In the latter part of the nineties, life took a different route to that which I had perhaps expected. The death of my father had led to my stepmother throwing me out of the family home, leaving me to try to survive alone in Bedsit Land.
Following the ‘seeing-God-in-the-sky‘ episode, I realised that, in my attempt to upload myself to a higher state of consciousness through huge quantities of uppers, I had broken through my ceiling and everything was crashing.
Those friends of mine who had been foolish enough to join in on a year-long binge of untold chemical madness, were starting to “bug out” also.
Alex, who had been taking multiple drops of liquid LSD on a daily basis, flipped out during a cinema visit to watch The Exorcist. He was sectioned under the Mental Health Act for running down the street naked, screaming at people to come out of their houses; the aliens were about to land and Alex wanted everyone on board the mothership.
For my own part, I stopped taking ecstasy, amphetamines, LSD- everything really, in an attempt to rebalance my mind.
It didn’t work.
Weeks slipped by in which I felt I was drowning, unsure who I was any more and barely able to function. How I managed to keep my job at the College I have no idea.
I wanted medical advice, but I didn’t want to get sectioned myself. So I took a trip to the doctor, told him the death of my dad was making me so anxious anything might happen. I was careful to avoid talk of suicidal tendencies, but told him that I had tried Valium before and had found it very useful.
The doctor was initially taken aback. Used to prescribing old folks with haemorrhoid cream, he didn’t know what to do or how to proceed. I took the initiative.
“You see, I’ve been self-medicating with all sorts of things for years,” I said.
“Well, now, I really don’t want to be encouraging the misuse of drugs.”
“But I won’t be misusing them. I’m in pain, doctor. Psychological pain. I get these anxious episodes, when I’m alone at night. I just need something while I’m in this stage of grief.”
“Normally we recommend counselling,” he began, tapping his pen on the pad.
“If you won’t prescribe me then fine,” I said, “You know, there’s plenty of other substances out there on the streets that can mellow you out. Lots of things I bet. Of course, I really don’t want to do that, but if you leave me no choice…”
“Okay, okay,” he muttered, starting to write quickly. He handed the script over refusing to look me in the eye.
Bingo. 250 5mgs.
Valium is a handy fog for a while, numbing your nerves, obscuring and bewildering but without giving much clarity. 15mgs are great with a couple of glasses of wine, besides.
They lasted all of two weeks, what with everyone asking me for them like they were Smarties. I say two weeks, but I was careful to keep a few back for emergency use. I had grown accustomed to the fog, rather liked being in it and felt at a loss when cold, unfiltered reality entered my brain. Probably I was mildly addicted.
That weekend, I went up to my mate Dave’s to smoke weed and listen to new and incredible techno on his hi-fi.
His house, bought with the proceeds of an elaborate petrol coupon scam, was something of a drop in centre for the local stoners, a fact which pissed off his straight-laced girlfriend no end. She would sit in her separate plush living room, knitting and watching telly, while Dave played gabba at frightening volumes to the various waifs and strays who lolled about hallucinating.
On that particular night, Tweedy paid a visit. This was a guy who had just twelve months before felt at the top of his game controlling calls at the local call centre where half the young people in Stratford worked (the other half left town as soon as possible or end up working on tables). It seemed the pressure had been getting to him however, combined with an inheritance that he had converted into crack cocaine and, latterly, heroin, at the soonest available opportunity.
Tweedy was staggering when he arrived. Turns out he had been on methadone and Bacardi all day. But he did have a bottle of valium 10mgs on him, something we could appreciate.
I have a blank in my memory round about after the three pills I took kicked in. A floaty sensation that went on for I know not how long was interrupted by Dave shouting at Tweedy to wake up. I slowly came round to Dave, alternately picking up huge numbers of scattered green pills and going frantic that Tweedy had maybe died.
“Fuck, what do we do?” he asked.
“Well, you should really call him an ambulance,” I said.
“No fucking way,” said Dave, “If only I could drive-”
“You can’t drive to the hospital,” I said, “Not in your state.”
“I meant just drive up the road somewhere and dump him,” Dave said.
“Check his breathing,” I said, grabbing a mirror from the wall. A white fog reassured us he wasn’t about to throw a seven. We relaxed slightly, knowing that the task of picking up the pills could be done with less urgency.
When they were all up, and all evidence eliminated, the authorities were called.
The ambulance men knew Tweedy by name. He had done similar a few times before, always passing out at around the 100 milligram mark. A cry for help, I suppose.
At least he did it quietly.
Two nights later, Tweedy was banging on Dave’s door, sobbing desperately that he was sorry and hoped he hadn’t ruined their friendship. Dave ignored him and pretended to be out, not least of all because he didn’t want to answer any questions about the missing valiums.
Tweedy ended up several months later being found OD’d in a ditch somewhere or something.
I might be wrong.