I’d like to start by thanking all my previous dealers for always being there when I needed you. You were always the first one there for me and always delighted to take my money. Without you guys I would not have a story to tell or people to help.
Second, I would like to thank the Albanians for not killing me … yet
To my editor Laurie Stone and his team, it has been a pleasure working with you and getting to know you over the past couple of years and I can truly call you friends.
Thank you to my beautiful fiancée Gemma who knows all my history but only sees my good qualities. I love you loads, Gemma.
Thanks to David Lytton for making sure I am not going to be sued (I hope!) and Nick Goldstein for his proof-reading skills.
Last and most importantly, thank you to my family for never turning their back on me regardless of what I have done in my past. Without you I can honestly say that I would be dead now.
I love you with all my heart.
Introduction: My hopes
I should like to start by thanking you for taking the time to read my book.
I really hope that you enjoy it, as writing it brought up a lot of very sore memories for me.
This book is based around true events that have occurred in my life to date and have made me the person I always wanted to be.
Please don’t get the wrong idea of me. People suffering from addiction go to desperate measures in order to get their fix and I have hurt many people and done many bad things in the process. The events that have happened in my life do not determine the person I am today and I have now decided to dedicate my life to helping others who are suffering with addiction.
I hope that this book shows that no matter what your background, anyone can suffer from the disease of addiction. But the main message I wanted to portray is: ‘There is a way out.’
Thanks once again
Author’s note: The events in this book are based on true events. Some names, locations and events have been changed to protect the innocents and other parties. Where I admit wrong doing, I have (in recovery) made amends and restitution where possible. I was in active addiction and my behaviour was that of an active addict.
The Thin White Line
The Berlin wall
Glamorous Berlin, with its cosmopolitan culture, vibrant nightlife and hidden underworld of Germany, was a world away to my cottonwool mind.
The Kurfürstendamm is one of the most famous streets of this bustling city, home to fashion designer shops and luxury car showrooms. Sheer glitz.
Travel back a block or so and the city’s sparkle disappears… to where I had awoken in a grubby doorway, battered, bruised and bloodstained. And that smell that stung my nostrils. What the hell was it?
Memories of the night before began to flood back. My stomach churned and it wasn’t just from that invasive odour. The blackened, sticky, filthy doorway had been my safe refuge for many nights until last night. At 2am I was rudely awoken by three stocky German guys in their twenties, with their threatening Teutonic military look — short hair, athletic build and arrogant, unsympathetic smirks.
They were jabbering among themselves and even my imperfect grasp of German was enough to know they were not there to enjoy small talk. If their simple plan was to intimidate me, then despite my desperate situation I was not going to give them the satisfaction.
Defiance has always been a natural instinct but yet again it worked against me. ‘What’s your problem?’ I summoned from my limited vocabulary, delivered with as much venom as I could muster.
My English accent gave me away and it was just the added incentive they needed. The ringleader unzipped his fly and pissed all over me. Ah yes, that was where that smell came from.
Defiance reared again. I may have been at my lowest ebb, sleeping rough and broken, but no-one does that. To anyone and especially not me and the state that I was in. Instinctively, my right leg jerked up, instantly finding its target in the middle of the bastard’s groin. Bullseye, I noted satisfactorily.
The stocky figure doubled up, clutching the centre of the agony, a whimpering sound contradicting his thuggish appearance. No sympathy from his mindless companions, who ignored his continued wails. As a man, they all took a step forward and set about my prone body. Kicks and punches rained down from all angles and within seconds I knew what having the living daylights kicked out of you meant. Helpless, my defiance now evaporated, I curled up in a ball, my flashing thoughts switching from praying for the beating to end to hoping they would actually kill me.
What had I to live for anyway?
But I’m still here. Aren’t I? Come on brain….function. Had I been unconscious all night? Had I slept? Was that just another of those violent nightmares that plagued me?
Yes, I am still alive, if you can call this living. How had it come to this? A middle class lad, with a loving family, grammar school education and a promising career as a police officer.
The memory of that first day at the Metropolitan Police’s renowned Hendon Training College flashed into my conscience. The pride I’d felt when I smoothed down my well-fitting uniform when I first received it. The mixture of anticipation and excitement I experienced as I walked along Aerodrome Road in Craigdale, north-west London, heading to that building through which up to 2,000 rookie coppers pass every year for their 18-week basic training.
But now my thoughts switched to the one person in the whole world who might just be able to pluck me from this hell. The one sympathetic soul to whom I could turn, the only hope I had of help because of the unconditional love felt for me. I painfully stumbled to the first phone box I could find and somehow found the courage to make a reverse-charge call to my dear soul of a mother.
To be honest, I’d had an on-off relationship with her. On many occasions we found that if we were in each other’s company for too long, we ended up bickering — or worse. My earliest memories of her are from when I was about 11 or 12; I was a mummy’s boy and very protective of her. She infuriated me by never giving a logical reason why I could not do something or go somewhere. Questioning these decisions always produced the answer: ‘Because I said so’. That was it and completely unreasonable to my pre-teenage mind.
The callbox receiver was pressed nervously to my ear. ‘Mum?’
‘Is that you, Nick? We’ve been worried…’
‘Mum, listen’. My heart was beating so hard, I had no option but to tell her the truth. A cauldron of thoughts was running through my head ….she’s going to hang up, perhaps disown me and not offer me any help.
‘Mum, I’ve been lying to you.’
‘What do you mean you have been lying to me?’ She sounded simultaneously angry and concerned.
It was at that point that I seriously contemplated quickly making up another excuse.
‘Mum, I’m a drug addict.’ It felt almost cleansing to say the words. But they were met with silence. Total silence.
This was the first time I had ever accepted that I was addicted. In my subconscious, I knew, but had never acknowledged it to myself. Until now. The silence really made me confirm it in my heart but made me question the words in my head. At this point I knew the easiest thing was just to tell everything.
‘I’m homeless, I am living in a doorway of a shop. I’m in hiding. The Albanian mafia are after me for 40,000 Euros.’
Silence. (‘Mum, please help me.’)
Emotion was flooding over me, I was welling up, desperate for the help I knew I needed and with nowhere else to turn.
The silence was deafening.
How long will this go on for? I asked myself. Thoughts ran through my mind of my poor mother sat in the living room not believing what she was hearing.
Finally, a voice came back down the phone. My mum kept calm for the two of us and gently, in that tone all children know when they have done something to really disappoint their parents said, ‘Go to a hotel and get them to call me when you are there.’
My wrecked body sank inches with palpable relief. ‘I will pay over the phone with my credit card. Don’t worry, everything will be okay. I love you.’
I wept uncontrollably, the tears streaking my grimy face. Not everyone had washed their hands of me. Did I deserve this? No, probably not. And to a normal person, the potential salvation would have been all-consuming. Not for this low-life scum, however, just maybe saviour could wait a moment or two.
Instead of going straight to the hotel, with its beckoning clean, crisp sheets and hot shower, I called a Turkish dealer and blagged six grams of cocaine. This guy knew me and trusted me. He had been to my place many times so he was happy to give me credit. He didn’t know I was now homeless, was about to flee the country, and had no intention of paying him. How does one explain that behaviour? In the calm normality of life you can’t. But I was still a long way from that place.
Eventually, I made my way to the Hotel Adlon, a luxury property in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin’s heart. I may have looked like a vagrant — and arguably, was one — but I still harboured pretensions of style. And if this place, once one of the most famous hotels in Europe, was good enough for Michael Jackson — and where he infamously dangled his son ‘Blanket’ from a window in 2002 — it was good enough for me.
The snooty sod at reception looked down his nose at me. I guess I couldn’t blame him. But to his credit he went along with my rambling explanation. My mother answered his call to her instantly. The room was paid for and they even allowed me some cash. She also booked me on the next flight for the UK.
I could eat. I was saved. I was going home the next day. But first I had six grams of stolen cocaine to enjoy.
Dozens of kids I see today would give their right arm for the kind of childhood I was privileged to have had.
My parents were kind, patient and supportive. Firm but fair and, more than anything, obviously loving. Home was a typical three-bedroom semi, the type of house one can spot on any suburban residential development anywhere in the country. Dad had a good job and worked hard, but however tired he was when he came home, he always made time for his boys.
That was in the early days, though. When I was 11 my parents broke up and I found that particularly hard to deal with. My dad never really said much, so I was always looking to my mum for answers and in these circumstances, perhaps understandably, I never really felt I was getting the truth. Maybe I would have been too young to understand anyway.
Thankfully, they were reunited after about two years and family life resumed largely as it had been before. Mum and Dad always ensured that my younger brother, Lewis, and I had everything we wanted — bikes, Scalextric, skateboards and the latest in the technology of the day, like a Sony Walkman, that look ancient now.
But looking back I realise there was something in my make-up that meant from an early age I was never completely happy with what I had. I knew that if I really wanted something I would get it. The only problem was that almost as soon as I had opened the box and unpacked it, I wanted something else. It must have driven my parents mad, although they never showed it, but it was a fundamental flaw in my character that was going to have terrifying repercussions.
On the flip side, there was another facet to me, which I frequently used to my advantage but which also contributed to my downfall. I was ambivalent about school but popular with my classmates, even though I was not the most academic. I had a knack of adapting my personality so that I was able to fit in with different groups within my year and get me ‘in’ with them — a kind of chameleon, I suppose.
This art of manipulation had developed early after moving up to grammar school. I would befriend certain people who I thought could be useful to me, perhaps helping with homework, with which I always seemed to struggle, or simply enhancing my street cred to push me up the schoolboy rankings. I found it easy and enjoyed the shallow status I felt I had assumed.
Both my parents had a number of brothers and sisters, so there was a large family network around me. Over the years I became particularly friendly with an older cousin, to whom I shall refer as Simon. I admired and respected him and enjoyed his company, often preferring it to that of my brother. These feelings, I felt, were reciprocated and I knew that Simon would never do anything to hurt me — except physically, of course, when we had occasional fights, like all good mates do. But there was never any lasting ill-feeling and we quickly resumed our happy relationship.
At 19 Simon joined the police. I had been excited for him when he told me of his career choice and once on the beat he would tell me all manner of cool stories about rugby-tackling suspects or smacking together the heads of two car thieves as he tried to handcuff them. It was straight off the TV cop shows, which I had always avidly followed. I naively believed what my best friend and cousin was telling me and was unaware that the day to day life of a policeman was much more mundane.
The effect of these adrenaline-charged tales was to turn my own mild interest in joining the police into genuine ambition. I had mentioned it to my parents and, although obviously supportive, they clearly had doubts, not least because my academic performance could scarcely be described as dazzling. I think I was the pupil for whom the school report cliché ‘could do better’ was invented.
As soon as I was old enough, I sent off for the application form and started on the long recruitment process. It should have been the start of a worthwhile career. It proved to be the start of my life descent.
The police interview was no challenge to someone who had honed his skills in manipulating people and telling them what they wanted to hear. The observation test was a doddle, too, because I had naturally clocked everything around me, just in case I spotted something I could use to my advantage — like admiring someone’s new shirt or haircut to ingratiate myself.
The much-awaited letter finally arrived. It was ripped open: I’d been accepted and I was ecstatic. Disappointingly I had to wait hours for my parents to come home for me to blurt out my thrilling news. They made all the right noises, obviously disguising their deeper doubts.
Thankfully, I was due to meet up with Simon later and his response was much more effusive. I was in the kitchen of his flat and he was delighted for me and insisted that we celebrate.
‘Come over here,’ he said. ‘I want to show you something.’
It was the moment that would change my life forever.
From his wallet he pulled a folded lottery ticket. ‘Wow’, I thought. How much has he won?
Wrong assumption. He unfolded the paper and asked, ‘Have you ever tried coke?’
What? Where had this come from? Simon, my big cousin, to whom I looked up? Cocaine? Of course I hadn’t bloody well tried it.
Inside the ticket was a lumpy powder that Simon put on to the kitchen table and started flattening with his credit card. The little white rocks soon became a fine powder. He shaped it into a line and rolled up a £5 note. ‘Try this.’
My initial and fleeting outrage vaporised. I had no fear. Why should I? Anything my hero gave me would be absolutely fine, wouldn’t it?
What neither of us knew was that I was an addict in waiting. Something in my genes made me a dependant. Simon was lucky. He must have different blood because he wasn’t like that. But I sure was. And some.
Slightly amused at my obvious surprise and nervousness, Simon told me how to hold one nostril, put the note up my other side, snort and then swap sides.
The result was instant and amazing. This extraordinary sense of immortality energised every sinew. I felt confident for the first time in my life and hit a euphoria for which I felt I had been searching since childhood.
It was going to be a steady decline from there. No. A spectacular decline.
The incident passed. Although I thought about it often and continually marvelled at the amazing buzz that hit had given me, Simon and I barely discussed it.
Three months later I started at the Metropolitan Police Training College in Hendon, a sprawling complex that is Mecca to policing. With my limited academic abilities and poor concentration it was a trial. The pressure was more intense than anything I had previously experienced.
We were told that we would have to sit a test every Friday for the entire 18 weeks. Any result under 80 per cent and you were out the door.
I constantly felt I was on a knife edge but I was determined to pass and prove my family and other doubters wrong. I battled on and a few weeks in came to realise I was barely scraping through. The reams of notes we had to revise were not sinking in and I was so tired. I had to keep awake longer than anyone else and gradually my thoughts flitted back to Simon’s kitchen. ‘Would a gram of coke help me stay awake and alert?’ I wondered.
Maybe Josh could help. I’d known him since schooldays and he had always been one of those guys who did anything to earn a buck. He wasn’t a close friend but as we grew up, I found out what he did.
He sounded genuinely pleased to hear from me when I called. Sure, he could help. He delivered to me that night and every night thereafter.
The result was phenomenal, the coke kept me awake and alert enough for the notes to finally sink in. My test score soared to more than 90 per cent. My instructors must have been astonished that the penny had appeared to have finally dropped.
Training was well on track, I had no financial worries, no bills and Simon introducing me to coke seemed like the best thing that could have ever happened to me. This was the life.
What could possibly go wrong?
The high life
February 2001: A notable date in my life diary. I successfully completed my training at Hendon College and officially passed out. I found the passing out parade mildly ridiculous but my parents came and seemed to get a strong sense of pride from the bit of pomp involved. They knew they would never have seen me graduate from university so this must have been the next best thing for them.
Kentish Town, six miles from Hendon, was my next destination. I was assigned there for my initial four weeks of street duty, accompanied pretty much constantly by an experienced police officer. George was in his forties and although relatively young, his attitude to policing was very much old school.
As a posting for a young cop, Kentish Town is as good as anywhere in London. It’s a fairly unremarkable area, with a predictable retail mixture along its main street, and with its fair share of charity and pawn shops, reflecting the community’s financial status. Residential areas ranged from the distinctly low to some bordering the respectable and I discovered that the one interesting fact about Kentish Town is that Karl Marx lived there for a time.
