The phone is on silent but the possible implications of walking out of the meeting to answer it, feel akin to putting my head inside Lemmy’s bass cab as he prepares for an onstage duet with John Entwistle, demanding they both turn their amplifiers up, such is the internal psychological noise this situation is generating inside my head. I decline the call and try to regain some focus, it rings again, I stare at it again, I realise who it is and I’d be lying if I said they’d somehow obtained my number without my prior permission, but as I sit and pretend to myself this is an easy decision to make, the speaker in the room mentions something about..
“Living in my truth these days...”
This may well sound exactly like the sort of pseudo-cosmic slop, many people feel is the foundation of self-help groups and thus reason enough to avoid them, but to me, it makes perfect sense and I decline the call.
As the person speaking continues to clarify how they managed to extricate themselves from the nightmare of their past addictions, a story I heavily identify with, littered as it is with bad choices, lies, self-loathing and the apparent inability to exist in their own skin, my phone rings for the third time.
Lemmy and Entwistle have now decided to perform Lou Reed’s metal music machine in its entirety with Mumford and Sons as special guests, clearly I have to make a decision, this cannot be allowed to continue, I walk out of the room.
By the time I’m standing outside, the phone has stopped ringing, allowing for the possibility that I will perhaps not have to take any responsibility for the decision as to what to do next, the phone rings again, Mumford and Sons invite Joseph Goebbels onstage to do an acoustic number...
“Hello, Simon speaking..”
“Simon, hello, it’s **** ****** from The Sun, you’re publishers said you’d be up for doing an ‘exclusive’ interview about your book”
So yes, as I’ve said already, our erstwhile hack has not tracked me down unassisted. The PR person in charge of promoting the book had given him my number because I’d told her I’d talk to him. She has my best interests at heart as do the publishers of the book, they are trying to do their job and fully understand the potential for increased sales if the story is picked up by a tabloid that sells millions.
So do I.
Since coming into ‘recovery’ over 7 years ago, I have always worked; I’d no sooner be on benefits that I would heroin these days. I fully accept also that I am not deserving of a medal for doing so, going to work is what most people were doing throughout the years I spent gouging out, slowly killing myself, terrifying my family and friends and avoiding responsibility of any kind.
If any of you have read Too High Too far Too Soon, you will know already that I do not attempt to hide from a life shot through (and up) with behaviour I am not proud of, I don’t attempt to excuse myself from some of the pathetic decisions made during a decade addicted to heroin and alcohol, I did what I did and have attempted to make amends where possible in the subsequent 7 years I have been ‘clean’.
My life these days is a simple one, I go to work, pay my rent/ bills, ensure I provide adequately for my 5 year old daughter and have the absolute luxury of running a 10 year old motor. As it is with many people, after taking care of these costs, plus the months shopping, there is absolutely nothing left, not a penny, ever. Again I am not seeking to obtain anyone’s sympathy by informing the world what most of us know already, times are tough, money is scarce, get on with it, unlike running a car, self pity is not something I can afford.
I wrote a book, a book similar to many others that attempt to describe addiction from the perspective of the individual involved, my wonderful agent has told me, from day one, most books don’t make any money, certainly not a life changing amount anyway.
I love my agent, he understands perfectly my inclination to drift off into fantasyland, he was one of the first people to read the book, so his opinion is one I value. My publishers have been utterly devoted to the cause as well, it goes without saying that without either of them, you would not be reading this article because there would be no book to talk about.
I am not in the business of telling people what they should read, anymore than I feel in a position to tell people what they should believe theologically, who they should vote for, or indeed what football team they should follow, it’s none of my business is it? Yes I have opinions about all the above but I also have good friends who enjoy tucking into the stories served up by the tabloids each morning, others who answer the call to prayer 5 times a day or attend church on a regular basis, as well as mates who voted for the Tories and I’m even on speaking terms with a season ticket holder at Old Trafford.
I dearly wish I could promise my daughter a holiday of a lifetime trip to Disneyland, she lives a few minutes away from me with her mother, here in Hackney, an area of London where renting a tiny 1 bedroom flat won’t leave you with much change from £1200 a month. She comes to stay with me 2/3 times a week, we share a bed, its fine, she’s five.
Wages for substance misuse workers are not great, better than it is for many people, but still barely enough to afford somewhere decent to live here in the metropolis. I do the school run as often as possible, I cannot begin to contemplate moving away from Hackney and seeing less of her. I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs, I don’t do much, its fine, like I said already I have a simple life which when compared to the chaos of the years lost to addiction, is a gift I cherish and try to not take for granted.
