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'Can't Beat The Feeling'

Cocaine Addiction & The Need for Connection

Culture

Connor Brother James Golding writes about his former drug addiction and the need for connection behind it - and asks for people to share their own experiences in a new social media project.

It’s 3am and I’m high as fuck. I’m almost having a brilliant time. Just one more line and I’ll definitely be having one. My new friend (quite possibly my new best friend) is passionately recounting a childhood story. Something to do with school I think. It’s quite a long story. Meandering. I’m not entirely sure what point he’s trying to make. Still though, he’s amazing. It’s like we’ve known each other forever. In a minute he’ll finish whatever he’s wanging on about and I’ll get to tell him mychildhood story. This is so great. We’re really connecting.  

It’s 8am and I can’t sleep. I’m having palpitations. Heart attack? There’s sand in my eyes. Shit. What was I going on about last night? Did I really bang on about school again? Ugh.  And who the fuck was that guy? I hope I didn’t give him my number. What a dick.

This pattern was pretty much my weekend existence for over a decade. Taking coke and talking complete shit followed by major pranging and bouts of excruciating self-loathing. I wasn’t an addict though. I only ever did it at weekends. And the odd Thursday. Very occasionally a Wednesday. But never alone. Except a few times when I had a bit left over from the night before. And anyway, most my friends did it too. It was just a social thing. We couldn’t all be addicts.

For several years in my twenties I was a crack cocaine and heroin addict. It was complete chaos. In a matter of months I went from a good job, a nice flat, and a solid relationship, to sharing needles with homeless people and robbing photocopiers from Rymans. Coke was different. I could still function. Admittedly I’d had an unlucky run. I’d lost a couple of businesses. Relationships had gone wrong. Friendships soured. That wasn’t the coke though. Just bad luck.

This was the story I told myself for years – that regularly taking cocaine, and my personal and work issues, were entirely unrelated. It wasn’t until my binges started to impact The Connor Brothers, and Mike insisted it was time to get help, that I agreed to go to addiction therapy. It was there that I finally connected the trail of destruction I’d left with my unhealthy relationship with drugs. For the first time I was able to acknowledge responsibility for the harm my drug taking had caused. I gave up drugs, made apologies where I could, and paid back money people had lost through my actions.  Most of all though, I learnt to connect with other people without needing stimulants to do so. Because that’s what my coke habit was really about – a way of connecting. A guaranteed short cut to being able to share emotions and ideas and memories. A temporary cure for loneliness. Only that kind connection isn’t real. It feels like the real thing but it isn’t.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone and that coke is so prevalent because it facilitates a basic human need for us to connect with one another.  It’s a strange consequence of an ever-more connected world that many of us feel increasingly isolated and alone, and no amount of social media validation or cocaine fuelled conversation hits the spot.

Over the past couple of years we’ve worked with organisations like CALM and Book of Man to raise awareness of mental health issues, and in doing so we’ve shared our own histories of mental health and addiction problems. What we’ve found is that invariably when we’ve done this other people have shared back. To put it another way – we’ve connected. All of us have unique and interesting stories, and each of these stories is worth hearing. It’s nourishing and healthy not only for those telling their story but also for those of us listening. It’s one of the basic building blocks of shared human experience.

This week we’re encouraging people to share their own experiences via social media, with the idea that telling our stories is important for a bunch of reasons, not least because it helps others who might be struggling with similar issues. To participate post your experiences on both your own and our instagram pages using the hashtag #wemustbecareful. Today we’re inviting you to share your experiences of addiction, either your own or those of someone close to you. We hope you’ll participate.

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