such as academic qualifications, but again, those who start with the most money have the most leisure time to pursue academic interests and surround themselves with people who'll help them obtain those qualification. Winning a game of chess doesn't mean you're smarter than your opponent if the game wasn't on the clock. Winning a game of chess doesn't mean you're smarter than your opponent if you were raised by chess grandmasters and your entire childhood was structured around a single purpose: to make you into a brilliant chess player.

As we scurry around desperately trying to comply with the rules of the game, which mostly means being exploited by capitalists and living in constant fear of losing our job, our home and our children, we surely must stop and think that this is insanity. Why would mortal creatures waste their precious time playing a rigged game, for the benefit of the rentier class who oppress them and profit from their labour?

It must surely be due to drugs and drug addiction that the present situation is allowed to continue. How else are people able to buy alcohol, cigarettes, tea and coffee if they don't have miserable exploitative jobs? How else could we tolerate the intolerable except with massive amounts of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, tranquillisers, sedatives and sleeping pills? Why would we bother with the miserable commute and the horrible work, unless there was the promise of some artificial and chemically induced bliss during our breaks and at the end of the working day?

You can have as many slaves as you want, but they won't work without coca leaves, khat, betel leaves, areca nut, tobacco, tea and coffee. Fear, intimidation, pain and torture will only get you so far. There needs to be carrot as well as stick.

If you watch enough X-Factor and Pop Idol on TV then you'll see that all anybody has ever wanted for their whole entire life - more than anything else - is to be a singer. Why then are those who succeed against the odds in becoming a rich and famous pop singer, are very often afflicted with addiction problems and many die young?

Consider how hard it is to escape from the poverty trap. Consider how hard it is to escape the rat race. Consider how hard it is to accumulate enough wealth to be truly free. Consider the effort and exertion necessary to break the chains and liberate yourself from the shackles of capitalism and bullshit jobs.

Unfortunately, most people's idea of freedom is flawed. Are you looking forward to your retirement? Why? You'll be old and your health will be declining... why didn't you retire when you were young and fit? Are you looking forward to fame? Why? You'll be working for your sponsors; you'll be working for your fans. Are you looking forward to being rich? Why? What are you going to do when you are? If you spend your money you'll be poor again, and you'll be just as much of a slave as you ever were, except you'll have developed expensive tastes.

Drugs strip away all of capitalism's artificial constructs. A £10 bag of heroin will get a billionaire just as high as a homeless penniless person. Drugs can - in a way - become a way of life which has much more meaning than the pursuit of wealth. However, the insatiability of a drug addiction; its intrinsic destructiveness and lack of meaning beyond the internal experience of the drug addict, leads inexorably to the desire to use drugs as a form of protracted suicide.

Art is the only known antidote, but art is denied to the vast majority of humanity. Only wealthy spoiled trust-fund brats are truly free enough from the tyranny of capitalism to be artists. Of course many of the spoiled brat offspring of the ultra-rich will become drug addicts, because they're too stupid to appreciate the incredible privilege it is to be able to be an artist.

Perhaps the other choice is to bury ourselves in bestial behaviour. If you're blessed with enough stupidity and ignorance to be happily consumed by your reproductive efforts, all the best to you - enjoy yourself. Sadly, this isn't an option for those who've read too many books and newspapers, and have become aware of the absurdity of existence - ignorance is bliss, and there's no returning to those blissfully ignorant times once your eyes have been opened to the stark reality of human life.

In a godless world with no afterlife, free from magic, spiritual and otherwise ethereal non-existent mumbo-jumbo, there's little which is comforting and inviting in a hostile universe which obeys strict mathematical laws. Just a few hundred kilometres away there's the vacuum of space, where you'd just turn into a frozen corpse and float around weightlessly for billions of years. And you're worried about losing your minimum wage zero-hours contract McJob cleaning toilets just so that you can give every penny you earn to a capitalist, even though you already give every waking hour of your life to a different capitalist? Don't you feel conned; cheated?

I don't feel like doing much, but is that really surprising? Is it so surprising that life feels like such a chore?

 

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Rehabilitation

12 min read

This is a story about civilised society...

Lots of pills

What is rock bottom? My life doesn't seem to obey the rules - the first time I was forced to sleep rough because of my drug addiction and chaotic lifestyle, I had about £50,000 in the bank. Of course I could have stayed in a very fine hotel, but the culture clash between me in my dishevelled state, the hotel staff and the other guests was going to create a lot of friction. The first time I ran out of money I owned my own home. The first time I had depression so bad that I wanted to kill myself, I seeming had it all: friends, girlfriend, good job, money in the bank, nice house, boat, cars etc. etc.

Rock bottom seemed to begin shortly after I landed a lucrative contract with Lloyds Banking Group, when I sat on my leg which caused circulation problems, resulting in a blood clot and Deep-Vein Thrombosis (DVT) which then caused kidney failure and landed me in hospital on dialysis. It wouldn't have been so bad, but the DVT caused nerve damage and the pain was excruciating, so I was taking the maximum dose of tramadol, which is an opiate painkiller.

I started to get closer to rock bottom moments when I desperately sought relief from the pain - I obtained codeine and dihydrocodeine tablets on the Dark Web, as well as some extra tramadol. I was in too much pain and discomfort to work. The ludicrous amount of opiate painkillers I was taking left me a dribbling mess at the office. When I lost the job which I had fought so hard to keep, it destroyed me. I started swallowing a chemical cocktail which I'm very surprised didn't kill me.

The problem with opiate painkillers is that they cause very unpleasant physical symptoms. When you take opiate painkillers they make you sleepy and constipated, and when you withdraw you get diarrhoea, aching, sweating and a whole host of other flu-like symptoms. It's thoroughly unpleasant and withdrawal brings back the original pain twice as bad.

I had started taking a neuropathic painkiller called pregabalin - marketed as Lyrica - which isn't an opiate. I was also taking sleeping pills: zolpidem - marketed as Ambien - and zopiclone.. These are what you might call downers as they all have a sedating, tranquillising and soporific effect. The list of downers doesn't end there. I had started to use increasing amounts of diazepam - Valium - and alprazolam - Xanax - which have similar effects to the pregabalin, zolpidem and zopiclone.

So, to recap, I was taking on a daily basis: tramadol, codeine, dihydrocodeine, pregabalin, zolpidem, zopiclone, alprazolam and diazepam... and that's just the pills.

You can't function if you're as doped up to the eyeballs as I was, so I was also drinking strong coffee, Red Bull energy drinks, taking dexedrine and occasionally dabbling with crystal meth in an attempt to bring myself out of my stupefied state of drugged intoxication.

Somehow, I managed to get off the opiate painkillers. I went cold turkey and it was unpleasant, but after a week or so things started to improve. Life on opiates is a horrible merry-go-round of repeatedly having to take a dose every two or three hours to stave off the nasty withdrawal symptoms. I feel very glad that I was able to kick them to the kerb without too much difficulty.

Getting off all the other pills proved much more difficult. You can't just stop taking benzodiazepines - like Valium and Xanax - because you'll have a seizure if you've been taking them for a long time at high doses. Benzos are far more physically addictive than opiates - you can die if you suddenly go cold turkey.

During this extended period of unpleasantness, I broke up with the love of my life in a moment of spectacular stupidity and drug-induced insanity. To my ever-lasting shame, I continued my non-stop blogging and oversharing on Twitter and Facebook, broadcasting my idiocy to all my friends as well as on the public internet. That was - in retrospect - definitely rock bottom, but I was too messed up to see it at the time.

My super-expensive London apartment was burning through my cash and available credit at very high speed, and it became apparent that I was going to get into rent arrears if I didn't take drastic action. All my worldly possessions had to be boxed up and put into storage, and I didn't have enough money left to be able to afford to rent anywhere cheaper in London. I was forced to leave my home and my home city, in search of the first financially viable opportunity, which arose in Manchester.

You'd think that being effectively bankrupt and homeless would be rock bottom, but no, I still think that my rock bottom had been spread over an extended period when my life truly started falling apart. It started with the blood clot and the DVT in my leg/ankle and reached its peak when I broke up with my wonderful lovely amazing ex. It's very hard to pinpoint a single moment of rock-bottomness, because there was a chain-reaction of events which unfolded like a slow-motion car crash. Unlike a car crash, however, I was dimly aware of the disasterous decisions that I was making and should have been more in control.

I'm not an idiot, so of course I knew that I shouldn't risk becoming addicted to opiate painkillers. I'm no fool, so of course I knew that all the sleeping tablets, tranquillisers and sedatives were addictive and I was becoming dependent on them. When I relapsed back into fully-blown supercrack addiction the consequences were obvious: the sleep deprivation and the stimulant psychosis is enough to send anybody insane.

There was never a moment that was so utterly awful that I would call it rock bottom. In fact, the moment when I decided that I need to take evasive action and attempt to avert total disaster, was not a moment at all. I had known for a long while that the money I had managed to accumulate would only allow me to survive for a finite amount of time, and that my expensive London lifestyle was burning through cash at an astonishing rate. I knew exactly how long I could remain as a jobless junkie, before I became bankrupt, destitute and homeless. The only surprise to me is how lucky I am that total disaster was averted at all.

When I left London for Manchester I carried a horrible addiction with me. Benzodiazepines are insidious as they creep their way into your life, literally lulling you into a state of tranquility. Quitting benzodiazepines is not only extremely dangerous, but almost indescribably unpleasant as well - peaceful, tranquil and anxiety-free existence is replaced by incredible anxiousness, stress, worry, nervous tension, insomnia, restlessness and a general sense of all-pervasive and inescapable unease.

I ended up in a shitty apartment, being paid less than half what I'm worth, with an incredibly stressful and demanding job, in a city where I have no friends or family. I had a couple of "rebound" flings with girls, which had seemed promising at first but then ended miserably. Perhaps this was my rock bottom, because this was when I made my most premeditated and calculated attempt to kill myself.

I don't think I tried to kill myself because I was at rock bottom. There have been times in my life when I've been in much worse situations. I could see that there was no way I was going to be able to quit all the addictive benzodiazepines and make new friends and woo a new girlfriend and deliver my project at work and get back on my feet financially. I had a fleeting moment where I lost hope and I was so heavily doped up that it was a lot easier to kill myself. I was so full of medication that I quite calmly poured myself several pints of white wine, which I used to wash down about 400 tablets and capsules, most of which were very powerful and deadly opiate painkillers.

I should have died. I certainly didn't have better than 50/50 odds.

After they told me in hospital that I was going to survive, soon followed the moment which would seem most like rock bottom to a casual observer. I quickly had even more problems than when I had attempted suicide. I lost my job and my apartment and found myself not only homeless, jobless and virtually penniless, but also sectioned and locked up on a psych ward in a part of the country miles away from any friends or family. However, I'd suffered days of seizures while in hospital and had been through an incredibly rapid benzo detox. I was at least free from the shackles of my benzodiazepine addiction at last. It would have been impossible for me to detox on my own and without intensive medical assistance.

Having to sell my house due to my divorce was incredibly traumatic and destabilising, but I was glad to be rid of my horrible ex-wife. Becoming homeless in London and getting in trouble with the police was traumatic and I thought I'd never be able to recover from the shame of being arrested and locked up in a cell, but the police are kind and they helped me - they didn't want to ruin my life [or me to ruin it myself]. Sleeping rough and living in a hostel was an adventure and I made lots of new friends. Becoming a poly-drug abuser - addicted to a whole heap of medications - going insane and breaking up with the love of my life was incredibly tragic and I feel very guilty about what I put her through, as well as being heartbroken myself... however, I needed to escape the high cost of living in London and reduce the enormous financial pressure I was under. For every downside I see an upside. For every moment that was thoroughly awful at the time, I can look back and see that none of those moments were bad enough to be called rock bottom.

