McCann, Richard - Just a Boy - An OBE from Ecstasy
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Richard McCann – Just a Boy
The nightlife in Leeds is good. Sometimes, on a warm summer evening, it can feel more like a coastal resort than a land-locked northern city. The streets are full of people in high spirits, enjoying the benefits of alcohol and illegal substances, not worrying about their downsides. Groups of people drift across the roads with no thought for the traffic, the women in their low-cut tops and short skirts showing off cleavages and tanned legs, enticing boisterous young men to shout suggestive remarks and banter loudly with one another. People sing as they weave from pub to pub, flirting and laughing. I love my home town when it is like that.
I was dating three women at the beginning of 1995, one of whom was a sweet girl called Louise. When I realised I was falling for her I gave up the other two and started seeing her most nights. We would go clubbing together and some nights we would stop at my house, sometimes hers. Her parents were great and treated me just like a son, but after a few months I started going out without her and sleeping with other girls, just as I had before. As with Karen, I wasn't able to hide my betrayals from her, which would make her cry and then forgive me, over and over again. I knew I was treating her badly, but the drugs and my desperate need to be liked was too powerful a cocktail to resist. I hated myself for my own weakness and often told her I wanted to end the relationship because I couldn’t stop myself from sleeping around. She stuck by me.
It was only a matter of time before I would make a mistake and get myself into serious trouble, but I was so out of it most of the time I never saw the direction it was coming from. I had a friend called Ray, who used to buy pills from me at weekends and would come round to the house now and then for a smoke. His boss had been in prison for dealing drugs and there was a rumour on the streets that he was now an informer. Some of us confronted Ray with this but he dismissed our fears as ridiculous. I remember one night when he split up with his girlfriend and came round to my house in a terrible state, looking for a shoulder to cry on. I was always very sympathetic to anyone who was hurting from a broken relationship, having been there so many times myself.
My lifestyle was beginning to affect my work. After phoning in sick and taking two weeks off I found myself included in a redundancy programme. I received a pay-off of a couple of thousand pounds and decided to combine business with pleasure and go into promoting dance nights.
I hired a local club for the night and called it 'Fever', running a talent showcase for up-and-coming DJs. I asked them to send in tapes and if they were any good I agreed to let them play for an hour each. I had posters and fliers printed and stuck them up in all the trendy shops. I contacted a local magazine and they sent someone down to do a write-up on the night. It went well and the club asked me to run another night on a Thursday. I tried other venues as well, but always on weekdays because the weekends were run by the established promoters. Then I heard a rumour that a club owner was suffering from a drop in attendance on Friday nights, so I went to see him, clutching a bunch of fliers for other events I'd organised. He said he was willing to give me a go. I finally had a weekend club night. It was a bit like a family night out, as all my sisters and their boyfriends and Louise came. I used some of the DJs from my talent night as well as some of the more established ones. I hired vocalists and sometimes even limousines to be given away to lucky clubbers.
But it was an up-and-down business. I usually made no profit, although my weekends out paid for themselves.
However much I might have been enjoying myself, I eventually had to admit that I wasn't making a living in the promoting game. I had to get a proper job if I wasn't going to fall behind with the mortgage and lose my beloved house. I went to work in the despatch department of another fashion wholesaler and got some routine back into my life.
I was still buying E's for friends in order to fund my clubbing, and Sonia was taking drugs regularly at weekends too, when Leanne would stay with Andy's parents. It was heart-breaking to see her losing her grip on being a good mother when her daughter meant so much to her, but there was no doubt Leanne was much better off spending time in the steady life of her grandparents.
Then, every Tuesday and Wednesday night I started to have out-of-body experiences whenever I shut my eyes, my head spinning as I dreamed I was leaving the bed and rising above the house.
I actually started to enjoy the sensation and believed I could control it to some degree. Sometimes I would start falling back down to the bed at great speed, trying to scream with no sound coming out of my mouth and having to be woken by Louise, shaking and sweating. I knew it was a build-up of the drugs I'd taken at the weekend, but I was enjoying myself too much to think about stopping.
As I poured the drugs into my system in an attempt to escape the reality of my life. I ignored the potential dangers, thinking they would never affect me.
After one particularly heavy weekend, I didn't have the strength to get up on the Monday. I was going to have to ring in sick, but when I tried my voice out I couldn't think what I was trying to say. It was like a nightmare. I'd lost the power of speech. Words started to spill out in no particular order. I picked up the phone anyway and after a few wrong numbers managed to get through to my supervisor, mumbling that I wouldn’t be coming in. I could hear he was talking to me but I couldn't make sense of the words. I tried out a few possible replies. The moment I hung up I collapsed on the floor, the effort of trying to make conversation was too much.
I finally managed to get into work on Tuesday and kept my head down. I knew I was going to have to get my life together. I stayed off drugs for a few weeks, although I was still getting them for Ray, which was a nuisance, but I didn't know how to say no to him.
Walking through Leeds one evening, I saw a woman being helped into a taxi by what looked like her friends. She was so drunk she could barely walk, her legs dragging along the ground like a wounded soldier being rescued from the battlefield by colleagues. She was shouting obscenities at everyone around her and as I drew closer I realised it was Sonia, my beautiful sister.
'Sonia?' I tried to speak to her but she didn't seem to register that it was me.
'Don't worry,' her friends assured me, 'we'll stay with her.'
As I stood in the street, helplessly watching the taxi drawing away, I started to cry. How could she have got into such a state?
How could we both have ended up so desperate, when we cared for each other so much?