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Indy Lifestyle Online
I'M BEING allowed out - for a weekend break. Of course, this isn't Alcatraz and I could walk out whenever I want. People do that here. Sometimes they're right and it works. Most of the time they return drunk, smacked out, contrite, angry, pregnant, injured, homeless or just plain scared - but rarely all of these.

"Take it easy, Ben."

"It's hard out there."

"Go to a meeting."

"Remember, Ben, you can die out there."

With this kind of farewell, it's hard to imagine I'm going on holiday. But as soon I hit the sunny summer lane to the station, I have a spring in my step that only a boarding school pupil, prisoner or lunatic can feel.

The dangerous sense of uniqueness addicts feel is heightened by the months shut away for treatment. I have an overwhelming sense of power, exhilaration, invincibility. I immediately light up in a non-smoking carriage and start to feel superior to everyone who is, in my addict head, slavishly going about their dull, narrow business.

By the time I get to Waterloo Station, however, this has worn off, to be replaced by awe at the vastness and efficiency of the "real world". In the "real world" I remember great things are done. And people actually catch trains, instead of missing them because they're in the pub.

I realise how institutionalised I've become. I find I can't leave the station, but wander about staring at the drunks and the purposeful. I fight a sense of envy at the latter and tell myself I'm one of them.

"Go to a meeting, Ben." This mantra rings irritatingly in my ears so I go to a 40th birthday party at the members-only club.

I'm extremely lucky. I'm not returning to a squat inhabited by drug dealers and no one says to me "Go on, Ben, one drink won't hurt you". But the change from country clinic to London night life is too sudden. I feel unease at the ease of other people.

The rest of the weekend is a seesaw of thinking I'm cured, then looking forward to getting back. By Monday morning, it is like a holiday but only in the sense that it's good to get back, even though you've had a nice time.