A Dark Tale of Antipodean Addiction

By Roy…

Drugs came into my life because an exhausted old Austin A40 just didn’t like hills. I was 15 and we were looking for a party.

The old Austin struggled at walking pace up one hill and half in jest, half seriously, I offered to get out and push.

I opened the door, the car shuddered, I lost my grip and fell head-first onto the road.

Next morning Mum didn’t like the look of my blood-matted hair and sent me to the family physician, Dr Tait.

“You might have concussion,” she said.

Dr Tait’s treatment involved prescribing 25mg of Valium three times a day.

“You may feel a little drowsy at first, but you’ll get over it,” I remember him saying.

He wasn’t half wrong! The initial dose, taken as instructed with food at breakfast, knocked me out cold. I fell face forward into my plate of cereal.

No-one seemed especially startled by this except me.

But the sense of otherworldliness the drug brought on was novel. So I went to school off my head. My whole final year at secondary school was spent totally out of it on prescription drugs. No-one at school appeared to take special notice of me nodding off in class and no-one questioned me about my crashing out on the floor.

No-one even commented when I smashed up all the furniture in an unoccupied classroom on prizegiving day before I went to collect my prizes for being second-top in the school.

If valium was ok by the doctor it was ok by me, was my rationale even though I knew it was really crazy dangerous.

It turned out it was an ambush cooked up between the doctor and my parents. I had too many unanswered questions for mum and dad about life and living and they resented my attacking their religion and priorities.

Years later they gleefully told me how they’d conspired with the doctor to “quieten me down” with Valium .The school staff was in on the plan, so they said, which explains why my falling asleep on corridor floors or at my desk was tolerated and my destroying classrooms was ignored.

This was 1969 and Time magazine was reporting warnings from medical authorities that illicit drugs were extremely dangerous. People who’d taken LSD were jumping out of high-rises believing they could fly, so it was said.

I took a fairly cynical view. If what the doctor was giving me was safe then someone and not me must be crazy. Young dreamers like myself saw the grown-up world as a strait-jacketed open prison cultivating mediocrity by controlling its citizens with threats and empty promises.

Therefore once away from home at university I sought out pot, LSD, amphetamines and narcotics as much to show my disregard for convention as to experiment with altered states of consciousness.

Pot did little for me at that stage so I took a more direct route of administration – via the bloodstream. I bought a Luer Lok syringe and a dozen 26-gauge needles and asked around about heroin.

With only the sketchiest idea about dosage I had a go at the stuff. I didn’t want to die but at 17 you believe yourself immortal anyway.

Heroin was scarce but opium plentiful for some reason and I injected syrupy cookups of inky narcotic soup which sent ropy flames through my arms and legs and frizzled my nerve endings. A seaman became a regular source of purple hearts, (a mixture of amphetamines and barbiturates) and I shot them up as well.

I was so keen to try shooting stuff up I annihilated myself one night with a 2ml hit of sherry, going from stone-cold sober to drunk on the floor in five seconds flat. It burned like hell going in and being falling down drunk wasn’t cool by any standard so it was a oncer.

Acid was coming over from California and was virtually given away. A group of us holed up in a rundown house and dropped acid and inbetween times we doctor-shopped for Ritalin and palfium (dextromoramide, an opioid said to be three three times more potent than morphine).

Round about that time someone I knew burgled a pharmaceuticals warehouse and stole a couple of kilos of crystal meth. That produced some very bad staggers among a lot of people. I didn’t mind seeing imaginary rats climbing out of my jackets in the wardrobe. They didn’t do any damage to my clothes. But I did give up shooting meth after a week-long bender had me being shadowed by vampires in black top hats.
Once I persuaded a friend to try injecting Vegemite. I thought that since it was filled with B vitamins and looked like opium it could be an interesting high. He agreed but the Vegemite hit nearly killed him. He took the hit sitting on a mattress on the floor. Soon as it landed in his system he leapt up with a howl and slammed backwards into the wall behind the bed his eyes turning back in his head.

To be honest I was too curious about what it must have felt like and whether I should try some myself to worry about whether it was killing him.
Funniest part was that the room instantly reeked of Vegemite – it must have been thoroughly rejected by his body.

That’s one thing I regret, persuading the gullible idiot to try Vegemite.


Recalling these early days in my drug history it seems easier now to joke about what was an extremely unhappy time. Following this period my hold on job and home collapsed and, homeless and broke, I dragged myself away from that city, cut myself off from all my old haunts, went cold turkey and started afresh.

But heroin seemed to have a way of finding me. Over the years I’ve repeatedly slipped back onto heroin and off again, sick and yearning for relief. Most recently a nine-year habit was broken by a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence. Been out close on four years now, and not used once.

And while there are days when I exult in being alive and sober and enjoy the sun, a darkness does circle me and life remains a tightrope walk.

One thought on “A Dark Tale of Antipodean Addiction

  1. Marc November 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

    Thanks for this, Roy. We all know and we certainly don’t mind discussing the horrors of addiction. So it’s refreshing and fun to see part of your story told with humour — dark humour, I suppose, but isn’t that what we’d expect?

    No matter how bad things get, in fact maybe because of how bad things get, there’s always a generous smattering of absurdity in one’s life. And when we think back on our follies, laughing can be better company than crying.

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