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I'm a writer. I write about life with bipolar disorder - also known as manic depression - so my eponymous alter ego is MaNic Grant.

I've written more than 1 million words: it's the world's longest suicide note.

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Improvise. Adapt. Overcome

14 min read

This is a story about fucking up your life...

Food in the oven

I am cooking pulled pork. The recipe called for the pork to be put in an ovenproof glass dish. By chance, I bought an ovenproof glass dish two days ago. I bought it because it was perfect for chopping lines of supercrack and not losing any of the precious powder when in a messed-up state.

Sometime before dawn on Friday I was thinking about ending my life. I had bought razor blades at the same time as I bought the ovenproof glass dish. I bought the razor blades so I could chop lines of supercrack. I did not buy the razor blades so I could sever veins and the radial arteries in my arms. I did not buy the razor blades so I could sever my carotid arteries and jugular veins in my neck. However, I was motivated to do so.

I've papered over my bedroom windows to stop perverts from peeping in. I couldn't tell how light it was outside, although I knew dawn had broken. My perception of time was completely warped, but it was so quiet that I assumed that it was earlier than 9am, because otherwise I'd have heard lots of noise of people getting ready for work and school.

I checked the time. It was 1:24pm.

I was supposed to be on a video conference at 9:45am.

Fuck.

I messaged a guy in my team and told him I was so sick that I hadn't been able to contact him until then, which was technically true. What I didn't tell him was that I'd been fucked up on supercrack and I was convinced that my life was ruined and I might as well kill myself.

I was convinced that my life was so ruined that I'd never be able to fix everything.

I was convinced that I'd messed up my job and I was going to lose it.

I was convinced that I'd messed up my accommodation and I was going to be made homeless.

I was convinced that all my hopes of becoming debt free, and eventually wealthy, were destroyed.

Strangely, I'd spent most of the 18 hours up to this point thinking about how to make the software at work more efficient, as well as designing in my head a system to improve internet security which could be adopted as a new standard. You'd have thought that these things were just useless insanity, utter nonsense and gibberish.

I took a shower.

I suddenly felt a lot better.

I opened up my laptop and I rewrote 5,000 lines of code, reducing the system to just 500 lines. I ran the tests. My code did exactly the same job as the old code, except it was 1,000% more efficient. I couldn't quite believe that I'd managed to do my job, and do my job really well, when I was supposed to be sick.

It was 5 o'clock and time to stop work for the day, although I'd only worked half the day.

Then, I started developing my idea for improving internet security. I was fairly convinced that I was going to discover that I'd completely overlooked an important loophole when I actually applied formal computer science to the problem. I was certain that sooner or later, I'd spot an obvious mistake in the messed-up thinking I'd had at 3am, while high on supercrack.

At 11pm the academic paper I'd written - which specified the system protocol and addressed any security concerns - was finished. I'd checked and double-checked it. It was watertight. I listed every assumption. I attacked it from every angle. Every niggling doubt was comprehensively addressed. I knew my theory's strengths as well as its weaknesses. It was, without being too big-headed, a brilliant piece of work.

Instead of feeling like I've had a relapse and everything is ruined, so I might as well let myself descend back into the depths of hell, I feel like I learned something. All of the anticipated reward from drug taking turned out to be a big disappointment. All of the anticipated paranoia and feeling like I'm about to die and life is shit - i.e. all of the negative feelings - were present, reminding me that drug addiction is hell, and the so-called 'high' isn't worth the side effects and comedown.

My life is shit in many ways. I'm socially isolated, financially distressed and trapped in the rat race, lest I end up destitute. I'm forced to do things I don't want to do, go places I don't want to go to; my time and my freedom are owned by somebody else. I can't do what I want. My life is miserable. However, the stuff I fucked up with my relapse, such as making a mess of my bedroom, destabilising my mental health, risking my job, neglecting relationships, exhausting myself and generally playing with fire, is something which will clearly only get worse and worse if I were to continue taking drugs. I was reminded of my first novel, where I wrote about a character who took the pursuit of drug addiction to its ultimate conclusion. I was reminded of the drug-addict fantasy which inspired my first novel: to have an unlimited supply of drugs and to escape the tyranny of wage slavery, rent, bills and bullshit McJobs. I was reminded where it leads, which I already explored at length in my first novel. I explored that course of action in fiction so that I never had to reach rock bottom myself. My novel saved my life.

So, I'm currently cooking pulled pork in my apartment. The rent and bills are paid. There's money in the bank. I still have my job.

I'm cooking pulled pork in the dish which I bought to take drugs with.

I had the opportunity to order more supercrack on Friday morning, which would have been delivered today. If I had ordered more I wouldn't be writing this. Instead, I would be fucking myself up and fucking up more of the things around me. I already fucked up my MacBook Pro for the 3rd time, but thankfully it's not too badly fucked up, and the part that's fucked up is covered by warranty anyway. I have another MacBook Pro, which I'm trying to coax back into life, but it's fucked up from the last time I didn't stop my supercrack binge before things got fucked up. The sum total I've spent on MacBooks which I've fucked up on supercrack is about £6,000. I took an ice bath with my Apple Watch then dropped my iPhone in the bath, because I was trying to deal with malignant hyperthermia as a result of supercrack overdose, which cost me another £900. The total amount I've spent on supercrack in my lifetime is about £500 and most of that got flushed down the toilet. I bought 10 grams of supercrack last year for £150, which was enough to get high every day for 1 year and 10 months, although I'd obviously die before I got chance to use it all.

My priorities are the same as any ordinary person. I want a job, a home, friends, a partner, a pet. I want to earn more than my modest monthly expenditure, excluding the £10 a month I spend on supercrack, on average. If I have surplus cash I don't spend it on supercrack. I buy supercrack because all the things I need are so far out of reach. For example: I have time off work booked for 3 weeks time, but I don't have anybody to go on holiday with, and I need to plan, book and pay for a holiday, which is difficult when I'm very deep in debt.

The so-called 'choice' to relapse into addiction is not a choice at all. The only choice is the choice to kill myself. I could kill myself quickly with poison or overdose, electrocution, hanging or ligature, blood loss, falling from a great height, suffocation, asphyxiation or self-immolation. The hope that addiction holds is of hedonistic pleasure, before heart failure or respiratory arrest. Every heroin addict has a little bit of hope that they'll 'go over' and die every time they depress the plunger of the syringe. Every coke or meth addict hopes that their heart will explode at the very moment they orgasm in the ecstatic throes of drug-fuelled sex.

Every addiction is held firmly in place, not by the power of the chemicals involved, but because there are no realistic better options. What heroin addict is going to suffer the agony of withdrawal, the misery of losing the only thing in their life which brings them any pleasure, to work a minimum-wage zero-hours contract McJob and be stripped of their dignity and cursed to spend all their hard-earned cash on a dirty, mouldy, flea and bed-bug infested shithole, 2 hours bus ride away from work, leaving them so little money that they have to go begging to a food bank just to be able to eat.

