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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

twitter.com/ManicGrant

nick@manicgrant.com

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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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Cold Turkey 2

12 min read

This is a story about sequels...

Leftovers

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

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

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

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

So, people had to get to know me.

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

But am I a monster?

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

Hang on a second though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going cold turkey doesn't prove anything.

 

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Drug of Choice

8 min read

This is a story about cyclical patterns...

Me with pills

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

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

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

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

Fluid in my leg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello wine my old friend

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

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

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

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

 

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Penultimate Day

4 min read

This is a story about relapse...

Booze

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

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

"Addict!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Habit Forming

3 min read

This is a story about breaking the cycle...

Handful of capsules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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