'The joy of addiction is when you are free of it,' says Hampstead author
Jacobien van der Kleij
- Credit: Jacobien van der Kleij
If you are an addict or alcoholic, the moment you take that first drink or drug – all bets are off.
Editor of the Hampstead Village Voice Sebastian Wocker understands well the feeling, which is “the result of a nasty little condition called addiction".
For his debut book The Joy of Addiction: Confessions of a Teenage Wastrel, Sebastian recalls his drug-addiction memories and writes about the confessions of “a teenager who hurtles into the abyss of drug and alcohol dependency".
Born and bred in Hampstead to German parents, Sebastian was at a young age picked on by the other kids in the playground because of his origin.
Slowly but “strangely” he started to gravitate to the little criminal elements in the Hampstead of the 1970s and '80s.
“How does a boy scout with six badges of merit of a scratchy little green jersey turn into a no-good, thieving junkie?” he asked himself.
Being a teenager is hard enough without throwing a lot of drugs into the mix. But most teenagers experiment.
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“With this book, I would like to give the readers, addicts or family of addicts some perspective on what can lead to addictive behaviour,” he said
The events in the book occurred mostly between 1979 and 1988, when Wocker was aged 15 to 22 and actively addicted to cocaine, speed, weed and alcohol.
The tragicomedy is not arranged in chronological sequence and he told the Ham&High: “I can’t remember exactly when it all happened – but it did all happen.
"I am lucky that I still remember all that happened and as I wrote the book, more and more came up.”
The book opens with Sebastian heading to Downing Street to demand an audience with Margaret Thatcher. It goes into the mind’s eye of a pothead who is mentally tortured by his use of LSD and decides to start a revolution – with none of his friends backing him up.
It is an international journey, taking the writer to destinations including New York, Amsterdam, Berlin and Barcelona.
“There was one moment I was scuffling through the streets of New York and I thought: 'Oh sh*t, I am actually one of those junkies that make you want to cross the road when you see them.
“Every time I hit a rock-bottom, I thought travelling would cure me, but of course it didn’t.”
The book is divided into three sections: “Hurtling into the abyss, hurtling further in the abyss, and fixing a hole."
He said: "The really fun part to read is this idiot hurtling into the abyss. He keeps banging his head against the brick wall, hits rock bottom multiple times and eventually asks for help. It is a bit of a road movie in that sense.
“My whole life was centred around getting drugs. Addicts will go at any length to find what they need. They are very resourceful, but not in a good way."
A recurring theme of the book is that addiction is one of the only conditions whose primary symptom is to tell the sufferer that they do not have it.
“However uncomfortable an addict is with an addiction, he or she will be able to endure it. An addict will always be 'hungry' for more drugs, in spite of the negative consequences," he said.
“It is only when I was really, really scared, on the brink of death, that I was able to do something. And leaving the sh*t-show of the life I led whilst using drugs – that’s no mean feat.
“Once you know you are an addict, and you completely wave the flag and surrender and no longer have to use, it is the best feeling in the world. It is like wearing very uncomfortable shoes the whole of your life and then finally being able to kick them off.
“The real joy of addiction is that moment in your recovery when you realise that, not only are you clean, but you no longer have the desire to use. You are free. I am still an addict, but a recovering addict, not a suffering addict."
The Joy of Addiction is on sale now from Amazon and will be officially launched at West End Lane Books on February 2.