Theoretically I can earn a gross income of £151,200, which is why I'm alive and in reasonably good health. I've been through years of addiction, alcoholism, mental health problems, hospitalisations for major medical emergencies, homelessness and of no fixed abode, divorce, psych wards and being sectioned, losing hundreds of thousands of pounds, losing friends, having to give my cat to my parents for safe keeping, becoming estranged from my family, moving house many times, moving around the country, sleeping rough, detox, rehab, the shame of former work colleagues finding out my secrets and gossiping about me, reputational damage, suicide attempts, having to sell my house, having to quit as CEO of my own company, the guilt of not giving my investors a good return on their investment, the unpaid debt I owe to my guardian angel, being arrested X times and locked up X times, being cautioned by the police X times, being on bail pending investigation, being interviewed by the police, being assessed by innumberable psychiatrists and prescribed myriad psychiatric medications, and ultimately having taken heaps of dangerous drugs and medications at dangerous dosages and in dangerous combinations. How many people could go through those experiences and not lose their mind entirely, finding themselves institutionalised and permanently excluded from society?

The reason why I'm alive and functional is because theoretically I can earn a gross income of £151,200. In practice it means that if I manage to work for 5 or 6 weeks a year, I'm a hell of a lot better off than 99.999% of the people who struggle with mental health problems, substance abuse problems and debt.

"Money doesn't make you happy" is a lie. Money sure as shit helps you deal with a multitude of problems.

Just like an investment bank, when shit goes wrong I double down. If a bet goes against me, I make the exactly same bet again, but I double the stake. Just like an investment bank, I'm able to borrow as much as I want so I can beat the players who aren't able to continue to play when the stakes become too high. I use my wealth to bully life into giving me what I want, instead of allowing myself to be bullied out of the poker game by the high-rollers.

The only game in life I can't win at is drugs. It doesn't matter how rich you are, if it's you against the drugs you're always going to lose. There's no winning in addiction. Not losing is the best you can hope for with addiction. To not lose in the game of addiction is a rare success, which requires extreme wealth. Even the very wealthy - like Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse - found that their idea of nirvana (sic.) was not all it was cracked (sic.) up to be. Kurt Cobain said once in a private video that he wanted to get rich so he didn't have to work and could get high on smack every day. He got so rich he could have retired and gotten high for the rest of his life, so why did he kill himself? Writing a novel allowed me to live that life - in a fictional world - to find out what would've happened to me. I wrote that book so I didn't have to experience what happened to my fictional central protagonist in real life. What happened to my fictional character could very easily have been me. I know where I was headed.

Presently, I'm very frustrated that I must spend my time creating software - or fixing other people's software - but it's churlish to complain when I'm fortunate enough to have a skill which means that even a homeless junkie alcoholic with mental health problems who's known to the police, is highly sought-after by organisations, who gladly pay relatively obscene amounts of money for the work that I can do, even when utterly fucked-up by drink and drugs. While Sports Direct employees are sacked for taking toilet breaks, I've literally gone AWOL on a week-long drug binges, been taken to hospital by the police and later been welcomed back to work, despite being a gibbering wreck on a massive comedown. This is not arrogance I promise you. I don't expect to receive special treatment. I don't expect my so-called 'misbehaviour' to be excused. I don't feel entitled to be able to treat my good fortune with such apparent contempt.

The day I start taking things for granted will be the day my world falls apart and my good fortune disappears. People's compassion, forgiveness and the benefit of the doubt will no longer be given to me if I expect to get away with taking the piss. If I anticipate escaping the consequences of my actions forever, then they'll lock me up and throw away the key.

I'm very angry and bitter about my ruined childhood, the abuse perpetrated against me by my ex-wife and being taken advantage of by a handful of greedy and immoral people, all of whol completely lack a conscience. However, I am able to remind myself that there's no value in analysing the chain of responsibility, tracing it back to those who are ultimately to blame: the horrible people of bad character who feel no guilt for the misery and suffering they cause, who feel no obligation to pay compensation for the damage they've done; feel no remorse for the pain of their victims. Even with the full force of the law behind me, those slippery vermin will always weasel out of paying the fair price for their antisocial, criminal, abusive, negligent, selfish and downright cuntish behaviour. My personal life strategy is to be so good at what I do and work so hard, that those scummy rats are left scurrying around in the slurry-filled sewers, enviously fuming about my privileged and fortunate life. When at long last they're on their deathbed, their guilty conscience will torment them and they'll be filled with regret for the misery and suffering they caused. Their dying days will be filled with fear and distress, which they deserve every single second of. Cunts.

My life is not fucked up. I did take a chance and nearly fucked up my life. I was lucky that I haven't suffered any worst-case consequences. I can't take my good fortune for granted. I am feeling grateful that things haven't ended as badly as they could have done and I am reminding myself that I was lucky not smart. I am reminding myself that there are substantial negative consequences, which far outweigh the euphoria I was seeking. Ironically, of course, I didn't even get any euphoria I was looking for. I just got paranoia, sleep deprivation, damage to my work reputation, destabilised mental health, a broken laptop and a messed up bedroom... all of which I predicted in advance.

I do have an oven-proof dish though. The pulled pork was delicious.

 

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Rehabilitation

12 min read

This is a story about civilised society...

Lots of pills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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On My Own Terms

8 min read

This is a story about independence...

Deed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It works if you try hard"

No. No those solutions really don't work.

"But it worked for this person"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Day I Didn't Drink All the Alcohol

10 min read

This is a story about abstinence...

Alcoholz

I woke up this morning and started having a not-quite-fully-blown panic attack. Re-adjusting to life without the tranquillising and sedating effects of alcohol is hard. The first couple of alcohol-free days seem to pass easily enough, but day three brings something that a friend of mine calls "the fear" which is a gnawing anxiety.

Anxiety is by its very nature irrational.

Sometimes anxiety can be attributed to genuinely stressful things that are happening, but there's no benefit to feeling anxious - our self-preservation instincts could function just fine without anxiety. Anxiety might be irrational, but it can't be rationalised away, especially when its origin is biochemical. The sudden absence of soothing chemicals in the brain - withdrawing from alcohol - triggers rebound anxiety, which is most unpleasant.

I notice that I'm hungrier and thirstier than I would usually be when I'm semi-drunk. I notice that I'm craving sweet things. I notice that I gobble my food down faster than ever, as if I'm eating my final meal or I'm dying of starvation. On balance though, I'm eating more healthily and I've substantially cut my total daily calorie intake, which will be better for my waistline. My body is not having to work so hard to detoxify itself and get rid of the barely digestible combination of wine and fatty salty snacks.

I'd love to tell you that I feel better, but I don't. On balance, I miss the soothing effects of alcohol and the dulled senses more than I cherish the clear head and sharper perceptions. On balance, I hate the anxiety more than I hate the health damage that alcohol was inflicting.

Anything worth doing is hard when you start, so I'm aware that I might not feel the real benefits of sobriety unless I carry on for a few more weeks. I'm half-tempted to have a dry August, but I'm really not sure whether the timing is right and whether it's worth the risk of having some kind of breakdown, because I have no crutch to help me through a rather challenging period of my life.

Looking back through my photo-diary exactly one year ago, I'm reminded that I was in a big mess with substances. I was abusing a combination of Valium and Xanax, as well as the sleeping pills Imovane and Ambien, plus I was prescribed Lyrica as a painkiller. Two tranquillisers, two sleeping pills and a painkiller is quite a hefty combination of sedating medications, plus I was drinking like a fish too. I'm surprised I even knew what day of the week it was.

