TW: suicide, self-harm, addiction, death, etc.
Readers who are familiar with my struggles can skip the first half of this post, I don’t want to bore you!
For the benefit of my newer followers, here’s some context:
I started smoking when I was 11, and was a “proper” smoker by the time I was 12. I turn 22 in a few weeks, meaning that I’ve been smoking for a decade. Obviously this is a terrible truth, I am disgusted in myself and I don’t want to smoke forever. I will quit (probably at some point this year) but not right now because I’m not ready – and smoking is the one pleasure that I have left.
By 13 I was smoking marijuana in its various forms and strains pretty much every day. At my worst point, I was smoking a joint as often as a “regular” smoker would light a cigarette. I was constantly stoned, and would rather go to the park with my friends, get super high and talk about the hardships of our teenage lives than go to school and sit in a class in which I would learn nothing. I was homeless, living at various friends’ houses or sleeping in the park, and shoplifting and selling drugs to support myself and my little brother.
Then one night I found myself wandering around the most notorious estate in our area, and I didn’t feel too clever at all. I was 17 years old, I was “off my nut,” completely out of touch with reality, walking a metre off the ground, after smoking a triple punk blunt purey (the ‘punk‘ was a super-strength weed that arrived from Holland and was circulating my area, if I remember rightly it was laced with amphetamine, and my friend made a huge blunt out of it with the minimum amount of tobacco to keep it burning, so it was smoked pure hence ‘purey‘).
I left the house that we were having a party at and found myself on the estate, totally fucked up, scared and paranoid. I passed out at the back of a bus and somehow got to where I was staying, and that next morning I vowed that I would never smoke weed again. And, unbelievably, as I have an addictive personality and struggle with will-power/self discipline, I never smoked marijuana again. (Well, when I was 18 in Amsterdam I tried some lemon haze but it was horrible and I went straight to bed to sleep it off, but other than that I have not touched it.)
That is what I am most proud of myself for: quitting the devil’s lettuce. It definitely contributed to my psychosis, which reached its worst stage when I was 16/17, and choosing to cut it out of my life was the best decision that I ever made.
I started drinking alcohol when I was 11, and was getting totally wasted with friends by the time I was 13. Alcohol forms a HUGE part of my life (sadly) and I think my struggle with booze has been well documented on this blog, so I won’t write too much now. My alcoholism finally reached a point in which action had to be taken as it was ruining most aspects of my life, my health, my sanity. And so I had no choice but to stop. I have been sober for 18 days and it’s awful but necessary.
According to my psychiatrist, my risk to self is “chronically high” and that my suicidal tendencies are “chronic and unlikely to be accessible by psychiatry, and, hence, it is unlikely to be helped by our psychiatric services becoming over-involved. Patient has expressed that there is ‘no point’ in restricting her access to her medication, as if she wants to take an overdose she ‘will find a way’ since she is friendly with local dealers of both prescription and illegal drugs.”
So, basically, I am permanently suicidal, I think about death and suicide every day, and if I want to attempt to take my own life, I will do so determinedly. The health professionals are just hoping that I don’t act on any of my impulses, or indeed succeed in my attempt. To date I have attempted suicide and “been close” 4 times. Make of this what you will.
RIGHT. Background over. Are you still with me? Excellent.
Since I think of suicide so often, I have lots of questions about our (society’s) attitude towards suicide. I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t researched this in full yet, but I just feel the need to write my thoughts down before I inevitably forget them. So this section of this post is applicable/in response to what we call “the Western world” because I am yet to discover Eastern attitudes towards suicide and death by addiction.
Firstly, why, if someone dies of lung cancer, of one of the types caused directly by smoking, do people react so differently to their death than they do towards a death by suicide?
The same goes for deaths caused directly by alcoholism. One of my friends, we’ll call her K, recently passed after a long battle with alcohol and drug addiction: I will use her brother’s words here and say “One drink too many. Her liver couldn’t take any more and exploded. Blood everywhere, coming out of her mouth, her nose, her ears, her eyes. It was fucking gruesome, mate.” While she was alive, nobody had much time for her, because she was a terrible drunk and would do bad things in exchange for drugs. But when she died, everyone was saying how it’s such a tragedy, such a waste, too young, too soon. Sympathy and tears and flowers, and buried in the Catholic churchyard.
