Honest Confession Of A
I wish I could say I became a drug addict and a criminal, a parasitical animal outside of the limits of a decent human society, because I never had a better chance. But I cannot say that. Although I did have all the chances that I needed to make my life a success, I got into bad company, went to bars, dancehalls, and clubs, became a narcotics addict, a drug pusher, and a criminal, and ruined my life.
One evening I was at the eleven (that was the name of a club in London), sharing a table with an out-of-work trumpet player, name of Frank. He was showing a dreamy, gone look in his eyes, when Tony, a waiter at a restaurant around the corner, came in and joined us. Tony indicated Frank with a jerk of his head and whispered, “He’s been smoking.” Yes I could see a relaxed tensionless glaze in his eyes.
After a little while, Frank pulled his chair closer and took a brown-colored marijuana cigarette out of his pocket. Among the junkies this is known as a “charge.” “Anyone want to light up?” he asked. “No thanks, Frank,” I said. He sneered at us. “You scared, too?” “Sure I’m not scared, Frank. Let’s light up,” Tony grinned. “Why don’t you try it, Rick?” “I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe I will some other time.” Tony was dancing when Frank tempted me again “Why not make it now? Don’t be bloody square all your life.”
I wanted to be like my two junky friends, but something—maybe some spark of common sense—was holding me back. If I had talked it over with someone that had knowledge, experience, and a sane mind, I might have overcome the temptation. But I had no one to talk with. My friends were a part of the very degradation that was stretching out its arms toward me.
Frank and Tony, I realized were dangerous companions, and I tried to avoid them, but there were other Franks and Tonys to disgrace me. After all, I reasoned, Marijuana smokers are not dropping dead before me. And they seem to be having a high time. They are digging out of life something that I have yet to find. These foolish thoughts induced me to light up, just to see how I would feel.
That first cigarette was followed by others, more and more frequently. Before I realized it, I was hooked. Now I needed money badly.
At the club I met Albert and Betty. “When we can’t get marijuana, we go for cider.” Albert said. “It’s cheap and the nearest thing to get high.” So we walked into a bar and ordered rough cider. By the time I was finishing my third pint of the beverage, my mind was in a whirl under the effect of the combined intoxication (cider and marijuana).
Before long I was drinking anything up to eight pints an evening. Cider and marijuana were my slave masters. These habits were eating up my wages. My wallet was always empty, and I started borrowing money from others.
Time and again I was pulled up by my family. My mother was so concerned and so insistent, that I almost tried myself to haul in the reins. One day my boss in the office sent for me and talked to me in a fatherly way. I listened silently, agreed with what he said, and promised to mend my ways. But when I had marijuana and/or cider, I cared for no one and nothing in the world.
I was in such a desperate need of money that I asked Watson, with whom I had been acquainted for some time, to help me at least with his advice. This Watson, too, belonged to the underworld. “There’s only one way,” he said, “You’ll have to start pushing drugs.”
Before introducing me to a narcotics peddler, Watson warned me. “If you tell anyone, and I mean anyone, that I introduced you to Lee, I’ll break your skinny neck. “Understand?” Watson was not the nice and kind fellow I had met before. Now I saw the real picture. He was a hard, ruthless, man, used to gambling with his freedom—a man for who there was only one way to settle a grudge. “I understand, Watson,” I said. I won’t tell a soul.”
I bought a portion of marijuana and, in the privacy of my bedroom, I made up the packets ready for sale. Then I went to the Eleven to look around for drug addicts. There I noticed Frank and Tony sitting together. “Buying marijuana? I have the best stuff in town.” Frank looked at me oddly. “You pushing it, Rick?” I nodded, “Watch yourself,” he said, “I might be wrong but that fellow in the dark suit leaning against the wall looks like a detective. Follow me outside.” Before midnight I had sold a dozen packets.
I went to the toilet when someone followed me in and looked about to speak. I offered him my product, but he scowled and moved towards me. I realized I had made a mistake. His giant hand grabbed me by the scuff of the neck and with a push sent me flying against the wall. Then he gripped men by the front of my jacket and slapped me heavily across the face. Don’t you push any more marijuana here or we’ll cut you up. Now give me a pound and clear off.” There was nothing I could do but obey.
One day two detectives from Scotland Yard’s Vice Squad came to the office where I was working, and thorough investigation took place. The easiest way out for me was to plead guilty. “It is quite true.” I said lamely. “I did have some marijuana.” As a Y.P. (young prisoner) I spent a few days in prison. I was still under 21.
My consumption of marijuana and cider grew to fantastic proportions. And worse than that I started to envy the mainliners—the addicts taking cocaine or heroine in the vein. But I did not want the whole world to know that I had gone beyond the point of no return. One day I borrowed a sixth-of-a-grain pill of heroin and a needle, and followed the ritual I had seen performed so often--- so I became addicted to these so-called white drugs, too.
Two years after my first arrest, I was again arrested. The charge against me was “unauthorized possession of cocaine.” This time the prison term was much longer.