There was no way I was going to be able to stop all those physically addictive medications safely, without risking seizures. I was trapped.

Alcohol abuse has always slipped under the radar in my life. I've always been part of a work-hard play-hard culture where conspicuous consumption of vast quantities of alcohol has been near-ubiquitous. Boozy lunches and after-work drinking sessions somehow seemed to dovetail with the demanding work I've been involved in, and industries which are disproportionately staffed by young men, mostly unencumbered by the demands and responsibilities of family life. Somehow, arriving at work an hour and a half late with a terrific hangover doesn't seem to matter if everybody else is doing it too.

Spotting the alcoholics amongst a population of similar heavy drinkers seemed to me to be impossible. One colleague was apparently swigging vodka from a bottle of mineral water at his desk, but I could never smell the alcohol on his breath... probably because I was hungover most mornings and half-drunk most afternoons. Somehow the situation continued for many years without any problems - the work would always get done and the booze kept flowing.

I suppose it should come as no surprise that a number of my former colleagues have had to go through detox and rehab, and some have dropped dead from liver failure and other alcohol-related illnesses. I suppose it should come as no surprise that several of the former colleagues who I count amongst my very best friends are just as alcoholic as I am. Somehow, we stick together and look after each other, us band of drunks.

What might be more surprising to those who've never worked in such male-dominated and alcohol-tolerating environments, where I've spent most of my career, is the level of responsibility shouldered by the unfortunate alcoholic wretches such as myself. You'd think that handing over the 'keys' to the 'bank vault' of a massive investment bank to a bunch of alcoholics would be sheer insanity, but perhaps those of a more sober persuasion aren't suited to the role. When I think about all the quadrillions of dollars watched over by a gang of brilliant men who spend most of their time drunk, it beggars belief, but that's the way that the global financial system seems to be run: in the hands of functional alcoholics.

Those who are fully in possession of their faculties don't seem to find their way into the fantasy land where 6-figure sums of money are paid to anybody who will willingly forego a sense of meaningful purpose and enter the bewildering world of high-finance, where the amount of capital that flows around the globe is an order of magnitude greater than anything that an ordinary person could comprehend. The concept of money becomes a ridiculously absurd one and cash is just a rounding error.

Further, when dealing with computer software and data, any sane person would run screaming in the opposite direction as soon as they realise that they've entered yet another ridiculously absurd world, which is the extreme opposite from anything 'real' or tangible.

When I was making iPhone apps and selling them, there was clearly a product and the idea of selling that product for a profit is something we all understand. My life was less absurd. However, the vast majority of my career has been spent helping investment banks to play with numbers in ludicrously complex ways, to obfuscate the fact that there is no product... nothing of any value is being created!

I suppose it's only natural that I would look at my obscenely large monthly paycheque and be unable to reconcile that amount of remuneration with the 'value' that I'd delivered to humanity. It seems that the greater the absurdity, the greater the financial reward. Somehow, it's never sat easily with my conscience and perhaps that's why I've spent such a big chunk of my income on booze. It's hard to get up and go to work every day when you're only in it for the money, and you're pretty certain that what you're doing is actually harmful and immoral but you can't precisely say why... it's too complex to work out. There's a kind of 'golden handcuffs' situation that arises, where you don't want to question things too much because the money is so much better than you'd get building houses or catching fish.

Ultimately, I don't know why we need so much damn software and data. I don't know why we need so many offices and service industries. I don't know what the f**k 95% of people actually do for a living that's useful or productive, when only 5% of people are doing jobs which are obviously indispensable. I consider myself to be at the extreme end of the utility spectrum, where not only is what I do completely pointless, but it's also harmful to humanity as well as producing absolutely nothing that's tangible or 'real'.

I suppose that's why I drink.

Perhaps anybody who's glimpsed the absurdity of existence and understood their place in the universe, as well as any average human could ever hope to, is likely to be confronted with an existential crisis. Most people will busy themselves by acting like slime mold or bacteria, and reproducing with gay abandon until every inch of the surface of the planet is teeming with similarly brain-dead morons just like them. Most people will revert to animalistic bestial knuckle-dragging behaviours found in every lifeform on Earth - f**king, s**tting, fighting, feeding etc.

I suppose why I drink is that I'm not like 99.9% of the beasts and the bees and the bacteria.

Consciousness is a curse.

To be conscious means to be able to rationalise and to decide to override the bestial instinct to rut and reproduce, and instead to inhabit an intellectual world which the beasts do not partake in. However, now I envy those beasts' ignorant bliss. Oh, to be thick: that's what I really want, I think. I wish I was stupid. I wish I was dumb. I wish I was a dimwit.

It seems obvious now I say it, but getting drunk is like having the partial lobotomy I so desperately crave; to be free from the burden of the things that cannot be un-learned; to escape my own rational and reasonable inquiring and inquisitive mind.

Of course, I don't claim to be in possession of a brilliant mind, but I'm clever enough to be miserable and tormented. Not clever enough to be great, but not ordinary and average enough to fit in with the masses and their orgy of mindless procreation.

I've done some good work today. My concentration's been improved. I can see that life could be better if I could remain alcohol-free, but I also don't know how to cope with the 'spare brain capacity' which is unfortunately utilised to process all the facts at my disposal, leading to the inevitable non-stop existential crisis and general unhappiness about the absurdity of existence. I don't have a choice - it's not like I can ever stop thinking. Due to financial necessity, I'm forced to work a job which requires very little thought. My mind is rarely occupied by interesting distractions because I've had to prioritise income ahead of intellectual stimulation.

Drink might be a dratted demon, but in moderation it's helped me cope with 21+ years of unfulfilling full-time career and I don't have any healthy outlets at the moment; any purpose, hobby or interest which might better occupy my time.

I'm pleased I've had a 5-day break from drinking and I suppose I'll be able to manage at least another night without alcohol. I'm pleased that I'm able to stop drinking when I want to, but that should come as no surprise - I am after all, one of the very few who are cursed with consciousness, which means I'm able to curb my cravings. It's only beasts - the dimwits - who aren't able to make conscious choices.

I wish I could choose how I felt, but of course that's a ridiculous notion. Wouldn't we all choose to be blissfully happy and content if it was easy as just choosing? I feel anxious and overwhelmed by my own consciousness, and I know that alcohol would calm my nervous system and help me cope, but I choose not to drink temporarily because my liver needs a break.

I'm glad that I've made some progress versus where I was a year ago.

 

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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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What Would Ben Do?

10 min read

This is a story about role models...

School photo

Many people might ask themselves "what would my mother think?" before saying or doing something stupid. My druggie loser parents - who I'm now estranged from - were not inspiring role models for me growing up. Instead, I can pinpoint the things which have given me everything good in my adult life, and I attribute those things to three friends' families, and one family in particular.

The seed of my initial interest in computers was sown by my friends Joe and Ben, whose father had an Apple Mac and whose mother was a systems analyst. Without that introduction to the pure joy of using a computer with a graphical interface and a mouse, I would not have become hooked.

With my neighbour, Julian, we used to use his dad's Apple Mac, which maintained my interest in computers and allowed me to see their practical applications beyond computer games. Julian's dad was a heart surgeon, and we played around with a heart surgery simulation game. Julian's dad also showed us a piece of software he'd developed to diagnose angina based on a set of questions the patients answered.

