It's a Guy Thing

You’re gonna have to face it your addicted to … something.

Smugly tucking into my steak, I looked across the table at my dinner guest and
uttered a stunningly stupid question, “What made you an addict?” My friend
sublimely staved off any urge to punch me in the face and simply responded,
“You first. What made you an addict?” My enforced silence no doubt
accompanied a puzzlement that gripped my face. I was then handed an
incredible opportunity to learn from my dispassionate companion. We had
known each other for a few years, and unbeknown to me he had factored in my
observable behaviours and often indiscrete confessions before reaching the
verdict that I was addicted to risk. As he commenced the litany of charges
against me covering different terrains – business, relationships, sex, and
openness – he made a very persuasive pitch.

My knowledge of his addictive behaviours was framed around the usual
suspects – illicit drugs and alcohol – and up to this point I had nonchalantly and
inaccurately formed the opinion that addiction was a narrow consequence for
those of a weaker, more destitute disposition than I. What an arrogant wanker
I was, although this rude awakening lay dormant for several years as, to be
perfectly honest, the term ‘addiction’ was a label that I wasn’t yet prepared to
explore openly, yet alone admit to. I filed this enigma away, believing that my
behaviour was in some way excusable, didn’t really cause any harm, and was
inconsistent with the general notion of dependence. Yet the one thing at which
I was consistent was being a colossal and egotistical asshole.
My own unconscious bias had provided a safe haven where I could look
disparagingly at the plight of others whilst self-righteously closing my eyes to
the wider implications of compulsive behaviours. The trigger point for my
reacquaintance with this latent cognitive conundrum was the very public
portrayal of the relationship between Ghislaine Maxwell and the late Jeffrey
Epstein. There is enough source information out there about this couple ─
suffice to say that their behaviours were addictive and destructive. But here was
the twist. They were powerful, wealthy and had a binding influence within the
highest echelons of society. They didn’t appear to be pitiful, powerless, or puny.
It was time to better understand how addiction takes hold, the signs, symptoms,
and hopefully, salvation.
I had been lucky to meet Rory and hear at first hand his moving story. He
articulated his own journey of addiction in the most animated of ways. Humour,
highs, and hedonism were countered by death, despair, and destruction. In

addition, as a professionally trained practitioner he was my ideal guide. Taking
a monumental deep breath, I asked my first question and simply listened.
Was my dinner guest correct? Can addiction grip us all?
Rory drew such a deep breath that I was convinced that the hitherto static
window blinds adjacent to us fluttered for a brief moment. Clearing his throat,
he simply replied, “Yes,” nodding emphatically as if to reiterate this unerring
How did you become an addict?
“No-one ever sets out to be an addict; I certainly didn’t. My addiction was drugs.
I never used drugs to block out the past or to deal with trauma or as a learnt
behaviour from family. In fact, I had a great upbringing and took drugs because
I really, really fucking enjoyed them!” Rory’s emphatic smile withered away
almost instantly as he added, “Well at least in the beginning.”
“I grew up in the 1990s when the rave scene was kicking off and the birth of the
dance revolution began ─ something I still feel very proud of to this day, despite
the path it put me on. Back in the day coming down off E’s, Whizz, and Acid after
a three, sometimes four night, session wasn’t always easy, especially when you
had work or college the next day. We often used other recreational drugs like
“draw,” the old slang for cannabis resin, and prescription meds that someone
had nicked off their nan.” Up until this disclosure I felt an immediate curiosity
about the dance scene and wanted to know more, but somehow the connection
with grandparents killed the moment. I smiled at Rory, encouraging him to
“Then it happened one night back at a flat that we ended up at; I was introduced
to “Brown” (heroin). The fella who gave me some explained how it was great at
bringing you back down. Of course, I lived up to my life motto at the time, ‘I will
try anything once’ ─ what a twat ─ and so the journey began.”
“Despite what the red-top papers and the news at the time told you about ‘one
hit and you’re hooked,’ that isn’t actually how it works. Long story short ─ it took
about a year for me to realise I had a problem with heroin dependency.”
“I was quite happy using heroin for a while, as I believed its sole purpose was
managing a come down; but once a week became twice a week, and so on. Even
at this point, I would argue that I was not an addict. To understand addiction,