PC George was a patient soul, passing on tips in a distinctly ‘been there, done that’ kind of way. The four weeks was a mundane but valuable mix of shoplifters, anti-social behaviour, domestics, unspectacular road accidents and a spate of house burglaries and car thefts. The paperwork involved was the worst of it, a real pain for me, requiring more concentration than I wanted to muster.
I moved around other parts of the Met’s area and somehow managed to complete my two-year probationary period, despite taking cocaine on a daily basis. How anyone did not cotton on amazes me.
With 24 months’ service under my uniform belt, I was ready to progress. To my delight, I was assigned to a plain clothes role, a member of the robbery squad. I found a comfortable niche here, my adaptable chameleon character enabling me to fit in well. I quickly notched up a successful arrest rate, genuinely helping to put away some characters from whom society deserved some respite.
What a lifestyle I was beginning to build: Aged 20, on a salary of £26,000 and still living at home with my parents. But the daily cocaine was obviously a drain on my resources and I started to take out credit cards and loans to pay for my habit.
My police career continued in this way and at the age of 21 I passed my IRV (immediate response vehicle) test which allowed me to drive a police car with flashing lights and sirens in response to emergency calls.
So much responsibility and yet I was still so reckless with my life.
There is no denying, being a police officer has its moment of adrenaline pumping excitement and drama. Yes, like most jobs there’s the mundane and tedious paperwork, but that just makes the high speed chase or the occasional raid that much more of a kick.
And, of course, the contrast is usually instant. Like the day I was in the police station toilets when my personal radio burst into life, alerting me to an emergency: a fellow police officer was in need of urgent assistance. You’re not given much information over the radio in that first call but when this happens you’re trained to drop everything and get there fast. It’s pretty obvious, anyway, isn’t it? Always look after your own.
But I had to be different, didn’t I? The reason for my visit to the gents was not the same as that of most of my colleagues. I had a line of cocaine racked up on the cistern lid.
Even so, my reactions to the emergency call were reflex. I bolted out of the cubicle and headed for the nearest door leading to the car park. I grabbed the driver’s door handle of the Vauxhall Vectra and was behind the wheel in an instant. As my partner closed the passenger’s door, I hit the button for the lights and sirens and screeched away from the nick.
Only seconds into the journey my brain jolted into gear. Jesus! I’d left a line of coke, my credit card and a rolled up £10 note in the loo. You complete idiot!
Panicking, I had to make up an excuse to my colleague. ‘I must turn around — I’ve left my CS spray at the station.’
‘Are you out of your fucking mind? We don’t have time, just drive.’
He was right but my priorities were elsewhere right now. I ignored him, spun the car round, sirens still blaring, and raced back to the station. Sweating profusely by now but praying for good fortune, I crashed into the building and through to the cubicle. All my paraphernalia was still there. Untouched. Thank you, whoever you are.
As I grabbed it and headed back out, my sergeant came in and walked straight into the self-same cubicle. Thank you, thank you, again.
Back in the car, my fellow officer was oblivious to whether or not I had the CS spray on my belt. We again raced into the road, en route to assist our colleague.
Despite the hold-up, we were still first to arrive. We came face to face with one of our own being attacked by a maniac wielding a crowbar. Before the car had stopped the passenger door was open and my colleague was already approaching the scene with his CS gas drawn with no regard for his own safety. These were the things we did when a colleague was in trouble.
And sometimes it was incredibly hairy when you were just trying to help people.
Kelvin was a self-harmer who lived on our patch. We were often called out when he took a blade to various parts of his body.
‘Any available units to attend an incident in Kentish Town where a 50-year-old male has slit his wrists?’ The ambulance service wanted back-up from us. What a pain.
We arrived at the depressing-looking high-rise block. Our appearance had attracted attention and neighbours were rubber-necking from various balconies. One or two yelled insults at us before disappearing from view. That was normal and you learnt to ignore the morons.
The ambulance pulled up and we headed for the ninth-floor flat, only to discover the poxy lift was broken. As usual.
Many flights of stairs later, breathless and pissed off, we reached the right door. I rang the bell, rapped the door knocker and banged on the door itself with my fist. No answer. Our patience had run out on the stairs somewhere around the sixth floor, so I kicked in what proved to be a fairly flimsy door.
Kelvin’s pathetic body was covered in blood, the crimson stain also spread across the sofa and the rug.
Kelvin looked every year of his 50 and more. Unbelievably skinny, he was wearing jogging bottoms about five sizes too big. His grubby T-shirt was caked in blood and I could see his wrists were covered in scars. God only knows when he’d last washed. His hair was matted and he had several days’ growth of beard. His personal hygiene may have been disgusting but bizarrely the flat was immaculate. Apart from the blood, which now I could smell.
He was holding a six-inch knife. Understandably, paramedics would not assist until the blade was removed from the equation. I told Kelvin to put it down. He was sobbing uncontrollably and although he was barely intelligible, I gathered he was refusing. I repeated the instruction to drop the knife and again he refused. I persisted and eventually he allowed me to disarm him without a struggle.
I thought that would have been the end of it. But as the paramedics started to deal with the cuts, he kicked off, literally. Shouting and screaming ‘cunts’ at all of us, his arms and legs thrashed about, oblivious to who or what they struck.
All my training and efforts to calm him failed. He was in a world of his own. Wildly pacing the flat, offers of help were dismissed. Refusing to listen, he kept us all feet away.
After 20 minutes he appeared to come to his senses and went out on to the balcony. Thank God, I thought, he’s trying to get some fresh air and get back to normal.
But Kelvin switched again in an instant and started to threaten to jump. Between us, police and paramedics, we tried everything we could to calm the situation and get Kelvin to listen to sense and come back inside the flat. Eventually, I thought reverse psychology might work.
‘For fuck’s sake, Kelvin, we’ve not had a break. We are starving, so if you’re gonna jump, just fucking do it!’ It was a desperate effort, I know, but I just wanted to save him. It worked for Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry. Kelvin turned back and looked me square in the eyes before lifting his body over the balcony handrail. The noise as his tortured body hit the concrete nine floors below have stayed with me until this day. He died instantly.
There was an investigation, of course. It’s standard procedure to ensure we hadn’t pushed him. We hadn’t but, if I’m honest, I was so high on cocaine I might just as well have given him a shove.
Was I really cut out to be a police officer?
I spy with my little eye…
Policing is a career where you get to meet a certain type of person.
One of the grubbiest was a particularly nasty dealer, based in Bedford. His house was a one-stop shop, open 24/7, and somewhere I often headed after my shift finished at 7am.
On one memorable occasion there were eight of us there and an unusual quiet had come over us. We were all completely off our faces, some from weed, some from coke. For reasons I now cannot remember, we were watching The Lion King, which is a very funny film when you’re stoned. Take my word for it. About an hour into the DVD, another guy in the room, who I didn’t know and who hadn’t previously spoken, took a massive lug of his joint. As he exhaled, he shared his thoughts with the rest of us, ‘This isn’t Bridget Jones’ Diary’.
I laughed for the next 90 minutes, which I can now see says a lot about my state of mind at the time.
I saw drug dens from the other side, too. The police side, that is. We had a call to a ‘shooting gallery’ — a notorious shithole where all the local junkies congregated to shoot heroin.
We were not sure why we had actually been sent there but immediately we went inside it was obvious. On the floor lay a woman, completely gone on a fix of God knows what. She was wearing nothing from the waist down and next to her lay a baby, its umbilical cord still attached. The tiny body was framed by a pool of blood. This newborn had known life for only a few moments, perhaps seconds. The infant’s semi-naked mother lay there, laughing.
There was little we could do. Gingerly, I felt for a pulse, expecting the worst. I was right. We called an ambulance but what was the point? I arrested the mother on suspicion of murder.
Her laughter continued. Her tiny child lay dead in a squalid hellhole. What more stark warning could anyone need about the perils of drug addiction? But still I paid no heed and carried on. I was clearly losing my judgment. And other parts of my mind.
It should have been so much more entertaining, like you hear with celebrities when their drug-induced antics hit the newspapers. Early in my addiction I would plan what my favourite sort of entertainment would be — a night in a hotel with hookers, drugs and loads more besides.
In reality? It was just me, myself and I. Oh, and the bunch of SO19 armed police officers in my head. There I was, staying in a hotel alone, trying to live my imaginary life but in truth I was staring through the spyhole for hours, convinced they were coming. Where were they? I knew they were there.
But they never came. I was so paranoid I was convinced they had staked out the neighbouring roofs, their weapons trained on me. I would tiptoe around the room. Then do another line of coke, just in case. I put the TV on mute, terrified to make a noise in case anyone heard me.
The rest of that fun-filled night through to the early hours was spent with more coke and constant checks through the spyhole, my shirt moist with sweat from the drugs and the paranoia.
I would eventually sleep for an hour or two but would wake with searing pains in my back. From crouching all night at the spyhole. This became a regular occurrence. How I continued to be a functioning police officer through this, I will never know.
Out of uniform
And so life with the boys in blue continued on its roller coaster way, dealing on a daily basis with the mundane and malevolent, the ridiculous and the rational.
Every once in a while, we encountered something so bizarre you had to run through a reality check to make sure you were seeing what you thought was in front of you. Especially when you were an habitual coke-user.
A routine shift was coming to an end when the station received a call from Gray’s Inn Road in central London reporting ‘unusual activity’ at a flat nearby. My colleague and I were the officers nearest and were assigned to deal with it.
Gray’s Inn Road is near King’s Cross and St Pancras railway stations, so traffic congestion is always a problem, even at that time of night. Despite our sirens and blue lights, progress along Pentonville Road was a battle. The abuse we hurled at moronic white van drivers, seemingly incapable of getting out of the way, didn’t help clear our path but maybe relieved some of our stress.
We were still first to pull up outside the flat. Helped by the light of a phone box, I could see inside the property and was horrified and confused to see what appeared to be a woman tied to a huge cross. Can this be real? I had little time to consider that question too much further when I realised she was being repeatedly stabbed by a short, athletic man with a shaven head.
It’s in these situations that your training and instinct take over. You don’t wait for further orders. My boot made dramatic contact with the flat’s front door and it sprang open in a shower of splinters and peeled paint. As the door crashed against the wall, the wild-eyed attacker looked at me, then stabbed his victim directly in the throat. He turned and bolted for the back door.
As this had been happening, my colleague, with admirable calm, had called for assistance. Back-up, in the form of cars, helicopter and ambulances, were on their way. I momentarily logged this in my head and considered little else as I started after the scumbag, chasing hard while giving a running commentary via my radio.
I’m not sure what he was on but I was surprised at how quick he was. Thankfully, despite my drug regime, I was still in fairly reasonable physical shape and, although struggling with the weight and encumbrance of my police kit, kept up with him and after what seemed like a age began to reduce the distance between us. He turned down an alley. I followed but pulled up quickly as he confronted me with a black handled knife.
It glinted in the faint glimmer from security lights on a nearby building. It was seven or eight inches long, its blade slightly curved like a samurai sword. It was covered in blood, as was he.
‘Put down the knife and I’ll put down my baton and CS spray and we’ll fight,’ I said. ‘If you win, you get away. If I win, you’re under arrest.’ I must have been insane, no, I was just off my face.
He started to put down the knife. My God, the gamble had paid off. Now I came to be thankful for some of that kit I’d been cursing earlier as I sweated under its weight. As he went to drop the knife, he shifted his weight and instead lunged at me. I stepped back, bringing my baton down with all my strength across his shoulders and then several times across his legs and body.
I read him his rights and called for back-up. Job done.
That would have been enough action to keep many officers going for the rest of their careers. But you can never predict what’s round the corner in this job.
Once again, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The message through our radios sent us to a council estate, not far from the stabbing incident, close to King’s Cross, not the classiest part of London. We were given scant details of what was going on but my sergeant — a former marine — and I quickly learnt.
Unbelievably, there in the middle of a play area, a man aged about 50 was forcing a young boy to give him oral sex. I leapt out of the police van, arrested him and put him in the cage at the back of the vehicle, reviled that society can produce people so perverted and abhorrent.
I did, however, manage to remain calm and in control. So far. I came to realise this individual was a sandwich short of a picnic, not all there. He sat in the back of the van, repeatedly nodding his head, asking; ‘You all right, son?’
‘Don’t fucking call me son.’
‘The only reason I’m calling you son is ‘cos I fucked your mother.’
I glared at him, feeling the anger building like a volcano inside me. He persisted, ‘If you were not in uniform, I’d beat the living shit out of you.’
You can tolerate only so much, even though your training is designed to enable you to cope under all levels of provocation. My sergeant was driving and we pulled up in a deserted side street away from residential areas.
I began to pull off my police jumper and utility belt. ‘Sarge, is it OK if I finish work now?’
‘Of course, Nick,’ he nodded. I jumped down from the van, walked round to the back and opened the rear doors. I pulled the piece of crap out of the cage and uncuffed him.
‘Well, I’m not working now and I am not in uniform, so what did you say you would do?’
He began quivering, patently panicking. He feverishly looked around for an escape avenue but seeing there was nowhere to go, turned to the open cage in the back of the van for sanctuary. ‘You’re fucking crazy,’ he stammered.
I piled in after him and repeatedly hit him, venting my immediate anger and days of pent-up frustration. Twenty blows, maybe 30. His jaw was broken, as were two ribs. He had to go to hospital.
Now what? I had to get my story straight for a start. My sergeant and I got that sorted. We’d had to hit him to subdue him because he was resisting arrest, wasn’t he? Who would question our word against that of a paedophile and child abuser?
A number of people, apparently. The day of the court case came and my Police Federation representatives gave me some stark and unambiguous advice, ‘Resign or you’ll be prosecuted and mostly likely go to jail.’
I walked into my inspector’s office without knocking. This was going to be short and sweet. ‘I resign’. It hadn’t taken me long to rehearse. I spun on my heel and walked out an ex-policeman.
So that was that.
Allowing my emotions to control my physical behaviour ended my career in the police force. Well, I guess it would have happened somehow at some point, anyway.
So now what? My initial focus was to get my hands on the police pension money I was due. My limited length of service meant it was only a lump sum of about £5,000 but to a functioning drug addict this was an essential lifeline. But it wasn’t going to last that long so I needed something pretty quickly to ensure I had a decent cash flow.
About a week after I walked away from the police, I was at the engagement party for an old friend Anthony Costa, who made his name with the boyband Blue and his fiancée.
Anthony and I had been mates from the age of 14 but later lost contact. We were chatting about this and that and the conversation turned to work and earning a living. Anthony was adamant that the one thing I should get into was estate agency. He told me I was perfect for the role and the earning potential was huge. I know in my heart that one thing I can do is sell, so I agreed it was a great idea and knowing someone in the business just added to my instinctive belief that it was the right path to follow.
Aided by my ability to manipulate people, within a week I was working as a sales negotiator for an agency in an area I knew. But my pension money was already running low and with a three-month wait for any commission on house sales, my cash flow was looking pretty meagre. I needed money quickly and with my established coke habit, the need was beginning to build towards desperation.
In my heart, I had always believed I would never steal because I associated theft with scum. This high-minded morality began to evaporate as my financial situation became more and more dire.
