This is my first post on my addiction to crack cocaine. In contrast to my heroin addiction, crack was a habit I never enjoyed and didn’t want. It never made me feel good, only anxious and uncomfortable. Nevertheless, it was dragging on my heels for almost 3 years and I only shook it off on my arrival in France.
I came into contact with crack cocaine during my teen years growing up on the White City Estate in West London. First as an observer, then as a casual user and finally as an addict. I was 17 the first time I ashed a Coca-Cola can and sucked in the sickly fumes of this expensive rock.... 8 years later I would be a hardcore Crackhead, scouring the floor for crumbs of rock I knew I never dropped.
White City Estate is a huge housing complex tucked in the pants of Shepherds Bush – it is notorious for housing problem families. It is where the worst of the worst are banished.... full of drug addicts, travellers and thieves. In White city the telephone boxes are burnt out, the lifts are public toilets and rats and roaches scurry around huge metal dustbins. It is a place from which everyone dreams of escape, but escape is rare... for in White City, the cars have no wheels.
It is there, in that pre-war maze of red brick low rise flats, that one will come across walking shrapnel... people indelibly wounded by domestic atrocities. Imagine stepping on a landmine, having a limb blown off and your head opened up... and then staggering around concussed in the aftermath of the blast... this is what exists in White city.
Paul X was one of these walking wounded... he was also a crackhead. He spent his days crouched near the lift shaft, smoking coke crystals and hiding from police that weren’t there. He was paranoid and dangerous. It was with Paul X that I first licked the rock.
My first encounter with this type was not a pleasant experience. He had taken me at knifepoint and forced me to burgle houses to fund his addiction. My way out of this was a stroke of youthful genius: on gaining entry to a chosen property, I phoned the police on myself. I was arrested and I informed on him. I spent the next 8 months in hiding, petrified of retribution. By the time we saw one another again, Paul X was in no state to be settling old scores... he was on the verge of tears, begging me to lend him 50p so as he could page his dealer. It was in exchange for this that I was given my first hit of crack.
From the age of 17 – 23 I only smoked crack on about 10 separate occasions... it was a drug that didn’t seem to affect me. I was more into buprenorphine (a heroin substitute) which I bought from a friend whose mother was dying from cancer. By the time I started smoking crack professionally, Paul X was dead, White City had been renovated into one of Londons more respectable housing estates and I was taking 5 injections of heroin per day. And I wasn’t the only victim... I wasn’t alone scouring the floor for crumbs. No, my mother and her partner had also fallen prey to this vicious drug. Mum was no longer using acetone to remove cheap nail varnish... now she used it for washing out her and her lovers crack pipes. The 3 of us, wired at 2am in the morning, burning then scraping recycle of enamel tiles. This is where crack eventually leads... well, here and prostitution.
Crack cocaine is very different to heroin. It has a different history and a different image. If heroin is thought of as an artists or musicians drug, crack is a street drug. Although it is cocaine, it has nothing to do with rich Hollywood types, fashion or high living... Crack is from the ghetto and the crackhead is a species apart.
As I mentioned earlier, I never enjoyed my crack habit. I carried on smoking it daily for 3 years due to addiction – nothing else. I just couldn’t stop. I tried... I would make it to the evening and then at the very last moment, just before the dealers turned their phones off, I succombed... I made the call. I think that my battle with white is the reason why I can always understand the heroin addict who wants to quit but can’t. In that way it served me well.
You may be thinking that it is a huge thing to be addicted to both crack and heroin, but it is more common than you’d imagine. 7 out of 10 heroin addicts I know also have a crack habit. In fact, it is often crack that leads to heroin. The crack user is left saucer-eyed and anxous after use, and often takes a little heroin to come down, or to get rid of 'the jitters' (as we say in the trade). Because crack is more expensive and doesn’t last long, the crack addict normally ends up using heroin whilst funds are low... and before they know it they have a double whammy... a twofold addiction. This wasn’t the case for me, but I’m sure there will be some readers that will identify with this.
So, how and why did my crack habit stop? And why am I not buying 'white' in France?
My crack habit stopped the day I moved to Lyon. It wasn’t difficult as I had no choice and crack, unlike heroin, is not a physical addiction. Also, and certainly the deciding factor, crack does not exist in France... you cannot get it! One can free-base coke but one cannot score crack. Still, it took me almost a full year to get over the cravings of the psychological addiction. There were times in that first year when all I wanted was to return to London. Not for a break, not to be back home, not even to see my family... no, my sole reason for wanting to return was to score some crack... to construct a little plastic pipe and to smoke myself into a fidgety paranoia.
Today as I write this, I have not touched a rock in nearly four years. I never will again either... my head is over that. When I think of crack I feel nauseous... just the thought of its sweet, sickly perfume turns my stomach. Maybe one day heroin will also turn my stomach... maybe one day I'll be writing about my third year clean of that - who knows? Like everyones, my future is undetermined... what the the wild dogs will bring to my door, I just don't know.
Take care Readers & Keep Well...
This is my first post on my addiction to crack cocaine. In contrast to my heroin addiction, crack was a habit I never enjoyed and didn’t want. It never made me feel good, only anxious and uncomfortable. Nevertheless, it was dragging on my heels for almost 3 years and I only shook it off on my arrival in France.
The Remains of the Day
It all started with a scream. I heard it from the top of the road as I made my way home from school. Somehow I knew it was my mother's pain. It was a scream from nowhere and of unbearable suffering. And it didn't stop. It was 1983 and my mother had just been informed that her lover, my father, missing for over a year, had been discovered: murdered and dismembered and stuffed in two black bin bags in the flat of serial killer Dennis Nilsen. It was an event that would blow lives apart. I was seven and Hell was on it's way.
My father, Graham Archibald Allen, was born on the 31st October 1954 in Motherwell, Scotland. He was a healthy, athletic child, raised in a stable home by two strict protestant parents. The youngest of two he grew with attention problems and failed miserably at school. The only thing he excelled at was football, at the age of fourteen making Motherwell's youth team. But Motherwell, not even the promise of professional football, could contain my father. By the age of 15 he had discovered Glasgow, alcohol and cheap prescription drugs. By 17 he was out of school, out of pocket and out of home. Having been laid off by the steel works in Motherwell and with nothing else for it, he made his way down south to London. It was there, 10 years later, that Graham Allen would one night meet another fellow scot by the name of Dennis Andrew Nilsen.This meeting would entwine these two Scotsmen together forever, and the events of that night would eventually go down in British crime and folklore history. One man would be remembered as 'the 14th victim', and the other for carrying out a string of macabre and gruesome murders.
My father arrived in London, penniless, in the late autumn months of 1971. He intended on finding labouring work with one of the many small building contractors who hired workers for cash-in-hand with no questions asked. Like many a young scot before him, Graham Allen hit the city only to find that the tales of easy employment had been greatly exaggerated, and that there were not jobs you could just step into straight off the train. To find employment would still take some effort, and what's more, it would also take a few quid. My father didn't have a few quid. He couldn't buy the early papers which advertised the latest jobs and didn't have the fare to travel to well known pick-up spots. Instead he walked his way into Central London, to the bright lights and the sex shops, a place notorious for runaways and a place where one could make a quick illegal buck and then move on to pastures new.
Whatever happened it didn't happen how my father had imagined it would. From the quiet industrial town of Motherwell, via the shit and pish of Glasgow, he was suddenly slumming it rough in London. Homelessness however wouldn't last long. After making a few contacts he was soon taking advantage of the lenient squatting laws of the time, living in abandoned buildings and stealing electricity from the mains supply. With a roof over his head, warmth and a few quid in his pocket my father suddenly had time to kill, and it wasn't long before he was sucked into the sleazier side of city life: Cheap strong booze and whatever pills were doing the rounds. This time though the pills weren't swallowed down with mouthfuls of beer but whacked up in syringes. It wasn't long after that heroin was on the agenda. Less than a year later, at eighteen years of age, Graham Allen was one of the city's many officially registered heroin addicts. He funded his habit through a mixture of government unemployment money, begging, stealing and robbing tourists around London's West End.
One of My father's regular drinking haunts, and one of the few places he was welcome, was the Kings Head pub in Leicester square. It was there where he met my mother, Lesley Mead, a blond haired blued eyed barmaid employed by her father who was the publican. Within weeks of meeting the two had fallen in love. But it wasn't simple. My mother was already in a relationship and had a child with a well-known local criminal, and so Graham Allen, the young Scot, became a badly kept and barely tolerated secret. But some secrets could not be kept hidden, not even badly, and in early 1975 my mother fell pregnant and nine months later I was born.
If my birth affected anyone it was my step-father. It was he who would raise and provide for me and he who I would call 'Dad' all my life. It was no secret I was not his by blood, but that didn't matter, he loved me with the same indifference as he did my brother and sister. What my birth did change however was home life. Graham Allen was then openly creeping in and out of my mother's bed and for all who knew them they were a sure item. Nevertheless, my father couldn't afford to support three children (two not his own), a woman, and a raging drug and alcohol habit. So more than anything else it was out of convenience that my half-surrogate-family stayed together. It was a fucked up situation for all, but it worked. Kinda.
In 1978 the squat in Liverpool Street where everyone was living was cleaned out. Due to having three young children my mother and step-father were officially rehoused into a two bedroom maisonette on the other side of London. They made the move and set up house together, though by this time their relationship was nothing more than a business arrangement. They slept in separate rooms and led separate lives. My mother's separate life was of course my father, and it was no surprise that this 'separate life' found itself in paying digs less than a hard-on's length away from the new family home. During that year Mum spent every available moment she could with her lover, and like that, with no-one even really noticing, my mother had flown the roost.
Living together in a single room, and without the fear of having to account for the bruises, my parents' relationship took a downward turn. It became very stormy, very violent and very unhealthy. There were substance abuses and infidelities on both sides which led to frequent violent quarrels and separations. For this reason my mother staggered in and out of two lives, returning back to the family home when her face had taken enough punishment or when she was sick of living in a single room with a volatile junkie who spent every spare penny on smack. Back home my mother could stay for minutes, hours, days, or weeks. No-one, not even herself, would know how long for sure. The only certainty was that eventually she'd leave and end up back in Graham Allen's arms.
My memories from this time are very diluted and hazy. I was very young and wasn't aware that these days were the calm before the storm. My memories of my mother are few and far between, and memories of my father are even more fleeting. Other than the night he disappeared I only have three:
1) Finding him unconscious and being taken away by paramedics after a drug overdose.
2) Playing football with him in the street and using dustbins for goalposts.
3) Slashing his wrists open with a meat cleaver during a violent argument with mum
There are a few other memories but they are very vague. I remember a Breton striped top, bleached denim jeans, thin legs, brown hair and a Scottish accent. I'm not even sure if those are real or implanted memories – descriptions of him which I claimed as my own. I just don't know.
During the last five years of his life my father was in and out of prison, in and out of rehab, and in and out of life. His living was hard and his addiction was harder – it was completely out of control. He was not just a drug addict he was a junkie. If that wasn't enough he was also halfway to becoming a chronic alcoholic, and with alcohol he got psychotic and even more violent than usual.
The 1980’s only brought more suffering to my father. He was in prison again on charges of heroin possession and was kicked off his drug program. To ensure he still had a heroin substitute to fall back on he took up the hobby of robbing chemists. With his drug habit unstable and drinking ever increased amounts of alcohol the relationship with my mother became ever more unhealthy and violent. On two occasions she ended up in hospital after taking beatings at his hands. The second time this happened was on Christmas day of 1981, when over Xmas dinner my father leaned across to kiss her and instead bit half her nose off. That act summed up their relationship. It was an intense melange of sex, violence and impulsive acts.
The night of my father's disappearance in 1982 brought more of the same. I remember him arguing with my mother and demanding money for heroin. He was drunk and cut and she had taken refuge inside the family house. His violent demands took place from outside, standing on the window ledge and shouting through the glass. He was hung up their like some perverse embodiment of Christ, black blood coming out his mouth where he'd punched his own face in, and screaming for my mother's purse. That was the last sight either my mother or I saw of him. Well, that and then finally climbing down before casually skipping the low garden wall and disappearing into the night. That image haunts my mother, and what haunts her even more were her very last words: “Fuck off... and NEVER come back!”
During the year of my father's disappearance, my mother always believed him dead. This wasn't the first time he had disappeared, nowhere close, but it was the first time he had disappeared and hadn't made some kind of contact in the following days. That was a given. Even if it was just to say: 'I fucking hate you, You Cunt! PS: I'm in prison!' Or even worse: 'I fucking hate you, You Cunt! PS: I'm in Scotland!' But no matter where he ended up he always wrote. This time he never did. My mother just hoped that he had succumbed to a peaceful, painless death and had quietly overdosed somewhere and died alone. Of course, secretly she hadn't given up all hope. I know she hadn't. Somewhere inside her she would have been desperately hoping for her love to return, and probably she still is now.
It was during 1983 that news started breaking across the country of a “House of Horrors” in north London. A man had been arrested there after human remains were found clogging up the drains outside the house in which he resided.. As with the entire country my mother was gripped by this story and followed in shocked interest as the gruesome tale unfolded. It turned out that over a five year period, between two houses in North London, 16 young men had been murdered, dismembered, and disposed of. Of course, my mother never imagined for one moment that her future would be tied up in this bizarre event. The news broke, went from the front pages to the second, from the second to the third, and then faded away completely awaiting the big trial. It was one afternoon during this quiet period that all hell would break loose in my life. That day my childhood would end and something without description would take its place. And as I mentioned: It Started With a Scream.
I never did make it into see My mother that day. Before I was even in the front yard a neighbour had gathered me up and was leading me clear from the wreckage. All I saw was the police car parked outside, my open front door, and a view down the hallway and out back into the kitchen. Sitting at the table where my dinner should have been were two uniformed police officers, and standing just back from them were two men in suits. My mother was out of sight, just a piercing noise that cut through the next ten years.
Inside my neighbour's I was soon joined my my elder sister and my younger brother. We all sat there, in the late afternoon, in a living room which wasn't ours, and as our mother's world collapsed two doors down we stared blankly at depressing cartoons on the TV, waiting for news and to be given permission to go home and see mum. I don't know how long we stayed there. I don't remember too much more of that afternoon. My next memory is of waking up, it then being dark outside, and my brother and sister fast asleep on the couch. Sitting up I sensed something was broken. Maybe the night? It was open and alive with lights and noises and worried voices. The adults were up, and in and out: we were all waiting for something.
How long we remained at our neighbour's, or what state Mum was in when we finally saw her, I can't recall. I don't remember seeing her at all that night although I know I must have. I imagine that the adults took care of her, kept a close eye as she drowned out the pain with alcohol and waited until my stepfather finally arrived home in the small hours of the morning to sit with her. All I know is that in the morning my mother's bedroom door was closed and the house was a few tones darker. My mother had barricaded herself up inside. It was my stepfather who explained what had happened. He was in shock too. He wasn't Graham Allen's greatest supporter (he had lost his woman to him) but regardless, Allen had made up a part of his criminal gang and they had worked together robbing tourists in London for the past ten years. So my step-father told us the news, but not even he could tell us about Mum and how her world had imploded.
When I was old enough to be worth telling, or when mum was drunk enough to be able to tell it, she explained the day of the scream.
She was in the kitchen preparing our dinner when there was a knock on the door. She opened up to find two plain clothes detectives, a uniformed policeman and a police woman standing on the doorstep. They confirmed her name and asked if she knew a Graham Archibald Allan. Initially she thought he had been found alive and was in trouble again. She let the police in and led them out back into the kitchen where she began attending to the potatoes.
“So what's he fucking done this time?”
It was somewhere here that the police told her to sit down and then explained that a skull had been found and from the dental records it had been positively identified as that of her lover. It had been retrieved from Cranley Gardens: 'The House of Horrors' in Muswell Hill. My mother says she doesn’t recall anything else after that. I suppose that's when she began screaming and her noise drifted on up to me, wandering down the road home from school. During that time there wasn’t police counselling or shock support, and so my mother was told the news and then left to scream the pain away with only the neighbour left to try and calm her. How she didn't try to commit suicide that night or the following days is a mystery. Though soon she would. As time ate away at her and she dulled her brain with vodka and martini, death and the desire to die crept closer. Very soon suicide would be the House Speciality. My brother, sister and I would be the only forces to stop it. For a while we tried, and then we just didn't care.
That Fateful Night
We know what happened before the murder, and we know what happened after, but no one really knows for sure exactly what were the last few hours of my father's life. At the pick up and the actual scene of my father's death there were only two witnesses: One is dead, and the other doesn’t recall much. From what I can piece together they would have went something like this:
My father skips the wall and heads into the centre of town. He somehow gets money, scores heroin around Piccadilly, has a few too many drinks and decides to head home. As he wanders down Shaftsbury Avenue in Soho he is accosted by Mr Nilsen. Nilsen, seeing my father's drowsy state decides to try his luck. He offers him the promise of more alcohol, a warm taxi ride, a bed for the night and something to eat. My father, probably with sinister intentions of his own, accepts. They arrive at Nilsen's north London flat at around one o’clock in the morning. Here’s what Nilsen describes as taking place:
“the thing he wanted more than anything was something to eat. I had very little supply in but I had a whole tray of eggs. So I whipped up a large omelette and cooked it in a large frying pan, put it on a plate and gave it to him. He started to eat the omelette. He must have eaten three-quarters of the omelette. I noticed he was sitting there and suddenly he appeared to be asleep or unconscious with a large piece of omelette hanging out of his mouth. I thought he must have been choking on it but i didn’t hear him choking – he was indeed deeply unconscious. I sat down & had a drink. I approached him, I can’t remember what I had in my hands now – I don’t remember whether he was breathing or not but the omelette was still protruding from his mouth. The plate was still on his lap – I removed that. I bent forward and I think I strangled him. I can’t remember at this moment what I used... I remember going forward and I remember he was dead.... If the omelette killed him I don’t know, but anyway in going forward I intended to kill him. An omelette doesn’t leave red marks on a neck. I suppose it must have been me.”
Nilsen then undressed my father, masturbated over him (he denies having sex with the body) and then moved him to the bathroom where he laid his body in the tub. He left him there for three days. During this time Nilsen would continue to wash, brush his teeth and do his toilet in the presence of my father's dead body.
On the fourth day Nilsen removed my father's body from the bath. He laid a plastic sheet on the floor, dumped the body on it, and systematically dismembered it. First he cut off the head, and then the hands and the feet. Next he opened up the torso and removed the internal organs. With the insides removed Nilsen severed the body at the waist and removed the arms. He disconnected the legs from below the knee. During the following days he gradually diced the flesh and flushed it down the toilet. To dispose of my father's head he boiled it for hours in a large pot on the stove. The skull with the flesh boiled from it, and my father's bones, were placed in two black bin bags, tied and stored in the cupboard. And that's where they remained. Nilsen was apprehended before he had the chance to get rid of them, though not before he had the chance to kill one final victim. I suppose my father's post-mortem claim to fame is that it were his body parts which were discovered blocking the drains of Nilsen's apartment building and which led to Nilsen's arrest. It's not a great historical footnote, but it's better than most.
I have explained the death in detail not for shock value or to be crude, but to give some idea of the horrendous news which was forced upon my mother that afternoon. I know the relationship between My mother and father was violent and unhealthy, but it was still love, and as we know, love is often twisted and never a logical emotion.
The months immediately after the death are vague. I hardly recall a thing. I think my mother was shell-shocked and maybe only thoughts of revenge kept her alive. She stayed locked in her room, the house growing darker, and alcohol keeping her afloat. My next proper memories of the event come during the build up to the trial.
The case was all over the papers again and there were journalists coming daily to our door. My father was the only victim they didn't have a clear recent picture of and they were offering up to two thousand pounds for a photo. It was during this time that we really discovered all the facts of what had happened. It would be the catalyst which pushed my mother into the abyss.
The last sane thing, or the first insane thingmy mother did was to attend Nilsen's trial at The Old Bailey. She had been warned by journalists not to attend as there would be gruesome stuff on display directly related to her lover's death. Mum ignored all warnings. I think more than anything she was there to try and reconcile something in her head, that she wanted to see Nilsen, the monster who had done this, and at least be able to soothe herself with the knowledge that he was a complete psychopath and what had happened wasn't preventable. Only Nilsen wasn't the monster she had imagined. In fact she said he looked “plain and normal” that- staring at him gave no hint to what he had done. There was no reconciling what had happened with the man who had done it – Nilsen looked as normal and commonplace as the judge. It wasn't a monster on trial but a human being, and then it made even less sense. My mother never hung about for the verdict. She left halfway during the fourth day of the trial, after my father's skull and the saucepan Nilsen had boiled his head in were brought before The Crown as evidence. It would be more than twenty years later that her sanity would finally catch up to her.
Post-trial I remember my mother drinking suicidal amounts. Drunk she would do nothing but cry and sit on the floor alongside a small stereo listening to old love songs and staring at the tender of her wrists. With the story now out of the media the victims' families were left at home alone without even the small comfort of the nation's empathy to help absorb the event. There were no more journalists offering comfort as they scavenged the victims for scraps of untold story, and no more newspaper reports mentioning their names and telling of their plight. It was over. The murderer was in jail and other news was more important. The victims now only had the torture of solitude and silence to take comfort from, and that was no comfort at all. My mother's drinking and suicidal tendencies spiralled to a climax. She could no longer take it any more. She decided that The Blackout was for her.
It was one afternoon, during the summer of 1985 that I saved my mother's life. I was only young and I was only coming home for lunch and I was only just in time. Fifteen minutes later and I would have found her dead and then I don't know what I would have done. As it happened I found her worse than dead: I found her dying. And that is an even more brutal and traumatising thing to see.
I remember the house was dark. But a weird darkness, more a sense of it, like how you feel when a door is shut that should be open. There was also no smell of food and that was strange as well, as I was home to have lunch and then return to school. I peered up the stairs. My mother's bedroom door was closed and the the landing outside was in darkness. I called out but there was no reply. Hungry I dumped my bag and headed into the kitchen to make a sandwich. With two slices of bread spilled out on the table I took a healthy knifeside of Peanut Butter and began spreading it. As I did so I heard a noise. It was faint. I stopped what I was doing and listened. There it was again, drifting down from upstairs, and sounding like someone in the midst of troubled dreams. I laid the knife down and followed the sound down the hallway and upstairs. Outside my mother's room I stopped and listened. Coming from the other side of the door was the same murmuring noise, only this time clearer and with the added sound of wheezing air or something. I knocked on the door and called out to Mum. There was no answer, just the same groaning noises as before. I knocked once again and with no reply I opened the door and froze. Covering the floor was broken glass, empty Martini bottles and hundreds of dropped tablets. And then I saw her, Mum, sprawled out on the bed, her eyes faintly open, and bright white foam frothing up and out of her mouth. She wasn’t conscious. I knew that much. I didn’t call or touch her. I couldn't bare to. Laying there like that something disgusted me about her and scared me right through to the bones. That was my mother and she was hurting and not well and maybe even dead. I turned and scarpered, off to get some help.
I can't remember what happened or what I said after knocking on my neighbour's door. What I do remember is her pushing past me and sprinting off, two doors down, and into my house. Moments later she was back, passing me without a word, down her hallway and straight to the telephone. At that moment my step-father arrived. He had been in the betting shop and on returning must have seen me upset outside my neighbour's and her rushing from our house into hers. Having called an ambulance the neighbour came out to meet my step-father. She pulled him aside and frantically told him something. Together they rushed back to be with my mother.
I wasn't allowed upstairs. I was ordered to stay down and outside. My job was to wave the ambulance in just so they didn't drive by or do something silly like that. After more than an eternity the ambulance finally arrived. Three paramedics stomped in the house past me and up the stairs. There was some commotion, paramedics leaving and returning with equipment and a stretcher, but my mother wasn't brought out. I didn't know what they were doing. Ambulances were supposed to get people to hospital quickly. It turned out they had to pump my mother's stomach on the spot and fight to keep her heart going. After a while they stretchered her unconscious body down the stairs and out into the ambulance. I really thought she was dead. My last vision was of her laying in the back of the ambulance, just her head visible outside a thick red emergency blanket, and white foam still frothing out her mouth. Then the back doors of the ambulance swung closed and it pulled off, the sirens flashing and wailing as it went into the distance.
I wasn't taken home. Instead I was once again left with the neighbour while my step-father went to remove my brother and sister early from school. When he returned he dropped them off and then left to make a meeting he had for the evening. Once again we were left waiting with our neighbour, this time for news if mum would live or die. In the early evening we got news. Mum was extremely ill but would survive. The hospital said that if she had have been found just fifteen minutes later that she would have already been dead. It made us all cry. It was too close, and at that moment in history we all loved our mother dearly.
Mum passed five days in intensive care, and remained in hospital for almost three weeks. She had been pumped and resuscitated so intensely that her entire chest and stomach was one huge bruise. I remember the day of her release, us collecting her and being happy that she was sober and seemed clear in words and look. She was frail and so we took a short bus ride home. Her sobriety wouldn't last long. That same night she got paralytic drunk, fell off the toilet and split her head open. My brother sister and I dragged her body into the bedroom and pulled her up on the bed. That's when we knew that all was not fine, that there would be more ambulances and more anxious waits. Over the next seven years she would attempt suicide on at least ten occasions; twice very earnestly. It got so bad that we had to hide all the knives (and forks) in the house. We spent the next few years on permanent suicide watch.
That episode, and my mother's then chronic alcoholism, highlights some of the knock-on effects that the murder had in our household. It shows the secondary victims. It also shows what became of my childhood, and just how far the murder had affected my mother. For my part I hold no ill will towards Nilsen. I'm honestly not sure life would have been any less traumatic if my father was around. And anyway, we cannot spend our time pondering the butterfly effect of our own and everyone else's actions. If we did we'd never move an inch, and even that would probably hurt some poor soul. They're not my reflections as a conscientious adult either. I have never felt ill will towards Nilsen, and I’ve never blamed him for my mother's alcoholism and the hell which that conjured up. After everything, we still determine our own actions. My mother choose the bottle; it didn’t come to her. It’s the same with me: I choose the needle. We must live and die by our swords. We cannot blame our enemy for us taking up arms. That is a bitter and all consuming road to take.
My mother's repeated suicide attempts very nearly led to me, my brother and sister being taken away and placed into Council Care. If it wasn’t for the stability that my stepfather offered we would have surely been carted off, separated, and brought up by middle-aged religious nuts as their ticket into Heaven. Fortunately, just as much for them, that didn't happen. Another thing that didn't happen was mum looking after us. From that point on my mother would stop being a permanent fixture in our lives. She would spend the next few years drifting from bottle to bottle, from lover to lover, searching for a man who no longer existed. Each time she found escape in someone he would mistreat her. She'd return home skint, covered in blood, and with a big bag of rattling vodka bottles. For a while she'd stay and then without warning she'd be gone. Just like before, no-one knew where, and no-one knew if she'd ever return again.
My mother's behaviour followed me all the way through my young and teenage years. As I grew older I learnt how to cope with her better, but unlike my sister I was never able to ignore her completely. I always had that lingering fear that the day I did would just be the day she was for real and my punishment for turning her away would be to have her death on my conscience. And so I stuck with her, as did my brother, phoning ambulances twice a week after fake suicide claims. But it wasn't all bad. There were also some good times and some fun memories – like the time she punched out my least favourite teacher. In the midst of all the perversity there were still moments of love and joy, and even odd days where I could be a child again. They were precious days, and it's those that mean the most.
The Me-effect – The By-product of Murder
After the death of my father I was all that was left of him. In my mother's eyes I was him. My brother and sister were from different blood and as a result my mother's attentions turned mostly towards me. This caused jealousy between my siblings and our relationship secretly soured as my mother heaped her drunken affections my way. Little did they know, they were the lucky ones. My life had become horrendous. My mother would keep me besides her at all times. I would wrestle knives out her grasp, watch her drink her death, see her break down, attempt suicide, and watch her fuck her way through a myriad of different men. She would also call me to her room, and in tears claim she was dying from terminal cancer and had only months to live. It was all unwanted attention. I didn't want to be my mother's favourite. Still, I was a boy and I loved my mother and I would have defended her to death. She was untouchable, and she still is.
Concerning my heroin addiction the actual murder has little direct association with it, but the physical death of my father and his image I began to compete with did. I am the by-product of murder, but not the product. Some of the problems I have are the waste fluid from that event.
In many ways I have (unintentionally) given my mother back what she lost. I have recognised her needs and fulfilled them. I have become a cleaner, non-violent version of my father. I am him without his worst faults. I have become a more rounded version of the man my mother loved. Yes, I'm a heroin addict, but even that gave my mother something back which she had lost. I doubt she enjoyed seeing me sticking needles in myself, but in a way it was like having my father back and sitting there all over again... a confirmation that he still lived on in some physical form.
Heroin, and the kind of image that gives off, is a part of the reckless, wild side of boys which my mother has always fallen for. She has never praised me for taking heroin, but in her reactions to it and to the footstep's that led me there, I sensed an admiration. And it wasn't just heroin. My wilder acts have always gained my mother's attention. And though she would scold my actions, there was always a little sparkle in her eye. The way she would report the incidents to her friends told me she had secretly enjoyed them. She enjoyed my first cigarette, my first joint and my first whiskey. She enjoyed my first arrest and then watching me stand in the dock of the Juvenile Court reciting Oscar Wilde. She enjoyed my first trip, and my first line of speed. She enjoyed the fights, the late nights and the love bites – me returning home with some woman's passion tattooed up my neck. It impressed her. She was watching the return of my father, and I was willingly playing the part.
Of course, I am not my father. There are huge differences between us. From what I know he didn’t read, didn’t write and didn’t paint. He had no artistic or intellectual hobbies. He wasn’t into literature, philosophy, sociology, politics, film or chocolate. Nothing. Just junk, love, alcohol and violence. All that really connects us is heroin addiction. That's no small thing, but it isn't very much either. Still, in part I have given my mother back what she had taken from her. I often think if I hadn’t she would have been dead years ago.
But drug addiction, as with any behaviour, doesn’t stem from one event. I cannot tell you all the parts of this, but I can tell you it would have probably happened anyway. The truth is, the idea of using drugs first came about as a way to overcome shyness. After that there were silly, immature reasons for first trying heroin. More than anything else to live up to a certain image and to exude a certain recklessness. That was probably aimed at impressing not only my peers but also my mother. Of course it also pissed a lot of the right people off and that was just as rewarding. But drug use and drug addiction are two very separate things. I soon found that heroin gave ME something. Not my mother, not my father, not my peers or my image, but ME. It gave an inch to an unbalanced leg. It made me feel more stable. Up until then a strong fart could have toppled me.
This is why I don’t hold any ill will or shove the blame towards Nilsen. It is also why I equally hold no ill will towards my mother. I stuck needles in my veins for me. As an intelligent, stupid adult I took my decisions and I will live with the consequences of them. I will not do what others have done and portion the blame for their mistakes and problems to others. I will not become bitter with life or death. I accept it all, and it's all my fault: the good and the bad. I'd have it no other way. I am happy within my body, and every bruise, and every scar and every smile and suicide rescue has contributed to that. I am my own history; the answer to my own equation. I cannot regret the past, none of it, without regretting myself. And I don't regret myself. I'd not rather be anyone else.. not even You.
It is now 28 years since the murder. My mother is two thirds on her way to death and I am even further along the line. Nilsen is still alive and languishes in HM Full Sutton maximum security prison in Yorkshire. He is 66 years old. My mother is drink and drug free, finally kicking the heroin and crack habits that she picked up later on in life. She no longer is haunted by the murder and can talk freely of it. She continues to hate Nilsen with a passion and hopes he is never released. I on the other hand would one day like to see him free. I would take no pleasure from him dying in jail. My mother would slap me for saying that, but what's a backhander at my age? It's just something you wipe away.
My Thoughts and Wishes To ALL, Shane.X
One evening in late 1982, after a terrible argument with my mother, my father (Archibald Graham Allen) stormed off into the night in search of heroin... no-one ever saw him alive again. It wasn’t until nearly a year later that we discovered the truth of what had become of him. The truth was, that same evening that he left, he was picked up by a man – Dennis Andrew Nilsen – offered a bed for the night, and then poisoned, strangled & murdered. His corpse was left for three days in a bath, before finally being dismembered and flushed down the toilet – his head boiled in a large saucepan. All that was left was his skull. This was exhibited during Nilsens trial at The Old Bailey in October 1983.
My father was the 14th victim of the infamous British serial killer Dennis Nilsen, who in total took the lives of 16 men between 1978 – 1983. Most of his victims were young homosexuals or vagrants. Of the 16 victims there are only two children, I am one of them.
During the course of my next few posts, I will detail my fathers life, his disapearance and his murder. I will explain the effect it has had, both upon my mother and upon my own life. Finally, I will examine the relationship between this event and my ongoing addiction to heroin.
Until then Readers, take care & go steady on the tea...
This post, while acknowledging certain truths, puts pay to some frequent misconceptions surrounding heroin addiction. All in all, Heroinheads are quite different from their stereotyped portrayal in the media.
(If your looking for an answer to a specific question check out the following link which is a selection of questions I've been asked via email: Memoires of a Heroinhead - Heroin Questions)
Heroin addicts are thin with black eyes.
MYTH. It is very difficult to spot a heroin addict from sight.The common physical stereotype of an addict is a media invention, a visual aid to immediately inform the viewer of a characters most basic of motivations. If heroin addicts really looked like that there wouldn't be any of us left. We'd all be constantly stopped, searched and arrested in the streets. It's often easy, in retrospect, to see some giveaway sign in an addicts behaviour/physical appearance, but before knowing for sure if someone is an addict or not those characteristics could be the sign of any number of problems: mental illness, depression, cancer, liver disease, prescribed medication or just life itself. Not even addicts can spot other addicts with any degree of certainty, though there are a couple of reliable signs that can allow an experienced eye to spot another injecting drug user. Also, keep in mind that for every addict who may show some visible sign of his/her addiction there are just as many who show no outward sign at all. Thinness and black eyes can occur in an addict after severe and repeated bouts of withdrawal, but usually, someone who looks like that is a gothic. In fact, many addicts, especially long-term users, tend to be overweight and have a bloated, heavy appearance. With the weight gain brought about through methadone maintenance (a weird, thick fat which builds up around the face, chest, abdomen and thighs) and often problems with the liver, addicts tend to have a look more similar to diabetics than what is commonly thought of as a 'typical heroin addict'. Young addicts going through their first severe bout of addiction (and struggling to maintain it) do often lose weight, but it's due to not having finances to eat, and not a direct side effect of heroin.
You only need to use heroin once to become addicted
Myth.... and a crazy one at that. If anyone ever claims that they became physically or psychologically addicted after trying heroin the first time they are lying and scare-mongering. Addiction to anything is not a quick process, and no matter how highly addictive heroin is, you can only become an addict if you use the drug repeatedly and daily over many weeks. Many addicts experience a gradual slip into dependency, using recreationally for months or years before finally becoming physically dependent. The actual time it does take is uncertain (and depends on the person) but one thing is clear: you CANNOT get addicted from the first, second or even tenth time of using. My personal experience is that I used heroin two or three times a week, for almost a year, before picking up a habit. And even then, that habit only came about because I started using daily. It's the same story for many others. If you were to somehow go from never having used to using everyday it would still take weeks to form a habit. The amount of heroin that a first time user needs is so small that it wouldn't be enough to sustain an addiction. That's why addiction often follows a period of recreational use, during which a user's dosage increases, until finally (if progressing to daily doses) they are using enough to sustain an addiction. Psychological dependency can happen before physical dependency, but even psychological dependency takes time to acquire. If there are some people who try heroin and go on to become addicts, well, there are just as many who try it, don't enjoy it, and never touch it again.
Most heroin addicts are untrustworthy.
REALITY... by nature, no; by addiction, yes. The heroin addict needs money daily and as the day wears on he/she will consider more and more desperate means to get it. Stealing from the uncautious is an easy solution, though the addict will often ask before taking. Going on sheer logic, that says that it is not the addiction which dictates if someone will steal or not but rather their financial situation. A millionaire addict will not steal your purse or handbag - they have no need to. In regards to lying, most addicts, to hide their addiction (or to get what they want) will lie. But that is not behaviour unique to heroin addicts: most of us lie to cover up certain things in our life, or when the truth will not necessarily get us what we want.
Heroin addiction is expensive.
MYTH. Heroin addiction (at least in the UK) can cost less than someone who has a 2 pack a day cigarette habit. Many addicts subsist on a bag a day (£10 - $15). The average is 3 bags a day (£25 - $40). In London I was doing eight bags a day which cost me £50. It can get expensive, but not how some claim. When you read in a paper, or hear on Oprah: “I had a $1000 a day smack habit.!” It’s a lie. The person was probably never a heroin junkie at all. On the other hand, a crack cocaine addiction can run into thousands of $$$'s a day.
The heroin addict is weak willed.
MYTH. This is probably the greatest myth of them all. Heroin addiction is not about lack of willpower or strength – it is a matter of science: if you put this drug in your system frequently enough the body will begin to need it, and finally will not be able to function without it. The strongest willed person in the world will become an addict if heroin finds its way into their system often enough: addiction isn't a choice. Of course, there is a choice whether or not to take the drug so frequently in the first place, but the concept of 'physical' addiction (before you have experienced it) is so abstract and hard to comprehend that even most users go into this thinking addiction is about will-power and strength and believing they will be the one who'll be strong enough to control it. It's only when we learn just what is meant by 'physical addiction' and that it is a biological process and not a mental one that we realise just what little chance we stood. Even those users, like myself, who saw their parents or family members brought to their knees by withdrawals, we still imagine it is somehow a put on.... a weak cry for drugs and not a biological need for them. It's only when one experiences physical dependency first hand that you realise how powerless you are. So when initially using heroin (not understanding and being sceptical about 'physical dependency') there is no urgent need to show restraint or in trying to be strong. You believe using will always be about choice, that you'll use when you can and want to, and when you've had enough or don't have much money, then you'll not use. Only all too often, by the time the user reaches that crossroads, it is too late as the body has by then become physically dependent on the biological changes the drug has brought about.
Heroin addicts are mostly homeless.
MYTH... though many do beg to get their dope money. Heroin addiction does not suit a life on the streets. To find a vein and enjoy the benefits of the drug you need light, heat and comfort; real homelessness just doesn't sit well alongside the life of addiction. Still, there are many homeless addicts but they are a huge minority. Many other addicts are in 'Homeless Shelters and Hostels' (so yes, 'officially' homeless) though not without shelter.
Heroin addicts are mostly male?
REALITY. There are 3 times as many male to female heroin addicts.
Heroin addicts are suicidal.
MYTH. If addicts were suicidal they could end it all very quickly, very painlessly and very easily. The addict is normally seeking some sort of attention for their pain, as well as an escape from it. Addicts often suffer from some trauma, though I don’t say depression. In many ways addicts are the opposite of suicidal: they want to live! This is why they're using heroin in the first place: to block out pain or trauma and allow themselves to live some relatively calm and peaceful days. Often addicts play up to this suicidal tag and are often the worst proponents of the myth, same as they often help to falsely exaggerate the dangers of using heroin. Being thought of as 'suicidal' and 'suffering', being 'reckless' and 'self-destructive' are myths and stereotypes that many addicts enjoy. They are tags which add to your 'cool' stakes and which many addicts enjoy being seen in that light. But acting suicidal and depressed is no different to sitting on a train with a book about philosophy or advanced chess tactics and purposely making sure everyone sees what you're reading... it's about getting a desired image of yourself across to the world you live in. Never-the-less, that most addicts are suicidal is a huge myth.
A quick check of the arms will always give away the injecting heroin addict.
MYTH. The veins in the arms don’t last most addicts too long and so clean arms only means that there has been no injections in that area or that there are no veins left to inject into. Also, don't forget that injecting heroin is not like in the films and very often the site of injection doesn't even bleed let alone leave huge ugly sores and abscesses. Also, keep in mind that mid-arm injections (which they always show in films and pictures) is a very time limited injection site and you'll be much more likely to find needle marks in the top sides of the hands than there. Still, if an addict tries to prove abstention by rolling up his/her sleeves, ask him/her to drop their trousers.Marks, bumps and lumps on their legs will immediately tell you if they've really been keeping clean or not. If after checking the arms, hands, legs, feet, stomach, chest and neck you still haven't found any tracks or traces, bend them over and look deep inside the anus with a magnifying glass.... maybe you'll find a needle mark or abscess there.
Heroin addicts don’t wash.
50/50 this one... though if I had to generalise I would say REALITY. Heroin addiction changes one’s priorities. Washing first thing in the morning is no longer the most important thing -- getting your morning fix is. Heroin addiction also takes up a fairly large amount of time to sustain, and after running about all day, struggling to find money and to score, a shower before bed often doesn't feel like a great idea. Then there are some addicts like me who wash only when they are dirty, and sometimes only wash the visible parts of their bodies. It also depends if you're living alone or with a partner (especially a non-using partner). Heroin addicts still wash, but maybe not always as frequently as non-users.
Heroin addicts are sexy.
MYTH. Rotten teeth, dirty fingers, hepatitis and swollen, bloated limbs are not sexy. Someone masquerading as an addict may be perceived as sexy, but real hard-core addicts rarely are. For the addicts who show little or no physical signs of their addiction, well, they can be no sexier than anyone else. If someone does (and many do) have a penchant for addicts... for their seemingly wild, vulnerable, reckless, self-destructive nature, then that perceived sexiness is a passive one heaped upon them by the admirer.
Most addicts want to quit.
REALITY: The percentage of addicts suffer terribly (many going to the grave) with their addiction. For most it is a lifelong battle to quit and stay clean. There are not many who don’t want to quit, or have never entertained the idea. Even I thought about quitting... once.
It is easy to overdose.
MYTH. It’s extremely difficult. It takes 10 times an addicts normal dosage to be anywhere near fatal and one experiment showed quite astonishing results: that it'd take 50 New York bags of average quality to kill someone .There are many top doctor and opiate specialists who don't believe in heroin overdose. From my personal experience, I also hold to that view. Heroin deaths are normally put down to overdose for statistical and budgetary reasons, but are much more likely to have been due to toxic heroin or a combination of different drugs & alcohol. Overdose is very common, but FATAL overdose is not. It does exist but is not as rampant as governments and anti-drug policy and propaganda tries to convince us it is.
Heroin addicts are violent – especially when desperate for a fix.
MYTH. Most heroin addicts are very passive and peaceful. They will more than likely run from trouble than confront it. A heroin addict in withdrawal can barely walk let alone fight. Violence does exist in heroin circles but it is around the group of users that have mental health issues – they are violent even without the drug. Not all people with mental health problems are violent.
The heroin addict belongs to a specific economic group.
MYTH. Heroin addicts come from all walks of life, although there are an increasing number of addicts proportional to their poor economic conditions. Without doubt poverty and poor education does account for what escapes are on offer to us, and as heroin is an easy available 'cure all' a traumatised working class person is much more likely to spend £10 on a bag of smack rather than £100 going to see a stress counsellor or psychiatrist. But heroin addiction (or any addiction) is not endemic to any economic group. I know doctors, lawyers, artists, writers and computer programmers who are addicts.
Heroin addicts will steal the eyes from their grandmothers head.
Unfortunately REALITY... though we’ll always try to replace them later.
Heroin addicts are young.
MYTH. Heroin is normally sought by adults. There are young users, and some boroughs/places have a problem with young users, but generally the average age differs from around 24 - 31. This was one of the great surprises I had when first starting to use – the amount of mature addicts. If you keep in mind heroin is a long term addiction (on average 8 - 10 years before recovery) then you'll be able to understand that figure a little better.
Why can’t heroin addicts just say “NO!”
MYTH: They can and do. They can say “No!” a hundred thousand times... but saying “Yes” once, wipes all the “no’s” out.
Heroinheads have to type their username and password into a website on at least 10 separate occasions before logging in successfully?
REALITY. Yes, without fail.
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'Myth or Reality: The Truth about Heroin' was brought to you by Shane X
Heroinhead to his drug counsellor
In the annuls of time, what difference does it make if I die at thirty five, fifty or ninety? What does it really matter? It’s just a snap of the fingers. Contrary to popular belief I’m not dead yet, but already it seems that my personal history is being erased. It’s like there is a crusade to wipe me from the face of the earth. The three schools I attended no longer exist, the hospital I was born in is now a homeless shelter, the road I grew up on has been renovated beyond recognition, my father is dead, and my friends and family don’t know me. I almost don’t exist already. I will fade into a generation, an epoch, a century. I will go from modern man to prehistoric heroin and media addict. My size 10 footsteps will be swept away, my blogs deleted, my ugly mug removed from Facebook. It will be neither here nor there, if I lived a healthy clean life, or if I accelerated towards an early end. It is impossible to die healthy, no matter how one lives their life. Death treats low cholesterol fat free diets the same as twenty-five years of junk abuse: it kills you. There's no escape... there’s just postponement.
I’ve never really bought into this life. I’ve never accepted it’s ethics or its prejudices. I’ve never been part of the populace. This feeling of detachment was one of a thousand differing reasons that I first began using heroin. It was the ultimate rebellion, a complete rejection of society and its values. I mentioned in an earlier post that heroin is also a statement... well that's what I meant.
But rebelling with heroin brings its own set of problems & contradictions. The addict will always abandon his principles for heroin. I certainly do. Firstly, heroin renders the user passive. The addict spends so much time controlling his habit that he doesn’t have the energy for serious rebellion. If there is a choice between scoring dope or attending some demonstration or other the dope comes first. Secondly, the heroin addict, whilst rebelling against society is a part of the worst side of capitalism: he helps to fund war and death and hushed government trade. So while I reject and rebel I have also bought wholesale into the drugs market (which makes McDonald's seem moral). I also eat Big Macs, because when you're scoring on the run you need fast food.
It is here and nowhere else where I come unstuck with heroin. We do not part, but we argue. If I have regrets it is in the principles I have abandoned, in the causes I have let down. It is in the contradictions of this heroin life. I cannot argue these cases either, they are all true. I cannot worm my way into a good light. My saving grace is that I see no other life where the contradictions aren’t worse, or at least the same. At least with heroin these contradictions are bearable and at least they are my contradictions.
It was to the doctors on friday. I never go to see my doctor because I am ill. I am not ill, though if I were, he is the last person I would go to see. No, I see my GP for methadone.. that's all. I also enjoy sitting there and acting completely blasé about death. I boast and laugh of everything one should never do in life, but which I constantly do. My doctor seems to like this in me. Maybe I am his relief from the daily bodies of depression that come blustering in, squabbling on about the tiniest little thing and how the downstairs neighbour with the undeclared cats is the cause of their poor health. At Christmas, my doctor is one of the rare people I give a card to.
On this visit he shocked me by asking for a urine test. By law, he should ask for one every three months, but this is the first time he has asked in almost three years. I told him that it will certainly be dirty. Maybe the Christmas cards paid off, or maybe he is just a terrible GP, but he told me to come back on wednesday. I started to explain that it will still be dirty, but he stopped me. He just raised his hands and looked at me. I understood what he meant: FIX IT! Well, I’m never one to turn down someone else’s kindness, so I will try and buy a clean urine sample of someone at the clinic. It's a very common solution to get around testing. I’m sure most addicts, at some time or other, have begged their friends or family for piss.
I knew from the age of 10 that I would be a heroin addict. I used to wander around my school, with my eyes half-closed, acting drowsy and drunk. I think that came from a desire to impress my mother, to be like the men that attracted her. If I judge myself in terms of this, my life has been a succes. If I judge myself from my mothers eyes... I am a star.
My mother has always seemed to be proud of my heroin addiction. She will tell people of it as other mothers will boast of their sons honours and achievements. I know that will sound incredible and perverse to many of you, but I understand the place where she is coming from. When looking at me, she must be proxy to a bizarre mix of contradicting emotions and guilt.
With the butchering of my father, my mother lost (in the most horrific way) the only man she has ever loved. Of three children, I was the secret child of this man. To her, I was all that was left of him: a physical reminder of her lover. As my life began to mirror his, as she watched the new, like she once watched the old, find solace in the needle, she must have really seen in me the reincarnation of of a man she thought was gone forever. In this light, her feelings are not perverse. They are quite natural and understandable. But for all the reflection in the world, I still cannot give an exact reason as to why I have embraced heroin. The above is a small part of a much larger reason... a reason so large, and so integregated in me, that I cannot even see it.
Many people search for the answers of drug addiction. They will look for some huge rupture or some awful event in the life. But for many addicts this isn’t the case. For many there’s no obvious reason why they turned to drugs - no one defining event. With lack of any hard evidence for a loved ones addiction, many point fingers towards musicians, or artist drug users. They accuse them of gloryifying drug addiction and blame them for turning their fans onto drugs. But one can no more say that listening to Johnny Thunders leads to heroin addiction than one can say that reading Oscar Wilde will turn you into a homosexual. No, if one takes part in these things, it is because the seeds are already sown.
