Have you ever met a drug dealer?
Amanda Connolly speaks to one student whose seemingly nonchalant drug use led to addiction, dealing, and death threats in the blink of an eye
Photos: JLM Photography (above), Amanda Connolly (below)
[*A false name is used throughout, in the interests of protecting the individual’s identity]
The vast majority of people are enthralled by AMC’s hit show Breaking Bad at the moment. It tells the story of a high school chemistry teacher, Walter White, who diagnosed with cancer resorts to cooking and selling crystal meth in order to pay for his treatment and ensure the welfare of his wife and children. He enlists former pupil Jesse Pinkman, a drug user himself, and their journey begins. The show chronicles the highs and lows of substance abuse from every angle and exposes the disturbing despotic power of drugs.
While shows like Breaking Bad bring the topic to the fore, the reality is we shouldn’t need a television programme to notice what is happening around us every day. It may also be argued that these shows glamorise the lifestyle of drugs and their grip on society. Slipping into a drug habit can happen to anybody, even you.
As a student, and above all if it is your first year in third-level, you are embarking on a new adventure mapping the rest of your life. You will be faced with lots of decisions both socially and academically.
Some will be miniscule and bear little significane on your overall path, but you may encounter decisions that will tempt you against your better judgement and throw you off course.
That’s exactly what happened to one Dublin student. Now a reformed drug addict and dealer, Sean* was one of the lucky ones.
It was always curiosity for me in the beginning. I’d see other people and think: ‘well they’re having a laugh and seem alright, not foaming at the mouth or anything – so why not?’ Some of the most intelligent and sharpest people I know have gotten mad out of it for periods in their lives. Drugs were accessible, they were readily available, and things like pills and hash or weed were affordable for someone my age.
Between leaving school and first year I got really into drugs, this is where it all began but I didn’t lose control at this point. College acted as a stepping stone for me, it opened the door and gave me an insight into Dublin’s drug scene.
After college I was working as a promoter and drugs became a normality. It was just that industry; drug use was rampant, and to a point still very much is. A lot of promoters would take and sell drugs but it was clear the more successful ones didn’t. A few of the companies I worked for here were staffed with people heavily involved in the drug scene. This is still a factor when it comes to larger events such as festivals.”
[At this point in his life Sean had graduated, was working in a relatively lucrative industry, and got a taste for money and the high life. He told me candidly about the attraction and how his own involvement with drugs progressed.]
I saw what could be made from it and what could be done smartly. I recognised the potential to make a lot of money and took advantage. I suppose you could say it was greed. It was. I just wanted easy money and I didn’t want to work too much for it.
I knew if I got a hundred pills, I could sell them in one night and make myself a tidy profit. Quick, easy money was the name of the game. So I would get a hundred pills off a fella I knew and go to the bar on a Thursday. I had no problems getting rid of them, every single one of them. Rockers and ‘metallers’ inhaled drugs. I used to go down there and clean house.
I was still doing pills every now and again but I wasn’t into taking them as much once I started selling. I would go to parties and maybe take one then be mad out of it doing business until there were none left. Having a laugh and making money.
As time progressed, I sold more drugs, made more money and spent a bit more. I ate well. I travelled. I went to London every weekend at one stage when I was making thousands a week, mostly selling ecstasy. That was back in 2007-2009, when pills were deadly. I was still working in the nightlife industry and especially on the techno scene, so ecstasy and that went part and parcel.
I started with hundreds, then I’d get more and more and always sell them. My supplier left the country and put me in direct contact with his ‘boss’ so I had moved up a few links in the chain. I still wasn’t sure where exactly they were coming from but he did swear to me he wasn’t involved with the IRA or gangs. I didn’t know for certain though. They seemed to be the ones with all the drugs. From then on I was getting in thousands of pills and making thousands of euros each week.
The suppliers constantly and persistently offered me various other drugs because I was buying in large quantities off them, I was moving faster than most other people at the time. At one stage I didn’t even touch the ‘stock’. I had people working for me, it was a business. I would just pay. It got collected and brought to a house. Everything would be sold off almost immediately then the money was dropped to me.
When cocaine came on the scene in Dublin there was a LOT of money to be made. Nearly everyone who was regularly buying pills off me had asked about cocaine. You’d be surprised by the people who bought it off me.
I had always thought I wouldn’t get involved with cocaine but the money was too tempting. It was an expensive drug on every level though – to buy – to sell – wholesale – purchase – moving it from one part of the city to the other. An ounce (28grams) was costing me €1200 from my supplier. I charged €100 for one gram, so I was making €1600 profit from cocaine alone on top of selling pills and eventually ketamine. Ketamine was harder to get back then because it was still relatively rare, but the market was there.
I never got caught, I was clever about business.