Desperate measures were called for but I knew I had to be clever to do this and get away with it over an extended period of time. I owed money and there was not enough coming in to pay my debts and, more importantly, my habit.
My estate agency position allowed me to go into peoples’ homes when they weren’t there. And what do people leave in their homes? Small, valuable items like cameras and jewellery, whose disappearance is not immediately noticed and which can be converted quickly into cash.
So, my devious mind quickly determined a set procedure: I would take the keys to a property when I was sure no-one would be at home. I’d tell colleagues in the office I was going to a completely different address.
Letting myself in to the house to which I had the keys, I would grab anything that could be readily sold to friends or pawn shops or cash converters. I came to regard this property as crack converters.
I felt quite satisfied with myself. I thought I was being clever, stealing only from properties that had been put on the market through multiple agents, all of whom had a set of keys. My visits were never booked in the diary, so they could not be traced. Or so I thought.
This madness continued for seven months. Undetected. There were a few worrying moments but they quickly passed as my visits could never be tracked. I did not keep a tally of the money I acquired but it was obviously sufficient to service both my bills and my drugs.
Shreds of morality, however, obviously remained in me, as I was disgusted with myself. Once an officer of the law and, so soon afterwards, sinking to the depths of those people I had despised during my time as a cop. I couldn’t take it any more and quit the estate agency before I was sacked.
The financial conundrum remained, of course. I still had to do something to feed my habit and, fortunately, cousin Simon stepped into help. He knew the owner of a glitzy club in the heart of London’s West End, who was persuaded to give me a job helping to market the place.
My addiction was becoming worse and the location of the club gave me another opportunity. I made an arrangement with an upmarket Mayfair dealer I knew. I would ensure that Charles could get into the club without being searched and he, in return, would let me have a couple of grams.
The club was a well-known establishment, one of those places where the paparazzi hung about in the small hours to snap some celebrity leaving, either looking worse for wear or with a ‘mystery companion’, as the newspapers liked to phrase it the following morning.
It had its upside, too, as I was able to join in the revelry. My ultimate moment was sitting at a table all night, drinking and doing coke with one of my biggest idols, Axl Rose from Guns N’ Roses.
I still can’t believe that night happened. I remember other nights, drinking with X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger and her US actor boyfriend Talan Torriero — the one before Lewis Hamilton — American rappers Nas and Pharrell Williams and many others I cannot remember, for various reasons.
I was, effectively, at the centre of a drugs scene and was off my head more often than not. Then my supply dried up, Charles dropping out of circulation. I couldn’t believe it, what could I do, how am I going to cope?
In desperation, I asked one of the waitresses if she could help. My judgment was clearly flawed by my panic. She grassed me up to the boss and I was sacked.
Next stop, the Alps.
Austria’s Tyrol seemed a potential refuge for me.
My addiction was getting stronger and my debts with dealers, credit card and loan companies were growing by the day — all to fund my drug needs.
Time was catching up with me and I just did not have the money. I was earning nothing and, of course, my minimal reserves had long been snorted dry. Trawling through job vacancies, I spotted that a big travel company was looking for snowboard reps in the Tyrolean Mountains. An ideal job, I reckoned: it would get me out of the madness here and I could stop doing coke or, at least, substantially reduce my intake.
I took the train and Underground to the company’s offices in London and the old ability to tell people what they wanted to hear stood me in good stead again. I landed the job and three weeks later embarked on what I hoped would be a new journey in my life.
My destination was Söll, one of the key ski resorts in this region of Austria. Skiing and all that goes with it is the main source of income for the place, along with agriculture. Söll sits beneath the conical peak of Hohe Salve, the highest point in this ski area, which offers black and red runs for the more experienced skier. So it’s a great place for skiers to base themselves by day and by night it’s a lively resort too, with slope-side bars entertaining thousands of visitors from all around Europe and further afield.
Winter sports weren’t actually the top of my agenda when I rocked up at journey’s end. It took me a few hours to detect the only dealer and the roller coaster ride started again. I quickly sought out a series of private places to ingest my coke — something I had to do as my work accommodation was a room shared with a guy called Heath, a 40-year-old who worked during summer as a lifeguard in Newquay, the surf capital of England’s West Country, and a ski rep in the winter. Nice guy but he would not have entertained my secret lifestyle.
Travel rep jobs might sound glamorous but they are not well paid. I guess the companies work on the basis that the perks of being able to ski and potential tips make up for it. But not in my case. Inevitably, the job was not funding my addiction and I needed to be creative again and develop another income stream.
Several times each week, it was my job to travel in the airport transfer coach, dropping people off at the terminal for their flight home and then meeting the new arrivals, shepherding them onto the transport and delivering them to their chalets or hotels.
The Austrian coach drivers rarely spoke English, so as the ‘meet and greet’ rep, I would take the microphone and welcome the expectant newcomers and give them the usual old guff from a prepared speech provided by the company.
But I added my own extra bit of spiel. I told the gullible travellers that it was a long-established Austrian custom to tip the driver — don’t worry about me, I’d tell them. The driver is the important one as he’s a local and it was considered very rude if you did not tip him. So would you please have a couple of Euros ready when we arrive as your traditional gesture?
Bearing in mind these 70-seater coaches were invariably full, the tips added up to a tidy little sum each time. On arrival in Söll, I’d be first off the coach with a plastic bag at the ready into which the Euro coins were willingly dropped. At times, I’d pick up €200 a day.
The scam funded my addiction for a few more months until spring beckoned and it was time for me to come home at the end of the season.
Back to Hertfordshire, where little had changed in my winter-long absence. I was still heavily in debt and I had a growing realisation that I had some very nasty dealers after me. Funny how quickly word spread that I was back in the country.
Before Austria, I’d had half a dozen dealers in London and I owed all of them big bucks. I had been shuffling these debts for several months but now they were overwhelming me. I would only give them money if they were prepared to continue to give me credit. Getting my fix was far more important than getting a kicking.
Among the biggest debts was £3,000 I owed to a West Indian guy, Marvyn. I had been buying from him when he started out in the game and he became very successful very quickly — I like to think I helped him in that! But he was certainly someone you didn’t want to mess with. He was among a group of dealers who ran the drug underworld in the area and had no reservations about carving people up.
Marvyn was devious — well, of course he was, he was a drug dealer. He kept his enemies at arm’s length by diverting several phones through each other. He answered them ‘the Jamaica Line’. When your call was answered, you would be told where to meet one of his drivers. I always assumed he was based somewhere in the London area but, in fact, he could have been anywhere in the world, still directing callers where to meet.
It was a massive operation. At prime times, like Friday and Saturday nights when user demand was at its peak — he could have up to 20 cars on the road.
That’s why I’d been trying to keep a low profile. I certainly didn’t need Marvyn catching up with me and calling in his debt. But he wasn’t the only one. I was starting to run into serious problems with other dealers, too.
I had a run-in with one. His name was Michael and unfortunately he saw me before I’d noticed him. I was in the Bushey area, walking through a subway. He pulled a knife on me and held it to my neck. He wanted his money — I had so many debts to so many people at that stage I couldn’t even remember how much I owed him.
He was screaming at me, threatening me all the time, the blade pushing harder and harder into my neck. I was terrified. Unfortunately for Michael, I did have one little-known ability on my side. Since the age of eight, I had studied Shaolin Kung Fu and had gained my black belt.
I stepped a pace backwards, smacking the knife out of his hand as I did so. My other hand came up, punching him hard in the throat.
I didn’t look to see the extent to which I had immobilised him. I just ran. Like my life depended on it. Because it almost certainly did depend on it.
As I careered through the subway, I could feel hot blood spurting down my throat. The blade, as it flew away, had nicked my neck. I was later able to stem the flow of blood and at A&E came up with a plausible excuse before they put six stitches in the wound.
I still have the scar. Physical and mental. This cannot be my path, surely.
Escape. It was the one driving thought that seemed to permanently occupy my mind.
I had grown sick and tired of how my life had shaped up and getting away, escaping, seemed to be the only chance I had of changing it. Like thousands of others trying to find work and change their way of life, I went online and spent hours in front of the screen. Finally, I came upon a company which was recruiting for an ‘investment property specialist’ — a flash name for an estate agent. But the appeal was that the job was based overseas. Perfect.
I was onto it straight away and, as before, blagged my way into the job. This is going to be great, I reckoned, not quite knowing where I would end up. Before being assigned to your designated country market, there was a week’s training in Marbella. How bad could that be?
It was like a lads’ holiday. There was a group of about eight of us, all around the same age as me and we pretty much clicked from the start. We trained all day and we were out all night. For a party animal, Marbella is one of the great places to be.
This Costa del Sol resort has a well-deserved reputation as a getaway for the rich and famous (as well as the infamous) and any one visiting it will quickly see why. It’s got great beaches and some classy hotels — but they didn’t particularly interest me and my new-found party friends. It was its array of bars and clubs that drew our attention and, indeed, held it into the small hours.
Unfortunately, the type of visitor that Marbella attracts also meant that it took hardly any time at all for drugs to come back to haunt me. I think it was on our first night out that I encountered an African guy who became my cocaine dealer for the week.
Towards the end of our training, our work destinations were due to be allocated. I longed for a hot, faraway place, my rationale being that if I felt happy and healthy my desire for cocaine would be reduced. It wasn’t going to happen. I was given Berlin, possibly one of the worst destinations in the world for a drug user. I tried to remain positive, still hoping that the change of scene would jolt my life onto a different path.
Beyond the drugs and the debts, I believed I was a high-flyer. On Day One in Berlin, I met the team and was introduced to our task. Our job was to sell government property. At that time, soon after reunification, the German government was rich in assets but not cash. The Bundestag owned much of the property in Berlin, which it let to local residents. It was completely alien to me, as it would be to most British, because we’ve been brought up in a country where home ownership is the norm. I think Britain has the highest proportion of home ownership of any European country but in Germany it’s the other way round. People rent, they don’t buy. Families often rent the same home all their lives and pass it down as an inheritance to their children.
However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had decided it was time for the government to cash in on its assets and as soon as foreign investors heard about it, they were like bees round the honeypot, buying two or three apartments at a time. My job was to help them do just that.
Like most business in the high-end property market, the team had plenty of money to splash around — for entertaining potential buyers and generally oiling the wheels. I had no problem helping out in that department, as well.
I quickly educated myself on Berlin’s seemingly inexhaustible night scene. Early on, I managed to blag entry for the whole team to a well-known club, AM2PM, a 24-hour joint in the heart of what was East Berlin, on Hackescher Markt, right by the station. That obviously was a great boost to my reputation with my new colleagues, taken to an even higher place when we were shown into the VIP area. I don’t know how I do it!
The drinks started to flow and everyone started to relax and enjoy the evening. Then I noticed a character on an adjoining table, an extremely rough-looking guy with scars on his face and arms. One looked as if it had been inflicted by a bullet removing a chunk of flesh. But he was dressed in the most perfectly-fitting suit and had four or five really good-looking women sitting with him.
Something in me told me he was going to be useful to know and I could not resist starting a conversation with him. He was Albanian and his name was Besmir and he seemed to take to me instantly. He invited me to his table and my manners went out of the window, ignoring the rest of my own team for the remainder of the night. I quickly felt comfortable and secure in Besmir’s company and so it came naturally to ask him if he knew anywhere I could get hold of cocaine.
He made no reply but called over a waiter and whispered in his ear. Two or three minutes later, the waiter returned and served me a drink. With it came an envelope bearing the message ‘open in the toilet’. I went straight to the gent’s and found at least five grams in the package, a street value of around £250. I greedily snorted several lines before returning to my stocky new chum. ‘What can I give you for this?’ I asked Besmir.
‘Welcome to the family,’ he replied. ‘Let’s have some fun.’
The rest of the night is a pretty dim memory, although I do have the distinct recollection of Besmir telling two of the girls to take me home, where I had sex with both of them. Fun, indeed.
Besmir was about 45, not quite 6ft tall and very thick set. His conversation varied from his native Albanian to a street slang we called Turkish German, not that it had anything at all to do with Turkey. He was always immaculately dressed, usually in a very sharp suit. Perhaps the most distinctive thing about him, though, were the stone-cold black pupils of his eyes, making him instantly intimidating. He had one facial expression, so you could never really figure out what was going on in his mind. Sometimes, I came to learn, that was a good thing.
Besmir’s right-hand man was smooth, baby-faced and good-looking. Pjeter was also Albanian and equally well-dressed, usually in a black suit with a black polo-neck underneath; very distinctive. But he was more outgoing than Besmir and really liked a party.
I gradually became closer to Besmir. I grew familiar with the fact that he was always calm, his tone never changing. I readily went when he asked me to accompany him on a visit to someone who had displeased him. They spoke to each other in Albanian, so I had no idea what was going on until Pjeter grabbed his arms and dragged him into the kitchen. Besmir took a fork from a drawer and repeatedly stabbed the guy while Pjeter tightened his grip on him. I never knew what the dispute was about but saw how quickly it was settled.
The incident naturally made me wary. When Besmir put his arm around you, you started to sweat. Was he being affectionate, playful or were you moments away from getting a knife in your throat?
Besmir’s mood set the agenda for the evening. If he was in a good mood, you knew you were in for a treat. But the bad moods were more frequent and you knew that meant you shut the hell up and did exactly as you were asked, without questioning it.
I developed the nickname ‘The Diplomat’. Somewhere along the line I must have told one of the Albanians that my father was involved with an embassy. Why I said it I shall never know, possibly because it boosted my cred with them and made me seem more important. It was mildly ridiculous as Dad is a fruit and veg wholesaler. But the diplomat lie stuck and it never occurred to me to correct it.
Such is the mind of a drug user, that I soon became fixated with Besmir. I could not stop thinking about him. He had everything I wanted. In his company, I felt like a little boy with his father. My cares evaporated. I didn’t have to worry about money…anything. Life was great. In my mind.
Two weeks passed before I heard from Besmir again. I had started to get concerned, so was relieved when I came home to my apartment on Kurfürstendamm — or Ku’damm as it was known locally — to find a note. ‘Meet me at Club Countess at 9pm’.
No hesitation. Knowing there was a better than even chance of scoring coke, I was there early, like any other good addict. I strolled in at around 8pm and quickly came to appreciate that Club Countess was a brothel. There was a small bar with a podium to the right and bedrooms downstairs. Besmir was sitting with Pjeter and invited me to join them. As I sat down, the security guard handed me a couple of grams.
Besmir spoke first. ‘You can do that here on the table’. Who was going to complain, had they even noticed?
Life was just getting better. My friendship with Besmir was clearly on solid ground and the whole night was a bit of a blur. One thing I remember was Besmir and Pjeter asking me to take some of the girls to other brothels in the city, which I did unquestioningly; no explanation needed. I would have done absolutely anything for Besmir. He only had to ask.
These evenings became more and more regular over the next three months, obviously taking its toll on my full-time day job. Partying all night meant I frequently overslept. But the drugs, the women and the booze were simply free and on tap. Who could resist?
Gradually, I became a driver for the Albanians and ran women wherever they needed to go.