My life today could be characterised conventionally as 'desirable' by most ordinary people's standards. I have a large amount of so-called disposable income - although I use every spare penny to rapidly repay my debts - and I'm quickly returning to a position of financial stability. I have a lovely apartment with sea views, which is far more spacious than I need. I have a very well paid respectable job and I work with smart people. My commute is not too far. I enjoy a great deal of comfort and luxury, which belies my troubled past. I've never had to compromise on my lifestyle - although I've come within a whisker of bankruptcy on very many occasions, I've never had to economise or alter my habits of consumption.

On the flip side, I've lost contact with many friends and I have no local support network to speak of. I live a very solitary reclusive existence, where I spend 99% of my leisure time alone, reading, writing, watching documentaries and films. I'm unfit and I drink too much. I'm bored and unchallenged most of the time at work, and I'm depressed and anxious a lot. The tiniest things can inflict an incredible amount of stress, causing sudden and breathtakingly powerful suicide and self-harm impulses.

By anybody's measure I'm rehabilitated. In the last year I've worked for 4 different organisations and delivered 4 big projects successfully. I've earned a lot of money. I've got my own home. I've got money in the bank. I've got a car. I'm getting up and going to work and my colleagues have absolutely no idea what I've been through, and they would never suspect a thing. I'm quite a convincingly 'normal' productive member of civilised society. I've even managed to sail through background checks and security clearance, and found myself in positions of responsibility, which one would not normally imagine being given to an ex-homeless, ex-junkie, near-bankrupt person with mental health problems, who's known to the police.

If you believe that people can be rehabilitated - that deep down there's always some good in a person no matter how many bad things there are in their past - then I think that I could be a poster-boy for that idealistic belief. I hope that my story indicates that it's worth giving people a second chance; allowing them to pick up the pieces of their broken lives and to be rehabilitated without prejudice and stigma.

Of course, I still have the potential to f**k up spectacularly, but on the whole my net contribution to society must surely be a positive one. I am trying my very hardest to see if I can at least break-even.

Am I rehabilitated? Inside I feel very broken and that happiness and contentment are still an extremely long way away, but to all outside observers and by all objective measures I represent a great success: the proof that a person can re-enter civilised society and make a valuable contribution, provided they are given the chance.

Am I rehabilitated? I leave it to the reader, who is far better informed than most, to decide.

 

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On My Own Terms

8 min read

This is a story about independence...

Deed

Why do I gotta do everything on my own terms? Why is it important to me that I do things when and how I choose, rather than when instructed by a meddlesome busybody, or otherwise forced to by circumstances beyond my control? What's so important about the choosing and agency and free will anyway? Surely there are people who know better than me, so I should just bow down to them and let them rule my life, because they know best.

Depressed? Just be happy. Tired? Just be fit and healthy. Drink too much? Just stop. Addicted to drugs? Don't take them any more. Bankrupt? Be rich instead. Hate your job? Be a multi-billionaire president of the universe instead. Anxious? Don't worry.

See? It's easy. Just do the blatantly obvious things that other people tell you to do and your life will be amazing. Of course if you don't do exactly what they tell you to do immediately then you're beyond hope of helping and you are stubbornly deciding to sabotage your own life. That's the only reasonable, rational and logical explanation for why anybody wouldn't immediately drop to their knees and say "oh my god thank you!" in praise of the giver of the most obvious answers to every problem that ever existed.

It's true that I'm somewhat bloody-minded and I'll deliberately do things my own way to prove I'm right, especially if an idiot tells me I'm doing something wrong and what I'm doing will never work. It's usually the case that there are a mountain of idiots who have oversimplified unworkable solutions to oversimplified versions of problems you don't have: "oh, you're bleeding to death? well, if you put some tin foil at the bottom of your grill pan, then it catches the fat and makes it easier to clean".

I guess people are only trying to be helpful, but don't ever let anybody tell you that their 'helpful' suggestions aren't rooted in the advice-giver's ego and their need to feel useful, as opposed to your need to solve a problem. You'll see that as soon as you start to explain that your problem is more complicated than their lazy appraisal had surmised, that they have no real interest in actually helping; they just wanted to feel smarter than you, that they were able to solve something where the solution was blatantly obvious to anybody with half a brain cell.

Thus, when it comes to hard problems, most people are just noise; irritating useless noise which needs to be filtered out so you can concentrate on solving the actual hard problem. If there were easy answers, the person who's been suffering and struggling with the problem would have figured out the solution long before some pseudo-helpful busybody came and suggested the very first thing that anybody would think of.

A problem shared is not just a problem that two people have, but it can also be a problem which will take twice as long to solve if the second person insists on making all the same mistakes as the first, by retracing every step, wrong turn and dead end that's already been exhausted by our long-suffering person with the problem. Reliving the experience of trying all the obvious things for a second time, knowing it's doomed to fail because those solutions have already been tried, is a painful and pointless exercise.

There are common problems which, if they were easy to solve, those easy solutions would already be exploited by vast swathes of people . Poverty, for example: if the solution to poverty is to simply get a better paid job and work hard, then we surely wouldn't see any more poverty. To suggest that poverty is due to laziness and stupidity is grossly insulting to the hard-working people who are trying as hard as they can to get themselves out of poverty, but the problem is that they already have the very best paid jobs which are available to them, and they already work as hard as they possibly can.

There are common problems which, if the de-facto solutions worked, we wouldn't consider to be problems at all. If abstinence, detox, rehab, 12-step programs and the like were a good solution to addiction and alcoholism, we wouldn't see alcoholics and addicts anymore, would we? The very existence of vast numbers of people who are dying from addiction and alcoholism is obvious evidence that unequivocally shows that the so-called 'solutions' on offer are not solutions at all: those things simply don't work.

"It works if you try hard"

No. No those solutions really don't work.

"But it worked for this person"

Yeah, maybe a little bit. But what about 99% of the others who it didn't work for? You're being an idiot. An exception does not prove the rule. You're blaming the victim. You're blaming people for their problems. You're undermining the hard work and effort and all the energy that's already been expended by that person in trying things that don't work.

We can't ignore the evidence and believe the charlatans who claim to have found solutions to problems, when the data shows that their claims are completely false.

Let's take mental health problems as an example. All the data was gathered from all the studies into the efficacy of antidepressant medication, and it's been shown conclusively that for at least 80% of patients, the medication made no difference whatsoever. What we also know about mental health is that it's an epidemic: things are getting worse, not better, and an ever-increasing number of people are suffering with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, self-harm and a whole host of other mental health problems. Not only are our so-called 'solutions' not effective, but our incorrect belief that medications are effective, despite evidence to the contrary, is contributing to an epidemiological explosion in the number of people who are suffering. The biggest tragedy is that nobody is looking at any alternative treatments, because the charlatans claim that the available treatments are effective, despite overwhelming evidence that pharmacological treatments are not effective at all. Fewer than 1 in 5 patients would feel any benefit at all, and the benefits are marginal - at best - for that tiny minority.

Now let's look at addiction and alcoholism: 12-step abstinence based approaches are as ubiquitous as the booze and drugs themselves. Every church hall, community centre and other public space in your local area plays host to some flavour of X-Anonymous every night of the week, with every letter of the alphabet corresponding to a particular addiction or vice. If the 12-step abstinence approach was the right one, we wouldn't have an opioid epidemic exploding in the United States, claiming 70,000 or even 80,000 lives every year. If 12-steps and abstinence were solutions, we wouldn't have hospitals crammed full of people dying of alcoholism-related illnesses.

Charlatans present themselves as experts and saviours when the evidence quite clearly shows that the so-called 'solutions' they have to offer are not only a dismal failure, but are wasting time and money, diverting funding and research away from any real solutions which could have some meaningful impact on problems which affect a very great number of unfortunate people.

I find it deeply offensive that the 'solutions' on offer are clearly ineffective, and those who fail to succeed when they've been set up to fail are blamed for their lack of dedication, commitment, effort and blind faith in things which are demonstrably snake-oil and quackery, peddled by charlatans who should be stripped of any semblance of professional and ethical conduct.

The placebo effect is real and it's even effective when a person knows they're receiving a placebo treatment, so I don't see why we can't all get sugar pills and redirect all the money that's wasted on ineffective treatments - and those who dispense them - and plough those funds into scientific empirical research.

I hope it's now clear why I choose my own evidence-based path, instead of placing my fate in the hands of charlatans and fraudsters who are pedalling snake-oil quack cures which don't work. The age-old adage about following doctor's orders is pure idiocy when the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates the folly of such a course of action.

Of course I stay abreast of developments in the field of clinical research into promising pharmaceutical compounds which might be effective and offer the "magic bullet" that so many of us desperately yearn for: a pill which cures the depression, anxiety and the craving for those substances which do actually temporarily alleviate the unpleasantness of human existence.

As for poverty... yes, you're right that one or two people got rich playing the lottery, but that doesn't mean that it's a solution for the whole of humanity.

 

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Word Count

10 min read

This is a story about carelessness...

Grazed knuckles

I'm a regular at my local corner shop. During the month when I wasn't working, I think I visited the shop every single day to buy a bottle of red wine. The weekend before last I was buying some unhealthy snacks and my usual bottle of red, when I decided at the last minute to grab a bottle of white from the fridge, which was near the counter. My usual bottle of red was balanced precariously on top of the snacks I was buying, which then plummeted towards the shop floor where mercifully it bounced off the linoleum; the glass didn't break. Last Friday I grabbed both a bottle of white and a bottle of red. As I walked up the steep hill back to my apartment, I wasn't paying attention to my footing and I tripped over. I grazed my knuckles as I attempted to save my precious cargo of wine from being smashed on the tarmac.

I've definitely become a functional alcoholic.

I woke up on Saturday morning and I had a slight tremor. I don't get hangovers because I think my alcohol tolerance is so high. I can drink two bottles of wine and I feel fine. Obviously I'm not fine.

I've started to skip meals because I'm getting enough calories from all the wine. I could drink 5 bottles of wine over the course of a weekend, and the only 'food' that I would eat would be some salty snacks - crisps and suchlike.

I examine my eyes for any sign of yellowing. I prod and probe my abdomen for tenderness, firmness or any subcutaneous fluid. Surely my liver is taking a battering from a month and a half of extreme alcohol abuse?

Over the weekends I show no restraint at all. I'm making no attempt whatsoever to be the slightest bit healthy. The crap I'm putting into my body - unhealthy snacks and copious quantities of alcohol - combined with my sedentary lifestyle must be lethal. I'm either sat down or lying down. According to my step counter I've dropped from a peak of 15,000 steps per day to a paltry 2,000.

I need to figure out which broken part of the vicious cycle to fix. Stress leads to feelings of tiredness; depression leads to demotivation; anxiety paralyses me - I could start with fixing my mental health. Self-medicating with vast quantities of alcohol seems like the solution to anxiety, stress, boredom, loneliness and isolation, but it's pretty clear that alcohol is affecting my physical health and probably my mental health too. Exercise seems like a ridiculous suggestion, given how badly I'm coping with the basic demands of everyday life. I can't figure out if I'm too tired and stressed to exercise, or if exercise will bring a net benefit once I get fitter - which I know it will - but it seems unthinkable to get fitter when I'm so dependent on alcohol as a crutch.

I'm changing far too many things at once. I've only just started my 3rd week in a new job and I'm still finding my feet in the new organisation and ingratiating myself with my new colleagues. My memory is shot to pieces. I can't even remember how long I was taking sleeping pills for before I ran out. I had some leftover painkillers, which helped to reduce my anxiety enough to be able to sleep, but then I switched back to sleeping pills last week. All I know is that the second half of May was a big mess, June was a near-disaster and I only started getting myself sorted out a week before starting the new job in the middle of July.