There was a music festival coming up, which as a drug dealer is a huge opportunity to make a small fortune. People gag for anything they can get. I got an ounce of cocaine, three thousand pills, and I couldn’t get my hands on any K (ketamine) so I got two ounces of weed instead. I didn’t even have to sell the stuff, I paid a guy €500 to keep it all in his house, then over the next few days people came, bought it all up and my money was delivered.
Down at the festival I did have my one and only close call with the law. I was caught with two ecstasy tablets in my pocket which were confiscated by the Gardai. They then proceeded to question me on whether I had any more drugs with me for the weekend to which I obviously responded ‘NO’ despite having nearly 500 pills behind me in my tent. Luckily they left it at that and I was able to carry on doing business. I did stop selling for a few weeks when I got back.
[I asked Sean about his personal drug use at this stage.]
I had a love/hate relationship with cocaine. I had stopped doing ecstasy myself early in the game. I didn’t like how it made me feel. I had always sort of battled with bouts of depression and I think drugs like ecstasy intensified that low feeling. I took quite a lot of cocaine but then again I soon developed a disliking for how it made me feel. It was K that broke me in the end.
In 2011 it all got very rare. Drugs became a pacifier. Ketamine numbed my personal issues. Everything had gotten on top of me. I was weak. I succumbed to it all. I’d get up in the morning, do drugs, eat breakfast, do more drugs, go to work – ketamine. It’s horrible. I don’t really know what it even felt like anymore because frankly I don’t want to remember. In the end I wasn’t even getting much off it anyway.
The downfall of the market and the debt lead me deeper into my own addiction. My debt built up to extreme levels and the pressure got worse from above. The boss wanted money more frequently. He didn’t understand how it was at my level. He was into coke himself in a big way and not the most stable person. My life was put on the line and I knew I had to get out of this but I genuinely didn’t think I could. My mental health was at shattering point and I was using heavily to block that out.
Everyone was selling by then; people got better quality drugs than I had. I got rubbish pills, my guy went downhill and I never really found out why. Orange Sonics [a type of ecstasy pill] came out and I couldn’t get them, people were getting them for fuck all and selling for a tenner each making a €9.50 profit on each pill. I had stock for weeks that I couldn’t shift so I started getting in more, be it cocaine, weed, hash, ketamine – anything I could sell to clear off my debts.
I couldn’t go to other suppliers because my guy gave me stuff on tick, like having a tab. My supplier was a typical drug pusher – nice while you were selling, making him money then when things slowed, he was down on you like a tonne of bricks. He was Irish, in his mid-thirties. I do know his real name now but at the time I didn’t. He had a nickname which I can’t really divulge for obvious reasons. When I was starting out doing business with him he was known merely as the bill man, he didn’t even tell us his nickname. He was one to be feared. There were guys above him I didn’t even want to know.
This was a very low point for me personally and ‘professionally’. My own addiction had reached its climax. I was drinking heavily, every day, doing large quantities of K and was extremely run down. I was lucky to be alive, and I know that now. I collapsed and ended up in hospital following one binge when it had all just become too much for my body or mind to take.
I was living back at home when I hit my all-time low – the beginning of the end. My mother confronted me about my lifestyle and told me straight up she knew I was selling drugs. Her obvious disappointment was the wakeup call I needed and her empathetic, supportive approach to the whole situation was far more than I deserved. I can’t even begin to comprehend the level of pain and anxiety I caused not just my family but indirectly the families of the people I sold to. They were someone’s sons and daughters at the end of the day, and I often thought of that when I was selling. It did bother me but I was greedy and the money overtook all other concerns. It was too much of a pull factor for me to walk away… until I had no other choice.
‘How can WE get out of this?’ asked my mother.
I knew my debts needed to be paid to ensure my own safety and selling wasn’t an option, I needed out of that lifestyle and scene fast. I got a substantial bank loan along with a loan from my Mum in order to clear my debts and I practically gave the left over stock away selling it in bulk for a lot less than it was worth but I just wanted rid of it.
From the moment my mother confronted me I was determined to make something of myself and turn my life around. I am an intelligent person but I was lazy and greedy and wasted my talents. I had dealt with depression in the past which was a contributory factor to my demise I think. I sought some counselling but for the most part I just worked to channel that energy into something positive and within a year I was completely clean and working as a Marketing Director. Now I had a purpose and was earning my money honestly, so life had gone full circle. It’s true what they say, when you hit rock bottom there is only one way you can go.
I was lucky with my recovery in the sense I didn’t replace one addiction with another. Once I was clean and healthy, physically and mentally, my mind flooded with ideas and opportunities just seemed to arise. It isn’t always that easy but it is worth every second of the withdrawals once you get there. You’ll never look back if you value your life at all. I couldn’t resort to that way of life again, I have too much to lose and I know my mother would never forgive me. That alone is reason enough to steer clear.
If I could offer any advice to students now I would say don’t make the same choices I did, I learned a lot of tough lessons. Don’t sell. The greed takes over, it really does.