Paying through the nose
Although I say it myself, I had always been a reasonably good-looking guy. It’s not something I’m conceited or vain about but I was aware of it, not least because a number of friends had commented on it in a friendly, matter-of-fact way in the past.
It was something I was aware of when I was working in Berlin, in that glamorous, high-end property business. I had this weird sense of well-being, it felt almost as if I had everything I wanted: My looks were intact. In fact, I reckoned I still looked good. The excessive drug use had caused a huge weight loss, although the grips of my addiction had not yet shown physically.
I had a great car, an Audi TT, and largely thanks to my appearance I suppose, I attracted some great looking girls. Being so cosmopolitan, Berlin was never short of fantastic women. I hung out with celebrities and I thought my life was brilliant. I was set. I would often stand in front of the mirror and admire the way I looked, particularly my clothes — I could afford to shop in some of the city’s best menswear stores and sported the leading brands. Ah, that reflection … suit, tie and who could resist the charm of that smile?
Very much in that frame of mind, I was on my way home from work one day, stopping off to pick up some coke en route, as I did so often. I was in my customary sharp black suit, spotless white shirt and brightly coloured pure silk tie. The first action for most people when they get home is to put the kettle on for a cup of tea. For me, it’s to prepare a line of coke.
As usual, I took a small hand-held mirror, laid it down and started to arrange my coke on it. I took a rolled up €50 note and put it to my nose. Then something happened. It’s hard to explain. I had never experienced it before but it was a significant moment. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and instead of that second of mild narcissism producing a self-appreciative smile, I had a completely different and unexpected reaction. I didn’t recognise the face looking back at me. The drugs had taken me so far into another world that it was like looking at a stranger. I burst into tears.
I felt this intense stab of pain in my chest and a rush of guilt, so I snorted my coke quickly and laid another line to try to take away the pain. Seeing myself again made me cry. Maybe this was the first moment I realised I had a problem with drugs and felt ashamed about it.
I grabbed the mirror and threw it across the room. I picked up a shard of the broken glass and took it to my arm. For a moment, maybe, I contemplated suicide but I was never brave enough. I went from ‘The Man’ to a cowardly child in the space of a few minutes. My self-esteem hit the floor.
Perhaps these feelings made me more aware of myself physically and for whatever reason I was suddenly aware of my nose giving me hell. Hardly surprising. It’s what happens when you are inhaling spoonfuls of chemical.
The danger signals had first become apparent when I was still in the UK, early on in my addiction. Just when we parked up in Soho in London to go and paint the town, I took a line of coke and my nose started to bleed really heavily. Inexplicably, I found that really funny, which was probably just another example of how screwed up one’s brain becomes when you regularly snort coke.
Someone in the group suggested the cause was the coke being too lumpy because I had not chopped it up finely enough. From that day on, I made sure I chopped really finely, like a chef taking extra care with a precious ingredient — not just so that my nose didn’t bleed but also to have a faster reaction.
But the discomfort did not go away. My nose would really ache from time to time — all around the sides and around the sinuses. Over time I became used to it, accepting the pain and, more often than not, oblivious to it. What were my options? Giving up coke? I don’t think so!
Occasionally, though, when the pain was becoming intolerable, I would rub the coke into my gums. It wasn’t my preferred process and it would only be for a day or two and then I’d faithfully return to snorting.
There were disturbing occasions when I would blow my nose and find extremely large lumps of cartilage in my handkerchief. Some of them were so large that they stretched my nostril open as they passed out.
This continued for months. I didn’t know how much cartilage made up one’s nose. However, I felt it couldn’t be long before I had none left. I remember once when I was in Berlin, I was staying at the home of an Irish guy — we were both users, but for the life of me I cannot now bring his name to mind. My nose at this time was so sore and blocked that I filled a bowl with lukewarm water and poured in a cupful of salt. I rolled up a piece of cardboard — banknotes were in short supply at this time — and snorted the water in an attempt to clear it. The salt water hit the back of my throat and made me gag. But it did the trick. Thank heavens because having a blocked nose as a cocaine addict is what you call a fucking dilemma.
As time went on, lumps of tissue continued to come out of my nose. It came to the point where my septum resembled a flapping piece of skin. It worried me deeply and the more I worried, the more I used cocaine.
My nose felt particularly weird one memorable morning. The mirror reflection showed that nearly my entire septum was missing. I had never felt so scared in my life. How could I keep my life as an addict secret if the insides of my nose were missing?
Much later, my family arranged for me to undergo rhinoplasty by a plastic surgeon who did what he could to fix it. The recovery part was the worst, as I could not smell or taste anything and it was goddamn uncomfortable.
But I could hardly complain. Anyway, back to Berlin and the Albanians.
While I harboured a sense of glamour as far as my day job was concerned, my feelings for my night-time existence were rapidly deteriorating.
Berlin’s liberal laws enabled brothels to operate legally and so, like other cities around the world where this permissive attitude prevails, there was a thriving range of establishments.
Besmir and Pjeter had nine brothels — as far as I was aware — and they were run on a very businesslike basis, pretty much a military operation, in fact. Balancing supply and demand, if there was a shortage of girls and big demand in one brothel, my job would be to take girls from a quieter club and drive them to a busier one.
All the clubs were built to the same template. All had pretty much the same bars, podium and rooms. Menus were available on all the bar tables. Not for drinks or food, of course, but a listing of services and corresponding prices. The working girls would exhibit themselves on the podium so that punters could make their choice, select their preferred service, pay at the bar and then transfer to one of the available bedrooms.
While this was all perfectly within city laws, there was an underground operation running alongside. Bankers, lawyers, entertainment managers, promoters and people from other high-rolling professions would come to the club to buy coke, crack and heroin. They knew that they could pay for it with their corporate credit cards as the transaction would be given some innocent guide on their statements. Companies were unwittingly paying for the illegal pleasures of their employees.
Another of my roles for Besmir was supplying the drugs at Club Countess and taking those credit card payments. On one night alone, the club took €7,800 just for drugs. The same service operated in all the clubs and it was clearly an incredible way to make money. They can openly overcharge for the gear because the customers would readily pay for such an easy supply and because it wasn’t their own money. Absolute genius.
From the street, you would have no idea of what was going on inside. In most cases, the buildings actually appeared to be derelict, another clever twist from Besmir and Pjeter. Often they were boarded up and, crucially, not a sound came from them. To get in, I’d have to hammer on the door and it would be opened by a spectacularly muscled Turkish guy called Hassan, the establishment’s main security. Like most of the muscle and management, Hassan was always smartly dressed and extremely selective about who came in and who didn’t, although I never understood precisely what his selection rationale was.
It didn’t take a mastermind to work out that Hassan was a good man to have on your side and I tried on many occasions to engage with him. But he never said more than two words to me. I always thought he was just an ignoramus but, looking back, what I may not have appreciated in my heavily drugged state was that he may not have spoken a word of English.
Once past the apparently derelict facade of the clubs, there was a vibrancy to the place. The brothel was busy with excited customers, music played and girls buzzing around everywhere in the low lighting.
To the right was the bar, either side of which were podiums where girls, wearing only a thong, danced less than enthusiastically. In front of me were half a dozen low tables, surrounded by big red velvet sofas. In the far left corner, a staircase led down to five bedrooms and bathrooms. Their use was fairly obvious, with services charged at €50 for 30 minutes of straight or oral sex.
Entry to the rear of the main room was sealed by heavy red curtains. Security guards stood to the sides and I swear these guys changed every day but that may be something else my drugged brain imagined.
Through the curtains, you were considered to have entered the lion’s den. This was the Albanians’ territory. As you went into this area, there was a low mirrored table, with two semi-circular red sofas — leather this time — seating up to 15 people. Waitress service was constant and here, the other side of the curtain, there was no need for cash. Further on, there was another three-seater sofa in a darker corner for added privacy on those occasions when it was required.
When Besmir was in a good mood, he would place in the centre of the mirrored table a metal bowl containing as much as a kilo of cocaine, a treat with a street value of €50,000.
Besmir’s generosity was always enthusiastically embraced, certainly by me, of course, on those occasions when I was invited into that inner sanctum. To me, it was like a dream come true. And in addition to the drugs, there were girls on tap. There were always more women than men in the club and I had free rein. The girls were mine to do with as I pleased. From time to time I would take two or three at a time but then went off the idea when I realised how the plan didn’t mix with the coke. I became paranoid, which meant I couldn’t perform. Yes, you can have too much of a good thing.
That aside, I felt immortal when I was there. Besmir was a strong influence on me and I suppose I felt a little like a child, protected by his father and with everything you ever wanted in life. There was not a shred of fear and I became this person I could only dream about. I loved every minute of it.
In reality, I was dying inside. I did not have a pot to piss in. But still this make-believe world inside Club Countess, was a place I can only describe as magical. What could possibly break the spell?
Taking the credit
As time went by, I became more comfortable and confident in Besmir’s company and I imagine that over the weeks his trust in me also grew.
I hatched a plot to improve my cash flow but I needed Besmir’s help. I waited for the right moment and then casually asked him if he might be able to get me a fake passport. A faint smile flickered over his face and he kind of grunted and nodded. I took it to mean ‘yes’.
The next week he passed it across to me. It was perfect, undetectable to my eye as a forgery. My picture, different name. I had become someone else for my financial scheme. I had found out that the Deutsche Bank would give me credit if I could provide a reference on company stationery stating that I was in full-time employment earning a good guaranteed income. I also needed ID, of course, but once I had the new passport, I let myself in to my offices in the middle of the night. It only took a few minutes to retype the reference I had drafted at home earlier, confirming that I was on €80,000 a year. I put letterhead in the printer and the job was completed when I signed my manager’s name, something I’d been practising at home, too.
The next morning, I walked nonchalantly into Deutsche Bank and put the theory to the test. It worked without a hitch and I walked out 40 minutes later with a credit card carrying a €5,000 limit. I repeated the process at Volksbank with exactly the same result.
My timing was perfect. A few days later I was fired. It was an unceremonious finale, my manager stating very matter-of-factly that I had been absent from work far too often. Fair enough. The bigger practical problem was that I was immediately evicted from the company flat.
In spite of my addiction and wayward behaviour, I had still wanted my parents to be proud of me. Although I was in contact with them infrequently, I had naturally told them how well everything was going and how successful I was in my work. So now what was I supposed to do — go home and tell them the pitiful truth? The alternative was to stay in Germany but with nowhere to live.
Once again, I felt the only person to whom I could turn was Besmir. No problem — I could stay in one of the rooms at Club Countess for as long as I needed.
And being on the spot meant I started doing all sorts of jobs for Besmir and Pjeter. That meant the drugs kept coming in lieu of salary, as far as I was concerned, and an arrangement with which I was very happy. They produced a fake driving licence for me to match the passport and with these hired a car for me. With my own transport, they asked me to drive packages to Austria, with the promise of plenty of drugs for the journey.
I was assured there was minimal risk involved. The people the other end were ‘family’ and no money would be exchanged. Payment was made ‘in other ways’ I was told. The person I needed to meet was called Mergim and the meeting place was always the same: a restaurant in Vienna called Noir.
It wasn’t just a trendy French name. The restaurant was pitch black inside — a great innovation for publicity but designed, so I learnt over a number of visits, to eliminate distractions, so that diners could concentrate on the food. Pretentious bollocks, I reckoned, but it suited our purposes, so I didn’t care. Mergim and I certainly did not want anyone watching what we were doing.
I would always allow plenty of time for the journey, so that I would not be late for the scheduled meeting. On arrival at the blacked out restaurant I would ask for Mergim’s table and would be directed to it by a blind waiter. Surreal.
The restaurant was genuinely so dark that I never saw what Mergim looked like and I suppose I did not need to. The small suitcase I brought with me was emptied as we ate dinner. No-one saw what was going on and that included me.
I knew I was simply the delivery boy, safely bringing the regular shipment. No money was involved, Mergim and Besmir having agreed another method of payment, which remained unknown to me.
My international route was quite simple. Berlin is around 60 miles to the west of the Poland and I would largely follow the path of the border south, skirt round the Czech Republic and head towards Nuremberg. From there, I’d cross the Austrian border into Salzburg and then head north-west to Vienna.
Borders effectively disappeared once the EU’s Schengen Treaty was put into place. The whole area was one borderless zone. It suited me fine. The removal of borders had made life easy for drug smugglers.
My instructions were simple and ones that I was happy to stick to: wear a suit and keep to the speed limits. True to their promise, Besmir and Pjeter gave me loads of gear for my 400-mile trip, so that helped the time pass. Every half an hour or so, I would pull over for a line. If I couldn’t pull over, I would get a CD case out of the glovebox, put it on my lap and line up the coke while trying to keep a hand free for steering. Not exactly the driving skills I’d learnt in the police, but a good use of the skills I had been taught anyway.
At any time, unbeknown to me, I could be transporting between 10 and 15 kilos of coke. In street value that was between something like €500,000 and €750,000, so clearly Besmir and Pjeter placed a degree of trust in me. I made the journey once or twice a week and this went on for about six weeks. Finally, the temptation became too great and I opened one of the boxes in the boot. There must have been around two and a half kilos of cocaine inside.
Holy shit! My initial thought was to say ‘fuck it’ and do a runner. But then I remembered Besmir’s generosity and help he had given me and thought better of it.
Remarkably, I was never stopped. But that didn’t mean the journeys were problem-free. The paranoia from snorting large quantities of coke was there still. Every car that came up behind me was the police. Wasn’t it?
Julie … and another new love
Remember that shady table behind the velvet curtains? That’s where I rediscovered Julie.
We first met before I lost my job with the estate agency and for weeks she made me wonderfully happy. I had asked Besmir if she could come with me on those trips to Vienna but that was immediately vetoed.
Julie was one of the working girls. But she was different from the rest. Something about her made her stand out, which is probably why I noticed her in the first place. Highly educated, her English was perfect. She had previously worked as a hotel receptionist in quite a classy place in Berlin.
She was 23, a striking blonde with a perfect slim figure and I will always remember the very sexy tattoo which ran from her foot all the way up to her inner thigh.
At Club Countess, we went to one of the downstairs bedrooms and that first time the sex was amazing. As it always was. This was a new phenomenon — I was actually interested in one of the girls, as a person and not just physically. Julie and I seemed to have so much in common, although looking back at it that mutual bond was probably drugs.
We often talked for hours, the drugs undoubtedly helping. We started meeting away from Club Countess — I suppose you could call them real dates. I quickly found I had fallen for Julie in a big way, thoughts of her occupying my mind throughout the day. I couldn’t wait to be with her again when we were apart. It was a shred of normality in my life, even though she did show me how to ‘wash-up’ cocaine into crack using baking soda.
It was simple. First take about an ounce of coke, mix it with a teaspoon of baking soda, pour in three-quarters of a cup of water, then cook in a pan, popping all the bubbles. When it was a solid white, you drained it on kitchen towel and put it in a freezer for about 20 minutes.
The moment I tried crack, I was automatically hooked and found a second new love in life.
We first met on that fateful night at AM2PM where I had gone with my estate agency work colleagues. By this time I had been sitting with Besmir for hours and my office mates had left. I got up to go to the toilet and that’s when I saw her.
Julie really stood out. She was wearing a tight fitted black dress with sparkly beads around her neck. Her long blonde hair was flowing and she had an incredible smile. I could see her beautiful fair skin from where I stood and she noticed me, too. She frequently caught my gaze and beamed that smile at me. I desperately wanted to meet her, talk to her, get to know her.
But I wanted to play it cool, too. Some hope. She made her way up to the VIP area when there was a break in the music and I tried some stupid chat up line which got completely lost in translation and made me look even more like an idiot. Julie seemed to find it cute when I then clumsily tried to extricate myself from the massive hole I had dug.
This helped put me at ease and the conversation flowed freely. But then, so early in our relationship, disaster intervened. I must have been a little too relaxed — in all senses — because I dropped my heavy glass on the floor, Julie slipped on the spilt contents and crashed to the floor. A large shard of glass somehow stabbed her in the stomach, astonishingly causing a wound that needed hospital treatment. She went off in an ambulance and with it, I assumed, any chance of getting to know her.
That was until I stepped through those curtains and saw her sitting sniffing a line of coke. I felt like all my Christmases had come at once.
Sex with her was just fantastic. We had been out one night to an amazing show and Julie thanked me by tying me up to a bed, blindfolding me and teasing me for ages until she decided to ride me.
Julie was into some really weird stuff but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I got all the pleasure and did not have to move at all. After the sex, Julie and I lay in bed discussing fantasies. She said she had always fantasised about being raped. It struck me as a bit weird but I said that it could be really cool. However, there was a hefty prison sentence to follow if I did it, so I’d rather not have to make sweet love to big bubba in a cell. In the same conversation, I also mentioned I would like to try anal sex with her.
A few weeks went by — I wanted to leave it so that Julie might forget about her fantasy — and I wanted to catch her by surprise. It was about 6.30pm and Julie was heading over to my studio flat, a place where Besmir let me stay from time to time. It was a serviced apartment, not much to it: a kitchenette with a two-burner hob, a microwave, sink and a couple of cupboards, then a room with a double bed, two side tables, wardrobe and en-suite bathroom. There was also a balcony that overlooked a sex shop on Kantstrasse.
As Julie was on her way over, I decided it would be a good idea to fulfil her fantasy before we went out to eat. I heard a knock on the door and walked over with a supermarket carrier bag. As I answered the door I saw Julie wearing light grey tracksuit bottoms that hugged her fabulous slender body. She was wearing a light grey vest top that showed off her midriff and was carrying a bag of clothes that she planned changing into before we went out for dinner.
Her straight blonde hair was swept over to one side. I grabbed her throat and threw the bag over her head, reached behind the inside of the door and grabbed the belt from the dressing gown and tied the bag (it had ventilation holes in it) firmly round her neck.
I then punched her on the back of the head. I meant to do this softly but accidentally hit her really hard, knocking her to the floor. I dragged her over to the side of the bed, where the space between the wall was really tight. Julie was screaming ‘stop’ at this stage. I was not sure if she was being genuine or if she was into the role play. I ripped her tracksuit bottoms off over her bum cheeks, quickly pulled down my jeans and fucked Julie in the arse.
It was all over in a few minutes and Julie could not stop crying. She stormed out. I was terrified: What I had planned as a fantasy that I thought she would enjoy was now going to land me in a police cell.
Frantic, I paced the apartment, not knowing what to do. An hour went by and the phone rang. It was Julie, sounding quite cheerful. She apologised for the crying but the punch to the head had really hurt her. It turned out that she really enjoyed it and was delighted I had made her fantasy come true.
It wasn’t all sex and drugs, we did have some bad rows. A few months later, I was staying at Julie’s for a while and we had a massive argument at the top of the stairs in the communal hall of her block of flats. Usually, Julie would answer her phone quickly but the night before she had not responded to my calls. I found this really strange, so I called her mother’s home — where she usually lived — and she said Julie had gone out but didn’t know where.
I pressed Julie when I saw her the next day. ‘I was at my mother’s in bed,’ she said.
‘No you weren’t,’ I countered. ‘I called your mother and she said you’d gone out.’
‘She doesn’t know what she is talking about,’ Julie replied.
Later that day I was at Julie’s flat and the argument got more heated.
‘You are fucking cheating on me you little whore!’ I yelled.
‘Why would I do that when I am pregnant with your fucking baby?’ she screamed back.
She had a real self-satisfied look. A thought flashed through my mind: ‘I will take the smug look off your face, you little whore.’
I grabbed the collar of her T- shirt and pushed her down the stairs. I just saw red.
A few seconds later, I realised what I had done and panicked. I quickly pulled a wrap out of my pocket and snorted it. I thought this would calm me down but it just made me more paranoid.
I helped Julie up from the concrete floor, where she had a cut lip and grazed her hands. I could not stop apologising and Julie was really scared whenever I tried to touch her. She lost the baby that night but I didn’t find that out until much later.
Julie calmed down and our relationship slowly got back on track, until after six months I found out she had another boyfriend.
I was being played and used for my drugs. She was an amazing actress to add to her other talents. Julie had talked many times about her ex-boyfriend and how he had boxed for Germany but, being an ex, I never really paid much attention.
Realisation came the hard way. One night when we pulled up outside her new home, a block of flats in East Berlin, I saw a guy waiting outside the entrance. It was 2am. The next minute he was running towards me like he was going to kill me. It looked like he had something shiny in his right hand. Possibly a knife.
I whipped off my belt — a belt with a solid metal eagle-shaped buckle — and smacked him as hard as I could around the head. I was terrified and my fear just took over.
His head split open, he hit the floor and was lying there, not moving, blood pouring out of his head. Julie was crying and shouting and trying to hit me.
‘This is my fucking boyfriend, you fucking idiot,’ she shouted at me.
‘What have you done to my fucking boyfriend, you cunt?’
He was unconscious. I felt I could do only one thing, I ran.
It hardly seemed possible but the night was to get worse. Pjeter and Besmir were waiting for me. They weren’t happy and wanted a word.
‘Your debt is now €40,000,’ they explained. ‘When are we going to get our money?’
‘What debt? I’ve been working for you.’
‘Did you think that all this was for free?’ Besmir snarled.
To be honest, I did! The matter of fact way Besmir put this to me made me more scared than if he had threatened me. I had seen Besmir take care of enough ‘business’ to know what he was capable of. My make believe world that I had created came crashing down around me in that instant. It was over. They gave me until the next day to get the money. I couldn’t say no — they weren’t that sort of people.
I said OK and snuck out in the middle of the night and never went back.
Once more my luck had run out. I was at rock bottom. I was now so far removed from anyone who could have helped me in the past. I was screwed.
Questions filled my mind. ‘What will I eat?’ ‘Where can I stay?’ ‘Who can I ask for help?’
There were no ready answers, no easy fixes like the last time. Or the time before that. The only logical decision I could summon was to head to West Berlin. My personal safety was my biggest worry and I reckoned that the Ku’damm in the affluent Charlottenburg district was potentially the safest part of this bustling city.
Night-time was my biggest dread, the most dangerous part of the day. It was futile but I prayed for the daylight to last. Where would I sleep? It was November and fortunately I had been dressed warmly from the previous evening but there was no question of a sleeping bag, food, drink or the drugs I literally would have given my right arm for. Despite everything that had gone before, I really had never been so scared in my life. All the security I imagined I had been developing around me had vanished in an instant. Nothing, that’s what I had as a future.
The doorway of a Gucci store was my eventual choice for that first night. The darkness went on forever. The limited amount of cash in my pockets was enough to buy a quarter bottle of cheap vodka, which diluted my fears only slightly. As distant clocks chimed away the hours, I spent the time crying, self-pityingly, lonely, silent, bitterly cold. The paranoia was rife in my head — what would people think of me? The all too obvious answer did not bear analysis. Morning, please come. I don’t think I slept a moment.
Berlin is not noted for its balmy climate and in November the ground is regularly covered in a layer of thick frost. To sit in the open air is to expose yourself to a degree of coldness that is numbing in every sense of the word, physically and mentally. Any part of your body to which the wind can find access is a torture inflicted with such severity that it seems as if the elements are conspiring against you.
Dawn finally broke. It was probably the longed-for daylight, but it seemed as if it brought with it a new chance, another shot to try and find somewhere to stay. Or money, drugs, something to ease the torment. When you have nothing, anything is a bonus.
My only redeeming asset was my irrepressible and massive ego. Or was it a sense of shame? I could have so easily just have picked up the phone to my parents and they would have had me on the next flight home. But they, innocent lambs, still thought I was doing well in a high-flying job in the bright lights of Berlin. If only they could have seen me then.
I suppose I could have been proud of my enterprising nature had it not been so sleazy. I was able to get my furtive hands on some cash with the help of the collection of street prostitutes who operated outside Berlin’s sex supermarkets. These stores are amazing; a bit like Tesco’s only full of porn, dildos, anal beads and other weird paraphernalia. It’s hysterical seeing older couples in there, doing their shopping as if they were picking up baked beans and cat food.
The whores hung around outside. An alleyway ran down the side of one of these outlets and I took on the role of what is known as a ‘handler’. The girls would encourage punters down the alley, making out that their sexual favours were available at a bargain price. When the ‘client’ had his trousers at half mast, I would swoop, attacking them and stealing their money before running off. For them it really was a case of being caught with their pants down.
It was a great earner with little chance of detection because the guys rarely complained. But there was obvious danger in pulling this stunt in the same place twice, so you had to mix it up, keep moving around. Thankfully, I knew most of the seedier parts of the city, so this was hardly a challenge for me.
Amazingly, I ate really well. I discovered by chance that the Lidl supermarket threw away huge amounts of good food just because it had passed its sell-by date. I just had to rifle through the bins for a free meal. The same was true at Kaisers, a more upmarket chain with stores across Berlin. The food was even better but it was further for me to walk. I’d patronise them if I had been operating as a handler in the area or I fancied a change of dining scene. The irony of the company’s smiling coffee pot logo was not lost on me.
It’s weird but once you have established a routine, coupled with a little security — knowing where your food is coming from — some of the fear evaporates. I would wash from time to time in hotel or restaurant toilets if they would let me in. I still had my old charm, coupled with a polite but persistent manner, and I was able to maintain a reasonable level of personal hygiene and dignity.
Alcohol replaced coke and crack, for which I obviously had no money. Booze was cheap and it was my salvation. Wonderful, marvellous alcohol, with all the beautiful, thirst-quenching pain that only hard liquor provides; constantly tempting you with that giddy, empty feeling that almost resembles the highs of heroin. Almost.
I was staring at my last bottle of Jack Daniel’s one day as I sat on a pile of boxes I called home. The wind was playing its usual games, stinging the exposed parts of my body like a swarm of demented bees. I was wrapped up fairly warmly: a pair of old blue jeans, a damp white vest, a sweater I had acquired from God knows where and a grey woollen hat, its previous owner likewise unknown. Wrapped around me was a flea-infested, foul-smelling blanket that I clung to like a child would a teddy bear.
As I stared at the whiskey, I gagged. The sight and smell of the liquid was too much for me to take but I knew I needed it. I had begun to shake, so I took a big gulp. Almost instantly, I threw it back up. I was kneeling in a pool of my own vomit, which I now noticed was all over me and my few possessions and the doorway that I had called home. But something made me keep drinking and throwing up. My stomach hurt from retching and I stank. I was furious, mostly about the precious alcohol I was wasting. So I carried on drinking and drinking and eventually the pain and the puking stopped.
What is it about a homeless figure in a doorway that brings out the violent streak in people?
The weekend came and I was finally used to my makeshift refuge in the Gucci doorway, even managing to catch some sleep. At around 2am on Saturday a group of drunken German thugs was staggering home. Half asleep, I did not at first understand what they were jabbering about. The aggression started to build as soon as they cottoned on I was English. After the leader pissed on me and I had lashed out, the kicks and punches came thick and fast. I was too outnumbered to fight back and figured that if I curled up tighter, they would eventually leave me alone. The assumption was correct but I was left covered in blood and that acrid smell.
I finally hit breaking point and called my mother. I can honestly say I offloaded the whole story, with the Albanian mafia, homelessness, drugs, everything, in a matter of minutes.
After my stay in Hotel Adlon — and that longed-for fix — my flight for London took off the following morning. My Berlin nightmare was over. I swapped Berlin for Bognor Regis and three months of rehab.
Once I was back in the UK, there was only one focal point on the minds of those around me. My need for professional help and some form of treatment was overwhelmingly clear. Various options were put forward but one of the strongest recommendations came from a friend of my dad, who had said we should check out a centre called Ravenscourt Treatment Centre in Bognor Regis.
Mum drove me to the address for an assessment. The head counsellor, Derek, greeted us and he showed me around the rambling nine-bedroomed Victorian house, introducing me to other patients as we went.
The interior decor had seen better days but I wasn’t there to assess the paintwork and I was in no position to expect luxury. Derek also took us to an outbuilding at the back of the main house to show us artwork with which some of the clients had drawn on the walls.
A barrage of medical questions followed, many of which I did not want to answer because I was afraid of scaring my mother- any more than she had already been alarmed. Eventually, we were told there was a bed available the following Monday and I should report back then, with only minimal possessions. There were a number of do’s and don’ts and for some reason I particularly remember being told not to bring the kind of mouthwash that contained alcohol. They do think of everything there.
Three days later, I was ready to go. Bags packed for a three-month stay, with mainly clothes, and I was heading for Ravenscourt and hopefully the opening of a fresh phase in my life. Nervousness consumed me but it was mixed with a sense of enormous relief, a hope that I could finally put behind me the chaos, madness and danger.
This time, I was met by the lovely Tracy, the housemaid, whose role included ensuring food was ordered and that everyone had done their TDs (therapeutic duties), such as vacuuming, cleaning and laying tables.
My room was clean, sparse but infinitely adequate. A big sash window overlooked the garden. Derek and another counsellor, Heather, knocked and came into the room and started by thoroughly checking my bags for drugs or alcohol. I was baffled by this. Why would anyone do that if they were coming to this place? Surely they were coming here because they wanted to stop using those things.
The explanation became clear later. Most of the people I was spending my time with had been in jail and had claimed they wanted rehab. Ravenscourt was literally their ‘get out of jail’ card, released from prison to get help for their addictions. Marvellous.
Alone in my room, I spent hours reflecting on how my life had come to this and the distress my mother showed when she had dropped me off. It was coming home to me how much pain I had inflicted on my family, a hurt they certainly did not deserve. Was I ending this nightmare for me or for them?
It would be wonderful to say my time there was all sweetness and light. It wasn’t. My rebellious streak surfaced fairly early on. There was not, as far as I could see, anything therapeutic in scrubbing someone else’s skidmarks from the lavatory bowl. I endeared myself to no-one when I told anyone who could hear, ‘Get a fucking cleaner to do it! I am the only fucking privately-funded one in here, so get someone else to do it.’
The massive bollocking I received was coupled with the threat of being thrown out if I did not co-operate. With so much time to think, I realised I had little choice.
