I’ve lived in a few different cities now, and most places you go there is a drug culture of some kind. It might be balloons at parties, coke in the loos or E / MDMA at a festival – I’ve witnessed it all in some way or another both with friends, colleagues and strangers but it’s never interested me. And I’ll tell you why.
At secondary school I had a really good friend called Louise*, she was funny, intelligent, determined, cocksure, fierce and completely individual. We became mates not long after my parents separated and we found companionship in a fan-girl appreciation for Avril Lavigne, massive baggy trousers, fishnet clothing and questionable spiked jewellery. Although my ‘grunge’ phase was short-lived, our friendship was not. I was instantly drawn to her wild nature and totally care free attitude to life in general – she was easily one of the smartest in the class but often chose to lay low, drawing on her books and sadly quite often using her compass to etch scars into her arms as well. She evidently had personal issues to deal with, but if you tried to ask about them she’d shoot you a look with her piercing green emerald eyes and you knew that was the end of the conversation.
At her 14th Birthday party, shortly after her parents had departed for bed we began doing the usual sleepover things; raiding the fridge, trying to find alcohol and cigarettes and (to my surprise) someone produced a spliff to share amongst us. I opted out, but I didn’t really mind after seeing everyone else vegged out on the sofa just half an hour later gorging on Doritos – I didn’t see the appeal.
Months passed and I began to notice Louise getting closer to the girls who produced the spliff at her sleepover and also some older boys who lived in the town. She started missing classes, turning up late and just looking fairly vacant a lot of the time. She would come in on Monday morning and tell us of her weekend exploits, often involving spliffs, bongs, solid and general drug terminology I just couldn’t even comprehend. She wasn’t boasting or trying to get me involved, this was just her life now – it was how she got her kicks.
It became apparent that weed was no longer doing it for her by the time we reached the age of 15, as she began telling me what it was like to experience being in a K-hole. For those who don’t know, this is the state of mind you fall into after taking Ketamine (a pain-killer often used when operating on horses). She described being laid on a sofa and not being able to move a single muscle, she could see hear and sense everything around her but apart from her eyes she couldn’t move an inch, she couldn’t speak, scream or lift a finger. She said it felt like her body was slowly sinking into the sofa, lower and lower into the darkness with the world still bustling above her.
These stories scared the crap out of me and it just made me feel so so sad for her. Not only was she allowing her body to get into that state but she seemed to enjoy being totally out of her mind, out of control. At 15 she was taking these drugs with god knows who, had anyone wanted to take advantage of her it would have been only too easy. I felt very protective of her, and angry towards the strangers who felt it was acceptable to offer that to someone so innocent. But what could I do? Looking back I should have told the teachers, told my parents – but it was going against a code of friendship and I knew she’d never forgive me for betraying her, so I didn’t say a word and that still makes me sad too.
We were always different, but as time went on those differences became more apparent and instead of being understanding and interested I actually grew bored with hearing about the same drug-fuelled tales. I switched off. It was ALL she could talk about.
I didn’t see much of Louise after she left at GCSE, I stayed for A-level and she didn’t so we naturally just didn’t bump into each other as much as we used to. But she definitely made a mark on me, because no matter how appealing drugs may have seemed after that time, no matter how temped I might have been to join in on the ‘fun’ – the vision of her and the loss of all her talent, beauty and brains has stopped me in my tracks every time.
Years later during Uni I bumped into Louise at a mutual friend’s party, and I didn’t even recognise her. The sparkle in her eyes was gone and when she first stumbled into me she looked at me and all I could see was a ghost. I gave her a huge hug and could have cried on the spot, but she wouldn’t have understood the sentiment by that point. I’d like to think of a kinder way to phrase it but she was essentially brain-dead, like a slow-moving slightly alcoholic pensioner just shuffling from one table to another, seeking someone who could perhaps join her in her activities.
So more than most people, I know that it isn’t just stupid irresponsible people who take drugs and allow the habit to consume them. I know how easily that habit can spiral and turn you from a sharp sparkly diamond into a scratched dull little pebble drowning at the bottom of a busy babbling brook.
It’s true that for lots of people drugs are a casual thing, something they can turn on and off like a light switch and if you’re one of the lucky ones who can take it or leave it then good for you. I have no problems with friends doing drugs around me, so long as I’m not the one clearing up their puke at the end of the night. But I won’t ever stray from the odd glass of fizz because I don’t know which side of the fence my luck might fall on. Not to mention the fact I’d have NO IDEA or trust that what I was taking was the real maccoy (having witnessed a boy in Ibiza being very ill from taking a capsule of washing up powder in the false hope it was Ecstasy…that’s another reason for steering clear).
As a departing thought, I share images of just some of the bright sparkly diamonds who also turned to pebbles in the brook…..
*all images taken from Google, and names have been changed for privacy reasons.