I have been absent for a while. In fact, I’ve been virtually invisible on-line for a little while now. It’s not been because of something catastrophic or horrific. I have, in fact, just completed the writing of two novels and am in the midst of planning the third and final one in the series AND developing concepts and lore for a new series of stories with my loving partner and fellow creativeHEAD, Rosa.
However, that is not what I am here to write to you about today. Today, I’d like to tell you my addiction story. I’m not gonna sugar-coat it or make it more dramatic than it is. I’ll just tell you what happened and how and let you make up your own mind. I’m not even gonna psychoanalyse it that much because I want to just tell you the story and give you the space to decide how you feel about it yourself.
Addiction is something that so many people struggle with nowadays and it’s not unrelated from our relationships with our experience and ourselves. There’s a bit of a craze at the moment going around about addiction being an illness or a condition – thanks Russell Brand. As a result of this there has been a change of attitude towards those who become addicted. Most people’s initial response to people who are prone to addiction was that they are stupid and should be scorned for getting themselves into a situation like that. The changed response after Russell’s work was from frustration and scorn to pity. ‘Oh look at those poor ill people who can’t function properly so they get addicted and stuff.’
While that’s all fine and is definitely a step up, neither are perspectives I hold myself. It’s for this reason – and because I know that dealing with addiction is hard and that people who are struggling will always benefit from the hand and mind of someone who had been where they are – I wanted to share my story. For the record and contrary to popular opinion about addictions, my exposure to what I got addicted to was not the result of stupidity (For those of you who like IQ tests and stuff, I’m at over 130 last time I checked) and it was not because I am ill, sick or decrepit either. It happened because of my personal view of life and reality. As a result of the way that I was thinking and feeling about life itself, it became a possibility that I was exposed to the sort of experiences which made addiction possible. Had I not already had the tendency for addiction present in my personality, I would not have become addicted. Had I not lived the life I had lived, I would not have had the tendency for addiction.
Addiction is not an illness or a disease. Addiction is not condition or a curse. It is an experience. It’s possibly one of the single most difficult battles somebody can go through inside their own mind and body. I know that because for a significant portion of my life, I was an addict.
PLEASE NOTE: At no point here am I saying that cannabis or the culture build up around it is bad or wrong. It exists. It’s not doing any damage to society or people, really. Some people smoke it and don’t have a problem and some people do. The problems are not caused by the cannabis, they are caused by the person consuming it. No more, no less. To blame a plant for a destructive lifestyle is ridiculous.
My story goes like this…
When I was much younger, I went with a friend and her mother to a festival for a day. During that day, I met a group of kids. They were all younger than me and were all smoking. Someone passed me a spliff and I took it. I figured ‘why not?!’ I tried it and I enjoyed it. Sounds terribly cliché, right? Hah! But yeah, that’s how it began.
Before that point, I didn’t think that smoking, drugs or anything like that was a good idea. (And to this day, I don’t drink because I maintain that it isn’t a good idea) In that sense I suppose weed is a ‘gateway drug’. Only because when you smoke weed, you usually realise that if weed isn’t as bad as it is made out to be then how can all the other things be so bad? Needless to say, smoking weed over the years has helped and hindered me a lot. I can say that it assisted me in doing away with a lot of the cultural paradigms which we are offered from a young age. Overall, it was a great teacher and I will never say that the plant itself is bad. How can a plant be bad? It’s a plant. Saying a plant is bad is like saying all people are bad. You might get one plant who has it’s own idea about what it should be and that might confuse all the other plants and make them angry but at the end of it all, you can’t write off a whole genus just because of the perspective of a few and the irresponsible rebellious behaviour of even fewer.
Anyway, after that first time, I didn’t touch anything smoky for a while until a friend and myself bought some tobacco from a local shop close to where I lived in Somerset. We were young and experimental. It was all good fun. (We all did it) Eventually, my Dad – whom I was living with at the time – cottoned on to the fact that we had the baccy and he confiscated it and hid it from me. I’m not stupid though and even back then I knew what he’s like. He wouldn’t throw it out, I told myself. Buying more wasn’t an option because we had only just managed to acquire that pouch.
