J-Rock: A rappers battle to keep off the grass

The rapper J-Rock has smoked marijuana every day since he was 13. Now 27, he's desperate to give it up. But can he do it? His diary of his struggle to stay clean tells all

Tuesday 14 February 2006 01:00 GMT
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DAY 1

I have three spliffs on my first day, which isn't the best start, even though normally I'd have eight, nine or 10. Everything in my life has weed around it. If I was driving in my car I'd have a spliff. Or if I was just kicking it with my friends, I'd have a spliff. Or if I was on stage, I'd have a spliff. Eating, going to the toilet. Everything has weed attached to it.

The first day's very difficult. I have a lot to do - I'm at meetings, and in the studio - and I need to concentrate. And at that time, I thought that I couldn't concentrate without a spliff. But I realise, now, that the weed clouds your vision of reality, and you go about your day on a dozy one.

DAY 2

I manage to get through day two spliff-free. Basically, what changes between day one and day two is that I had told all my friends that I was giving up, and they had then seen me smoking spliffs. A lot of people were putting my spirit down, and saying that I couldn't do it. I thought "no, I can do it". What they said gave me extra incentive.

Day two is also when I start seeing a drugs counsellor, Lee. We talk about some serious things - my paranoia, and the fact that I used to self-harm when I was depressed. I used to cut myself on my arms so that some of the pain I was feeling inside would come out. And I'd never talked to any of my friends about it. It was pretty difficult to do it but I had to be honest with myself.

Talking to the counsellor about those things helped me to recognise what I was going through. I started to realise that I was contributing to my self-destruction every time I had a spliff. But the counsellor said to me, "You're going to find the real you underneath the weed." And I was like "Well, what if I don't like the real me? What if the real me's a wanker?" I'd been smoking since I was 13, I had no idea what I was like. Maybe I would be an uptight guy without weed? Maybe I wouldn't be able to crack jokes or be a fun guy? But actually, stopping smoking weed has made me more sociable - I can't stop talking now.

On the night of the second day I get the worst migraine - something I've been getting since I was 14. I managed to get through it without weed, even though, in the past, weed has been my medicine.

DAY 7

At the end of the first week, I go to my first red-carpet bash, the Kiss FM awards, weed-free. The awards themselves were cool, because no one can smoke in those places. But the after-party was difficult, because everyone was in their own cliques, smoking weed. But for the first time I can remember, I could smell it like a hound dog. And all I wanted to do was get out of that club, because the smell made me want to vomit.

DAY 8

The next day, I visited my counsellor, who asked if I'd been passive smoking. He thought that if I could smell it, then I was passive smoking. I couldn't believe that! It wasn't that I wanted to smoke the weed. I wanted to get away. But the dude was like, "You're passive smoking. It's not good enough."

I thought: bloody hell! Normally, I'd be in the middle of that crew, smoking the biggest joint. I didn't understand what he wanted me to do. Did he want me to change my whole lifestyle, or did he want me just to give up weed? At the end of the day I don't think I can get away from my friends that smoke. And I'd never blame them for doing it either. I'm not a hypocrite.

DAY 12

Tonight's a big moment for me and Big Brovaz. I perform for the first time ever without a spliff. I get butterflies, but the show is cool, and I know now I can do my thing without weed.

DAY 14

I go round to Sharon, my partner's, place. We spend loads of quality time with our daughter, as she does her homework. We used to have some quality time before, but this is different. I would never let her be around me when I smoked. Now we talk a lot more.

DAY 18

I'm getting really angry with tiny things now. I'm angry on the road, especially. At first, I thought, "Maybe this is just what I'm like. Maybe I'm an angry person."

Now I think that the anger was to do with coming off the drug. When you're coming off any drug, you become agitated. You want something, but you can't have it. I know that all my friends have weed, I know people who sell weed. It's all very accessible. That's an aggravating position to be in. But it's all part of that "cold turkey" stage.

What's worse is I'm angry today, and I've got to record. I see my friend Skillz, a producer, to discuss some backing tracks. Then I go down to the recording studio. But it's not happening. I can't think of lyrics for hours. Finally, I get on a roll and get the lyrics done. It's a pressured environment. I've got to write and lay down a track all in one day.

When it comes to putting down my flow, I get stuck on the first verse. Eventually, I get the first verse right, and then I get my flow back. We end up with a wicked track. It's another first for me - recording a track weed-free. The producer is astonished too. He says: "I didn't think it could be done. Recording without trees."

DAY 19

I arrive to meet my counsellor, on a fuming one. I've just had a massive row with my missus. This is the day I'm the closest ever to smoking another spliff. I feel like blazing right now. But the counsellor sends me off to talk to some local kids about my addiction. Looking back on it, it was the best time ever to go and speak to those kids. I was more honest with them than I've ever been with anyone. I told them about my drug problem, my career, how I used to self-harm. And they were impressed. One of them said, "When you came in, I thought you were a wanker. But you've changed my perception." That really touched me. I still see the kids and help them out with their music.

DAY 25

I see my parents for the first time since giving up smoking. It's difficult. I have to tell them about my weed habit, which they never knew about. My Dad and Mum are shocked, because they are from the old school. I've never told them before because I knew how much it would hurt them. But we get on better now that I've been honest.

DAY 31

It's the day when I have to test myself, to see if all the weed has left my body. But one stripe on the equipment means I've failed. There's still THC inside me. It's very disappointing, after a month of not smoking. I don't know how to take this news. I'll try again in a week.

DAY 38

The TV cameras went away after a month. And my life has just got better and better. I'm doing more business, I'm getting involved with more projects - acting in a West End play, a movie in London, an album with Universal. Big Brovaz are back together and the relationship I've got with the group is getting better.

I do a test to see whether I've still got THC in my system, and I pass. It feels amazing. It's the first time since I was 13 I've had no weed in my system. Beyond all my achievements I'm most proud of this. No one can tell me I'm a pot head any more. And I've realised you don't need weed in your system to be a heavy rapper. You don't need weed to be the best actor. You don't need weed for anything, you just need yourself.

J-Rock was talking to Ed Caesar. 'Giving Up the Weed' is on Channel 4 on Monday at 10.20am

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