Then, Ben - a different Ben - taught me how to program a computer. Ben and his mum ran a computer club one evening a week at a place which compiled Oxford's most well-known "what's on" guide. Ben's dad took a group of us to the E3 computer games exhibition. Also, Ben's family encouraged creativity beyond the screen - the children were encouraged to be artistic and musical in a way that was fun, as opposed to simply an academic exercise in the interests of appearing to be a more well-rounded person when attending university interviews. Ben's dad took a bunch of us not-so-athletic geeks to play a game of basketball once.

Because I got moved around so much as a kid, I only got to spend 3 years with Ben - the second Ben - during childhood. I went back to Oxford for a visit as soon as I got a car that was reliable enough to complete the journey, but then the visits became more and more infrequent. I've only seen Ben 4 times in my adult life.

So, you'd think that it'd be pretty weird to have somebody I've seen so infrequently as a kind of role model, but that's what's happened.

My childhood had 8 different schools and 6 house moves. If I was taught anything during childhood by my parents, it was that I shouldn't get attached to my friends, my school, my room... anything. I was taught not to get attached, because the rug would keep getting pulled out from beneath my feet.

The beauty of the internet is that your friends are your friends, wherever they are in the world. I've worked for 15 different organisations all over the UK and abroad, and I've moved around an unimaginable amount - I've been quite nomadic. The only friends I've managed to hang onto are those who have an online presence, because - as I've learned the hard and painful way - when you're out of sight you're out of mind.

Ben was an early adopter of everything online, which inspired me to get into similar things. While he was building websites and a classified ads system for the aforementioned Oxford "what's on?" company, I found a similar local company and started building similar stuff. Through the internet, I always stayed roughly abreast of what Ben was doing.

A common childhood friend of ours crossed my path in Winchester, and tragically I was probably the last person in our friendship group to see him alive. Through the internet I was aware of the funeral, but it felt strange, being this lurker... this outsider. My friends had done their GCSEs, their A-levels and then had all gone off to their various universities, but I'd missed out on that - I'd been taken away from all that, as had so often happened, by my druggie loser parents.

When I did a tech startup and I was lost without a co-founder I asked Ben for advice and invited him to join me on the venture. Ben was going to be a mentor on the Springboard technology accelerator program in Cambridge, and he suggested that I apply, which I did. Ben had to go back to California to be with his family, so he didn't end up being a mentor on the program, but it often makes me think about whether I'm a bad son, because I feel like my parents can rot in hell when they get sick. I feel like I'd be there for my mum if she was on her own, but I can't deal with my parents - I had enough of dealing with them on my own from age 0 to 10; I'm too bitter about them ruining my childhood.

I think a lot about how angry and bitter I've been with my writing. I think about how Ben would never write stuff like I do; Ben would never say or do anything regrettable.

I think about how I became a complete sociopathic psycho towards my lovely co-founder, while I was on the Springboard program in Cambridge. I made my co-founder cry in front of a Google exec. Perhaps, in some ironic twist of fate, I could've made my co-founder cry in front of Ben. Ben would never make his co-founder cry. Who am I? What have I become? I feel terribly ashamed about the way I spoke to and treated my co-founder.

I read stuff that Ben writes and I get inspired. This whole blog is inspired by the fact that Ben founded the platform on which I write this - it's another one of his startups. I read Ben's blog and it often inspires me to write my own opinions on similar topics. It's a bit weird, but it's mostly harmless.

Then, there's the bitterness, resentment and pent-up anger that seems to come out of nowhere. Some really vicious, mean, angry stuff pours out of me and onto the page. Ben would never write like I do. Ben would never get mad and say really horrible things. Ben just wouldn't rip into people like I do.

I think about all the tirades I've launched on my useless druggie loser parents, and I think that I must be a big disappointment to Ben.

I hate that I disappoint Ben.

I hate that I'm letting him down.

I hate that I'm this person.

I hate that I act like this and that I say this stuff.

I wrote loads of stuff and some of it was OK. I was super pleased that I was writing regularly. I was happy to have a creative outlet and I was proud of my blog. Then, out came a lot of stuff about my mental health, addiction, recovery, detox, rehab. The stuff I was writing was OKish but I was on dodgy ground. I was ashamed to admit that stuff in case Ben read it. I didn't want to admit my failures and shortcomings.

The most recent time I saw Ben I was really unwell, but my girlfriend encouraged me to go and see him while he was in London. It was a rare opportunity to catch up. Even though I was feeling terrible, my lovely girlfriend managed to get me to go and meet up as planned. She met Ben.

But, I got more and more sick. I started being a dick on Facebook. I broke up with my amazing lovely girlfriend, and I wasn't very nice about it. In fact, I was a total dick. I was awful. I was the worst. All my friends surely must have seen what a terrible person I am, including - of course - Ben.

I started dating another girl. Then I left London and went to Manchester, stopped seeing the other girl and got another girlfriend.

Things went badly wrong in Manchester.

On Twitter I wrote "I'm sorry, my far flung friends" after I believed I was beyond the point of saving - I had ingested a massive overdose and was about to lose consciousness. Ben responded right away. I replied. I thought it was probably the last thing I'd ever do: responding to a tweet from Ben.

What have I done since then?

I feel like I've made a fool of myself. I feel like I've failed to capitalise on the opportunity to do some good. I feel like I haven't turned my good fortune - not dying - into something more meaningful. What have I done with my blog and my Twitter followers? What have I managed to do which Ben might think is a useful contribution to humanity?

I've continued to write so many things which are quite cringeworthy. I've continued to grind my axe. I've continued to act in a way that makes me think that Ben must be quite certain that I'm an unpleasant, vicious, mean, nasty, horrible piece of work. I feel like I've disappointed my role model; disappointed the person who I idolise and look up to.

I've very much lost my way. I want to have a positive role model and to act in more positive ways, but I've gone wrong somewhere, or maybe I'm a totally shitty person.

It's weird to idolise a friend from childhood, who I've hardly seen; hardly know, frankly, except what can be gleaned from his creative output on the web.

Like Ben, I've written a novel during National Novel Writing Month, and I've poured my heart and soul into my blog and my Twitter account; my online community. I've attempted to emulate his online achievements, but yet I've somehow failed, because of my lack of dignity and my sheer nastiness... I've made a fool of myself and I'm a disappointment; an embarrassment.

This is, quite possibly, one of the most cringey and weird things I've ever written, but it's my wont to write whatever's on my mind without filter, and this is what's been brewing for a few days now.

I'm sorry Ben, but I think you can take it given the fact you're a public figure who's lived your life online as much as I have, writing under your own name rather than a pseudonym. Only our closest childhood friends would have any idea who I'm talking about. I hope you don't feel that this brings you any shame, in being connected with a shoddy person like me.

The other thing to address is the pressure of knowing that somebody idolises you. It's a bit weird and creepy to know that somebody reads your stuff and also credits so many of their positive life decisions as having been inspired by you. All I can say to that is: my income as a computer programmer has given me every opportunity I ever wished for, and the inspiration to do creative writing has saved my life. Living an online life as an active contributor to various social networks has given me an identity I'm proud of and has brought me numerous lifelong friendships which I treasure dearly. In short, you did a good thing, even if I take some of those gifts and abuse them sometimes... sorry about that; not your fault.