One day when everybody was out of the house and I was left alone there, I went searching. It didn’t take me long to find it. In fact, it was in the second place I looked, I think – if I can remember properly. Anyway, I found it in his drawer and decided to take a bit. Not the whole packet. That would be obvious. Just some. Enough to smoke with the friend I had bought it with. And this became a regular pattern. I’d go and steal some when I had the house to myself and then take it and share it with my friends. Eventually, though, my Dad noticed that the tobacco was gradually depleting and he threw it out. I was annoyed but I got over it in the end. But there we have the number one sign of a developing addiction – ritual/routine – although that particular one wasn’t 100% facilitated by me though it was my actions which caused it to become that way.
After a while of living with my Dad and not being at school, I went back to live with my Mum. (I was supposed to be home schooled at the time but my Dad never actually did anything about it. Just sort of left me to hang around the house and cloaked it as a “lesson”. He told that I would overcome boredom in that time, which was true. I spent eight hours a day doing nothing and eventually got so bored than I began to get entertained by what seemed like nothing to everyone else. My first step into un-sanity. (Not insanity, I’ll have you know) A bit of mild emotional torture but nothing I couldn’t endure, suppress and deal with later! (Moral of the story, you don’t need school to have IQ above 130, kids. Your parents are lying if they’re feeding you that one! Hah!) Once I was back with my Mum, she put me back in school for almost a year whereupon I became very depressed, but that’s another story for another time. In the time I was at the school, I began smoking regularly.
After the almost year at school – I was 15 at this point by the way – I moved back to live with my Dad for a few months. When I was living with him, I met someone who would become my first long term girlfriend. (I’ll not tell that full story ’cause it got a tad messy towards the end as young love does in co-dependant relationships). During the relationship, I would go and visit for weeks, sometimes a month at a time and during that time we would smoke weed together. It was a novelty then and it was fun. At that point, it was recreational and essentially harmless. Apart from the fact that we were smoking the weed rolled up with tobacco, it actually caused us no harm at all.
I don’t remember when I started smoking weed as a regular habit but it was on and off since that first time at the festival. I do, however, remember the day that I announced to my Mum that I was smoking: I had been living with her and visiting my girlfriend on and off – she lived in the area of the country that my Dad lives which is about 3/4 hours away from where my Mum lived/lives and where I am currently staying at the moment. One day, I had been arguing with my Mum and she kept saying that were was something different about me and such. I got fed up of the hassle of the drama and went for shock tactics to end the conflict. The way that me and my mum argue is typical of any Scorpio-Cancer relationship. We clash and then go off to different rooms until one of us thinks of something else to say and seeks the other out across the house to continue to argument. That dynamic was at play then and I had gone off to my room and my Mum had received a phone call from a friend of hers. I returned to the kitchen, where she was stood, with my pouch of tobacco in my hand. I walked into the room and slammed the pouch down on the counter. After giving her a few minutes to digest what I was showing her, I picked the pouch up again and left the room. Drama to end the drama. That’s one of the only few times in my entire life that that technique has actually worked. I don’t hold my breath that it will ever work again. That said, I’ve got better, more effective techniques now.
It had long since been said by both of my parents that they did not agree with my smoking habit but respected my choices to the degree that they wouldn’t stop me. Plus, they know me well enough to know that if I want to do something, even if they set the assembled hordes of Genghis Khan on me, I will always find a way to do it. Some call it tenacity. Others call it naivety. I call it resourcefulness and prowess. Trying to stand in my way when I have my mind/heart/eyes set on something is futile. And at that time and for a long while before and after, smoking was my escape from a life which I did not enjoy or could even make much sense of. I was severely depressed and would have regular breakdowns, I would harm myself physically, I would not turn up to my lessons at school, I would argue with my parents, their partners and my sisters. I would even destroy things in my home from time to time, dependant on how upset I was. For a time, my Mum was visibly scared of me because of how violent I would get and smoking was my way of relieving myself of the inner turmoil I was experiencing. I did not have the tools to implement a more sustainable or even permanent solution at the time and so smoking became the best and indeed only option for me – in favour of not having to take the tranquillisers the doctors would have had me take. (Which I did for a while until I decided to flush them down the toilet and figure things out myself) All of that aside, I never physical hurt people. I have never been able to bring myself to actually physically hurt another human being on purpose. Accidents sure, that shit happens. Never on purpose though. I never got into fights at school or in college and I would always avoid conflict if it transpired around me. I did not vent my angst outwardly very often, save on those occasions where it all got too much and I would smash a computer monitor, smash my bed up with a crowbar or punch a wall. (Yes, all of those things happened).