So, holidays abroad? Out of the question, being able to rent a 2 bed flat close to my kid when in a few years when it’s no longer appropriate for her to share my bed? Also out of the question, getting housed by Hackney council? Ha ha ha you must be fucking joking!!
My publishers are fully aware of this situation, I can assure you they would be almost as delighted as my daughter would be, were the book to sell enough copies to allow us a trip to McDisneyland, she’s my only child, I love her more than life itself, she wants to go, of course she does, she’s a princess!!
That’s the ‘back’ story, meanwhile, Lemmy, The Ox, Mumford and sons and Joseph Goebbels have now been joined by another, somewhat worrisome presence battling to make it-self heard over the din inside my head and no! I don’t mean the reporter currently waiting to speak to me on the phone.
The invisible lead vocalist of the in-head, onstage, super group of noise makers and wickedness, currently trying to decide whether having the Mumford’s backing up Goebbels is perhaps a sin too far, belongs to the internal department charged with providing me with, or indeed the removal of, my own sense of self-esteem.
It’s a tricky job and not one I would wish to be undertaken on a performance based salary, so to speak, of late we’ve kinda been doing ok, certainly better than ‘we’ were for many years!
When I was first informed of the interest of that particular paper, quite possibly at the same time as I was trying to figure out how I was going to eat during the week prior to payday, I’d reluctantly agreed to talk to them. I’d spoken to a few close friends about the situation, as I saw it, none of whom said it would make any difference to how they felt about me. Some went as far as saying that as the book has a happy ending, insofar as I write a little about my recovery from years of acting like an utter dickhead, perhaps the added exposure to people who might gleam a little hope for, either themselves, or loved ones similarly afflicted to myself for all those years, might perhaps alleviate the struggle I was clearly having in deciding whether or not to give that paper my ‘story’.
Why was I even struggling to make this decision? I’ve said already that what other people chose to read is none of my business. I’ve supported Liverpool football club for over 30 years, that’s why. If reading that last sentence leaves you none the wiser as to why this situation is a problem for me, thank you for getting this far in this article, but I’m guessing what follows will make no sense at all.
I go to Anfield on the rare occasions I can find a ticket and afford the day out, I took my eldest nephew last season, he’s a good lad who supports his local team (Bristol City) but on the journey home after watching ‘us’ destroy Swansea 5-0, he told me it was one of the best days of his life. I will be taking my daughter when she’s old enough too!
A Liverpool supporter with a cockney accent who was born in Somerset may well bring a few wry smiles from those scousers in blue, but I’d like to think that “Typical red shite” comments aside, the Goodison faithful can appreciate my dilemma just as well as those who worship on the other side of Stanley Park.
Feel free to judge me for not making, what I assume, for many would not have been a decision they had to contemplate for even a second, I can’t lie about it, at first I’d agreed to talk to the paper, everybody involved with the the book, only wanted it to sell well and perhaps make Disneyland a reality.
I’m standing outside the NA meeting, choices and voices combined with the mental image of my daughters face erupting with joy when I tell her we’re going to see Cinderella and friends next year.
All currently doing battle to be heard above the each other, never mind the guy from the paper, now suggesting we do this ‘exclusive’ down the phone, “Just give me a few names about the bands that were on smack Simon! Who did the most coke? What was **** like, was he on the smack too? Did they always pay you? How much money did you make?" etc etc...
Suddenly, there is silence almost as if Lemmy and Entwistle have got bored and fucked off down the pub while Goebbels and the Mumford’s have also left the stage to go and discuss who’s made the more significant contribution to tyrannical humanitarian wrongdoing.
“Hello, Simon, are you there mate? Let’s do the interview now eh...be great for the book, just give me some good stories about *****”
There is an echo from inside the room I have just vacated,
“Living in my truth.....
“Living in my truth....
“Living in my truth....
“I’m sorry, I can’t do this interview, please don’t call again.”
“Living in my truth...”
I switch the phone off and return to the NA meeting to live in mine.
The next day I call my publishers to apologise for putting them in a difficult situation, they gracefully accept my decision, as does my agent. My daughter, of course loves me regardless, as do my friends and family.
I’m very much hoping to sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at the top of my voice at Anfield next season, but not if the cost involved would ultimately prevent me from taking Tabitha to Disneyland.
Follow Simon on Twitter @simonmasonsays