What would Ben do? Probably not write some bizarre stream-of-consciousness thing like this, but I'm glad he's there as an inspiration in my life to be a better person.

 

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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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On This Day

3 min read

This is a story about anniversaries...

Leg in plaster cast

Today is my niece's 5th birthday. A year later I woke up from my general anaesthetic to this - the emergency repair of a muscle, 4 tendons and 2 nerves, when my leg was guillotined by a huge piece of broken mirror glass. The start of 7 years bad luck, perhaps.

My leg was mostly repaired and back to normal. I went kitesurfing in July 2016 and my leg was fully recovered. Then I got DVT and it caused that leg to swell up to twice its normal size and both my kidneys stopped working. Since then my foot has either been numb or very painful, although the nerve damage has started to repair itself again since I stopped taking powerful painkillers.

This day isn't about me, but in some ways it is. It's my niece's birthday, but I haven't been a very good uncle because my life's mostly been in bits since she was born. Divorce, moving back to London, rehab, homelessness, near-bankruptcy, two suicide attempts, more hospitalisations than I care to remember, psych wards, breakups, people owing me thousands of pounds, getting jobs, working jobs and getting sacked, moving flats, moving to Manchester, drugs and medications, trouble with the police, mental health problems... it's been a rough ride.

How does anybody escape from a shitty situation and get themselves back into civilised society? It takes time and it's really hard. I'm trying to rent a flat and it asks whether I'm renting or living with parents at the moment... the answer is neither. The form asks if I've ever declared bankruptcy... no, but I've been living with the threat of destitution for a very long time. Presumably if I managed to get a couple of black marks against my name I wouldn't have a job or a place to live - a criminal record and a bankruptcy would mean I'd be jobless and homeless and unable to get a job or rent a place to live. I've been so close to finding myself completely shunned by society; marginalised.

I write this stuff and it's really risky. I'm taking a big chance writing this honest stuff about the difficult journey I've been on, but people need to understand how hard it is to get back on your feet after a destructive event like a divorce. Why should I be punished? Why should I be marginalised; rejected by society?

The gatekeepers would have a field day if they found this stuff out about me. I'd be unemployable and homeless, for sure. I'm pretty undateable given the fact I'm not your average regular guy who collects stamps and works in the glue factory. I don't fit neatly inside a box. I'm a "computer says no" kind of guy, if I was to give the honest answers to the questions on the forms, not that I'm exactly lying or being misleading either. I wrote "OTHER: Living with friends" on the damn form.

So, happy birthday to my niece. Maybe I'll be a better uncle in subsequent years if I can get back on my feet.

 

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What do People Want to Read About?

7 min read

This is a story about giving the audience what they want...

Glowing book

It should come as no surprise that Google mainly brings me readers who wish to find out how to kill themselves. My number one blog post is all about how to suppress the hypercapnic alarm response, in order to be able to asphyxiate yourself, or in other words suffocate to death. For writing candidly about suicide, I was once accused of being irresponsible by a psychiatrist, but frankly if somebody's intent on killing themseves then they're going to find a way. I'm not encouraging anybody to commit suicide, nor do I glamourise suicide - you must surely be convinced that my life is not an enviable one. How is it possible to envy the dead anyway? There have been 100 billion humans who have died since homo sapiens became a species, so it's hardly like I'm a unique role model.

Secondly, Google brings me readers who very dearly wish to know how to have better sex. I don't mean lovemaking techniques, I mean drugs and medications that significantly enhance sex. The main search term that seems to bring readers in their droves is "drugs that make you horny". Perhaps more interesting - although very few people search for this - is my research into medications that allow men to have multiple orgasms. There's information hidden in these pages that explain how to reach unimaginable heights of sexual ecstasy, so I don't really know why the Google searches seem so unimaginative and my sordid little guides on how to have masses of mind-blowing orgasms remain largely overlooked.

That I know what kind of Google searches bring readers to my website is not any kind of hacking or cybersnooping, but is a service that Google themselves provide called Google Webmaster Tools. In addition, there is Google Analytics, which somewhat less reliably tells me the keywords that people used to search and find this site. The idea is that I could better tailor my content to give people what they want. People seem to mainly want to kill themselves with nitrogen gas, or some other inert gas other than carbon dioxide.

It's sometimes said that we see a world that reflects our own feelings. So, if we're angry then we perceive the world as being an angry place. Because I'm depressed and suicidal, I therefore see depression and suicide everywhere I look. However, there are good data to support my feelings: suicide is the number one killer of men under the age of 45... far bigger than any diseases, car accidents, murder, drug addiction and all the other things you could think of that would prematurely kill a person. It seems I'm onto something doesn't it?

What do any of us want other than to fuck, eat, sleep, procreate and various other things that an organism would be expected to do? I could write about food and the pleasure of eating, but I've found that the pursuit of drug-enhanced sex has been more rewarding. I could write about extreme sports, and the adrenalin rush from doing dangerous things, but I've found that taking addiction to its most extreme has been far more exciting than any parachute jump or cliff face that I've climbed.

There are an incredible amount of people who want to read about getting high. There are very few people who seem to want to read about quitting drugs, although my blog posts about detox and rehab are often visited. There are heaps and heaps of people who want to get sober. In fact, it's quite depressing just how many people are looking for a cure for their alcoholism. There are heaps and heaps of alcoholics who would very dearly like to find a way out of the situation they're trapped in, and some of them find their way to this website looking for answers.

Another thing I can see is trends. I can see whether I'm getting more visitors, or fewer. I can see that live-publishing a draft manuscript of a novel on my blog was not a crowd pleaser. I can see that documenting the trials and tribulations of an IT consultant working for an investment bank is not a crowd pleaser. I can see that generally, there's an inverse correlation between how well I am, and how many visitors I get to my website. That would be expected... there are a lot of concerned people out there, and when things are going swimmingly there isn't so much of a need to keep an eye on somebody who's been actively suicidal at other times. However, there's a cynical part of me that wonders how much people are looking for drama, also. There's very little drama in a wealthy white educated middle-class guy complaining about his lot in life, because his job is a little underwhelming.

Of course, I'm writing now with my tongue in my cheek.

There's more drama than there's ever been, because this is make-or-break time. I'm fending off drug addiction, sex addiction, porn addiction, alcoholism, risk taking, money spending, near-bankruptcy, crushing levels of debt, homelessness, insomnia, anxiety and panic attacks, suicidal depression and complete melancholic malaise about my life and the state of the whole world and those who live upon this planet's surface. In terms of jeopardy, things are at their most precarious, because a slip-up now would send me crashing drastically. To relapse when I'm in the middle of on/off addiction and a mental health crisis is no drama because I'm living with daily highs and lows and I don't spend more than a few days or weeks without a major incident. To relapse now would be to throw away 6 or 7 months of arduous struggle against adversity. To relapse now would be a cruel blow, when I've overcome such insurmountable odds.

To deviate from my plan and my story would be foolish. To attempt to react to the stats and the data I have in my possession and write what the audience seem to want - to play to the crowd - would keep me in a perpetual state of sickness. If I was intent on having the most popular blog that I could write, it would conflict with my desire to recover and live a normal life. I've even been accused of wanting to stay sick to please my 20,000 Twitter followers. I'm regularly accused of being alarmist, attention seeking and melodramatic. I'm occasionally accused of being contrived, and even that I'm some kind of fake.

