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Hell Yes I've Been Stupid . . . . and look at the state of me!
Spent about ten years of my life tuned in and turned off!
What makes someone decide that despite all the warnings of
parents, teachers, media and some peers that they will experiment
with drugs given half a chance. I've no answer to that. Plenty of
suspicions but I don't suppose anyone could ever tease out those
responsible grains of sand from my beach.
The funny thing is despite being quite eager to try some things, somewhere at the back of my mind is a line beyond which I would not go. Everyone seems to have just such a line but its position seems infinitely variable. Some people position all affectual substances behind it no matter how seemingly innocuous but most will push the boundary further back and happily take such things as caffeine, herbal remedies or high street chemist concoctions in one form or another with little anxiety over what effect these things may have on who they think they are. Others seem willing to stop at nothing and fly in the face of common sense and occasionally out of windows.
Suffice it to say from a relatively early age I knew I was going to try some things . . . and some stuff!
On my fathers side of the family there was apparently a drink problem. His father in fact my grandfather but I never knew him. By the time I was born he was long gone having apparently deserted his wife and her children before the war. Undoubtedly due to this my father is vehemently opposed to drinking and has been all his life, believing so strongly in the dangers of alcohol that it is that it is quite true that he has never touched a drop in his life. He even once when my elder sister was first born and money was tight found himself a job behind the bar in a local pub but still he would not drink and will even refuse a cake or desert that is known to contain alcohol.
Growing up there was rarely sight of any drinking except for an occasional Christmas sherry when our relatives called in with the annual gifts delivery or came for Christmas lunch. Perhaps because of this lack of exposure and fatherly roll model I have never found drinking much to my liking. Certainly in my teenage years when drinking was part and parcel of our social life I always seemed to have great difficulty. First of all apparently unusually I didn't actually like the taste of beers or lagers so I ended up for years having to carefully pace myself on rum or bacardi and black which I found reasonably palatable because if you got the mix right all you could taste was strong blackcurrant. The biggest 'problem' seemed to be that I had really no tolerance for alcohol and the smallest amount could see me start to slur my words, feel ill and not long after be physically sick. These characteristics can make you seem a real party pooper. Having said that because of this I have spent many a long night quite happily tipsy having by necessity called a halt to any more drinking on my part but having to endure the infinitely unsociable behaviour of others. I recall the time I went out with some friends on New Years Eve to celebrate whatever it is others celebrate at such times. (I've never considered the passage of time of itself a cause for celebration?!) By then I'd learned my drinking limit and more often than not stuck within it and had doe so on this occasion. It was a freezing cold night and after many hours of drinking in one pub I wrapped myself up in my old RAF greatcoat and we set off for another, for whatever reason. My companion was legless. We didn't get in the pub and ended up sat on a bench in the beer garden. At least I was sat on the bench shivering next to my sleeping, snoring friend. He was so drunk I became convinced that he was in danger of inhaling his own vomit and dieing where he lay as seemed the habit of rock stars of the time, or perhaps just freezing to death it was so cold. It was a miserable start to a new year listening to the revelry inside the pub as I sat shivering, straining to hear the breathing of my friend who lay next to me covered by my greatcoat.
Without doubt alcohol is a most dangerous drug, which seems to often turn people into disgusting company and most crucially often turns them violent, which I cannot forgive or stand to witness. For reasons I cannot fathom I have never ever been able to allow myself to get completely blind drunk where I didn't now what I was doing and couldn't remember it afterwards. Don't get me wrong I'm sure friends would tell you I've been awfully tipsy and done some silly things on occasions but I've always remained an observer and overseer retaining the power of veto somewhere inside and it always involves being sick at some point. I've never known anyone with the same questionable 'affliction'. Almost everyone I know can drink me under the table and they can keep on going apparently having a wonderful time long after I've been quite literally brought to my knees with nausea and an excruciating head ache.
Only once have I witnessed someone who had obviously yet to learn to stick to a similarly modest limit. He was a young friend of a friend who was obviously keen to maintain his image in front of the older guys. I'm sure none of us minded but I understood well his desire to be seen to be one of the crowd and keep drinking (and smoking) as much as the rest. The trouble was he wasn't up to it. Nor was I but the difference was with experience of the consequences I had the confidence to say no despite the peer pressure. He went strange colours. He was obviously feeling VERY ill but he was determined not to embarrass himself. He sat in my living room fighting it for as long as he could but at last he knew he was losing. He finally staggered to his feet and rushed as fast as his wobbly legs would take him into my kitchen in the direction of the downstairs bathroom. He'd blown it! In fact it soon became horribly apparent that he'd actually 'blown it' all over my kitchen as his stomach had finally risen. All over the wall, the skirting board, the carpet, everywhere! I felt so sorry for him in his total humiliation that I tried to make as light of it as I possibly could as I hurriedly tried to save my kitchen without adding to his work!
With age and strangely after having finished courses of anti depressants, although I suspect that is just a coincidence, I have found myself able to drink rather more with less effect although still much less than most. At the same time my taste has changed and I have developed an appreciation for Newcastle Brown Ale, gin and orange and definitely the odd glass or two of red wine. Nevertheless I am still not over fond of drinking and will very happily go without for extended periods.
