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As Fast as Humanly Possible

10 min read

This is a story about the origins of [my] bipolar disorder...

Me in hospital

Here are a couple of select conversations from the last year that might help you to understand the circumstances that influence my mood instability.

Me: "I'd like to discharge myself from hospital, please"

Doctors: "No. You are on a high dependency ward. You will die"

Me: "It can't be that bad. I want to discharge myself, please"

Doctors: "Your kidneys aren't working. You need dialysis. Your blood has dangerously high levels of potassium in it and you could go into cardiac arrest at any moment"

Me: "But I need to go to work otherwise I will lose my job"

Doctors: "You can't work if you're dead"

Me: "I'm going to have to risk it"

Why would I do such a staggeringly stupid thing? Why would I risk my life like that? It seems patently absurd, doesn't it?

For my whole career, bosses and shareholders have demanded only one thing: do more, faster.

I decided that I was being exploited. I'm the one who makes the software. Without my software, there's no product; there's no business and there's no profit. Without software that I've built, no amount of lawyers and salespeople and middle managers and jumped-up idiots with important sounding job titles, would have anything to do other than burn what little money the company had left. If the software is the product, then you've got nothing if you've got no software. If the software is what allows you to do thousands of times more volume than you'd be able to do without it, then you haven't got a business if you haven't got the software - your business model would collapse. Your business is software.

I'm not saying that software is important. Software can't build a house. Software can't plant carrots. Software can't dispose of your sewerage. Software is bullshit. However, most of the economy is bullshit - at least 85% bullshit here in the UK anyway.

So, anyway, some jumped-up little twat with his daddy's money comes up to me saying "I'm an entrepreneur and I've got a genius idea... I just need a geek to make the software". On closer inspection the software is where the genius lies. When the business idea is examined with close scrutiny, it turns out that none of the important details have been figured out. Turning an idea into a working business - the execution - is something that gets figured out by the lawyers and software engineers. The "entrepreneur" just provides his daddy's money, while he walks around with his chest puffed out pretending like he's a serious businessman.

The next thing that happens is that I say "how much money have you got to spend and when do you need to have a working product?". The answer is always the same: "I haven't got any money and I need it yesterday".

Where did the budget go for the software? It seems to have all been spent on employing a bunch of old schoolchums to do "brand consultancy" or "business development". Basically, the directors fly all around the world attending conferences and "networking", which is very costly because they're running up huge expenses. Meanwhile, the geek is expected to churn out the software - "I don't know what it is, but is it finished yet?" - as fast as they possibly can. It's quite common now for very capable young computer programmers to work unpaid, or on slave wages, because they're desperate to gain commercial experience. Some idiots even think that I'd enjoy working on a software project for free, like it's a motherf**king hobby or something.

So, I arrived at the situation where I would always work at top speed. I've pleased my bosses and shareholders, not because I give them what they want, but because I've generally been much faster and much cheaper than anybody they've used before. In short: I deliver.

I was working so damn hard all the time and not seeing much of a reward for the dedication I put into my job, so I started to work for myself. I made software and I sold it. I made some iPhone apps and I sold them. One of my apps took me half a day to code and it was downloaded thousands of times. This made sense to me - the whole reason I work with computers is because they can do things while I sleep; a computer can perform many thousandfold tasks than I ever could. It makes sense that I would use a computer to leverage my talents and efforts.

I didn't quite understand that the whole reason why I came to be writing iPhone apps was because I'd been burnt out by my employer. I'd landed a hell of a project. The world's biggest project, in fact - "Nick, would you mind creating us a system that can process a quadrillion dollars worth of credit default swaps, please? Have it done as soon as you can, please, there's a good chap... we've got a global economy that needs wrecking".

I didn't quite understand that I burnt myself out again writing iPhone apps. I coded as fast as I could. I catnapped and skipped meals. I worked 7 days a week. I knew that every moment that I wasn't coding was another moment that my competitors were potentially going to release a similar app. I had to be first to market with my ideas. I had to be the first person in the Apple App Store with an app that did something that nobody else had thought of yet.

I decided to start a proper business. I decided that I'd create a piece of software with a recurring license cost. I decided to create a piece of Software as a Service (SaaS) and then I'd be able to earn money while I slept, once I'd completed the system. I didn't have any of my daddy's money to spend though. I didn't raise any money from friends and family. I just had me and my idea, my software engineering skills and 24 hours in every single day.

I didn't quite understand that I burnt myself out doing my startup. I didn't understand that writing the software - the hard bit - was only the beginning of what I had to do. I had to raise investment to be able to market my product. I had to sell the product. I had to support the product. I had to do all the business administration. I had to raise investment to be able to afford to hire people, so that I didn't collapse under the weight of all those competing demands. I didn't go fast enough though, so I did collapse.

With every burst of intense focus and effort, there would be a windfall. Particularly in investment banking, if you do a good job then you get a big fat juicy bonus. If you make an app that goes to #1 in the App Store charts then you get a windfall. Even if you do a startup, you can sometimes get a reward - my startup was at least profitable; investable.

The pattern of behaviour was established. It made sense to me to work as hard and as fast as I could, because the rewards seemed to be there.

When I run a software project - a team of people who work for me - then I put developer welfare as the top priority. I set realistic deadlines. I allow time for people to catch their breath. If the pressure starts to increase, then I move the deadline rather than asking people to work longer hours. Bosses should hate me, but I underpromise and overdeliver, and I run happy motivated high-performing teams. I get great feedback from the people who work for me.

When I'm coding, I seem to forget about my own mental health. When I've got a tough deadline and a tough deliverable, I'll work as hard as I can. I get scared. I think I've forgotten how to code. I feel like my skills are rusty and outdated. I feel old and useless. So, because of this fear, I go as fast as I possibly can.

It hasn't helped that I've never quite managed to gain a comfortable financial cushion that would allow me to feel like I can consider my health and general mental wellbeing, as well as just delivering the software. I always put work as my first priority.

Me: "I'm going to go to London to do some IT consultancy for an investment bank"

Psychiatrist: "But that's what you always do, and you know it makes you unwell"

Me: "But I need the money"

Psychiatrist: "You need to look after your mental health"

Me: "My mental health can wait. I'm nearly bankrupt"

Psychiatrist: "Well go bankrupt then. Allow yourself time to recover"

Me: "But then I'll never be able to work in investment banking again"

Psychiatrist: "That might be a good thing. It makes you unwell"

Me: "Yes, but it also makes me rich"

In the interests of completing the picture: I am not rich. The amount that I earn would make me rich if I could stay well for long enough to keep working, but the stress and the pressure also mean that I almost always get sick. It's a horrible catch 22.

So, I've completed another software system and it's live - it's up and running and people like it. My boss is pleased. Am I burnt out? Yes, I am a little. I had to bunk off work yesterday. In fact, I've bunked 3 out of the last 9 days. Is this the beginning of me starting to take a little more care of myself?

The cycle is very much not over. I need at least another one or two decent length contracts before I have that all-important financial cushion. It's going to take me until the end of the year to get back to financial security. It's going to be months and months before the ever-present threat of running out of money goes away, even if some money is slowly starting to trickle into my bank account.

It's quite ludicrous that I was on collision course with certain bankruptcy, and now I'm solvent and I've delivered another project on time and on budget. Last year was the year where I gave up. Everything was just too damn hard. I had a great contract, then my kidneys packed up. I had an OK contract but the boss didn't seem to realise he'd hired a bit of rock star at a bargain basement price. I got a contract, but I only just had enough money to be able to afford to go to work... I was running on petrol fumes.

If you were to ask the most stable person you know to live my life, I guarantee that their mood would be unstable as hell. How can you expect anybody to go through the kinds of ups and downs that I go through, without accompanying high and low mood? My mood is a sane reaction to an insane world.

I don't think I have bipolar disorder. I think I'm a product of my environment.




Tortured Soul

9 min read

This is a story about the brain drain...

Daily photo of me in a suit

I should keep photos of myself wearing my ordinary work clothes off my blog. I should take more care to separate my professional identity from my blogging identity. I should ensure that Nick "Manic" Grant and the name that's written on my CV can never be connected.

To even write my proper name - as it appears on my passport and birth certificate - onto this website would risk appearing at the top of Google searches that prospective employers might do. I've been careful to separate my LinkedIn and never mention my consultancy company name. I rarely mention client names, and certainly not the names of clients who I wish to continue working for.

However, I'm starting to slip. I'm starting to not care so much. I'm starting to prefer my real identity to the fake one that's necessary to get a well paid job. I was finding it cumbersome to try to pretend like everything was A-OK in my world, and attempt to stop rumours spreading about me in the companies I used to work for. It was exhausting, trying to cover up my indiscretions. It's been exhausting, leading a double life.

One of the biggest double life issues I have is that I have nothing but contempt for capitalism and banking, and I completely fail to see the utility of computers and apps and software and data. Yes, in our super tech-heavy world, it seems inconceivable to say such a thing, but I definitely think humanity's headed in the wrong direction. The mechanisation of farming and the industrialisation of food production are two examples of tech's potential to feed the world's hungry, but we're not using tech to do that, are we? Instead, we're using tech to create artificially inflated asset bubbles and an ever greater rich:poor divide. It eats me up inside that I'm involved, but I'm also shackled with golden handcuffs to the cash cow that provides a hefty income. What am I supposed to do?

Many people think it's churlish that I bite the hand that feeds me. Many people seem to think it's not possible for me to have ethical concerns about what I'm involved in as a day job. Why don't I quit and do something else? It certainly seems to upset me and cause me a lot of angst and anguish.

As I've written before at length, I'm economically incentivised to get the most bang for my buck. I'm economically incentivised to sell my labour to the highest bidder. I need a place to live and food to eat, don't I? So of course I'm going to plump for an employer who's going to give me enough money to live, rather than one who would leave me starving, homeless and impoverished.

I should be rich & retired by now. Here's how my strategy to become rich went:


Me: I'm going to invest all my money in gold

Her: no

Result: gold plus exchange rate of US dollar would have delivered 500% return on investment


Me: I'm going to quit my job and write iPhone apps

Her: no

Result: we broke up. I made enough money from my iPhone apps so I didn't have to work... until I got back together with her


Me: I'm going to be CEO of a tech startup worth millions of pounds

Her: no

Result: my company continued to trade profitably and win big customers... without me


Me: I'm going to invest all my money in Bitcoin

Her: no

Result: each Bitcoin is now worth $15,000. I would have paid about $5 for each Bitcoin. A $5,000 investment would now be worth $15 million


Me: I'm going to invest all my money in Bitcoin

Her: no

Result: we separated and divorced. I've hardly had to work since then.

In the absence of any good ideas to get rich quick, I always fall back on IT consultancy. I was getting £40 an hour when I was 19 years old, and then £470/day when I was 20. I was on-track to retire at 40, if I stuck with the consultancy gig, even though it was soul destroying.

Now, it galls me that I've been so close to serious wealth so many times. It galls me that my ex-wife was such a toxic person that she's fucked up a whole bunch of very decent ways I could've made a fortune. It galls me that I'm back doing the soul destroying day job, because my ex-wife held me back and sabotaged some very smart and shrewd plans I had. It galls me that I'm doing a job that I mastered a long time ago. It fucking sucks to only earn six figures and have to work like, maybe 35 whole hours or whatever, doing a really easy job.

Of course, I'm deliberately writing in such a way that might cause offence. Many people dream of earning decent money, or having a shot at getting rich. Well, here's the solution: do a job you really hate.

I hate my job so very very much. I can't believe just how flipping easy it is. I also can't believe just how awful it is to be part of the capitalist machinery that's wrecking the planet and the wellbeing of humanity. I'm involved in legal loan-sharking. I'm an accessory to murder. I'm guilty by association.

I started out my career in defence - the military - so I'm no stranger to the ethical dilemma of working for a weapons manufacturer. I had to wonder to myself how I'd feel when lives were inevitably lost as a result of my software. It seemed wrong to think that I'd succeeded as an engineer, if I successfully brought about the death of the so-called 'enemy'. My software was very definitely going to be used to kill people; nothing defensive about it at all.

What should I be doing? Working for a charity? Working for an NGO or some other kind of humanitarian cause? What, like your chum Hugo from private school, who went off and built a school in Africa... he put that on his CV and now he works for a fucking bank because he's not fucking stupid. Hugo tells all his chums that he's done important work in the developing world, because he's an insufferable tosspot; he's a smug spoiled little shit, who's never known anything other than wealth and privilege.

You might hear my posh accent, or see the big name multinational companies I've worked for on my CV, and you might be mistaken for thinking I'm posh and spoiled and entitled and all the other things you don't like very much. In fact, I've had to spend my whole career with ethical conflict in my heart. I'm a bleeding-heart liberal who puts on a sharp suit and pretends to be a banker. I have to think about the part I played in the 2007/8 financial crisis. I have to think about my part I played in the whole stinking shitpit that is capitalism. I could hide behind the defence: "I'm just an engineer" but I can't.

"I make the rockets go up. Where they land is not my department"

I don't think it's a valid defence for an engineer to say that they're apolitical; amoral. I write software that's unopinionated, but I know what it's going to be used for. I know that I'm donating my brainpower and brawn to an evil cause. I know that ultimately, I'm helping the rich get richer.

I spend my days somewhat outraged that my time's being wasted on trivial bullshit, that contributes nothing to society except for improving the apparatus that oppresses the planet's poor people - tools to better extort money out of the 98%. I spend my days frustrated - I want to be doing something worthy, but I can't.

Of course I'm not going to jack in my job and go work for a charity. Charities pay shit money. Of course I'm not going to work for charity. Charities have failed to deliver any meaningful change. Impoverishing myself is the world's most stupid first step towards any meaningful change.

I'm frustrated and upset, because my ingenuity was thwarted so many times by my ex-wife that I'm now exhausted. I'm not a young man anymore. I was lucky enough to have a couple of moments of glory that proved my point - I can build valuable stuff that works - but now I don't have the energy or the financial security to make another foray into something more worthwhile than the bullshit that passes for my day job.

I'm trapped by debt that I ran up when I got sick. I'm trapped by the capitalist trap of high living costs. I'm trapped by the need to speculate to accumulate, but I've got nothing to speculate with. I'm hoisted by my own petard. The irony is not lost on me, of course.

It's torturous agony, working a job that I mastered 21 years ago. It's torturous agony, solving the same problems that I already solved a million times over, knowing full well that everything is doomed to the same fate. Of course the global financial markets are going to collapse again, imminently. Of course, the whole bullshit system can't be propped up anymore. Of course, the bubble has to burst. Bubbles always burst eventually. It's physically painful in a way that's hard to describe, knowing that the whole ridiculous house of cards is going to come crashing down again at any moment. I know it's just anxiety and stress and depression, but it's not made any better working for an investment bank, doing the same bullshit job that I was doing - I was so close to ground zero when the whole fucking financial crisis happened. I was feeling ethically challenged 10 or 11 years ago. I was feeling ethically challenged 21 years ago. Fuck my life, that I'm back doing the thing that I hate most, because it's an economic necessity.

Who's to blame? Me presumably.

Fine, pin it on me. I'll take the rap.

Imma kill myself.




The Flight I Never Took

7 min read

This is a story about missed connections...

San Francisco Flights

Like many people, I have a large collection of digital photos. My library starts in 2005, when a group of friends and I pooled our holiday snaps from a trip to Venezuela. Travel photography is the main thing that featured until my life started getting erratic. I have an increasingly random muddle of photos and screenshots, like a breadcrumb trail leading back to saner and more stable times.

2008 was the beginning of a much more exciting life than I had led before. I quit my investment banking career, developed some iPhone apps, retrained as an electrician, called off my wedding and went back to IT consultancy work. Having lived under the dark storm-cloud of an abusive relationship for far too long, I finally decided I'd had enough and broke up with my fiancée. I made a new group of friends and rebooted my life - as a prescription for depression, that shock treatment worked perfectly.

Fast-forward to 2011 and I knew that my relationship - back together with the girl who my friends call "the poison dwarf" - was destroying my world and ruining my happiness. I spent 3 amazing months in Cambridge and I'd fallen in love with somebody else, but I was too loyal; too faithful; too committed to give up on a failing relationship and go for what I really wanted.

In 2012 I capitulated and tried to follow doctor's orders - I started taking medication - and went back to the life I hated. I returned to the investment bank I'd previously worked for and tried to pretend like I was OK with that. I even got married to "the poison dwarf". I tried my very hardest to put on the boring grey suit and pretend like I was able to work doing the 9 to 5 office routine that I'd done for years and years, but my heart was broken.

I guess I never really got over the fact that I hadn't followed my dreams; followed my heart.

2013 brought the inevitable divorce, which necessitated selling my house and figuring out what to do with all my worldly possessions. In short, I didn't want anything to do with my toxic old life: the place and the things and the pain of everything getting ripped to shreds was just too much to bear. I wanted the whole lot to burn to the ground so I could start over. I wanted a fresh start.

I tried to court that girl from Cambridge who I'd fallen in love with - she liked me too and things were going well. It looked like I was going to break free from the gravity that tried to pull me back into a black hole. Despite me telling "the poison dwarf" that she could take as much as she wanted, she tried to destroy me. She just needed to leave me alone to get on with my new life, but she made the process of divorce into an unbelievably horrible disaster. Despite my attempts to make things quick and painless and give her a big cash settlement, she sabotaged my every effort.

In the midst of the acrimonious divorce, I tried to get away from the worsening British weather and get some rest and relaxation before Christmas. I was going to go to Florida and do some skydiving, and then I was going to go to San Francisco to see my friends in the Bay Area. The house should have been sold; the cash should have been in the bank - it wasn't, because "the poison dwarf" had screwed up the easy house sale that I'd worked so hard to make happen.

I was too sick to take my flight to America.

I think of 2014 as my annus horribilis given that I spent about 11 weeks receiving inpatient treatment, essentially for the problems caused by getting screwed over as a vulnerable person, by my ex-wife. She'd demanded a quick divorce and I'd said "take whatever you want" but then she made it unspeakably awful. After a rotten birthday where I found myself well and truly homeless, I repeated my magic trick of 2008: I got myself back into IT consultancy and made a load of new friends; I flew off to Tenerife with my new girlfriend and went kitesurfing. From the depths of despair and near destruction, I rose up and rebuilt myself.

What happened in 2015, 2016 and 2017, combined a winning formula of highly paid IT consultancy work and my ability to make new friends and rebuild my life, with the sensation-seeking desire to maintain a novel lifestyle: if nothing else, my life has been very exciting for the past few years.

Whereas most people live in fear of tarnishing their professional reputation and losing everything they own and hold dear, I found those things became incredibly cumbersome when I was unwell. To maintain appearances and pretend like everything is just fine, is immensely energy-draining. It's almost driven me insane, worrying about what former work colleagues and bosses think about me; what people know about my chequered past. Far, far, far more than the abuse my body has suffered, and the mental health problems I've been through, the biggest problem in my life has been worrying about people finding out the very things that I've catalogued on the pages of this blog, quite publicly.

We are now approaching a third San Francisco flight that has been booked, but there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding whether I will be going or not. I dearly wish to see an old schoolfriend who was pivotal in raising the alarm on social media, to the fact that I was in the process of killing myself - in essence, he was the last person I spoke to while still alive, telling him that I was sorry I wouldn't be seeing him in November [because I'd be dead].

Twitter conversation

It fucking horrifies me that the managing director of the company who I was working for at the time - who booked my flights out to San Francisco - was in the process of attempting to terminate my employment while I was on life support in intensive care... because he'd read this on Twitter!

Given that I've stubbornly refused to die, I feel like taking the trip to San Francisco in defiance of the arsehole who didn't care whether I lived or died. That gobsmackingly awful human being deserves to have to see me alive and well, taking a trans-Atlantic flight to go and see an old friend who actually cared about my life.

I feel like I might be calling on you - my social media friends - to help me raise Hell to show that vulnerable people shouldn't get screwed over by unscrupulous arseholes.

So, this is my call to action: I'd like to speak to you and I'd like your support in turning up the heat on people who put personal profit ahead of human lives. I've been wondering what to do with myself, and this feels like an important point; this feels like something symbolic.

Whether it's my ex-wife who literally said "I'd rather be a widow than a divorcee" or my ex-boss who literally fired me for being dead, I want to stand up to these fucking arseholes.




A Tale of Ten Beds

7 min read

This is a story about how nothing really mattress...

Double bed

This is the last double bed I slept in, 27 days ago. That's my brand new bedding with brand new pillows and a brand new duvet. I moved to Manchester with nothing more than my laptop and a bag of clothes. New life - clean slate. This is the apartment where I tried to kill myself. It was a miserable place and I'm glad I never slept there again.

I woke up on Saturday 9th September, and I was miserable. I wrote a blog post in this bed, about how miserable I was and how close I was to committing suicide. It was prescient.

The next bed I lay upon was owned by a guy who I had become friends with through my girlfriend. My girlfriend at the time was of no fixed abode - sofa surfing with a guy who she met on a dating website. I'd travelled to this friend's apartment to see my girlfriend. We lay kissing and cuddling on our friend's bed. Then, we broke up.

Coming home to my miserable apartment, I didn't get into bed - I took a massive overdose and lay on the bathroom floor in the dark, waiting to die. The next bed I laid upon was in the Accident & Emergency department of the nearest hospital.

I'm presuming - because I was unconscious - that I stayed on the same hospital bed, as I was transferred from A&E resus to the Intensive Treatment Unit (ITU) and then to a High Dependency ward. I was on life support. I was having seizures. I don't remember any of this.

I vaguely remember having to scramble across onto a different bed, to move me out of the High Dependency ward and onto a general ward. I remember this because there was a bag of my piss sloshing around that had to be moved too, and there was a tube coming out of my penis, which I had to be careful not to entangle with anything. The tube that was going up my dick yanked my male member around - it wasn't a comfortable experience.

From hospital I was thrown in a police cell. There was a 'bed' made of concrete painted with light blue paint - the same glossy paint that adorned the floor and walls of the cell. To slightly soften the hard concrete, there was a thin blue foam mat, which was wipe-clean. I did not sleep.

Driven home by the two police who had interviewed me - at 2am in the morning - I finally got back home at 3:30am. My sleep medication was nowhere to be found and I'd had a traumatic day - sleep was impossible. I lay awake on my bed, waiting until the earliest possible moment I could go to the office and try to find a work colleague - I was in a desperate situation and I needed help from somebody friendly and sympathetic to my plight: alone in a strange city with no friends or family; no smartphone, laptop, debit card, credit cards, cash or driving license.

After a second dreadful day I was pretty fucked up, as one might expect of somebody abandoned in such shitty circumstances. As sleep deprivation reached the 40+ hour mark, I ended up back at the same hospital's Accident & Emergency department that I had been in 5 days earlier.

Another day, another hospital bed. This one I came round face down on, with my wrists handcuffed behind my back, after having received an intramuscular injection of 4mg of lorazepam. It was approximately 3am in the morning - now 6 days after my original hospital admission.

Sectioned first under a 136 (up to 72 hours) and then upgraded to a section 2 (up to 28 days) I was then taken to a secure psychiatric facility with airlock-type doors, to stop anybody escaping. I was given a private room that was quite nicely appointed, with a writing desk and an ensuite wet-room.

Psychiatric intensive care

Having blearily come round in the early hours of the Tuesday morning, it was now Thursday night. I finally had a single bed in a comparatively peaceful environment in which to collapse and sleep, mercifully with the assistance of some zopiclone to calm my jangled nerves and soothe me into my slumbers.

Gone were the bleeps and hisses of the machines that were keeping people alive, on the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), replaced with the sound of alarms, slamming doors, shouting and running in corridors, as my fellow patients were restrained by staff. I found it somewhat comforting, to know that my crisis was no longer at its peak.

After 8 days on the PICU, I was transferred to an acute psych ward. It was terrifying.

With me in hospital I had two Apple iPhones, two Apple Macbooks, a Nintendo Switch and £1,150 in £50 notes. It's not really recommended to have that amount of valuables on your person, in amongst some very poor and deprived people. The wealth disparity was vulgar.

My guardian angel facilitated the return of my surplus iPhone and Macbook - Apple were excellent and refunded me with no quibbles.

I begun life on the new ward in a private bedroom, but I didn't have an ensuite shower and the TV blasted right next door for 19 hours a day, at full volume. At first, I was too tired to care and I could sleep through the dawn chorus of utter bullshit television a million decibels, but then it started to keep me awake, leaving me less than 5 hours of shut-eye per night.

Psych ward TV torture chamber

Then, the dreaded dormitory. Dorms are a mixed bag - very dependent on the luck of the draw, in terms of your fellow occupants. Security is a massive concern, as nothing more than a privacy curtain separated my personal possessions from anybody who'd care to have a look through my bags. Snoring can be a pain in the arse, with one person able to keep everybody else awake listening to their noisy slumbers. Thankfully, my dorm buddies weren't too bad.

This morning I woke up to "second; minute; hour; power; shower" repeated over and over, as a poetic dorm buddy wrote a new rap. That was 5:15am. It was still dark. He was pretty loud. He's sleeping now - snoring.

Today, I'm bustin' out of the psych ward. Watch out, general public of the United Kingdom - I'm going to be moving among you again as a free man.

Psych ward dorm

This is my current bed. I'm lying on it as I type this. I don't know what the bed or the room I'm sleeping in tonight looks like - I've never set foot in the house I'm going to travel to this afternoon. It's a leap in the dark, as is my wont.

Some of my few remaining worldly possessions are here with me in Manchester and some are in London. I'm surprised that I haven't lost more of my valuables. I can't quite bring myself to do the maths, to figure how much money I've lost on this crazy jaunt to the North of England. What does it matter? I'm alive and about to be accepted into the fold of a kind family who are taking me in - the IT consultant who lost his mind in a city where he didn't have any friends or family. It's unlikely that I'd have ended up homeless, but I wasn't relishing the prospect of being chucked off the psych ward and into a dreadful bed & breakfast, in some shitty suburb.

The very definition of "my" home and "my" bed has been smashed to smithereens. Tonight will be the tenth bed I've lain upon in less than 28 days, including several hospital beds and the concrete slab that passes for a bed in a police cell.

Distress flares were fired off and a good samaritan is coming to rescue me from a fairly dire situation.

Tonight, I sleep in a normal house for the first time in what feels like a very long time.




Prince of Wales

17 min read

This is a story about being hounded to death...

Another hospital

One week ago, I was shovelling pills into my mouth, washed down with pints of white wine. The LD50 is the lethal dose that will kill 50% of the test subjects. Lethal doses are normally calculated in milligrams per kilogram of body weight. Tramadol is quite a reliable way to kill yourself, with plenty of examples of successful suicides in the literature, for anybody who wishes to trawl the medical journals.

Most opiates will cause respiratory arrest. Tramadol seems to kill more often through serotonin syndrome, according to what I read in advance of my suicide attempt. I can tell you exactly what it feels like, to reach your wits end, decide to end your life, and follow through with the necessary steps. I can tell you exactly what it feels like, during the periods of consciousness, as you die.

Once I had downed all the capsules and their gelatin shells had started to dissolve, I started to become quite intoxicated, thanks in no small part to the wine I used to wash my legally prescribed pain medication - tramadol - down my throat. Of course, I had stockpiled the capsules, which is not what my doctor had anticipated I would do, when they wrote the prescription, but I was getting a box each visit to the pharmacist, with each box containing plenty to end my life.

I decided to send out some final Tweets, when I believed I was beyond the point of no return. I have no idea whether I inadvertantly saved my own life or not, by alerting my social media contacts to the fact that I was on my way to meet my maker.

Discussion of what pushed me over the edge is not really warranted here, suffice to say that I simply had nothing in reserve when my fragile embryonic new life in this Northern city started to crumble. I had given 100% to my new job, my new girlfriend and my new friends. I had no safety net, when the slender threads that supported me, snapped suddenly.

Firstly, it should be noted that it takes quite a long time for your stomach and large intestine to process enough capsules for you to start to experience the onset of a fatal overdose. I had imagined that 40 minutes would be plenty for the first wave of powerful tramadol to hit me, and to make me unconscious or at least delerious and incoherent. I was wrong - I was able to send out several Tweets that actually seem to make sense now - one week later - as well as being gramatically OK and without spelling mistakes.

Secondly, it should be noted that the ideal scenario of falling asleep and not waking up, did not happen at all. I did get waves of soporific effect from both the alcohol and the tramadol, but I imagine that the adrenalin of knowing I was on my way to the grave kept me mostly conscious. My eyelids would get heavy and my head would drop, but my body fought to stay alive and I kept jerking awake.

Thirdly, I have horrible snatches of memory. I can remember exactly what it was like to fill my mouth with capsules, and gulp them down with wine from a pint glass. I remember how agonisingly long it took to empty out all the packets into the box, which I used as a kind of cup, from which to tip a load of tramadol into my mouth before swallowing it. I can remember the emergency services battering their way into the bathroom, where I had slumped in the dark, waiting to die. I can remember telling them where all the empty pill packets were.

I can remember telling somebody - was it somebody at the hospital? - who my doctor was and exactly what overdose I had taken. I can remember the very worst moment, when the hospital told me that death was likely to be slow and painful, not the unconscious affair I had imagined.

I can remember when I started to have seizures. I can remember begging the hospital not to treat me with activated charcoal; not to pump my stomach; not to resuscitate me if I went into cardiac arrest. I can remember coming round after 12+ hours under sedation, breathing with a ventilator. I had a tube coming out of my nose, one down my throat and one up my dick - I had been intubated, catheterised and had several canulas installed, including an arterial one that was measuring my blood pressure. It felt like I had snot running down my face, but it was just a tube that was being used to put stuff into my stomach to neutralise the deadly chemicals.

I can remember a nurse or a doctor came and asked me a question, and I tried to reply but I couldn't. Every time I tried to speak, my lungs pushed air against the ventilator, and I would be left momentairily be gasping for air until I allowed the machine to breathe for me again.

I can remember a different nurse or doctor reassured me that I would be able to speak once the tube had been pulled out of my throat, where it was impeding my vocal chords. I was so relieved, because it was deeply distressing to lose my ability to talk and have moments where I couldn't breathe.

I can remember being asked how I felt about the fact I had survived an overdose that should have been fatal. I felt terrible about telling the hard-working intensive-care nurse or doctor that nothing had changed... in fact things were worse than ever, as I imagined that the overdose would have caused horrific organ damage. I expressed in no uncertain terms that I still wanted to die.

I can remember drifting in and out of consciousness. From Saturday night to Tuesday morning, I had no idea whether I was in A&E resus, intensive care or the high dependency unit. I can vaguely recall being told, but the memories seem all out of sequence, and dreamlike - quite unreal.

I can remember being wheeled into a general hospital ward at some point on Tuesday, and then wheeled off to my own private room. I can remember slowly regaining some mental capacity. I can remember a visit from a psychiatrist, where I again expressed my distress with my situation and fear that I would not be able to guarantee my own safety - what had improved since I had tried to end my own life? Nothing. In fact, my situation had worstened: I had no idea what kind of state my apartment would be in when I got home - my wallet, keys, phone and other personal effects had gone missing. It seemed unthinkable that I would have to face potentially being locked out of my apartment, with no money or credit cards on me, and no means of contacting anybody.

When I did finally make it back home, things were worse than I had even imagined. My laptop and digital camera had been stolen. Every single prescribed medication had been stripped from my shelves and drawers and cupboards. There was one single solitary pregabalin capsule, almost left mockingly on my bedroom floor which lay in disgraceful mess. I need pregabalin for nerve damage in my left ankle/foot... as a non-opiod painkiller. I desperately needed some of the zopiclone that I had stockpiled, in order to sleep after such a horrific ordeal. These are not dangerous medications, ironically. I had moved myself off the tramadol, because it was not desirable to use it as a long-term painkiller. I had stockpiles of zopiclone, because it was useful for these very eventualities. The home treatment team had thrown bucketloads at me, because sleep is so important for good mental health. Where was all my prescription medication?

There was no sign of my mobile phone anywhere, and without my wallet and laptop, I was completely stuffed in terms of being able to get a message to anybody. From Saturday night until around 3 or 4am on Wednesday morning, I had been completely cut off from the world... mostly unconscious, and without access to telephone, email or social media.

Wednesday daytime, the way I was treated at the office - where I went to store the few valuables that had not been stolen - was extremely odd; if not downright rude and unpleasant. It was most unsettling indeed to be treated so oddly at my place of work, especially after surviving a suicide attempt and having suffered a burgulary. I was also fighting off panic attacks and pain, because my legally prescribed medications had been stolen too.

After a quite baffling experience at the office, where I was ushered out of the door as if I was an interloper, the CEO of the company I had been doing consultancy work for, spoke to me to say that he would be very happy to see me for a beer, but that I could spend the rest of the week sorting out everything that now dauntingly lay ahead of me: repairing the damage from the break-in and replacing the stolen items. Life is profoundly difficult without your credit and debit cards, mobile phone and laptop.

I managed to get an emergency prescription for 7 days of pregabalin and zopicline, so that I could restabilise my medication regimen. I managed to get enough cash out from the bank to replace my laptop, but not my smartphone or pay for repairs to my flat. I was starting to be overwhelmed with the enormity of the task that was expected of me: for a suicide survivor to carry on with their life as if nothing had happened. My home felt violated and insecure. There was something weird going on at work. It was deeply unsettling.

Gladly, I was re-admitted to hospital at Accident & Emergency, because I was driven into crisis by the horrendous near-death experience, only to then find that my two most valuable and prized possessions - my smartphone and laptop - had been stolen, and my flat had been ransacked; my front door and bathroom door were smashed up; the place had been turned upside down.

The fact that I was discharged from hospital and ended up back at my trashed apartment at 3 or 4am on Wednesday morning is something that should never have come to pass. What the fuck are you doing discharging a suicidal person in crisis, into a situation where they've got more on their plate than they can handle? How the fuck am I going to go back to life as normal, without my smartphone, laptop or a secure home to keep myself and my possessions in? How the fuck am I going to get through life without the pain medication for my nerve damage, and sleep medication for the horrendously stressful circumstances.

Being re-admitted to hospital - first the Accident & Emergency department, and then psychiatric hospital - was inevitable, and essential for my safety and wellbeing.

I could have bounced back, but the strange experience at the office and the amount of things I had to sort out due to theft or loss, was simply too much for somebody as sick as I was then.

I managed to get a replacement debit card for my business bank account, and make some cash withdrawals using my passport, but after replacing my mobile phone and laptop I had very little money left; I was exhausted stressed and in no mood to return to my home that not only felt violated, but also not a secure place to keep myself and my valuables.

My very worst fear was realised: that of finding myself completely alone in this Northern city with nobody to turn to for support. Without a smartphone, I felt completely cut off from social media. By some strange co-incidence, my work colleagues were both out of town. This was the perfect storm. This was exactly what I never wanted to ever happen - to be isolated and alone.

I thought about throwing myself off a high building, or under a bus. In the end, I finally made it back to where I should have been allowed to stay: the safety of hospital. Surviving a suicide attempt is a big deal, and then to have shit to deal with at work and home, was horrendous.

My memory about how I arrived back in hospital is just as fucked up as you'd expect of somebody who's been through a near-death experience and survived, but only barely. I'm not sure what's real and what's dream. I feel like I died all over again. I have these strange memories of trying to replace my mobile phone, laptop and get enough cash out of the bank to replace my iPhone too. I can remember waking up on a hospital trolley and re-orienting myself with reality... there were lots of things that I could vaguely remember, but they seemed to be from a different life. Had I died and had my heart restarted? Certainly, there was a period where I was sure I was dreaming. Perhaps I was still having seizures, because of the unbelievable disturbance to the stability of my life, including the regularity with which I was able to take my medications and soothe my jangled nerves with alcohol.

I write to you now, in stone cold sobriety. My alcohol consumption has been practically zero for a whole week... cut at a rate that would easily cause problems, especially considering that all the other medications that I have been prescribed have been very irregularly given to me too. Rebound insomnia from suddenly stopping zopiclone would be expected. Suddenly stopping pregabalin will have terrible consequences, as with any of the GABA agonists. I'm surprised I haven't had MORE seizures or perhaps even been killed by the sudden withdrawal of medications that I had become physically dependent on, as well as alcohol. You can't just suddenly stop drinking and taking the pills that I had been prescribed - you have to taper down gently.

In a way, I'm in a good situation now that I'm off all the alcohol and most of the meds that I had become dependent on. My sleep is terrible, I'm in a lot of pain, and I'm overwhelmed by anxiety and a general sense of unease, but it's good to not be drinking so much and having to take pills just to stay calm through some incredibly stressful events.

My housing, employment and general situation is dreadful. I'm being royally dicked over by everybody who has sensed that I'm in a vulnerable state. It's an abosoute disgrace, how people have tried to put the boot in and deal the final death blow to me, when I was already bruised and bloodied and at death's door.

I'm in psych hospital until Monday at least, which is a blessed relief. I have a room with a door that hasn't been kicked in and has a fairly sturdy lock, with which to protect my valuables. I get three hot meals a day and there's plenty of hot water. There are loads of mental health professionals on hand if I was feeling suicidal again.

Sadly, I am having to turn to the law to defend me from mental health discrimination, illegal eviction, and hopefully recover my valuables that were lost or stolen due to negligence. At least I am in a safe place from which to defend myself. Justice will prevail.

I think it's outrageous that I was ever declared fit and well enough to be let out of hospital, especially given the ransacked shithole I had to go back home to, and the mistreatment I received at work. However, I am also sympathetic towards the police, who have a difficult job to do, as well as to the fact that I have received a substantial amount of hospital care, to save my life.

There's a fairly simple ethical guiding principle here though: don't fuck with vulnerable people. I'm pretty mad that I'm the one with the stolen iPhone, MacBook, the battered and bruised body, the missing medications and having faced some terrible stress, on top of the situation that was already so horribly desperate that it drove me to try to end my own life. Nobody is coming to me and offering me compensation of any kind, despite my phone and laptop being supposedly covered under a company insurance policy.

I have a fully functioning conscience - a moral compass - and I am trying to set matters straight that I am responsible for. Even in the midst of what might have been the final hour or two that I walked upon this Earth, I still had concern for rectifying certain things, and I still do. I'm being treated like shit, but I don't feel that entitles me to treat others like shit. I'm in a horrible situation, but I'll do what I can from where I can... although I do expect to be treated fairly and in accordance with the contractual obligations, housing obligations and obligations to not be discriminated against because of my mental health crisis. The door swings both ways, and I take my ethical conduct very seriously.

Sadly, the law and solicitors of various flavours are being involved, which means I can do little until they're back at work again on Monday. I need to proceed through the official channels, seeing as I'm being beaten with a legal stick. I'm outraged that my housing and income is under threat, simply because the opportunistic shits that I've been doing some work for have sensed an opportunity to try and scam me.

I wish everybody would just do the right thing, or offer to rectify things when they have made a mistake.

Anyway, as you can tell, I'm feeling quite sorry for myself, given the shitshow of my life. My guardian angel has arrived in the nick of time to help me stay afloat, but I'm still battered, bruised, organ damaged, hospitalised, under threat of illegal eviction, my client is in breach of contract with unpaid invoices, my employment offer has been withdrawn due to mental health discrimination, and the dreadful ordeal on Tues/Weds with being released from hospital too early, has pretty much fucked any chance of recovering my delicate poise. Everything was so fucking fragile, and it burned down in the blink of an eye.

Fundamentally, where is my girlfriend, my friends - my support network - as well as my work colleagues, income, housing and all the other pieces of the puzzle that make a liveable life? All I can see are circling vultures, greedily eyeing me up as a piece of carrion.

At least we have a decent legal system here in the UK and justice will prevail eventually. Nobody can get away with acting unethically and abusing vulnerable people. I'm safe in hospital. I can defend myself from here.

Finally... I got my replacement laptop working and I'm back online.

Without the structure of being able to capture images and compose my thoughts on the pages of this blog, I've been rather cut adrift. Without my social media contacts, I've felt totally isolated and that nobody knows what I'm going through, although my guardian angel has bridged the gap very well, so I must give a great deal of thanks to her.

Nobody knows just how close to the edge you are until it's too late. What an absolute shitshow.




Goodbye, London

14 min read

This is a story about fresh starts...

Super sunset

My luck is astounding. In fact, it's almost enough to make me believe in divine intervention and go all religious. However, I've studied theoretical physics, so I don't believe in imaginary sky monsters.

Underpinning our entire understanding of the universe is a theory that says that our very existence - our consciousness - is determining the reality that we experience. To give you a simple example, when you look at the Moon, every single atom of the Moon must choose its position in the sky, but when you look away, all those atoms could be anywhere... it's as if the Moon doesn't exist until you choose to look at it. The very action of looking at the Moon is what makes it exist, roughly where we expect to see it, but until you turn your gaze to the night sky, those atoms are just a probability cloud.

Just as we all know that Schrödinger's cat is both alive and dead until we open the box and look inside, what is less well known is that same uncertainty principle means that if you're not able to witness the universe around us, it completely collapses into a mathematical mess of probability - basically, if you die, the universe dies with you.

"But that can't be true! People die all the time!" I hear you scream.

Yes, you're right, but how would you witness their death, unless you had your own universe in which to observe independently. You can prove this fairly simply, by having Alice and Bob both make observations of quantum mechanical experiments, and see who is the one who is influencing reality. If you're Alice, you'll see that Bob has no effect - it's all down to you, baby. This universe is all yours.

"He's lost his mind and gone hypomanic again" I hear you grumble with frustration.

Until you've read Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics by John Bell and you've read the various interpretations of quantum mechanics - from the Copenhagen mathematical abstract idea, to the multiverse and the many minds interpretations - then I'm afraid, dear reader, that you're not qualified to judge me.

If you go deep enough down the rabbit hole, then you arrive at a quantum suicide paradox, and quantum immortality. Basically, in all the possible universes where you die... how would you know about them? In an almost infinite number of ways, your brain and your consciousness have died, but there are still an almost infinite number of universes left where you're alive and well. Does your brain hurt from all this? Well, try taking a gun, pointing it at your head and pullling the trigger - you won't die! Quantum mechanics literally predicts that the gun will misfire. In the universes where your brains got blown to pieces, you won't be alive to witness the aftermath, so you'll only be consciously aware of the universes where the gun jams or misfires or malfunctions in some way.

Basicallly, re-imagine the Schrödinger's cat experiment, but if the cat dies, you die too. What would happen is that every single time you ran the experiment, you open the box and find the cat is alive. You could do that experiment a thousand times, and 1,000 cats would be alive and well. The reason is simple: who's going to open the box if you and the cat are both dead?

Without a god, this is the only way that I can reconcile my experience of reality with the vast quantity of scientific books and academic papers that I have read over the years. God(s) are far more convenient and quite a lot more fun. Imagine being an ancient Greek, or a Roman: you'd have had loads of gods to thank and blame for everything that happened, good or bad. Learning stories about these imaginary sky monsters is a lot easier and more fun than learning differential calculus, matrix mechanics and imaginary numbers.

How does any of this relate to me and leaving London? Well, only a few weeks ago, I thought I was going to be sleeping on a sheet of cardboard in a doorway, sheltering from the rain. I thought I was going to be scouring London for empty houses with overgrown back gardens, where I could pitch my tent in the undergrowth and live in quiet seclusion; free from the possibility of being beaten up or pissed on by a lager lout; safe from the chance that I might be mugged for anything valuable that hadn't already been stolen from me.

Every area of my life had collapsed. I'm estranged from my family. I had lost touch with friends. I had broken up with my girlfriend. I was in arrears with my rent. I had no job; no income. Just servicing my debts was going to gobble up the few pounds and pence I had left. I'd sold everything of any value and raised a fairly paltry sum of money for my weeks of effort. I was going to lose my deposit and be unable to raise the rent and deposit needed to get another place to live. How would I pay the ongoing rent anyway, without income? Destitution looked like a certainty.

Then, I looked at the Moon and the planets aligned or the gods smiled on me or whatever you want to believe, but my plans to commit suicide by taking a tramadol overdose got transformed into a plan for a fresh start: the chance to have another go at getting the secret recipe right: friends, family, home, work, income, expenditure, stress, fun and every other variable that needs to be tweaked until it's just right, and you want to live more than you want to die.

If you've never taken a razor blade or a sharp knife, and deliberately cut into yourself, looking for veins and arteries, then you'll have no idea what I'm talking about. The closer you get to death, the closer you get to meeting your maker. Stephen Hawking could have sought solace in the mumbo-jumbo of religion, believing in an afterlife, after finding out that he had between 2 and 4 years to live, when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. Instead, he wrote "A Brief History of Time" and discovered that black holes evaporate by radiating X-rays and wins the Nobel Prize at the age of 71. He's 75 years old now. He says that "god" is the universal laws of physics, which are still not fully understood by us... the Standard Model of particle physics is good, but it's just a model - there's no theory that explains why there are up quarks, down quarks, top, bottom, strange, beauty and charm. What the f**k is a tau neutrino and why do we need them? There's no theory that tells us for definite whether an electron is a fundamental particle and we've never actually seen a proton decay, although we have smashed them to bits and tried to figure out what the hell they're made out of, by looking at the pieces of debris that come flying out of the collision.

We're living in an age where we can actually make antimatter. You know that science fiction stuff? It's the most expensive substance on the planet, and you can't charge for it by weight because it has negative mass. That is to say, if you put it on some scales, it would float up and not weigh them down... you'd have to PAY to have people take your antimatter away, and you'd only need a tennis ball sized amount to pretty much destroy our whole planet, because of course as you know E = mc2 and there's a f**king shit tonne of energy bound up in matter. When antimatter meets matter, the matter is annihilated into pure energy and you'll get something that will beat the shit out of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and every nuclear explosion ever detonated all put together.

Do you want to see my life, reduced to atomic scale?

Self storage

There it is. 7 cardboard boxes, a couple of bikes, a bag full of kitesurfing gear, a guitar that I'm too talentless to play and its amplifier, and a filing cabinet full of old post that I really should throw away. I'll be adding in a load of duvets and bedding and clothes that I only wear infrequently, but it's sad how my entire life doesn't even fill this tiny space, when compressed like atomic fusion.

I leave this riverside apartment, which to all intents and purposes looks idyllic to the uninitiated, but in fact, the endless boats full of drunk people dancing to disco music - in their flared trousers or whatever the kids are wearing these days - is nearly continuous on the river side, and the local watering hole - the Tooke Arms - has a police van parked outside every Friday and Saturday night, to take away those who inevitably become so drunk and disorderly that they no longer appreciate the saintly patience of our beloved Metropolitan Police. You really REALLY have to piss off a London policeman to get yourself arrested. Trust me; I've been there, done that and got the bracelets (handcuffs). You don't get to keep any souvenirs, unless you want to frame your cautions and criminal charges (I have none of the latter, and I don't know if they even give you a certificate, like when you graduate from university).

I'm around in the capital for a little while longer, so if you want to say goodbye in person, then you should register your interest now. The day that I leave with as many bags as I can carry on the train, keeps getting pushed back and back and back, but it'll be worth it, especially if I get to meet two twin boys for the first time - the baby sons of the couple who rescued me from a messy divorce and a very unhealthy mess I'd gotten myself into.

It's interesting, when you're challenged to think what you really need, day to day. There are your favourite clothes, of course. There's your phone and your laptop and the accompanying accessories, but there's very little else. I'll take my Lumix camera with a Leica lens, even though my iPhone takes perfectly good photographs. I'll take my headphone amplifier, even though I can already deafen myself with earphones that only cost £30. I'll take 2 books I want to read, even though they're heavy and made out of tree pulp, and once I've read them they're just wasting valuable space on the planet and depriving us of oxygen giving trees. I'll take my suit - which is virtually brand new - and overcoat, even though it's total overkill to look like a sleazy salesman, in whatever off-the-peg trendy fashionable garments were available that season.

I've not even seen inside where I'm going to live. It's a total gamble, but it's bound to be better than a doorway that smells of piss and has spikes on the ground to discourage you from trying to shelter from the elements there.

As I wrote in a stupid lovesick poem a little while ago, I don't remember ever feeling this daunted and exposed; fearful & anxious. One little slip and the whole house of cards comes tumbling down, and the devastation that I felt when I lost the Lloyds contract earlier this year will look like a piss in the ocean by comparison.

It's almost like I'm holding the universe to ransom: I'm saying "gimmie what I want or I'll kill myself". Obviously, nobody gives that much of a fuck about threats like that. In fact, if you were to beg your doctor to put you in a safe place, where you couldn't harm yourself, that very act of self-preservation would be proof that you don't actually want to die: Catch 22.

Anyway, the universe has ponied up and given me everything I ever wanted: 98 out of my 101 things on my bucket list. Every cloudy evening, I think "oh bummer, no nice sunset tonight" and then there's this beautiful sky that suddenly appears all lit up in orange and gold, and with wispy white vapour trails from the planes overhead, and every shade of grey in amazing cloud formations.

I could share 100 photos with you, every one of the same view from the same vantage point, but every one has something of interest, even though it's the same skyline. Whether it's fireworks going off on New Year's Eve, or a long-exposure shot of the supermoon, taken with an 8 second shutter on a tripod. Those who are of the Christian faith, would say I've been "blessed". I simply view my consciousness as an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics, but also a complete accident - simply a statistical co-incidence. I've been very sad to lose things and I've suffered terrible stress at times, but I always get what I want in the end, even if it seems like blind luck.

I want to share more. I want to write and write, but if you read what I wrote before, you'll understand the fragility of my situation; the precarious position I find myself in.

I know that I'm revealing a side to myself that has no place in this day & age of mindless 'entertainment' programmes, where some botoxed pretty-boy with teeth that are blindingly white, chats mindless bullshit to a bottle blonde with big fake titties. I read "Brave New World" and other dystopian and utopian novels when I was very young. One of the kindest gifts I ever received from my dad - as I remember - was a book that explained special relativity for kids. Imagine that! Imagine having your 8 year old son travelling on a beam of light looking at his watch and seeing the hands tick just like normal, but when he comes home, Dad's been dead for millions or billions of years. That's just f**ked up.

I'll write again, before I go, but it's 1am and I'll have a regular 9 to 5 job soon. it won't be quite like the corporate humdrum I'm used to, but I've still got to play by certain rules; societal norms. I've got a week to straighten myself out.

I want to tell you about all the hidden gems of London that you'd only know if you've lived here for 10 years or more. I want to share my heartache about leaving the capital of the country that my identity is inextricably bound to. I speak the Queen's english with an old-fashioned BBC TV presenter's posh accent. "Sorry" is a kind of punctuation, where I start and end every sentence with what seems like an apology, but it's not... it's just the product of that inexplicable 'Britishness' that we offer insincere apologies all the time: "Sorry", "begging your pardon", "excuse me" and even the British "ahem!" cough that basically says "get the f**k out of my way you piece of s**t tourist" with an insipid smile as the feckless idiot steps out of the gangway they're blocking.

Oh London, I'm going to miss you so very much. With your cultural collision that's so inclusive that the sum total of all the terrorist attacks has claimed less than 100 lives, ever. 52 on the 7th of July 2005, but all the others don't even take the total into 3 figures. How can you strike a blow against a city that speaks more languages than any other on the planet. New York - in 2nd place - speaks half as many languages as London, which can boast 100+. To attack London is to attack humanity itself.

There would be novelty if I was moving to New York or Tokyo (numbers 99 and 100 on the bucket list) but to experience another major city in the UK is still exciting. I just hope it isn't like Bournemouth - trying so hard to be like London, or even like Brighton, but ending up as a cheap and tacky pastiche that offends the sensibilities of a genuine Londoner.

Of course, those born in London call me a "blow in" and mock my privileged existence, but taking the example of my friends with the twins. Their house cost them the equivalent of £1.3 million, and the beneficiaries were what the British refer to as "benefit scroungers" - people who've never worked a day in their lives and have now f**ked off to Spain, where they live in idle luxury, as tax exiles.

Oh London, how I love thee.

Better publish this or I'll be writing all night again.




Hanging by a Thread

11 min read

This is a story about irony...

Greenwich shoes

So, I've had a busy week or so. Predictably, my rocket fuel sent me loopy - mixed state, to use the technical term, which is both high & low - which meant the sensible thing was to stop taking it. Me being me, that meant immediately, without the advice of my doctor. Pain is only temporary, right? You might say that this weird psychological state was the reason I made some pretty big life decisions; took extreme action; said some regrettable things. I have 3 big gashes down my forearm, I was seen by two Metropolitan police - who are always brilliant, even when they're arresting you (no arrest this time though) - and my psychiatrist, who wants to put me in hospital (i.e. section me) if I don't agree to daily home check-ups, but she's very nice about it.

The time was about right to get obsessive about something that's going to put pounds in my pocket. I was supposed to leverage a bit of hypomania to get the hell out of bed and either get a new contract, or work on a super cool project that might be really profitable. However, trying to harness the beast is crazy idea - when it works it works; when it doesn't, the destruction can be devastating. I did not harness the beast.

I've gone from 14 hours sleep a night to an average of 2. That can't be helping matters.

In 3 weeks time I hit zero: £0.00. No more money for rent next month, no more money for bills, no more money for anything that can't be put on a credit card, and even then, it's hardly a solution, is it? Also, I'm £6k short on my tax, due at the end of the month. Basically, I'm now insolvent.

So, what does one do in such a situation? If I could start back at work on Monday, or a week later, with the company I was contracted to in Jan/Feb, I could just about escape, by the skin of my teeth. What are the chances of them placing me with a client, within 9 working days? Slim to none, I'd say. Also, I'm sick again and I've got doctors hassling me for daily shit - dialysis & blood tests then, home visits from the Community Mental Health Team, this time. Doesn't this all sound rather like deja-vu?

My instincts tell me to box my stuff up, move out, preserve my cash and let the landlord keep my deposit. My instincts always tell me, that when shit goes bad, cut your financial commitments and retire to a safe distance. I would have done that in November 2015, when HSBC terminated my contract, but I felt responsible for a sofa-surfer and a flatmate. Big mistake. My instincts are usually correct.

My financial situation will continue to deteriorate, but at least I'm not careening headlong into a massive bankruptcy, provided I can borrow some (or all) of the £6k I need to pay my tax.

I'm now free to work anywhere in the country, if not the world. I had an offer of contract work in Poole in Dorset, from a friend. I have other friends in the area, who might be able to put a roof over my head while I find my feet again. It's one plan, at least.

What's the alternative? Go deeper in the hole and try and get a flatmate ASAP, to cut the speed with which my finances crumble to shit? I'm not sure I really want the pressure of the financial commitment; responsibility for an expensive central London flat. You know, I've ticked my "live by the River Thames" box, and I've even fallen out of love with London, or at least Canary Wharf and the touristy bits. The last time I felt wowed by my home city again, was when I interviewed for a government contract, on the first working day of the New Year. I would see Big Ben every day, and work in HMRC's impressive building, next door to the Churchill War Museum, St James Park and Horse Poo Parade. I've never worked in public services, let alone the posh bits, down the road from Bucky Pee and round the corner from the Palace of Westminster. That was 6 months ago, and I've been stressed and depressed the whole time since then.

Everything is probably going to come tumbling down - the landlord will sue me; I might not be able to borrow the £6k for my tax; who's to say that offer of work is still there? Should I just freeze, like a rabbit in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle?

Did I precipitate this, or was it destiny; fate? I've certainly been depressed for a long time - could that be to do with not wanting this life any more: the high rent, the pressure to get well paid contracts, the 'quick and painful' strategy, the limitation of how far you can realistically commute in London. It's depressing, feeling trapped. It's depressing, having so few options.

I have more options now, but less support. Was I too hasty? Yes, of course. Did I make bad decisions because I'm unwell? Yes, of course. On further analysis, am I freer now, more flexible, more able to consider almost any option? Yes, notwithstanding my dire finances and the fact I have far less assistance.

Perhaps it's time to admit defeat and prostrate myself at the feet of those who demand money with menaces. Sometimes, when the thing you fear most happens, it's liberating. I remember walking home from the police station once, in gym pumps they'd managed to find for me, having been led barefoot in handcuffs to a police van, in busy central London, then locked in a cell. As I walked along, looking like absolute shit, I thought "this has been literally the worst thing that could have ever happened to me". In actual fact, something about human nature means that we slowly deal with traumatic incidents, and they lose their venom; their potency.

You know, I worry about bankruptcy, but if it's only a barrier to jobs I don't want anyway - not in the sour grapes sense - then I get to do whatever I want anyway, unencumbered by the need to maintain a certain image & income. Maybe it'll suit me and I'll be happy. There are numerous successful entrepreneurs who've had bankruptcies in the past - it's part & parcel of taking risks.

I've always been financially responsible and met my obligations to my creditors. I've actually been very financially prudent, although you wouldn't think it from the last couple of years. I don't spend money before I've earned it, and I always kept money in reserve - I never overstretched myself. However, I'm now deep in the shit, and the stress has been there for so long, I think I'm worn down, and it's contributed to my ill health.

There was briefly discussed, potential salvation: a generous philanthropic liberator from my prison of financial misery and jobs that I detest and make me unwell. However, when it's personal, you feel differently than with a faceless bank that makes billions in profits. I've worked in banking a long time, so I know it's a victimless crime to take money that they just magicked out of thin air anyway: fractional reserves and the money multiplier. It's all just a game, and money isn't real... except when you borrow from friends & family. When you borrow from a partner who you're planning on spending the rest of your life with, it's a bit different: that's more like pooling your resources. However, your partner might have stipulations that are life-limiting: needing to or insisting on staying in one location, for example.

I do feel suddenly terribly alone, and that I need to act almost immediately; to take evasive action. I have a friend who's been a godsend; a guardian angel, but I am mindful that I've already ended up depending on her, far more than I am comfortable with or intended to do. I'm highly indebted to her, in so many ways - more than was ever supposed to happen between two friends. We perhaps share the same predisposition for trusting people and ending up pouring good money after bad. Where, for example, is my ex-flatmate who owes me thousands? Ironically, another friend who owes me a 4-figure sum, has mentioned his expertise in the field of, erm, debt recovery. But, that's a murky area I'd rather not get involved in.

Anyway, I have some new summer shoes, but it's absolutely lashing it down outside and I wanted to change the laces too. This might seem like the most ridiculously trivial thing to have elevated to a position of ultimate importance, but when the big stuff reaches incomprehensible proportions - squashing me like a giant boulder - having something that's shiny and new, improves my self-esteem, and feels like winning the lottery.

I seem to have been living life somewhat in reverse. Starting as a rich, responsible, reliable salaryman. Then around age 32, there was a veritable orgy of sin and debauchery; I cut loose from mainstream society and was homeless, in and out of hospital and in trouble with the police (although I escaped court and criminal charges). Now, I'm looking at my respectable life being shredded irreparably and who knows where that leads: flipping burgers? I can't see it. Selling the Big Issue? Quite possibly.

From where I'm sitting, I can see the river and the boats. But I can also see a top-of-the-range Vox valve guitar amp, with Korg effects head and Gibson Les Paul guitar. I can see a pro-grade racing simulator, with the seat, pedals, gear lever and an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, for a fully immersive experience, plus a very high-spec gaming PC. I can see my Macbook Air (core i7 processor and 512Gb SSD) unused while I tap away on my Macbook Pro (core i7 and 512Gb SSD) - both the best that money can buy. Next to me is my Panasonic Lumix camera, with Leica lens. Oh, and let's not forget my HD projector that can do 120" screen, in 3D. There's my iPhone, of course... almost the newest model. That's just what I can see. I could asset strip, but I'd be lucky to raise £4 or £5 thousand pounds, and I need £6 thousand for my tax alone. Second-hand electronic goods are worth very little.

What should I do? Bankruptcy and bailiffs seems like folly, but then so does staying where I am, racking up a huge chunk of debt while I search for a contract that I might be too unwell for anyway. Cut my main expense - rent - and head for guaranteed work, if it's still on offer in a cheaper part of the country; seems to make sense. I have more friends in Dorset than I do in London too. I could be stubborn - determined to make London work on the 4th attempt - and move back into a hostel, find work and then find a cheaper place to live. Certainly, I need to act now. Depression has taken me to the brink of ruin.

Ho hum. In a way, I like it when I'm forced into action, and I like it when I'm busy with a mission.

Other wild ideas I've considered are running away to France - my colloquial French was once close to fluency - or further afield: Poland, Czech Republic? I could actually just disappear right here in the UK: get a new identity off the Dark Web and abandon the old one. Then, either be a hobo for a bit, a vagrant, a native backpacker; or set up shop somewhere new, unencumbered by the vultures who circle over my current identity, and my prized plump carrion flesh they hope to feast upon... they know I'm rich pickings, and they eye me greedily.

Oh, I thought about buying a boat, but I might just as well buy a van, cross the channel and head south.

All of these options are infinitely more attractive and more realistic than landing a contract in London in the next 2 weeks, and getting paid by the end of the month. Besides, it was only Sunday that I sliced 3 deep cuts the length of my forearm, with blood running out from the capillaries, and tiny punctures in the veins. I stopped short of slicing any veins open - they're very hard to close if you do it lengthways... that's the point.

Choices, choices, so many choices, but not a one you'd want to take.





The Breakup

13 min read

This is a story about mismatches...

Odd Shoes

Writing is hard. More specifically, writing well is pretty damn hard. To write well every day; to finish a book; to have the discipline - that's the hardest. Lots of people write - it's our preferred method of communication these days, rather than the phone. My Facebook friends are mostly what you'd term "well educated professionals". Some of my Facebook friends are people who used to write every day on the same discussion forum as me. When I step out of that bubble, I'm reminded that it was the general populace who invented 'text speak' and still use it to this day, because writing is just a means to an end for them - to send short colloquial messages about their banal lives, where the style, grammar and intangible beauty of a well-constructed sentence has zero value to them.

When I started my blog, I didn't know where I was going with it. Then, I remembered that a friend who aspired to be an author, and has now published three books, said that he was going to blog for a year, to test his discipline and hone his art. I copied that idea.

When I started my debut novel, the idea was to write at least 1,667 words a day, so that after a month, I would have achieved a 50,000+ word count.

This year, things started going wrong almost from the very outset.

In the blink of an eye, I found myself in hospital on a high-dependency ward, with acute kidney failure. My weight had gone from 77kg to 95kg, because I had stopped urinating: my bladder was empty. I was on dialysis and generally being poked and prodded by some very worried looking doctors. I didn't have my laptop or a means to connect to the Internet - those aren't the kinds of things you take with you when you get a phonecall from the doctor you saw in Accident and Emergency saying "how soon can you get back here? Do you need us to send an ambulance?"

Like dominoes, the pillars of my life started to collapse. First, I lost my job - they couldn't wait for me to get better, even though I discharged myself from hospital after two weeks, against medical advice. Then, rent, taxes, bills, insurances and everything else started to become a matter of imminent financial implosion. Depression tore through my mind like an inferno through a building. The strong opiate painkillers, that I needed for the leg injury which caused my kidney failure, made doing anything at all quite challenging - it might not have been heroin, but I sure as hell got sick if I forgot to take my 4-hourly dose. Writing and work were replaced with lying on the sofa in a drugged-up haze, half-aware of whatever was on TV.

You'd think that after I got off the painkillers and I could walk distances again, without it causing me agony, I would be ready to find another job. Anybody who followed my story through December and January, will know that Christmas and New Year scuppered my job search. Effectively, I went through the stress twice, and then lost the job anyway through no fault of my own. I wrote about how psychologically damaging that was, having argued with the doctors so much, discharging myself and getting angry phonecalls from doctors and consultants saying I needed to go back to hospital; I was risking my life and I was still critically ill.

I didn't need concerned doctors to tell me I was still ill and in no position to work - my commute to work, with my heavy ankle brace, caused me untold pain. How was I supposed to travel every day on overcrowded public transport, and walk the final part of the journey, when it would leave me exhausted and crying in pain when I got home. I was relieved when my boss told me to take some more time off to get well; only it was him being cowardly - my contract was terminated soon after leaving the building.

Everything else from that point has been measured by that yardstick.

If it's hard and stressful to get a job - and to start that new job - under normal circumstances, can you imagine pulling out a 25cm dialysis tube from a massive blood vessel in your groin, with blood everywhere, and leaving hospital when all the doctors are begging you to stay? Can you imagine your first day in the office, except that less than 48 hours ago you were considered so sick that you might need a kidney transplant, or even die because the dialysis wasn't working effectively? Can you imagine working those first few days in your new job, getting phonecalls twice a day from different doctors saying that if I turned up at any A&E and had a blood test, they would admit me to hospital as a critical case, because of the dangerous toxins circulating in my bloodstream? Can you imagine dealing with almost unbearable pain as well as doing your job? And then what happened? I went to all that effort and I lost the job anyway.

I've been a full-time IT professional for 20 years, and to be honest I lost the love for it very quickly. I spent most of 1999 recovering from weekends of all-night raves. I spent most of 2001 to 2005 chatting with my friends on a discussion forum and organising kitesurfing holidays and weekend trips away. 2005 through 2008 I worked very hard, but I surrounded myself with alcoholics, who were some of the very best people I've ever had the privilege of working with. 2008 I thought I was pissed off with JPMorgan, but it turned out that I had simply reached the limit of what I could take with IT jobs for big companies. Ever since then, I've made my money as an entrepreneur, independent developer and IT consultant, as well as speculating in emerging technology (e.g. iPhone apps, Bitcoin mining). I work about 5 months a year, and I hate it, but it pays the bills. My last contract paid £660 a day, so you can see, I don't have to work for very long to earn what I need.

So, now I'm in the situation where I was tipped over the edge. It's not normally very hard for me to find a new contract, and I find the actual work very unchallenging; easy. To have worked so hard to get well, get out of hospital, get to that job, and then to lose it... when I fucking hate IT work anyway. It was the last straw. The company said they'd have me back as soon as I was fully recovered, but the spell was broken - I used to put up with the boredom and the bullshit, because I was earning the equivalent of well over a hundred grand a year... if I ever worked a year. I can't go back to it. You could offer me £1,500 a day, start tomorrow, free rein to work on whatever project I want, and I don't think I could do it. It's like all that hatred of the job and the politics and the bureaucracy and the insanity and incompetence of people in positions of authority, suddenly hit me all at once.

I stopped caring that I'm going to be nearly £6,000 short on my tax bill, in 27 days time. I stopped caring that I'm not going to be able to pay my rent next month. I stopped caring that if I go bankrupt I'll never be able to work in financial services again, be a director of a company, have anything except the most basic bank account, which means I wouldn't be able to - for example - rent a car. I stopped caring that I'll never be able to get another mortgage or rent my own place. I stopped caring that I would lose my excellent credit score - I have borrowing facilities of £30 grand and no debt that shows up on those credit checks. I stopped caring that many of my possessions would be sold by bailiffs for a fraction of what they're worth. I stopped caring that I would lose things that I spent years and years choosing and customising: a mountain bike I bought when I was 18, with the lightest frame money can buy, handmade and hand painted - including my name - which I have added the very best of everything to, bit by bit, until the total cost of the bike is as much as a decent car... but it's not about the cost; it's about the pride in doing that - the pride in customising something with painstaking effort over 19 years.

Now, I'm a minimalist. I'm a digital nomad. I've used all my experience as a mountaineer and Alpinist to travel light, with clothes that pack small, but they're super warm and everything either dries quick or stays dry. I have a grab bag that weighs perhaps no more than 15kg, but I could sleep quite comfortably in an extremely cold winter. I learned through bitter experience, the discomfort caused by cheap equipment: blisters, wet feet, damp clothing, sleeping mats that don't stop the cold penetrating from frozen ground, tents that get flattened by gales, synthetic sleeping bags that don't keep you warm. Everything that I carry meets the three criteria: light, strong and expensive. There's also a fourth criteria: how effective something is in terrible weather. It might be subtle, but there really is a big difference between a 'good' waterproof jacket, and one that costs well over £400; for example, are you able to use the hood but still move your head to look around? How many drawstrings are you able to operate without having to unzip anything?

There's so much crap that I just want to dump. I've ended up with paperwork that goes back to 1997. I only ever wear a few different outfits and I wear my clothes until they're threadbare. I could lose 95% of my clothes and not even miss them. I have boxes of stuff that I rescued from my house before it was sold, during my divorce. It was a smash & grab - I was paying for the man & van by the hour plus we had to get back to London before my self storage shut. I literally took no more than an hour to grab anything of real value, and a mug that my sister hand-painted for me. Can you imagine that? I dumped my books, a summerhouse that I designed and built myself, stuffed full of gardening equipment, garden furniture, tools, mountaineering equipment like ropes, ice axes, crampons, a pile of kites that probably cost me many thousands of pounds when they were new. I dumped my hot tub. I dumped games consoles, games, DVDs. I dumped kitchen knives, Le Creuset cast iron casserole dishes. I dumped my Weber barbecue, my fire pit and patio heaters. I dumped the bed I bought when I moved to West Hampstead in 2000. I dumped the oak dining table and chairs I bought when I bought the house. I dumped an antique sash window that had been turned into a mirror by my dad, as a Christmas gift. I dumped the huge wardrobe that I built to go right to the bedroom ceiling - one side customised just how my ex-wife wanted it, and another side customised just how I wanted it. I dumped a garden that I had lavished hundreds of hours on, making the grass lush and green, weeding the path, mulching the beds and tending the mature shrubs and palm trees. I dumped my electric guitar and electronic drum kit. In fact, I dumped a whole band's worth of instruments for playing Guitar Hero. Where was I going to keep all this stuff, living in my friend's spare bedroom? It was going to be ages before the house was sold and I got the money to get a place of my own again.

Now, I have a place of my own, by accident. One friend thought he was going to live with me rent free, but he hadn't done the maths - the rent was more than his salary, and he was fucking useless. The one bit of work that he was supposed to do that would have brought in some money for my company he fucked up. He hassled me for an interview at HSBC, which I wangled for him... and then I had to deny I knew him very well, as he was exposed as inept. My next flatmate didn't pay his rent for 3 or 4 months and never paid me any bills. He was surprised when I told him that he was going to find his stuff dumped on the street if he didn't get the fuck out.

If I was going to cut & run, I'd want my two MacBooks (Air & Pro) and I guess I'd take my iPad Pro too - call them tools of the trade - plus 3 pairs of high-end headphones, and my grab bag (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat) with my good waterproof jacket and my down jacket. I'd wear my waterproof trainers, water-resistant trousers and my fleece, with a merino wool base layer. I'd take my passport and €500 in cash that I have lying around. I'd take phone and a battery pack that can charge it 12 times. There's not a lot more that I tend to travel with, except copious quantities of benzodiazepines and Z-drugs. When you live in a hostel for a year, you learn what you need and what you don't. When you live under a bush in a park or on a heath, you learn what you're prepared to have stolen, potentially. It took my fellow homeless in Kensington Palace Gardens over a month to find my hiding place - people don't really venture into massive thorn bushes. If you're smart, you can disappear from the world, despite living in a densely populated city. People's dogs would smell my food, but their owners couldn't see me in the gloom. Hampstead Heath is somewhat more of a challenge, because people like to fornicate in the bushes, but the general rules apply: people are lazy and stick to the paths mostly, so by choosing the remotest part of the heath, you very rarely see anybody.

My life is in the process of breaking up again; disintegrating. I don't care. I am so depressed.

Let it all burn down, I say.




Time Away From Work

18 min read

This is a story about sick leave...

Kidney operation

On my very first week at my very first full-time proper job after college - working for British Aerospace - my friends talked me into pulling a sickie so that we could go to Alton Towers for the day. This was 1997 and I didn't yet have a mobile phone. I had to call my boss from a payphone in the car park of Alton Towers. You could hear people screaming with terror, as a rollercoaster thundered by, not far away from where I was making this tense phonecall.

I didn't make a habit of throwing a sickie. I moved to the town where I worked, so I could wake up late and walk to work. My boss was quite relaxed about me turning up late, as long as the work was getting done.

No sooner had I moved to Dorchester, then BAe decided to send me off to the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) on Portsdown Hill, near Portsmouth. A friend and colleague, who became my boss for this project, would come into my maisonette every morning and coax me out of bed. The early morning starts were agonising, especially if I had spent the weekend clubbing in London and was recovering from drug-fuelled all-night dancing. My body clock was sent haywire, but because I was only 18, I suppose I could just about cope.

I didn't have another sick day with BAe or DERA, or with the next company I moved to Winchester to work for. When I worked for Research Machines near Oxford, I even managed to get to work during the petrol crisis. I was allowed a day off when snow pretty much paralysed the country, and I went sledging in Haslemere, Surrey.

As an IT contractor by now, I realised I could use the time off between contracts to do cool stuff. I went on a week-long RYA Day Skipper course, to learn how to sail cruising yachts. I spent time with family in Devon, and did my interviews over the phone.

The dot com crash and 9/11 were rather unsettling events, so I decided to take a permanent job with HSBC, who are one of the more conservative banks. The interview process was exhaustive, testing my literacy, numeracy, reasoning and a bunch of other aptitude tests, and a grilling from various managers. "Why do you want a permanent job when you're earning good money contracting?" they asked. "Why do you want to work in banking, now that the bonuses aren't so good?" they puzzled.

HSBC Asset Management had a very familial feel to it. They had a policy of hiring a lot of former London Irish rugby players, and Surrey and Middlesex cricketers. If you were accepted, they would look after you. There was camaraderie. There was true team spirit. There was also copious amounts of drinking.

Somehow I got through some 4+ years at HSBC without pulling a fake sickie. One weekend, I ate far too many magic mushrooms, and then a team in Hong Kong phoned me up to ask why millions of pounds worth of equities settlement messages were stuck in a queue and were not being processed. The backs of my hands looked like playing cards, the walls were throbbing and swaying and everything was bathed in bright green light. I made my excuses and quickly phoned a trusted colleague, begging him to handle the support call for me, because I had accidentally gotten a bit too pissed. He laughed and I got away with it.

I had a persistent tickly cough that was annoying me. I had read somewhere that dextromethorphan - the cough suppressant - could make you have a psychedelic trip if you took enough, so I rang my boss, and said that my cough was so bad I couldn't come to work. I then downed 3 bottles of cough syrup, containing DXM. I got precisely zero thrills out of that particular mad caper.

Moving to JPMorgan, I had the perfect job. I used to work mornings and evenings, and go kitesurfing during the day. I say 'work' but what I really mean is that I used to turn the volume up really loud on my laptop, so if somebody sent me a message or an email, it would wake me up and I could see whether I needed to deal with it. JPMorgan were really cool with people working from home, especially if you were supporting their live systems, which was mainly my job at first.

I loved that job at JPMorgan, and never pulled any sickies. In fact, I would often work weekends and late nights. I was pissed a lot of the time, and there were plenty of Friday afternoons in the pub where we never went back to the office except to get our coats and laptops on our way home, but that was the culture. Work hard, play hard.

Switching to New Look - the high-street fast fashion clothing retailer - I had a long commute to Weymouth every day and they didn't really know what they wanted me to do. I spent a day working in a store, which was interesting. I spent a couple of days at their distribution centre, watching the boxes of clothes arrive from the sweatshops, and the stock being sent out to the stores. I spent some time trying to understand what the hell they wanted to do as a business, and what the hell I was supposed to do about enabling it. Eventually, I broke down and decided I couldn't face the commute. I couldn't face the job. I couldn't face anything.

Three days off... no problem... just fill in a self-certification of sickness absence form when you get back to the office.

Four or more days off... got to go to the doctor and get signed off: get a sick note.

It started with two weeks off. Then a couple more. Then I couldn't even face going to see the doctor any more.

I found out what happens if you just stop turning up for work, sending in your sick notes, answering your phone... anything. I just disappeared. The company gets scared that they're going to get taken to some tribunal and found guilty of making somebody so stressed and unwell that they can no longer work. The company is scared it's going to cost loads of money and be hard to get rid of you, so they offer you a cash payment to fuck off quietly, promising you a good reference if you just resign.

With my JPMorgan bonus, my payoff from New Look and my iPhone App income, I was having a pretty bloody good year financially, despite being laid low with depression for a couple of months. I would have continued to take time off, but my phone rang and it was an agent with a contract in Poole: about a 20 minute drive from my house. I interviewed and got the job. I was the highest paid contractor in the company, which was a joke because the company mainly did Microsoft work, and I'd specialised in completely different technology. I actually bumped into another contractor I knew - Bob - and I felt bad that I was earning more than he was, because he taught me so much and he was so much older and more experienced. Oh well, the arrogance of youth, eh?

Anyway, my boss was this cool French guy who liked the fact I could speak colloquial French quite well, so he used to send me over to their main office in Besançon very often. It was great in the winter, because I could go snowboarding in a little place just outside Geneva, before flying home. Me and a friend bought a boat and used to go wakeboarding during our lunch hour. I took my boss out on my boat. I took one of my colleagues out sea fishing. Life was pretty sweet. However, I got bored and started claiming I had illnesses like swine flu, so I could take some time off work. I took so much time off sick, that my boss asked if I really wanted the contract anymore. I admitted that I didn't, so we parted company amicably. I partly needed to get away from an annoying guy with a ginger beard who I had to work with, who irritated the shit out of me.

I then became a full-time electrician. At first, I let the customers choose when I would do the work, and filled my diary up with lots of random jobs. Then, I learned that I could block time out, to give myself a break whenever I wanted. I could tell customers that I was booked up in the mornings, so I didn't have to get up early. It should have been a dream job, which allowed me to go kitesurfing whenever I wanted, but by this stage my relationship was on the rocks and I was depressed and stressed as hell. I didn't do much of anything. I sold my share of the boat. I started to get out of my depth with the work that I was taking on.

After becoming too sick to work, I had a couple of months doing nothing, and then a tiny bit of holiday cover work for a friend turned into some iPhone development work, which then exploded into my idea for a startup: Roam Solutions. I decided to create a software house specialising in mobile apps for enterprise. I threw together a hunk of junk proof of concept and we exhibited at the Learning Technologies conference, at Olympia. Somehow, in the space of a couple of months, there was a working app on iPhone and Blackberry, a fancy website and some glossy brochures. A whole exhibition stand had to be designed and built, allowing people to play with the phones but not steal them. There was so much branding to do. So much design.

I wasn't actually that passionate about what Roam Solutions did, which turned out to be mostly digital agency work. Rebranding as mePublish, then Hubflow; rewriting all the software and creating an Android version - those were momentary distractions. Sales meetings were stressful. Supporting your software 24x7 with just you and a mate is stressful. Getting any money out of our customers was like getting blood out of a fucking stone.

We managed to get about £16k out of a couple of customers and raised another £10k by selling a few percent of the company's shares. In return, me and my mate got to go on a 13-week 'accelerator' program. The program was fantastic fun, but exhausting. By the end, I didn't turn up for a couple of days because I was 'sick'. The truth was, I was burnt out.

I should have swapped roles with my business partner. He made a great CEO in the end, when I stepped down. Anyway, I just disappeared for months, and my friend helped to tidy up the mess and calm the shareholders down. I was almost out of cash. I needed a job.

I went to work for a company that helped people who'd got into debt problems. Not one of those debt consolidation places - we actually wrote to the creditors and negotiated debt-write offs, freezing the interest and lower repayments. We helped people avoid bankruptcy or IVAs. It was a cool company, but they wanted me to be IT director without actually vesting me in or letting me sit on the board. I wrote them a brilliant IT roadmap. They ignored it. I had an argument with the CEO. I went off on a sickie. The private equity firm that owned the company liked me and sacked the CEO. But then I got paid off because I couldn't face going back. The following year, I was at a conference, and there was the bloody CEO of the parent company, who'd followed my fucking IT roadmap to the letter, telling the delegates how well it worked. I felt proud, vindicated, but also I know deep down that it would have taken a lot of hard work to implement, and I was no part of that, so I can't really claim credit.

After the London Olympics, I went back to JPMorgan. I was not a well man. I was limping along.

I managed to fix one of JPMorgan's major issues that was threatening to cause a major catastrophe - front page of the Financial Times stuff - and then I disappeared, never to be seen again. I got a phonecall from my boss, saying I'd received an extra bonus in recognition of the important work that I'd done. I felt like a fraud, thanking him for that, but knowing that I was so sick that I wouldn't be able to go back to work.

My GP signed me off for 5 weeks, and my first thought was literally this: "I can get fucked up on drugs for 4 weeks and have 1 week to recover enough to go back to work."

There was The Priory. There was the separation from my wife. There was the realisation that the rumours of my mental health and drug problems were well known to everybody I knew in Bournemouth and Poole. It's a small place. I used to ride a tiny folding bicycle invented by Sir Clive Sinclair, for the 10 minute trip to work, but yet this had not escaped the notice of all kinds of people whose path I crossed. I was becoming known as a rather odd and eccentric character - a nutty professor; a madman; a drunk; a junkie. It was time to go somewhere so big that those kind of labels couldn't follow me around: London.

I put my back out picking up my niece to put her on the swings at the playground, so I had a week working flat on my back at home, while I was working for Barclays. I started to slowly relapse into taking legal highs, and ended up taking another week off, where I rewrote the entire software system we were working on in a nonstop hackathon without sleep. It rather made a mockery of the whole project, as well as terrifying the hell out of the architects.

At HSBC, I had a full on meltdown after my first week, realising that it was impossible to work a demanding contract while living in a hostel. Somehow, I managed to get away with a week off work, thanks to my sister ringing my boss and making excuses for me. I did also have half a day off because I was so dreadfully hung over once. I wasn't going to bother at all, but my boss persistently phoned me. I reeked of booze, as I turned up at my desk at 2:30pm.

At a well-known leading consultancy, working for the world's biggest security firm, I didn't take any time off at all. I was a little late on a couple of occasions, and had to ask one of my team to run my morning meeting on my behalf, but I was mostly a reliable little worker bee. It helped that I had a whole week-long holiday: my first relaxing week-long break for over 3 years.

I was all set to start a new contract with a well known high-street bank, who I once worked for when I was 20 years old and Canary Wharf was mostly just a building site. However, I knackered my leg, which caused my foot to swell up and my kidneys to fail. I had to pull a sickie on the very first day. Thankfully, they've waited two weeks for me to get better; most of which I've spent on a high-dependency hospital ward, having dialysis. My leg is still fucked.

And so, I go back to work tomorrow, limping along with my robocop ankle brace and doped up on tramadol. I've got one reliable reference from the last couple of years. HSBC hate my guts. Most people at Barclays were shocked and appalled that my contract was terminated early, and my boss lost his job over his decision to fire me, but do you think I can get a good reference? Who knows.

I should have paid my rent 10 days ago. I just told the taxman that he's not getting any VAT off me for a whole quarter, and he fucking hates that. I have no idea what my bank balance is, but I'm sure that what little money I have is being frittered away at a frighteningly quick rate.


I could possibly delay a few weeks and get another contract. I could have stayed in hospital, letting them do their blood tests and fretting over my kidneys - which have proven resilient so many times before - and waiting patiently for them to finally take a look at my original complaint: my fucked foot/ankle/leg. It feels like I've torn a bunch of ligaments and muscle. It feels like my old injury has suffered major complications.

But, two weeks work gives me the best part of 3 months rent. If I can limp through the contract, I go from zero to hero. I've been so depressed about having to watch the pennies and not being able to treat my girlfriend to romantic dinners and whisk us off to exotic locations, or at least make plans to have fun. My plans have all been focussed on stopping the ship from sinking.

You might think I'm mad to take such a risk with my health, but mental health is part of it. Stress is part of it. Money and the need to not run out of it, is something that has to be considered. I don't trust myself: that I'm able to knuckle down and get on with the job. I did a good job of keeping my mouth shut in my last contract and it sorted me out financially a bit. This is my chance to continue that streak of improvement, if I can hold my shit together despite my health being a bit iffy. This is my chance to get in front. This is my chance to reduce all that stress and those worries and that anxiety and that depression about having to be super careful with money.

Anyway, let's see what happens tomorrow, eh? Let's see how sympathetic people are, about the fact that I've just been discharged from a high-dependency hospital ward, where I narrowly avoided chronic kidney failure, which would have meant having to have a kidney transplant and all the rest of that kind of shit. My leg is fucked, but I've found some contraption that allows me to get around without crutches. Still though, it looks like I broke my ankle or something. Surely, I've got to get cut a bit of slack, given what I've been through.

But, it doesn't work like that with IT contracting. Nobody owes me anything. The contract is between my company and another company. It's not an employment contract. It's a contract that says my company will provide consultancy services to their company - I could send anybody I think is qualified. I could hire somebody on minimum wage, train them, and send them to go do the job in my place, and I'd earn just as much money. However, the client doesn't really want somebody like me. They want me and they want me tomorrow at the latest, otherwise they'll just find somebody else. London's not short of talent. It was an extremely kind personal favour, that they waited this long for me to get better.

It's going to be horrible, starting work in pain and so exhausted from the nights in hospital where you're repeatedly disturbed by patients yelling out in pain, nurses coming to measure your blood pressure and take your temperature, and phlebotomists coming to take blood samples. They wake you up at 7am for the crappy breakfast of dry bread and marmalade. It's going to be a struggle to stay awake at my desk, especially with all the pain medication I'm taking.

So, it might all go to shit anyway, but at least I tried. I could have taken my sweet time over everything, and let the hospital string me along, but eventually, I can't cope with the frustration anymore: the lack of control, when your destiny is in the hands of somebody who doesn't even know what they're looking at. Somebody who's hiring because there's a knowledge gap in their organisation: they're hiring somebody who knows what they don't know, so how can they know that the person they're hiring knows what they know? So many stupid interviews, where the interviewer just wants to talk about the lame crap that they have just about managed to memorise. So tedious. In the end, intolerable.

I'm falling asleep and it's 5 o'clock and I didn't wake up until after 10:30am. Tomorrow's going to be fucking awful. But, think of the money. Just think of the money.




Rehab: The Inside Story

17 min read

This is a story about treatment for drug addiction...

Lexham house

Having been to four different rehabs, I feel fairly qualified to give a few insights into what happens behind closed doors. Residential rehabs often hide away in leafy suburbs, where there are large houses that can accommodate human trash: dirty junkies and nasty alcoholics.

"Death's too good for 'em! String 'em up!" I hear you say.

Yes, yes, don't worry. We'll get to the idea that an addict will always be an addict, and that we should just write them off as a lost cause.

Boscombe in Dorset - an area of Bournemouth - is where many councils choose to send their difficult members of society, from all over the country. Supposedly, being by the seaside will be good for recovering alcoholics and former drug addicts. There are certainly plenty of rehabs in the area. Even Paul Gascoigne has found himself shuffling around Boscombe's streets, buying bottles of gin from the local off-license.

Ironically, many years after moving to Bournemouth, I became addicted to drugs and found myself in the perfect place to get treatment for my addiction.

Let's talk a little bit about drug addiction.

Having a 'drug habit' is not the same as drug addiction. 'Experimentation' is not the same as addiction. Partying is not the same as addiction. Addiction will rapidly destroy your health, wealth and prospects. Hospitals, police cells and prisons are the institutional stomping grounds of the addict, on their rapid descent into the fires of Hell. If you're successfully hiding your habit from your friends, partner and boss, then addiction hasn't fully taken hold. Addiction is destructive.

What about detox?

You can't really rehabilitate while the drugs and alcohol have got their hooks in you. If you abruptly stop drinking, you might get the shakes, become delirious, have a fit and maybe even die. If you stop taking heroin, you're going to feel sick and in pain. If you stop taking cocaine or amphetamines, you're going to be unbelievably exhausted and depressed, to the point where you're in real danger of killing yourself.

"You should kill yourself if you're a junkie" I hear you say.

What you haven't understood is that drug addiction is slow suicide. Do you think the addict or the alcoholic isn't aware that their body is getting utterly fucked up, and they're going to go to an early grave?

Detox is about breaking the physical addiction that the body has to drugs and/or alcohol. Detox is about suffering the worst of withdrawal, in an environment where substitute drugs can be administered to make the process safe, humane and tolerable. An alcoholic literally risks death if they stopping drinking without Librium. Is it ethical to ask people to die just because you're hung up on ideas like "willpower"?

