My Journey Through Darkness

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Chapter 6


London

March 2005

1 March 2005 – Tuesday

I am going to see if we can get a job on a cruise ship. We can see many beautiful places and save loads of money, which we can then use to settle down and start our lives. We can settle anywhere we like, somewhere warm and relaxed, like Spain, South Africa, Australia, Hawaii, Thailand, Jamaica, Brazil… absolutely anywhere!

The money we’ve saved will be used to buy a little house, pay for me to do a course in writing, teaching or even art, but something I can use to earn a decent living. And while we’re sailing, during that time, God will show us what Andrew can do to earn a living, which will be something he’s good at, and will enjoy… And we’ll have our own little house, jobs we enjoy, live comfortably and happily… and someday I’ll have a little baby and be a mommy…

Lord, thank you that we have dreams and thank you that sometimes they even do come true!

Since I’d known Belinda she gently tried to convince me to come to church with her. Each Sunday I would have a new excuse why I couldn’t make it. I had no train fare; I had other arrangements… and each Sunday I would end up staying at home with Andrew, smoking crack and heroin when we had money for the drugs. During times when there was no money we would be too sick to leave the house, staying in bed rattling, sweating in agony, wondering how we would get through another moment.

I always desired to go to church, but when Sunday came along I would be filled with guilt and couldn’t face going to church being stoned or high or rattling from not having any drugs… and there was no other state of being anymore. Going anywhere with normal people around was not an option. I was even at the point where I was smoking a bit of heroin before work so that I would look semi-normal and not be too ill to get through the day.

I had to keep feeding that monster inside of me. It was hungry and wanted more moremore. If I neglected to feed it, he would gnaw right through my mind into my bones and muscles. The agony that the hungry monster inflicted was unbearable.

Even though I kept failing to go where God was calling me to, I was getting closer to Him. I started reading the Bible, out loud even, so that Andrew could hear it too. I went on relentlessly about how God was the only option out, making Andrew my audience.

When I’d met Andrew, he told me he did not believe in God. His mom had passed away at a young age from a very rare disease, and he could not accept that God had allowed this. I understood Andrew’s anger and never tried to convince him otherwise.

During this desperate time in our lives however, I preached on and on, not caring what Andrew thought anymore. Nothing really mattered anymore in my life, except to get out of this. And in my mind, God was the only way.

4 March 2005 – Friday

I feel the usual, frantic but familiar inspiration slowly seeping out of me, evaporating into thin air. Lately I am simply left with an uncomfortable, empty feeling of irritation. And anger. Anger overcomes me more than fear these days. Also, frighteningly, a deep and gripping sense of confusion.

Admittedly, I am amused and amazed that crack has been the only drug that provides such a blast of clear undistorted thoughts, which actually linger long enough for me to write it all down.

There is a reason for this. I feel it in me.

Andrew and I spent a week house-sitting for Matt and Jane. We both decided that we’d had enough and that we should take this chance to come clean. The flat was nice and big, with central heating, comfortable big bed, satellite TV and comfy couches. The place I shared with Andrew was awful compared to Matt and Jane’s place. Rattling through cold turkey seemed like it would be easier in the comfortable flat instead of our own.

We shared a tiny single bedroom at our own place, with a single bed and all my belongings cluttering up the room. Our room was in a house-share but there was no lounge or communal room, except for the kitchen, so Andrew and I spent allof our time in our small stuffy little room that reeked of the sweet chemical smell of crack.

I even managed during the week at Matt’s place to make it toa midweek home group meeting with Belinda. We didn’t have any drugs all day long and I could sit through the meeting, listening but praying that no one would notice I was sick. I was shaking uncontrollably and sweating like crazy, but I really was happy to be in the presence of Christians.

