Lifestyle gurus: Odes to recovery
Do artists, musicians and writers make for good lifestyle gurus? A new project asked leading cultural figures to contribute their personal take on addiction for a series of self-help guides with a difference
Wednesday 11 November 2009
UNDERSTANDING OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER: BILL DRUMMOND
There is a speck of something on the windscreen of my Land Rover. I'm almost doing 75 on the Newmarket bypass, heading for my mum's in Norwich. We are making good time. Not yet eight in the morning and more than halfway there. It is a warm early summer's day and everything is right with my world.
I've had the Land Rover over 13 years and it was old when I got it. In those 13 years, I'm proud to say, it has never been washed. I'm also proud of the fact that this gnarled but sturdy old tank can still touch 75 when the going is good. I am ignoring the speck on the windscreen. I mean it is no bigger than a couple of mill' across. Why should it bother me?
I take another sip from the can of Red Bull, only the second can of the day. And I would like you to know that I always go for the healthy sugar-free option. But that speck is still there. There is also a few score of insects freshly splattered on the screen. But they do not seem intent on catching my attention. I flick on the wipers, but it is out of reach and all that happens is the dead insects get smeared across the screen.
For I am a man in control of my life. I do not smoke; drink no more units per week than the government advises; do not take recreational drugs, or even the un-recreational sort unless the doctor orders. And not one sip of coffee has passed my lips since I had that last double espresso while sitting at an al fresco café on Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow on the third of October 2002. Which means I have been clean of the poison for seven years, seven months and two days.
I roll down the driver's side window and feel the warm rush of air hit my face. My elbow leans casually on the open frame, like I'm some character driving a pick-up truck in a movie based on a Cormac McCarthy novel.
Yeah, this is me, Bill Drummond, a man with an interesting past and, with a bit of luck, an even more interesting future. I mean, maybe it should be me that the movie is based on and not the Cormac McCarthy book. Who would they get to play me? Who would they get to play that speck on the windscreen?
Anyway, once I have bought the can I don't open it straight away. What I do is stand it on the shelf on top of the Land Rover's dashboard and leave it there. My record for leaving it is 27 minutes. While it stands there I can feel it already "vitalizing my body and mind". And to celebrate the fact I'm able to withstand its temptation for so many minutes, I pull the ring-pull and take a first sip. There is nothing like that first sip. And make sure it is never more than a sip; treat it as if you were drinking a good whisky. Not that I ever drink whisky. I despise and loathe everything that Scotch whisky represents... And I hate the way that generations of my fellow countrymen have destroyed theirs and their family's lives because of an addiction to the stuff.
I lift my right arm from where it has been resting in the open window and in my right fist, lift the can of Red Bull gently to my lips and take one ever so small sip. I'm feeling good. Or I would be if it was not for that speck on the windscreen. I put the Red Bull back on the ledge. Lean forward so my chest is almost touching the steering wheel, put my right arm out of the open window, bend my arm around so that my hand is now in front of the windscreen. The tip of my middle finger is less than an inch away from the speck. But I cannot stretch my arm any further. The speck stays in its place mocking me. Jeering my very existence on this earth. It is filling my whole head, obliterating all other thoughts.
I slam my foot on the brake, career onto the verge and leap out the door. You don't mess with Bill Drummond. In the eyes of some people I'm a hero, a legend, almost mythic. Give it a few more years and I'll be on Desert Island Discs. And you sit there on the windscreen of my Land Rover like you control the universe.
Between my thumb and forefinger I lift it off and flick it into the road with as much disdain as I can muster. Climb back into the cab of the Land Rover, head back out into the flow of traffic. And while doing so I can feel this overpowering sense of release flow.
This is an abridged version of the leaflet text
THE TRIANGLE OF SELF-OBSESSION: WILL SELF
Whatever you do once you've begun to read this leaflet, don't on any account put it down. You must, must, must read it through to the end. I don't believe in issuing idle threats, my threats – like Santa's malevolent, little helpers – work full time for me; and let me tell you that people who have started reading this leaflet but failed to finish it, have suffered ever afterwards from an awful, yawning, crackling sensation of paranoia, the sense that no matter which way they turn they can never quite catch sight of the dark figure, wielding an axe with homicidal intent, who hovers in the periphery of their vision.
