Prologue.

It is May 2006 on the Shakespeare Estate in Stoke Newington, exact time of day roughly five minutes after I’ve given a teenager on a stolen bike some money in exchange for some drugs that I hope will comprise my last ever hit.

A gram of heavily cut heroin and half a gram of equally fraudulent crack cocaine are being dissolved on the top of a discarded Coke can currently in the tremulous grip of the desperate unwashed hand connected to what remains of the rest of the mess that masquerades as a human being, squatting at the top of the stairwell.

‘Simon, you’re gonna fucking kill yourself, mate.’

My audience of one suddenly seems a bit concerned.

‘Doubt it, Dave, but if I do you can have my can of Special Brew. It’s still cold.’

‘Thanks, but I prefer Skol.’

‘I’ve got a quid leftover in my pocket, fucking take that if I go over and get yourself one of them then, OK?’

‘Ta, mate, nice one.’

The contents of the Coke-can cooker bubble and quietly hiss their disgust as they turn the requisite colour not too dissimilar to that of the nicotine-stained fingers now dropping the filter from a cheap cigarette into the tiny puddle of liquid self-hate rapidly cooling on the top of the can.

On the floor below us we hear a voice.

‘Don’t forget my fucking fags, you prick,’ is the parting comment from whoever has been left shut inside as a door slams behind the prick in charge of buying the cigarettes and whatever else has been ordered to help alleviate the monotony of another day on the Shakespeare Estate.

I draw up most of the contents of the Coke can into my syringe and spit on the back of my left arm in preparation for my attempt to obliterate myself from the monotony of another day in my life. This stairwell, a public toilet, a crackhouse, my old flat or a campervan in Spain, it makes no difference to me. I can’t escape myself any more, so hopefully this hit is going to finally send me somewhere I might get some peace.

My audience is restless.

‘C’mon, Simon, don’t take the piss. You got most of that in your works, you’ve not left much for me, you greedy cunt.’

‘I paid for it.’

‘Yeah, yeah, true, but I sorted us out yesterday.’

‘That was yesterday, Dave, and yesterday you got the bigger hit, a bigger hit of a lot less fucking gear too, mate, so shut the fuck up or I’ll put the rest in my works and you’ll get fuck all.’

‘Dickhead’

‘Whatever.’

‘You really gonna do all that in one hit? You’re off your fucking head, mate.’

He’s starting to really get on my tits, so I put my syringe back onto the filter and draw up some more of the shit-coloured fluid.

‘I strongly suggest you shut your fucking mouth, Dave, and take what’s left before I have the fucking lot, OK?’

‘Proper dickhead you eh? All right, get out the fucking way, will you?’

I am hopefully about to get myself permanently out of his way, everybody’s way in fact.

There is a small abscess on the back of my left arm, slowly seeping blood, somewhere inside of which is the remnants of a vein that will hopefully be able to receive the blunt needle of the three-day-old syringe I am about to start prodding it with. In a life long since devoid of any hope, these few seconds of optimistic intrusion into the hole in my arm are as good as it gets. Think about that!

This is it. I hate ‘god’ almost as much as I hate myself but offer the scruffy twat a little thought as I beg for the elusive vein to show itself by flooding the barrel of my syringe with my poisoned blood and allowing me to release the belt I have wrapped around my arm so I can relieve the syringe of its contents and myself of the heavy burden of being alive.

Freedom is what drugs strongly suggested was on offer all those years ago. Freedom from feelings I struggled with then and still do now as I squat, trying to not puke prior to getting the drugs into my body. My inability to exist within my own skin in a world I have struggled to make any sense of is the double whammy to which eventually, after working my way through every other substance I could, only heroin seemed able to provide a solution.

Now, as I am about to bow out for the final time, I’m convinced that as overdose and check out permanently, my audience might possibly rifle through my clothes, take anything he can sell and leave me there for some other unfortunate resident of the estate to find. I accept this as par for the course, but a small part of what remains of my soul hopes it’s not a decent human being who’ll discover me, someone who has no choice but to exist alongside all the scumbags like me who use their stairwells to inject drugs to try to avoid feeling like an utter cunt all the time.

Why do I feel this way about myself?

Do I actually know what I think about myself anymore?

Who knows? Who cares?

Certainly not me as I rejoice at the miniature tidal wave of blood that suddenly washes up inside the barrel of my syringe and tells me the end is nigh. I release the tourniquet and prepare to take my final bow.

*An extract from the recovery story “Too High, Too Far, Too Soon” by Simon Mason