A Very British Crack Story

EPISODE 22

 This really is a great day! Below you will find some text copied from an ex BP crew member’s blog, which is called ‘How to Become A Crack Addict’. Now, this isn’t any ordinary text, it is almost what one might call drug using prose; or even more to the point -it is a brilliantly written black comedy that manages to take the reader nimbly stepping through the muddy pools of wretched misery that can define some crack habits.
Ben, from Turnham Green as he profiles himself (but he really is!), writes a tragi- comedy about drug use on the streets on London. Your ultimate ‘Nice Guy’ Ben not only has a quiet and articulate turn of phrase for the streetlife’s pre-requisite loud stylee yakking, duckin’ and divin’, he also has a gentle step as he pads along Sheperd Bush Green at all hours of the day and night, befriending all the bedfellows of ‘the rock’ while he waits for the next pipe to be loaded up…
Although just this would be enough to engage one in the story – Ben has fabulously managed to get such a following from his fantastically insightful, hilarious and painful musings about his drug use and efforts to save himself from himself, that he collected them all and published an online book of the same name (see links). At two hundred odd pages for about £3.50 odd it is a really worthwhile buy -you can actually catch most of not all of Ben’s book however on his blog, and such was the encouragement from readers when he got to the end of his blog/book -well, it only seemed right that he kept going. I hope he will turn it into an audio book soon and then you will even hear Ben’s lovely tone…
Oh – but before I forget  -I should tell you that Ben is almost blind. He can hardly see at all and suffers from a painful eye condition that needs constant attention and medical interventions. Now, just think of that for a moment; imagine trying to negotiate the highs and lows of a crack habit, day in, day out -when you can hardly see the rock on your pipe, or the colour of the deal in the dealers hand, or the furtive, worried, scared expressions on a persons face, or the amount of people at the end of an alleyway, or even how to quickly fix your crack pipe. Let me just say, Ben learnt fast, and he learnt the hard way and luckily for us he has decided to share his life. He manages to deliver superb lines consistently, is excruciatingly funny, while being sad, depressing and hopeful, all in the same paragraph. I urge you to read his blog or buy his online book. Ben was one of BP’s best writers, and we are so proud to see him publish his book. Here is Benjamin of Turnham Green’s blog excerpt:

 

 

The Nice Man Cometh

 

This is where I say, ‘I never looked back.’  I did though, a handful of times, mostly out of boredom rather than the old-style compulsion.  A few months in, when life had ground to one of its halts, I sauntered down the road like Noel Coward in search of some fine ground coffee, really because I couldn’t think of anything else to do with my morning.  Once I couldn’t get there fast enough, but now it was like wading through Starbucks latté-syrup.  Addiction had atrophied my life, but now addiction itself was beginning to freeze up.

 

There I sat, in a vintage haunt, a squat several floors above Superdrug.  It was nine in the morning, and my arrival was a thing of joy to those who’d money and charm had dried up in the night.  You had to go up a fire-escape and clamber over the roof to get there, a forgotten little space, comprising a kitchen-table, couple of chairs, strewn blankets and a cat, archly monitoring proceedings from various vantage points.  A girl I’d met somewhere down the line lit me up that first pipe, the one that lifts you to a place where all senses are sated, and librarians can be letches for as long as the high allows.  I leaned back in the creaking wicker-chair, that smelt of cat-sick, but felt almost as wretched as when I’d arrived.  I hurriedly had another, in case of any trickery.  But even though the high had disappointed, the aftermath was as bitter and tense as ever, and the weak, groggy smudge of heroin I smoked did nothing to assuage it.  This may have been one of the few times I left before the money ran out.

 

I no doubt tried again a few weeks later, but it was as if I’d arrived at a place of critical mass, where years of rage and stasis could no longer be safely contained. If I went on, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get back.  I didn’t know if my mental health could take it.  Like a man who’d maxed out on every possible card, I could barely move for all the furniture I’d ordered, and all I had to look forward to was a bevy of bailiffs banging beardedly on my not-yet-kicked-in door.  And there was I, slumped, quiet below the windowline, gradually realising that the answer to damage was not more damage.

 

I’d stumbled on crack by accident.  I didn’t want to graduate to crystal meth, just to work my way towards another certificate, ten years down the line. Tentatively, I began hanging onto money that months before I’d have squandered.  Slowly, as if planted by elves, food began appearing in the fridge, jeans and t-shirts in the wardrobe, and I wanted, I needed, to keep going.  Life felt like a frozen swamp I’d crawled from, but I had to know if I could stand, stagger, even walk, on dry land.  I put my mind to working out what life might mean in this new, yet distantly familiar, wilderness.
For years, I’d been recoiling from the physical pain caused by my sight-condition.  Crack alleviated some of this, albeit fleetingly, and heroin had its own slippery take on analgesia, the more you took, the more you needed, until it ended up taking you.  The days in bed between binges were spent mostly with eyes closed, minimising my need to look at anything, apart from the TV glow in the corner.  But now, up and about, and doing stuff, I found even a day’s worth of blinking could leave me jaded.  There was the emotional aspect to consider also, the disconnection I felt from the world, through not seeing it, and not feeling seen by it, and the relationships I knew this had cost me.
Also, the crack seeped into the fracture-lines caused by the abuse I experienced in my early teens.  In fact, the anatomy of my relationship with crack almost replicated that with my abuser.  In both, I was tricked into believing I was being given something nice, good, but secret, illicit – and there was I, confused as to the rules and legal moves, riven with desire and fear, my own sexuality barely nascent, dammed before it even began to flow.  The strange, stilted manoeuvres of that time were like playing chess in a minefield.  But I’d rather lose honourably than win cynically, any day.

My CV, when I tried to put one together, looked like it had a page missing.  Over the years, I’d frequently passed a local theatre, but never even been to see a play there.  I sent an email to the manager, saying I’d done a bit of comedy, and would like to reconnect with a theatrical environment, deploying phrases like ‘keen interest’ and ‘reliable nature’, as recalled from days in the psychotherapy office.  I didn’t even know if the world still had offices, but I thought some of the phrases might still apply.  A reply came swiftly back, and I am, even now, a bit player in the workings of this lovely, ancient establishment.  I’ve seen a handful of productions, and even been to a few opening-night parties…champagne all round, and the buzzy banter of actorly folk, some with personalities as precarious as mine.  I’m going there today, as it happens, and it’s nice to have somewhere to go that doesn’t smell of cat-sick, or leave you wanting to die.
In my virtuousness, I contacted a local charity, volunteering to befriend an elderly blind person in Isleworth.  Having had a few near misses with the police, I was relieved my CRB check came back free from arrests, cautions, and reprimands, which would have rendered me ineligible for almost anything but more crime.  At first, things seemed the wrong way round, as Jimmy, retired abattoir-manager from Feltham, seemed to have a better social life than me, but at least he didn’t slaughter me, and you woudn’t believe the things you can do with a melted pig’s head.
read the rest of Ben’s blog at:
and his musings today and every day….same site, different pages…

 

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