It didn’t take me long to go from using drugs to dealing them. Even since I was a kid I had hung around older boys who were into drinking and drugs and the hippy, traveller lifestyle. Some of them dealt hash and I saw the respect they got – nobody messed with them. I saw the girls they got to be with. I saw their flashy cars, their money. I could do that easily, I thought.
Yet, between leaving school and my 18th birthday I had been arrested twice and chucked out of an apprentice scheme that would have set me up with a job for life. None of that caused me worry – if I could get a good supply, some good contacts and start afresh in a bigger city like London I could become a big time dealer and get the respect I deserved.
Walshy and some other friends came to London with me. In the ’80s it was easy to scam the system. We made multiple benefit claims with false identities and I got myself into a bit of cheque fraud. I met Nick a few days after getting to London. He was sitting in the middle of a squat lounge, like a Buddha meditating, surrounded by piles of hash and hundreds of LSD trips. I watched him pop pill after pill and smoked hash with him while he served customer after customer.
Life in London with my new friend Nick and plenty of drugs was going well – but it wasn’t long before the police arrested me for the cheque-cashing scheme. I was going to prison and I knew I wouldn’t be able to hack it. My dad had been to prison and told me about the beatings and rapes and murders. Nick took me to the only person he knew who could get me out of the fix I was in – his drug supplier, Terrorist Brian.
Brian had been involved in the IRA and had a house with floorboards full of drugs and guns. When Nick introduced me, Brian had a pile of cocaine in front of him and was paranoid that the terrorist squad was watching his house. I thought it was all front. I would learn that there was nothing phony about Brian’s terrorist persona. He told me how to get out of a prison sentence – what to say and how to plead. Then he told me that I could repay the favour one day. I knew that would be trouble, but there was something inside me that felt like I had won the jackpot.
As I left his house my eyes searched for the terrorist squad. I couldn’t see anything but I felt watched. I got a buzz from being around Brian – a terrorist, a drug dealer. Brian was big stuff and somebody that could help me make my plans a reality. This was a buzz of danger. I was part of that danger now. I was heading towards the big time.
Mark Dempster is author of Nothing to Declare: Confessions of an Unsuccessful Drug Smuggler, Dealer and Addict, available now on Amazon.
Next issue: Mark tries his hand at drug smuggling as his drinking and drugging escalates