In the beginning the world was without form and void of all things. Then I was created by God from a handful of primordial clay. And God saw that I was wonky and buffed me up a bit until I was more or less OK. Then he breathed into me and I received his inspiration. But the world remained without form and void of all things, so I asked God to make things that I would enjoy, and create other beings that I might share with them the fruits of His creation. And so it was. God made many things. He made cars and aerosol sprays, diverse musical instruments and fine bone china, knitting needles and beeswax furniture polish, funerary masks and dental equipment. And He saw that it was all good. Then God created the beings of this earth, the salamander and the orangutan, the tarantula and the seagull, the elk and the coelacanth – everything that wriggled and squirmed, swam and flew. And He saw that all of it was good. I, however, was largely indifferent to His handiwork, being a surly, adolescent kind of a character, much preoccupied with my own appearance and emotions.
So God created for me a triangle, saying, 'This triangle is made from bone and nerve tissue and blood vessels and glands and muscle and skin. I shall implant it within the very core of your body. Whatsoever, or whomsoever comes within this triangle of yours shall henceforth become the object of your preoccupation. You will find yourself unable to cease from contemplating their influence upon you, and yours upon them. And Lo! That will not be the end of it, for you shall act compulsively in respect of them, treating them if they be sentient as if they were objects, and if they be objects, as if they were sentient. That'll teach you to be so cocky.'
And so it came to pass. I can feel my triangle within me, even as I write this leaflet, and I daresay you can feel yours. I have endured the influence of my triangle for many years now, even though it has led me into much pain, into angry situations, and blighted my life with fear. I once met a rogue surgeon, and he convinced me that he would be able to cut out the triangle that bedevils me, slice it from me with his steely knives and whispering scalpels. And I bade him do so. But when the triangle was out of me, and lay in a pool of blood and white twistles of gristle on the operating table, I found myself compelled to take it up, and it had a good heft, like a nicely weighted boomerang, or any other finely constructed throwing implement. And I found that I could throw my triangle long distances and it would fall neatly around the shoulders of those that I pursued, snaring them in my bony force field of pain and anger and fear. Anyway, I soon grew another one inside of me, so now I had two.
It isn't a homicidal maniac who's creeping up behind you as you read this. It's me, with my triangle. Get out of here – fast.
MEMO TO AN INMATE WHO MAY BE AN ALCOHOLIC: BILLY CHILDISH
FORGET THE ROMANCE OF THE BOTTLE
i have no desire to be a riter
happy lovesome and whole
theres no value to become
only to be no one
its no great shakes
to be spark out in barcolona on 10 fat trebels
of spanish brandy
using the curbstone as a pillow
legs jutting out into the road
waiting for some passing maniac
to do a weel spin in your guts
because your sad and
and have fuckt too many
and lost too many
and have been burnt
by every girl
whos eyes have said no
you realise your idiocey
and stand and walk back into the bar
GETTING OFF CIGARETTES ON YOUR OWN IS HARD TO DO: BETH ORTON
I haven't given up... I'm planning. I'll wait till I've ovulated. If I'm not pregnant... My period is due today. I'm probably... I'll ovulate... probably within a few days. They reckon it's better to quit between ovulation and your next period – the luteal phase. Better for kicking any addiction.
I've been trying to quit since I started. I was 12. I was immediately trapped, completely caught. But I do believe there is a way... a leap of consciousness, not as high falutin' as it sounds. I've done the books, done seminars, watched videos. I've been reading the Allen Carr book all my life. I only do three or four cigs a day. That's all my body can handle. Except sometimes a couple more can slip in. Smoking is romantic, like a collusion – rolling a cigarette is like rolling into a belief system. It's about grief. When I quit, I cry – for dead people, and loss. I cry for weeks. Once that passes I feel amazing. Then I feel on top of it, and start again. I like smoking on my own the best. I don't get up and smoke, but I'd go there if I could. I have picked up butts – when I was young, when I was looking for 20p pieces. Actually, 20p pieces didn't exist then.
I like American Spirit rolling tobacco – I love it. Golden Virginia is too oily. Old Holborn – no. My granddad used to smoke Old Holborn, in his pipe. When he died I found old crusty tobacco at the bottom of his pipe. I smoked it. I started when my dad died. He was a chain smoker – someone said I smoke to be close to him. I love the smell of smoke on your skin and wine on your breath. The smell of smoke on my fingers. You kiss me goodnight... the shadows...
'19 Raptures' launches this evening at Rochelle School, Arnold Circus, London E2 7ES. Admission is £35, which includes a copy of the publication. Texts are also published by Neal Brown as individual leaflets, priced £22. A £245 set in a special slipcase (designed by Bella Freud and signed by the contributors) is also available. All proceeds go to the charity RAPt (The Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust) which offers drug and alcohol treatment services to prisoners in UK jails ( www.nineteenraptures.co.uk)
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