Addict

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I gave up drinking every day several years ago. I told my close friends I would, and most of them laughed very hard. Being a musician means a lot of down time: and what do you do whilst you’re travelling to gigs/waiting to soundcheck/waiting to perform? You have a drink, that’s what you do. Out of all the drugs Rock’n’Rollers take, booze is certainly the most popular by far……

That’s not to say I didn’t have some excellent teachers when I was a younger man, who showed me how to drink to excess successfully. My sister’s husbands were Irish and Scottish respectively, and squaddies also. I guess they must have a lot of down time too, because I’ve never met a member of the Armed Forces who didn’t like to drink, usually in quantity.

So my social life from my middle teens revolved around pubs and boozing. Some people get to go to pre school, and then after their schooling has finished, some get to go to after school, i.e. the pub, where they can still hang out with their school friends and be sociable.

As a musician I’d say booze is an occupational hazard. And when I cared for my Pa, his biggest delight in life was to visit the pub, and talk, it was a great way to stimulate his brain, especially post dementia. In his later years my Pa would enjoy 2 possibly 3 pints of Light and Bitter, smoke numerous cigars, then go home and sleep it off in his favourite chair: an English gentleman’s privilege. That’s not to say Alfie was always a moderate drinker, there’s numerous references in my Mother’s diaries in the 1970’s about him coming home “stoned” or “sozzled”……

Yo ho ho and a mug of tea Aussie coast 1952

So I guess for the males in my family, boozing was an acceptable and necessary part of life. Playing Rock’n’Roll just upped the ante for me, and gave me a great excuse to indulge in excessive boozing that nearly killed me numerous times ( http://terenceruffle.co.uk/20121224-my-deaths ) and gave release to some of the more macho elements of my ego and bravado.

When I gave up drinking several years ago, the initial emphasis was financial: having been made redundant in 2010, I struggled to afford alcohol, but there was another reason too: the drug no longer worked. Well, of course it made me inebriated, but instead of making me forget my worries, it made them worse. After drinking I felt depressed, woeful, and had a type of self loathing I hadn’t experienced since I’d taken Amphetamines in my late teens and early twenties, a dreadful come down. I was the man who laid the gas main to Belsen.

So I made a decision to stop. I have to emphasise that I made the decision, however daft it sounds. Without making that decision, with all the best intent in the world, I couldn’t have stopped. Perhaps another way of explaining it is, I took responsibility for my drinking: I knew it wasn’t anywhere near as pleasurable as it had been, and that coupled with being poor kind of forced my hand. But another huge part of stopping drinking was breaking the habit. Old habits die hard, as the well worn cliché says, and I think that’s another key to stopping drinking: once I made the decision and broke the habit, it was surprisingly easy to not drink. Certain “friends” had warned me I’d have seizures because I’d been drinking for as long as I could remember, but it simply didn’t happen.

Terence Ruffle and Will Kemp 1977 taken by Johnny

My old mate Will introduced me to smoking, he gave me a Player’s Number 6 on our way to school one morning. I guess we were coming up to 16, tho Will had been smoking since he was 8 or 9. He assured me a puff on his ciggy would give me the same head buzz as the joints we’d smoked at the weekend. I’d loved that, so I was more than willing to give it a go. I can still remember the sensation: I took a lug on the Number 6 and felt rather dizzy, but sure nuff that familiar head buzz kicked in, wonderful! Within a few months I was a serious smoker: by the time I was 30 I smoked at least 2 packs a day, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Sure, I knew it was toxic, and I knew Tobacco was a killer, but hey ho, we all gotta go sometime, right? And as Dennis Leary once said “smoking takes 10 years off your life…….the wheelchair bound, adult diaper wearing years of your life”.