Where's the punchline, we wonder. When am I going to ask you to reach for your credit card? Am I selling T-shirts and mugs? Am I going to emblazon this site with advertising and harvest your personal data? Am I going to start a mailing list and spam you? How do I even make money out of this? Do I want fame or notoriety?

Of course I want to be noticed. Of course I want readers; followers. Of course I want what I write to be read. How ridiculous to suggest that there's some virtue in writing in obscurity. It's not noble to hide your thoughts and feelings and emotions and inner monologue... it's stupid. What people want to read more than anything else is authentic writing from real people. Public diaries; journals; blogs. If you like people and human stories, what could be better than the real-life soap opera of a person's life laid bare for all to see, warts and all.

I don't know where I'm going with this, but I don't want to go down the well-trodden path of clickbait and slavishly obeying the analytic data that seems to suggest that pictures of kittens and puppies go down very well on the internet. What kind of an artwork would I be creating, if I was to ask the audience what I should paint on my canvas?

Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life?

 

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Running out of excuses

24 min read

This is a story about whether it's right to stay with an alcoholic and/or an addict...

Nail clipper door

Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink. Like every alcoholic and/or addict I have a million and one reasons why I had one too many bottles of wine, or why I lapsed or relapsed into drug addiction.

I mentioned on Facebook earlier today that I rearranged the furniture in a hotel room in Bournemouth, right at the very worst most moment of my divorce. If you think that "worst moment of my divorce" caveat is me getting my excuses in early, then you're wrong. Let's get this straight: I didn't break anything or chuck a telly out of the window, but I made a lot of extra work for housekeeping.

I was actually so concerned that I was in such a bad frame of mind that I was actually going to throw a telly out of the window, so I phoned the duty solicitor. The duty solicitor gets phoned after you've been arrested, if you don't have your own solicitor.  I had not been arrested, but I didn't like the way things were going.

The duty solicitor was rather bemused by a person ringing up to chat about things before they're arrested.... in anticipation. He said that he didn't think the police would arrest me, and I should probably just ring friends and family. I was loathe to involve friends & family in a mess that I had made.

Eventually, having tried several other local solicitors, I rang the family solicitor, who phoned my Mum, who told my Dad to phone me. He was exceedingly unhappy that one of his longest friends had suggested that I might be in the need of a bit of support during a messy divorce.

I rang my friend Tim, who texted an ex police constable, who confirmed that the police would not press charges given the circumstances. Tim came to the hotel, and said it wasn't bad at all and we could fix it up in 5 or 10 minutes, but I just wanted to get home.

Despite a couple of offers of financial compensation for any inconvenience or damage the hotel manager laughed, being rather experiences with the wrecked hotel rooms due to the large amount of stag dos who visit Bournemouth. His housekeeping staff had not even commented. However, I still feel guilty about that today.

That was December 2013.

Let's make one thing really clear before we go on. My ex wife did not addict me to drugs. She's not responsible for any of my addiction: then or now.

My startup company fell to bits because I was under unbearable pressure to deliver Investment Banker lifestyle on startup wages, and base my company in Bournemouth, where there are no angel investors, no venture capitalists, no startup scene, no customers, it was over 2 hours away from my co-founder and his new baby girl. It was an irreconcilable problem, with my ex-wife being least willing to compromise despite having a job she could work anywhere in the country. But, that's not her fault. It's my fault. It's my fault that I made myself CEO instead of my co-founder. It's my fault I couldn't handle the pressure. It's my fault I wasn't strong enough to leave a toxic unsupportive relationship.

Drugs - legal highs - appeared on the scene in the autumn, as I sat at home, desperately depressed about the situation. I had already tried about 5 different antidepressants by this point, and had even moved on to trying over 10 extremely rare antidepressants that are extremely rarely prescribed, even in treatment-resistant depression cases.

It's not like I didn't recognise the problem. I accessed local drug & alcohol drop in centres, where I sat listening to teenaged alcoholic prostitutes talking about their children being taken into care, knowing that I owned my own home, cars, boats, hot tub, summer houses and had tens of thousands of pounds in the bank. I left, because it feel like sheer selfishness to deprive the time that could be given to somebody more needy.

I spent a day in a residential rehab as a day patient. By the end of the day, I had brushed up all the leaves, done all the washing up, hoovered, mopped and done just about everybody's weekly chores. The people's lives were fascinating, but most of the day was drinking tea & coffee and sitting around.

I don't know if I was successfully hiding my habit, but I gave a talk to a bunch of startup founders in London, and a few came over and said they'd heard me speak in Cambridge, and they thought my public speaking had improved a lot. Go figure.

The only real problem for hiding my habit was school holidays - my ex being an educator - when I wouldn't have the daytime to take drugs. Christmas holiday was unspeakably awful, with me sneaking off in the middle of the night to take drugs.

Getting clean and staying clean is my sole responsibility, but I found it telling that the only book on addiction my ex read parts of was called "Nag your loved one sober".

After Christmas, my ex demanded that my parents take me away. Naturally, they resisted and I resisted. My dad came down, and my ex had been nagging our mutual GP about how hard it was on her to deal with my addiction. Deal with my addiction? She didn't even know about it until a week earlier, when I struggled to hide it during the school holidays.

I was completely spooked by the sudden appearance of my dad and my GP, through no request of my own. The idea of leaving my home, my friends and everything else I'd spent years building around myself, to go live in a house I'd never lived in, trapped in a village where I didn't know anybody. That's fucking offensive.

Anyway, the psychiatrist I saw just before I left Bournemouth told me to taper off the legal highs gradually - over the course of 6 to 8 weeks - because nobody knew what withdrawal would be like.

Having gotten rid of me to my parents' house, my ex then refused to take my phone-calls and generally treated me like dog dirt.

I would say, that if it turns out you're dating an addict and/or alcoholic, you should make a decision - based on how long you've been together - as to whether they're the type who's going to bleed you dry and move onto the next unwitting victim, whether you're prepared to help them - and trust me, it's really fucking hard - or whether it's your moral duty to help them because they became unwell while they were your husband, wife or long term partner.

Anyway, my ex continued to be a right ***** until someone who isn't me hacked her email account and found out that no sooner had I left MY house, she had been dating other people. I confronted her with her infidelity, and she started treating me like a human again. Unfortunately, I thought a leopard could change its spots, so I spent £4,000 on flights to Hawaii to get married and £3,000 on an engagement ring. As you can tell, I'm the kind of junkie who spends all their money on themselves.

I struggled with sobriety, but held down a couple of good jobs and continued to be a good provider. My ex could have called off the wedding at any point.

The wedding, which was supposed to be stress-free with no guests, somehow became one of the most stressful things I've ever had to deal with. The whole holiday was ruined by my bridezilla. In the end, I threw a tantrum and said I could no longer deal with teepees and camper vans that break down and other eclectic but stressful shit that I had to organise, and booked us into the $800 a night Hilton. I had cocktails by the pool and it was bliss, but there were two days until we had to go home.

I relapsed as soon as we got home. It didn't help that my then-wife had booked a taxi online, specifying the wrong year. We could have stayed at Heathrow and waited for 4 hours, but having been on a plane for most of a day, I wanted to get home: unexpected £180 taxi ride in a black cab that I managed to negotiate.

