Success Vs. Addiction (2013)

This instalment was supposed to be about alcohol abuse following the Panorama episode broadcast on Monday 1st August on BBC1. The programme detailed the growing cost of Britain’s drink obsessed society and told the stories of some of the people effected by alcohol abuse, both directly and indirectly. In short, it was informative and interesting, as well as slightly disturbing but I have decided that this article of intrigue will not be about alcohol abuse, but rather centred around one idea that I found whilst researching the programme on the BBC News website –

“Successful people have learnt the skills they need to identify and overcome the difficulties they meet in life to achieve success and happiness. These poor souls have not had the learning opportunities to develop these skills. Poor development of these skills results in symptoms such as alcohol or drug abuse, eating disorders, anti-social and criminal behaviour etc.”

From the moment I read this statement I could feel genuine contempt boiling in my throat. To have the audacity to refer to the people shown in this shockingly real programme as “poor souls” was not only patronising, but ignorant. Then to insinuate that the reason they have found themselves in such a position is because of poor development of social skills is a insult to more than just the individual, but to the people who raised them, sometimes in dire circumstances.

But it was the link that this person made to addiction and success that really enraged me. You would have to be an extremely narrow minded person to assume that simply because of an addiction, success is somehow rendered unascertainable to you. This is complete and utter nonsense. Some of the most successful and highly influential people in literature, music, film and politics have been addicts, with many of them attributing much of their greatest contributions to the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Disclaimer – this article is not meant to show addiction, to drugs or alcohol, or anything else for that matter, in a positive light, more so than to highlight that an addiction is not a reason for failure and that more often than not people who suffer from them, are not unable to succeed in life, with many of them actually using drugs and alcohol as a crutch for their success.

In the world of literature, many of the authors, poets and wordsmiths that our children learn about in school or dedicate their free time to indulging have suffered from alcohol or drug addiction. Stephen King has written over 60 books in 35 years, becoming one of the best selling authors in the world with an estimated wealth of £135 million. I would say he has succeeded in the world of literature. Amazingly so, considering that he struggled with an alcohol addiction for most of his life.

Other notable authors that have struggled with addiction and still to this day remain some of the most successful and studied are – Jack Kerouac who most famously wrote “On the Road” a book that has been read in class rooms throughout the world since it was published in 1957, was immensely addicted to Benzedrine. Hunter S. Thompson, a gonzo journalist who influenced the cult movie “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” had a famous addiction to hallucinogens and alcohol, the subject of which leads the 1998 film starring Johnny Depp.

Music is a universal language and as such, it speaks to both addict and preacher alike. Johnny Cash is noted as one of the most influential singer/songwriters of the 20thCentury and whose music not only granted him a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame, but also led to inductions in both the Rock and Roll, and Gospel Hall of Fame as well. Cash suffered from an enormous amphetamine and alcohol addiction, that surprisingly went hand in hand with his success. You could say that the more Cash took, the better he got, eventually crashing before making an astounding comeback. Much of Cash’s most noted work was created under the influence of alcohol and amphetamines, work that subsequently made him the legend he is today.

Other influential musicians that have also created some of the most incredible music to date are – Eric Clapton who was in the band Cream and also found success as a solo artist, was a heroin addict for most of his career and has actually been noted as saying that heroin taught him the blues. Kurt Cobain the singer/songwriter from the band Nirvana had a strangling addiction to heroin that influenced the bands unique “grunge” sound and put them at the heart of a movement that had struggled to gain its legs in a world mostly dominated by hip hop and popular music. Frank Sinatra of The Rat Pack and one of the most remembered and remarkable musicians in history was a raging alcoholic.

Film and television has had a part to play in almost everyone’s upbringing, especially of those born in the last fifty years. Kelsey Grammer is one of the most recognisable men in the world for his work spanning two decades on the sitcom Frasier which was subsequently a spin off of the much beloved Cheers. Succeeding in becoming a writer, producer, director and voice actor (Sideshow Bob in The Simpsons) Grammer suffered from an out of control addiction to cocaine for much of his career.