I was always a very healthy smoker, if that’s not a serious contradiction in terms. I still exercised and cycled, and considered myself to be in pretty good shape. But my smoking was completely out of control, obsessive. Whilst I smoked one ciggy, I was rolling my next ciggy, ad infinitum. There’s another clue to habits; obsessive compulsive, or OCD as we’re want to call it nowadays. I’ve always been obsessive compulsive: when I went to Grammar school, the trauma did something to my head. I went through a stage when I was 11 or 12 of washing my hands heaven knows how many times a day. Because I simply didn’t have the time, I rarely dried them properly, which resulted in huge cracks and sores on my hands, which got so bad they bled. I guess the pain curtailed that particular obsession, but then I moved on to other weird stuff: checking that I’d closed a door, numerous times, not wanting to eat anywhere but home, and certainly not accepting any food or drink that anyone gave me, incase they hadn’t washed their hands endlessly too. It basically took over my life, certainly up to my mid teens, when I obsessed on other, more enjoyable things i.e. girls, Rock’n’Roll and getting wasted, tho’ I’d be lying if I said I’d lost all of my OCD traits……

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I think there’s a key to addiction in obsession: one simply has to have the bottle of wine just to get through the evening, it’s the “old habits die hard” again. Of course there are some poor souls who are physically addicted to whatever drug, and I was certainly hopelessly physically addicted to nicotine. I eventually quit smoking by hypnotherapy. My mind was empowered by an implant in my subconscious, I was then no longer a smoker, no longer addicted. It was an amazing, life changing experience, and re affirmed my belief in the precept that “whatever you believe is real, is real”. I had absolutely no craving or withdrawal symptoms, so how did it work? It was like my physical addiction was controlled by my mind, and my mind said stop, and it did, and it was incredible. And that’s exactly what happened……

So the hypnotherapy really did change my life. Aside from stopping me smoking, which was a wonderful thing, it really empowered me. I began to wonder what other destructive habits and ways of thinking I could now control, just by simply telling myself I could, by making that decision……

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In 1989/90 I lived with a chap from Seattle called Kieran Murphy. He was what he termed a recovering alcoholic and attended Alcoholics Anonymous, and most of his friends did similar. He was positively evangelistic about AA. He’d been a wealthy stockbroker in the 70’s, and along with the high pressure lifestyle, he’d acquired a massive appetite for booze. He said he’d regularly driven drunk, and on the odd occasion he’d been stopped by the cops, he’d explain that he was perfectly fit to drive and got bolshy with the officers, who’d send him on his way. Those were obviously different times! Kieran didn’t think he had a booze problem, he thought he had a cop problem……
But booze had caused him serious grief: he’d taken up with the wife of a colleague, and had drunkenly admitted as much to him. The next time Kieran met the guy, he got shitfaced as usual. Except what he didn’t realise was the fellow had spiked his drink with a huge hit of some psychedelic drug, a trip which Kieran described as “3 days in hell” and he wound up being arrested and put in the local drunk tank. That’ll learn him, except of course it didn’t. He said prior to quitting the booze, it had made him very paranoid, and he’d begun to think his neighbours were trying to kill him. He loved to smoke too, non filter Pall Malls, and when he’d get home he’d turn on the tv, and relax with a cigarette. He said he’d woken up numerous times to find his tie smouldering, having passed out and dropped the ciggy on his chest. The final straw for him was waking up one night in front of the tv to find his apartment a blaze, having dropped a cigarette which had rolled under an armchair and caught fire. Only the noise of the cat shrieking had woke him up!

At that point, on July 4th 1976, watching his apartment and pretty much everything he owned go up in smoke, he made the decision to get sober. A friend took him to AA, which he credited with saving his life, hence he was convinced that AA was the only real way to clean up and get sober. But some of the things he said to me about AA made me uncomfortable. For instance, if somebody fell off the wagon, it was deemed a dreadful thing, it simply wasn’t permissible. There was quite a lot of talk about a “version” of the Christian God on the agenda too. AA members have to admit they’re powerless to overcome alcohol, and ask for help from a higher power. Prayer is encouraged, to bring about recovery from alcoholism through a spiritual awakening. A spiritual awakening is meant to be achieved by taking the Twelve Steps , and sobriety is maintained by volunteering for AA to assist others and attending regular AA meetings. AA could be described as a semi-religious organization.

Jesus H Christ

I really don’t think an admission of being powerless about anything is a good thing, because making the decision to quit whatever you’re trying to quit, is empowering and it helps you to stay on track. For me, and certainly for people I’ve known, to admit to being powerless would have a very negative effect. As I say, making the decision to quit, breaking the habit and controlling the compulsion and obsession, is, I believe, the key to controlling the addiction. And perhaps “addiction” isn’t a term we should be using, unless we’re talking about someone who is physically addicted to a chemical, and even then I have a problem with that, because in a hypnotic trance I was told I was no longer a smoker, which I most definitely was, physically addicted to Nicotine, and when I woke, I wasn’t.

And here’s another thing about “addiction”, my sister broke her hip a few years back. The pain was apparently absolutely awful, and as a result, whilst she was in hospital for a few weeks, she was given Morphine. When she came out, she didn’t have the desire to maintain that habit, because surely after a couple of weeks of being given Morphine, she must have been physically addicted? Some might say that was down to purity, but I sincerely doubt that. She was healed, felt a lot less pain although obviously she had to recuperate, but she certainly wasn’t a junkie. So how does that work? Well I think again it’s down to her mind, sure she was probably somewhat dependent on the Morphine, but because she was going home her mind focussed on that, and was elated at the thought which negated any sort of withdrawal. How many of us know people like my sister, or people who’ve had surgery, and been on Morphine for a period of weeks? My Pa had both his knee joints replaced, and was hospitalised for a couple of weeks and given Morphine, but he certainly wasn’t a raging junkie when he left hospital. Again I think that the relief and sheer joy of leaving hospital simply pushed all thoughts of withdrawal out of his mind.

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Our modern dysfunctional society shames and judges anyone who alters their conciousness with whatever drug of choice, whether they’re just “lessening their load” ( as Steve Marriot once said to me “it’s gonna lessen your load” ) or plain getting fucked up. And that shame makes the burden of an abuse problem far worse than it has to be. And how ridiculous our double standards are: alcohol and tobacco are completely legal to consume and kill millions of people worldwide, whilst Marijuana and Cocaine are consumed by many, yet remain illegal and kill no more than perhaps 10,000 people each year. Legal, prescribed drugs kill close to a million people world wide every year, and make countless more terminally ill. Why don’t we make them illegal?

Let me make this plain: I’m not advocating use of any drug whatsoever, let’s not forget why I wrote this piece: because I made the decision to control my alcohol intake and enjoy both my drinking and my sobriety. And I’m certainly not saying it’s as easy for everyone as it was for me to shrug off  bad and unhealthy habits.

I also believe there are a good number of people that think they have a substance abuse problem, when in fact they need treatment for a mental health issue.

All the old ways of trying to control our consumption have failed. It’s time to look at drugs and alcohol in a different way. Let’s take the sin and the shame out of this situation, it really doesn’t have to be that serious, tho’ if we really want to get serious, let’s give people the help, love and support they need, and not put them in prison to learn lots of new ways to get fucked up. It really doesn’t have to be that hard, it means altering our mindset, and making the decision……

8 Responses to “Addict”

  1. And this just in: tomorrow will see me having quit sugar 2 months ago……

  2. And here’s a brilliant article by Professor Nutt as to why certain drugs are illegal:
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/28/why-are-drugs-illegal-google-answer

  3. So Friday’s are out then !

  4. Don’t worry Heggy, I’ll been joining you for a couple……sooner than you think!

  5. Terence, thank you for sharing your experiences. I myself have spent many year’s debating this exact subject in my head.
    I have a very personal experience of ‘prescription’drugs. To the extent i nearly died on some concoction my GP had been ‘pushing’ to me. That day called for a decision to be made, a life changing one at that!
    I was born with a spinal condition, to which i was diagnosed with around 6years ago. Many year’s of pain and being fobbed off with drugs and a doctor who essentially told me to “get over it” had been endured prior to my diagnosis.
    At last i had a name for what was wrong with me, and most thankfully that i wasn’t ‘mental’ ha ha. Or was i??

    I set about a treatment plan, mostly in the form of prescription drugs, to which i continually built an amunity to over time, so drugs got stronger, and greater in quantity and subsequently being prescribed very high doses of oramorph, and oxy-contin.Until i eventually suffered with a nervous breakdown and suicidal tendencies. All i wanted was to feel ‘pain free’ like i did when i was a child\early teen. I had one burning question left in me. Why would ‘they’ so willingly keep giving me these drugs? They were going to be the death of me! I fortunately, was not addicted to the morphine. But only due to the fact i saw it as my eventual death – but prior to that, i was a desperate soul trying to feel ‘normal’ again. Was that such a bad thing to want to feel? But unknowingly at the time, my mind was not my own.
    It was fettered by the drugs. So upon the last attempt on my life, i made the ‘choice’ of quitting all my meds at once, which can have serious ramifications as most people know. But because i reached the abyss, and couldn’t have gone any deeper in to the ‘darkness’ i was going to do it, even if it killed me! I told nobody of my plan, due to too much extra burden of others worries on my shoulders.
    It was easy! The actual act of stopping the meds was anyway, however the complete re-building of my person, was and still is a hard, sometimes insurmountable task. But what keeps me going is never being able to forget what those drug’s that were supposed to make me better did to my soul and spirit. That was my fuel to keep me going. That and my beautiful kids and my eternal therapy that is music!
    I suppose that you can make changes in your life in many way’s and different mediums. Whether that be, hypnotherapy, sheer dogged determination or just simply getting to the bottom and not being able to go any further south!
    This entire experience has shaped my present life, and will continue to shape my future life.
    I have since found out, mostly due to my insatiable appetite for knowledge, that the drugs i was prescribed are the no1 abused prescription drug in America and responsible for tens of thousands of death’s every year! WTF was my doctor trying to do to me?!
    I now self prescribe in the form of ‘food’ and unashamedly marijuana. It has completely changed my life! For the better, with absolutely no feeling of addiction of even guilt of it being illegal!
    The poison in the food we bring tomorrow’s generation up on should be illegal, the drugs given out by the pharmaceutical corporation’s drug pushers (GP’s) should be illegal. The chemicals sprayed on our foods, the fluoride in our water, the list is endless! All of which is continually advertised and ‘socially acceptable’
    I guess i worked out that the only person who can truly help me, is me!
    Through experience and research i have learned that this dysfunctional society as you so diplomatically put it, is not geared up to care anymore. Not in the true sense of the expression.
    I have recently been writing a song, and the main hook is that there are ‘too many prisons and not enough help’.
    Help that we all need at times in our lives. Some more than others of course, but is that a weakness or a naturally empathic soul?
    I had help from psychologists along the way to deal with the way i thought etc. This has given me certain tools that people just can’t work out for themselves due to the way they naturally think or are. I also learned that i don’t have a problem exactly, just a different way of feeling and thinking. I have almost enjoyed the later stages of this journey of recovery with a fresh perspective, and new found love of everything and everyone (almost everone) ha ha.
    I enjoy your anecdotes and life experiences, and they give me an insight in to your life i would have never known!
    Since i was about 8, and first saw the surf rat’s perform at the benbridge i was somewhat fascinated and captivated by your band, and passion in which you perfomed with. Not to mention you were pretty damn rock and roll to an aspiring rock guitarists, image, sound, and just nailing a bit of ziggy stardust! (and the fact jem let me play his silver strat during an interval, which was the deciding factor that the guitar was going to be my main instrument of choice, thank you Jem!! Never forgotten!
    Thanks for your story’s Terence, and of course your music. You still are an inspiration to me in many way’s!
    Keep it all coming please
    Peace

  6. Where I live people are addicted to watching TV. I think our world has become so relationally cold and disjointed that people take to all kinds of things to stave off the boredom, the loneliness, the depression, the rejection, and on and on. Yeah, we should be helping each other solve the root cause, not locking each other up for displaying the symptoms

  7. Very well said mate. I think for my part, I’ve accepted the “relationally cold” aspect, tho’ I’d still like to help others, and very occasionally reach out for help.
    Maybe in the next life huh?
    Our world is run by extremely evil people, who perpetrate all sorts of atrocities, for their own profit. I’m not sure whether we will ever be seen as anything more than fodder to them. The only hope we have is to show the younger generation what’s really happening, after that it’s up to them……

  8. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/dec/26/man-who-exposed-lie-war-on-drugs-roberto-saviano-ed-vulliamy?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H&utm_term=146340&subid=14628078&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

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