The stories of my life on a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea ... and my occasional adventures beyond these shores.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Winter Day Ponderings

The cold weather has finally made it here. After enjoying sunshine and blue skies while the rest of Europe was covered in snow and ice, we finally woke up to grey skies and rain this week. We have such a short winter here in the central Mediterranean that when it finally comes, I really love and enjoy it. Pelting rain and strong howling winds are common when winter finally sets in. The house we live in overlooks a valley and when the wind is blowing from the back of our house, which is totally unprotected, we can hear it rattling the window frames and wreaking havoc with our plants. But I enjoy it. I think of it as the voice of winter. For all the seasons have a voice and so do the different winds. Our winds actually have different names and when the mighty northern winds blow you can rest assured that the weather will cool and the icy fingertips of the wind will find their way inside your clothes, chilling your skin and giving you an over all tingling feeling.
As I am writing this I realise that the coldest part of our winter is still before us but I know that Spring will follow - because the seasons are a cycle and, in truth, even our lives go through different seasons. In a way they parallel each other. Except that there is never a spring after our winter. Or not in this world. It is a bitter pill to swallow and one which I always have a hard time wrapping my thoughts around. But while we live, we hope. And we dream.
Chadwick Lakes (3)
Chadwick Lakes (9)
My dream for 2009 was to write. For six months I wrote and wrote but when summer came (and my brain was all drowsy with the intense heat) it dawned on me that I was spending time writing but away from my son. In all honesty, I was there physically but my brain would be miles away and I felt that I was missing out on some of my little one’s most important years. It is true that writing is something I enjoy and we should not give up our dreams when we have children, but I could not ignore the fact that, after a day at work and away from him, I could not just zone out and write and not play with him. So now all the writing I do is for my blogs. Hopefully all the vestigial stories that I have jotted down on notebooks and scraps of paper will one day be given life. I know that many might argue that life will not wait for me and that we should seize the moment. But then, neither will our children wait. They grow up way too fast and before we know it they are off to follow their own dreams. Right now I feel it is more important to plant future dreams in my little boy than it is to follow mine. After all, as long as I have some sort of outlet through my blogs, it is enough.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Heroin Diaries

During the Christmas holidays I read The Heroin Diaries – A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rockstar by Nikki Sixx, the bassist and songwriter for glam rock band Motley Crue. I do not usually write book reviews as what may appeal to me person may not appeal to another person. So this post is not meant to review the book. It’s the thoughts that the book conjured up which set me down writing this entry. The book itself is all that you would expect from a rock star who has survived a fatal overdose and lived to tell the story. It is about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. But mostly it is about the drugs. And that is what spoke to me.

I worked with drug addicts for 2 years and strangely, it was the happiest and most rewarding time of my career. Was it easy? The job itself was nothing different from what I had been doing: dispensing medicines. The difference was in the patients. I took over from a 6'2''guy who yelled out orders like an army major. Then they were faced with me and I wonder what their first thoughts were. Probably that they would be able to get away with anything. I did keep the necessary order but I also managed to treat them all like humans instead of just like numbers. As the weeks passed I managed to gain their trust and I think that that was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. They trusted me enough to share their sometimes sordid lives with me. And they trusted me enough to come back and tell me that they had lied about something. Or stolen a booklet of prescriptions. Such were the small victories that I won as time went by.

Reading the book brought back many memories and conflicting emotions but the overall feeling was one of extreme sadness. How do some people manage to get themselves in these situations? The bottom line is that both Nikki Sixx and the patients I met on a daily basis blamed everyone for their predicament: their parents, their friends, the neighbour's barking dog … you get the picture. They blamed everyone except themselves. That is where the whole problem starts and ends. Unfortunately only very few of them actually face their demons and do something about it. For most of them, it is easier to continue taking the ‘easy’ way out. Nikki Sixx managed to get out of the gutter and embrace life. But he also learnt to forgive. Not just others but himself. I wish that there were more like him. For 2 years I tried my best to not just be a dispensing pharmacist but to actually listen to what these people had to say and I think that I was a measure of help for some of them. Sadly, at the time I worked with the government health services and the powers-that-be deemed that my services were required elsewhere. In an oncology hospital. Initially, I hated being there. Somehow it felt easier to deal with people who only had themselves to blame for the situation they were in than with people who had been dealt such a hard blow in life. It seemed ironic to me that these cancer patients were trying their hardest to stay alive while perfectly healthy human beings were literally knocking on heaven’s door. But such is life and it is from such experiences that we learn and grow.

Nikki Sixx is not an exception in the rock music world. The majority of people involved party hard, have an ego the size of the Himalayas and drink or drug themselves into oblivion at a young age. The difference is that he lived to tell his tale. And that he had the courage to stop listening to the voices in his head and face reality. My wish is that more people who are enslaved to some addiction will have the courage to face the real world. These days, Nikki is by no means a hero or a saint but he is a survivor and, in his own words: “If one person reads this book and doesn't have to go down the same road as me, it was worth sharing my personal hell with them."
As for me, reading this book made me realise that not matter if you're a rock star or a street junkie, heroin makes no exception. Its seduction is slow but once you're hooked the downward spiral is fast. So I will finish this somewhat thought provoking post with the words of an addict that have forever remained etched in my brain: "You start taking heroin on a whim and for the kick it gives you. You end up taking heroin because without it your body will not function properly."


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