Hollywood is rampant with angry alcoholics and anti-social addicts such as – Anthony Hopkins, one of the best loved actors of the 20th Century, star of Silence of the Lambs and most notable as Hannibal Lector, who has been an alcoholic for most of his life. Samuel L Jackson who has become a cult icon for his roles in Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown had an infamous addiction to crack cocaine. Veronica Lake who is still remembered as one of the most beautiful and talented, as well as one of the first real, actresses in history was also an alcoholic.

Now the arts can be arguably pointless, their talent often succumbing to their addictions but I am going to give you two names now – Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. During WWII these two men effectively controlled the world, with America pitching in every once in a while. Now I am going to tell you that the man that led Britain through one of the most horrendous wars in history, the man who became prime minister not once but twice, and is recognised now as a figure of nationality, patriotism and bravery, Winston Churchill, was an alcoholic.

On the other side of that coin you have Joseph Stalin who led the Soviet Union through the war, became an international figure of leadership and a revolutionary whom, even if you disagree with his ethos, was undoubtedly one of the most successful in history. Stalin had an incredibly addiction to amphetamines. The Second World War, that we are taught about again and again in schools, through television, that we are reminded of every year with paper poppies and told never to forget, was fought and won by an alcoholic and a drug addict.

All of the people mentioned so far have indeed succeeded in spite of their addictions and will be held in high regard in life and idolised in death. My problem with the statement at the beginning of this article is this – there are a thousand paths to success. If you choose the hardworking, nose to the grindstone, controlled and measured path to success you will, as the person who made the statement said, most likely succeed, but to what end? How is success measured and defined?

These people were successful at what they did and still do but more importantly they will not be remembered for their addictions but for their contributions. There is literally nothing standing in any one human beings way of being what they wanted to be and to use an addiction as an excuse or to victimise those who become addicts is intolerable. Addiction is not a disease that can be cured with conventional medicine because it is not a conventional disease.

The reason these people thrived regardless of their addictions was because in order to truly succeed, to be who you want to be and do what you want to do in life, you have to compromise certain parts of your body and your soul. As a result you are left with gaps where normal, functioning, non-addicted, “successful” people have no gaps. Therefore, the successful addict will fill these gaps with their chosen fuel. Some choose alcohol, some choose drugs, some choose sex, violence, fast cars or handbags – but whatever they choose the addiction becomes a part of them.

To say that people who become addicts have been failed somehow by society is a frankly disgusting statement. At some point addicts are going to have to take responsibility for their actions and stop having patronising dullards defending their right to die, content in the knowledge that their addiction is not their fault.

Stephen King’s father walked out when he was a child. Johnny Cash watched his brother die. Kelsey Grammer’s sister was abducted, raped and murdered. Winston Churchill barely knew his parents. Joseph Stalin contracted smallpox when he was seven and was left permanently scarred. I think it would be a fair assumption that none of the aforementioned people were granted “the learning opportunities” to become as successful as they did and many of the issues that each one of these highly successful people faced, in turn, are textbook excuses used by addicts to justify their failures in life.

Addictions debilitate, the wound, they destroy and they kill but what they also do is allow people escapism from situations and circumstances in their lives that they would rather not face alone. If the above people had not have had that outlet, that crutch on reality, the strength that their addictions gave them, then the true nature of their realities would have most likely numbed whatever spark it was that made them so great.

Again, being an addict is not a good thing, its not something anyone should aim to be, but it is most certainly not a valid excuse for not succeeding in life. The truth is that the majority of people with addictions that do fail in life, would most likely fail regardless because they do not have an inherent ability or lust to be anything other than what they are. It doesn’t come down to social opportunities, upbringing, religion, finances or generations – it comes down to people, real individuals, with individual needs and individual goals.

The statement that I opened this topic with is irrevocably ignorant and is clearly written by someone who has little or no understanding of the true nature of addiction, or indeed success. This was not written as a direct attack on said person, more so as an insight to a different point of view that they clearly have not considered.

And that is that addicts are not people to be victimised or referred to as “poor souls” and that we should not feel sorry for them in the slightest, because they are doing exactly what they want to do with their lives, regardless of their health, family strains or life long damages. They live how they want to live, and if they did not, they would stop, as millions of them do every day. The necessity to victimise addicts comes down to the basic fact that most people simply fear what they do not understand.

You will never understand addiction, unless you have been an addict anymore than you will understand laying an egg, unless you have been a chicken.

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Other People’s Battles – Why They’re Not Worth It.

Out of all of the fights that I have had the pleasure of being in during my life, I can count on one hand the amount of times I landed a punch on someone’s jaw because of something they did directly to me, and though, in my old age some would say, I have become a docile creature more likely to cry when confronted now than start cracking her knuckles, I, and more than I would care to count, could assure you that I was not always like this.

I broke a boy’s nose when I was fifteen because he threw a rock at my best friends head and called her a lesbian. The rock barely scraped her, but the door handle I smashed his face into made up for the former lack of blood. Needless to say, he had nothing to say after that. I pushed another fifteen year old girl down a flight of stairs because her little sister made my friends little sister cry. I punched a girl in the face within the first three minutes of my becoming a prefect (my only three minutes of being a prefect) because she started rumours that I was using heroin…yeah, I was that kid. I head butted a boy for telling everyone he slept with one of my friends which would have been less retarded if my friend hadn’t actually had slept with him. Twice. I once again head butted a boy for pushing my little brother over, placed another upside down in an outside bin for being a general dick to him and slapped, smacked and stared down countless others, all in the name of defending my own.

But I wasn’t just some underappreciated teenage hero in the game of fighting for the underdog – I was a genuine nut bar and in the great grand scheme of hindsight, I hurt a lot more people who did nothing wrong than those that did. And there’s a whole heap of ‘em out there right now rocking scars that they didn’t deserve to get because they were foolish enough to be a witness to my uncontrollable rage. And if I never I apologised then, I apologise now.

Because as I said, I’m not that person anymore. I was lost for a long time. I was scared for a long time. And I spent my whole life feeling like there was not one motherfucker out there in this big wide world who would ever understand my warped brain or my fragile heart. Then, a little short of six years ago to the day, I gave birth to my best friend and slowly, but surely, she proved me wrong and loved me right, whitewashing all that rage and I can’t remember the last time I threw something across the room or screamed myself hoarse, let alone the last time I put my hands on someone in anger. But this blog isn’t about the fights I walked away from – it’s about the fights that left blood on my hands.

My violent outbursts and seemingly endless disregard for any convention whatsoever landed me up in the office of my head teacher with my mother on one side of me and a police officer opposite us, accompanied by a slight, balding man who ran my school and had little time for my sarcasm or sincerity. This dude didn’t like me on sight, and as an adult now, I can kind of see why…I wasn’t just a poster child of teenage angst, I was like a walking talking H-Bomb of what you hope your kid doesn’t turn into but on the flip side of that I was one of the most intelligent (and I fucking knew it, man) kids in that place and as such I commanded much more patience with the staff than other more retarded nut bars did. I abused this intelligence more than I used it and I got away with a hell of a lot as a result of my wayward genius (my English teachers words, not mine). In short – the school was going to kick me out permanently a few weeks before my final exams and my mother made a deal with them, a deal which turned out to be a rather breaking one for this particular psychopath’s soul.

My mother’s deal? Let Veronika come into school at a time when there are no kids around for her to punch in the face, like maybe, after school has ended? Yes. They loved that idea. What they loved even more than the idea of my only being around for a few hours was the notion of laying claim to my grades and flaunting them to the local press who hung around the car park on exam day at that particular school just waiting to proclaim how hard these poor, disadvantaged students had failed. So the school got to keep my statistical smartness and I got to…well, I don’t know what I got out of it save for the ability to sleep until one in the afternoon and watch Diagnosis Murder before I slipped off to school at sunset to smoke cigarettes with my English teacher and eat peanut brittle for three hours with my art teacher.

Sounds like a pretty good deal for a kid that was seconds away from getting arrested doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t like that. Not at the time. And not now with the added pepper of ten years hindsight. You see the issue was, that all those kids, all my friends, that I had stuck up for and defended, all those people that had used me like a rabid Rottweiler on a long leash for their defence and kept me tucked away like a loaded gun for their own peace of mind – well, they all kind of disappeared when I did.

I remember one particular instance when I had broken my foot by kicking a wooden chair six feet in the air in a fit of hulk like rage and then staggered, stoned and seething to my school for whatever faux lessons my teachers had planned for me. I made my way through the dining hall, dressed in a Bob Dylan t-shirt and ripped jean shorts, my faithful shitkickers screaming on my broken foot – in short I was a mess. A group of my friends stood in the space between me and the doors that led to my classroom. On their backs they wore white school shirts signed with Sharpie. They were laughing and drinking cans of Coke and taking the piss out of each other and generally enjoying their last days as a school kid. And they looked straight through me.

I wasn’t in uniform, because I wasn’t technically at school. I wasn’t laughing, because I wasn’t anywhere near happy in any capacity. I wasn’t drinking Coke, I was…well, coke meant something different to the teenage me. I had become invisible to the people that I had once been invincible too. And it stung more than my pride. I felt my eyes begin to brim with hot, frustrated tears and as I limped in agony past them, slamming my hands into the double doors and sending them crashing into the walls of the staff room, I let the tears fall as I crumpled into a heap at the bottom of a stair case. Within moments my English teacher (and general Veronika-wrangler) had been alerted and swept me up the stairs into the sanctuary of his classroom where I screamed my eyes dry and ate bourbons for an hour or two listening to his new album…yeah, he was that teacher.

I faded away on the brink of burning out and it’s a thought that still creeps into my mind all these years later when the sun hits my face in the dead summer or when I bump into someone from school who remembers me fondly as “fucking mental”. But if there is something that I have learned as an adult that I never knew as a teenager (aside from drugs being bad, M’Kay) is that it doesn’t matter whether you burn out or fade away – the moment you’re gone, everyone moves on.

So, needless to say, I never got my shirt signed and I spent my prom with my foot in a cast, eating Dorito’s, reading Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption waiting for the Season 2 finale of House to start. The day was balmy and I was perilously close to overdosing on tramadol and self loathing. I found out as an adult that my head of year had actually called my mother on the night of the prom and given me permission to go. My mother told me that when she came to tell me the news and found me lying on the grass in the sunshine with my headphones on, book in hand and baby rabbit friend asleep on my chest – she already knew what my answer would be.

And for all the fights I ever fought, and for all the punches I ever threw, I had nothing to show for it. No tight knit group of amigos who had my back when I needed them like I did when they needed me, no band of merry men hell bent on defending the weak and pathetic, no one to harass the teachers and the tyrants that took me from them…because in reality, I hadn’t been fighting for them or because of them. Every single time I lost my shit and did something ridiculously impulsive and violent, I did it because I wanted to do it. I wanted people to need me in a way that no one else could ever be needed. And yeah I could make them laugh and they could copy my work and we could share CDs and I was always a one stop shop for smokes, but no one else was willing to physically knock somebody out for them – which meant I loved them more, right?

Wrong. It meant that I was an incredibly manipulative and volatile kid, with an immensity of anger issues that are all but resolved as I write these words. I still get angry. I still want to smash the place up. I still feel my hands go cold with rage. I still bite my lip just before I’m about to lose my shit. The only difference between now and then is that there aren’t a whole lot of battles that seem worth it anymore. So I take a deep breath. Or I go for a walk. Or I call someone and cry for a moment down the phone to them. Then I mentally slap myself round the face and carry on with my day.

Because no one remembers the battles you fought and lost.

But they do remember the battles you fought and won.

And something I learned from all of this?

The only person worth fighting for is the one that looks back at you from the frozen puddles on the forgotten streets you walk each and every day. Alone and alive. Whether you like them or not, they’re the only one that’s got your back. And they’re enough. Most of the time.

Socially Acceptable Suicide

Even in 2015, there are still a hole heap of social taboos that centre around how an individual causes themselves physical or emotional pain or even death. Suicide, self harm, sexual promiscuity, drug addiction, alcoholism – all of them will raise an eyebrow or two in any “socially acceptable” forum. However, and I am saying this as that little voice on the other side of the fence, there are ways that people mutilate their hearts and heads without ever picking up a razor blade or contemplating a one way waltz off of a tall building.

I’ll give you an example – when my marriage broke down, my first reaction was to get my nipple pierced. Now, for a couple of seconds can we just forget that the nipple is a “rude” place to get a piercing and just concentrate on the task at hand. It was a Tuesday evening and I called my mother to ask if she was around and if she wanted to pop by to the house that I had shared with my ex-husband, our daughter and two fabulous lodgers. She said yes, and I had a request – that she bring a cannula and a reasonably sized BCR. She obliged, without questioning this as she had been piercing me and my brother for years. Yep, we’re that kind of family.

So Ma pulls up and gets out of the car, comes in to the house and plops herself down on the settee. My friend and lodger was sitting on the other settee, my daughter asleep, the male lodger at work and my ex-husband was somewhere probably doing something that he shouldn’t have been doing. Or someone…I was in pain. And that pain wouldn’t go away. So, in the true spirit of fighting fire with fire, I, no noob to a cannula, asked my mother to pierce my nipple. My friend and my mother laughed, knowing that it was ludicrous and that I’d always maintained that I’d never be stupid enough to pierce anything below my neck for the simple reason – that shit hurts, man.

But I wanted it to hurt. That’s the point I’m trying to get across here. I wanted something to hurt more than my heart did, something to sharpen that dull, relentless ache in the pit of my stomach, something to spike some fresh, lucid tears from my swollen eyes. So, my mother, being the woman she is, pierced my nipple for me as I sat there on a cold Tuesday in November and my friend cringed right beside me. Needless to say, I don’t think she’ll ever be getting her nipple pierced…

And you want to know something totally fucking insane? It worked. For awhile. For at least the first week after I mutilated my left nipple, whilst the pain was still fresh and it ached like a rotten tooth somewhere near my heart, I felt like I could breathe again. So much so that a few weeks later, when the house was gone, the lodgers moved on and my marriage officially in the gutter, when I moved in with my mother for the first time since I’d left two years before, I asked my mother one day as she made her way out of the door, again on a Tuesday – if she had time to stick a couple of cannula’s through my lip. I didn’t bother asking her to “snake bite” me because my mother learned how to pierce people before people gave said piercings such ludicrous names. Again, she obliged, and I had two newborn piercings in my brutally swollen lip to get me through the next few weeks until they healed and the real pain came back again.

So then, after those piercings were on their way to healed, I went out and gave myself a rather nasty case of the “dead drunks” when I decided that a cocktail of tramadol, anti depressants and whiskey would numb me for a night in February. It worked, until I woke in a hospital bed feeling more shit than I thought was humanly possible. I trudged home looking like death warmed up, apologised profusely to my mother and sent a bunch of flowers and a thank you card to Joy, the nurse who had to deal with my issues that night in the emergency room because I hadn’t quite figured out how to tame my demons on my lonesome by this point. Rest assured, it was the last time I ever did that.

It all boiled down to distraction in the end. I started writing more and reading too much (as many as four books a day) and gardening, fuck me, the gardening. I started walking everywhere and playing my guitar and baking all the time. I was drawing, painting, sewing and even tried my hand at ceramics before I realised just what in the hell was going on – I was shutting down, slowly but surely each and every one of the little lights inside me were burning out whilst I was busy knitting or learning the chord progressions in Bruce Springsteen’s newest song. I was a husk of the teenager I had been, caught somewhere on the front line of being an adult, being a mother, being a woman and being alive.

Slowly, I was drowning in my own distraction. So I stuck a pin in it and tried, fuck me I tried, to be a good person and for the most part its worked ever since. The issue is, sometimes, things still hurt. It’s like I have a chamber in my heart solely reserved for a swarm of hornets that hold my all the tiny arrows the poor bastard has taken over the years and every now and then, one of those hornets stings against the bars I have carefully built up around it and its friends. Sometimes, the really determined ones even manage to break free of their cage and terrorise the softer patches of my heart.

And that’s when I’d give anything to feel a tangible pain again, instead of just the vague burning sensation that comes with immense emotional distress. Something I can get my hands on and sink my teeth into, a pain that I can control and manipulate at my pleasure or discomfort – something to make me feel anything other than what I’m feeling when one of those mutant wasps breaks free and pours its poison into my veins.

Pain is the key here, people. And yeah, you can pick up a razor or a piece of something broken and sharp, maybe even something poetic like a mirror, so that you can watch yourself hurting yourself and take comfort in the solace that knowing the attacker brings. And yeah, when it all gets too much you can get punch out a single and ride the train to the end of the line. You can drown in the bottom of the bottle or soar on the tip of a needle, or you can throw your beautiful, broken body at anything willing to call it so for a time or two just to feel like you’re not entirely worthless. And all of these things, were you to tell them to a psychiatrist or a even a friend or family member, may wind you up with an intervention at the best and a funeral at the worst, depending on the quality of the people around you.

But there are a million and one socially acceptable ways to commit suicide. You can, for example, become addicted to the most foul and fiendish drug of them all – nicotine. You can smoke your life away one cigarette at a time and never once find yourself alone in a room full of judgemental faces and inquisitive eyes. Hey, you smoke, yeah you shouldn’t but my grandaddy smoked for like a hundred and two years and lived to be seventy nine thousand years old, or something like that.

You can go out every weekend and get blackout drunk, so drunk that you don’t remember how you got home or where your shoes are or what in gods name that is down the front of you t-shirt and you’re fine, because you only do it at the weekend. You hold down a nine to five, you pay your bills and you don’t beat your old lady when you’re wasted. You don’t drink and drive and nine times out of ten you walk away from the fights that find your face in those fabulous shit holes you frequent Friday to Sunday. But you’re just Dave, the local pisshead, everyone’s favourite pet yardstick that they measure their own failures against. Oh well, you weren’t as fucked as Dave was…is anyone ever as fucked as Dave is? Lol.

Spend your days walking around so stoned that you couldn’t tell your daddy from the postman. Go on, do it. You’re allowed to numb yourself so relentlessly against the bullets flying at you because you’re funny when you’re stoned, you’re easy when you’re stoned and easy is endlessly endearing. Pump yourself full of Valium and Prozac, hell skin up one hell of a joint and blaze your life away, because weed is natural and it doesn’t hurt anyone and it should be legal, man. It doesn’t hurt anyone, it helps people. Look, I’ve got this killer Wiki list that details all the good things about weed. You know, it doesn’t say anything about the fact that any chemical or natural substance, that takes you away from the way you feel is inherently dangerous to your basic understanding of identity and position, but you know… could you pass the oreos?

And here’s the best and the worst, saved for last as all things of its ilk should be. I’m going to tell you now to call him. To pick up your phone and call him. It doesn’t matter that it’s one o’clock in the morning and he’s probably passed on someone else’s bed, y’all just go ahead and call him. Tell him that you can’t live without him. Tell him that he will never, EVER find someone who will love him like you do. Tell him that you fell like you can’t breathe without him. Tell him that he’s the only thing that stops the voices in your head because he is the only fucking voice in your head. Tell him that you’re sorry and that you’ll do anything to be with him. Tell him that you’ll die without him. And believe it. Believe it all. Every. Single. Word. Of. This. Bullshit. Boil it down and breathe it in, because nothing, and I mean nothing, quite compares to the powerfully destructive pain of desperately timeless unrequited love.

And that’s how we do it. That’s how we live, creatures of immeasurable misery integrated fully into a functioning society that wouldn’t know us from the next. It’s how we survive by ritualistically torturing our minds and hearts and bodies with a whole heap of socially acceptable forms of self mutilation. We stick needles through our genitals and tattoo our rib cages. We drink, smoke and fuck like the worlds going to end, because in our heads, it already has. We throw ourselves into experiencing our lives in means and ways that we’ve told are enjoyable but in actual fact are dead end attempts to be happy on a road to absolute fucking misery.

And there’s hundreds of thousands of us out there. Some of you might have even read this and nodded along or sighed or shaken your heads because you know Dave the piss head, hell y’all might even be Dave the piss head. And you might be high now or smoking a fag or looking at your phone wondering if they got your text, telling yourself that it’s late and they’re probably asleep, crossing your fingers that they’ll text back in the morning with the obligatory apology and inadequate excuse, all the while knowing that the reason that they’re not texting back is because they’re busy living without you.

And you question whether that would be living at all because you haven’t realised that they have realised this already.

So, yeah, we’re all in pain and we’re all trying to find a way to make that pain go away or at least shut the hell up. Sometimes we win and it does shut up. And sometimes we lose and it whispers in the backs of our minds and we feel that wave wash over us, feel the water trickle down the back of our throats and find ourselves crawling through the hours on all fours gasping for the air that everyone around us is breathing seemingly with so much ease. And we wonder if that pain will ever go away. We wonder if we’ll ever be able to breathe again.

And sometimes, we hope we won’t. We call it a day and we settle into a sleep that we wish, somewhere deep and dark inside ourselves, that we don’t open our eyes again. That we just silently tap out of all it is that weighs us down and tears us apart, but then, more often than not, we wake up and realise that the world woke up again too. And that it would whether or not we were here or gone. We realise how small and insignificant we actually are and it scares the shit out of us. The notion occurs to us that were we to shuffle off this mortal coil and into the blessed abyss, no one would care. Yeah your mum and you dad would probably be devastated and your friends would probably go get your name tattooed on them and raise a bomb to you every other weekend, but given time, they’d live, because like all things, pain fades.

So you have a choice. You can either accept the fact that the world will go on without you just fine, that even those that would want to die if you did, would find a way to deal with that pain and would remember you always but that there would come a day in even their lives when they would be pouring milk into their cereal in the morning and your face wouldn’t be in their mind or your voice in their ears – you can take this information and drown in it, or you can take this information as a free pass to live exactly how you want to live without fear of what the world will think – because it doesn’t care, remember?

You’re free. Free to do whatever you want whenever you want with whomever you want for whatever reasons you want. The world doesn’t care. And neither should you. Be yourself, your own magnificently mutated self. And remember, that that place in your chest that aches all the time also beats all of the time, and in those moments of universal despair, lend a hand to that spot on your chest for a moment or two and take comfort in the fact that it never stopped beating, through it all – however much you may have wanted it to.

And be beautiful.

Because you are.

And know that we’re in it together.

Because we are.

When I Dream of Syringes

It was cold and most certainly night. I was drunk, for the most part and standing with my usual crowd outside of our local supermarket. I was wearing my blue paisly shirt and my olive green Lee Coopers. I was smoking a cigarette and laughing, a bottle of something strong and tepid in my hand. He approached, his eyes bluer than I could ever recall from photgraphs burning into me. My friend stopped and put her hand on my arm,

“He’s looking at you.” He came straight up to me and took out a pen. He smiled, his face reminiscent of what I knew but something was different. Stubble speckled his young cheeks and he laughed,

“You can’t be though, you haven’t got any hair.” He had cut his hair to half an inch all over but his face bore a similarity too uncanny not be frutiful. He shook his head and closed the distance between us. He uncapped the pen, which was laden with white ink.

“Can I?” I nodded, my mind still and my heart beating in my ears. I breathed in as he pulled one side of my half open shirt aside, revealing the black of my bra. He scrawled a word, an autograph on the portion of my left breast that showed and let the shirt fall gently to rest. I reached out to touch his face and he took my hand before it could.

“Come with me.” He pleaded. I could see poison under his eyes, swimming in the blue that was never quite captured on the cameras where I had come to know him so well. I turned to my friends and realised that they had moved away. He squeezed my hand and we walked out of the car park and into daylight. We were by the side of the sea. There was an immense heat baking off of the ground but neither of us looked pained for the weather. The cool sea breeze wafted through my hair.

We came to a wall, hand in hand, and beyond it lay nothing but ocean. He let go of my hand and climbed over the wall, almost glided over the wall and hit the sand on the other side with a soft thud. He then reached his arms over and helped me, also somehow glide, over the cinder block obstacle. Our foreheads touched and my stomach knotted when he kissed me briefly on the mouth. On the wall now stood out a face, melted to the brick, its skin grafted to the very mortor.”It’s for nothing.” Its mouth was disorted, a hideous grimace marring the scarred, powedery skin but its words were clearer than the ocean that now lay before us. It shifted and came closer to us, almost sinking into the brick and oozing back through the wall now only a foot from us. His grip tightened on my hand and we ran, we ran like we were trying to beat the devil, until blood pumped in our eyes and our mouths were are dry as the sand under our now bare feet.

We skidded to a halt on the side of the ocean, a platform about three foot over the water. We sat down and caught our breath, words were exchanged but they escape me now. He took out a leather pouch. Inside the pouch was a syringe, a white ball of clinge film and other random pieces. I watched as he sharpened his arm, the muscles writhing underneath the roadmap skin and popped the needle of the syringe through his the cleft of his arm. He immediatly fell back, his muscular stomach now bare and glistening in the light of the rising sun.

I went to stand, placing my hands next to me when he shot up as it electrocuted and stabbed the same syringe, now full once more, into the soft flesh between the knuckles of my index and middle finger. As soon as he pushed the plunger down the platform broke and I was flung two hundred foot into the air, the platform rising and blood pouring from the wound on my hand. I could vaguely see him but his voice was lost in the wind.

I had to throw something. He wanted me up there, that is why he had stabbed me. I had to be that high up. I could not remember what he wanted me to throw though. The wind was heavy and the platform unstable. I shifted my weight and looked out onto the horizon. There was ocean for as far as I could see but behind me was a dense city landscape, with life and sound melting together. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a green guitar pick.

That was what he wanted me to throw. I held it against my mouth, the metal in my lip chinking against it. I pursed my lips and kissed the pick before shuffling my feet to the edge of the platform. Then I took a deep breath and thought of the man who had led me here with neck length dirty blonde hair, a green cardigan and a guitar in his hands singing about the scent of teen spirit and then I remembered who he was and what he wanted from me. I let my feet continue off the platform where they found nothing but air.

But I did not fall. I floated back down to the platform where he now stood smiling, his hair grown back to the length I remember it being. He had tears in his eyes as he took me into his arms and kissed me once more. With my arms locked around him, he dissolved into dust and was carried away by the wind. The day faded to night in seconds and I was back standing outside the supermarket with my friends, although now I was covered with sand like powder and my hand was black with dead blood.

“Are you okay?” I nodded and we walked up the high street and into one of the pubs. I ordered my drink and excused myself to the toilet. No one had said anything about my hand that was now twice the size it should have been. I stood in front of the mirror and watched as my hand returned back to normal and the dust like dirt all over my shirt washed away into the air and out of the open window.

I unbuttoned my shirt, standing in the harsh light of the pub bathroom and let it fall to my elbows. There written on the nape of my left breast, almost as while as the flesh was his word as if to assure me that he was not a dream but somehow more. Four simple letters in untidy scrawl that brought an exhausted tear to my eye – live.