Part Two - Life in London
After moving in with my Dad, the ground rules were laid out. I had to get work, pay rent and have my own place within twelve months. Sticking to the agreement, I applied for every job I could and eventually started work in a call centre at a coin collection company. I worked there for six months before finding a better suited job in Administration with a Recruitment Agency.
As promised, twelve months in I had moved out of my Dad’s and into a shared house in the centre of town. Everything was going well and I finally felt I had found my feet! I was making new friends, I loved my job and was really happy where I was living. Never having learnt about finances or saving money, I lived week to week and spent any extra money I had shopping or going out partying. But I didn’t care, life was good! Eventually though, my week to week splurging started catching up on me and I began having to borrow money from my friends to make ends meet. It didn’t take long before I was speedily going backwards and my only option was to look for a higher paying job. At the beginning of 2007, I started working for a high performing Building Society in Watford and felt like this was my golden ticket to getting things back on track. But old habits die hard. The new job wasn’t far from my old work so I would still meet my best friend most mornings for a Starbucks and we would meet up most nights after work for a drink or dinner at the pub.
That year I passed my driving test and looking back can admit that buying a brand new car on finance was a very naive decision given my lack of financial control. However, I was dead set on the shiny new black Peugeot 107 Sport with red racing stripes and body kit. With the ongoing expenses of paying off the car and the added maintenance expenses, I got a part time job working in a theatre bar a few nights a week. If you haven’t figured it already, I was terrible with money and I loved to party.. HARD! I grew quite accustomed to my party animal reputation so no matter what I did to get ahead, I often ended up a little further backwards then before trying to keep up appearances. At that age it seemed like there was still so much time to get myself sorted and so I just kept pushing the boundaries hoping that my head would eventually pop up over the surface of the water. It was a beautiful kind of pain.
Pretty drunk one night out, I was offered a line of cocaine and without hesitating, I bent over with the rolled up bank note and sniffed the line of white powder from off the top of the toilet seat. Pure class. I remember that night like it was yesterday. I made some new friends and we all went back to my place, drank beer, danced and chatted until way into the early hours of the next day! When we eventually called it a night (or morning, it was about 7am), my head hit the pillow and I was out like a light. The drugs seemed to give me a new level of confidence that night and I liked it. With my insecurity issues, I suddenly felt like I was truly able to connect with people on a deeper level. At the time, it felt like the best night out I’d had in my life so far!
I didn’t think too much about the drugs after that, just the night and how great it was! It wasn’t until the next time I was out drinking that the alcohol wasn’t enough for me anymore. I wanted that night again! I wanted that connection. Going out became a prelude to getting high and before I knew it everything was about ‘gear’. I was so hooked and even though every night on drugs cost a fortune, there was never enough. The last line would be finished and we would all sit twitching, waiting for someone to ask the question… ‘We getting more?’ And if no one did, you did. Either way, someone always did. It was only when the shops were closed, the beers were finished, we’d run out of cigarettes and the dealer wouldn’t answer his phone that the night would be over. But it was never over. By that time it wasn’t a matter of lights out when your head hit the pillow anymore… It was the feeling that my heart may explode out of my chest if it beat any harder. Beating so loud in my ears that it was all I could focus on. My nose would be so blocked that I couldn’t breathe and I would lay awake tossing and turning every ten minutes trying to ignore my heart beat and settle into some sort of rest. Desperately trying to settle my heart rate down I would lay awake with my thoughts watching the hours tick by on the clock until eventually it was time to get up for work! A quick shower, Macca’s breakky, a big coffee and somehow I would make it through the day without my boss noticing I was still completely off my nut!
In amongst the haze of big nights out and not much sleep, the Building Society was bought out by a larger company and all of a sudden, we were closing the branch, had a new uniform and were merged into a very busy established office. Sleepless nights became a lot harder to hide, especially when your role for the day was to greet the streams of people coming through the door to open accounts, deposit money or meet with banks managers about loans or mortgages. I hated being there. I hated that I’d been separated from my work friends. I hated the floral uniform. We all did. So what better way to adjust but to party harder and take lots of ‘sick’ days! It got to a point where something in me knew that what I was doing wasn’t right and I took the opportunity to try and escape the cycle and applied for a different job at a Car Finance Company which I was really surprised to get. With a new job and a new focus, I felt for a little while like I was taking some control of my life.
