This article originally appeared on VICE UK
Secret Drug Addict's name is a misnomer. Sober since 2007, he's established a committed Twitter following through his honest conversations around narcotics and takeovers of ex-footballer and unlikely Twitter hero Neville Southall's account.
After cutting his (presumably quite numb) coke-taking teeth at Creation Records in the late 1990s, becoming an enthusiastic member of the Oasis entourage, he embarked on years of addiction before finally getting clean in 2007. Now 42, almost absurdly affable, with a wife, two kids and a natural raconteur's love of an unpublishable story, he has opened up his Twitter DMs for anyone suffering with drugs or mental health problems.
I called him up for a quick chat about his story and addiction, then spent half the afternoon on the phone.
VICE: The excesses of the Britpop era are hugely glamourised now. Were drugs really freely acceptable?
Secret Drug Addict: Yeah, they were part and parcel of the job. Alan McGee [Creation Records founder] cleaned up by the time I was there, and the office culture had changed – there were marketing managers from Warner Brothers around. So the attitude was like, "You're the rock and roll one now," and I was encouraged to be chaotic. Bands would come to London and it was absolutely fine for me to leave my desk and score for them.
You were so young then – 17 years old to 21 years old. How do you reflect on the time now?
I had an incredible time and got to work with the world's coolest bands and musicians at their peak – you know, I knew Liam Gallagher, and he came out with me on a three-day session for my 21st birthday. I take full responsibility for my choices, but I do think there was a lack of duty of care considering I was incredibly young. I turned up as a kid and left not much older with a serious drug habit. I was doing around 20 grams of coke a week – as well as drinking heavily and taking valium – when I was told to pack my shit up, with no verbal warning or whatever.
That's a lot of cocaine. How were you even functioning?
I wasn't – that's why I was asked to leave the job! I was starting to turn up in the afternoon. Or I'd go to gigs and leave after two minutes because there were other places I wanted to be.
Leaving Creation so suddenly must have been very traumatic.
I didn't realise then, but I had a nervous breakdown afterwards. Before this, I'd meet people and be introduced as, "This guy works for Oasis," and then suddenly I was just a fuck-up: a drug addict who lost his dream job. It was incredibly hard. It took a very long time to emotionally recover from.
Do you think Creation and Alan McGee should have been more aware of your deteriorating condition?
Alan was a fantastic guy. He took me under his wing and really taught me a lot about the workings of the music industry and how to navigate the personalities and egos of musicians. I just don't think he realised the extent of my drug use or how ill I was getting while working for Creation. I don't have a bad word to say about him.
When did you first engage with drug treatment?
I knew in 1998 that my relationship with drugs wasn't right, and the doctors sent me to a drugs service on Pentonville Road. I was in and out of drugs services from then, with an active drugs worker and using therapeutic services, but it wasn't until 2007 that I got clean.
Was there a rock bottom moment?
It was a drip-drip effect. The consequences became worse – losing jobs, homes, relationships, friendships. I had somebody die of an overdose on my lounge floor, which definitely wasn't in the script when I was 12 or 13, reading Led Zeppelin autobiographies and dreaming of working in the music business. It was also going to NA and meeting other drug addicts that were in the same position. Ultimately, I was just sick and tired of feeling like shit from the moment I woke up – of not being to manage my emotions.
When did you start the Secret Drug Addict account?
Two years ago, but I've only been seriously doing it for 15 months. Initially it was just me talking about drugs, then people started inboxing me and I started doing takeovers with Neville [Southall]. We'd talked a bit on Twitter, then he had this idea that drug or mental health services predominantly worked during the day, so asked if I would be around at night – it was 9PM to 2AM – to be available to chat to people and post stuff on his account.
And nowadays your own DMs are open 24/7. What's the most common question you get asked?
They are. I get 20 to 30 messages a week, and I reply to everybody. If I miss someone, it's never on purpose. The most common question is definitely people asking how I stopped using.
Why do you think all these people are engaging with you?
The main thing for me was how alone I used to feel: it was so therapeutic and powerful meeting someone that had been through the same experience. So when a person DMs me and says they’re having trouble with their drinking, I can empathise and tell them I got through it and that I'm not special.
Why do you think we’re currently dealing with high rates of drug use and deaths in the UK?
The huge funding cuts are the main thing: people are unhappy, they’re stressed out and self-medicating. But you can also look at drug policy at a governmental level. There's county lines, kids being excluded from school. There's the gig economy. It's a collaboration. There’s a punk, "no future" thing – no one can buy a house, you won't have the life your parents have, so life becomes all about the moment.
What would you say to someone who thinks their drinking or drug-taking is getting out of hand but doesn't know how to address it?
Message me. If you're having these concerns, then it's probably a good idea to deal with them. You don't have to lose everything before addressing your problematic behaviour. You don't have to have someone dead on your living room floor. You can sort it earlier, before your thirties or forties, before everything turns to shit.
If you want to speak to Secret Drug Addict, his DMs are open now.