During the period when I announced to my mother that I had taken up smoking, I began to buy weed (cannabis) regularly. I would smoke it with my friends, my band and alone. My advice for anyone who likes the idea of smoking weed but doesn’t want to end up addicted to it is to never smoke it alone. When I began smoking it alone was when the addiction was solidified. I would smoke often and as a way to relieve stress. At first, I smoked cigarettes on the way to school and on the way back from school when I lived close enough that walking was an option. Later, when I was able to buy weed for myself, I would use it as a relief for my stress and strain. It was a regular occurrence in my life, any increase in the level of emotional intensity – positive AND/OR negative – and I would be craving a spliff shortly after. And it wasn’t long until I stopped smoking cigarettes alone all together and replaced them with spliffs/joints. In the end, it was less to relieve stress and strain and more as the something to do which -ironically- actually stopped me doing other things. A lot of other things.
When I met my second long term girlfriend whom I was with for about five years, we would smoke together regularly. I became known in the music community that we were part of at the time as ‘Andey the pothead’ or ‘Andey the stoner’ and people would always know that on a Tuesday night, between 6pm and 9.30pm, I would be behind the clubhouse on the grass with a ring of people, smoking profuse amounts of weed with anybody who wanted to join. I did draw the line at young kids. I wouldn’t be responsible for them getting hooked on smoking. With the exception of one kid whom my girlfriend at the time and I decided would be better off trying it with us – a safe and careful watchful eye – rather than with some idiot who thought it would be funny to have him smoke too much and watch him squirm while he hated it.
The regular smoke-ups with the ring of people went on for a number of years. During the first year, I would smoke on my own everyday other than when my girlfriend was with me or when I was at the music club. (I would occasionally find someone who lived in my area to smoke with but it was mostly on my own).To give you an idea of how much I relied upon smoking weed at this point… When I stayed around my girlfriend’s house I would sometimes convince her to let me smoke it out of her bedroom window or drag her out in the pouring rain, just so that I could get a bit high and feel at peace in my mind.
After the first year of the Tuesday clubhouse smokes, I started college. I was at college for almost three years in total. For the first two, I would still visit the clubhouse every night and for the final one, my band had split up and I gradually attended the music club less and less which resulted in me smoking by myself more and more. When I started college, I made some friends who liked to smoke weed too and we would spend time together quite a bit and get high. In fact, during the first year of college there was a group of four of us who were virtually inseparable during college hours, during that time I was almost always high. We used to play in a band together and during the breaks of college we would steal away to a nearby park and smoke up. That became a ritual in itself and I would even go to the park alone if others weren’t interested in joining me for whatever reason.
During that first year at college, my intake of weed increased a lot. By the time I left college, it was at an all-time high. (lol geddit?) On my way to the bus to college, I would smoke a spliff. In the morning break between lectures, I would smoke a spliff. At lunch I would smoke one, sometimes two. Then in the afternoon, another. By the time I got home in the evening, I had usually smoked between 3 and 5 and after dinner, I would smoke another 3 or 4. Sometimes as many as 5 or 6. That’s between 6 and 11 spliffs a day for three years and yes, sometimes that number would go even higher depending on what I was doing and who I was with. I was earning between about £80-100 ($125-156) a week at the time and I spent pretty much all of it on weed. If I was underpaid one week or something happened and I couldn’t get weed from anywhere, I would breakdown and become quite literally the most unstable and unpleasant human in existence. The amount of times I borrowed money from people just to pick up was unreal.
After I left college, myself and my girlfriend at the time moved in together. That’s when the addiction turned really sour. Where we moved to, a dealer who was a good friend of mine lived around the corner. Genuinely one of the nicest guys I knew at the time. Living so close to him was both a blessing and a curse for my addiction. From time to time I would try and cut down on weed or come off of it for a while though it never lasted on and I was back on it again within two weeks – usually a few days though.