Diary of my rehab
My rehab in Ravenscourt was such a turning point in my life that I decided to keep a diary of my progress. It is an honest reflection of my daily thoughts, reactions and how I interacted with others and demonstrates what a powerful influence this process was. I hope it will be an inspiration to others.
Day One: February 5, 2008
I am upset and lonely coming in here. Watching my mum cry was not easy for me. I came in just before lunch and was completely unaware of how anything worked.
After lunch I was allowed to unpack. I was told I am sharing with Phil and I was pleased with this as I felt I had a slight bond with him when I came for my assessment. Once I unpacked I felt scared as it sunk in that I was staying.
I have felt that I haven’t changed today but really want to know who I am. I have grown fond of Brian, Craig, Allan and several others. I have told Brian and Craig that I used to be a policeman and it went surprisingly well. I was scared of telling those two as I knew they hated the police but for once in my life I want to confront the things I am scared of.
I feel I am settling in well and I am looking forward to tomorrow.
Day Two: February 6, 2008
Today was very interesting as I had a lot of laughs — the first in a long time. I have noticed that I have developed a nervous laugh. Whenever I am in meditation or relaxation and I must not laugh, I just can’t help myself.
I feel that I am bonding well with the group. I am sad for Allan as I feel he is upset because he feels he is being picked on. I have spoken to him and said it won’t be easy and just stick with it. He now feels better.
Overall, settled in well and focusing on my ego, together with my pride, and getting better.
Day 3: February 7, 2008
Not a good day for me. I had Jeff move in with me and he snores like there is no tomorrow. He kept me up all night and I only managed to fall asleep at 6am, so had 45 minutes of sleep.
I tried to participate to the best of my ability but was angry with Jeff, although it was not really his fault. I have managed to get earplugs today. But if they don’t work I don’t know what to do.
Day 4: February 8, 2008
I was in a bit of pain as we played football yesterday. Seven minutes into it, we were all absolutely fucked. We decided that would be half-time. Today we did the same thing and can barely walk.
I listened to John’s life story which changed my perception of him completely. It is amazing how I can judge people so incorrectly.
Overall, mood of the house was nice and it was a good day.
Day 5: February 9, 2008
My day was not how I expected it to be. At 11.30am there were a couple of people doing the shopping run. I had ordered several items which I was looking forward to – small luxuries become big things in rehab. Cathy came back with the stuff and started dishing it out to the appropriate people. Allan went through the bag, saw my Hula Hoops and took them after he was told they were mine. ‘I don’t care, I want them,’ he said. He laughed and joked when I confronted him and he said, ‘I will buy you two packets later.’ I never knew I could get so annoyed about such a small thing. I felt I was being laughed at; it was a sign of disrespect and bullying.
I have spoken to Bob and I will be bringing it up in a group session on Monday.
Day 6: February 10, 2008
Overall, an enjoyable and relaxing day, although I am getting annoyed with Kelly, who keeps asking me for cigarettes. Admittedly, I had given her one or two but she is taking liberties and being manipulative in the process. She offered to cook my roast dinner to my requirements (burnt) and said, ‘As I gave you your food how you liked it, can I have a cigarette please?’ This time I said no. I said she was taking liberties. I explained that we all received the same amount, so why couldn’t she buy her own. I was doing this for her own good.
Apart from the above, the mood was good.
Day 7: February 11, 2008
Started off scarily. I had a lot on my mind. I woke up feeling extremely homesick. I miss my family very much and can’t wait to speak to them and see them.
I had a few things on my mind – the past two days with Allan and Kelly. Today I confronted them both. Kelly really did not like that I challenged her even though I did it in a nice respectful manner with regards the cigarettes. It worked as she returned all the ones she had taken.
Overall, miss my family but a positive day.
Day 8: February 12, 2008
My day was extremely joyful. I had Jeff in tears just by taking the time to sit down and listen to him, which is one thing I have not done in a long time.
I believe he has not yet grieved about the death of his parents and has hidden it in a bottle of vodka. He was unaware that he had not grieved and I still believe that he has a lot of personal shit to leave here.
Anyway, I feel better for helping someone, even though it proves I am a typical addict with selfish behaviour because it made me feel good about myself and that’s what I was really interested in.
Day 9: February 13, 2008
Up and down. I cannot believe that I forgot to mention in last night’s diary that I did my life story, which involves me sharing to the group the events that happened throughout my addiction.
I had it put to me today that I had missed out the most vital part in my life story: I have not been focussing on MY recovery. To be honest, I am unsure what I need to do in order to focus on this.
I am going to bed now as I am aching from playing football.
Day 10: February 14, 2008
A really good day for me as I had a complete mixture of positive attributes.
I had endless laughs, which is the first time in a long while. I shared a P.U.D (Powerlessness Unmanageability Damage: a mentoring session where one person is the focus and has to describe the outcome of a past action and then allow peers to comment) which was extremely nerve wracking but once I finished and my peers started offering feedback I felt more secure and able to trust my peers more. Also, I started my 12 Steps today, as defined by Cocaine Anonymous. Here they are:
1 Admit we are powerless over cocaine and all other mind-altering substances — that our lives have become unmanageable.
2 Come to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3 Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.
4 Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5 Admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6 Be entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7 Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8 Make a list of all persons we have harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
9 Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except where to do so would injure them or others.
10 Continue to take personal inventory and when we are wrong promptly admitted it.
11 Seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12 Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, try to carry this message to addicts, and to practise these principles in all our affairs.
The Steps brought home some memories of how bad my addiction got to me. Initially when looking at putting others’ and my life in jeopardy I could not think of any at all. But after sitting down for an hour a few eventually came to me.
Overall, my best day yet in every area and fifteen days clean today.
Well done Nick. Goodnight xxxxxxx
Day 11: February 15, 2008
I enjoyed today very much. I had managed to pay close attention to my addiction by completing question one of my Step 1. It took me a long time to think of the answers.
Lots of laughs again. Overall good day.Goodnight
Day 12: February 16, 2008
I had an OK day. It was not a constructive day but very relaxing. I managed to get a lot of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous read and could relate to much of it. It could have got worse.
Day 13: February 17, 2008
Fairly good day. I discussed my addiction with my peers and will share my Step 1 examples in my PUDs. I really enjoyed the Michael Keaton movie this morning, Clean and Sober. A lot of people did not enjoy it but I personally got loads from it. I related with him as he too had a really good job and an excessive coke habit. It inspired me that if the Keaton character stayed clean by working the programme, then so can I.
Good night. Eighteen days clean today. Well done xx
Day 14: February 18, 2008
I had a day involving a mixture of feelings today. I had a one-to-one with Heather which I really enjoyed. It was the first time I’d had a chance to sit down and talk to her. She really managed to touch on a few sensitive issues and I managed to discover some points about myself, like how I am not assertive and that I am always trying to feel accepted and valued by my family. I am always trying to be better off or worse off than others and am unable to find a happy medium in my life. The advice was to do what I am expected to do – for example, therapeutic duties and paperwork and contribute within the group. I have been advised to read Chapter Five of the Big Book, which I will do when I finish this.
I also shared the PUD about pushing Julie down the stairs. I felt scared and vulnerable and it made me realise how mad this addiction can be. I was also the first to share at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous tonight as one of my peers, Kylie, was nervous so I thought I would make it easy for her and she did share.
Overall good day. Nineteen days clean. Well done xxx
Day 15: February 19, 2008
An extremely bad atmosphere in the house. I was upset that excessive amounts of tablets were found in two of my peers’ rooms. I have put a lot of trust into the two peers as they are in my split group and I would have appreciated the same back. I have been focusing again today on the 12 Steps and have remembered a lot of embarrassing and patronising situations.
Good night. Twenty days clean today. Well done xxx
Day 16: February 20, 2008
Not a good day for me as I had a total of 45 minutes sleep last night, along with coming down with a cold (typical man). I was worried about going to bed tonight because of Jeff’s snoring. Thank God, they have let me borrow a CD player and headphones and a relaxation disc. Knowing my luck the bloody batteries will die. I am slightly worried about how I speak to other people as I am unaware of how I am showing my ego. If you get a chance Heather, can we sit down to talk about it please?
Good night. Twenty-one days today xxx
Day 17: February 21, 2008
Disappointing day for me as I was upset that Jeff had hidden from me that he had his mobile phone with him. I am slowly losing trust in all my peers daily which will make it harder for me to share quite personal PUDs.
Twenty-two days clean. Well done and good night xxx
Day 18: February 22, 2008
Fairly relaxing, nice going day. I enjoyed my couple of hours in Chichester today. I also enjoyed Narcotics Anonymous and had a good share-up. I feel that the obsession to use has been lifted from me, but I am curious to know whether this is because of the environment that I am in.
I have spoken to my peers about my ego and I am trying to keep it under wraps. I am really looking forward to seeing my family as it will be the first time that I can sit down with them (clean of drugs) and honestly be able to speak with them openly.
Twenty-three days clean. Good night xxx
Day 19: February 23, 2008
I think I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I was in a very bad mood from the moment I opened my eyes. I was getting very annoyed with Craig today as I feel that he always has to be the centre of attention all of the time. I feel that he makes other people look small to make him look big. I remember what Heather said in a PUD the other day but I can’t remember who to.
She said, ‘Why is it today that Carol has particularly annoyed you?’ I thought about this and, in fact, it was not Craig, it is me as I am in a bad mood and am finding a scapegoat. He does not control my feelings.
Twenty-four days clean. Good night xxx
Day 20: February 24, 2008
Excellent day. It started off watching a really inspirational movie (My Left Foot) which makes me realise how lucky I really am. I then had my family come to visit and my dad saying meaningfully for the first time in more than six years that he is proud of me and loves me.
Twenty-five days clean. Well done xxxxxx
Day 21: February 25, 2008
A good day in finding out about myself. I shared a PUD and discovered that I am controlling, egotistical and have violent thoughts towards women, which I am finding hard to accept. I am taking my treatment here a lot more seriously as I have now realised that I am no different from anyone else here in rehab.
Twenty-six days clean. Well done.
Day 22: February 26, 2008
I have been really confused today. I am aware after watching the video today that I have an inflated ego and have king baby syndrome, an adult tantrum. There are a lot of factors that relate to me. I feel worried about Jasmine leaving today as she is a self-harmer and staying in bed and breakfast accommodation. I just pray that Jasmine is OK.
Day 23: February 27, 2008
Upsetting morning today as I was sad to see Tim go. I have grown really close to him in my time here and hope he will be OK. I am pleased I passed my assessment today but still have to work on my controlling behaviour.
Twenty-eight days clean. Well done xxx
Day 24: February 28, 2008
I had a good day today and managed to get a PUD which I am pleased about. It was all going well up to when I did the reading at meditation tonight. I was trying to read when I had Mike, Steve, Joe and Craig all laughing, which meant I couldn’t read as I could not stop laughing. I still have my nervous laugh as it is and they were laughing still through meditation and so was I. I had an argument with Kylie at the end as no one else would own up to it and I got the blame. I feel victimised and to be honest really pissed off that not one peer owned up to it. I am currently pretty pissed off.
Twenty-nine days clean. Well done.
Day 25: February 29, 2008
I was left with a foul taste in my mouth last night after the argument. However, this morning we both apologised to each other and the day progressed to be really good. I had a real high at Narcotics Anonymous tonight as my sponsor surprised me by turning up to watch me get my Thirty Days keyring. I was overwhelmed as I don’t know anyone else who would do that for me.
My best day yet. Thirty days clean. Well done.
Day 26: March 1, 2008
Today was a relaxed day. I was a bit upset that Jeff went but to be honest he was starting to annoy me and I did not trust him.
Thirty-one days clean. Well done xx
Day 27: March 2, 2008
I really enjoyed today but had mixed feelings. I saw my parents today, which I really enjoyed. I was so happy when I gave my mum flowers and a poem for the first time in eight years. She was really tearful, which made me so happy but also sad and angry that I have abused their love and not said simple things like that previously to show I still appreciate them.
Thirty-two days clean. Well done xx
Day 28: March 3, 2008
My day today was OK. I felt really angry today. I felt people were trying to victimise me. Looking back, I realise it was friendly banter. I am relieved as I have just sent a really deep letter to my cousin, which I did not want to do, finding out his thoughts about me and how he first gave me coke and have been in tears doing it. I am looking forward to the reply.
Thirty-three days clean. Well done xxx
Day 29: March 4, 2008
I have had a good day today as it has been really reflective. I have shared a good PUD and learned a lot from it and just remembered another potential PUD where I wanted to talk about an incident with a girl who was working a promotion with me at a nightclub. I had promised to pay £200 for the evening but when it went badly wrong I just left her and did a runner. The management held her hostage and told me they wanted their money before they would let her go. But I just didn’t go back. I have thought deeply about how I talk to people as I need another week to get to grips with my controlling behaviour.
Thirty-four days clean. Well done xx
Day 30: March 5, 2008
I am still trying to get to grips with my controlling behaviour, so I have asked my peers to point it out to me as I am obviously not noticing. Good day today, felt tired and thoughts came into my head that I am not as bad as everyone thinks and wanted to leave but that soon passed after reminding myself of my damage.
Thirty-five days clean. Well done.
Day 31: March 6, 2008
Today started as a downer as I had a deep dream about drug-using. Lately I have been feeling really tired but am sleeping well. I am still having problems listening as things seem to be going in one ear and out the other. I have been focused on my controlling behaviour a lot today and am keeping my mouth shut when I feel I may be trying to control others.
Thirty-six days clean xxx
Day 32: March 7, 2008
Interesting day today. I felt angry earlier and let Kylie have the front end of it in our big group. She was arrogantly defensive and I laid into her. She completely dropped her defence and now I am happy and getting on well with her. I had an excellent evening at Narcotics Anonymous tonight as I saw Raymond, who is a good family friend, 13 years clean. He says things which I understand and now feel emotionally happy as he came to see me. Really good day.
Thirty-seven days clean. Well done xxx
Day 33: March 8, 2008
Good start to today. I managed to share the PUD on manipulating Chris, a good friend of the family, into giving me £4,500. Raymond came to visit which was great as he explains things in a way that I need to hear but it was all soon completely ruined when Allan made a fucking stupid, selfish remark which led to me having a huge argument. He has still not apologised and it has completely ruined my day and I won’t be nice to him at all until he leaves. I think that is better than me losing my temper with him.
Thirty-eight days clean. Well done xxx
Day 34: March 9, 2008
Lovely day today. I made my first roast dinner which went surprisingly well, except the stuffing, which I cremated. It was great to see my parents and I probably had one of the best days I have had with them and yet they brought nothing at all. What a change. We shared an awful lot. Things are looking up.
Thirty-nine days clean. Well done.
