I crashed into the UK in the summer of 2004 with a roaring cocaine habit, and desperate desire to shop. Throughout my time in Jamaica, I’d had a recurring dream about going to Heaven. This consisted, primarily, in being locked in Selfridges for ever. From the beginning of 2004, I decided the fake designer bags and me could no longer travel in Economy, but had to upgrade to First Class. This was an expensive way of persuading the stewardesses to remember your name, but at least there were no screaming children, drug dealers or deportees. I didn’t need to be sitting next to a drug dealer on the plane as I had my very own dealer in Jamaica now.
Before I’d even unpacked my suitcase in London (why bother with existing clothes when what you want is something new?) the shopping went into the stratosphere. I started buying real designer bags. One afternoon I parked my bicycle on the railings of Gucci in Bond Street (there was no sign saying “Do not park your bicycle here” as they obviously didn’t expect anyone to arrive on a bicycle). I swanned in with a fake Gucci bag, which the staff in Gucci Bond Street pronounced was “gorgeous” and kept saying “where did you get that lovely bag?” “I can’t remember exactly,” I said rather than the actual fact: “I’d got it from a knock off store in Queensway, Bayswater.” The rapturous reception of the bag cemented my view that I might as well buy fakes. But I was looking to add something real to my collection. I selected a gold evening bag and pedalled off with the £1000 bag in my front basket. A bicycle is the best defence against being mugged.
I was astounded to find, when I opened my credit card bill, that someone had spent £7,000 pounds on my account in less than a month. This had been debited from my bank account leaving me £10,000 overdrawn. I rang up the bank, screaming at them at top volume for almost half an hour that there was fraud on my card and that they had to stop the card. But when I actually checked the statement it turned out the thief was me. I was astonished by how much money I’d spent.
I decided it was too dangerous to leave my friend Susanna’s flat in Notting Hill as I couldn’t walk a foot without spending £500. I couldn’t go cold turkey from my shopping habit, I had to have shopping methadone. So I turned my attentions back to eBay, and was soon online for 20 hours a day. But because of the time it takes and uncertain success of purchases on eBay I managed to spend less. And the hit was even more – when you actually win an eBay auction it is total shopping crack. The midget Irish surgeon, who’d threatened to cut me up amid professions of undying love, came to see me at Susanna’s flat. I wasn’t even able to say hello or look up from my laptop when he came in. The only comment I made was “what do you think of this bag?” I can’t remember his answer as I was totally zoned out. My journalism career was totally falling apart, the only news I was interested in was the 1000 emails a second from eBay.
Not that the shopping had killed my desire to do cocaine. I was drinking and snorting it all night, and was still wide awake at 8am. To try to make it go further, I also cut open my anti-depressants and mixed the powder up with cocaine. The combination drug, Prozacaine, certainly cheered me up. I’m not naturally good with kids. But after a couple of days of drinking and doing cocaine I was practically Super Nanny, on such a silly wave length I was brilliant at romping around with kids. I would play all sorts of exuberant games with Susanna’s son Tupai and sing along like a bargain basement Beyonce to the Happy Valley dinosaur movies he so loved. My mental age was probably younger than his. But I never did cocaine in front of him. I had standards and considered myself a responsible drug user. However when they went away for a while, I had my UK drug dealer round several times (I now had a drug dealer in every port). He would start off perfectly normal but an hour after he’d started smoking crack there would be people in the walls, running up the stairs (it was a flat so the stairs were invisible) and general crack psychosis going on.
At the Notting Hill carnival Susanna and I were hanging out with a group of Spanish people, hippies from Madrid. I had a dodgy bit of chicken at the Carnival and ended up projectile vomiting in Susanna’s flat with the puke almost hitting the opposite wall. Even the Spaniards were shocked when my response to this severe bout of food poisoning was to rack up another couple grammes of coke and continue getting high. But cocaine was my medication for everything at that time.
A very good corporate tenant was leaving my house in Notting Hill giving me the opportunity to do further works to the house. I had an addiction to building works (a rational reason, I thought, for spending loads of money I didn’t have) which I’ve elsewhere described as the “Edifice Complex.” I decided that the silver painted concrete floor on the ground floor needed to be replaced with stone. My interior designer, Vlad the inhaler, came to the “rescue” again supplying me with electrifying silver slate specially imported from India.
I moved into the house to oversee the building project, with my twenty suitcases of clothes. At least there was more storage space than at Susanna’s flat. My drug dealer set up a tent in the sitting room. He would be there every night, smoking crack, seeing blue and pink striped people coming up the stairs and hearing them chattering in the walls. I never asked him what language they were speaking: presumably Gobbledygook. Susanna warned me that it was dangerous for me to spend so much time alone with him, completely off his head, as we’d heard rumours that he’d beaten up several of his girlfriends. But of course I thought he was not only of impeccable moral character but also my “best friend” as he gave me free cocaine. So I could still say to myself that I was only buying a gramme a day. This was the absolute epitome of controlled using I thought. I was so desperate to keep hold of my supply, as everyone knows that if you let a drug dealer out of your sight you might not see them for six hours, that when he went out into the street to sell to other clients I would come with him and try to hold his hand.
