There are times when I get jealous of people who do coke. I mean, who wouldn’t like a pick-me-up between the fifth and sixth pint? When I start to feel sloppy and my mind wanders to cheesy chips and calling it a night, I’ve got friends who are strutting out of the toilet like Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western.
Years ago, I was well into the ceremony of it all – the chopping up of the lines while deep in conversation, passing round the snooter like an (un)holy communion.
Thankfully, soon after those thoughts emerge I quickly recall what it was actually like when I used to take coke. I had a really unhealthy relationship with it and quit seven years ago because I had become one of those people who wouldn’t go to bed until the contents of the baggie had completely diminished. I’d still be putting in a shift working on the packet, periodically glancing out of the window to see if anyone was there, when the sun started peeking through the curtains and my housemates were getting up for work. That was when I would start to weigh up my life decisions.
At some point I did enjoy it; when I first tried it, it felt like I was enveloped in layers upon layers of extra self-confidence, like ready-made confidence arrogance sold by the tiny bag. But something changed: I started getting pummelled by anxious thoughts when I got a bag in, and that anxiety would morph into paranoia.
I would go to a party and overthink everything: “who shall I talk to now? where should I sit now?” – things that you should just do without considering them in any detail. When you’re paying £60 to ruin your night, reader, you know it’s time to leave that shit alone. So, I did. And I’m glad, because coke can be a cruel mistress.
Elliott Wald, aka The Cocaine Therapist, has 28 years of experience specialising in addiction. He talks a lot about this on his TikTok and YouTube channels and sees 60 clients a week who suffer from that problem, so I thought he’d be a good person to talk me through some strategies to use if you realise you’ve got a problem with coke.
Give me some misconceptions about coke…
That people can use it and never end up with an addiction. That’s a rarity. And I think in terms of the actual users, it isn’t just one type of person; I have clients that are in the building industry, from bricklayers to plumbers to plasterers, but I also have a paediatric surgeon, a judge, multiple police officers and teachers. It’s not constrained to any one type of person, whether that’s financial, educational or occupational.
What are the signs that you could be developing an addiction to the packet?
When you’re not present with your family, when you’re using on your own, when it’s gone from social to anti-social. I’ll put a video out, for example, that says, “How often do you use?” And I see a lot of people write, “I only use once a week, I’m not an addict.” Well, even if you use once a week, if you do it every weekend, you could have an addiction. Even if you use once a month, you could have an addiction. Try going six months without using: that’s a different story.
Why is it that some people can have a couple of keys every few months and seemingly be fine?
I mean, that does happen. But I would say if you are looking on a pie graph of users, you’re looking at five per cent.
What would you advise people if they’ve reached their lowest point? When the sun is coming up and they’ve decided to quit taking coke?
It’s five o’clock in the morning, the birds are chirping and you think to yourself, “What the fuck have I done?” That moment?
You should delete the dealer’s number. And for at least a month, stop drinking alcohol, because alcohol is a gateway for many users. You then need to break your circle. When you use, you do that with other users and that becomes your tribe. The tribe then congregates in the tribal hut. That is a place where your tribe feels comfortable to go and use – it could be a local pub. If you’ve decided you don’t want to use, you can’t be in the tribal hut.
I see some people using outside their financial capability. I have a client who is 200 days clean now. He used to unload a lorry at night. Hard graft. He was getting paid about £120 a day but he was spending £100 a day on cocaine just to get the work done. He went to work just to make his dealer rich.
Okay, what else should you do if you want to quit?
Identify your enablers and delete those numbers, too. You may not go to that environment but you still might have people around you who use and you’ve got to look at them. Here’s a question I ask my clients: if you’ve got a friend you use with, how often do you do other things with them? They often say rarely or never. A big one is structure. You have to put some structure in your life, because the longer you use, the more it narrows down the things in your life that you do.
How can you help a friend who’s struggling with coke?
You want to try and encourage that person to seek help. All you can do is encourage them and create some structure in their life by making commitments to do things with them outside of that environment. You know, let’s go to the gym, to the cinema, go for a cycle or a game of squash. I’m a great advocate of exercise. Probably not go for a meal, though, as that could involve alcohol and they could use after. Commitment to do other things is so important because this drug creeps up on you and wants to grab hold of you. And when it does, it doesn’t want to let you go.