It is true, many addicts will also like the art, music, even the image of junkie artists (and Oscar Wilde has a large gay following) but this is not because people are emulating them, it is because they can identify with their expression, their life. What people must never forget is that heroin is not a fun drug. It is not used to have a good time on, but to make the bad times better. Heroin is a pain killer and an anti-depressant, and those are the underlying reasons behind the majority of addicts.
* * * *
There's been some good gear floating aound these past days so I bought as much as my dealer could sell me. I'm just lucky I was in the position to do that.
The other news is that in St. Etienne 5 addicts have been rushed to hospital after collapsing. This adds to the 20 Parisien junkies who had the same problem two weeks ago. They were found, immediately after fixing, unconscious in their cars, in the street or collapsed down stairwells, . Officially it has not been disclosed whether this is due to ultra strong gear or dirty gear. But I will tell you now, it is dirty heroin. On the news it warns addicts using intravenously to be very careful. But what does that mean? Inject a mini dose? I'm sure we're all going to do that.
I mention the above because St. Etienne is only 30 minutes from Lyon, so it's a little worrying. Still, I know it won't stop water from falling... it won't stop us. How can it? Only death does.
Tomorrow I will meet with the director of the Theo Argence Cultural Centre to organise the dates for a forthcoming exhibition of my paintings. I think it will likely be either late May or early June. You can have a look at my paintings by going to my site: -->>
A Lifetime of Dying: http://shanelevene.hpage.com/
This post is really a response to an entry made by Melinda R Tyler on her Melindaville blog http://blog.melindaville.com/ detailing her first intravenous injection. This post is not designed to horrify, entice, or romanticize. It is just the truth.
It was in the year 2000 that I first decided to inject. This wasn’t really a decision... if I was to keep control of my addiction it was a necessity. It was an economic response to a drug problem that was spiralling out of control.
At the time I was working for a small antique company. I had been a smoking heroin addict for over a year and I was gradually using more and more. For the first 2 weeks of each month all was fine, but then my wages would run out, and the second half of the month would become a desperate trawl to borrow money. This worked sometimes, but all too often it did not. About every third day I was ill due to a lack of heroin and as a consequence I could not make it into work. It got to the point where my firm was issuing me warning after warning. Not just for my absences but also for my physical appearance. Heroin illness destroys you... it leaves one ravaged, taut and thin. Heroin illness is the closest someone can be to death without actually dying. Finally I was threatened with dismissal. That was a real scare, because my wage was my ticket to heroin, and heroin was my ticket to well-being.
In October of that year I had an especially bad month. The quality of gear was very poor and I was buying three times as much as usual. Two weeks into the month, not only was I out of money but I was out of people to borrow from. In desperation, I swallowed what pride I had, cooked up some old cock n’ bull story for my work and managed to acquire a loan of £150 from my employer. This had to keep me in heroin until I was paid – it was decision time. If I continued smoking heroin the loan would last about 4 days... it was not an option, though I knew that by injecting I could get by using just a quarter of what I was taking. This is because when you smoke a drug everything that goes into the air is wasted. By injecting, every last crumb of gear is utilised. Smoking heroin, though far safer, is very uneconomical. It was with this thought that I decided the needle was the short-term solution- though I promised myself, once I got paid, I would resume smoking again.
That weekend I sought out Katy, a beggar girl that occasionally scored for me. I told her that I wanted to inject heroin and wanted to know how. Katy warned me against it and refused to help.
“Kate, I’ll give you a bag?”
She looked at me... wishing I hadn’t said that. We both knew what was going to happen. It was one of those times where you know your fate, can see your destination, but can do nothing to prevent yourself from arriving there. We both saw the road and we took it together. She was in no position to turn a bag of gear down... she needed it as much as me.
After a moment Katy went into her cupboard and took out a large bag of needles. I was trembling. The words HIV... AIDS were flashing in my brain like an animated header.
“Are they clean, Kate? Are they new?” I asked. She threw me the bag. It was still sealed and the safety tops on the syringes were all in place. I opened the bag and choose a needle. Injecting isn’t like it is shown in films... one cannot just inject. It takes a little knowledge to cook heroin down from a powder into an injectable liquid, and it takes some experience to be able to hit a vein, and then know what to do. One needs to be shown these things.
Katy went through the procedure of cooking up heroin. She explained that I could dissolve heroin in citric acid, vitamin C powder, or JIF lemon juice. “Always filter!” she said “never forget the filter.”
Up until this point it had been easy going, but the tone was about to change. Katy took the needle from me and removed the top. I was gripped with such a fear... I wanted to flee the room. I felt sick and my legs had gone to jelly. The dull autumn afternoon crashed about outside.
Katy nodded, and asked me to roll my sleeve up. I did. She produced an old cravat and tied it tightly around my bicep.
“Flex your arm” she said.
After a moment she had a look and said “OK, we’ll go in here. It will be very quick and very easy as your veins are new... though it may sting a little. That’s just the Vit C.”
“Katy, there’s not too much gear in the needle is there? Maybe it’s too much for a first shot?”
She assured me it was only a small fix she had cooked me. Still, I insisted she only inject half and let it register before putting the rest in. She agreed. Katy brought the needle to my skin. The first surprise was the direction she put the needle... I had always imagined that the needle would be used pointing down towards the hand... but no, if it can be helped, you always shoot up. I watched the needle and I watched Katy. She really seemed just like a nurse. She was so careful and so gentle... later I would learn this gentleness was more a respect for heroin than it was for me.
“We’re in” she muttered. I watched Katy pull the plunger of the needle back and then warm, thick, red blood shot up into the needle. I gritted my teeth as she pressed the plunger. At halfway she looked at me; I nodded. She put the rest in and removed the needle, pressing a little swathe of tissue against the injection site. I felt nothing, no stinging, no pain. After a moment my arm and torso began itching... I had a strange taste in my mouth. I felt the heroin hit my head and I felt my pupils dilate. I sat back in the chair. It was the same effect as smoking, just it was administered all at once and in a smaller quantity. There was no pain, no blood and no mark.... in fact there was no trace at all of what had just happened. It was so quick, so easy and so clean.
At that point Katy told me: “You know, you will NEVER go back to smoking... welcome to the needle.”
“ You’re wrong” I said “it’s just for the next week and a half... just until I get paid.” She smiled and hugged me... and then she cried. I felt a warm tear drip off her nose and hit the back of my neck. I’ve always been a person people like to hug... I don't know why that is?
Katy took her own fix, I gave her the bag I had promised and we went out. That day, and that walk is etched forever into my brain. I remember it as a tranquil flush of peace, I remember the traffic and the shops and the distant screams. I remember the grey London sky and I remember me, but mostly, I remember the needle. Katy holding it up to the light, flicking out air bubbles, her eyes pinned and intent in a way I’d never seen before. That was junk... that was what a junkie was... those were junkie eyes she had. Very soon I too would acquire those same eyes.
I went home that evening and I stood staring in the mirror. I tried to detect what I had done through my eyes, my face, my skin... there must be some sign... something must give it away. I hoped it did. A thousand images of who I was came and went. I wondered what would become of me. I rubbed my face, took one last glance then went and sat down. I gathered my courage, cleared my throat and then called: “Mum, come in here please... there’s something I must tell you.”