You need to understand how Andrew and I lived at this stage. I would get paid 1,100 GBP on the 25th of each month. Since the December salary, it would be spent in the following way: I would pay our room’s full rent of 290 GBP per month. I would buy a monthly bus pass for 40 GBP. Then I would buy some groceries, which would never be more than 100 GBP. The rest of the money, which is about 670 GBP, would be spent within about a week. All of it would go towards white, brown, smokes and the odd loaf of bread or 2 minute Noodles.

The rest of the month we would be forced to bum money off Matt or someone at my work. This made me go right into debt as soon as the next salary came in because I had to pay back all the money I owed. I hated doing this and I especially hated the fact that I was driven to the point of considering stealing.

One evening, after being paid, Andrew and I were deciding how many bags of heroin and crack we wanted to get. I was trying to tell him that we need to be careful with our money this month so that we wouldn’t have to borrow from Matt again; when he said, “We still have the bicycle we can sell.”

Not knowing what he was talking about, I thought of his own bike. “Are you mad? We can’t sell your bike; you need it to get around. We can’t afford another bus pass!”

“Not my bike, the other one…” he said without looking me in the eyes.

“What other bike?” I said, still not understanding.

“The other one…” Then it hit me… “You mean to tell me you stole a bike?”

“Yeah,” Andrew answered casually, as if stealing a bike was the most everyday thing on earth.

I couldn’t believe he’d actually stolen someone else’s bicycle, but I suddenly realized that this had been a part of Andrew’s whole life. Stealing wasn’t something he did to be mean, for him it was simply a part of survival. Even though I was not for stealing, I didn’t do anything about the bike and sure enough, when the time came, we exchanged the bike for a few bags of crack and heroin.

Anything would do as long as it meant we didn’t have to get sick! One day without drugs would leave us in a pile of vomiting, shaking illness. It all began to snowball… money… drugs… no money… borrowing… owing… stealing… no money… no drugs… rattling… until a few pounds were scraped together to relieve our pain for just a while.

Since November when Matt had sent Andrew on the plumbing course, he had been helping Matt renovate his kitchen and bathroom, thus working for him in a way. He never gave Andrew a salary though, so the only money Andrew had was the odd twenty pounds here and there as Matt saw fit to pay him. When the job came to an end, Matt had big plans to buy old homes, renovate them and sell them for a profit. Of course Andrew would be doing a lot of the work and the profits would be shared between them. When these plans didn’t seem to materialize, I insisted that Andrew look for another job. I was tired of supporting both of us with our drug habit and living off Matt’s hand-outs.

6 March 2005 – Sunday

One week of good intentions, the right setting, the perfect opportunity to come clean. Each day, we tried, we cringed and gritted our teeth through the chills, the aching bones, the suffocating depression, until we could bare it no more and gave in for a moment of relief.

Even though I am deeply ashamed and disappointed in myself for getting to a point where I have to admit that I am a crack and heroin addict, I have an unmistakable conviction that these months will somehow be used for the good and Glory of God.

My journey has been documented from beginning to end, and this, I believe in my heart of hearts, God will help me bring before the world in a book, which will in some way or another help someone or bring hope or inspiration, but most importantly, to be a testimony of God’s grace.

Not only this, but I also have a strong desire to become involved in helping people with addictions someday, whether it be through social work or just being part of an outreach team at church. I feel that the same way Dad is gifted in Healing, I will serve God with my testimony and help to save people from this hell.

Now that we both failed royally during this week, and I have become more scared than ever, seeing images of myself in the pitiful heap of final destruction, I have finally accepted that I need help to come clean. Belinda, a wonderful friend and part of an outreach team at church, has found some numbers for places where we can go for help, and I plan to go this week, and get us on a program.

This was quite a significant time in our survival. I called the numbers that Belinda had given to me. Each clinic told me that I didn’t need an appointment but should just come in any time to speak to a drug worker. So on one of the days I’d called in sick at work, feeling like I couldn’t stand another moment of this life. I got dressed and walked down the street to the nearest clinic. I mustered up all my courage and felt hopeful. This was it; there was finally a little light at the end of the tunnel.

I took the elevator up to the second floor with a fellow addict. The greasy looking guy smiled at me and asked what I was on. When I said crack and heroin he couldn’t believe that I still looked so great. I told him that was why I was coming to this clinic; to stay looking great.

There was a big black woman sitting behind a desk with a glass window in front of it. When she looked up at me, I asked her if I could speak to a drug worker. She looked casually over at the clock on the wall behind me and said, “You’re too late love. You’ll have to come back next week at around twelve.”

I was shaking from the crack but her answer made me shake even more. “But I can’t come in a week from now, I still have a job and cannot just take off whenever I like.”

“I’m sorry love, there’s nothing I can do. You will have to come back next week.” She half smiled at me.

Tears started to well up in my eyes. I could not believe this. I took a deep breath to steady my voice. “Ok, what happens then, after I have spoken to someone?”

“We will require you to come in once a day to give a urine sample, to make sure you really are on drugs. After a week of this we will do a final assessment and then you will be put on to our waiting list. The waiting period is about five to six weeks, upon which we can start you on a methadone program.” She said all this as if she’d memorized it all word for word, without any feeling or emotion.

I was dumb struck. “Do you open out of office hours at all? I am still lucky enough to have a job and like I said, I can’t just take an hour off work each day to come and give a urine sample.”

“No. You can only come during office hours.”

“Ok, I have one more question. Isn’t methadone more addictive than heroin?”

“Yes, it is.”

I walked out.

Andrew, having been on heroin before, had warned me about clinics. He told me that I would be on a waiting list and then all they offer is methadone, which is more addictive than heroin, which they then try to wean you off. Apparently some clinics offer to put you on some substance that is a blocker, which was much better than methadone, as it was another struggle to get off methadone.

This was precisely why Andrew had stayed at home that day and laughed at me as I marched down the street, determined to get help.

I walked home, feeling like I’d dropped to the bottom of the ocean. I couldn’t believe that they could turn a drug addict away, even though I’d been standing there shaking, wired and pleading, with tears in my eyes. I needed help now, not next week. I felt crushed and determined at the same time; I would not accept that this was the only option.

At home, after smoking a rock, I flipped through the yellow pages and called a drug help line.

“Yes, love, I am sorry to tell you this, but unless you have a jail sentence, you will not get onto a program immediately. It usually takes a few weeks at any clinic. The only other alternative is if you have about 300 Quid and pay for a private doctor. They can get you onto methadone within a few days. Now, may I ask how do you smoke the crack? Oh no, cans are the worst! If you’re going to smoke crack, then at least try to get hold of a glass pipe. Cans and plastic bottles are very poisonous. I’m not trying to encourage you to take drugs but at least try to do it as safe as possible. As an ex addict I can tell you I know you’re not going to instantly stop as we get off the phone…” blah blah blah.

I felt like vomiting. Was this the help that was out there? A drug worker telling me I needed 300 Pounds to get help, and otherwise how best to smoke my drugs? Was the world going mad or something? Then it struck me that I was still one of the lucky ones. I still had a job and a roof over my head. What about all the real junkies out there who finally got to the breaking point and needed immediate help? How can this system be in place if people need help the very minute they ask for it? A week or even an hour later could be too late for a junkie.

Continued 6 March 2005 – Sunday

In this past week, there has been a dramatic change in Andrew. He has suddenly become as determined as me to stop, and also been showing interest in all my preaching, saying he does believe and acknowledging God’s hand in our salvation. If he really means what he’s been saying, then I just praise God for the miracle of changing his heart.

Every part of Andrew has softened, his whole demeanour and the way he treats me. It seems as though he has snapped out of a trance he has been caught in for so long. He now has a childlike look of pleading in his eyes, instead of the hard, mean-spirited manner I have almost grown used to.