He would send me out, on foot, to gather all the necessary ingredients to build his crack pipe at 4am (apart from obviously the crack which he had himself) saying it was “too dangerous” for him. I agreed because he gave me money for alcohol. I would walk into the off license at 4am. But I couldn’t even wait to get home to drink and would start chugging down the vodka in a phone box in the street. One time he saw me sitting on the pavement, pissed, drinking alcohol and said he “didn’t like to see me in this state.” I should have thought, my god, he thinks I’m fucked, I really must be up shit creek. But instead I was in De Nile.
Although I was rather grey because of the cocaine, he would look at me with his big brown eyes and said he wanted to go out with me. I said “I’m sorry I can’t go out with a drug dealer as I might get addicted to drugs.” I genuinely didn’t see the irony. The house was full of crack spoons, rolled up notes and empty wraps of cocaine. The builders said “you can’t do that,” meaning you can’t be so obvious you’re taking cocaine. But I didn’t care. Vlad said if the police came round (because of the building works noise) they would rip the house apart. When the house was under threat (rather than myself) I reacted rapidly and cleared everything up.
When my dealer wasn’t there, instead of getting enough alcohol for the night at a reasonable hour, I would think, I’ll only drink half a litre of vodka today. I’d then have to go out on the streets at 3am to buy the other half. The first time I did this the man behind the counter tried to chat me up. But when I kept going at 3am he looked at me with scorn, realising I was an alcoholic. Of course I didn’t realise this myself, I thought everyone went out to buy vodka at 3am.
I was suicidal, mainly because of the situation with my mother but exacerbated by the cocaine. Susanna said she thought the cocaine was making me worse. But I couldn’t see the connection at all. I would phone friends, drunk and drugged up at 4am, saying I was going to kill myself. I spoke to my mother’s nurse in Jamaica telling her I was suicidal. At least it wasn’t the middle of the night as they were 6 hours behind. Susanna said she thought I’d be found dead in the house of a cocaine overdose. Every time I spoke to her on the phone and was silent for a couple of seconds she thought I’d died.
I was having a tattoo done one day and my nose exploded with blood in the middle of the procedure. It would explode as regularly as an active volcano in those days. The woman who did the tattoo told me a story about how her husband had ruined his life with his cocaine addiction. I listened to the story, thinking what on earth has that got to do with me?
My perspective was as balanced as it could be for someone so wired on coke they could practically power the National Grid. So amongst all these dangerous experiences, when someone stole my (real) Chanel bag that I had in the house I thought my entire life was over. I might want to die but the accessories I died with were vitally important, of course. I suspected Vlad the Inhaler, who was by this stage carrying a handy burglar’s bag. But the builders could have been to blame, everyone knew I was out of control.
I went to the Eating Disorders Unit to see the psychiatrist and said I was drinking a litre of vodka a day and taking a gramme of coke. I only paid for a gramme I didn’t count the free stuff my dealer gave me on the side. He said he was very worried and that I shouldn’t go back to Jamaica, I should sort out my drug problems first. But I couldn’t leave my mother, who was by then having constant hallucinations seeing the police coming to our old house in Kensington to arrest my father and stepmother. This was wishful thinking as in fact they’d just got married and would live happily ever after. No Karma for him as yet.
The psychiatrist also said that every time I made myself sick on that quantity of cocaine, which I was doing two or three times a day, I risked having a fatal heart attack. I didn’t care as I felt so trapped by the situation with my mother that I thought I wanted to die. The more risks I took the better, I thought, as the closer that would bring me to death. Much later, in rehab, I realised that I was angry with my mother for what she had done when I was a child. But I wasn’t conscious of this and couldn’t articulate it at the time so just turned the anger in on myself.
The final decision I took before I went to Jamaica for Christmas was (despite being massively overdrawn) buying a Dior bikini and 5 pairs of designer sunglasses. This came after a session snorting cocaine in the basement loos in Selfridges. It meant I couldn’t pay the mortgage on my house in Notting Hill ( which I had lovingly built from scratch). But I rationalised that I had to have the bikini and that the mortgage was optional. I wore the bikini once but the bank then started repossession proceedings on my house. And then everything got even worse.
Next week: the nadir of my using on bloginhotpants. Being seduced by a (female) teenage stripper in Jamaica who’s murdered someone the week before (and then stole my car). Seeing the Boxing Day Tsunami and wishing I was dead. And walking through Heathrow airport caked in…