you must first understand dependency because that’s the key motivator and
driver for addiction ─ well it certainly was for me.”
When did you realise that you were addicted?
I wanted to better understand the trigger points, assuming that there were
definable ones, within an experience that would inevitably purge cognitive
reasoning of its usual ability to keep us all away from the light of damaging
temptation. I could comprehensively validate this position given the periods of
destruction my own addiction had thrust upon my life.
“I don’t think you realise or come to terms with being an addict, until your arse
is hanging out of your jeans, and you are queuing for your daily dose of
methadone! This is the point I started to ask questions of myself and realised I
had an addiction problem. My friends and family giving up on me and standing
in the custody block at the police station and realising that the sergeant was now
a familiar figure in my life only reinforced this realisation.”
Rory talked about the concept of reaching “rock bottom,” confirming this place
as the most daunting yet liberating moment. I too identified with this notion.
For me it was a scary, embarrassing, and utterly traumatic time where the ones
I loved became the unintended victims.
“The realisation of my rock bottom moment was bizarre. Of all the things that
had happened to me this was, by contrast, quite mundane. I knew a mate – to
be fair this is a loose term as he was simply some guy, I knew would be scoring
that day. I had to walk eight miles to his place and during this infamous trek I
realised I had lost everything. I stunk. I knew that certain people would
eventually catch up with me and I would be well and truly fucked. I tried to think
of what I had left in my life. It was just drugs. They had become my best friends.
I’ll never forget that day. I was walking along this long straight road where I had
grown up and I broke down crying. I remember an old lady asking if I was all
right. That was it for me.”
Seemingly out of nowhere Rory’s sombre reflection was overtaken by loud,
joyous laughter!
“When I got to my friend’s house, I think I had the most emotionally intelligent
conversation I’d ever had whilst using! It was there that we decided upon the
plan to get me into a methadone clinic.”

Rory took stock and reflected upon his current professional role supporting
addicts as they seek to duplicate his transition away from dependency. “In the
fifteen-plus years that I’ve been privileged to work with people and their
substance misuse, when we talk about addiction, we have to talk about
dependency first, as well as tolerance – what can your body take? For me
dependency is about the physical need to do something to perform, whilst
addiction is all the behaviours that wrap around dependency – so the two
become one.” In an instant this definition clarified my own addictive tendencies
and why I had convinced myself, whilst sneering at those that in my jaundiced
opinion had the real addictions of drink and drugs, that they were normal.
How has addiction framed your life?
“This is the really interesting question and for me it’s the one that makes me feel
really nervous when answering. I feel very lucky; many of my peer group from
when I was growing up are no longer with us. In fact, there are only three of us
left. One is still actively using and the other one is quite unique as they knew
when to stop. For me addiction has framed my life in a very strange way, and
the reason I get nervous about this is that if it weren’t for my addiction I wouldn’t
be where I am now – with an amazing wife, two fantastic children and paying a
mortgage ─ things I could’ve never imagined at a certain time of my life.”
Rory smiled broadly as he recalled a key milestone in his life, some years after
he left rehabilitation ─ buying his first car. “Ok it was an old banger, but it was
mine! Bought and paid for! I thought, ‘This belongs to me!’ This is something I
have worked for.” He then paused for a moment, with his glinting smile
morphing into a purse-lipped frown whilst reflecting upon his time in rehab. “I
don’t use the term ‘after I recovered.’ I have never deemed myself as recovered
due to my own beliefs and how I deal with my past and my liking for drugs.” This
disclosure was a relief for me since my own past had shaped me and, like Rory,
I had reached a place where I was content too. Perhaps the burying of the past
would simply allow those ghosts to rise again?
“So why does this make me feel worried about saying this? I have family and
friends who aren’t role model citizens, should we say, and when I try and tell
them the wrongs and rights about their behaviour they say, “Well you have done
alright out of it haven’t you?” That’s the bit that makes me nervous, because in
all of that I have been extremely lucky, but I have lost people to overdoses as a
direct result of being on drugs. I had a friend who I grew up with who went down
a different route to me ─ supplying drugs; he was found with his face missing in
a layby. Things are brilliant now, but they haven’t always been.”