Don’t get me wrong, when I die people will say the same things. There will be crying and flowers, but probably very little sympathy (“Why didn’t she get help?” “So selfish.” “So fucking selfish.” “How could she do this to her family. Suicide is so selfish.” “I didn’t know there was anything wrong with her, this is so random.” “Didn’t know she was a nutter, did you know?“), and certainly no Catholic churchyard for me.
Ok, society, are you listening?
WAKE. THE FUCK. UP.
SMOKING IS SELF-HARM.
DRINKING ALCOHOL IS SELF-HARM.
(But in a “socially acceptable” way.)
My friend, K, loved whisky and heroin because she had a shitty life and was terribly depressed and these things took her to a better place. Because nobody helped her: not her friends, not her family, not the government, and certainly not the NHS.
Every cigarette that I put to my lips is taking me a step closer to my death. Every glass of wine that I sink is taking me a step closer to my death. I do these things because I enjoy them, but I also do it because it’s damaging to me, because maybe these bad habits will kill me before an overdose does. And maybe then I’d get the respectable Catholic funeral, rather than putting me wherever the council has space.
I know many, many people who have drunk themselves to death. I know just as many people who have killed themselves through their drug addiction.
In the most tragic case, my friend A, died through a drug-related accident. He was the area’s best cocaine dealer. Young, handsome, charismatic, funny, a genuinely lovely, lovely man. One night he went to drop some drugs off at a friend’s flat, and his friend invited him in to try some heroin. They both took some coke, then heroin, and were laying about when A’s friend suddenly decided to sit on him as a joke. The bloke was quite a lot bigger than A, and was sitting on him, laughing, while A was slowly getting crushed. His friend had no idea and was so fucked up that he didn’t realise what was happening. Until he looked at A and he was blue and not breathing. With all the drugs in the house and A crushed to death, his friend panicked and hanged himself. A manslaughter-suicide verdict was reached. When A died, our community lost a superstar, his two year old girl lost her Daddy, and N lost the love of her life. And we all lost access to that bloody good batch of cocaine.
What’s worse is that we watch these people killing themselves. I watch depressed alcoholics go into the same pub at the same time every day to order the same drinks and sit at the same table and drown those same sorrows. It is so fucking sad to see, and when they die everyone will be sad, I’m sure. But why is slitting my wrists seen as taboo and “bloody stupid” and unacceptable, but smoking a cigarette is just a bad habit? And if I get cancer from smoking, it’ll be so tragic and everyone will help me and look after me and bring me hot meals and flowers, but if I’m suicidal nobody even bothers to text me to see if I’m still alive? This is bollocks.
I think if one dies after a long struggle with alcoholism, the coroner’s report should cite the cause of death as suicide. Same with smoking-related lung cancer deaths. The verdict should be suicide.
Sure, the people who get lung cancer “don’t want to die” so it can’t be suicide. Well actually, if they didn’t want to die then they wouldn’t smoke. Nobody forced them to smoke, they smoked by their own hand, literally, and so if their death is caused by their own hand, that is the definition of suicide, is it not?
It’s hard to work out where to draw the line on this one. Obesity… caused by one’s own hand, isn’t it. You may technically die of coronary heart disease, but really you died from overeating/no exercise/poor diet. But then to label a death from obesity as ‘suicide’ could make people angry and upset. Ah, I don’t know. I just think if something is self-inflicted, it’s probably been done for a reason, whether it’s smoking 60 a day, checking a bottle of gin before bed or bingeing on burgers, we KNOW that these things are bad for us so surely any harm that is done must be deliberate.
For me, drinking alcohol is definitely a form of self-harm and it definitely puts my life in jeopardy in a number ways, but like I said, it’s more socially acceptable for me to order a double vodka and cranberry (“ice and a slice please, darling”) than drag a razor across my wrists.
I’m just confused.
R.I.P Kooky K – you gave me my first Bailey’s on ice, a billion rollups, and long speeches about the importance of never letting a man talk down to me. Cheers, babe. x
R.I.P A – still can’t believe you’re gone. Dad still talks about you! Your girl stars in the biggest soap in Britain now, and she’s absolutely gorgeous. Sleep easy fella. x
R.I.P TA – R.I.P KC – R.I.P RR – R.I.P GW – R.I.P TB – R.I.P CB
Comments, thoughts, ideas appreciated. Please be careful with this delicate subject – I will delete comments that are insensitive/inappropriate.