I still went out drinking a lot with my work friends and one of the guys who would occasionally come out with us took a serious interest in me. He was ten years my senior and to be honest, when I first met him I had absolutely zero attraction to him! But he persisted and would make every effort to catch my attention any time he could. He would offer to walk me to my car after work or talk to me on my smoke break. He would always message me after I left anywhere and make sure I’d got home safely. It was nice. Kind of lovely really. He made me feel important and special and so eventually with a lot of persuasion I agreed to go on a date with him. Sadly for me, I wish I had stayed unattached from this man as what I was about to get myself into was to be the most toxic relationship I will ever experience. He was a cocaine dealer and so it wasn’t long before I was back on the drugs harder than ever. The mental and emotional abuse I suffered at his hand was something else. I truly wanted to believe that he loved me, because I had somehow fallen in love with him, but looking back I believe he knew what he was doing. He saw an opportunity to take advantage of a naiive young woman and gave it his all to get me hooked. It wrecked me from the inside out and consequently, I began wrecking friendships because I would choose him over them. None of my friends could understand why I kept going back to him but I had become so entwined in his lies and abuse that I didn’t know anything else. The debt was out of control to the point where I couldn’t make rent but somehow still managed to get hold of drugs. I began doing it by myself most nights in a hope to escape the pain I was going through.
One day in what little strength I had left, I decided to go to the doctors to get help for the depression and just as he was about to write me a script for anti-depressants, he stopped and asked me if there was anything else he needed to know… His question hit me so hard that I completely broke down and admitted out loud for the first time that I was addicted to cocaine. That my life was in tatters and I owed so much money to drug dealers that I had begun living in fear for my life. He told me that he couldn’t give me anti-depressants while I was taking drugs and said he would give me a referral to see someone. I was so embarrassed that I left without the referral. As I sat in my car crying, I suddenly became aware of the thoughts I was having and why I was so bitterly disappointed in myself. I didn’t want to be an addict. I had always wanted to make something of my life! I wanted to live a full life. I didn’t want anti-depressants and I didn’t want that doctor or anyone else feeling sorry for me because of the choices I made. I wanted things to change. I wanted help. I wanted to stop disappointing the people that loved me and make things right.
Many amazing people helped me through this time but one person in particular was my friend Abbie who taught me a lot about unconditional love. I met Abs working in a bar, she was visiting from Aus on a tourist visa at the time and we instantly clicked. For those of you who don’t know Abbie, she is without a doubt one of the most genuine and supportive friends you’ll ever have. She lived across the road from my office job so we would hang out all the time – before work, lunch time, after work! She loved me no matter what. No matter how many stupid mistakes I made. No matter how many times I got so drunk that I would yell at her and be the worst kind of friend imaginable. I started dating the guy from my work after she left to go home to Australia but we continued to stay in touch. I never went into too much detail about how things were with him but she knew the relationship wasn’t good for me. After that day at the doctors I contacted her and asked for her advice as I had hit the wall big time. Her response was ‘come here for a few months and get yourself sorted out, you can stay with me’.
I didn’t decide straight away, I was still in a pretty bad way emotionally but as I slowly began to build up strength and make some more semi-conscious decisions, I figured it couldn’t hurt. I moved back into my Dad’s place so he could once again help me to piece my life back together. It took me so long before I was able to distance myself from the relationship and stand my ground long enough to walk away. I began to remember things my family and friends had said to me about the relationship and my thoughts began to come through clearer as I recognised the twisted, narsacistic battle I had been in for so long. No longer did I believe the lie he had always told me that I could leave but no one else would ever love me, and I finally started to stand up for my heart.
I missed Abbie so much so I decided to visit Australia and have some time away to clear my head and figure out where I was heading in life. I booked my ticket and handed my notice into work. Put my car up for sale and started getting the finalities in order to move to Geelong, Australia for a six month working holiday. It was extremely hard to move, I was finally taking control of my life. I had spent a lot of time repairing the friendships I had broken down, things at work were going well and I loved my role and the team of people I was working with. I had some unreal people in my life and suddenly leaving them seemed like the worst decision I could ever have made! But the ticket was booked. And before I knew it I was at the airport, my life packed into a suitcase heading to Geelong, Australia………..