LONDON. CITY OF POSSIBILITIES. Arguably it is the Capital of Europe. When I came it was thee place to be in the entire world. London, to turn a phrase dropped by the Americans, was "swinging". Here they called it Cool Britannia.
Only I could play barely any part in this because I was ill. So badly run down I ahd to go to bed after a simple trip to the shops. And I could only buy one bag of shopping at a time, this I had to split in two, half in each hand, for the journey home.
I had a dull routine. As I say, of seemingly daily food shopping ... and that was about it. I did hit the West End a few times. But often, by the time I'd got there (it only took 20 minutes by tube!) I was too knackered out for any adventures or fun.
I battled on nonetheless and didn't even tell a lot of people I had "M.E." as they tehn iked to call it in this country. The M means myalgic ~ muscle pain; the E is encephalomyelitis ~ ie an inflamation ("itis") of the brain and nervous system. Basically it is exhaustion, (mental as well as physical), depression and constant low-grade flu-like symptoms; ie aching muscles, etc. At the worst times the "brain fog" as they call it, was so bad I felt like an old-style television when the aerial lead falls out the back. My brain was hissing with snow and all I could do was lie down, eyes closed, and let it ease up a bit.
Even when people did know (and they didn't really know how I felt. Actually nobody really asked) I rarely made an issue of it. Which caused problems with friendships. I remember someone having a go at me for cancelling a party (the party went on, only without my personal appearance. As if that was so important!) I felt more rough than usual ~ but as I say I was used to feeling rough. Only when I happened to take my temperature and saw it was 102F did I realize not only that I had the real flu but that somehow, on this occasion, my sickness was more justified. Because it was objectively real. Long ago I got my head round the fact that things that happen to me are not real when others fail to understand them. I think that is partially what is meant by the trippers' phrase "concensus reality"...
Anyway I had the flu and was very upset that I was ment to soldier on as I normally did. But when I chose not to a massive issue was made of it. Most people do not have to explain away not doing anything because they have flu. Being ill is enough. But not in my case. I'd handled the situation that badly that somehow my facts would not justify other people's matters.
Over the months I did go on a few big nights out. As I said: I soldiered on, did all I could to appear "normal" (I always thought it a bit sick to get a buzz from identifying oneself "sick" as some sick people seem to do. But that's another issue entirely. I remember being on the dancefloor, standing there as the party kicked off around me. Looking round at my generation ~ young, fit popel having the time of their lives. And yet, as I did so, I could actually feel the life and all my energy draining out of me.
One compliment I do recall receiving (if you want to call it that) was that I had never been seen drunk. Haha!! I always had the will, once I'd started drinking and felt the effects coming on, to check myself: "thus far; no further" and to keep to such self-appraisals. I hated being drunk. Associated it with the Toilet-Duck and crap smells of lavatory bowls as I puked my guts out. No way. Ukk. Drugs, when I took them, were always timed, dosed, planned. I took ecstasy maybe once over my entire first two years in London. Magic mushrooms a few times. Cannabis I vary rarely dabbled in ~ it just did not suit me any more.
This all changed one morning in spring 1998 when I opened the mail to find a free ticket to Escape From Samsara! Samsara means the Buddhist wheel of constant rebirth. But in this case it meant Friday night's trippy trancefest at the massive Fridge nightclub in Brixton, South London. My Australian cousin said she'd come with, couldn't make it; packed me off with a group of her friends anyhow. They were all cool people, my cousin's friends. They say a man (or woman) is known by his or her friends and I must say hers are a true credit to her. Nicest bunch of people I've met anywhere in my life and that's the honest truth ... Anyhow ... We went to this massive noisy cigarette smoke-filled club. I ddi take ecstasy again. Spent nearly the entire night in teh chill-out room feeling fantastic. met a girl called Lola from Melbourne who was about five years younger than me. Lola na dI went out for only ten weeks; but when the crux came ~ did I give up this sparkly new life of joy and celebration and go backwards or did I press on alone. I just resolutely went on. Queueing for massive parties on my own, yet knowing once I got inside there would be five, ten ... eventually twenty or more friends. A whole new life, as I say, but it came at a price. I was pretending to be OK when really I wasn't. When the pills wore off, when the wekend eneded, I'd have to spend days in bed, alone, recouperating. And often depressed and crying. These tears were a big part of the reality of the party life for a lot of people. Somehow they rarely got talked about.
