Acid, weed, speed, and me
Me during my drug-taking days. Note the dilated pupils.
I’d like to make it clear that I don’t approve of drugs and I’m not encouraging anyone to take them.
Other than for tea, coffee, and alcoholic beverages, I haven’t had any mind-altering drugs in decades, and it’s going to stay that way.
But in my youth I felt rather differently.
I didn’t encourage people to take drugs, but I took them myself. They had a sort of respectability as far as I was concerned, probably because I’d read books by Thomas De Quincey, Aldous Huxley, Hunter S Thompson, Timothy Leary, William Burroughs, and the like. This made me feel as if I was doing something that writers do; as if it was a necessary part of the apprenticeship you needed to serve before you could write. And as someone who always thought that one day he’d become a writer, I had to follow in their no-doubt rather unsteady footsteps.
It led to some pretty interesting experiences.
It brought me into contact with a number of individuals who were living on the edge of a precipice and about to drop off; and it acquainted me with some scary types, too. I’d never have met them if I hadn't got involved with drugs. Characters based on those people now populate my novels.
My former life as a near-junkie feeds through into my work in other ways.
I was, during that period, using various toxic substances and alcohol in sufficient quantities to propel me towards an early grave. And I was doing it “with a fierce joy”, to use Norman Mailer’s memorable phrase.
Okay, I wasn’t taking heroin, but when I recently wrote about a heroin addict, I was able to draw on my own experience as an addict to make her life believable. (Don’t bother looking for the book; it’s not out yet. It’s called ‘Keeping Me’, and it might be next year before it sees the light of day).
I used all of the classic drugs of that era except for H (back then, the mainstream choices were pretty much limited to weed, speed, acid, and heroin). I also took a number of last-resort drugs.
My favourite last-resort drug was Bronchipax.
It was a medication for clearing the lungs if you were chesty. It was the poor man’s speed, and if you took more than the manufacturer’s recommended dose, it kept you going all night. (Please, whatever else you do, don’t try this stupid trick at home. It might fry your brains then you'd end up in the same dreadful state I'm in!)
I used to take the stuff on sunny afternoons in Greenhead Park and knock back half a bottle of Whiskeymac with it. (A friend of mine knocked back the other half). We must have looked like a right pair of dossers! After that, we’d stagger down the hill into town and try to get drunk. God knows why we did that. Getting drunk didn’t seem to be an option when you had that much Bronchipax inside you.
We’d hit Charlie’s late on, and stagger home, still speeding, in the medium hours (not the small hours).
I wonder if the likes of Julian Barnes and Haruki Murakami have ever done anything like that?
Note: Whiskeymac is "a cocktail made up of whiskey and ginger wine" according to Wikipedia