My father's attitude towards alcohol is somewhere held within me and no matter what other problems I may have in my life I will never have a drink problem. I often hear his words when I try to warn a friend that she has a serious problem. I have told her to her face in that half joking way I use so as not to cause unpleasantness that she is an alcoholic but of course to no avail. She will drink a whole bottle to my single glass of wine but will not (yet?) accept that she is an alcoholic because she says she doesn't drink during the day and she has the odd day off, although I doubt it.
It's difficult to beat a pint of strong orange squash with ice even if the pub will overcharge you for your impudence.
We'd started going out to the pub I guess when we were seventeen. Sure we were under age but it wouldn't be long and most of my peers and certainly myself could get away with it without being asked our age at the bar. One or two couldn't and on occasions were definitely a liability and had to remain in the background in certain pubs and have drinks bought for them.
We almost became regulars at one or two favourite pubs that had a separate 'snug' room with a good rocking juke box where we could hide away with our school chums and act all childish but grown up at the same time drinking and smoking. On one occasion I remember a friend and I queued at the bar, got our drinks and walked into the snug to be horrified to find that the top ranking school bully was already sat there commanding a corner. We were utterly trapped. We couldn't just leave, as was our initial reaction because we had just bought drinks and of course couldn't be seen to be scared. So putting on a brave show but definitely rather subdued and nervous we took some seats with our backs to the wall acknowledging his presence but remembering how dangerous he had been at school. To our surprise and enormous relief he seemed to have changed. Changed completely for the better. He was positively friendly, as though he had forgiven us for being a couple of the victims of all the years of his bullying.
We chatted almost quite freely throughout the evening and somewhere along the line got on to the subject of cannabis. This it seemed was how he had 'mellowed' his attitude. He had discovered smoking dope. This was something I knew I wanted to try and I was fascinated. I can't remember how it was decided or what we may have paid him but we negotiated the purchase of a tiny bit of the mysterious brown 'resin' he had with him which was hardly much bigger than the head of a match. It was put in an empty matchbox for safekeeping, the deal was done and he left my friend and I to continue quietly drinking in great anticipation until closing time.
When the pub closed we took our matchbox, cigarettes and cigarette papers bought for the purpose and in the dark of the night like a couple of fugitive gangsters stood in the shadows to 'skin up' for the very first time. Carefully as though it contained some spontaneously explosive mixture we took out the matchbox and in the dim glow of a street light with trembling hands slowly pushed opened up the drawer. It was upside down!
The contents fell out onto the gravely ground. Horrified we dropped to our knees and began frantically searching through the gravel and the dirt in the dark looking for - we didn't really know what!
I will never know whether or not that was the first time I smoked dope or if that was the first time I smoked some bad shit!
As time went on I came into contact with the occasional experienced smoker who was happy to share, as the subculture seems to demand, and I somehow grew to know a little more about what I was doing.
Before the Bristol riots I remember often frequenting the then Inkerman Public House that wasn't far from the notorious Black and White Cafe. Whatever the press reports of victimization by the mostly Afro Caribbean patronage the truth was quite simply that illicit drugs were there for the asking. It definitely wasn't a particularly safe place for a couple of dirty white boys often being the only white faces in the place but it certainly was entertaining. Paper 'twist' deals of bush were often first offered rather than having to be asked for and in true movie style, trips to the toilets were made with the gold adorned Afro Caribbean dealer to do business. I shudder now as I remember being on nodding terms with a particular regular who always knew what I wanted when I went there. I have fonder memories of being one of maybe only half a dozen customers who were outnumbered by the members of a rocking band, 'Shakespeare And Friends', that did some old classic numbers including their rendition of 'All Along The Watchtower', which became my favourite with its unusually delicious fiddle component. This was often played in response to my gentle heckling for it.
I was never comfortable being exposed to the inherent dangers of 'scoring' and on more than one occasion collected all the seeds from a bush deal and tried planting them in the hope that I could grow my own and become self sufficient. All I ever seemed to get were seed trays full of mildew. A tragic waste I thought and stopped trying although I never did cease looking for someone who would sell me a living plant but sadly no one ever did. As a result and because I have a very small and pretty unchanging social circle, whenever I came across anyone who could get the stuff I would buy more than most. I've found over the years that whatever it is I take I don't need much to get where it takes me and so I managed to go for very long periods without needing to score and always had some around.
At some point in time, I don't know when, I suddenly realised that it wasn't really working anymore. I kind of just stopped; probably at about the same time I started meditating. There is a clarity of thought available in meditation if you work at it that I found was confounded by the effect of the dope. The last really strong excuse for my continuing to smoke gone, and working hard with a 'Mindfulness Of Breathing Meditation' concentrating on the damage it was doing to me, I soon gave up smoking too. I wrapped up my stash and presented it to a friend for his birthday. I think he thought it was Christmas.
Much happened in my life after this including what I regard as a breakdown where hitherto inexperienced powerful emotions came bubbling forcefully to the surface and changed my life forever. It has occurred to me that this is no coincidence and as a result would advise great caution to anyone thinking of trying cannabis and even tobacco. Let the state that is my life perhaps be a warning!
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