My then-wife must have ordered my parents to come and 'deal' with me, because my dad marched into my house and said "you're an addict. you're an addict. Can't you see you're a dirty addict?" which was rich coming from a man with a history of drug use. That's not the kind of treatment you should ever receive in your own home, nor did it take account of the fact that I'd been in a lot of correspondence with several specialist psychiatrists who could deal with my specific condition: dual diagnosis. I was bipolar before I was a junkie, and the two do not complement each other well.

My mum had decided that she could 'smell' drugs on me. Unless she has a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer for a nose, she is wrong. You can smell smoke and cannabis on somebody's clothes, but drugs that you snort, swallow and inject are excreted through kidneys and faeces. It's a completely disproven hypothesis. Anyway, My then-wife did nothing to vouch for my sobriety when my mum had a go at me on my sister's wedding day (I was clean).

I'd gone back to working at JPMorgan, and they coughed up £12k for me to go to The Priory for 28 days, without a single qualm. My general psychiatrist had said I needed treatment in a therapeutic environment, which clearly my home was not. My then-wife said that she'd divorce me if I followed his advice and got treatment, and that she'd rather be a widow than a divorcee.

On my first day at The Priory, I phoned the local florist near our home, and asked them to leave a different flower each day under the windscreen wiper of my then-wife's car, before she left for work. She however, joined the dating sites again and decided not to visit or phone me.

During my stay at The Priory, we established that I was not well supported at home, and indeed, perhaps my relationship did not contain the prerequisite levels of respect, love, care, compassion etc. etc.

I panicked on day 27 of rehab, realising I had to divorce my wife, sell our house and decide what I was going to do next with my life. I spent the day talking to a few friends about different ideas, and returned for my final day a lot happier.

Straight after that was the birth of my niece. My loving then-wife did not attend. In fact. I remember her once being extremely put out that my grandmother had the temerity to die at an inconvenient moment. I think my friends had been right all along: she really was "the poison dwarf".

Anyway, after being under virtual house arrest, where I must admit I abused a lot of drugs as I tried to grapple with the magnitude of selling a house and downsizing. Probably moving to London. The friends who would take sides. Having to get a new job. I got fed up with my then-wife making me feel absolutely terrified by her unjustified rage and abuse, so I took to cocooning myself into a single room of our ample 3-bedroomed house, and even built myself a man cave in our summer house. She was never content to leave me be, and would hammer and scream all the time at whichever door I cowered behind.

Then, I sent an SOS email to our parents, to come and force our separation. I was starving. I had no toilet, no shower. Do you think that's the way that people get clean & sober?

My friend Posh Will kindly offered his spare bedroom to get back into London life. I was clean & sober, riding my bike all over London, incorporating a new company and touting for consultancy work. I was entrepreneur-in-residence at PlayFair capital and I was loving the London startup scene. I was making new friends and I quickly got a beautiful new girlfriend. I know I wasn't the first to commit adultery, because someone who isn't me hacked my then-wife's email and found out she was fucking a married man with kids.

Then, divorce turned nasty. A six week house sale turned into a six month sale, simply because my then wife wanted to drag it out, knowing I had no income yet in London. She kept making me do the 4 hour round trip to Bournemouth to do trivial things she could do herself, like get estate agent valuations. Finally, we arrive in December 2013, where I went to a hotel because our house was sold but I was so angry and frustrated by my wife dragging out the sale to the point I almost ran out of money, I was going to trash the place.

Sure, I then did a 5 days of a 10 day detox, at a place where they didn't know what a detox was, or how to deal with somebody with a benzo habit. I then did 7 weeks at a proper residential rehab. My parents were on my no-contact banned list, but my mum still wrote to me with Louise's divorce demands. I told her from the start I wanted to rent out the house, defer the divorce and deal with it all when I had my health. When she refused, I said take whatever you want, but just don't drag it out. If I wasn't the kind of person who assumes that everybody's OK deep down, I'd say that it was all because she's a vindictive, abusive, greedy, *****.

Anyway, after a mix-up at my parents about what day of the week it was, my dad demanded that I get dressed in front of him and leave immediately. I agreed to leaving immediately, but I refused to get dressed in front of him, on the grounds that it would be one of the most degrading things you could ever ask a person to do. He manhandled me and a mirror got knocked off the wall, slicing my shin muscle in half along with 4 tendons and 2 nerves. Only then did he allow me to get dressed in privacy.

After my operation, I was taking fentanyl and tramadol - both strong opiate painkillers - for the pain, and yet I managed to avoid becoming addicted to these drugs. Having to wear a plaster cast kinda means you're going to have to destroy a nice business suit, and who wants to hire somebody who's sick?

My friends said it was time for me to get a place of my own, although I was still on crutches. I rented a room nearby. I went for dinner with Posh Will, and I was honest with him about my addiction struggles, and his attitude towards me changed visibly immediately. Our friendship was almost ruined, because he had such strong preconceived notions about what drug addiction is. He virtually accused me of being at risk of coming round to his house to steal stuff to feed my habit. I had the money from the sale of my house and some successful Bitcoin investments. I didn't need to steal from my friends. I cried myself to sleep and then tried to commit suicide.

Hospital discharged me, but I'd lost my flat, so I was homeless. I lived in hostels and Kensington Gardens. I guarantee you that not many people get clean from drugs when they're homeless.

Anyway, I finally got a great group of friends at a hostel in Camden, and a beautiful girlfriend. Those were some of the happiest months of my life. I also got an IT contract for Barclays and a room in a student house in Swiss Cottage.

I did have a couple of 'lapses' on mild drugs, but I was clean and I was happy. Then Barclays terminated my contract and I was evicted (the landlord was selling the apartment).

I tried to put a brave face on things and have a happy family Christmas, but I'd broken up with my girlfriend, lost half my friends, lost my contract, was homeless again. A lovely family in Ireland saved my life, looking after me at one of the most depressing and vulnerable times of my life.

At the suggestion of Posh Will - ironically - I stayed in a hostel in Shoreditch. Initially I had a whole dorm to myself, but when they realised I had an OK personality and was a long-term resident, they moved me to the infamous 'Ward P'. The drink and the drugs were off the scale in that place. I had to leave because I was off my face around the clock, but it seemed normal because everybody was.

I started staying in AirBnB places, because they were homely and I could do short [but expensive] lets. I'd recently reconnected with an old friend, so it was nice to live near him, in the East End.

I was running out of money again, so I stayed in a really awful hotel that's covered quite extensively in the blog post called Finsbury Park Fun Run.

That got me back to the Camden Hostel, but I was still hopelessly re-addicted to drugs. Trust me, it's hard to hide a drug habit in a 'regular' tourist hostel, and the tourists don't really love it if you're acting all weird because you're so strung out you can't even see straight.

Somehow, I managed to land the HSBC contract.

I ran out of money. Working for HSBC while living in a hostel is just not possible either. More drugs - whole week AWOL from work. Got away with it.

Stayed clean all the way to Christmas pretty much. I was a wreck on Christmas Day. I hadn't eaten for days. My Kiwi sofa surfer had kindly cooked the turkey but he'd pretty much cremated it, and it'd taken him hours to coax me out of my bedroom. Still, it was super kind of him to cook the world's most depressing Christmas lunch.

