The Flip – By Andrew Ahmad Cooke

depression-242024_1280In the story of every addict there is a point when they stop using drugs or alcohol and the drugs or alcohol start to use them.  At some point the substance takes ownership of the new addict. One moment you are having fun using drugs, meeting new friends and exploring the possibilities ­­– the next you are addicted and life has become very, very different. You have become a slave to your addiction. This moment, however, is invariably impossible to identify. If we could have identified it, how many of us would have chosen addiction as a lifestyle?

For the majority of people on the planet, drug or alcohol use does not lead to addiction. Some addicts are understandably bitter or jealous of people who can use alcohol or drugs without fear of addiction. I am very fortunate to feel myself free from this envy. I have certainly had more than my share of drugs and alcohol, probably more than a few people’s share.  I had a great time at the beginning. I would not change a thing. However, my drug use led to addiction. My drinking led to addiction. The concept seems so inescapably simple now. I must not do any more.  If I could have identified that point of no return, in both instances, would I or could I have stopped?

I became addicted to heroin sometime in late 1998 or early 1999. Perversely it was one of the best times in my life. In the early 90s I had met the writing partners I had been looking for all my life. I had started writing music again. Lots of music. This led to new encounters, experiences and also access to more class A narcotics than I ever had before. Until this point I had only regularly (habitually?) used cannabis and, in my teens and early twenties, LSD and a bit of speed. I had tried heroin once or twice but like alcohol it made me very sick. I had now started regularly using Ecstasy and Cocaine. It was new, exciting and we were working together creating music whilst using it.

In 1996 we decided to hold parties to publicise our music. It was a very intellectual project, inspired by tales of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters and their ‘happenings’ as told of in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. I completely related to Kesey when he said: “When we first broke into that forbidden box in the other dimension, we knew we had discovered something as surprising and powerful as the New World when Columbus came stumbling onto it.” Taking psychedelic drugs was part of our mission statement. We needed to be sure the MDMA supply was assured and of a decent quality, so I arranged this. As the popularity of our Dirty Cow parties grew, the more drugs we bought and feasted on. Our behaviour was accepted, expected and even glorified. People loved our parties. They, too, felt connected to something significant for the first time. Then I started to arrange everyone’s cocaine for the parties and before you could say “cliché” I was using cocaine every day. Strangely enough I began to find it hard to relax…and sleep.

I had fallen for the sordid glamour of it all and I was soon looking for more. I had made three new and very close friends outside my band’s circle. The band was spending so much time in each others’ pockets that I needed different conversations and escape. These three friends all used heroin and crack to varying degrees. They were also musicians, writers and producers. They, too, were using drugs as part of their creative process. What an excuse! They were addicts. Beautiful addicts. The story is a very old one but I was soon using heroin every day. The flip from user to addict happened somewhere in the middle. The wonderful creative collaboration I was involved with began to fall apart. My addiction, though not the main reason, contributed to its demise. Within three years of starting to use heroin my life had begun to disintegrate. I had stopped being creative and when the band, our record label and the parties dissolved, I found myself, apart from my fellow smack-heads and our dealers, alone. I worked solely to finance my habit. I lived only to smoke heroin. Joy had departed. It had been replaced by despair.

In June 2003 I had finally had enough. I had beaten it in my mind, so I bought a big bag of man-69287_1920Temazepan and locked myself in my flat. After a couple of weeks, on a bright sunny Sunday morning I started playing my records again. By the time I was listening to Marvin Gaye’s album What’s Going On, my epiphany was complete. It is difficult to describe the beauty of this new found freedom without sounding trite, but I was reborn. I was brimming with positivity and began to rebuild my life. What I was blind to at that time was that the frequency of my drinking was slowly increasing and imperceptibly, to me, alcoholism was replacing my heroin addiction. I was now very happily married and a parent, yet I drank more and more. I was powerless again.  What would I or could I have done if I had been able to identify this oncoming new addiction? I do not know the answer to this question. It really should have been something that I recognised. But, by the time I could have recognised it, it was already too late. Ten years after quitting heroin I was drinking a bottle of whisky a day and it took me much longer to stop drinking than it did to stop being a junkie.

It is now thirteen years since I last smoked heroin. I have absolutely no desire to do so again. I only think about it when I am writing my blog. I have been consciously attempting to stop drinking for a year and it has now been over six months since I last drank alcohol. Similarly, I never want to drink again. I currently do not crave alcohol. I am extremely hopeful for the future as my awareness of the dangers of any new addiction is now heightened and strengthened both through writing my blog and the work I have done with my keyworker and in groups. Life is very good. I am a creative soul once more. I am slowly regaining the trust of my family. I have learned that recovery is an ongoing project. Sobriety must be my lifetime’s work.

“Every habit he’s ever had is still there in his body, lying dormant like flowers in the desert. Given the right conditions, all his old addictions would burst into full and luxuriant bloom.” Margaret Atwood

 

 

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About Andrew Ahmad-Cooke

Andrew Ahmad-Cooke has spent most of his life as a musician and composer. Consequently he has also had many different occupations from laundry worker and record shop manager to spoken word producer, working with artists including Michael Palin, Terence Stamp and Dirk Bogarde. His most prolific time as a composer was the late nineties when he co-wrote and produced albums including One True Parker – “Will I Dream” and “The Howard Marks Project” with Nice and Idle. With his band Juttajaw, he ran the notorious ‘Dirty Cow’ parties and remixed artists including The Orb, Test Department, PIg and Ian Astbury. In 1997 he co-founded independent label Big Clever Records. After his retirement from the music industry in 2003, he ran a school for teenagers with challenging behaviour. He now works for a mental health charity and plays keyboards in local band The Warning Shadows. Andrew is currently sober and lives with his family in Cambridge. He has recently started writing a blog about his experiences of addiction: www.addict2016.wordpress.com
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10 Comments

  1. Pingback: THE FLIP - The Addiction Author

  2. your story is so awesome and inspiring. thank you for sharing ti with us

  3. Andy I feel blessed to count you as a friend. You are incredibly brave to bare your life in this blog and it will be inspiration to so many others struggling with addiction. I am so happy that life for you and your beautiful family is now looking so positive. Keep writing because you have a real gift. X

  4. Thanks Matty. Togetherness brings freedom.

  5. You are blessed.You have been given a gift.Keep spreading the Truth with Love.

  6. I really like reading the stories ,can relate

  7. Thank you so much for your comment Sarah. I am glad that it has brought you hope. Addiction can dull a person’s awareness that hope exists. There is always hope. You have to reinvent yourself but this is more than possible and can be exciting. Good luck Sarah. You can follow my blog on: http://www.addict2016.wordpress.com

  8. Thanks so much for sharing your truly amazing story… It’s both inspirational and brings me much hope. Being a slave and addict too any drug is utterly devastating. Personally there is nothing like heroin. It’s a kind of slavery that I can not find the words to describe it 81st there moment. But knowing that they’re is life after the withdraw battle is reassuring.
    So again thank you for sharing..

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