AT EARLY EVENINGS MY LOCAL TUBE STATION became a gathering point for an entire alternative netherworld of crusties, drinkers and the misfits who roamed (and all too often lived on) the streets. Many appeared scruffy and rough yet somehow seemed free of some of society's constraints. They paid for this in poverty and pain. Gradually I got to known them because a prime source of nightly income came from sitting on the station steps and begging used one-day travelcards from the returning rush-hour, then selling these back to evening and night travellers for £1.50 to £2 each, depending on the time (there was an unofficial 9pm "watershed" when the price reduced. After 11pm it went down to £1.)
For one thing, the people I met on the station steps were far more personable than initially expected. Many were artists or "failed" musicians. Some were shockingly intelligent. (One guy in particular had messed up mid-PhD to become a homeless junkie. Drugs can affect anyone. Just don't take them!) I felt I fitted in with this crowd in a way I never had done anywhere else. For one thing I never pretended to be more knowledgeable or experienced in their way of life than I actually was, so they respected, I suppose that at least what they saw with me was what they got. Also it was OK among these people not to be feeling all right and not to be hapy. And yet to be accepted for how you did feel This, somehow, seemed a massive liberation.
I took up drinking on the station steps. At first it was nearly a joke: "I got drunk with the homeless 'crew'" (though I remained averse to actually being so intoxicated I was out of control). I began to dabble in their drugs. Valium, temazepam, the occasional Rohypnol; Dexedrine; crack and heroin. Gradually my useage increased in frequency from once a month or so, totally unplanned, to a couple of times a week. But never every day. And I thought I was being clever by avoiding drugs that were cross-tolerant on consecutive days ~ ie if I had heroin on Monday, Tuesday would be a Valium day ~ and so on. Heroin I was very scared of getting hooked on. Vivid proof of the worst kind was all around me of what the drug could do. One guy had lost one leg and was determinedly injecting right into the enormous rotting open sore on the other. When I first met him I thought he'd had an accident, unable to get to the loo on time because he was on cruches. No. This stench was the putrefaction of his own living flesh. It was disgusting. But once one leg had gone, so did his self-respect. Recently, after an absence of several years, he showed up again in my "manor". His remaining leg is still rotting, though it did used to get cleaned up periodically by doctors. I've not seen him for several months now and I've a nasty feeling he's dead.
As I say, I had reason to fear heroin addiction.
I did take a lot of Valium one long, hot summer. I enjoyed the muscle-relaxing effects they gave me. I was often in low-grade pain from the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Anyway ~
That's what people want to hear about, I guess.
I was daydreaming just now, before I put pen to paper, that if a poll could be gathered of users' private thoughts on first experimenting with heroin, ideas along the lies of "is that it?!?" and "is this what all the fuss is about?!?..." would top the list of reactions.
I felt peaceful, warm and sickly-sweet to the point of nausea. But I managed not to be sick, which was a small triumph. My first time with crack I did have my head down the toilet. You have to persist with these substances. They're not always user-friendly to start off with ...
Heroin is best compared to a big fluffy blanket. At first, because you don't actually need it, you might feel too hot and slightly uncomfortable. But as time goes on and you become inexorably acclimatized to the stuff, you eventually find, on throwing off the blanket, that the freezing cold world is unbearable. You hurry to wrap up warm again. Sometimes, perhaps if you got badly chilled, you might promise never to do without your blanket ever again~ which is what I have done. I'm far better at keeping promises to use than the ones I've made to clean up.
The process of addiction takes time and persistance. No way can anyone get addicted to any drug from one try. Admittedly, to the easily-impresed, the image of the junkie as a kind of anarchist or rebel with a cause (the cause is always to score more gear so you don't get sick!) can be just as intoxicating as the drug.
I am exhausted from scribbling pages and pages of this. It's dark outside and I've all this still to type in ... I do apologize but this will have to continue tomorrow when I can hopefully give at least some meaningful account of precisely what led on to what and how this heroin achieved the iron grip it has over me still to this day ...
Till tomorrow ...
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