One day, when I was with my ex in our garden smoking a rather big spliff together, we heard the noise of street rapscallions terrorising the local elderly folk. They were putting their hands through letterboxes and the like. A do-gooder was a witness to their stupidity and decided he would call the police. Where he called the police was on the other side of our fence. And what could he smell from the other time of our fence? Weed. He thought it was relevant information to share with the police and I heard the entire conversation. I was like “awwwh shit!” and stubbed the joint out. From that day on, I began getting really paranoid all the time. At first it was just to do with my safety and smoking but it turned into paranoia about being caught and paranoid about my health. (I’m not gonna say “weed makes you paranoid” ’cause it doesn’t. The fact that it’s illegal does. If it wasn’t illegal, nobody would be paranoid. Just sayin’ my start at paranoia was as a result of my own instability. Again, let’s not go blame an innocent plant)
Every time I smoked from then on until I moved out of that flat, I would be on the constant lookout for passers-by who might smell the weed. I would sit hunched over in the courtyard to make myself difficult to see through the small gaps in the fence. And sometimes I would peer through the holes in the fence to ensure that there was nobody out there. After a while, it even got so bad that if there was a particular sort of van parked within several metres of our front gate, I wouldn’t even smoke. I had let my addiction takeover and consume my grasp on reality. I was sucked into a consistent dilemma of fear of detection and the need to smoke. I started putting only the smallest amount of weed in my joints so that I could get a lift without it smelling at all – even though it probably did smell. I would sit on edge for half an hour at a time if I heard a siren passing outside. It got really unhealthy. I couldn’t relax until I had smoked something and I couldn’t relax if I had smoked something ’cause I spent the entire time while I was high worrying about who smelled my spliff. I literally couldn’t win any more. But that didn’t stop me trying.
At that point, not only was I addicted to tobacco and weed but I as addicted to paranoia too. I thought that if I worried, I would get relief from what I was worrying about. That doesn’t work by the way. I have first hand experience and can safely say it doesn’t work.
After battling with myself for almost a year over trying to quit smoking and failing miserably, my relationship hit the rocks. I made some choices which put the wheels in motion to end it once and for all. Once that was a definite reality, I managed to reduce the appeal of smoking and let go of it all together. How did I do that? I fell in love with the idea of travelling around the country. I fell in love with the idea of meeting a friend from Norway in Glastonbury and showing her around the town that I love so much. In doing that, I was able to let go of smoking and use the money I was spending on weed, tobacco, papers and lighters to save up for my trip. (in one month I saved £300 from just that alone) I let go of smoking then for several months. I stayed with my friend in Glastonbury for a week before I returning to the flat and my then ex-partner. It took us a while to move out but once we did, I went and stayed with my Mum for a few weeks, my Dad for a month and then some friends in Southampton for two weeks.
While I was staying with my Dad, I was clean until a friend began inviting me over to his every weekend for a smoke up. I started going over for one night every weekend and getting blitzed and then returning to my grandparents house to sleep all day the next day. (My grandparents live about five minutes away from my Dad on foot – in the same village and had no knowledge of what I was doing outside of their house). I bought some weed to smoke with my friend when I went to his one time and the following weekend I was to look after my Dad’s house and my grandparents house while they were away. I had the houses to myself and I had plenty of weed to smoke. It was inevitable. The old pattern was reborn again. I smoked a fair amount that weekend while watching two seasons of Breaking Bad on Netflix, non-stop, back-to-back. Breaking Bad is insanely good by the way. If you’re among one of the few humans on this planet who hasn’t yet seen it, I recommend it. It’s intense but it’s very good.
Anyway, after that weekend, I started to crave again. And sure enough, when I got to my friends house in Southampton, I managed to spent about two weeks sleeping on their couch and smoking almost £200 worth of weed. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good few weeks. I finished Breaking Bad and made some new friends whom I love but the addiction was back and it was stronger than ever. When I left Southampton for London to attend a workshop, I was nervous about not being able to get any more weed once I was there. Naturally, I was provided with an opportunity to smoke again when a friend offered me some. I smoked a little with a few different friends while I was there and the inevitable cravings came back once and for all, stronger than ever.
