This is a brief account of Tosh’s relationship with drugs. It’s frank and told in his own words. Thank you, Tosh, for allowing us to share your story with the wider community and showing that a life without drugs is possible, even for those who never thought it was.
When did you first start taking drugs?
In the ’80s as a teenager. I’d sniff anything; glue, gas, aerosols, petrol, you name it. We’d just walk down the street removing petrol caps from cars, sniffing the tanks as we went along. We’d get caught of course and shouted at. We just shouted back “F Off” as we ran away.
I left home at eighteen, got a girl pregnant and we moved in together. We had a daughter (I was on Mushrooms at the time). We’d go to youth clubs with mates, sometimes she’d come with the baby and sometimes she’d stay at home. Afterwards, we’d all pile back to our place and get smashed on draw. It wasn’t long before I realised you could make money from selling this stuff. I knew people who I could it buy from, people over in Bolton and other places.
Why did you?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been a bad kid. I know there was a time I was happy and normal but that was too long ago. I had an unhappy childhood, I was the second child of five. Dad was a pisshead. I’m really not sure of the why but being unhappy must have played its part.
Tosh, promoting recovery at Halifax market.
So how did things go so wrong?
I started nightclubbing in the ’90s. I saw people on different drugs so thought it would be a good idea to source those drugs too. I also made my own combinations. I’d make stuff up or just label acid as ecstasy and things like that. I was taking all this shit too, for about 6 years. The ’90s was OK I guess, party, party, party. But then, things started to go bad. I’d get a lot of drugs on tick and I’d gamble with the money I owed. There were many times I was ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’. I couldn’t pay or supply the drugs I’d promised, and I’ve had my nose broken several times as a result.
When things got really bad my family bailed me out, but as they were paying off my debts, I was taking on my next batch to sell.
One day, a relative’s nephew turned up at the house. He was a heroin addict, not been on it long either. He had some with him and asked if I wanted to try it. I’m not sure why I did. I knew it was bad and the reputation that went with it; dirty needles, infections, HIV, Aids, hepatitis etc. Why would anyone want to do this shit I thought? After being sick, I began to realise why … I had a nice warm, calm feeling about me.
We’d hang out together and I’d often go with him to his dealer. I’d hang outside and wait for him. Eventually, I decided to cut him out and I just went on my own. One day, I got a shit deal size wise and I knew it wasn’t enough for me to get my hit unless I injected. It was all downhill from then. At some point in all this, I had even managed to get a job screen printing but, as you can imagine, it didn’t last when I started injecting and leaving needles on the shop floor.
My daughter was about seven by now. I was on my way to meet my girlfriend and her family at a local pub. On arriving, I planted my coat on a bar stool and a load of needles fell out of the pocket. She’d suspected I had been ‘tooting’ heroin but didn’t know I was injecting. She wasn’t stupid. It was over between us, she already had a new boyfriend lined up.
I moved out and went to stay with my sister. She tried to help me with my drug addiction, but I’d just climb out of the bedroom window along with her belongings to sell for drugs. I did this a few times and I was still buying drugs to sell. I was at a drug den one time when the police raided. I was arrested on suspicion supplying drugs to someone who had died. A post-mortem showed it was not down to the drugs, but as scary as this was, it didn’t stop me. It couldn’t. I was way past the point of no return.
I met another girlfriend, a local lass from around my sister’s place. She’d buy heroin just to be with me. Things get muddy around this time and my memory is rather fuzzy. I know at one point I was sectioned and put in Northowram Mental Hospital. I know I spent 14 years in and out of bedsits, in and out of detox and in and out of jail. Detox never worked. You were given two weeks to get off the drugs and a few more days to get off the meds they had given you to get off the drugs – and then you were ill. The first thing you want after all that is something to take it all away. Jail was the same. I always got “gate happy”. My girlfriend would be waiting outside at the bus stop with needle in hand, all ready to shoot.
I’d been in “the system” for a long time. I was with the original Substance Misuse Service (SMS) and had been on methadone for 17 years. I’d tried methadone rattles before in jail and they are horrible. I bought Subutex so I could come off the methadone. I got my prescription changed from Methadone to Subutex and it wasn’t long before I was selling it so I could buy heroin. I was also doing crack cocaine too. I would just take enough Subutex at the right time to pass the piss tests. I’d been doing this for the past three years. At this point, I was just sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’d been in the mental institutions, sectioned, locked up, tried suicide etc. My life was a mess.
I had tried the TBRP programme before. It didn’t work at the time, not because of it, but because of me. I wasn’t prepared to give it all up. I was full of resentment, resentment towards the people who had exactly what I was after – recovery. I thought they were cliquey (I now realise they were all just good friends of course). Seven years later, I was back and heading for a detox. Jay and Simon were now working here, wow, how things had changed. Not for me though. I lasted one night in the detox house, panicked and left the following morning, right to my dealer and scored. My head was mashed.
Throughout my using, I would occasionally go to NA meetings. There’d be gaps, two years here, one year there. Some, just a few months in-between. I knew a few people from the fellowship. Sue had always been so helpful. She told me to get my arse back to TBRP. I did. I begged to come back.
Instead of going through the normal detox process, it was agreed to try a new service that had just been introduced. It was a stabilisation service which allowed for a longer reduction in medication before going through a full detox. I had about eight weeks instead of the usual two. The gradual reduction, the recovery programme and therapeutic support worked. I’ve been off heroin and crack ever since.
I did have a blip back in June when my dad died. Having been a heavy drinker, he thought it only right to leave some money for everyone to get drunk after his funeral and give him a good send off. We did, me included. I held my hands up, although I’d not picked up the drugs, I had drunk. I had to leave the detox house for a cooling down period. My brother said he would look after me, despite the wrongs I had done in the past. He made sure this time was different and ensured I was doing everything I was meant to be doing. After two weeks I was back in the house and I’m still there now.
What has the service meant to you?
I’ve got all my family back in my life. I see my daughter now and my relationship with my brother and sister is much better. I’m giving back to my community and my family and friends. I can turn up at their houses and they don’t have to fear that I’m going to ask for money. I even bought my sister some tickets to go see one of her favourite bands and I bought Christmas presents instead of stealing them.
I’m involved in recovery circles, helping others who are just like me, where I once was. The recovery community is great, we go climbing mountains, walking the countryside and enjoy day trips out – we dressed up for a Dickensian day not that long ago. I attend the Thursday night socials and have been known to even join in in the knit and natter groups, it’s all great fun. I am also doing a few courses at college. I stay at my sister’s and she even comes and picks me up. I’ve just passed my first ever course.
I have a ‘recovery wall’ in my bedroom which helps to remind me of how far I’ve come. It’s still easy for negative thoughts and feelings to creep up on you (I think that’s ‘normal’) so my wall is there to keep me positive. I have various things on it from my certificate for completing the TBRP recovery programme to a piece of slate all the way from the Lake District. It’s my recovery memorabilia.
There’s a saying around the Basement; “there is hope here” and there is.
What’s next for Tosh?
I’d like to move into the Second Stage Sober living service and continue to do more at college. I’m interested in photography and health and social care.