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I was a drug addict for nearly 20 years. There was nothing dignified or cool about it

Chris Flemming says “I spent half my waking hours acquiring and using drugs and the other half trying to hide that fact .”

I’ve been an academic in the humanities now for almost 20 years, and so telling people that you’re writing a book called On Drugs invites an inevitable series of nods, smirks and winks – of jokes about doing empirical “research” in the area, of possibilities for applying for grants and getting funding. (While an addict, I would have certainly appreciated more funding.) One colleague, on hearing I was writing this book, joked that I should make up something “juicy”, like that I smoked crack, almost died and “went through some fancy rehab”.

The fact, though I didn’t say as much, was that I did smoke crack, did almost die and had been through a fancy rehab – several times. For over a decade I spent half my waking hours acquiring and using drugs and the other half trying to hide that fact. After a decent apprenticeship, I got good at both. And yet the patterns of thought and behaviour that surfaced during my years of addiction weren’t totally alien to me. I’d long seen life, as far back as childhood, as a complex and fraught series of acquisitions and ingestions, of obsessive consumption and the rigidly patterned structuring of my environment and behaviour – as well as an ongoing and dedicated dissimulation of these.

Chris Flemming

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