That Friday, I decided enough was enough and Andrew and I set out to go and find a job for him. We spent the whole morning going to the job centre and nicked a few newspapers. On our way home we stopped to meet our Nigerian friend for some drugs at the usual spot: a cold side street in Tooting, South London in front of a school. Once we’d collected our gear, we caught the last bus home and sat in Matt’s sunny living room, smoking crack to our hearts content and phoning up people to set up job interviews.

Being high as kites we felt like anything was possible – everything was going to be ok! It was actually so simple. Andrew would get a job and then we could have a better life.

During the days that followed Andrew went to one new job after the next. Almost as soon as he started a job, he would get fired. This was mostly due to the fact that he had a criminal record and points against him on his driver’s license. The employers would notice it only a day or two after he started, and thus, he came home day after day being jobless all over again. We were soon back to feeling hopeless.

I wouldn’t give up though. I fought back by encouraging and supporting him through it all. The main problem was that Andrew actually wanted to work, but he couldn’t go to a new job being sick and rattling. It was just another vicious cycle. He needed to keep using drugs to start a new job, but we were too broke now to use drugs on a daily basis. On the other hand, he needed to earn money to get the drugs. To get off the drugs he would need to take a few days off. Thus, we were stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The days were hell.

8 March 2005 – Tuesday

I smoked my first crack pipe when I was twenty-three and a month, about four months ago. It was at that same time that I took my first puff of brown, foul smelling heroin. It was late October last year, which was the near end of what had undoubtedly been the worst year of my twenty-three years of existence.

(Nothing had prepared me for what was to come from that first innocent intake of evil.)

A week later, back at our flat again, Andrew got up early one morning to go to a car wash job he had just attained. I woke up with him to see him off and wish him luck. I sat alone in our stuffy little room after he’d left and marvelled at the sunshine streaming in through the window. It was probably the first sunny morning after the winter and I couldn’t bear having to stay at home all day alone.

I called a couple, Fourie and Celeste, who I knew through Desmond, to see if they were up for a visitor. The last time I’d seen them was about six months earlier, just before I’d met Andrew and this whole mess started. I was pleased that they were home for the day and they invited me over with pleasure. I took a very long walk in the sunny streets and blue skies up to their flat and felt almost reborn. The dark winter months had not helped my depression.

Not long after arriving at their flat, I spilled out my problem to them. I was so tired of carrying this on my own and even though I knew they couldn’t help me, I just wanted to take the load off my shoulders.

Some time after discussing the options, Fourie finally spoke up. Looking me straight in my eyes, he told me I needed to go home to South Africa: to my parents. I had never considered going home as an option, as I felt I had absolutely nothing at home anymore. I knew I could tell my parents and that they would help me, but I had no job there, no place to live and no car or anything. I literally didn’t have much left in South Africa, having been away for three years.

Fourie was convincing; he told me that even though they were my friends, they couldn’t take me in and help me. I had no other friends in London either. I had once asked Desmond if he would mind giving me a place to stay for a month or so, just to come clean so that I could start over. He told me to ask my church friends for help, which was a blatant “no” from his side. Fourie also said that even if I did manage to book myself into a clinic, those people didn’t care about the patients. The best place to come clean would be in my loving parents’ home. Otherwise I would end up dying in the streets of London.

We sat that day making plans. I was getting paid in a week’s time. I would give my week’s notice at work. As soon as my salary came through, I would buy a one-way plane ticket back home and leave as soon as I could. I had no choice anymore. I was too exhausted to even think about arguing or to think of another alternative. Fourie promised to drag me to the airport himself if he had to, but I was to go home, whether I liked it or not!

To this day I am so thankful for those two for making it clear to me that my only option was to go home.

What about Andrew though? I couldn’t just run away and leave him behind, could I? That Monday after I visited Fourie and Celeste, having decided to go back home, I gave a week’s notice at work. It was to be a long weekend so Thursday would be my last working day. I hid the fact of going back to South Africa from Andrew, but my mind constantly milled over how I was going to tell him that I was leaving. I finally thought of a plan when I was on my way home from my last day at work.