I coaxed Rory to explore the physical and emotional scars, since his use of the
term ‘brilliant’ seemed at odds with his life narrative, by his own admission
encountering some very dark places. “In terms of the physical side, I never
contracted hepatitis C – I’d say that eighty percent of the people in my network
with similar life stories did. I’ve also lost people I know to HIV. Emotionally?”
Pausing momentarily, he continued in a more hushed tone, “Yeah, I still have
user dreams. I still wake up thinking that I have relapsed. I’ve been off drugs a
lot longer than I was on them now, but I still think back to those situations I have
been in and that does create anxiety that can lead to panic attacks. Emotionally
I don’t think it ever leaves you.” I nodded, knowing that my own demons were
still there, but like Rory the requisite release fuse had burnt out long ago.
How does a person become addicted? What biological events occur that make
us dependent?
“There are all sorts of theories and models that seek to explain addiction; for
example – addictive personalities. But quite frankly I think that’s a load of
bollocks! Have I got an addictive personality? No different I guess to the next
man, woman, or child! I think as humans we seek out behaviours that reward
and reinforce the chemistry in our brains, such as dopamine that connects with
that old fight or flight syndrome, and once we get rewarded with good feelings,
we yearn for them again. It’s primeval.”
“However, you try to understand this and attempt to deal with it, whatever
works for you works for you! The feeling I got with drugs in the early days was
simply fantastic! Even with heroin there is this immense feeling of being
wrapped up in cotton wool. What’s really weird about heroin is that the first few
times I tried it, I literally threw up. I couldn’t keep anything down. But it didn’t
stop me from going back because this nausea was completely and
overwhelmingly counteracted by the incredible feelings that I got by taking it.
The euphoria is short-lived, and you crash down, creating the need once again.
That’s when addiction takes hold.”
Are there any potential triggers that are more likely to create addictive
“I wouldn’t say triggers as such, but environment can play a massive part.
Deprivation often causes a sub-culture of drug use. Of all the people I have
assessed, although their individual stories are unique, the journeys are relatively
the same. Although many users hate the term, ‘gateway drugs’ are enablers for

the harder, more dangerous substances.” Rory mapped out a simple yet oh so
familiar route ─ drinking alcohol and smoking weed at an early age.
Collecting his thoughts, Rory agonised over those he had also met who had
turned to drugs following huge personal trauma ─ rape victims, people abused
or neglected as children, and domestic abuse victims. Drugs provided a way out.
An effective if temporary respite from those horrors the rest of us would
perhaps never countenance.
Rory continued, “When addiction happens the acceleration of associated
behaviours can be frighteningly rapid. I remember meeting a teacher who had
led a pretty sheltered life, until they met some unsavoury characters and lost
their house and everything else within three months.”
What treatments work and can someone ever totally break free of addiction?
“If I knew the answer to this one mate, I wouldn’t be driving a fucking Skoda
that’s for sure! This is the million-dollar question.”
Feeling a tad embarrassed, I was nonetheless reassured by Rory that the
numerous theories and approaches boiled down to the pragmatic conclusion of
‘each to their own’ – meaning very often the need to try several until one fitted.
But I guess if the will were stoked the wait could be negotiated.
“Whatever you are addicted to, be it drugs, drink, sex, and yes risk, my advice is
never write anything off. If the cap doesn’t fit, then don’t fucking wear it!”
Rory reflected upon a conversation he once had with a colleague after he had,
by his own admission, become overconfident in writing the concluding chapter
of his own journey after years of addiction. This wise sage simply declared, “Your
relapse is waiting outside that door doing fucking push ups, ready for you!”
This uncomplicated lifehack equates to ─ you can never truly let your guard
down whatever addiction became your ally ─ even me! This wise master was
chillingly right – you can never totally unshackle yourself from the ever-watching
spectre of addiction. And perhaps that is the symbiotic relationship any addict
needs, to accept and celebrate the mutually destructive outcome of courting the
wrong partner in crime, even if temptation often dazzles with the most
seductive of sunsets and soothing harmonies, whispering “One more time won’t

My vilification of my dinner guest all those years ago has never left my psyche
and with Rory’s candour I was better able to grasp the concept that addiction
covers a significantly wider terrain than I had ever imagined. Any dysfunctional
and excessive behaviour born out of dependence has the power to ultimately
corrupt, and those like me who sought sanctuary by conveniently calling out the
notable villains of drink and drugs are perhaps the most fraudulent and futile.
Like a pot of brilliant white paint tainted by a few drops of black, a greyness of
character would always lurk, patiently waiting to purge all the good by one
reckless act of self-indulgence.
The image of my nemesis relentlessly working out, waiting to take me on again
has given me a simple message. Is the risk worth it?
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