Day 35: March 10, 2008
I have never had such a mixture of emotions in one day as I have today. I was still fuming with Allan’s comment about Raymond today and absolutely laid into him in group. I had my one-to-one this afternoon with Heather and noticed some really big behaviours of mine. My whole life I have not really made decisions for myself but decisions to please everyone else. I am relying on people around me to make me look better or even feel better. It’s like I am hiding so people can’t see me. I need to spend some quality time looking at myself and doing things for me. I need to find out what I like doing and what I want to do instead of pleasing others. I am very much controlling but feel that deep down, I have a deflated ego and yet I put on the front of a big ego. I don’t know, I am really confused. I had a good talk with my peers this evening and have not stopped crying. I don’t know why I held it back with Heather. I have never felt so confused ever and I can’t remember what else I wanted to write.
Forty days clean. Well done xxx
Day 36: March 11, 2008
I am feeling really confused, lost and scared at the moment. I am still recovering from my one-to-one with Heather and feel I had a right hook from Mike Tyson. I asked Heather to reiterate how I thought I was controlling and she said that as I find it rude to make comments, everyone else should. I am trying to control everyone’s thoughts and took it personally when it didn’t go how I planned. Just feeling really fed up and don’t know why.
Forty-one days clean. Well done xxxxxxxx
Day 37: March 12, 2008
Sad day as Steve did a really good PUD on his daughter’s tragic death and Amanda did a strong one on how she neglected her child. It really made me realise that if I don’t straighten myself out my life can only get worse. A lot to take in.
Forty-two days clean. Well done.
Day 38: March 13, 2008
There was a sad atmosphere in the house. I am having problems of thinking of a PUD on damage to my mum. I cannot get hold of parents so will be seeing them this weekend which I am really looking forward too. Kept focused today.
Forty-three days clean. Well done.
Day 39: March 14, 2008
Laid-back day. I was feeling tired which lately I can’t avoid. I am still worrying about my PUDs. I am also upset with the news I heard about Mike if it turns out to be true.
Forty-four days clean.
Day 40: March 15, 2008
I have been really tired and I don’t know why as I am sleeping well. I watched the self-esteem video again which I really like. I am upset with Mike’s leaving but his behaviour stank. Went out into Bognor today which it was nice to get out for a bit — but the bloody rain did not stop.
Day 41: March 16, 2008
Woke up feeling refreshed today. I watched a good movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, starring Jack Nicholson, which I thought was good. My parents came to visit today which was really nice. I discussed a lot with my mum and told her the truth about all the shit that went on in Berlin. I feel relieved as I have nothing left to hide from them and now have a completely honest and open relationship with them, which is the first time ever and I never want to lie to them again. It is now 21.30 and I am going to bed. I want a good night’s sleep to help me face the week ahead of me.
Forty-six days clean. Well done xxx
Day 42: March 17, 2008
We had a good lecture this morning on Relapse Prevention. Still felt unbelievably tired. I had a hard group which left me feeling really confused and angry. Good Alcoholics Anonymous meeting last night.
Forty-seven days clean.
Day 43: March 18, 2008
I had a day and a half! We watched a video on the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Steps. It was OK. Still feeling really tired. Spoken with my peers about it and think it’s because I am complicating everything and filling my head up, which is leading me to be emotionally drained. I have really had it drummed in to me that I feed off my parents and can’t stand on my own two feet at all. I have spoken to my mum tonight and stopped visits for two weekends so I can concentrate on myself.
Forty-eight days clean. Well done xxxx
Day 44: March 19, 2008
We had a lecture this morning on release triggers, which I found a great help. I discovered that money enables me and is not a trigger. In fact the feelings that come out before – for example, anger, resentment etc – are the trigger. Tired from kitchen cleaning and washing-up. Been doing it for three days and am fucking sick and tired of it. Overall good day. Nice to have another fellow police officer in the house to join my army. I can now fight back. Ha, ha.
Forty-nine days clean. Well done xxx
Day 45: March 20, 2008
Woke up feeling irritable today but slowly got through it. We had a new arrival today, Emily, who is a really nice girl and I think she will be a really great asset to the community. Not much to report today.
Fifty days clean. Well done xxx
Day 46: March 21, 2008
Productive day today. I managed to share a PUD on damage to my mum and received good feedback from my peers. I felt focused all day and found the video we watched on alcoholism horrific. It made me realise how bad this addiction goes. Really enjoyed the Narcotics Anonymous meeting tonight but slightly disappointed that I did not get chance to share.
Fifty-one days clean. Well done xxxx
Day 47: March 22, 2008
Nice atmosphere in the house all day. Had a good chat with Paul about some things that were annoying me. Watched an interesting video on feelings, which was good.
Fifty-two days clean today xx
Day 48: March 23, 2008
Not too much to report on today. We watched a good movie called Good Will Hunting. I felt relaxed but also fairly anxious, but not sure what over.
Fifty-three days clean. Well done xxx
Day 49: March 24, 2008
I spent a lot of time alone today, reading over the 12 Steps because you cannot remind yourself of them too often. Had a chat with some of my peers in the afternoon but went back to the Steps later because they inspire me so much
Fifty-four days clean. Well done
Day 50: March 25, 2008
Today has been fairly productive. We watched the Merry-Go-Round video which I did not find that good. I settled things with Craig which pleased me and had a good one-to-one with Heather and realise I have to detach. I feel tired but much happier than I have been the past few days.
Fifty-five days clean. xxx
Day 51: March 26, 2008
We had a lecture this morning on Goals For Treatment and I enjoyed it. I am trying to simplify things as much as I can but still slipping up. I am just going to do what is suggested and hope that works. However, when I agree I get pulled up for people-pleasing. This is where I am getting confused. I felt angry after some of the comments that James made but looking at it, it is the truth and I didn’t want to hear it. I think that if I don’t agree I will go with that and not agree with it just to bypass the process. In a good place now but feeling really tired and can’t wait for bed.
Fifty-six days clean xxx
Day 52: March 27, 2008
We had an excellent lecture today on Step One of the Alcoholics Anonymous programme. The main thing I got from it is that it starts off saying ‘we’ admitted we are powerless. It does not mention ‘I’ and I really needed to realise that. I have had a good day and felt pleased all day but really tired now. I am getting really pissed off with whoever keeps turning off the button to the shower which is outside the door to the bathroom. It turns the shower off completely and they do it every time I am in it and it is making me furious.
Fifty-seven days clean.
Day 53: March 28, 2008
Calm and really focused but slightly tired this morning when I woke up. I have been thinking a lot about needing to start using my peers more in order to recover. For some reason I was feeling anxious about cooking Sunday lunch but am trying not to worry about that today as it is not until Sunday. I feel I am slowly finding out more and more about myself as time goes on. I was furious in relaxation today when Craig threw a pen at my head but I am trying to forget about it as it is his problem not mine. I had a great meeting today at Narcotics Anonymous and a good share which has left me feeling a lot more relaxed this evening.
Fifty-eight days clean. Well done xxx
Day 54: March 29, 2008
Mentally busy day today. It started off very well as I felt really grateful this morning. I am missing my family like hell. I have to learn to detach and I thought of a way after my PUD group today. I am not ready to share this yet as I need to think about it for a lot longer to make sure that it is the right thing to do, although I really don’t want to do it. Heather suggested cutting out counting the days so I need to remember to stop doing it. I have had a relaxing day and I am going to bed tonight with a lot to think about but really grateful to my peers for help and supporting me in trying to think about how I can detach.
Day 55: March 30, 2008
Nice day. I forgot to peel the potatoes for the roast last night to make it easier for today. I found out that Mitch had woken up at 2am and could not sleep, so he peeled them. I felt a bit guilty that he did it by himself but was relieved as the lunch went surprisingly well. Been thinking a lot more about how I need to detach and will speak to Heather when she is in on Tuesday. Had a nice walk along the beach today and a good chat with Brian and wished him the best of luck. Tired and going to bed early.
Day 56: March 31, 2008
Today started off upsetting for me as I am sad that Brian and Charlotte left this afternoon. I grew really attached to both of them and I liked the advice and feedback that they offered. Not really bothered about Carol as I did not like her anyway. I have noticed this weekend how one of my traits is how I love to rush into things. This is something I need to keep a close eye on.
Day 57: April 1, 2008
I could not get out of bed this morning for love nor money as it took me a long time to get to sleep last night. I have just found out that Amanda has left and I am really upset and surprised about it as I had noticed nothing wrong except her crying in the PUD groups. It has left a foul taste and it has shown me how cunning, baffling and powerful this addiction is.
Sixty-two days clean. Well done.
Day 58: April 2, 2008
I was gobsmacked when I woke up this morning and found out that Craig had left. I was really upset that he didn’t even tell me he was leaving. I have been feeling sorry for his girls and I don’t know why when I should be worrying more about me. The atmosphere in the house has changed dramatically but at the same time people have stopped taking the piss out of me. So it is not all bad. We watched the video, Merry-Go-Round Denial today which I thought was fairly appropriate as it is amazing how many people you bring down with you. I felt relaxed most of the day after the initial shock with Craig but I am keeping my head in here.
Sixty-three days clean. Well done.
Day 59: April 3, 2008
Today we had a good Step 2 (Come to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity) lecture and it reminded me of a few things. I am really nervous about seeing my family on Sunday for some reason and I think I have quite a lot to talk about with them. I am getting quite a dab hand in the cooking department and prepared a pukka meal tonight. Knowing my luck they will all be dead tomorrow. I am really starting to enjoy it, which I never thought would happen. I am really worried about my nose as I keep getting lumps out of it which continued from when I did coke. I thought it would slowly stop after I quit but it seems to be going strong. If it persists then I will be going to the doctor. I have enjoyed being a senior peer and I feel I am getting stuck in and more helpful.
Sixty-four days clean. Well done.
Day 60: April 4, 2008
Today we watched a video called What is Treatment which was nice to recap over. I did a PUD on damage to my dad which was about the time I did the ‘Get Signed’ night when I staged another X Factor style show for budding artists to attend in a hotel. However, I pocketed all the money and the lighting and sound engineer came knocking at my father’s house demanding payment. I am looking forward to seeing my parents and brother and can’t wait to see how my future niece or nephew is coming on inside Sandra. I had a really good meeting last night and enjoyed the chair and also did a good share.
Sixty-five days clean. Well done.
Day 61: April 5, 2008
This morning we watched a self-esteem video which reminded me of how big my ego was – even more so than now. It is something I am still working on daily. I can’t bear the attitude that Emily has with me, which in a way makes me laugh as she blags a lot of cigarettes from everyone. Since I said ‘no’ to her first she thought I was judging and then I made it perfectly clear that if she wants to smoke, she should buy her own cigarettes. We are all in the same boat moneywise and she just ponces all day. She will not bother speaking to me now as she knows she can’t get anything off me. My people-pleasing days are over.
Sixty-six days clean. Well done.
Day 62: April 6, 2008
I had a good day. I was feeling really anxious and excited all day up to seeing my family. We watched a really good movie, Rain Man, with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, which I found really sad. I loved seeing all my family and I tried to make it all much more about them instead of always about me, me, me. I felt I did a good job as a lot came out of it and some good topics were discussed. Mum got really emotional and cried about how well she thought I looked and it made me realise how stupid I have been in the past with such loving, loyal parents who I have abused. It has stopped now and I am not going back to it.
Sixty-seven days clean. Well done.
Day 63: April 7, 2008
I woke up this morning feeling really refreshed for the first time since I can remember. I have started reading this incredible book that my sister gave me called The Secret. It is the most thought-altering book I have ever read. It says stuff like: ‘You are like a human transmission tower, transmitting a frequency with your thoughts. If you want to change anything in your life, change the frequency by changing your thoughts.’ And then there was: ‘Your current thoughts are creating your future life. What you think about the most or focus on the most will appear in your life.’ For some reason, by thinking positive thoughts it has made the day really enjoyable. Good meeting at Alcoholics Anonymous.
Day 64: April 8, 2008
Today consisted of a mixture of feelings. I told Emily exactly what I thought of her and she really didn’t like it. She was going on about the 12 Steps in prison and blah, blah. I told her that she had the same traits as Craig had, where they think they know it all and that she has ended up in the same place as us all. I also said I saw Craig come in trying to take control as she is. The barriers came up. She later apologised to me and it is all OK now. I have been feeling tired, anxious and a little excited today and I am trying to get the best I can with what I have left. I am annoyed with Brian as he used the phone and has not done his life story and is playing stupid, saying he has written his life story and thought that was it. He knew he had to say it to us all. He has been challenged and still played stupid.
Sixty-nine days clean. Well done.
Day 65: April 9, 2008
Today was a relaxing and easy-flowing day and I really enjoyed it. The weather was lovely, which always makes the day go better. I was really anxious for Steve today, seeing his mum, but it all went well for him, thank God. I was a little disappointed with the change of objective group as they failed me on my verbal for not going to secondary treatment. They have to learn that I have made my decision but it’s nice to have people that care.
Seventy days clean. xxx
Day 66: April 10, 2008
I was really grateful this morning. This book I am reading says that when you wake up, you should keep saying thank-you for everything you are grateful for. It set me up for a good day. I noticed a lot of anger boiling up in Ben today but I saw the biggest change in five minutes than I have in all the time I’ve known him. A bit nervous about being group leader but I am sure everything will be just fine.
Day 67: April 11, 2008
Once again, when I woke up I felt really grateful. I really resented the counsellors at first when I found that we were going walking up and down a bloody hill, but it turned out to be really enjoyable so I take the resentment back. I had a bad evening at Narcotics Anonymous. After the cigarette break they had opened the meeting for sharing when Steve and I noticed that Mitch was not there. We both ran to the toilet to look for him and he wasn’t there. We ran outside together to find him standing to the side of the building. He was in a very angry mood and was saying how the counsellor, Heather, doesn’t know a fucking thing about him. We spent the next 40 minutes calming him down but he said that he wants to leave when his family come up. We did not know what to do but we got him back to the house safely and spoke to Paul about our concerns. He is very different and I have not seen him like this before.
Seventy-two days clean. Well done.
Day 68: April 12, 2008
I woke up with a severe case of manflu this morning and feel like I am dying. I found it really hard to concentrate today but I made the most of it. I am still slightly worried about Mitch as he has been trying to isolate himself today. The lecture on denial this morning was the best lecture I have had yet in Ravenscourt and it appealed a lot to Mitch. Maybe the lecture was because of him. I am starting to think about what I will be doing next week on my home visit and I think it is a good idea to do what Heather said and draw up a plan. Overall feel shit – but good day.
Seventy-three days clean.
Day 69: April 13, 2008
I have still felt really sick today and it has kept me in a bad mood. Dean and Jim have not been doing their duties and refuse to co-operate when I asked them to do their chores. Jim eventually did the washing-up with me standing over him, but Dean kept lying, saying that he did the vacuuming but didn’t as I had set a couple of traps. A lot of people are rebelling against me as group leader but I have to learn that I am powerless over it. I am not in control and that I feel I should be, but am not. This is my issue but they still are trying to wind me up. Who cares? Not a good day today, hope it will be better tomorrow.
Day 70: April 14, 2008
Today started really shit and it didn’t help that I was feeling tired again. Watched a good video on ego. Talking about king baby syndrome. I had problems again with the house rebelling and tried a good tactical approach by asking for help from my senior peers to get the house in order. We are working as a team and there is already a noticeable difference. This asking for help tactic is quite good so I hope it’ll be a better day tomorrow.