I decided to tell Andrew that I’d been fired due to my “medical condition”. I felt that this was the best opportunity for both of us to get to South Africa. With both of us jobless there would be absolutely no hope of beating this problem. (Andrew still refused to tell Matt about our addiction. He felt too ashamed - after Matt had helped him get clean once before – to admit to him that he was on heroin again.) At least if Andrew thought I’d been fired, he wouldn’t think I was just running away to let him die alone.

When I got home from work that Thursday evening, I immediately told Andrew that I’d been fired. He didn’t believe me at first and laughed, but as soon as he saw my tears he knew I was quite serious.

We lit up a rock and then I calmly told him that I’d thought of an idea. I explained that if we both went to South Africa as soon as possible, we could stay with my parents where they lived right next to the river. They would help us come clean and then help us start our lives over. We could stay there for a year or two. We could then come back to the UK once we’d saved some money and were strong enough to live a normal life again. One thing I made clear to him was that there was no way I saw fit to get through this as a couple of heroin addicts with no income.

I held my breath to see Andrew’s reaction, but to my surprise, he thought it over and asked if he could get work in South Africa. I said he would. With his knowledge and skills he could work for my uncle who had a business installing kitchens. Andrew seemed satisfied with that answer and said he would come with me. I couldn’t believe that he agreed and that he was willing to join me!

There was only one problem: Andrew couldn’t come with me on the same flight. The money that I had wouldn’t be enough for two tickets and he still had to do his probation. He had one month of probation left, so we settled: I would go now, and then Andrew would join me in about a month’s time.

26 March 2005 – Saturday

I have decided to go home. There are about a million reasons, thoughts, justifications and also fears attached to this fact that make my mind go into overdrive. During the past two or three weeks I’ve stopped writing so furiously, and I guess it’s because I’ve had enough of fighting, and finally decided that it will be better to give up this endless fight, step down, and let my family take care of me.

27 March 2005 – Sunday

This is the turning point. Right now. I’ve booked my flight. Four days left. Andrew wants to come with, this is a surprise. Yet, it made it clear how much I in fact do mean to him. This gives me more joy than anything, in this strange time of letting go.

My mind is in conflict. I long for the comfort, love and support that “home” offers, a certain safety, but, I also fear what will come after the initial comfort and healing, when I have to get up and move forward, face the realities of starting my life over, from nothing. I fear when Andrew comes that things won’t work out and that he gets disappointed and feels he wasted his time and money coming to be with me.

I just have to stay strong and have faith that God will provide and make sure it all falls into place.

I also fear that Andrew promises to come to SA in a month and then for some reason, he can’t come anymore or decides not to.

Although, it excites me beyond excitement that he does want to join me, and that when he does arrive, we have a whole new wonderful life to build.

The following morning I woke up with a vicious flu that simply built up as the week moved towards the day I had to leave.

My flight was booked for Thursday, the thirty-first of March. The Wednesday evening Andrew went out in the cold night to collect our last blast of rocks and heroin. I had no money left. After having bought my plane ticket, I’d bought us some food for the week and the rest we’d spent on drugs; leaving me a little money for a bus ticket to the airport and a little bit for our last night’s drugs.

Andrew got home at about eight o’clock. I excitedly started unwrapping the cling-film from one of the white rocks. I’d given Andrew 70 GBP, which meant he could buy four bags of crack and three bags of heroin. He presented me with five rocks and I wondered if he’d ripped the dealer off for an extra rock. When I asked him to pass me the brown he said he didn’t have any.

I looked at him unbelievingly. “What do you mean you don’t have any? Where’s the money I gave you? How can we smoke five rocks and have no brown to come down with?”