When I returned back to my Mum’s after my stay in London, my girlfriend at the time was coming to visit with her son. (Some of my avid followers will know what happened there as I wrote about it extensively at the time) The short version of what happened is that she left and hurt me a lot. Having been left behind by someone who seemed to care about me a lot less than I cared about her caused me to hit rock-bottom once more. In that period, I lost my Andey-Spark and fell deep down into the lowest of emotional lows. My body ached from crying so much and I didn’t do anything other than cry for weeks on end. Until I remembered that I had some weed left from when I had bought some to share with my ex after returning to my Mum’s. And so, naturally, I rolled up a spliff and had a smoke.
A visit to my Mum’s of a few weeks became a few months which turned into three months. This continued until I was living on her sofa and back in my old pattern of smoking all day and night. My Mum put her foot down at one point and told me that she didn’t want my sisters and toddler brother seeing me high so I reluctantly agreed that I would only smoke at night. Four months down the line, I had begun to spend £50 a week on weed again.
Everything changed when I uploaded my personal profile to a spiritual dating group on Facebook. A day or two after I published the post, I began speaking with someone who was very quickly becoming my favourite person. She was funny, sensitive, understanding, compassionate and most of all… She got me. She actually got me. For the first time in my entire life, I could talk to someone who understood what I meant. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to explain what I meant when I spoke to her. For the first time in my entire life, I felt understood. And her understanding me gave me a better way to understand myself. The way she saw me inspired me to see myself in a better light, to love myself more and to be kinder to myself.
After we were speaking for several months, I realised that every time I was on Skype to her, I was high. I had a heart-to-heart with myself. I said, “Here, you have the most amazing girl. She’s everything you’ve ever wanted and everything you never even knew you wanted. She’s incredible, she really likes you and you can’t connect with her properly because you’re high every time you speak.” I realised that I was making a stupid choice by clinging on to something which no longer served me and I made a new choice. I made the choice to let go of weed once and for all. I made a choice to value my happiness over ritualistic behaviour which had become comfortable. I made a choice to value love and the possibility of love over a habit which had long overstayed it’s welcome.
And that choice was all it took. I stopped smoking that day and to this day right now, I have only smoked on two occasions since then. In the last four months, I have only smoked on two occasions. Once at a festival with a friend and once when I got so stressed as a result of allowing my thoughts to become a repetitive loop. Since four months ago when I let go of my addiction, I haven’t craved a spliff once. Not once have I said, “I need a spliff.” Sure, there have been times when I’ve thought, “You know what I fancy right now? A fat McBiffyBifta.” But not once have I actually smoked one and not once has that thought caused me any suffering. And I’m sure there are sceptics out there who will be like “Yeah, well, when you break up with your girlfriend, you’ll relapse.” To which I say, 1. Don’t be a cunt. 2. I don’t wanna think about not being with her because she’s wonderful! and 3. The sole difference between living a life free of smoking now and not smoking before was that before I had cravings which I ignored and now, I don’t. Not a one. Why? Because in choosing me I eradicated the root cause of my suffering of which smoking was a symptom.
As such, that concludes my addiction story. After struggling with my addiction to smoking for about 7/8 years on and off, I eventually let go of it altogether and it was painless. For me, what began as experimentation led me into a spiral which was one of the biggest learning lessons of my life. It was, to be honest, rather intensely transformational. All the most gruelling things are when they enthral our hearts.
My advice on how to overcome addiction..?
#1. Fall in love with life or with a person but don’t quit for them. Choose life for you.
#2. Don’t quit. Make a choice to introduce something into your life which naturally eradicates the need for your addiction by fulfilling your needs in another way.
#3. Figure out why you’re addicted to whatever it is and alleviate the root cause instead of trying to bandage up the wounds or hide the symptoms from yourself.
#4. Be kind to yourself and gradually reduce the appeal of what you’re addicted to without bullying yourself into giving it up. When you’re ready to let go of it, it will happen easily and effortlessly and you won’t miss it.
#5. Research and understand Dr. Bruce Lipton’s ‘The Honeymoon Effect.’
Thank you for reading. I trust this has served you well.
I love you.
Live, love and play!
Here’s a couple of pictures from when I used to gig with my old bands: