Author Luke Williams – The Ice Age

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Law graduate and Walkley Award nominated freelance journalist Luke Williams moved into a meth house to research a book and ended up addicted and spiraling out of control. He did emerge from addiction, and his book The Ice Age resulted.

addict2016: My first question is usually the same: are you currently using and, if not, what were you using when you stopped?

LW: No I’ve gone completely clean, it’s been 20 months since I last used crystallized meth. I know many people in the UK probably don’t understand what that is ­­– so let me quickly explain. Crystallized meth is a far more potent version of ‘speed’ (which is usually powdered methamphetamine). It is the world’s most powerful stimulant – it does similar things to the brain as cocaine but is, far, far, stronger. The crystal meth we use in Australia generally comes from China and Hong Kong, and we have only had it in Australia for about five years – so people are still struggling to come to terms with what the drug really is.

addict2016:  Your story is remarkable. Your background is in journalism?

LW: Thank you. Yes, my background was a broadcast journalist, but I left to become a lawyer in 2009. In 2014 I quit law and I moved into a friend’s house who was a drug addict and dealer. I decided that 9 to 5 office life and all the goals that go with it weren’t for me; I wanted to write full-time and live my own way. I think those ideas also meant that I felt like it was okay to experiment with drugs and take them as often as I liked because I was so disappointed with middle-class life.

addict2016: Where did your experiments begin? For me, apart from cannabis, it was psychedelics at the beginning.

LW: For my 17th birthday in 1997 my friend gave me an acid trip. I had lived a very sheltered life until then, I was studying hard because I wanted to be a psychologist and I was also a state-representative athlete which meant I was doing two hours training a day. That all changed after I took the acid trip, and in retrospect I am not sure if it was necessarily for the better, but it did open my mind.

addict2016: You had planned to move back in with your friend to research a book on meth. Can you explain your rationale?

LW: So yes, fast-forward to age 34 and I am embedded with a friend who is dealing crystal meth and marijuana from his house – albeit on a small scale and just enough to support his own habit. I just wanted to write full-time so I thought that by living with him I would find material for a book and I did – just not the material I was expecting because I didn’t realize we were taking crystal meth. I cooked my brain so badly on meth that, after a few months, I genuinely lost track of the fact I was writing a story; I stopped taking notes and became fixated on a series of non-existent events with myself at the centre. I became psychotic very quickly so I had no concept I was addicted. I thought I was developing new ‘powers’ like musical abilities and even telepathy at one stage.

addict2016: How quick was your descent into addiction?

LW: Quite quick because I didn’t realize I had gone psychotic

addict2016:  How long did you tell yourself you were functioning? I was deluded in that respect for some time whilst addicted to heroin then more recently alcohol.

LW: Yes I was still functional whilst coming in and out of psychosis. I also became aware that there was a never-never land between psychosis and reality which was both fun and a source of new ideas, so at times I was deliberately pushing myself to the precipice and at other times I had no idea what I was doing. But yes, I was still working at the time, although I did eventually reach a point where I had no money and nowhere to live.

addict2016:  I connect with that. I took insane amounts of everything I could get my hands on the late 90s…working in a band, running acid-techno parties and a record label. The more I pushed the more everything flowed but I needed the smack to calm down

LW: Wow, it sounds like a lot of fun, but I am also skeptical now of the idea that we need drugs to come up with ideas or that just because you are still working it means your addiction is fine. Crystal meth did open my mind in some ways, but in a very short period of time I was acting in a childish manner and hurting others around me.

addict2016:  The same as every addict, whatever the substance. The fun soon stops.

LW: Yes.

addict2016:  Huxley wrote about the doors of perception. I understand now. No drugs are needed now I’ve opened them

LW: Yes I feel the same way. Whatever drugs brought to my life they already have and I don’t need to keep using them – at all, ever

addict2016:  What was the catalyst for your recovery? Was there a defining moment? A low point?

LW: Well I had struggled with drug addiction before – the low point this time was having nowhere to stay, threatening to kill my parents, sleeping outside and then having to live with my uncle with schizophrenia. I was 34, I had a law degree and had been a journalist nominated for several national awards – I realized that it just wasn’t cute anymore and that I was wasting my potential.  On the other hand, I had no real desire to live a bland middle-class life and I was worried that I should have spent my life on more creative pursuits instead of climbing the socio-economic ladder. Over time I realized that I could write books for a living and thanks to my life experiences, age 34 was the perfect time to dedicate myself to writing. I also realized I had a lot to work on and it was not the creative side of writing that was the problem – it was logic and attention-to-detail – and I had to be clean to work on these things.

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addict2016:  I have heard an interview where you talked about nearly killing someone?

LW: Yes I had a lot of ideas about killing people, most of them were said as a joke – I’ve done a lot of theater in my time and so has one of my friends so we would often get on drugs and act these off-the-wall scenes – but the problem was that I started to get very excited about killing people. I also believed people wanted to kill me and this made me want to kill them first.

addict2016: Did you worry about your sanity at this point?

LW: I never really came out being insane – I only had some days where I realized I had lost the plot the day or so before, but it took me a good year of living in the house to even remember some of these ideas, and even now they are still littered with blackouts.

addict2016: The same with my drinking – blackouts. That was what began to really scare me…and that I was about to lose my family.

LW: Awful.

addict2016: So now you are clean, is your life any calmer?

LW: Yes, my life is fantastic now.

addict2016: What keeps you clean?

LW: My love of writing, Buddhism, I live nomadically, I try to live without delusion, lots of things.

addict2016: Do/did you attend any recovery groups?

LW: No, but I had been into rehab before, so I had all those tools – I just hadn’t quite reached the question of what is the meaning of life without drugs?

addict2016: What is the answer to that question?

LW: Seeing reality on its own terms, free from delusion, and enjoying it and experiencing things outside the self; from there, I think you can work out specifically what you need to do to make meaning in your own life in a particular way.

addict2016: Very true. You are currently in Jakarta, researching your new book. What is it about?

LW: My book is about extreme experiences that westerners have when travel to or live in Asia, including my own, so this week I am staying in a slum for a night and then going and staying in a 5 star hotel to look at extreme inequality in Jakarta – that’s just one chapter, after that I’ll go to India to profile people who travel for spirituality.

addict2016: What would your advice be to another human suffering addiction?

LW: Well, I say that addictions are very hard to escape and come in all forms, but I would ask do you want to stop your addiction? Just gain a bit more control? You have work out a way to tap into your addiction so you gain from it rather suffer from it – because sometimes part of it is channeling obsession into something that brings good things into your life? Addictions are irrational, they usually serve no purpose and feed on themselves, they normally centre around unproductive pleasure – but even people with severe OCD have treatment available to them now, so if you want to stop you can eventually learn how if you reach out to the right places. The question is whether or not you want to. Also, treatment is just treatment for addiction – it’s not going to answer all your big existential questions, but once you get drugs out of your life you will be better placed to resolve them.

addict2016: Thank you Luke it’s been fascinating talking to you.

LW: Thank you.

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The Ice Age: a journey into crystal meth addiction by Luke Williams is available to buy online.

MUSIC

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“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” Bob Marley

Music drives our thoughts and arouses our emotions. One piece makes us happy, the next makes us sad. Music triggers electrical impulses that make fingers tap and feet dance. There is a deeper power in music that society may not initially recognize. Music can intensify an emotion related to a particular event. Music colours our memories. Music expands our consciousness.

Most of my adult life has revolved around making and writing music. For a couple of decades I attempted to make it pay me a wage, which may have driven me insane or into the loving arms of addiction. Curiously to me, though it is probably a cliché, it was when I was at my most creatively productive and successful that I fell (or leapt) into heroin addiction.

From 1995 until 2000, in our projects Interact, Id-Entity, Juttajaw and One True Parker we wrote and produced seven albums, numerous singles and another two albums’ worth of remixes. Our pro-legalisation stance was unashamed and further enhanced when we recorded an album with Howard Marks, one of the most infamous cannabis smugglers of the last century. As Juttajaw couldn’t find anybody imaginative enough to book us to play, we created our own gigs by holding what became the notorious Dirty Cow parties. The mantra: the freedom to experiment with shared experience using psychedelic drugs. Lots and lots of psychedelic drugs. A glass of acid punch came free on entry, a leveller we thought. We never advertised or printed a single flyer but the word spread and the parties grew. At one point we had over six rooms of music pounding out the night in Farringdon, with celebrity DJs accepting the £50 we paid everyone. Meetings on our dancefloors led to lifelong friendships and even marriages.

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Juttajaw performing at a Dirty Cow party (1998) That’s me on the right, not looking very well.

Our pace of work became increasingly frantic. We had a crazy schedule in a studio we shared with Test Department, working 24/7 for our 3.5 days. We made life complicated for ourselves by never playing the same arrangements twice, re-writing and arranging our sets for every performance. In the midst of this creative madness I fell in with some kindred spirits, who must remain nameless here. Like me, with successful careers in the music industry, they found all the hedonism, hard work though it was, a bit empty and meaningless. Our drug of choice: heroin, although sometimes crack and DMT. I would consume anything to calm the raging creative and emotional whirlwind in my mind. Smoking heroin certainly worked. Addiction obviously followed. Although not the only reason, my heroin addiction contributed to the dissolution of all these projects. Addiction ended all creativity.

As I recently wrote for the Recovery Revolution Online, “both times I have been in the depths of addiction, to heroin in the late nineties and until recently alcohol, I isolated myself from the world and people. I also stopped listening to and playing music. Both times when I cleaned myself up music poured back into my life.” I wrote poured, but it is more of a torrent.

As I have written before, I have a golden memory of my epiphany listening to Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On?’ when I finally found myself free from heroin in 2003. I went on to write and produce another album and run an altogether more relaxed party night called Book Club. Music, and its resulting magical power of connection, had returned.

Over the last year, during my recovery from alcoholism, the regular weekly jam I have attended since I returned to Cambridge has morphed into a band, The Warning Shadows. The regular discipline of rehearsing complicated songs has got my fingers moving in the same way that recovery and writing this blog have got my brain moving. Writing music without the aid of a pharmaceutical enhancement of some kind, is a new experience for me. The music is still as crazy as ever so selling it would, as before, prove problematic. But I’m not writing music to sell it this time. I have no further ambition than to play a few gigs for friends. My pay-off is that my creativity has returned.

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The Warning Shadows playing at the Cambridge Corn Exchange (2016)

I am also DJ-ing again (I use the term loosely), as I was recently honored to accept a monthly residency on Recovery Revolution Online’s ‘RecovRemix’ feature. My first downloadable mix, ‘The Devil Is Dope’ , was posted on the 7th October. I have already recorded November’s mix, ‘The Big Chill’, and I can feel a glow of anticipation building, waiting for it to be posted. A new mix will be posted on the first Friday of every month – watch this space for the links.

Making music is free. Music brings people together and smiles to their faces. Once again music is filling my life, heart and soul. I am grateful.

“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.” Lao Tzu

Chris Aguirre from The Recovery Revolution

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I met Chris Aguirre in May in the wonderful on-line world of addiction recovery. His site The Recovery Revolution Online is outstanding and fast becoming one of the ‘go to’ on-line recovery destinations.

 

Addict2016: My first question is generally the same: are you currently using (I presume not) and, if not, what were you using when you stopped?

Chris: I am not. I used alcohol and ecstasy supplemented by cocaine and freebase. On occasion, mushrooms and acid.

Addict2016: What was the catalyst for your sobriety? Was there a defining moment?

Chris: There was. The simple answer is I was sitting in my car – drunk and high – outside a club one night when I had a moment of clarity that I couldn’t go on as the embarrassing, shameful mess I had become.

Addict2016: You are a motivated man. The work you do on Recovery Revolution is inspirational. How did it all start?

Chris: By chance I found myself with a small handful of friends and family who had come out to me as struggling with substance use issues. I became more than a little frustrated and disillusioned when, despite my years of sobriety, I seemed unable to help any of them in any meaningful way. It was then that I realized I had a lot more to learn about addiction, sobriety and recovery. So I decided that if I couldn’t help those close to me I would try to help others.

Addict2016: It is difficult to help a loved one. It’s funny, as soon as I mention my alcoholism or recovery everybody has something to talk about. True help is harder to give, as an addict rarely listens to good advice. Being a musician I have known many people with addiction issues. It is hard not to come across as preachy, or holier than thou. The best and essential thing that we can do is tell our stories.

Chris: That’s exactly why I started the podcast. It allows me an almost steady stream of consciousness vis-à-vis my mental health and what I know/believe/feel about addiction/sobriety/recovery.

Addict2016: So you are not An AA/NA man?

Chris: I am not. I am not ‘anti’ anything out of hand. I recommend AA to people on the reg. I try to include multiple perspectives on the site, which is continually evolving.

Addict2016: I love Recovery Revolution. How long has it taken to build and do you do all the work yourself?

Chris: Since June 2014. I do everything but write the posts and even some of those are mine.

Addict2016: All this is very scary as a parent.

Chris: Yeah, I know there’ll be little I can do about it if things go that way. How old is yours?

Addict2016: She is ten but very curious. She came top in her class in a recent quiz about drugs. My addiction scared her though. To my shame.

Chris: Well, last night we were just telling my six year old that the only mistakes are ones you don’t learn from. Living with Daddy’s job being about recovery, she has a loose grasp on the concept.

Addict2016: Were you a father when you were an addict?

Chris: No, it was well after that. I had been sober nine or ten years when she was born but I’ve been a father through some brutal bouts of depression, which is its own beast.

Addict2016: Was your addiction due to self-medication? So many people’s are.

Chris: I think so. I was a socially anxious, depressed kid; uncomfortable in my own skin.

Addict2016: I can certainly relate to that. My recent alcohol years were definitely due to stress coming from all directions. I needed to bring down the curtain.

Chris: I just wanted to be all the things I wasn’t. Or at least thought I wasn’t. Mad, bad and dangerous to know…and rich and popular and, and, and

Addict2016: I think I score three out of five. Not bad. Rich I can live without.

Chris: I’ve learned that I cherish life with as little drama as possible now, which is distinct from excitement. Though I need far less of that too these days.

Addict2016: I find my recovery exciting. My blog, being back in a band, Djing again.

Chris: That’s exactly it!

Addict2016: I don’t want to think about turning stuff down. I want to say yes to everything. I used to be like that about drugs.

Chris: Ha!

Addict2016: In your darkest days, could you have foreseen your current life?

Chris: Never. I thought I was going to go out in a blaze of pathetic ignominy. A blasé of glory. I was terrified of ending up in prison for a bit.

Addict2016: I too got into many scrapes…one including ten thousand ecstasy pills.

Chris: Shiiiiiiiiiitttt. It’s always the DJ.

Addict2016: Do you have any ambitions…dreams for the future?

Chris: I would love to able to have what I’m doing contribute to the financial bottom line of my household without doing it on the backs of people that need what I am doing. It’s a predicament but I’m working on a solution.

Addict2016: Indeed. How about for Recovery Revolution?

Chris: I haven’t really stopped in two plus years to consider how to steer it once it took. I’m trying to keep my ego in check and not say I want to be the biggest or best recovery destination on the web. After all there is room for all of us. I think I’d just like to be well-respected and not let it get ‘safe’…maybe even get ‘edgier’.

Addict2016: Is your abstinence absolute or is there any drug you would feel ‘safe’ taking now?

Chris: I take Rx (prescription) meds for depression and anxiety but I wouldn’t risk anything else. I could barely be convinced to take the Rx.

Addict2016: My doctor found it amusing that I didn’t want anti-depressants, despite everything I had stuffed into myself with impunity. He actually laughed.

Chris: My neurologist is the one who got me to take them when he asked the most un-doctor-like question: ‘What’ll it matter in 10,000 years?’

Addict2016: Some of them are cool…like humans. What would your advice be to an addict seeking recovery?

Chris: I still feel woefully unprepared for that question. But what I find is true of all situations is much what my neurologist said to me. I suggest: You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying.

Addict2016: Many thanks. It has been a great pleasure to talk to and learn more about you. I greatly admire your work.

Chris: Terrific. Thanks so much. I’ve enjoyed the chat.

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Chris is the founder of theRecoveryRevolution.online and the Since Right Now Addiction Recovery Podcast. Chris has been a person-in-recovery for over 19 years. He still has a lot to learn.

 

PARENTHOOD

parenthoodHere is the link to ‘Parenthood’, my new piece for the fabulous I Love Recovery Café:

Parenthood – by Andrew Ahmad Cooke