“Relax. I’ve still got the money, but the dealer didn’t have any brown on him, he said he’d call me a little later cause his stock is arriving later. I’ll go and collect from him in a while.”

I was satisfied with that, because without any heroin I couldn’t see how we could smoke five rocks and have nothing to come down with. We would be wired so badly and would end up staying awake all night and going insane with paranoia and insomnia.

At ten o’clock Andrew called the dealer and he was told that the guy hadn’t shown up, so there was no brown until tomorrow morning. I almost died, because by ten o’clock we’d smoked up almost all the crack and as I predicted, we were as high and wired as kites. When you don’t have any heroin to bring you down, you are left with the most irritating, hanging feeling. Paranoia takes over; you get irritable, angry and frustrated. Sometimes I used to even feel like just ending it all to get away from that terrible feeling. Unless you have more rocks to keep you going, the only salvation is smoking some heroin.

Eventually I asked Andrew to at least make love to me one last time and even though he’d lost his sex drive completely because of the drugs, he gave in. A few minutes after kissing and fondling, we discovered that I’d started my period, which was too early. I was horrified, because I knew there was no way Andrew would make love to me now.

Andrew said he was deeply sorry but he couldn’t touch me at all, rolled over and fell asleep. I spent my last night in London, trying to sleep, crying my heart out, hating life and feeling angry that I couldn’t even say a decent goodbye to Andrew.

The next morning we almost ran down the street into Tooting to meet our dealer for some heroin. There wasn’t much time before I had to leave for the airport so we ran back home to smoke as much heroin as we could, to get through the day.

When it was time for me to leave, Andrew said he couldn’t come with me to Heathrow to say goodbye as he was off to a job interview! I had a ton of luggage so I needed someone to help me with all my bags. I hurriedly called Desmond, the only person I could think of, and asked if he would help me with my bags on the train. To my surprise he agreed to help me.

I kissed Andrew goodbye on the pavement outside of our flat and made him promise that I would see him in about a month’s time. I wept as I boarded the bus and watch him disappear down the street.

I was still shaken and emotional when I met up with Desmond at Hammersmith Station. He kindly helped me and didn’t say too much except that he was glad that I was going home to sort myself out. I felt so ashamed in front of him. He was one of the few people I wanted to prove to that I could make it in life. The state that I was in was a far cry from making it at all.

31 March 2005 – Thursday

Here I am, in Frankfurt airport, in transit, on my way back to South Africa: home. I have had a terrible flu since Monday and the flight from London to Frankfurt was hellish, so I am dreading the next nine hours. I don’t even have money on me to get a drink or something to eat. Not happy at all.

The worst of course is that I still can’t quite believe what is happening. I have actually just flown away from London with no return ticket. It’s all over. I smoked my last crack this morning and my last bit of heroin in the toilets at Heathrow airport to get me through the night until I get safely home to my parents.

I lie, the worst is that I just said a hurried goodbye to Andrew, got on a bus with all my loads of baggage and watched him wave at me from the pavement outside our flat. He couldn’t even come see me off at the airport. We couldn’t even make love last night because I’d started my period at an abnormal time of the month. I have such a heavy, painful ache in my gut, and miss him terribly already, after only about four hours of separation.

If I am honest right now, I know that the truth is that I felt most upset about the fact that I knew I could never smoke another rock in my life. Even though I hated what had become of my life and I hated the weakness I had towards drugs, my love for crack was overpoweringly greater. The feeling of shooting up into the sky at the speed of light and flying around without a care was the most amazing feeling I had ever felt in my life.

And just like that, I knew I wouldn’t feel that again. Ever. I was scared to death. I had become so dependent on drugs, to feel good, that I had forgotten how to feel anything without them. It was the most frightening thing to accept that I had to go and start living life and facing the real world yet again, all on my own, without the help of the euphoric smoke to cloud my brain and numb my feelings.

But there I was, on my way home, away from the Dragon who owned me.

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