First person: 'I lost everything to drugs'

Darren Gold, 37

I would never try to blame my addiction on my background. I came from a "good middle-class family" and wanted for nothing. But the trouble started at secondary school – I didn't fit in any peer group and I started comfort eating. By the time I was aged 13, I weighed 15 stone. I became miserable and got in with the wrong crowd; then I started shop-lifting, and had my first joint when I was 14. It made me laugh for the first time in years – and soon I was smoking every day and bunking off classes. My relationship with my parents started to break down, too, and the week before my exams, I was excluded from school.

My first stint in prison – for shop-lifting – came when I was 16. Being in a juvenile detention centre was a horrific experience. I never got over it. But back on the outside, I started smoking dope again – only this time it made me paranoid. The drug wasn't working, and before long I got into speed and LSD. They made me lose weight, and gave me a kind of confidence but I racked up huge debts – which my parents promised to pay off, so long as I went to stay on a Kibbutz in Israel. For the first six months, Israel was marvellous; a clean slate. Then I found some dope and moved away from the camp, to Tel Aviv, where I got caught selling cannabis and was sent to prison. It was awful: six beds in a 10-man room and the toilet was a hole in the floor.

When I got out, I met a girl who was using heroin. I was reluctant to try it, but ended up smoking a bit – and at first, it was amazing. It made me numb, and helped me forget all the bad things. By the time I returned to England, aged 23, I was using every day – and I ended up robbing my parents' house three times to pay for the habit.

After a while, smoking heroin wasn't giving me enough of a hit any more, so I started injecting, and I got on to crack too. By this point, I was in all kinds of trouble. I'd been kicked out of home, and was living between squats. The veins in my legs and arms had started to collapse, so I was injecting into my groin. I hit rock-bottom when I found myself waking up one night at a homeless hostel, and robbing the alcoholics while they were asleep.

One night I fell unconscious. There was an ulcer on my leg the size of a small football. I technically "died" on the way to hospital and had to be resuscitated; when I came round, all I wanted was more heroin. It took my mum telling me that it might have been easier if I had died, combined with the eight-stone mess that I saw reflected back at me in the mirror, to realise what I'd become.

That was the start of my recovery. It's been a slow journey, and there have been relapses. But I've now been clean for 10 years, have a wife and a 20-month-old son, Dylan. I spend my time speaking to school-kids about my experience, for Drugsline. I've wasted so many years of my life, but I'm making up for them now.

Do you have an interesting story to tell? E-mail firstperson@independent.co.uk

News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness