9 – An ‘L’ of a place Part 1 (1997)

16th May 1997 I was sitting in the front passenger seat of a four-wheel drive Isuzu Trooper. The guy behind me stuck something in my back and the started shouting that the gun had jammed, the gun had jammed. He was a wee bit more colourful than that with his language though.

How did I get here?

How did I get from being the wee 11-year-old boy with the world at his feet, starting Hutchesons’ Grammar School to being a 27-year-old heroin addict, working as a building site security guard for £1.50 per hour, and the boss wants to shoot me?

If you have read some of my other blogs, then you will know part of that journey, but I want to talk about what was going on around this time. I had worked in building site security for a few years at this point. It was the ideal job for a heroin addict. 151/2 hours on a building site, not having to deal with people. I hated people by this point, but only in the sense that being around normal people reminded me how far I had fallen. So yeah, this suited me.

My journey started with Ark Security Services, which was part of Barlarnark Community Business. A local east end initiative aimed at employability. I remember speaking to Tam Logan, the security controller at the time, and Mick Weir, the supervisor in an over the phone interview.

The following night I was sitting at home in Duntarvie Quad, in my room watching “Trespass” with Ice Cube. A call came in on the house phone (no mobile’s commonly available at that time) asking to speak to me. It was the other controller,9who’s name escapes my mind just now) asking if I was available to start work.

30 minutes later and I was away to start my first shift in security. Friday evening to Monday morning at an old janitor’s house in Knightswood. I remember thinking, as I walked around the house making sure no one else was hiding there, “I am getting paid for this wow.” By the Saturday I was calling our old family friend, Betty Smith, asking if she would bring some sandwiches and cigarettes up to me. For the record, I did not like dark isolated buildings.

I worked for ARK for a couple of years and even ended up getting to being security controller. This was always done from a site and it involved me making sure all the other guards were ok. I used to do their nuts in as I was quite conscientious and would hit out with the “Sierra 12 call in please” (Sierra was just site and that would be followed by whatever site number you were calling). Every hour on the hour all night long whilst they were trying to sleep. If they never answered I would get Mick, the supervisor to visit them. This might have been early 90’s but the pay was still only an average of £1.25 per hour. As controller, I got £1.50 per hour. I would do an average of 128 hours in a week with a full weekend. I would do my shift, come home, sleep for a couple of hours, go score my drugs and then go to the site.

By the time I was working for D…. O.. my addiction was at its worst ever. I had already damaged my hand via a temazepam injection and my life was heroin and cannabis. Everything revolved around my next £10, (£10 being the price of a bag of heroin). Security companies in Glasgow at that time were never off the news. There were allegations of gangster involvement at every turn. I may say that none of these allegations was ever aimed at ARK security, in fact, they ended up going out of business due to the increase in extortion etc that was going on against construction companies by the new security companies springing up. D…. O.. was one of these companies. Run by an ex-policeman who, apparently was kicked off the force, and someone who claimed to be ex SAS. They wanted to show they could cut it amongst the others and be pretty ruthless in their business dealing. I did, however, seem to get on well with them. When one or the other used to pick me up to take me to a site, I used to wonder why a baseball bat was always visible, that did not seem to be there when they did not have to go near my house. I asked one time and I was told: “It’s in case your da starts anything”. It seemed my dad’s reputation had reached even their ears, to the point they were wary of him. Ironically my dad ended up working for them and only once did his site ever encounter trouble, but that is another story.

Anyway, near the time that my time was up, Glasgow city centre was experiencing loads of office building construction and I was normally put there. The hours were always a wee bit different. A few weeks before the fateful night, I remember going around to a site between Duntarvie Road and Easterhouse Road to get picked up. I had not had any drugs so was a wee bit wary and a big bit strung out. There was a bit of a dry up on. As I was waiting I heard that one of my friends, who lived not far away and was a dealer, had heroin, as I ran off towards his house I shouted, “Tell them I’ll be back in five”. I was later to find out that, going to this guy’s house made my bosses think I was involved in trying to rob off their sites ( I wasn’t and he wasn’t involved anyway as it wasn’t his thing). There had already been the talk of these guys threatening another local guy (C) that worked as a labourer on this very site with a gun. The guy in question was never really involved in the drugs or gangs and was probably the most unlikely person that you would think someone would pull a gun on. He has confirmed that it is true and they did indeed point a gun at his head and threaten him.

I made my way back after scoring, safe in the knowledge that as soon as all the workers had gone I could have a fix. It is incredible how withdrawal symptoms can decrease just because you have the drugs in your hand.

I got picked up by an irate supervisor (glorified driver in this company( and off I went and thought nothing more of it.

About two weeks later, I was a late pick up for a late start in the city centre, ironically in a building, the Teen Challenge bus would sit outside every Friday night only a couple of years later. Both P & F were in the Isuzu, and I never even thought it strange that I was told to sit in the front. P said that we had to go and check the site of an agricultural show that they were responsible for. It was in Lenzie or Lesmahagow or somewhere starting with an ‘L’. It was an ‘L’ of a place.

As we pulled up in a field at the perimeter of the site, F sitting behind me mumbled something, and I remember feeling a jabbing on the left-hand side of my back. He then started cursing and shouting and saying that the gun had jammed. I somehow managed to stay very calm. I think I was maybe a wee bit unaware of how bad this was. Then P started firing questions at me about the Duntarvie site. I genuinely knew nothing about any theft from it so I couldn’t answer. He screamed that I went up to the f*&£$$s house from the site to get paid by him and I must know. They insisted one of the other guards told him that’s where I had gone and that was what it was for. Everybody there knew I had gone to score heroin, the rest even I was amazed at. It was about 12.30 on the Friday night / Saturday morning, it was very dark and it was very heated. To this day I am still amazed at the calmness and the answers I came out with.

Somehow, I think they believed me, but we ended up making our way into Glasgow to drop me at the site. I was straight back into autopilot mode. Just doing whatever was in front of me.

Since then many people have questioned whether or not there were any bullets in the gun. My response has always been, when a gun is pointed at you, you do not think to stop and ask them that first. I was 27, I was in a field, and someone was pointing a gun at me. That in itself was bad enough. Guns were not an everyday part of Glasgow scheme life, although there had been moments.

So on we went to Glasgow city center where not much else was said other than (don’t tell your da!” As ridiculous as that sounds it is true. Gun totting gangsters scared of a Glasgow father of six. in a fight. They brought me into the office building in Glasgow, that was almost finished. There was another guard on with me who they had a word with, in quiet and was then on the phone to F & P all night). I thought he was weird because when I went to make the coffee he insisted that I put no more than four granules of coffee in as anything else was too strong. That is weird, isn’t it?

I did not sleep that night and relished the opportunities that the hourly patrol afforded of going and checking the site. It was already way after 1am when we got there, but the night still seemed to go on forever. So much rushing through my mind.

The next morning, on the pretext of going to the shop, I left at 9am. I was going home to get a fix, and I wasn’t coming back. I called them later and quit. After all, when your boss tries to shoot you it probably is time to go.

As a footnote to this story, one of the two bosses of the company passed away last year, around the 20th anniversary of me entering Teen Challenge. I have never borne any animosity or ill will towards him and was sorry I never got the opportunity to share what Christ had done in my life. What did transpire after my escape, was how his need for Jesus was shown in how thoroughly corrupted he was in certain areas of his life and how other episodes with him (which I probably will never go into) showed that I truly did have a very narrow escape. I am always wary of phrases such as “Obviously God was looking out for me even then” but He was.

When Mark McGivern, a journalist at the Daily Record, interviewed me in October 2016 regarding my interaction with Methadone, (Bittersweet Symphony blog), we spoke about this event, and Mark asked who the bosses were. I agreed to tell him on the basis that the names would not go to print as my purpose is always to share the consequences of MY choices, not to name and shame others. I am thankful that Mark respected that. He did know the people involved and had guessed it was who I said. He expressed that he asked only to authenticate the story, as was his right as a journalist.

This is going to be a mini-series that describes events in my last weekend as a heroin addict.

This blog is part of a wider collection to show the journey that would eventually lead me to the cross of Jesus Christ, my personal redemption, and my journey of faith afterwards. If you would like to know more of my story, please click on my “About” page and take it from there.

If you would like to know more about the Christian response to addiction, or just need hope please click on one of the links below.

The Haven
Teen Challenge Strathclyde
Teen Challenge UK
Teen Challenge Global
Street Connect
Bethany Christian Trust
Cornerstone Assemblies of God, Maryland
Broken Chains Ayr
Easterhouse Community Church
Stuart Patterson

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