The surprising thing is that I keep moving forward. I didn't lose my job despite a few really shaky weeks when I was really sick. I've managed to start this job and things are going OK. Well, when I say that "things are going OK" of course I don't include my mental health, mood stability, brain chemistry or any of those other things which I pretend are OK during office hours. It's a miracle that I've been able to cover up a major relapse, alcohol abuse, abuse of prescription medications and of course my rather worrisome mental health problems.

How long did my writing go erratic for? I know that I had to delete a lot of blog posts in the period between my relapse and the day I finally regained enough of my rational mind to see that I was picking fights which couldn't be won and saying things which shouldn't be said. I don't usually delete blog posts, but I'd lost my mind and I was meandering up dead-ends; I was unhealthily obsessing over things and acting carelessly.

My carelessness has manifested itself at weekends recently. I get super drunk and I write with a lack of care for coherence and storytelling. I've written at weekends in the knowledge that I have fewer readers on Saturdays and Sundays, which has made me feel like I can just ramble, complain, moan and write complete and utter crap. I've considered deleting or rewriting my daily blog posts which I've published at weekends, because I've wondered what the hell am I going on about? I've written and written and when the word count goes over 1,000 words then I decide that I'd better not write any more, but I haven't considered whether what I've written is any good.

Of couse, the end is in sight. I'm so close to a million words now. In fact, if we included the word count of all the deleted blog posts, then I'm well over a million words. The current total word count that's actually published on the public internet on this website is now in excess of 950,000. I'm repeating myself, but only because it's important in the context of my alcoholism. The last few months have been a blur. In my mind, the relapse, the breakup and the period of insanity that followed was over in the blink of an eye. In reality, I've been an intoxicated mess; I've either been doped up on pills or drunk.

Sometimes I hear myself speak and my voice buzzes in my ears and the sound vibrates my head. It feels like somebody else is speaking and they're using a megaphone directed at my head, which is so loud that the sound hurts and I can feel the vibrations. It's a dreamlike state. It's akin to an out-of-body experience. I feel like this when I think I'm completely sober but I think it's actually due to the fact that there isn't much blood in my alcohol-stream. God knows what other crap is still circulating in my body. I've abused a mixture of diazepam, clonazepam, alprazolam, pregabalin and zopiclone during the last couple of months, as I attempted to wrestle back control of my life before my supercrack addiction destroys everything I've worked so hard to rebuild.

Yes, that's right. The dreaded supercrack was back. I had relapsed.

To put things in context, I've worked a full-time job for 9 months out of the last 12. I've moved house 4 times. I've been hospitalised twice. I've been sectioned. I spent the best part of a month locked up on a psych ward. The main headline that most people would pay attention to is that I've earned a lot of money and done a lot of work. To all intents and purposes I've been a thoroughly productive worker and a valued member of the teams and projects I've been part of. This does not reconcile.

In my head, I'm brushing off serious problems with mental health, addiction and alcoholism like they're nothing. In my head, I'm as invincible as I ever was. In my head, I'm immortal and the evidence very much backs up that ludicrous idea.

I really don't want to have a reality check one day, where I find out that I've done irreparable damage to my physical health. I really don't want to keep testing my mortality to breaking point.

Yes, the numbers look incredibly good. Despite the insanity of my life during the last 12 months, I still managed to work 9 months out of 12 and my gross income has probably been well in excess of 3 times the national average. Somehow, I've managed to write more-or-less every day and churn out over 300,000 words since this time last year. How the hell did I manage to earn so much and how did I manage to write so much? How do the numbers look so good when my life has been a complete shambolic mess?

The numbers don't tell the complete story.

Yes, without good numbers my story wouldn't be very interesting. The world's full of junkies who went bankrupt. The world's full of alcoholics who drank all their profits. The world's full of people who have fascinating stories but they never write them down. I'm gunning for the convergence point where one million words meets one million pounds. I'm aiming to be an outlier: the guy who beat drug addiction, alcoholism, mental health problems, homelessness and - most importantly - bankruptcy. I've got the archives; I've collected the data. Plenty of people lost their house, their car, their wife, their cash and everything else, but how did they get it back? The game; the sport, if you like, is to have kept this narrative going through a 3-year period which accurately captures the false starts, the setbacks and the struggles... and at no point did I wipe the slate clean; at no point did I run away; at no point did I switch to a different tack.

Why would I change my approach? The numbers look good.

I'm going to reach a million words on my blog because I'm in control of my destiny and I can work as hard as I want; I can write as much as I want. I can choose when my project is complete, because I know the word count I need to achieve every day to make sure I hit the target.

Whether or not I clear all my debts and reach a thoroughly impressive gross income for the 3-year period covered by my blog, I'm not so sure. There's no way that hard work will bring the finish line any closer - it's simply a waiting game. All I have to do is sit and look pretty and the money flows in. I just need to be patient. It's an agonising wait, but it's profitable.

Being drunk all the time seemed like a solution to the waiting game; to make the time pass quicker. However, I need to be clean and sober when I reach the finish line otherwise it was all a waste of time.

I'm going to see if I can resist the temptation to get drunk. I'm going to sober up for a few days, to try to clear my head and get some perspective. I've been intoxicated for far too long.

 

Tags:

 

No News is Bad News - Part One

52 min read

This is a story about the easy way and the hard way...

Legal High

If you wanted to try to oversimplify my life, you might say I have unreasonable expectations, I'm impatient, I'm arrogant, I have a misplaced and unjustified superiority complex, I'm lazy and I expect to get everything I want all at once with a snap of my fingers. I hope you'll find that the facts rather disprove most of that.

An alternative oversimplification might be to say "it's the drugs". Some drugs sure damn don't help, but alcohol, drugs, medications and other substances have been a major part of human civilisations for thousands of years. Can you imagine how many people would struggle without their morning coffee? Can you imagine the bulk of awkward social gatherings without alcohol as a social lubricant?

If we were to look at the last few times my life went from "rapidly improving; mostly complete" to "smouldering ruins; lucky to be alive", then you'll see the pattern is different every time, although it has most of the same key elements. If you can tell me categorically which the one and only trigger is for a complete reversal of fortune, then you're either a genius or you're just guessing and you guessed wrong because there pretty much is no pattern.

Let's start in 2011:

  • I was doing a tech startup. Just as a bit of background: I was the sole founder, but I talked a friend from JPMorgan into becoming 'co-founder' because I was feeling overwhelmed and this guy always talked about wanting to be his own boss and create a dot com etc.
  • My startup was cashflow positive... kinda. I was wealthy enough to bootstrap, but I basically had a local company want me to build them an iPhone app, and I thought it would be a much better idea to build a white label product that I'd license to them, and new content could be downloaded, bypassing Apple App Store approval. Aviva was my first customer.
  • My 'co-founder' was fucking useless at coding and tech in general, but he often contributed the best ideas. In 2011 that idea was to exhibit our product at London Olympia at the Learning Technologies conference. We were one of only 3 companies who had a proper working mobile e-learning solution, so we saw a hell of a lot of decision makers with budget in just 2 days.
  • My startup was shortlisted for TechStars, Boulder, CO... but I had 12 hours notice so I had to book flights and get to Heathrow, to catch a flight to Denver so I could make the meeting. Got to meet Dave Cohen though (co-founder of TechStars) and of course Nicole Glaros who was heavily pregnant but showing no signs of giving up startup life.
  • I'd also applied to TechStars in Cambridge, UK (known as Springboard) and Nicole was kind enough to phone me and say "between you and me, you've got Cambridge in the bag" as opposed to "you didn't make the final 10".
  • I ditched my 'co-founder' which was one of the most ruthlessly awful things I've ever done in my life, but he was more employee kinda material, having only ever worked for one company since uni.
  • I then rang Jon Bradford, who ran TechStars in the UK and said "I'm coming on my own. Hope that's OK" to which he replied "if you don't have a co-founder, you're not welcome - no exceptions". I tried to get a mate who was CEO of a subsidiary of Hawkeye to ditch that and be my co-founder, but Jon talked him out of it ("do you really want to leave an established brand where you have a team of people and plenty of profit to work for a company one guy created on his own less than a year ago?"). So I persuaded my friend with the pregnant girlfriend and the massive mortgage to leave his £300/day contract and become my new co-founder.
  • I lied to my girlfriend about having to go to Cambridge for 3 months - I said "it's just for a little while". My co-founder asked "is it expenses paid" and I lied again and told him it was (technically it was as I think we got £10,000 per founder or something like that, but we had to give away 6% of our equity).
  • Cambridge was one of the happiest times of my life
  • I also made my co-founder cry in front of a Google executive, and was regularly a complete arsehole and the only reason he didn't hit me was because he'd been bullied himself and he was worried he'd unleash hell. I did deserve a kick in the teeth though.
  • Running a profitable business with quite a lot of customers, while having to meet 120 potential mentors in 2 weeks. It's fine if your 'startup' is a website, a logo and an elevator pitch. It's not fine when you keep having to rush back to your desk every coffee break to deal with urgent issues.
  • I got so burnt out by week 10 or 11, I was having suicidal thoughts, but at the same time I was still somehow loving it.
  • I abused A LOT of alcohol, which was fine cos I'd had a lot of practice at JPMorgan. My co-founder however, nearly cycled into the River Cam, several shop doorways and several hedges... and that was just one night drinking free Pimms at a Cambridge Angels night that we weren't invited to, but we just picked up name badges and walked in. "Sorry what was your name?" the girl behind the desk asked. I read it off the badge with enough confidence that somehow the ruse was not challenged.
  • By week 12 I was burnt out. I was swallowing mouthfuls of legal stimulant 'granules' even when pissed out of my mind, somewhat hoping I wouldn't wake up. I skipped the office a few days.
  • My girlfriend was doing my head in. She was pretty evil and aggressive anyway, but she absolutely hated the version of me that was successful and confident. One of her most abusive outbursts was when I wanted to spend 30 minutes choosing a tie to wear on demo day, where I was going to be on stage in front of billions of dollars worth of investors, and all the technology journalists you could shake a stick at. "I hate Jon Bradford and I think the feeling's mutual" she said when she met everyone for the first time, sullen and sulky.
  • I could have cheated on my girlfriend. I could have left her for a girl who wanted me to reach my full potential, but no, I stayed faithful, which created additional stress and pressure because she had non-negotiable demands, like not moving to London, Bristol, Cambridge or basically anywhere near my co-founder, investors or customers. She was a teacher - she can get a job anywhere.
  • On the funnest and most memorable night of the program, I felt duty-bound to do something for my girlfriend's birthday. We went punting, stayed in Cambridge's best hotel and ate at in Cambridge's best restaurant. I wish I went to karaoke, because all she ever did was complain and throw hissy fits about things that were not 100% perfect.
  • On the last night, I had to choose. A girl who I was secretly in love with let it be known that she was into me. But I remained faithful to my abusive misery-guts who just wanted to see my dreams destroyed.
  • No compromise could be reached with regards to moving to even commuting range of my co-founder or London. By "no compromise" I mean it was like every other time I ever tried to talk to her - she told me what was going to happen, and my wants and needs meant fuck all. "Compromising" to her meant doing exactly what she wanted.
  • I went to her brother's wedding. I'd been to 3 other weddings that summer, and she'd gotten drunk and smashed 3 different digital cameras of mine. I told her she was banned from even touching this one. She smashed it. Back at the hotel room, I was sulking. She started saying "you're a freak. You're a weirdo. You're a nerd. You're a geek. Nobody likes you. Everyone thinks you're weird" standing in the doorway with the door halfway open, knowing her mum & dad next door would hear if I rose to the bait and started abusing her back in a rage. The next thing I remember was that she screamed. I don't remember what happened in between, except that she was on the floor pinned down. The scream woke me out of the trance-like red mist and I got off her. She ran off. I waited a couple of hours and then I decided to drive my car into a concrete pillar at the maximum speed of my car, which was about 130mph, with no seat belt and the airbag turned off.
  • When I got home I tried to overdose - I every time I'd taken aim at one of those motorway bridge pillars, I realised there were protective barriers to stop head on collisions like that.
  • A couple of days later, I went to pick her up. She was wearing a singlet, showing off the bruising on her arms to maximum effect. Her parents, out of her earshot, said to me: "we know she's hit previous boyfriends and we saw what she did to you. You don't need to look so guilty and remorseful. She's an aggressive person and you're a sensitive person. You shouldn't have hit her, but we forgive you".
  • Out of guilt. For whatever reason. I stayed with her. I couldn't see any way to make my startup work without moving, even though a single investor had offered to write a cheque for £250k right there on the spot - we'd sort the term sheet matter of minutes and walk away with the money the same day... easy. I said I needed time to think.
  • I started abusing a really dangerous drug, which I said I would never touch in a million years. I basically wanted to die.
  • I had to give my pitch to another load of investors and influential tech people in London. It was quite an important event. I was so addicted to the drug, and I could see no way round the location problem without leaving my girlfriend, I turned back halfway to the train station. I was going to give up right then and there.
  • After the pitch, people who'd seen me at Demo Day in Cambridge said I was even better the second time. I was a different person though. I knew I couldn't do my startup and stay with my girlfriend. I had to choose between my abuser who had zero gratitude for the luxury life I'd given her, my unwavering faithfulness and generous love - OR - my lifelong dream of running my own software company.
  • I turned my phone off. I stopped replying to emails.
  • I took more and more drugs.
  • I took so many drugs I started to get pseudo-Parkinsonism: uncontrollable motor tics. I took so many drugs I started seeing things, hearing things, imagining that I was surrounded by the police or the army, just waiting for the perfect moment to smash in all the doors and windows and get me.
  • A month after that London demo day, I started carrying an envelope around with me that said "OPEN ME". It contained £20 and said "please put me in a taxi to A&E. I have a drug problem and I've probably had a heart attack or a seizure". Inside the first letter was a second letter which was addressed "TO A&E TEAM" which had all the details of what drug I'd been taking, how much and how regularly.
  • I went to an addiction clinic. There were 2 girls in the waiting room, one was 31 like me, and she had 3 kids who'd been taken off her and put into foster care because she'd been in prison. The other girl was about to turn 21 but she couldn't drink to celebrate because she had barely completed her detox and rehab. She'd been a prostitute since the age of 16 and raped by a family member, repeatedly, when she was younger. This is just what I could glean from the conversation between the two women - I sat there in my expensive clothes, a homeowner, thousands of pounds in the bank, a car, a speedboat... what the fuck right did I have to use this service, when they could be helping really disadvantaged needy people.
  • My girlfriend ordered my dad to take me away from my house against my will. I refused to leave my home. I overheard my girlfriend speaking to my GP and saying "is there no way you can just section him?". My dad just patiently waited for days, on the order of my girlfriend. I told him I wanted to stay in MY home where I had MY doctor and MY friends.
  • I locked myself into my summer house and said I wouldn't leave until they left me alone.
  • They didn't leave me alone.
  • I took my circular saw and cut a hole in the back wall, and climbed over my neighbour's fence with my pre-packed 'grab' bag.
  • The police were despatched "for my safety" because my girlfriend dialled 999 and said "there's a madman on the loose" as opposed to "I'm trying to forcibly eject the homeowner from his house that I'd quite like all for myself"
  • After a couple of days in a hotel I went back to see if my dad had fucked off. Instead, the "crisis team" had been called to try and section me. They would not section me. I was not mentally unwell enough to need to be on a psych ward.
  • Eventually, I capitulated - I was exhausted - and said I'd go stay with my parents for a couple of weeks.

Now, the start of 2012:

  • Living with my parents, while my girlfriend gaslighted me ("It's best for your health") when in fact she just wanted my house me kept far away. She kept saying to me "it's all in your head" when I said "you're doing nothing in my best interests". At first it was just intuition and I was going to go straight back, but I was told that the police would be waiting for me at Bournemouth Station "for my safety".
  • Then, let's just say that I accidentally forgot to disable the keylogger on MY Macbook, which I accidentally forgot when I went to my parents. I certainly didn't know that was the laptop she preferred to use most often. It was a complete surprise to me to see that my Macbook was being used.... I wonder what for?
  • No sooner had I got into my dad's car, she was on my Macbook setting up dating profiles and signing up to 'no strings sex' websites. What a cunt. This was not "all in my head". I accidentally had hard irrefutable evidence.
  • I faked a 'calm weekend visit' with the excuse of picking up a few things I'd forgotten to bring.
  • I managed to totally keep my cool. My girlfriend was really unpleasant, but I just ignored it... she wanted me to get angry and upset so she could add to her 'evidence' of my insanity and have the police remove me on a section 136 of the mental health act.
  • "What's this user account on this dating website?" I asked, pretending to be looking at the browsing history, which of course she'd deleted. "I don't know what you mean. Where did you see that?" she stumbled. "Oh, well, I was wondering where my browsing history went so I restored it from a backup, and then I saw this dating profile... it looks a lot like you actually. Same age. Same town. I thought you only had the one sister, and she's no twin"
  • Suddenly, the abusive horrible girl who'd battered my face and told me I deserved it and she'd never apologise, was apologetic and nice for the first time in her life. She gave me a whole load of "I was only looking" and "I'd never act on it" bullshit - which I knew were lies - but when she said it'd never happen again and she'd try to be a better girlfriend, and thanked me for helping her to see that she'd treated me really badly... it was hard to not want to believe her, because I loved her, annoyingly.
  • I moved back home
  • I got a job working for a small(ish) local company. They had a board of directors but no IT director. They wanted to give me the job title "Head of IT". I said "but I'm the most senior and experienced IT person you've got, with 100% responsibility for all of IT... I'd say that makes me IT Director". The CEO said "nope, the Sales Director is going to be the IT Director too". When I asked what qualified him to be IT Director, the CEO told me "he's quite into tech". What this meant in practice was that the imbecile had a pair of bluetooth wireless headphones.
  • Given that I'd spent 5 months not working, I accepted the job and the job title, on the proviso that I'd get the proper salary and board position after I'd been with them for a year.
  • My girlfriend who'd been a lot nicer since I caught her cheating, said "you're never going to propose, are you?". I had a platinum engagement ring with 3 amazing quality diamonds (cut, clarity and color all pretty damn flawless) which had been gathering dust for quite a while, because I was fairly convinced that I had become embroiled with a terrible terrible person. Perhaps temporarily insane because I was happy to be home and working again, and being treated nicely by this girl for perhaps the first time ever, I popped the question.
  • Immediately, she said "I bet we'll never get married though". I had just received my first paycheque. I said "why don't I book some flights to Hawaii, and then if we wanted to we could get married in tropical paradise, and if we don't want to, we'll just have an amazing holiday". She asked "but what if I don't want to get married in Hawaii?". I replied "then we'll just have an amazing holiday, like I said". She continued round the same circular line of question and answer while I tapped away on my keyboard. "You've just booked the flights haven't you?" she asked. "Yup, I replied" I thought it would be great to have Christmas and New Year in Hawaii, which meant that I just blew £3,000 but I didn't care. Life seemed pretty rosy at that point in time.
  • Back at my new job it turned out that their systems had managed to lose £10m of customers money, the customers credit card data and personal details were not at all secured, the CEO's ideas about the important IT projects were copy-pasted from a due diligence report that was clearly written by a person with learning difficulties who simply Googled "Important IT systems" and then asked the staff which ones they didn't have. Apparently we needed a data warehouse as our number one priority, according to the CEO. "We'lll be shut down in 6 to 12 months by the regulators if we don't fix the stuff that's in breach data protection and PCI compliance" (protection of credit/debit card details).
  • We got audited by forensic accountants. It turned out that all the software had been built by putting keyboards on the floor of rat cages, and letting the rats step randomly on the keys, which produced surprisingly better quality code than some of the programmers in my team. The most junior guy in the team who was given the crappest work turned out to be a star talent.
  • I worked my arse off on an IT roadmap, which the CEO didn't even read, but it got leaked to our parent company.
    • An epilogue to this story:

      A year later by chance I was at a really big conference - Twiliocon - in London and one of the main speakers was the CEO of that parent company. He had used my IT roadmap as the blueprint for the entire IT transformation of his company, and he even put slides up which were verbatim quotes from my document. It was actually quite nice to see my vision implemented, but not to have actually had to do any of the work myself. He said all of my objectives had been achieved: 100% reduction in desktop support costs, office rent, lighting, heating and other facilities costs, total cost of ownership was 30% of what it had been previously when they had an army of PABX engineers, hardware specialists, networking specialists, sysadmins, DBAs and other folks to keep the lights on, plus their uptime had gone from about 80% to 97%.

      Also, he said they'd increased their office hours but the staff were happier than ever, because they preferred working from home and there were always people who wanted to do early or late shifts to fit around their busy family lives, which they could do more easily when they didn't have to commute.

      My favourite quote he used was: "an agent has their Chromebook and headset delivered and is online taking calls within 15 minutes, and if the hardware fails, we just send them another one because the hardware's so cheap and no data needs to be transferred from the old one to the new one". That's my quote. I should be a fucking speechwriter.
  • Anyway, my CEO kept banging on about data warehouses, new PABX and VOIP handsets, new datacentre, leased lines, acquiring new companies and integrating the systems, office move, and a million and one other things which I told him were expensive CapEx and generated zero extra profit: the best way to burn all your budget. I told him that the way to increase profits was to reduce overheads first and then make your systems easy to migrate other companies existing customers onto second and then we could grow through acquisition.
  • To fob that wanker off, I got my friend to quote him for some phone systems and datacentre rack, plus leased lines and everything else. I can't remember the exact figure, but it was somewhere between £250k and £500k of capex, excluding the cost of migration engineers and the ongoing support costs.
  • I showed the CEO the financial models which clearly showed that cloud had slightly higher total cost of ownership, if you divided the up-front cost by the lifetime of the product, but the cost of the specialists to maintain and support it all, plus the obstacle to scaling the business meant that it was a no-brainer: cloud wins hands down. Nope. That fucktard wanted his own PABX and servers, and he thought it was a priority.
  • So, I ignored him and concentrated on the projects which would keep the business from being shut down by the authorities. I started my dev team learning how to build for the cloud using the tech I wanted to use. They loved it and productivity soared.
  • I was getting so much abuse from the CEO that I hired the data warehouse guy who could make the prettiest graphs. That was my best career move. The board sat for hours looking at graphs of data which I told my new hire to just completely fake, because the real data was too hard to extract from the shitty systems.
  • I delivered a couple of critical projects, with the main one to protect all of our payments data and systems.
  • I then said that if we didn't rebuild the system, and separate the company's account from the account where we kept customer's money, we'd never have a ledger for a customer, and we'd always be at risk of continuing to lose customer money. I said I'd done my analysis and it would be quicker and cheaper to design and build a brand new system.
  • Nope, no way, the CEO said. "The other stuff is just as important, if not more important" he said.
  • I was burnt out from the battles. I was sick of the board, with zero IT experience amongst them, telling me that my advice was wrong.
  • I bunked off work. I took loads of drugs. I was sick of that company.
  • I went back after a couple of weeks. Everything was on fire. "We've been given 6 months to get our house in order or else the regulator's will shut us down, What do we do?" the CEO asked. "I told you. It's all in the roadmap". He replied "you've got to do both. Rebuild what you have to, but I want my own PABX and datacentre server". "It can't be done and I'll quit" I replied. "Fit in or fuck off" he said back to me.
  • I went off work for another week. Took loads more drugs.
  • The Sales Director wanted to have a private meeting with me. Turns out I wasn't the only one who could see that the CEO was a talentless fuckwit. He promised that I could build the cloud callcentre that had been my vision all along. "No distractions? Number one project?" I asked. "It's got to be done or else we're finished. Our available budget ]ust won't cover what the CEO wants to do.
  • I went off sick again for a while. Let them sweat.