The first night in prison, as soon as I dropped off to sleep, I had bad dreams. I was trying to get rid of the drugs I had in my pocket while the police were chasing me. I kept running through the streets when suddenly a colored man stepped out of a doorway with a knife in his hand. And then I was stopped and beaten up by another colored drug addict. Things that really happened in the past kept coming back in my dreams.
After one of my nightmares I started to pray. When all else has been tried and has failed, man, you resort to praying. I prayed that someone would help me out of the fearful mess that I was in through my own fault. I even prayed that I’d die and be released from the unbearable craving for drugs. But release never came. It never comes. I just had to suffer, carrying the cross I had foolishly made for myself, until I grow old.
There are times when I was frightened of loosing my reason, as I saw it happen to other drug addicts. Sometimes I found myself, in the middle of the night, crawling on all fours and looking in empty corners. I didn’t know that worse was yet to come.
As soon as I was released from prison, poorer and sadder than ever before, I got in touch with some of my old friends in the underworld. I just don’t know how to stay away from trouble. One day I was talking with Ted, who had spent some time in prison for burglary. He realized my situation. “Down on your luck, man?” I told him my problem and he suggested the only thing for me was to “go screwing”—go rifling by burglary. “It is a dangerous job?” He laughed. “Of course, every job is a bit dangerous.” “I can’t do it,” I said. “I’m a drug addict and a coward.” He stopped the car and hit me across the face with the back of his hand, and before I could get out, he pushed me out. Then as I was lying on the grass verge, he literally spat at me. And I took it without a murmur, because that is how you finally get—completely unnerved and unmanned—when you have been an addict for some time. “Why don’t you die? He said quietly and slowly, and disappeared.
When Ted was gone, I started to stumble along the road while the cool rain was beating on my head. My teeth chattered as I walked. Maybe Ted was right,” I sobbed. “Maybe I should die.” Thoughts of suicide haunted me.
Somehow I got back to London that night. In my room I often lay for days without stirring outside the house. So long as I had enough marijuana to roll myself a smoke and get away with it. I felt no need to get out of bed. Sometimes I wouldn’t eat in days. Food worried me no more. Tea and sweet cakes were all that I was taking to stay alive. You’re on drugs? Then you have no other craving. My whole body ached. My joints almost creaked as I moved. I tried to concentrate my thoughts on what I could do next to live, but my obsession would not leave me and I began to wonder if my end was near.
I was put behind prison bars a third time—for larceny. After a few days, all the torments I had felt during my previous imprisonment were creeping up on me. I had the same dreams. The same feelings. My whole body was aching and itching, and the more I tore at myself the worse it became. One day the word went around that one of the prisoners was waiting to be hanged. When I heard that, I wanted to die, too, to get out of my suffering. But my ordeal was not to be over so soon.
Having done my sentence, I was back in the street again. Decent people, who had studied, and worked, and saved some money were going for their holidays. They were all smiles, and their children were jumping. When I saw them passing by, I started to realize what an idiot I had been. I began to abominate my past experience. I wished I had never heard about marijuana, or cider, or heroin, or cocaine, and that I had never met those people with whom I made friends in the underworld. I now despised those that I had previously envied, and now envied those that I had previously despised.
I stood in the street for a moment, not knowing what to do. There were no loved ones waiting for me. I had nowhere to go. So I turned again to the only place I knew was home—the gutter of Soho.
One night I was on the train and, for no reason at all, I got out at the station where I had lived before it all began. Suddenly I found myself looking at a light in my family’s house. I tried to identify the figure that was moving behind the curtains, but I couldn’t tell whether it was my mother or one of my brothers. I walked as far as the gate of the house and stopped. I was terrified with the thought that I could never go back to my home, sweet home, so I walked away.
In London I got job clearing tables in a self-serve cafeteria. It lasted only two weeks. After a long smoking session I slept in late and never bothered to go back to work. I was even too lazy to go back and collect the money that was due me. I just didn’t worry about anything. For days I lay in bed, in a strange kind of coma. Whenever I fell asleep, I had horrifying dreams. When I was awake I had to blame myself for having drifted far away from the reality of living. The marijuana puff, the bars, and the needle had become the religion of my enfeebled mind, my degraded soul, and my ruined body. Something within me was telling me that my end was near. And I actually wanted to die. So, I thought, the best thing was to sit back and wait for it. But death did not come.
One day, as I was going past a church, I decided to stop by and have a talk with the parson. He advised me to get fixed up with a job and a room. [The Book does not say, but we should take it for granted, that the pastor must have told Rick that in the Gospel there is all the power that he needed to be an over-comer and to live a decent and happy life.] After my discussion with the parson, the desire to live like a human being came back to my heart. But in the back of my mind something keeps telling me that I will never make it, because I am too far-gone. I’m still fighting between these two opinions.
Sometimes I feel I have reached the end—the end of my life and my self-created misery. For me it may be too late. But it may not be too late for you. Take my experience as a serious warning, and don’t fall into the horrible pit which has ruined my life.
(The names of the persons have been changed.)