Monday, 26 August 2013

Cocaine Hell

Cocaine 'rapidly changes the brain'


That was a headline from the BBC website. My first reaction to reading it was "No shit, Sherlock". I was hooked on that stuff long enough to know the effects all too well. I was hooked on several different drugs, all dangerous, and all way too much fun to get rid of.

Except I had to, for my body and sanity. And it happened on 31st August 2004. My brain broke. Or, as one friend described it, "Pulled out the patch cables and rearranged them". It had had enough of my behaviour and decided to show me by landing me in hospital. Not fun and not pleasant. I never thought I'd be able to break that cycle but, in a way of saving itself, my body showed me how to do it. Several weeks laid up at home meant that I couldn't go out to find drugs. Sure, the dealers tried to contact me (I was a good customer with a well paying job. They couldn't afford to lose me) but, somehow, they never got to the house. Somehow I survived those first few weeks, after which I left the area forever and moved home.

I'll never forget the people who helped me through that period. The people who went to the mental hospital with me, who brought me food, or went for coffee with me. They were the steps towards becoming normal again. Yet, somewhere in the wiring in my brain, some things still haven't quite fixed themselves. For example, I don't hold a driver's license because I find it difficult to judge speeds and distances. On top of that, the medication I currently take makes me weary and unable to focus in the mornings. I'm bad enough on two legs at the moment. Can you imagine me with four wheels and an engine?! One day I'll get there, I'm sure.

But the whole experience made me realise that we don't live forever. That our bodies are fragile and damage easily. And that they can tell us when they've had enough.

31st August will be nine years since I broke my addictions. I'm going to go and bake cake. Give me a shout if you want some!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Indian Timing Part 2

At the moment I'm sitting here with wires trailing from my pockets, down my legs before they curl back up and disappear into my back. They're attached to pads stuck to my skin, sending little shocks of electricity into my body. Stupidly I've managed to overstretch the muscles in one of my hips again so I'm hooked up to my TENS machine and toddling about as best I can.

When I was a missionary kid, there was one summer which sticks out in my mind. It was the summer where I seemed to spend one day a week of the long holidays in hospital. Somehow, I'd gained a "thing" for breaking my fingers. By the end of the summer, I was an expert in tearing surgical with one hand. I still have kinks in the ends of a couple of my fingers, possibly as a result of that summer.

How do you control your kids when you live in a massive building and you live in a time before mobile phones? The answer - you try. And try my parents did. At first, my Dad utilised a whistle. We still have it and it's still used. It's the same brand which are used by football referees (That's the soccer for my American readers. Hi guys!). It's loud and, over wide open spaces, you can hear it for miles.

Except that we didn't. We were kids. We had lots of wide open spaces to ignore. The last thing you're going to listen to is your Dad leaning out of a window and blowing a whistle. During our second, and longest stay, at the Lodge my parents invested in a pager (we still have that as well somewhere!). It was nicknamed The Frog due to it being green and a pain in the ass to carry. Problems? It wasn't always guaranteed to be on the person you were calling and it was stupidly expensive to call and leave a message.

Eventually my parents all but gave up. My Dad is the king of lingering threats and you didn't mess with him. If he told you to be back by 9pm, dammit, you were back by 9pm! He has "A Look" which still puts the fear of God in us, although these days it's more likely to make us laugh.

As a kid with this huge place to explore, you didn't want to sleep. There were too many interesting stories to hear, to many awesome pictures to see and, in most cases, too much incredible food to eat. It's a good job we had all of that wide open space to run around in because, damn, we met some awesome cooks! One of my favourite foods was cooked by a lady who now lives in South Africa. She cooked this incredible peanut sauce. Horrifically fattening but it didn't matter. It was a little slice of heaven.

I've just asked my Dad "How did you keep tabs on us while we were at the Lodge?".
He thought about it for a moment before replying, "We didn't."

You can read the first part of this series at Indian Timing. At some point, I'll go in to the attic, find all the photos, and scan them in for you. Thank you so much for reading!

Sunday, 11 August 2013


Well, it's that time of the year again. Those few weeks where my body goes, "Okay, ENOUGH!!".

It happens around every August. I've pushed myself as hard as I can and my body decides it wants to take a holiday. My joints ache, my body feels like lead, and remembering the password for my phone becomes impossible. I stare at the hunk of black plastic like it's an alien species before tossing it in to a corner. Let it ring. Whoever it is can talk to the voice mail.

Friends and family get the brunt of my tiredness as I swing from snide comments to gallows humour to all out narcissism. I cry, and shout, and stare at my belly button because I can't accurately describe how I'm feeling. The power of expression has suddenly upped and left. I'm not a pretty picture at these times, and gods help anyone who comes in to my firing line.

Thankfully I've learned to notice the signs. The weariness. The inability to string a sentence together. The time it takes for my brain to work out how to use the kettle. Suddenly I feel OLD. Really old. I go from running all over the place to sitting in my little spot here and leaning against the wall while I watch cat videos.

Some people translate it as me disliking them. It can take me several minutes to carefully explain what's wrong, and even then I'm not sure if everyone believes me or if they think I'm out to get them. I'm not. My body and brain just want a rest, even if it does mean going into Ultra Grumpy Rae mode (That's the one several steps up from the normal Grumpy Rae you see here).

I try not to let it get me down, especially the people at the Day Job who tell me, "Oh, you only work part time.". Yes, but like everyone else, I then go home and help look after a house. And, on top of that, shock horror, I actually start the SECOND, far more enjoyable, job. My day doesn't end when I step out of those doors and begin the walk home. No, it carries on. The music playing through my headphones is the soundtrack to the latest piece I'm working on. My phone, stuffed in the bottom of my bag, the password still forgotten, is pulling in information I've asked it to look for. When I get home, I make a cup of tea, switch on the computer, and start again.

Recently, I had this conversation with the awesome Meg Kingston about this. About how the brain doesn't stop working and that people think the things we produce (be it books, music, poetry, art, engineering, whatever) simply... appear. They don't. A well worked piece will have weeks of research in it (I'm currently listening to live air traffic control feeds for a new piece). And this stresses the brain. Just because you're sitting, or pacing, or lying on the sofa doesn't make it any less of an activity than a full day's manual labour.

Anyway, that's enough of me moaning. I'm going to go and stare at the kettle, see if I can convince it to turn on. Failing that, I'll be here watching cat videos.

Peace and love to you all!