Realising that the previous night had seen me try and score a gram of coke from my GP was a startlingly poignant moment for me. One of those events that carry potent recognition of one’s state. I had done what had become a regular act of shame and regret and deleted all of my cocaine contacts, a futile act that invariably resulted in late night texts to friends with just the words “any numbers?” A vicious cycle of repentance, need and misguided desire kept two opposing forces locked within and they went to war almost every night. The me that tried to phone my cynically named dealer ‘the doctor’, and ended up trying to call my GP finds this story hilarious. That ‘other’ me is beguiling and so incredibly well-versed in putting on an elaborate show of innocence and ease. Regaling people with stories of recklessness masked with humour, spinning such entertaining and convincing accounts that I fool even myself. Crossing the road without bothering to look is easily woven into a story about a daringly mischievous, hopefully lovable person. Accounts of drunken fights and arguments can be twisted into stories that are comical and feature a headstrong, passionate character who means no real harm. Even hideously swollen hands that punched walls can be explained away in tales of innocuous frustration and perhaps even a certain wild charm.The truth is there is no humour to be found in slowly destroying oneself.
So many nights of madness, of becoming detached from one’s sane or right mind. Perhaps even losing one’s mind. Of course it has been my choice to retreat from my mind, to replace it with one hastily and haphazardly constructed from the flimsy bricks of drugs and booze. A mind that I carelessly fashioned atop my fragile foundations, a state that habitually falls apart and has to be reinforced over and over again. A hazardous structure that should have been condemned before any building could begin. Short term relief is so massively underrated and misunderstood. People refer to it with such sneeringly judgmental tones as if you are nothing but a fool to invest in such momentary solace. The vast majority of us will take a pill if we have a headache, pain relief is big business. Built in obsolescence allows pharmaceuticals to dish out perfunctory fixes designed to keep you buying more. We all want a quick fix, especially when it fucking hurts. Don’t prisoners think of little else than freedom, don’t we all wish to escape when we’re in pain? I know that all of life is transitory, I know that thoughts, feelings and emotions are all constructs of our own making, I know that change is the only constant. But suffering is not a state that readily summons patience; although we may know that it will pass, it is hard to sit comfortably in prison whether that be the prison of one’s mind or physical confinement.
My retreat from my own mind has produced quite shocking results. I have found myself almost passed out on a pavement at 6am with people stepping over me, I have heard them ask one another if it’s acceptable to step over a woman passed out on a pavement. I have had drink and drug fueled sessions that lasted all night, all of the following day and then through a second night. Sessions that ended in a state so far removed from reality that I knew not who I was. Unable to form words with my mouth let alone stand up. Climbing buildings, jumping in canals, rivers and seas, being removed and barred from bars and clubs, falling over, punching walls, ending up in A&E. Being in such unbelievably vulnerable states in places that I shouldn’t have even been in sober during daylight hours; I have watched people drink their methadone amongst bloody needles, been arrested and locked in a cell for 12 hours, been alone in barely known dealers’ flats doing free lines whilst they knew full well that I’d be back within the hour to buy. Such risk, such incredible risk and all in the pursuit of something other, anything other than my own mind.
My view of the world has been moulded and formed by my experiences as well as by the me that I was born with. Experiences that have scared me witless have left me more hurt and vulnerable than I can admit. Naturally people have shaped me both positively and negatively, things that I have seen have been etched onto my eyes, ways I have looked and thought have become me. The effect of external happenings on one’s own internal dialogue becoming indistinctly entwined with one’s own thoughts. All of these things make up a person, determine how they respond to and deal with life, it is always a uniquely individual version. It is the very precise ingredients that have been mixed into our lives together with something other that determines the way that we cope with and view the world. It is of course no one’s choice but my own to run away, it is my brain that decides how or if I can handle life but it is decided by a brain that has been wounded, wounded in ways particular to me.
To express and explain our emotions rather than relying on their outwardly visible affects to communicate with others is a task that dwarfs me entirely. I have rarely experienced relief or comfort from sharing my suffering and as a result have retreated so far that I no longer have words let alone faith in their ability to convey my inner turmoil. In painting, I am attempting to transmit something without the use of words, in life my behaviour is in effect an image of my inner self. This dangerously sophisticated image is one I must face. The frightful sight of destruction is not light hearted and it is not funny.