They were glad to have me back. "Are you excited about this dream project that you designed" the CEO asked me. "No" I replied, "`You're not going to let up on the waste-of-money projects are you?". He shook his head "I want my own PABX and new datacentre hardware. "Cloud?"I asked tongue-in-cheek. "Out of the question".

  • I didn't go back
  • I had August off and I saw the Olympics in the stadium

End of 2012

  • I went back to JPMorgan. It was pretty easy - people remembered me and my reputation had lasted for many years.
  • I ignored my boss(es) mostly but I knew that everybody was crapping their pants about a particular even in the financial calendar had only just finished being processed before a cut-off time. I think there were mintes to spare after the thing had been running for hours. It could have been front-page of the Financial Times if the deadline had been missed.
  • It was nice to reconnect with old colleagues. People were really friendly and we picked up where we left off. There were a couple of new faces in a team I was pretty dependent on and one or two of them seemed to be offended by the way I'd just wanter into their team and see who I knew and how busy they were... usually to ask a favour.
  • There'd been a team of 10 Oracle engineers - the best - flown out from the US to find out how to make the system fast enough so that the next time that particular event came round iin the calendar, it wouldn't be such a nail-biter. I think one of the people who was being a right pain about doing the things I asked him to do, had perhaps borne the brunt of 10 oracle engineers telling him what to do, and nothing made any difference.
  • I gathered loads of performance comparison data. I read everything I could, and ran my timed experiment. I looked for any optimisation I could. I think I squeezed another 15% performance out of the system.
  • I was a bit bored. A lot of time was spent waiting for another team to execute my instructions. Not much gone tone very fast.
  • I was abusing drugs at weekends and mosty geting away with it. I started to bunk off a lot of Mondays. Nobody much cared.
  • I tracked down a much more helpful guy in another office. We had some good chats about different things we could try
  • I looked at what the software was doing, and it was clear that the system was only ever doing one thing at a time. One of the most senior guys who built the software - bought from another company - ended up speaking to me. He didn't believe me, but I'd produced some pretty compelling graphs and begged him to check the code again, which he begrudgingly agreed to do.
  • I was right - I found a bug, or at least I knew what the bug was, without even being able to see the code. I was convinced this would be the big breakthrough
  • It was not the big breakthrough.
  • Me and the Oracle guy got together again, and we went through every single one  in case of clues. Then, he found the problem - the system was waiting for a reply to every single requests. Big, important IT systems hare Disaster Recovery sites that are far enough apart that the likelihood of BOTH being destroyed is virtually impossible. even with a nuke. The trouble is that the speed of light is a constant in a fibre optic cable, and the roundtrip from A to B to A can be - in computer terms - quite slow.
  • As a bank, you never want to lose a single transaction, The original engineers thought it'd be best to have the remote site confirm the transaction. This doesn't really fix anything much if the trading contract has been confirmed with the counterparty, and then your bank gets nuked but the disaster recovery site says the the trade was never confirmed, because the two systems got cut off right at the critical moment. You should send the backup messages as quickly as possible with minimal or ideally no back-and-forth protocol. God knows how many messages could be in-flight at the moment the bomb went off, but you'll have a lot less missing data if you fire it away from your bank at the speed of light, as soon as you possibly can.
  • Anyway, it was taking around 1 to 3 seconds for every message sent to be confirmed as having been successfully stored at the Disaster Recovery site. When you process about $2 or $3 billion in FX trades, and $30 trillion in derivatives trades EVERY DAY, that's a lot of transaction volume. On certain days in the investment banking calendar like IMM day and CDS settlement day, which happen quarterly, the volumes are INSANE and it's a real struggle to get everything done by the deadlines. When banking systems go wrong and either have an outage, or miss their deadlines, the repercussions can cause knock-on problems that are on the front page of the Financial Times the next day, and have queues outside Northern Rock when the general public finally realise how insanely dependent we are on many many trillions of dollars (or equiv. in Pounds/Euros/Yen/whatever) digital 'money' being moved around electronically, every single day.
  • Next IMM day, everything was all processed in less than 20 minutes. "That can't be right" the boss said. "How did we go from a process that used to take all day, and was so close to missing its cutoff deadline, to now having completed everything so quickly?". We checked the data - it was present and correct.
  • I was a bit bored to be honest. The next project wasn't going to start for months, if not years, and the 'capacity headroom' was now so insanely high, that there was no point even forecasting when we'd next get close to the danger zone - it was at least 5 or even 10 years away.
  • I started dabbling with drugs again
  • Then my drug use got so bad I had to take Mondays off sick, and then Mondays and Tuesdays
  • By the time of my stag do, I was a mess. I nearly didn't make my own stag do and I was messed up, being handed a loaded shotgun. The remarkable thing is how unobservant people are. Nobody at work or any of my friends knew I had a drug problem, except that bridezilla had started telling people because SHE wanted sympathy. She bitterly complained to me one day that she'd been telling the girlfriend of one of my colleagues that I had a drug problem and she indignantly said "and she said: POOR NICK. What kind of friend is she? No sympathy". A tiny part of my brain said "what the fuck is this bitch doing broadcasting your most intimate personal problems, trying to get sympathy for herself... why the hell am I marrying this arsehole?" but I had become a different person - I didn't have the will or the strength to stick up for myself any more. The weaker I got, the worse she treated me.
  • I'd always said I wanted to get married in board shorts, so of course we "compromised" with me wearing what she wanted.
  • When we arrived at the luxury villa place which was where we were going to spend Christmas Day and our first day as husband & wife, the idiot owner had double booked, even though our booking was waaaay in advance of the other booking. My fiance went apeshit at the guests and I had to physically drag her back to the car, lock her in, and go apologise to the poor family for her behaviour. Then I went back to the car and phoned the owner, who was not very apologetic and said I should ring the website I booked through and get them to arrange something on the North Shore. I explained that we specifically booked this place because we were getting married on the South Shore, because everybody gets married on the North Shore, and besides everything was fully booked because it was Christmas [FUCKING] EVE and we just got off a 22 hour flight and we were getting married in a little over 2 days... and then bridezilla starts yelling "IT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH. YOU OWN TWO VILLAS AND YOU CAN'T EVEN NOT MANAGE TO DOUBLE BOOK. YOU'RE FUCKING UP MY WEDDI..." as I quickly exit the car and run down the road covering the mouthpiece until the torrent of abuse from my blushing bride to be is hopefully out of earshot. "Look, we really planned this extremely special day for a very long time. We've been looking forward to spending Christmas Day seeing the volcano, and we're really close to the special place we specifically want to get married. I'm really sure you can understand that this is such a special time for us that you'd want to help us out in any way you could, wouldn't you? I'm sorry that this mistake has happened, but we're kinda counting on you to help rescue our Christmas and wedding day... you must know people in the town who could help... we're strangers here". This fucktarded woman said "I'm a bit busy with Christmas with my family, but I'll make a couple of calls if I get time and then hung up on me".
  • I told bridezilla that everything was going to be fine, and we should just go for a nice dinner
  • It was getting super late, and a really put-out inconvenienced sounding version of the woman I spoke to earlier - who hadn't once yet apologised - gave me a number to phone. It was the owner of a house who'd gone away on holiday somewhere else. She was nice. We could sleep there for one night. She gave me the address and instructions on where the keys were hidden and what the alarm code was.
  • I told bridezilla that everything was sorted
  • We finished our meal and went to the house, which was absolutely gorgeous, and made ourselves at home. The fridge had been stocked with cold beer and there was a load of fresh fruit and stuff all ready for breakfast. I had no idea how this had been arranged, but there are some good people in the world. Most importantly, bridezilla's fury was pacified; she even managed a smile as we enjoyed a beer together on the enormous couch.
  • The house had a big verandah which encircled it, and I crept out there early in the morning to find out where we were spending Christmas Day. I rang obnoxious villa owner woman because I knew she was on the East Coast of the USA and I wouldn't be waking her up. I was given another address nearby(ish). "I hope you know that it's costing me a lot of money to put you up in this place for the rest of your stay. I'm doing you a big favour. Keep it tidy. I've got to pay to have it cleaned up after you've gone" she said. God knows how I resisted the urge to say "and Merry Christmas to you too" or "thanks for your best wishes for our wedding day the day after tomorrow". I just say "OK" and hung up.
  • Bridezilla was pissed that we had to pack and move, but I said the sooner we did it, the sooner we could start our holiday.
  • The place where we were going to spend our last unmarried couple of days, and consumate our marriage, was nowhere near as nice as the place we'd been in before, but it had a hot tub and the bedroom looked out into the rainforest. No drapes, but that didn't matter. No food in the fridge but that didn't matter. At least we weren't going to be sleeping in the car. In fact, it was still a super charming nice place - a cosy little cottage. We found a store that was open and bought a load of food and drinks, assuming that we wouldn't be able to have a nice Christmas Day meal anywhere.
  • We had an amazing Christmas Day seeing the volcano and the lava fields. I can't remember what we ate for our Christmas Day meal. I was just relieved that things were starting to go OK.
  • Boxing Day I'm not sure how I found out, but there was a problem with the camper van we were going to use to get around Oahu on the second half of our trip - Bridezilla's idea. Major mechanical problems. No way it could be fixed in time for when we needed it. No alternative vehicle available - there's only 2 camper van rental companies on the whole of Oahu anyway. I told Bridezilla, thinking "hey, no big deal, we'll just book a nice 5-star hotel and that'll be way more relaxing, swimming in the pool and having waiters bringing us ice cold cocktails... but no, she went apeshit. Even more apeshit than when the accommodation was double booked. "The wedding's ruined" she sobbed. "Everything's ruined" she wailed. I tried a bit of "hey we're in tropical paradise and the camper van was just one part of the holiday later on in the trip. We'll find a nice hotel. We'll rent a nice car. We can still explore the island" type soothing and trying to put things in perspective for her, but she was inconsolable. I rang the camper van guy back: "look, I know it's Christmas and this is an island and getting parts shipped is hard, and mechanics are taking holidays, but is there any way we can get this gearbox changed or repaired. We're here to get married and my fiance is devastated. I'll pay for the repairs. I'll pay Christmas bonuses. Just please, can you think of a solution, because my fiance is so upset and I'm worried that this is really going to ruin her special day". The guy said "I'm really sorry, but there's no chance. That van's not gonna run". I pleaded "please, just make a couple of calls. Say there's extra money in it for the inconvenience. See if there's somebody who can work their magic, even if it's a million-to-one shot". The guy said "alright buddy. I'll make a couple of calls, but I'm telling you it's a waste of time". Trying to sound as grateful as I can I said "alright, I'm so appreciative of you doing that. Thank you".
  • Bridezilla does not understand why I'm not shouting and screaming at people. "These arseholes are ruining my wedding, my holiday, my Christmas. I'm so frustrated that you're always so nice all the time. Gimmie the phone. I'm gonna tell him what I'm going to put all over the internet about his shitty company". I reply "they're just a skint couple who have a couple of knackered old vans that they use to supplement their shitty wages. They're trying their best. You're not having the phone"
  • After a bit of sulking, bridezilla is persuaded to go on a drive to see where we're gonna get married - "I don't see the point; the wedding day is ruined" - and visit the nearby black sand beach and seawater swimming pool, and generally try to enjoy the day as best we can.
  • The place for the outdoor wedding was stunning, with huge plumes of water jetting into the air as waves hit the black rock cliffs. The photographer promised to find a couple of jaw-dropping 'secret' locations and she certainly delivered. Bridezilla is almost happy: the blue sky, ocean, white jets of sea spray and glossy green tropical plants, is so beautiful she's smiling and laughing as a shower of sea spray unexpectedly hits her from behind. The rest of the day was everything you'd ever want from a trip to Hawaii - a black sand beach that certainly had novelty value, although the volcanic sand was pretty gritty, and a seawater swimming pool where waves were breaking right over the sea wall at one end. In the ocean, you'd be smashed to pieces by the waves. The pool felt just like swimming in the ocean except it was shallow enough to stand up and you didn't have to fight with currents and waves. It was so much warmer on the coast than it was up in the hills of Volcano, and we were cruising around in our open-top rental car, having a super nice time.
  • Wedding day, the camper van guy called. He'd found a guy who was gonna try his best to bodge the gearbox so it worked enough for one circuit of the North Island. No promises. "Don't get your hopes up, but it might be OK" he said. "The camper van is fixed good as new" I lied to bridezilla. She was pleased, but she should have been more pleased given the meltdown we had the day before. I guess she was stressing about getting dressed and doing her own hair and makeup and stuff.
  • We had our ceremony - traditional Hawaiian vows and exchange of flower garlands combined with obligatory ring thing too - the photographer and her assistant are the only witnesses, other than the nice lady who conducted the ceremony, who also encourages us to "throw a chaka" in at least one of the photos. The rest of the photos have been planned, choreographed and timed to perfection, with waves breaking at just the right moment, although the photographer is a little disappointed that we only wanted to do one session, rather than coming back during the "golden hour" when the sun is not so bright and harsh, and everything is bathed in golden light. Surprisingly it was all quite quick, even to do a photo in a cool bit of road where the trees have formed an arched canopy and a photo at the black sand beach. "We've still got time if you want to go to the church that they have to keep moving to escape the lava" the photographer suggested. The brightly painted wooden church was photogenic as hell of course, and I don't see any conflict of interest with my atheism - a building is just a building. In a moment when my wife is being photographed, the assistant asks me if I chose my outfit. I didn't. If I chose my outfit I'd have been wearing Brazilian Havaiana flip flops and board shorts, although I would also have chosen a white shirt and linen jacket if I chose my wedding attire myself.
  • During the ceremony, my bride started crying. Does that happen much? Were they tears of joy?
  • We were back at our little cottage surprisingly early, and my wife prepared a really nice lunch from the limited provisions that are available in a local store on Christmas Day. We popped a cork - sparkling wine - and cheered our own marriage.
  • I guess I'm a bit of an idiot, because when my wife suggested a lie down before dinner, I genuinely thought she was exhausted by it all, like I was. Again, naïveté or stupidity led me to be surprised a second time, when I discovered that she was wearing lingerie. We'd never done the lingerie thing. I thought that initial married sex would be not be anything out of the ordinary for a couple who'd been together 7 years, but she'd done her eye makeup exactly how I said I like it ("slutty") and I would never have predicted I'd have the raging horn for the same girl I'd slept with almost every night for the same length of time most married couples find they get the "7-year itch".
  • Dinner laid on by a private chef was absolutely amazing, and we even had a freshly baked wedding cake, although it might less confusingly be described as a freshly baked cake to go with our wedding day meal. The chef is actually fairly well known for Hawaii and just happed to live in Volcano village. Probably the saddest thing about the divorce is that signed copy of her cookbook she gave us - there's something so amazingly personal and intimate about having a private chef spend all evening with you, cooking you a 5-course meal on such a special and memorable day. We saw just 5 people that day, other than each other.

Start of 2013:

  • I wanted to go to the North Shore of Hawaii to see the big wave surfers, so that's the first place we went in the camper van. By chance, the surf was big; so big that the beaches were closed because the waves would have killed you if you just got caught in the shore dump. You can't quite believe how big those waves are until you've seen them in the flesh.
  • The weather in the village of Volcano, on the North Shore of Oahu and the North East corner of the Big Island, where we'd spent most of the holiday, is windy and rainy. It's warm, but there are bits of Hawaii that are great for a nice sunny island paradise holiday, and there are bits that are often visited because of tourist attractions, like the active volcano near Volcano village. Our camper van was taking a battering with wind and rain every night, and we were supposed to be spending a week in this thing. Also, I always feel a bit self conscious about the sex noises that emanate throughout campsites due to the poor sound insulation of tents and camper vans, with tent material in the 'pop-up' bit where the bed is. The honeymoon had been about as relaxing as the bit leading up to the wedding - every day was chock full of driving places and seeing things. After another night with the wind shaking the van and rain leaking in, I booked us into the Hilton, Honolulu, which cost an absolute bomb, but I wanted luxury relaxation, not having to get dressed and walk to a toilet block if I needed a piss in the middle of the night. Also there had been a complete absence of drinking cocktails by the swimming pool. Relaxing, it had not been, although it seems churlish to complain.
  • Great big lovely bed with clean crisp linen, balcony looking out over the ocean, swimming pool, waiters bringing you drinks and snacks, amazing restaurants, lovely beach, shops selling tourist attractions, bars... Honolulu at Christmas is chock full of fat Americans and Japanese, and it's not island paradise at all, but it's hot and sunny and at night you can eat incredible food, drink in places that have 200 beers to choose from, then go back to your spacious hotel room and do what honeymooners do without worrying too much about poor sound insulation. I had so desperately needed a holiday, but I ended up mostly using every power of charm and persuasion that I possess to keep bridezilla happy, and then she'd planned a pretty punishing sightseeing itinerary, which I can't complain about because I've seen into the crater of an active volcano from a helicopter and driven to the top of a 14,000ft mountain, to count just a couple of amazing amazing things we did... but I desperately desperately needed to lie on a sun lounger having a steady supply of cold drinks brought to me.
  • One night I realised we were going home the next day. I realised I was going straight back to work. I realised that while I'd been away, the office had moved from the small town centre building that I'd spent 7 years working in, to "the greenhouse" which I detested... stuck out in the middle of nowhere really, and without enough car parking spaces for everyone. Gone would be the days of getting drunk at lunchtime or straight after work, because of having to drive home. There was only one place nearby that served alcohol anyway, and that was in a leisure centre, which is hardly the right atmosphere for a bevvy of beers with your beloved colleagues. I sat on the toilet in the ensuite bathroom, and I ordered drugs over the internet, to arrive the day I was supposed to go back to work.
  • I did manage to go into the 'new' office a couple of times. Each time was disastrous. The one time I tried to cycle, lots of dark material rubbed off on my pristine white shirt, and I looked a total mess. Every time I parked was a massive hassle, having to ring a phone number and tell my life story using a telephone touchpad. I was even more bored than when I left. There was nothing to do. I got up and walked out at lunchtime, halfway though my first week back.
  • I went to the doctor after I'd been on a 5-day drug binge. I was honest about having a drug problem, but me being me, I look and sound too respectable to be the junkie sort. The doctor said to me "I'm going to sign you off work for 5 weeks so you can sort yourself out properly". IMMEDIATELY my brain said "Yippie! That means I have have a 4.5 week drug binge and sort myself out for a few days before I have to go back to work". You've got to understand that's not devious or plotting... it's immediate. I went to the doctor to get an extra couple of days off so I had the piece of paper to prove I was sick, and didn't lose my job - you need a 'sick note' for any absence longer than 3 working days in the UK. My addict brain thought that I'd won the National Lottery, Euromillions and American Powerball all at once.
  • Turns out you can't binge for more than 4 or 5 days without getting pretty mentally disturbed, and when you start pushing up to 9 or 10 days you can wake up in your attic with absolutely no idea how you got up there, why you went up there, what day it is, what time it is... how you didn't fall through the open hatch when you passed out.
  • This is when I started trying to find the country's leading experts in dual diagnosis: bipolar disorder and substance abuse disorder. I also needed somebody who had familiarity with addiction to atypical stimulants; legal highs. These drugs were so new - although they'd been patented for 40 or 50 years - that nobody in the medical profession or so-called addiction experts knew how to best treat the addiction. One psychiatrist told me to "taper the dose down slowly, and stop tapering if you have bad withdrawal symptoms" which is pretty much like telling an obese person to eat less but eat if they feel hungry, but worse still, the interaction between the drug I'd been taking and the bipolar medication I'd been given caused heart problems, blood pressure problems and breathing problems, which nearly killed me.
  • I found a local psychiatrist and wrote him quite a detailed email about exactly the predicament I was in. I was hoping he'd refer me to one of the specialists who'd failed to respond to my direct approach. He was a very kind man, and spoke to me on the phone and by email before we had a series of proper consultations, thankfully paid for by my JPMorgan medical insurance. His final report shocked me: I needed to spend a minumum of 4 weeks in a detox facility. Any attempt to quit without help and supervision, in an isolated location where I couldn't just order more drugs off the interent, was going to be doomed.
  • I chose The Priory because Dr. Simon Kelly was already my first choice to help me, as the UK's leading expert on dual diagnosis.
  • My new wife - this was now February - said she'd divorce me if I went into treatment. "But this addiction is killing me" I pleaded with her. "I'd rather be a widow than have to wait to divorce you if you won't just quit cold turkey using willpower" she said. "I've tried so many times, and the longest I've managed is a few months. It's not a willpower thing. It's a powerful addiction... it's not like turning down a second helping of ice cream or having a salad instead of chips" I said, but she never listened to a word I said. One minute, she'd be quoting the psychiatrist's report at me - the bits that could be cherry-picked out of context - then she'd just ignore me when I pointed out that the report's final conclusion that a minimum 28-day detox was necessary to save my life, because my addiction had gotten so bad.
  • My wife got so angry and aggressive and abusive that I had to barricade myself in the bedroom to protect myself from her fists and feet at least, even though the door didn't protect me from her yelling abuse at the top of her lungs, and the terror of her kicking and punching the door in a rage. I phoned The Priory and asked if they could take me as an emergency admission, because my domestic situation was so violent, threatening and abusive. They agreed. I rang a taxi. My wife calmed down and told me to cancel the taxi. "Why?" I asked. "I'll take you" she said. "You promise? And you promise not to shout and scream and hit me?" I requested. "Yes".
  • At The Priory, my wife left without a "goodbye", "good luck", "phone me" or "I'll come visit". In fact, she paid no interest in when visiting hours were. She just fucked off home. Allegedly, although it wouldn't be possible for me to know this of course without hacking her email account, which would be illegal, she immediately re-joined all the dating websites and no-strings sex websites. Of course, at The Priory there's no WiFi and mobile phones are banned, so it's fully offline - I had 28 days where I couldn't have hacked her email even if I wanted to [which I obviously wouldn't because that's illegal].
  • I was mainly concerned with not losing my good job at JPMorgan, which The Priory were most helpful about. They wrote to them saying that I was being treated in a private hospital for bipolar disorder. Of course, there were no clues to give away that all-too-easily-identifiable brand name, which instantly connects with drug addicts and alcoholics. There was a helpline number in case of urgent inquiries. My boss phoned - I had a phone in my room. "Where are you? Can I come and visit?" he asked. "I'm in a private hospital. Visits are very restricted. I'm sorry I can't tell you more, but occupational health should keep you informed" I said... the words which were helpfully given to me by The Priory to help protect me from stigma. "I've got some good news. I wanted to tell you in person, but I'll just tell you now on the phone. You're getting a special bonus in your next pay packet, in recognition of the good work you did fixing that issue that 10 Oracle consultants never managed to. They don't give out many bonuses like this - somebody pretty senior had to approve it. You've impressed a lot of influential people" he said. "Wow that's brilliant news. Thanks" I replied, acutely aware of the fact that I was speaking to him while in The Priory because of my drug addiction. How ironic.
  • My wife started being more unpleasant than she'd ever been. I'd arranged for a florist to leave her a flower on the doorstep every morning so she'd have a little apology and a reminder that I was thinking of her. The only time she phoned me was to complain about the nuisance of having to throw away the flowers. It hurt me deeply that she showed no interest in visiting or supporting me. Were somebody - not me obviously - to have illegally hacked her email, they'd know that she was too busy with her dating websites and no-strings sex websites.
  • When I had been in The Priory for 26 days, I received an anonymous tip-off about what had been going on with my wife, who had a lot of convincing excuses why she didn't phone or visit, or even find out the visiting hours, or attend the sessions which were specifically to help couples. I was pretty angry, so I rang myself a cab and left two days before completing the full 28-days. Obviously I couldn't confront my wife with the precise allegation, without her knowing that I'd been tipped off, which could have triggered a police investigation into any potential email hacks. Even I could have been falsely accused, given that I'd been given my smartphone back on around day 26, and there were allegedly remote parts of the hospital grounds where you could get a weak 3G signal... not that I used my phone for anything except to call that cab of course.
  • I never did go back to JPMorgan except to see the occupational health doctor, who kept signing me off sick. He was convinced that I should stay married to my allegedly unfaithful and certainly unsupportive and abusive wife, unlike Dr. Kelly who I saw every day for 24 or 25 days, who was fairly convinced that the toxic relationship with my wife was not at all healthy.
  • The months of March through to July, I tried to protect myself from physical abuse with a door as a shield, until I was able to build an insulated, carpeted and plastered room in my summer house, fitted with secure locks. I drank from a hosepipe and pissed and shit in a bucket until I could be sure that I was safe to be able to have a shower and hurriedly grab some food. When the door kicking and punching and yelling from her happened now, it was in full view and earshot of all our neighbours.
  • Driven to the point of suicide, I took wood and screws and barricaded myself in the main bedroom of my house. I sent emails to her parents, my parents, and some of our trusted friends saying that I could no longer live such a terrorised imprisoned life, and I would be on hunger strike in that room until a sensible resolution could be reached by sensible people. My own attempts to negotiate my freedom from captivity - directly with my wife - were met only with abuse, and were futile.
  • Mercifully, by August we had separated, which was negotiated and facilitated by both sets of parents. I was free and the 8 year relationship was over.
  • I rang one of my best friends in London, and he enthusiastically invited me to stay with him while I got back on my feet and tried to get my JPMorgan job relocated to London. I needed to be away from Bournemouth and from her.

