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.

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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.

 

The Key to the Doors of Perception / with Be

The conversation Zack Zdrale

BE and I met, lived and worked in a multiple recording studio complex which doubled as a party venue in the late nineties. We both played in bands and recorded and produced music. We used heroin and crack together. He is now clean and a qualified professional. This is our first proper conversation since those days.

 Addict2016: Are you currently using?

BE: I smoke cigarettes and drink about five nights a week.

Addict2016: We used heroin, crack and other things together at the turn of the century. How would you describe the way you ‘fell’ into heroin use?

BE: Accidental. I got given a tiny bit to help me sit for twelve hours soldering a loom for a studio. Worked a treat! Then I lived in LA with someone I didn’t know was a regular user, and ended up sitting in car parks waiting for the man every morning. The front cover of Beck’s first album? We were there every day. Then, I lived in a place where drug use was rife and I think I ended up, due to general dissatisfaction with my music work, in a triumvirate of the heaviest users…you were one of them. Peter Perret from the Only Ones told me that nobody sets out to be a junkie – he was right, of course.

Addict2016: Indeed. There would be few addicts if it was a lifestyle choice. I too was dissatisfied with the music I was creating and had found no answer to the emptiness of the universe. However, there was a sordid glamour to it all and I was a bit in awe of you and G. We were taking cocktails of many different drugs but heroin made everything stop for a while for me.

BE: For me it made it continue. Crack, coke etc. notwithstanding, heroin kept me (generally!) awake but anaesthetised to the pain of dissatisfaction. I did glory to some extent in the extremity of it all – surrounded by what your average Daily Mail reader would have seen as capital offences – all day, every day.

Addict2016: The place we lived and worked in was full of beautiful, creative people, most of whom were using drugs. It was the music business so all was accepted and expected. It was only when I began using heroin and crack that my friends disapproved – friends with whom I used cocaine, ecstasy, cannabis and alcohol. I could not see the difference. It became a philosophical debate about good and bad drugs. I believed that if you do something every day you are an addict or on your way to being one; the substance was irrelevant. I now believe they are very different and that the approach to the treatment of alcoholics and illegal drug users must be different. I felt that heroin and crack set the three of us apart. I enjoyed this.

BE: I remember coming to see you after I quit. At your flat, wherever it was, there was vomit round toilet bowl, black carbon smears everywhere, but no, you didn’t have any! It was really obvious Andy. You really didn’t want me there. I was clearly an intruder – stopping you getting on with your love affair.

Addict2016: Complete denial. Addicts all live in denial. That Hoxton flat was a very dark place. Most of my friends had turned away because I had stopped caring about anything. I was alone, except for G, with heroin. I hated myself and everything else.

BE: Me too. I remember one particular week when a sound engineer friend, HUGE coke user, invited me for lunch or dinner almost every day. He was concerned because he’d smelled heroin around where I lived. I suspect my band mates and other friends, all massive coke; cannabis and alcohol users, had elected him to play Dad. It just made me laugh, take the free food – I even made myself able to eat a lot, so if he thought I’d be cheap smack date I could shit on that idea and his/their good intentions! I never heard from him directly again after that week, though we met often and he was always coked. Aggressive. Antagonistic. In denial. I guess all the things I must once have been.

Addict2016: There was extreme anger at us from friends using lots of cocaine and alcohol.

BE: I revelled in the hypocrisy.

Addict2016: I always felt that their anger came from the denial of their own usage and possibly addictions. We knew we were scum but it was the same beast. Good drugs – bad drugs. I was sat down and given a good talking to by my fellow band-mates. It made me very angry – even though I knew it came from love. No free lunch for me!

BE: I’m not sure anyone who “only” did the other drugs even considered the concept of addiction. In fact, I’m not convinced that some people who spent a house on coke, me included, were ever addicted. When I stopped doing what? Three grams a day after ten years? I just stopped. Then again, it took the rest of our gang a year to realise I wasn’t buying or sharing anymore and to stop sticking it in my face! And before you go down the path I think you might, bear in mind that for example, I’d get home off tour, go to bed – and have someone break into my home, come up to my bed and wake me up with a CD case with two half gram lines chopped out, saying “Do these and be in the bar in 10. ‘X’ (legendary punk singer) and ‘Y’ (legendary ‘modfather’ musician) are here. We’re playing pool”. This was at 3a.m. and I’d probably just been to the U.S. and Australia for a couple of months. Same people later ‘sitting me down’.

Addict2016: I admit I loved the exclusivity our heroin and crack use gave us. We were different. We were intellectuals.

BE: That photo of us with the hats still makes me smile. Funny. The third party to our relationship saw me sell him some gear then nick a bit while he watched through my kitchen window in Stoke Newington. I don’t remember doing it but I must have because he pulled me up on it. A couple of years later I met his brother on the millennium bridge. He told me G had released a limited edition recording of one of the tunes we did together and I recorded. He’d always promised that studio time and royalties would be paid if that ever happened. Interesting take on life methinks. And yes, we were/are “intellectuals”. Our egos probably outshone everyone else’s simply because we knew we were clever – and doing completely stupid stuff. I loved our soirees in G’s locked door studio. Educated men in the high castle incarnate. Nobody mentions that drugs can be excellent fun.

Addict2016: That was an amazing place though. A building full of famous, infamous and hungry people creating music. From the outside and inside it was glamorous. It was a giddy throng of creativity and drug abuse. That ‘locked door’ was sanctuary. The crack and heroin the ultimate abuse and sanctuary.

BE: I lived in there too, don’t forget. To get to the toilet at weekends, I had to step over your dance partners, all four hundred of them. At the previous incarnation of that organisation in Kings Cross, to get to the toilet at weekends I often had to walk through full blown (coughs) S &M orgies.

Addict2016: You said at the beginning that you drink five nights a week. Is this a conscious decision? How important are the two nights off?

BE: Sometimes four, sometimes three. It depends on life/work etc. Not drinking seven days a week is definitely a conscious thing. Some nights it’s two glasses of wine. Some, usually a Friday, it’s two bottles. Not sure I’m keen to continue the “binge” element, which is definitely there, but I do have denial rooted in the “given where I’ve been I’m doing OK” statement. I do know it holds no ground (intellectual, right?) but it’s something I’m still working on. Same as cigarettes. Was twenty-thirty a day, now five-fifteen. Stats don’t lie, right?

Addict2016: I think that sort of intake is fairly standard for alcohol. We would look on it differently if it was heroin we were talking about. The health advice would be against the binge element but that is when it works and is most fun. I have promised my daughter that I am giving up tobacco on my birthday; this is now only a few days away. Tobacco is so difficult to give up. I have tried a few times and failed but feel that I have learned much about quitting in the last few months so think and hope it will be different this time but I don’t want to put any pressure on my abstinence. When I stopped using heroin, I just bought a big bag of temazepam and locked myself in that awful flat. G & A (angels) brought me provisions: tins of soup and ice-lollies. After two or three weeks I had an epiphany on a bright sunny Sunday morning listening to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” album. I was free. I had never used alcohol much before in my life. It always made me sick. On quitting heroin I found I could drink and developed a huge thirst. I had merely swapped addictions.

BE: I stopped drinking around my eighteenth birthday. I was driving a band van around during college and the two don’t mix. Speed and hash was the thing. Lots of it. I used to buy speed still warm from a flat in Wigan. They made it in the bath. First pint after that was when I was about twenty-five when I lived in Hampton Court. The Albion. Tennants Extra! I remember it vividly. Apart from the messy physical withdrawal of heroin, everything else I’ve just stopped. I was a crap junkie. Could look at it and throw up. Really. Cigarettes are different. A client told me that if you started smoking young, I was about twelve, then to give up is to let go of one’s youth. There’s probably something in that. I’m pretty straight down the line these days, but cigarettes allow me to believe I’m still a nihilist. Still a rebel. Still different. Clearly utter cockwallop but somewhere in the back of my brain I retain that notion. Also, at this point too many of my rituals involve smoking: close a deal = smoke; difficult phone call = smoke; get off a motorcycle = smoke; between takes in studio = you get the idea…

Addict2016: Absolutely. Smoking will always be cool in the movies. The rituals of addiction can be the most difficult things to break.

BE: I never drank before a gig on tour. I could feel one sip of Heineken. Immediately after essentially running on the spot for ninety minutes, however, I’d neck a pint of Jack &Coke in about five minutes, then “start drinking”… and everything else… until I passed out on my bunk on the bus sometime the next morning. I did that for about five years.

Addict2016: Would you or have you ever contemplated an intervention on an addicted friend?

BE: I’m pretty sure I know what that means but I don’t know the etiquette. It always sounded like entrapment to me. That said, I have told people things they didn’t want to hear and their other friends weren’t telling them. Two occasions spring to mind immediately. Both alcohol related. One friend turned into a twisted bitch wanker around half way down her third glass of wine. I told her that was why her friends ignored her and moved away around that sip. She listened. Amazing. I was very, very straight talking. She’s never been like that again, as far as I know; though still goes past that sip regularly. She’s a lovely woman. The other time I was asked by a friend’s work colleagues to call our friend for a “chat” – my ‘turn’ apparently – chicken shit the lot of them! I told our friend the truth as perceived by the rest of the relatively sober bunch. Absolute denial was his response. Still is and would be today, however many years later. Everyone’s got it wrong. He’s good at his job. Drink doesn’t affect it. Who is anyone else to preach and there he has a point – see good drugs/bad drugs above. The thing is, if you work in rock n roll as a freelancer, it’s easy to convince yourself you didn’t get that next gig/tour/job with that band for any number of reasons (they went with a mate instead; they can’t afford me; they could only take x number of people on the visa; etc.) and get a gig with another bunch.

Addict2016: Would you call your friend a functioning addict or not addicted then? “Functioning” addiction is a conversation in itself! I functioned creating music while heavily using heroin. I ran a small school whilst heavily using alcohol. Both substances eventually overtook the functioning but it took nearly a decade both times… or I got away with it for nearly a decade both times.

BE: He’s got away with it, the odd “sack” with excuses aside, for about thirty years. I respect his belligerence. I also respect his control of functional malfunction. Me? I have never known when to stop. At anything. He very rarely gets truly messy but is definitely addicted. Any activity must end at a pub. A walk by the seaside cannot end with lunch in a port-side seafood restaurant if it doesn’t have an alcohol license, for example. If it looks like it might, that’s when the functional behaviour malfunctions (irritation, sulking, passive aggressive, aggressive) – whatever it takes to get to the draft tap of choice. Before it all got a bit serious, admitting addiction, do you have any regrets from back then? Things you wish you could change/have done differently? Things you wonder whether might have changed the course of your life for better or worse?

Addict2016: I have always said, pretentiously maybe, that I would not change a thing. I am a product of my experience and I wouldn’t have missed a moment of those days. I am in a good place now but have very deep regrets for the pain I have put people through with my drinking (see Forgiveness) but I am still the product of my experience and am moving forwards. Regret is such a big word. I think I’m with Edith but everyone praises the recovery of an addict and their partner is left with the same anger, hurt, resentment and guilt.

BE: I wonder if I still have the “admission” to get to. I may well still be in denial. I really don’t know. It’s great that you are at least THINKING about it – and the people you love. I agree about regret. Ms Piaf did make a great point. I’m with her, but I tried to soften the question with “wish”; try reading the mitigative part of my question. Any retrospective thoughts?

Addict2016: Drug use was an integral part of JJ/DC and its mission statement. I would not change that. The message was really about freedom, experience, truth and encouraging the confidence for self expression. It worked and there were surprisingly few casualties…except me. Most of us involved in DC would say it was a golden time which has enhanced and inspired our following lives. The key to the doors of perception? Once the door is unlocked you shouldn’t need the key anymore.

BE: Sounds like you’re the one who unlocked a revolving door! And for what it’s worth I always loved the JJ/DC spirit and energy. As a voyeur it was genuinely energizing and you had KL with you – without doubt the hottest individual on the scene! Force of nature that one.

Addict2016: She was definitely the inspiring spirit for me. What stories she can tell. A true inspiration. Regarding a revolving door – watch this space. I intend not to acquire a new substance. But will need something to fill the hole. I’m trying this blog and the rest of my life, which is pretty good at the moment, to fill it. Busy-ness.

BE:Busy is good. There’s a lot out there if you choose to look. Pick something.