There's the term "psychological addiction" that needs to stop being used. It's better to think about addiction like this: why did somebody get addicted in the first place?

"Because drugs are fun" I hear you say.

There are shitloads of people who take drugs all the time but they aren't addicts. Every weekend, raves and nightclubs are packed full of people taking Ecstasy (MDMA). Vast quantities of cocaine gets hoovered up by the eager nostrils of young professionals in cities around the world. Every day, a huge proportion of humanity smokes cannabis or drinks alcohol. Why aren't all these people raging addicts and alcoholics?

If you ever feel like quitting, remember why you started.

Most addicts' lives were truly appalling before their addiction took hold. For sure, addiction doesn't improve anybody's life, but it's not like there's any hope of a better life just because an addict quits drugs. The cycle of petty crime, scoring drugs, getting sick, being hospitalised and being locked up... it doesn't look great, does it? But what's the alternative? Flipping burgers and still not having enough money to make ends meet?

So, it's obvious that the rehabilitation process will only be successful if it can return a person to a better life than the one they were trying to escape from with drugs and drink.

The first rehab I attended was in Bournemouth, situated in a grand house at the end of a sweeping driveway, surrounded by mature pine trees, on a road of millionaires' mansions. The place was full of people from Greater London and the surrounding counties, ejected by their councils to make room for more rich middle-class people.

The biggest issue amongst my fellow rehab residents was housing. Boscombe has vast numbers of crappy bedsits that can just about be afforded with housing benefits. London and the South-East has no cheap housing for undesirable members of society. My fellow rehabbers were gleefully pushed away from where they were born and bred - and their families - because they were written off.

A typical day at the Bournemouth rehab would consist of a breakfast of baked beans, white toast and cheap sausages, followed by many rounds of tea, coffee and biscuits, until the 'therapeutic' day began. There were two or three sessions a day, where everybody sat in a big room, slouching on comfy sofas, vaping on e-cigarettes and slurping drinks. It was supposed to be group therapy, but it was basically just listening to heartbreaking tales of people's children being taken into foster care.

Most of the day in Bournemouth rehab was given over to matters of court appearances, housing office appointments, social worker visits and attempts to obtain various forms of welfare benefits. Almost everybody in rehab was in poor physical health, due to a life of drug abuse. Almost everybody in rehab had some underlying mental health disorder.

Those were the dregs of society, but they were warm and welcoming and they accepted me as one of their own. I was warned by staff to leave my iPhone at home and watch my wallet, but I never felt for a single moment as if my peers were going to rob or take advantage of me. I was somewhat appalled by the staff members' low opinion of their service users, but I suppose there's an element of the gamekeepers and the poachers: anybody who's keeping you under lock and key is kind of fair game, because resentment is going to build about the power that staff exercise over people in treatment.

Over the course of the 28-day program, my fellow rehabbers and I would build up special privileges for good behaviour, such as being allowed to go to Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous meetings. Being allowed to go into town, accompanied by a staff member, was the next privilege that accrued. Then, trips to town were permitted when accompanied by a peer who had attained 3 weeks of good behaviour. Finally, you might prove yourself to be trustworthy enough to go into town alone or as a chaperone.

Transgressions could include: not getting up in the morning, not doing your assigned chores, not attending group therapy, being caught with contraband, failing a drugs test and - most serious of all - going somewhere without permission.

Being expelled from rehab for going into town on your own might not sound like a terrible consequence, but almost everybody was there because treatment was mandated by the courts, as part of parole or an attempt to retain contact with children. Being chucked out of rehab could result in going back to prison, or never seeing your children again. The line between treatment and punishment was rather blurry.

My next rehab was 5-star luxury by comparison. You might have heard of it. It was The Priory.

If you're paying £12,000 for a 28 day stay in the countryside, you'd expect it to be pretty nice, wouldn't you? The Priory certainly delivered on making me feel special and cared after... for a high price. Therapists outnumbered patients, the bedrooms were very well appointed and comfortable, the food wasn't bad and there were luxuries like a gym and grounds to take a stroll around. Nobody was made to feel like a prisoner under house arrest.

Unsurprisingly, my fellow Priory rehabbers were rich compared to the Bournemouth lot. There were six-figure salary earning executives and heirs to multimillion-pound fortunes. Alcohol was also the predominant poison, as opposed to heroin.

One girl was so desperate for a drink, that she filled a mug with hand sanitising gel - which contained alcohol - and sweetened it with orange squash.

Therapeutic days were packed full of yoga, mindfulness, art therapy, educational videos, as well as group therapy. Supposedly following the 12-step program we only had enough time to complete the first two steps. AA and 'aftercare' meetings were held in the evenings at The Priory, which we were encouraged to attend, but most of us just watched DVDs in our bedrooms.

In my final week at The Priory, I asked "what next?"

Turns out that 28 days just isn't long enough to turn your life around. 28 days is just about long enough to get over the worst of the drug withdrawal and start thinking about how awesome the drugs are going to feel after a little break and three square meals a day. Aftercare programs are almost as expensive as rehab and last 3+ months: who's got that kind of money and can afford to take that long off work?

Having been through an acrimonious divorce, sold my house, rescued a tiny fraction of my most treasured possessions, boxed my life up, put everything into storage and suffered a horrible family Christmas, I was pretty fucked up by the whole ordeal. I needed to get cleaned up and straightened out again.

The next rehab I booked, I asked for a detox. I didn't want to have to get up in the morning and go to stupid group therapy. I hadn't slept or eaten properly for weeks. I'd been taking benzodiazepines for months and it was possible that I'd developed a physical dependency that could be life-threatening. I needed professional medical care.

The rehab I ended up in was like an alternative therapy spa break. There was a hot tub - called the sex pond - and a vibrating massage table, with whale music playing in the pitch black room. The main thing I was there for was sleep, food and a doctor on hand in case I had a seizure. Reluctantly, I consented to have acupuncture and to do some mindfulness: both of which I fell asleep during.

Most of the staff were kind and caring, but the guy who owned and ran the rehab was a complete egomaniac who clearly wanted his own cult. This idiot tried to force me to attend 'group' therapy, which was basically him giving interminable boring monologues about the time when he went into a Native Indian sweat tent. Believe me, the last thing you want when you're recovering from a near-fatal toxic combo of drugs, is to be a captive audience for some total moron.

While I was at that third rehab, a man was brought in, smashed out of his mind and covered in red wine. He'd been transferred up from the first rehab I'd been in down in Bournemouth. He'd walked out and gone into town to get pissed. Revolving doors.

I had to get away from that place. It wasn't therapy. Fuck knows what it was. Probably just a bit of respite for both family and addict alike.

Finally, I achieved what I wanted: I got back to London. Bullshit family Christmas was over. Divorce and house sale was over. I was free from horrible destructive relationships and nasty people, but I had picked up an addiction and failed to deal with it. My life to that point had been dictated by people who didn't care about my welfare.

I got myself into my fourth and final rehab: a 13 week residential treatment program in Kensington, West London.

Immediately, the place felt right. Rehabs are supposed to be run by former addicts and alcoholics. The guy who I met on my initial assessment had gold teeth and mean tattoos. The guy who ran the place had a massive scar across his face. These were people whose opinion an addict could respect, because they'd been all the way to rock bottom and back again: they'd seen friends die from overdoses and a lot of other rough shit too.

My most important lesson in rehab was how to do time. I had already been heavily institutionalised by working my whole career for massive corporations - with the limits that full-time work and education imposes on your freedom - but I still had lessons to learn about liberty. It helped a great deal that one of my fellow rehabbers was a young lad who'd been in prison twice by the age of 21.

Rehab is literally a kind of house arrest. You can leave anytime you want, but there will be consequences. It was fun to walk up to the gate (pictured above) and put a foot out over the pavement... just stopping short of taking a single step off the property.

It's not too hard to white-knuckle 3 or 4 weeks of abstinence. The first couple of weeks you'll feel awful, but your body is so abused that it's grateful for the sleep and the food. The next week or two are hard, but you know there's light at the end of the tunnel: you'll soon get your fix. You just have to count down the hours, minutes and seconds.

I don't believe you can rehabilitate somebody in just 3 months. So many things get fucked up when you're an addict. You need to get a job and go back to work, pay your bills and any debts that got racked up, repair and replace broken stuff and get a place to live. Everything got fucked up by my addiction: my shoes and clothes were wrecked and everything in my life was in total disarray.

Imagine being a company director through a period of addiction. My accounts and taxes were all messed up, and important paperwork was lost or misplaced.

What about my CV? How could I explain those periods of absence from work?

What about my routine?

Do you realise how much of your life runs itself on autopilot? You pay your rent/mortgage, council tax, electric, gas, water, sewerage, broadband, mobile phone, home insurance, life insurance, car insurance, road tax, MOT, TV license and a zillion other things. You get up every day, have breakfast and go to work. People know and respect you at work and you know how to do your job. You see your friends and socialise. You have your hobbies and you exercise. Do you think you can put all that stuff back together, running smoothly, overnight?

When you're an addict, everybody distances themselves from you. It's obvious that if you even so much as speak to an addict, they're going to steal your newborn baby and sell it to buy crack cocaine. It's obvious that anybody who injects marijuana or sniffs glue is a worthless selfish nasty person who's out to kill you.

Rehabs are necessary because family and friends are judgemental gossips who offer you useless advice like: "have you tried not taking drugs?" or "maybe you should just stop".

Rehab was a holiday from being judged to be an evil failure, morally weak and simply lacking in willpower.

Rehab showed me that I do have the willpower to stop taking drugs whenever I want. Rehab showed me that I'm not weak and I'm not powerless.

By the time I finished my four stays in rehab, I still hadn't run out of money, I had never been arrested, locked up, hospitalised or homeless. I had been nowhere near rock bottom.

I never actually reached rock bottom though. I experienced things that were awful at the time, but I needed to have those experiences.

Stopping drugs is the least of anybody's concerns. Drugs actually help when your life is unbearably shit. Just ask anybody who suffers from depression or anxiety if they'd like to give up their antidepressants or tranquillisers.

Obviously, I'm glad I never got a criminal record or sustained any life-changing injuries, but maybe I needed to come close. Being locked up in a police cell a couple of times and spending weeks in hospital, were not things on my bucket list, but I think they were necessary experiences to complete my adventure.

When the time was right, I got a place to live, a girlfriend and a job. Without those things, life isn't worth living, but equally, those things don't create recovery.

Bullying was relentless and intolerable at school for 11+ consecutive years. Nothing I did was ever right or good enough for my parents. My parents' relationship was appalling - full of verbal abuse and hostility - and I got involved with a girl who physically and mentally abused me, who I stayed with for many years. I got so used to broken, abusive relationships. Do you think that kind of stuff can get healed by 28 days in rehab? Do you think that all my problems came about just because I sniffed a bit of white powder?

You might think I act normally and sound perfectly reasonable, rational and able to string a sentence together, but it's the opinion of the medical professionals who've treated me, that I'm dealing with depression, bipolar and even borderline personality disorder. Clearly, I've had many episodes of mental health issues... including a period of many years before drugs even entered the picture.

This is called dual-diagnosis: the clusterfuck that is both addiction and mental health issues combined. The tail that wags the dog.

I've cherry-picked the best treatment and the most humane and compassionate approach to fixing my addiction and now I've arrived at the situation where - joy of joys - I'm 'just' dealing with depression and anxiety.

I'm itching to press the 'fuck-it button' because life is intolerably stressful, unrewarding and my depression is refusing to lift. What's the solution? Drugs? Been there, done that.

Rehab taught me how to quit drugs cold turkey. Rehab taught me that I'm in control, so long as my life seems worth living.

Addicts and alcoholics are taught on the 12-step program that they're powerless. I'm certainly powerless, but it's over things like whether I get offered a decent job that pays enough money to be able to live. Being powerless to influence the things that really matter to me in life, such as whether I can live with dignity or not, creates incredible stress and anxiety.

I can choose to stop drinking or taking drugs, but why would I, if the alternative is ESA assessments and having my inadequate welfare benefits cut off by somebody who's not even a qualified doctor? Why would I quit, if I have to prostitute my mind and body, to go and work some pointless bullshit job for somebody promoted into a position of incompetence, if I'm 'lucky' enough to be offered a pittance to do the job?

It's so hard to escape the things that drove us to drink & drugs in the first place.

Rehab was important for me to forgive myself for things that weren't even my fault. I didn't make a mistake, getting addicted to drugs: it was a deliberate act and I'd live my life exactly the same if I got to start over from scratch. Rehab was respite from those who wish to scapegoat sick people.

Fundamentally, rehab connected the 'clean' and the 'dirty' world and allowed me to see that they're two sides of the same coin.

Every saint has past and every sinner has a future.