*** This is the first part, which covers my relationship with the person my friends call "the poison dwarf" and my time in Bournemouth. The next part will cover London and maybe Manchester too ***

 

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Find What You Love, and let it Kill You

5 min read

This is a story about taking things too literally...

Fast food

Very poetic, but I think the original author meant an obsession with a  beautiful woman, rich food, riding a motorbike too quickly or numerous other things where people would say "he died doing what he loved doing".

When it comes to drink, drugs and cigarettes (although "love" is a bit of a strong word for disgusting fags) people are like "no no no no. I didn't mean that literally".

Personally, I'd rather drink myself to death and let my addiction rampage out of control, than have a long life of mediocrity - endless hours spent watching light entertainment TV shows, riding the commuter train, bumbling along at work just because it's a job.

I've been ridiculously lucky, in that I have so many highly paid jobs I could apply for and probably get.

My dad taught me from an early age that there's no God and no afterlife so I have create to meaning.,

Currently I live for supercrack, with my writing a close second.

The infrequency of my blogging, most of the last 14 nights have been alcohol free and mostly without food, tells you everything you need to know about how much I love suercrack.

Let's get this straight: supercrack is killing me. It's wrecking my kidneys and heart, let alone the brain damage and other damage that's caused by stumbling around drunk from sleep deprivation, in the pitch black because you're too paranoid about anybody seeing your druggie face.

Let's also get this straight: I do not love supercrack. I spent whole nights holding my bedroom door shut with my feet, convinced that somebody's in my apartment and intent on seeing me at my lowest ebb; my most undignified, I spent until about 4am last night waiting up for the people to who wanted to harm me (stone thrown at window and back door kinda aggressively rattled. I decided to hide in the bathroom, which has a lockable door. Then, there were the sounds of drilling and work-boots and what I assumed were the landlord's minions who had taken it upon themselves to sort out my pit of misery and shame.

It is my understanding that, in the UK, you may not enter an owned or rented home without at least 24 hours prior notice, unless there's an "emergency" the landlord has to fix (e.g. a leak), the police have reasonable cause to believe that your life may be in danger... or a warrant. I don't know anything about warrants. I imagine they're not the easiest things to get for 'minor' crime, such as making a noise in your bathroom at 6am.

I was flabbergasted when I checked the time, having emerged from the bathroom - my doorbell had just rung - looking for a police offer to save me from the intruders who never once responded to my shouts of "who are you?" and "what are you doing in my apartment?" and "what authority do you have to be here?" and "you'd better be police officers with a warrant otherwise there's going to be hell to pay".

For every 15 enjoyable minutes of supercrack, it will give you 36 hours of paranoia, sweating, obsessive thinking, tachycardia, brachycardia, bruxism, dread, fear, anhedonia, loss of self-esteem, insomnia, lack of energy.

Today, I nearly died of dehydration, malignant hyperthermia, rhabdoyalosis and excess exertion placed on my heart. This is how the supercrack minset goes: "this is brilliant.... I should take more".... enter stimulant psychosis.

Tomorrow I have to deal with some of the consequences of going bat-shit insane from stimulant psychosis. Most of it revolves around barricading doors. I took the precaution of papering my windows shut, because drug addiction is not a spectator's sport - you're a sick fuck if you want to see people at their most vulnerable. However, the papered shut windows - in my mind at least - have attracted the attention of would be voyeurs, who would love nothing more than to see me taking drugs and masturbating to porn.

Fine, let it kill you, but your dignity will die first. I genuinely believed I was going to be carted off today, having not showered for 3 days and been pretty much constantly sweating. Oh the smell. The smell.

Then, what else are you prepared to lose? Your girlfriend? Your home? Your job? Your money (although admittedly supercrack is super cheap - it's fixing me and the other stuff that's expensive).

My loss of earnings from being too unwell - comedowns after stimulant psychosis - to work is over £4,000. People with coke habits put thousands up their noses. If you think my money goes on drugs, you're wrong. I've probably spent several thousands on beds in the last few years... I just decide they need 'remodelling' when I' off my rocker. Don't ask me why.

I need to stop this, before it costs me my job, my clean criminal record, my apartment, more money than I can afford, and my sanity (already in bad shape). It really pisses me off how it can have me physically shaking and vomiting, with the strength of the craving, after a year of being a good boy.

I thought to myself today: "it'd be a shame if I died, because I haven't reached a million words yet or achieved anything much to be proud of". I was giving a lecture on how to be a good Java programmer to nobody in particular, in the dark of my bathroom earlier.

I'm still managing to work - albeit from home - but it won't be long before my relapse becomes obvious to all involved. I've got a bloody yacht I can use now, but I haven't left the house since May 14, when we broke up. I dumped her - of course. I probably already knew in my subconscious mind that I was going to relapse.

 

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My Government Made Me a Criminal

9 min read

This is a story about changing the law...

Legal high packets

In 1920 in the UK, heroin and cocaine were made illegal to possess - if you were alive when heroin and cocaine could legally be bought and sold, you're 98 years old, or older. Assuming that becoming a drug addict isn't generally possible until you're old enough to obtain money, score drugs and get high without your parents noticing, let's assume that you'd have to be a 12-year-old heroin addict back in 1920, in order to have been affected by this change in the law, which means that you'd be 110 years old today, assuming you're still alive.

Having tried various antidepressants and mood stabilisers which were prescribed by my doctor, I became frustrated with the fact that most of the medications available to those who are suffering with depression, are slow acting - taking some 6 to 8 weeks to become effective - and they cause weight gain, sexual dysfunction and somnolence. Given that I valued my appearance, my sex life and my job, the side effects of the medications on offer were intolerable.

Through extensive research, I found many medications which are not commonly prescribed, but which had shown considerably better efficacy in clinical trials than the SSRIs and other antidepressants which were on offer through the NHS. These medications were not controlled substances, so I was able to legally purchase them from overseas pharmacies and have them delivered to me in the post.

My self-experimentation led me to a medication called bupropion - marketed as Wellbutrin - which is actually France's most popular antidepressant, but doesn't have a license for use as an antidepressant in the UK. Bupropion was very effective and fast-acting - it alleviated my symptoms of depression, and appeared to have no intolerable side effects. However, at higher doses I suffered insomnia and panic attacks. I discontinued its use.

Growing more desperate to find something as effective as bupropion - which had given me welcome and much needed relief from my depression - I turned to a group of medications for treating Parkinson's disease. These had terrible side effects, including a period where I became narcoleptic. Clearly my self-experimentation had become risky and I even induced in myself pseudo-Parkinson's symptoms briefly, which mercifully went away soon after discontinuing my experiment with L-DOPA, without lasting damage.

You have to understand that it was my desperation to feel better after years of suffering with depression and low mood, which drove me to take these risks and use myself as a human guinea pig. Given how suicidal I had been, there was only upside for me - if I died, that was likely to happen anyway through suicide; if I felt better - even briefly - then I had succeeded.

Through a tabloid newspaper, I became aware of legal highs. The tabloid newspaper's sensationalistic coverage of the legal highs was a great advertisement for something I hadn't known about or tried before. I was ready and willing to experiment with legal highs, given that I had already exhaustively experimented with all the medications I could lay my hands on.

The very first legal high that I obtained was bk-MDMA, also known as methylone. This chemical cousin of MDMA - also known as ecstasy, Molly, Mandy, X etc. - had similar properties but lacked a lot of the telltale giveaway side effects of MDMA, such as jaw-clenching and other involuntary mouth movements known colloquially as "gurning". Its mildly stimulating effects restored the energy and enthusiasm for life that had been stolen from me by depression - it was instantly curative, which is everything I'd ever hoped for.

bk-MDMA was made illegal in the UK in April 2010, but thankfully I was not addicted to it. No plan had been made to help any of the people who had become addicted to the legal highs, which overnight became illegal highs. No detox and rehab places had been made available. No medical support was available. No addiction counselling had been made available. Nobody thought about what would happen to all the people who had become addicted to substances that were completely legal one day and illegal the next. I was one of the lucky ones - I was able to abruptly stop taking bk-MDMA, but of course my depression then returned with a vengeance.

After 2010 followed a period of cat-and-mouse where those people who were addicted, or like me were self-medicating using legally available substances, were then driven out of dependency - not through choice - to then seek an alternative, which global free-market capitalism was only too happy to provide. Out of desperation, I obtained and experimented with every legally available substance I could obtain, in order to treat my medication-resistant depression.

Sadly, during this time I experienced total burnout due to the demands of my business, the collapse of my marriage and subsequent divorce, and other factors which put me at risk of addiction. In this perfect storm, I was careless and ended up experimenting with a substance which all my research had told me was exceptionally risky and should be avoided. Out of desperation I tried a substance I said I never would. It turned out to be fiendishly addictive, even though it was legal.

The cat-and-mouse game of making substances illegal - criminalising the unfortunate addicts caught the trade war - had absolutely nothing to do with health and public safety... I was one of the victims finally caught me in the net and criminalised, through no fault of my own. I had an addiction to a substance that had become illegal overnight, with nothing put in place to help me escape addiction's vice-like grip. No detox, no rehab, no treatment, no legally prescribed substitute, no medical advice, no support, no guidance, no nothing - I just woke up one day, and I was a criminal. I was wilfully and knowingly criminalised by my own government.

