I tried my luck as an addictions counsellor once. I was a private practitioner – I’d started up my own business and was on the Back To Work scheme. Interesting line of work, addictions counselling. Fellas would come to see me because they couldn’t help themselves from taking heroin. It was a big problem back then in the nineties. Probably still is, I suppose. They’d be smoking it off silver foil or mainlining it. One way or another. It all comes to the same thing – addiction.
So I’d see your man and there’d be plenty of straight-talking: “Stop taking the skag you bastard” I’d say and he’d promise not to. “It’s bad news that old heroin,” he’d say, “No one knows that better than me…” Then after a bit more straight talking I’d tell him that his time was up and that I’d see him the same time next week. And he’d give me my fee. Then the next week it’d be the same thing – your man would have gone back on his word and there’d have to be some more straight talking. “Just fucking stop taking the stuff you bastard” I’d say and he’d promise faithfully not to and that’d be that. “I won’t Nick, ” he’d say, “I can see where it’s taking me and I don’t want to go there…” And then he’d turn up the next week and it’d be the same thing. Every week the same old thing. The same old ding dong.
That’s addictions for you. Every addictions counsellor knows this. That’s the territory you’re dealing with. That’s the nature of the beast. That’s how it goes – there’s a kind of basic predictability to it. You get to know the lie of the land fairly quickly in this line of work. Good steady money in it anyway, you’re probably thinking. Being an addictions counsellor. So you might think. So I thought too, to start off with, but it didn’t turn out that way. For a start, junkies aren’t exactly well known for being flush with the cash. I had to bring my rates right down to get any business at all. Twelve pounds for a 45 minute session I ended up charging which was a joke. And then another problem was that junkies are notoriously dishonest and untrustworthy. Your man would keep turning up without the fee and promising that he’d pay me the next week. All sorts of excuses, you wouldn’t believe the type of excuses he’d come up with. One time your man told me he had to spend the tenner he was going to give me on a ten bag because he was so sick that he wouldn’t have been able to make it over otherwise. And he sat there nodding like a bastard for the next 45 minutes.
And I was falling for this crap. I was owed hundreds of euros. The final straw was when my only regular customer started tapping me for money on various outrageous pretexts. Financially speaking, I wasn’t doing well at all. The business endeavour took a nosedive and after a few years I had to pack it in. Write it off as bad idea. Go back on the dole. The only positive thing that I got out of it was my HP desktop computer and printer which I got a grant for. So it wasn’t a total disaster…