Then drugs, drugs, drugs to March 21st. I had a bag that could quite easily have kept me supplied for 3 years. That's the problem with being rich and choosing a cheap and powerful drug - you're never going to run out.

Are you spotting a theme yet?

January, February and March are my nightmare months. If I'm off kitesurfing at some exotic location, no problem. If I'm working a contract, no problem.

This year, I've had acute kidney failure and severe and ongoing leg/foot trauma AND the loss of my contract at Lloyds to deal with. However, I had the best Christmas ever and I'm also dating the world's most amazing girlfriend, so perhaps these things should cancel each other out?

have to think about drugs at the moment, because my leg is so damaged that I need a cocktail of strong opiate painkilllers, nerve blockers and a sleep aid, just to be able to partially function. I wake up every 4 hours in the night in excruciating agony.

Through the urgent need to re-stock on painkillers, I found myself back on the Dark Web. It was a stupid move. I kinda knew I'd never be able to resist the urge to go window shopping. I tried to order weaker drugs that might satisfy the craving that was instigated by nothing more than buying other products, but lapse and relapse were inevitable.

My most amazing girlfriend in the whole wide world is somebody I could spend 100% of my time with, and never get tired of her company. We like the same trashy TV. We enjoy the same high-brow movies. We both have an insatiable appetite for feature-length documentaries. We love London. We love the same things and we love each other.

Why then would I relapse onto incredibly dangerous and destructive drugs?

The watchword you need to look for here is trigger. When I was with my ex-wife, if she ever went on holiday on her own - which is something she did regularly during the death throes of our relationship - it built a Pavlovian association with an opportunity to take drugs without having an aggressive abusive ***** attempting to kick my prison door in and screaming horrible things at me.

I found a black market seller who would supply just enough for me to have a moment of fun, but not enough for me to end up in a destructive binge. Then that supplier disappeared, and I ended up buying the next smallest bag I could find: 100 to 200 mild to medium strength doses.

The net result is that I spent all yesterday evening and all last night trying to jam my locked bathroom door closed with a pair of nail tweezers, because I was convinced that angry neighbours had phoned the police, and even a mob had formed outside my apartment, ready to heckle me when the police led me from the building, cuffed in shame.

That's a net result of two things:

  1. Having more than you need of a highly addictive drug is bound to lead to a binge
  2. It's impossible to measure milligram doses of drugs without excellent scales. The difference between no effect, and psychotic overdose, can not be seen by the human eye

I sold my scales because I've successfully been having long periods of abstinence, and it makes sense to get rid of drug paraphernalia that could 'trigger' a craving.

Of course, I should have controlled my craving. Of course, I knew what the worst-case scenario would be. Of course, it seems to suggest that the love of my beautiful girlfriend is not enough.

All I can say in my defence is that my life is pretty depressing right now. I'm on such strong pain relief that I can barely even concentrate on writing. I'm not well enough to go back to work. I've been stressed about running out of money and being evicted.

Life is also awesome right now, because me and my incredibly fetching and intelligent and knowledgeable girlfriend both have riverside apartments, and we take turns to spend nights watching sunrises and sunsets.

She has a really difficult decision to make right now. My longest period of abstinence from drugs is what? 9 months, since becoming addicted. My longest period of sobriety was 121 days. All my money has been frittered away on private healthcare, periods where I was too unwell to work, and yes - perhaps as much a 5% - has been spent on drugs. Would you choose somebody like that for your boyfriend?

Alright, so my drug habit isn't going to lead me to a life of crime. I've been cautioned by the police 4 times, but there's not much point in wrecking my career because I'm an addict is there, when I'm not shoplifting, dealing drugs, robbing, doing fraud or committing any other crime.

However, this weekend has shown that I still have the capacity to get myself in a life threatening mess. I was ready to stab myself in the carotid artery this morning, rather than have my life ruined by a criminal record and have all that shame on top of what has already been a pretty awful February and March.

Of course, nobody can deny that I brought this on myself and that the behaviour is just the same as it was over the last few years. Is my addiction getting better? It's certainly not cured.

If you want to know if my addiction is getting better, you could look at my medical records for 2014. I was an inpatient for 14 weeks. You could consider the fact that the longest period I had without my drug of choice was 2 weeks, for the first couple of years. You could consider the fact that I'm in a meaningful relationship with a kind, caring and compassionate girlfriend who's sympathetic and well informed. I'm not lying to her to have a drug habit behind her back. I've lied to her twice when she went away on holiday, both times shortly after I had lost a contract and was a bit depressed.

Ask yourself, am I worth knowing as a friend? I could drop a dirty HIV or hepatitis infected syringe in your kid's playpen. I might replace your salt with cocaine for a prank. I'll probably take money out of the purse and wallet of everybody in your house. I'll nick anything that isn't nailed down. All I want to talk about is drugs drugs drugs and my life story's not interesting because it just goes addiction addiction addiction. I'll bring shame on your family and you'll get in trouble just because you're friends with me. Not worth it, is it?

What about dating a junkie? Well, everything they say is a lie, and you won't like having sex with them all the time because you know they're probably thinking about a syringe of heroin while they're doing it to you. They'll take all your money and ask for more. Nobody ever got cured of drink & drugs. Death's too good for 'em.

I do feel terrible about the lies [two] and the betrayal of trust. Also, she knows that a binge could easily hospitalise or kill me. She's also trying to have a relaxing holiday break, but she knows I'm sick, haven't had any sleep and haven't had anything to eat.

She can't watch me like a hawk all the time. She can't spy on me using webcams when she's on holiday. She doesn't know what I get up to at home when she's at work.

Why take a risk on a loser with such a poor track record?

I've told her if she wants to break up with me, I'll fight to save the relationship, but I won't just say anything to talk her out of it. I actually advised her to break up with me, because I'm a month or two away from earning money again, I've got depression, bipolar and maybe even borderline personality disorder, along with the death sentence of dual diagnosis. Would you want your kids to have those faulty genes? Would you want your family to find out one day that you've been dating a loser?

Anyway, that's where I am right now.

No amount of stick will stop anybody from taking drink or drugs. I need to find a social group to regularly attend. I need to get out of the house more. Through socialising will come enjoyment of even more people's company, as well as routine. There will be new opportunities. Maybe a new hobby? I'll get a new contract and throw myself into work. Once the money starts rolling in, me and her can have holidays and plan adventures.

Could I replace everything and everybody in my life with supercrack? Almost. It is pretty fucking good. Still, how much money would you need? Even if you lived in a tent, I still reckon food & drink would cost you £150-200k over your shortened lifespan. I do however think you get sick of it after a while, but the bastard thing is so fucking good when you go back to it after a little break.

What can I tell you? That's the truth?

So am I honestly comparing a night with the love of my life, with a sniff of supercrack? No. The comparison is facile. If you choose the tent dwelling supercrack life, there's no coming back from that. Also, I've never been in such a good relationship in my life: it just keeps getting better and better.

One final question to ask yourself? Even if you think you have the perfect partner, perfect friends, perfect job and generally perfect life... do you still occasionally do something that looks totally insane in the context of your amazing life, like get too drunk, or take a recreational drug even though you never do drugs? Do you think the fact that you do that, means you love your partner any less?

 

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