My attempts to stay on the right side of the law are documented above. Pictured are legal high packets of substances that could be legally bought until as recently as 2016. These could be bought in shops or via the internet. I attempted to find a legal substitute, so that my addiction did not make me a criminal, but even this route became barred to me. Addictions do not respect the law, just as much as you cannot make a law that says "all people called fred must by law become dogs" and POOF! suddenly all Freds magically turn into a dog - that's wishful magical thinking. One cannot simply legislate to get rid of addiction - addiction is an illness and it needs to be treated.

I'm not pro-legalisation. I don't think that all drugs should be legal. I think that drugs are dangerous. However, it's clearly immoral to criminalise an addict.

If I was committing crime - such as theft - to fund my habit, then I agree that those crimes have been crimes for a very long time. However, what is my crime? What crime did I commit? How did it come to pass that I'd become a criminal, with no opportunity to avoid it given my dependence on the substances in question?

The police, using their discretion, saw fit to caution me on multiple occasions for the same offence - namely possession of a controlled substance. Normally this wouldn't happen and breaking the law for a second time would automatically lead to prosecution, but perhaps the Crown Prosecution Service saw that as a test case, it would have set a disastrous precedent for their new laws.

The New Psychoactive Substances act of 2016 hinges on the central word: psychoactive. In order to obtain a conviction, it must be proven beyond reasonable doubt that the substance deemed illegal is in fact psychoactive. However, as anybody who has read the mighty tomes Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved and Tryptamines I Have Known and Loved by Alexander Shulgin, will know that it's impossible to predict which substances will be psychoactive and which will not, without experimenting on a human test subject. Ethically it is not conscionable to experiment on humans, purely for the purposes of obtaining criminal convictions, but it's the only way that a conviction could viably stand under the government's new law - otherwise the test of beyond reasonable doubt cannot possibly stand because the burden of proof has not been met to prove the psychoactivity of a new and novel substance.

Today I'm clean and substance-free, but I have police cautions which will remain on record for life, and will not be 'filtered' until 6 years have elapsed, which prevents me from working in jobs which require an enhanced level of background checks. I cannot, for example, use my outdoor pursuits instructor qualifications to teach children to rock climb, abseil, sail dinghies or walk in the mountains. I leave it to the reader to decide whether my punishment is commensurate with my crimes, and what danger I pose to the general public.

I take a huge risk writing about this so publicly, but I feel that it's more important to publish this information than it is to maintain my privacy and anonymity. I feel sorry for those who, like me, have been criminalised by a government that doesn't give a damn who's victimised by their legislation, and whose lives are consequently ruined. I'm very lucky that I don't have a criminal record. Others have not been so lucky, because they are not so well educated and informed as me - they're vulnerable.

Drug addicts will always be a convenient scapegoat, because they're weak and vulnerable. I hope that in telling my story, you can see that addicts aren't evil, immoral and lacking in willpower. Our circumstances dictate the outcome - we don't make our choices freely.

 

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#420

4 min read

This is a story about April 20th...

420 greenhouse

Cannabis seems harmless enough, but you're not in full possession of your faculties when you're stoned. You're not intoxicated, but it has an effect, otherwise why would you even bother to get stoned? Your internal experience does not correlate with others' perceptions of reality - you might feel fine and unimpaired, but there's definitely an effect otherwise you wouldn't bother getting stoned.

When you're a little kid and your parents drink and take drugs, you never know what kind of state you're going to find them in. Are they going to tell you to piss off because they're irritable and aggressive, because they're high on cocaine? Are they going to be excessively sleepy and monged out because they've been taking heroin or other opiates? Are they going to be dribbling messes spouting gibberish, because they're stoned out of their trees? Then, there's the comedowns and hangovers. Are you going to get your head bitten off, because the drugs have worn off and they're feeling shitty? Are you going to get an unjust telling off, because they're like a bear with a sore head, blaming you for everything?

Then there's the emotional unavailability.

When your parents are druggies and alkies, they're emotionally unavailable most of the time, because your parents are seeking drugs and trying to get high and intoxicated, instead of getting on with normal family life. Instead of having cuddles, they're getting high. Instead of having hugs, they're getting high. Instead of having all those myriad little moments of love and affection, they're completely absent in the family home, because those druggie alkie parents have checked out - they've left reality.

I'm sure my parents thought - in their heads - that they did a wonderful job. Through the druggie alkie haze, their version of reality has been corrupted. Their imagination is what they remember, not the day-to-day reality. I was the one who was clean and sober. I was the one who bore witness to everything that went on, without having my brain addled by mind-altering substances. My memory is perfect. My perceptions are as close to reality as it's possible to get. I saw and I remember.

I understand addiction, because I saw it from a young age. I not only witnessed my parents' addictions but also had to breathe their second-hand smoke in confined spaces, which meant that I suffered repeated exposure to nicotine and drug smoke, at high concentrations. No effort was made to shield me from the effects of passive smoking. No consideration was paid to the health risks to me. If you smoke, your child smokes too.

My parents boasted about not being addicts. I very distinctly remember my mum boasting about not being addicted to heroin. It was the usual "we can quit anytime we want" bullshit. It was the usual denial in the face of overwhelming evidence.

It might be tempting to say that their drug abuse was relatively harmless - they had things under control; they were functional. I don't think that's really true though, when you're spending vast sums of money on drink and drugs, while there's no money for other things. I don't think it's true that it was harmless, when there is undeniably health damage from drink and drugs, and you're passively inflicting that on your children, who have no choice in the matter. I don't think that it's fair to say it's harmless, when you're normalising drug-taking behaviour and teaching your children that it's fun to take drugs; that drugs are cool.

Taking drugs is not a counter-cultural statement. Taking drugs is not a ticket to alternative society. Taking drugs is not a political protest. Taking drugs is not cool. If you think you're more of a cool person because of the kind of drugs you take, you're an idiot. If you take drugs and you let that affect your children, you're a disgusting person.

Cannabis seems mostly harmless, but it's been responsible for so many people having mental health problems, who otherwise would have been OK. Cannabis seems mostly harmless, but so many years of people's lives have been lost, sitting on the sofa dribbling and talking complete gibberish. Cannabis seems mostly harmless, but so much youthful energy has been sapped; so many revolutions averted; so much time wasted, sitting around doing absolutely nothing that's useful or productive, because of being stoned.

Smoke cannabis if you want, but I'll think of you as a bit stupid for doing it. It's up to you - make yourself deliberately lazy, unimaginative and dumb on purpose... see if I care.

 

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All Work and no Play Makes Nick a Dull Boy

7 min read

This is a story about relentless monotony...

Sleepy Nick

I fell asleep at my desk today. I haven't had any time off since November. I spent November writing a novel, so I guess I haven't had any time off since October. I was in hospital in October and I moved house, so I guess I haven't had any time off since September. I was in hospital in September and I tried to commit suicide and I lost my job and I was evicted, so I guess I haven't had any time off since July. I moved house and started a new job in July, so I guess I haven't had any time off since June. I was selling loads of my stuff, trying not to go bankrupt, while also trying to get a job in June, so I guess I haven't had any time off since May. I was quitting supercrack, having an episode of medication-induced mania from California rocket fuel and breaking up with my girlfriend in May, so I guess I haven't had any time off since April. I was a drug addict in April. This is what I was doing back in April.

Dark Web

Here I am looking at the dark web a little over a year ago. I'm probably not buying anything that would be illegal because I already had enough supercrack to last me 2 years. The fact I'm wearing clothes and sitting in my lounge, taking recognisably normal-ish photographs suggests that a little over a year ago, things were going OK.

Night vision

Oh no I spoke to soon. This night-vision photograph indicates that I was going bat-shit insane while high on supercrack. I took this photograph only a couple of days after the one before, where I was sat in the lounge browsing the dark web. This photograph was taken about a year ago.

Barricaded door

What the hell is THAT? Well, it's pretty obvious that I've barricaded myself in my bedroom. This photograph was taken one year and one day ago. This photograph perfectly illustrates my subconscious fears of privacy invasion - that people are going to burst in on me, shame me and violently attack me. I don't come across as very paranoid in day-to-day life, but I'm very traumatised, and this is my reaction that that trauma: I barricade myself in to protect myself from my parents and ex-wife. It's bat-shit insane, of course, but this is my underlying psychology.

Tray of food

Looks like I was eating some food. I'd probably barricaded myself in my bedroom for days. I'd probably not slept for days. My life was a horrific mess a year ago. I had a virtually unlimited supply of supercrack and my addiction was raging out of control. Clearly I was paranoid because of drugs and sleep deprivation, but what was the seed of that paranoia? I wonder if it could have anything to do with having the rug pulled out from under my feet - being muscled out of my own home; being horrifically injured in my own home; being punched in the face or suffering a horrific injury to my leg, at the hands of my ex-wife and parents. I wonder if it could have anything to do with them. I was trapped in a corner for so very long, with no means of escaping my tormentors, who were demonstrably vile, violent and abusive. Fuck them. That kind of trauma has a lasting effect.

Bathroom barricade

My paranoia reached such ridiculous levels that I barricaded the door to my ensuite bathroom using my laundry bins and some clothes storage boxes. Clearly I just wanted to be left alone. Clearly I didn't feel safe. Yes, it's paranoia that's come about because of drug abuse and sleep deprivation, but there's got to be a seed too. Nobody gets this paranoid unless they have their ex-wife kicking doors in and screaming abuse at the top of her lungs. Nobody gets this paranoid unless they have their parents humiliating them and bursting in on them, and dragging them out of their own home. There's a seed for paranoia. There's always a seed.

Uppers and downers

Something to help me sleep (zopiclone) and something to help me cope and function (dexamfetamine). You can't end a horrific addiction instantly. There's no cold turkey when you're in as deep as I was. I was too dependent. To attempt to suddenly quit overnight would have caused me unbearable withdrawal symptoms and would have required me to be hospitalised. This is what I prescribed myself - two medications for harm reduction. Two medications that I used to wean myself off the dangerous and highly addictive supercrack.

I flushed that big bag of supercrack a year ago. There was enough to last me a couple of years, easily. I can't remember when exactly I flushed it, because my life was chaotic, but the evidence suggests that it was at this point I decided to get clean, using substitute prescribing.

Things didn't go smoothly, but it's very difficult to deal with a major addiction as well as mental health problems and all the practical problems that came about because my life had disintegrated. I needed to get money, get a job, get an apartment I could afford. I needed to move house, move city. I needed to get a new girlfriend and a new group of friends. I had a false start in Manchester, but I tried again in Wales... I'm trying again in Wales.

Maybe you think my life is easy and everything is sorted out, because I earned bit of money, which I spent renting an apartment and buying a car so that I can get to my new job. Maybe you think my life is easy because I get up and go to work every day, and I'm doing a good job and my bosses are impressed with me. Maybe you think my life is easy because I've 'bounced back' from losing two apartments, running out of money three times and being hospitalised twice. Maybe you think my life is easy, because I've made it look so easy, quitting supercrack, Valium, Xanax, tramadol, codeine, dihydrocodiene, pregabalin, zopiclone and zolpidem, which are all highly addictive. Maybe you think my life is easy, because I've gone 7 months unmedicated and I haven't had a single mental health episode that's caused me to commit suicide or do something else drastic to fuck up my life. Maybe you think my life is easy because my finances are improving and I've got a girlfriend. Maybe you think none of what I went through in the last year was very hard. Maybe you think none of what I've been through in the last year has caused any lasting damage.

I'm in my 5th consecutive month of full-time work without a holiday. I'm working my bollocks off. All I do is work work work, because I'm running as fast as I can to get myself into a position where my housing is secure - nobody can evict me - and I'm financially secure. I constantly have to ignore my physical and mental health, because I so desperately need to get myself into a position where I can collapse in a heap and have a minor nervous breakdown.

Yes, I can do stuff like this - I can save myself; I can come back to life; I can return from the brink of destitution and make it look very easy.

It's not easy.

 

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Rock Bottom

7 min read

This is a story about quality of life...

Warchalking

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.

 

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