DDN October2021 October 2021 | Page 6



Drugs help to numb the pain of trauma – and of incarceration – but art can be an integral part of recovery , SteelDoorStudios ( a serving prisoner ) explains

Am I conflicted ? Damn right I am . I ’ ve led a life of strife and turmoil , always feeling like an oddball . Even in my earliest of memories as a toddler I recall feeling like the odd one out – for such a tiny word , ‘ odd ’ can evoke vast amounts of connotations . I ’ ve no doubt that most of you at some time or other will have experienced your own concepts of odd – where did it take you , I wonder ? For me and many of those of my ilk , the odd continued down the surreal world of narcotic abuse , trying desperately to find something to fill that void in my soul whilst enduring the accompanying feeling of isolation and disconnection , which was just as painful as any of the physical beatings I ’ d experienced .

I never set out to be an addict – it was a natural progression for me . A child full of pain and angst looking for a salve . That salvation would eventually be found in heroin . It may well seem a bizarre statement to refer to heroin as my salvation , yet that is what it is . For without the unique properties that are very specific to heroin I believe I never would have got beyond my formative years . There is something about that particular drug that no other narcotic offers – it ’ s like injecting apathy . Being completely able to function without having to feel anything is like a dream come true for those of us who have experienced deep childhood trauma .
Yes , we all know it ’ s a double-edged sword . Just like any drug it takes its pound of flesh and the piper has to be paid , but today I have reached my mid-fifties and being a heroin addict was just part of my journey . I did what I did to survive , I spent over four decades in institutions of one kind or another , and when I look around all I see is despair reflected in the eyes of those trapped in the cycle of substance use .
Our prisons have become warehouses , revenue-generating machines processing the lost souls of addicts on a conveyor belt destined towards a revolving door . For those of you whose images of prison are shaped by the archetypal lovable rogue Norman Stanley Fletcher , you wouldn ’ t recognise the 21st century prison service . Between April 2018 and March 2019 , the prison population was just shy of 80,000 , and of that number 53,193 were in treatment – and that ’ s excluding those who claim not to be using . This is my backyard , I live here and I can testify it ’ s an epidemic , and what are our leaders doing about it ? What ’ s their solution ? Build more jails ! Robert Buckland , the recently demoted justice secretary , announced that £ 4bn would be ploughed into the criminal justice system with the go-ahead for 18,000 new prison spaces . I ’ m sure that each and every one of you has your own opinion on such a contentious subject and I can only offer mine – however it ’ s people who live here who truly get to see what goes on behind closed doors .
So let me tell you a little of where I am at today . I ’ m currently residing in one of only a