Seventy-five days clean. Well done.
Day 71: April 15, 2008
Once again I wake up feeling shit. We had a lecture on peer evaluation and later on had a mock evaluation on Tony. I went to the railway station to find out my times. I had arranged for my brother to come and collect me but I changed my mind because I would be really relying on my brother and not changing anything, so I will make my own way home. I know Heather said to make my own way home but I thought she wouldn’t know. Then I realised I would be cheating myself.
Day 72: April 16, 2008
I woke up feeling really grateful and focused today and it carried on throughout the day. We watched the video on Blocks to Recovery and I identified with the bit where she said ‘Don’t look/aim for too much too soon’. I wanted unrealistic things immediately and lied when I didn’t get them. This evening I was really pissed off as someone was fucking around with the video box. I am so pleased to be leaving when I am as the house is going to pot and there are very few people in the community taking treatment seriously. Thank God it is my last week but I feel sorry for the new peers that really want it. Feeling angry and disappointed this evening at my peers.
Seventy-seven days clean.
Day 73: April 17, 2008
Woke up feeling extremely anxious and also slightly angry about the video incident which nobody has admitted yet. Watched a good video on manipulation which brought back quite a lot as I have not seen it since early on in my treatment. I can’t wait for tomorrow and feel that it has been well planned with lots of meetings and I am not putting myself in any vulnerable areas or being near anyone that could jeopardise anything. I am feeling confident but not too confident. I found out that I am going over to Lorraine and Roy on Saturday evening with my parents. So I need to make a few amends around that.
Day 74: April 18, 2008
Felt upset to leave my family. I had an excellent and constructive weekend mentioned in my visitors’ report. Did not look forward to coming back for one minute but now I am back I have just been sharing with my peers about my weekend visit and now have a splitting headache and I am really tired. So I am probably going to have an early night tonight.
Seventy-nine days clean.
Day 75: April 19, 2008
Today was difficult adapting back to Ravenscourt after slowly becoming accustomed to home. I am keeping my head in here as much as possible as it is really easy for my head to slip out of here. We had an interesting meeting tonight as a girl there was having problems and swearing and throwing bags around. It shows the power in the illness.
Day 76: April 20, 2008
For some reason today was the most tired I had been in all my time here. Whatever I did I just could not wake up. Watched Merry-Go-Round, which brought back memories of my early stages here. I managed to get the PUD of what I did to Lewis in Berlin which I was really pleased to share as I have been holding on to it for a year now.
Day 77: April 21, 2008
Today once again really tired. Had an argument with Barney this morning. He lost his temper over the pots not having fresh butter in them so he obviously has something going on for him at the moment. Nothing else to report on today as I am still struggling day to day to keep my head in here.
Eighty-two days clean.
Day 78: April 22, 2008
Woke up this morning feeling really nervous about leaving tomorrow. Leaving is not something that I have wanted to think about too much. I need to try to remember the tools that have been given to me here. Overall, the mood of the house is great as all of the people that have been placed here from prison are excited to be free at last.
Well done, Nick, for getting through your treatment. Let the battle commence.
The path back
My treatment came to an end on April 20, 2008 and for the first time in years I felt strong, reinvigorated and ready to face the world. There was so much I wanted to do and, thankfully, drugs were far from my mind. But I had learnt — and was frequently reminded — you are never completely free of addiction. Recovery is the rest of your life.
At this early stage, life had to return to some kind of normality. It was suggested that I was too dependent on my parents and that being in my own home would be a key step on the path I had to follow. Practical issues came first and I had to sign on at the Jobcentre and organise housing benefit — another first for me and not the proudest day of my life.
Happily, a friend of my parents owned a flat in New Barnet in North London. There’s actually nothing particularly ‘new’ about this place and it reminded me of a number of aspects of Kentish Town, where I had spent much of my time as a policeman. But the flat was empty and available immediately, so it would suit my needs.
In this tiny one-bedroom place, with its small kitchen, lounge and shower room, the solitude hit me. I felt completely alone, as indeed I was, with no-one I could still call a friend in the immediate area. I was 20 minutes away from any kind of hospitable company. On the bright side, it was a million times better than my last pad, that stinking, concrete Gucci doorway in Berlin.
Unemployed and claiming benefits does nothing for one’s self-esteem, so it was a boost when I was offered work for a friend’s security firm, £120 cash a time, working as a doorman for a South London club called The Deep. Very handy all round.
The duties weren’t onerous. I pitched up on my first Saturday night and just stood there on the door, watching men arrive. And then more. Where were the girls? Whoever is doing the promotion for this place needs a right kick up the backside, I thought to myself. Just guys, no girls, what a hopeless set-up.
Then two more men walked past, one wearing leather trousers with a hole cut at the back so you could see his bum. Finally, the penny dropped: it was a gay club.
I worked there most weekends and managed to stay clean, until at home on another lonely evening, I started to think about drugs. No matter how I tried to distract myself, my thoughts returned to the same thing.
I called a dealer.
Having cash in my pocket was part of the problem and 30 minutes later I was on my way to meet him. I picked up four grams of coke.
That same evening, my brother Lewis kept phoning but I wouldn’t answer. Paranoia again: did he know? How could he have found out so quickly? He continued to call into the evening but still I refused to answer.
In fact, he was merely calling out of genuine concern to see how I was but became suspicious when I didn’t pick up the phone. He was at my door at 10pm, banging to come in. I put the TV on mute and sat on the sofa, quiet as a mouse, trying to pretend I wasn’t there. I was petrified of him seeing me in this state. Those feelings of self-loathing came flooding back to me as I realised how much my parents had invested in my recovery.
‘I know you are here, your car’s outside,’ he yelled through the letterbox, still hammering on the door. The cocaine was spread all over the tatty coffee table. I didn’t dare move in case he heard a noise. After 15 minutes I relented, quickly scooping the drugs into a little box, wiped my nose and answered his knocks. Opening the door, I apologetically gave some excuse about being unwell and sleeping.
He was having none of it. ‘Have you relapsed?’ he instantly asked accusingly. Denial, of course.
‘I can see white stuff all over the inside of your nose.’
Fuck it! I begged him to say nothing to our parents.
Lewis was right, though. Over the months I continued to try to fight it but very quickly my addiction was back in full flow and once more I had to resort to crime to fund it. I suppose you could say it was my default setting.
My hours at The Deep suited me, so I was happy to continue working there but I knew I was going to have to think outside the box. I turned up as usual on New Year’s Eve 2008 to start my shift on the door and expecting the club to be busy. What I hadn’t realised was that December 31 was a fetish night. In the middle of the dance floor there was some kind of contraption like a reclining gym bench but fitted with chains and handcuffs.
During my routine patrol around the club later, I discovered what it was used for. A guy wearing socks, T-shirt and nothing else was strapped on to the bench, face down and with a queue of about a dozen men attending to him, one at a time. I had two ironic thoughts: I bet he wouldn’t be riding his bike for a while; and why had he kept his socks on?
There was also a darkroom, a real free for all. It was all part of the scene for customers but a real problem for me because no-one realised I was just the security guard on patrol. The place stank of sweat and semen and I couldn’t bear to touch anything. I kept my hands firmly wedged in my pockets at all times.
But on this particularly boisterous evening I could make out across the other side of the club the silhouette of a guy sitting on a couch. He was shaking violently, and someone passing me noticing my interest in the hunched figure, said he had taken GHB, a date rape drug. I knew that this can cause respiratory arrest and fits.
I called for assistance, because I wanted to lift him into a secure area, from where I could call an ambulance. Very compassionate but with the hidden agenda of being able to rob him in the process. Not a bad haul — £200 in cash and drugs in his wallet.
New Year’s Eve really was a good evening. Throughout the night there must have been a dozen similar cases and I ripped them all off. Cash and drugs — Auld Acquaintance and all that.
Just before midnight, I was standing in one of the men’s lavatory cubicles doing a line of coke I had nicked from one of the casualties in the club. I looked at my watch: 11.57. People will be toasting a happy New Year in a couple of minutes. I looked at the empty wrap and realised I had nothing in life. I don’t want this shit any more. It was time to make changes and that decision would become the most important in my life.
The next day I called the friend of my father who had originally suggested Ravenscourt. He was a recovery addict himself, clean for more than ten years and who had attended the 12-step fellowship with Cocaine Anonymous.
Begging him to help me, I readily agreed to his suggestion to meet him in Chelsea. He said he would take me to a meeting and slowly on New Year’s Day, 2009, I entered this fellowship.
I was entirely ready to put into my recovery what I had previously put into my addiction by going to any lengths.
I walked in to my first meeting and was greeted by a huge guy who came over and hugged me. My initial thought was, ‘What the fuck have I just walked in to?’
He asked me if this was my first meeting to which I naturally said ‘yes’. He said, ‘Go inside and make yourself at home and someone will make you a nice cuppa.’
I felt really anxious but made my way inside. I walked in to see the chairs in a horseshoe layout. This was in a church hall in Borehamwood and there must have been a dozen people there. Each and every one of them came over and introduced themselves and hugged me. I felt quite uncomfortable at first but I actually really started to feel part of something.
All the smokers outside were asked to come in and everyone was invited to sit down. There was a really nice atmosphere and everyone looked really well. Except me.
The meeting was conducted by two men sat behind a table at the front, facing everyone else. One of the guys asked some people to do some readings from laminated pieces of paper placed on certain chairs. I found out that these readings were taken out of what they call the ‘Big Book’, which is the book of Alcoholics Anonymous, their ‘bible’.
The one who appeared to be the secretary for the meeting asked everyone in the room to introduce themselves in turn. I initially thought I had to give a story about myself and was petrified about revealing the whole truth. I definitely did not want these people to discover I used to be a police officer. But it transpired that we only needed to give our name and admit that we were and addict or alcoholic.
The second guy at the table was introduced as someone who had come to do a ‘chair’. This is someone who has a good message to share.
He explained how this disease had bought him to his knees. Although his drug-taking was nowhere near as bad as mine, I really identified with what he was saying. One thing really clicked with me. He said, ‘I would lie in bed at night after using coke and stare at the ceiling all night’. He also said he had told himself on many occasions that he would never use again and meant it with very fibre of his body. The next day he would return immediately to coke.
He repeated this a number of times and I knew I was in the right place. He continued to share his experience, strength and hope. Just by looking at him I could see he had something I wanted. He looked really calm and at peace, whereas I was a neurotic mess.
His sharing lasted about 30 minutes, at which point the secretary opened the meeting for others to do the same. The majority of the remainder of the meeting consisted of people identifying back to the guy who shared. Some really good, inspirational things were said.
The final 10 minutes of the meeting were reserved for newcomers to share. The room went really quiet. I felt everyone was looking at me, although in reality they weren’t. Eventually, I cracked. I couldn’t handle the silence any longer. I introduced myself and, to be honest, cannot remember what I really shared, as I was most likely high at the time.
At the end of the meeting, everyone huddled together in the centre of the room and said a prayer, ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.’
As the meeting finished, people approached me, asking for my number. One suggested I should attend 90 meetings in 90 days. I didn’t know if I had that kind of kind of available, I explained, to which they pointed out I would find time to use coke 90 times in 90 days. That struck a chord, too. I had to put into recovery what I put into my using.
I returned home for the evening feeling really good and inspired, believing I could actually turn my life around.
During my 90 meetings in 90 days I was told I needed to find a sponsor. This is someone who has been through and continued to work the 12 Steps.
At the end of another meeting the secretary asked for sponsorship volunteers. Several people put up their hands, including one guy I had noticed previously and with whom I really seemed to identify. After the meeting I walked over to him and asked him if he would sponsor me. ‘Are you willing to go to any lengths?’ he asked. When I said I was, he told me to call him at 10am the following morning. When I did so, he invited me to his home to make a start.
The Twelve Steps describe the Programme of Recovery used by Cocaine Anonymous
- We admitted we were powerless over cocaine and all other mind-altering substances — that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
We covered Steps 1 and 2 that evening. Every week I returned to his house at the same time to continue working my way through them.
I personally found steps 4 and 5 particularly testing. In layman’s terms, this meant writing a list of all my darkest secrets and sharing them with my sponsor and what I chose to call God.
This is certainly not a religious programme but a spiritual one. One’s higher power can be whatever you choose it to be. I kind of liked this as I had never believed in a religious god, except when I was homeless, with no money, and begged God to get me some coke. That didn’t work so I gave up.
It took me about six weeks to work through the steps and to date I work step 10, 11 and 12 on a daily basis.
I have now taken many people through the steps myself and this keeps me clean. There is no better feeling than watching someone who is so desperate having a light switch on behind their eyes. That feeling is magical.
I am now almost five years clean and going strong today.
Where am I today? Life is good. I am now five years clean and have helped many to end the suffering of their addiction.
I have a lovely home, a wonderful fiancée, Gemma, and a beautiful cockapoo dog called Cocoa that eats everything in its path.
Work is a passion. Actually, I barely regard it as work as I love it so much. It’s more of a hobby that pays. I am now managing director of help4addiction, a service I set up in 2013 to provide a totally free referral facility for drug and alcohol addicts, as well as those suffering from depression.
We’re a four-strong team, with a referral agent available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All of us at help4addiction know that taking the first steps of recovery from addiction are the most difficult and frightening. A friendly, non-judgmental voice on the end of a telephone can be all it takes to help set one on the path of recovery.
A qualified addiction and life coach, I love steering those that need help in the right direction. We can arrange instant admission to treatment centres, organise detox programmes, provide counselling — you name it, we can do it. In some cases we can get reduced rates at care centres.
For hundreds of parents, never previously exposed to an addiction issue, identifying the problem can be a major hurdle. If you are worried that your children might be taking drugs, here’s some basic advice:
Start by checking their bank statements. If they’ve been to the cash machine more than once in a day they need to give a good explanation.
Different drugs have different effects, so I’ll try to keep my advice universal. There’s quite a high chance that they will start losing weight or look very pale. They may be going to bed and waking up very late.
Keep an eye on their post. Drug addicts tend to ignore it as that way they think there can be no comebacks.
There is a high chance that drugs users will take out loans or credit cards and their credit rating may start to deteriorate. You can go to a credit agency, such as Experian, and look at your child’s credit history to discover if loans or credit cards are being taken out.
It’s a waste of time asking them directly if they’re taking drugs because if they’re still in denial with themselves they’re definitely not going to admit it to you.
Addicts are selfish, inconsiderate, self-centred and dishonest. When you think that you have reasonable grounds to believe that your child is using drugs, order a urine drug testing kit online and confront them.
Their answer will generally be a lie, but persist and tell them to take the urine test, ‘just to clarify things’.
If it’s positive, you will face one of the hardest decisions of your life, because you’ll need to take immediate action. This could be cutting any financial help or even kicking them out of the house. I have learnt that should someone have taken these steps with me, my addiction would have been discovered a lot sooner.
If you’re struggling and completely unsure what to do I would be delighted for you to contact me at help4addiction.
Telephone: 0203 955 7700