The Hustle

Sobriety in The City

A Sober take on Love, Life and London

By Janna Fox



There is and always has been a peculiar hustle involved in getting high; not just drug drugs, a ‘high’ of any sort. I mean obviously not always, sometimes it’s as simple as I’ve got loads of cash, let’s go to the pub or offie and buy loads of booze and get smashed or call a dealer, who by some miracle picks up first time and wouldn’t you know it they’re in the area and hey presto here’s your drugs thanks very much.


However that is only one of many varying scenarios and the harder the hustle becomes the more we must ask ourselves is it really worth it? Again this can range in seriousness too. When is too much too much?

Too tired, high or hungover to go to work? More than once in a month? A week? Daily?

Not being able to afford (or eat) a treat like a chocolate bar when you want one? Or worse choosing between buying your high and food? New clothes? Or rent?

Realising that things are wrong with you that shouldn’t be? Varicose veins? Underweight? Feeling ill constantly? A hole in your nose?

I have reached this crossroads at several different stages of my life with varying forms of substance which have ultimately lead me to the life changing decision of ‘no’. For me it was no longer worth it. I have bid farewell to the hustle of getting high and dedicated the next who knows how many days, weeks, months or years to NOT getting high.

It struck me the other day that there are many different ways in which our substance use turns to abuse and how some of these are much more socially acceptable than others.

Let’s start with the first kind. The unacceptable underage high. When you’re a teenager then the hustle really happens. If you’re say fifteen and you don’t have any real money or income to speak of then you’re depending on three things; pocket money, dinner money and what you can beg, borrow or steal off others to fund it. This is the first part of so called hustle and can entail calling in favours, running errands, picking up other people’s wages whatever. Then once you’ve got enough money you have to call a dealer which again when you’re fifteen is slightly more difficult as there are normally less around, fewer that will openly sell to children and, you know, school. Then when you have secured a dealer willing to sell to you normally you will have to get yourself to said dealer which with no money and no transport is again a hustle and usually involves a large amount of walking (well, it did where I grew up). Once you have finally made it to the dealer and purchased the drugs you have to find a safe house or safe place to do the drugs without getting caught by police, parents or eye-witnesses that could tell one or both.

It’s exhausting.

When I was at a school we used to call this the mission. The thing with drugs is, especially hyper drugs like coke, speed or pills you can then end up in various sub-missions of previous missions and it can all get terribly complicated until you find yourself on the final most important mission to score some weed to calm down and then you’re ultimately back at the beginning.

See. Hustle.

Ironically this doesn’t get easier when you become an adult you just find yourself dealing with larger sums of your own hard earned cash, more dangerous and often less accessible people at more inconvenient times with far more upsetting consequences.

It’s a wonder any of us ever thought it worth the trouble.

Obligatory Drinking is another one that can turn ‘normal’ habits into alcoholism.

Often we feel forced to go out and get smashed when we actually don’t really want to; I most certainly did. I can’t count the times I have declared ‘I’m not drinking tonight/for a week/for a month’ and then something would happen, or nothing would happen and I would find myself back on the road to high. In the bar and hospitality world this is probably much more common than anywhere else because we are immersed in the culture of it however the more I look the more I see people making other people’s excuses for their going out and getting wasted, drunk, high or all of the above.

Birthdays and other ‘occasions’ are a classic.

It’s Saturday night, you’re pretty worn out from the week of work, you’ve slouched around all day working on Fridays post-work-pub-til-11-on-no-dinner hangover and it’s so and so’s birthday from wherever tonight. All the gang will be there you don’t really feel like it, you can’t really afford it but if you don’t go you’ll be the flaky loser who didn’t show up and so and so’s just broke up with their long term partner and probably feeling really shitty so the least you can do is turn up, have one and go.

Well maybe two…I mean if you just have one then there’s no point wasting the Oyster fayre.

Three, definitely, just three.

But then ultimately you’re old mate Charlie will show up and take you all out for a night on the slopes ending up on someone you don’t knows grotty carpet smoking someone else’s weed, sloshing wine back at five thirty in the morning before you can’t physically shove anymore of what you think is meth or possibly Ketamine up your poor running nose and you grab an Uber from sorry where are we again?

Sound familiar?

Then there’s ‘The Round’. This is the traditional form of obligatory drinking particularly popular in local pubs that tend to have staunch regulars with regular drinking habits and sometimes chairs. The round consists of a drinker buying a beer for all of whom he likes in that circle of drinking, they tend to sit at the bar, which then is usually reciprocated by other said drinkers and can go on for hours. This one is particularly relevant to bar staff who often stop to have ‘one’ after work and then find themselves absolutely battered on a bar stool or in a car park smoking a spliff surrounded by their custom at around ten pm.

The round can also be deceptive and creep up on you when you least expect it; I’ve bumped into friends at other people’s social events and found myself getting stuck in a round purely by accident hoping sometimes that the person who bought me a drink will just fuck off and renege on the deal leaving me free of the obligation but no I’ve ended up drinking and spending thrice my planned amount and ended the night yet again on somebody else’s floor.

That is often the trouble with the round. You can feel you have to keep up with other drinkers in order to ‘stay in the round’ and when you’re skint, like I always am and was, it feels criminal to turn down a free drink; even if you don’t actually want it and you end up paying it back hence negating the free.

Still feels free.

What is it with this obligation that so many of us so often feel when it comes to the offering of any high inducing substance? We wouldn’t want to be rude or we want to be polite; implying that by refusing you are somehow causing offence or that by accepting you are also accepting acceptance, admiration or love?

Is it simply a more complicated version of peer pressure that encourages us to consume things the way we do? Is it just a welcome excuse to shirk responsibility for our own actions to blame them on someone else’s presence or birthday or whatever?

I am well aware it is easier said than done to STOP even just for one night. It took me years of mentally mulling it over, of wanting to but not knowing how or if it was really for me and ironically it’s only after being clean and sober for eleven months that I am able to say no and sometimes it’s still a battle. I find myself literally running away from temptation which is something I was never able to do before.

If you’re caught in the web of obligatory hustle, if you’re a bit tired or a bit skint or a bit hungover or want to stop but can’t and someone offers you a substance or you find yourself walking to the pub out of boredom or habit and you don’t really want to, do yourself a favour; stop and think about it first. Is it really going to make your life that much better if you do it? Listen to your body, save yourself the hustle and the hassle. Buy yourself a Mars bar or an ice cream, have a sparkling water instead or go sit on a bench and enjoy the simple side of life for a while.

I promise I won’t love you any less and neither will anyone else worth knowing.

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