"I'd take a line because I felt like I needed it"
Whether it’s marijuana, cocaine, MDMA or laughing gas, any drug is prohibited in South Asian and British Asian communities.
Whilst substances like marijuana are in some ways ‘accepted’, cocaine is outlawed. But, that does not stop some Desi’s from trying it.
The only issue, with any narcotic, is addiction and especially cocaine which can bring massive side effects.
Rifat Mahmood*, a 22-year-old former solicitor shares his important story with the drug and how it impacted his life.
Raised in Nottingham in the East Midlands, cocaine is the most popular drug in this region.
As reported by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), over 4000 people are known to use powder cocaine, the most in any part of the UK.
Being from a Pakistani background, Rifat’s upbringing like many British Asians is about getting a good education and a stable job.
But, it was this path that eventually led Rifat into a life of drug addiction and abuse.
It’s important to get an insight into this in order for the culture to understand these stories and remove the stigma so more British Asians can feel safe to talk, especially those seeking help.
A Surprising Introduction
As Rifat graduated in law from the University of Nottingham, he started training as a solicitor at a law firm in the city.
Whilst he thought this would lead him to a path of success in the field, it was rather the opposite:
“Man, that firm was so sick. The people were amazing but our boss was a right git. I thought he would take it easy on me being the newbie but he was always so off with me.
“As a young guy, it was stressful. I expected the deadlines and stuff but I thought he’d ease me into it.
“But it was full on straight away. I made friends fairly easily there and there were a few other graduates who started at the same time as me.
“A month or so in, and I’d be doing 8 am till midnight some days. I would get home shattered, I barely ate and then would sleep and do it all again.
“It got worse when I would have to go in on the weekends as well. My parents were worried for me cause of how much weight I lost.
“When I told my manager that I was behind on some work, he would lay into me, telling me if I want to succeed in this job then I need to do things on time.
“I couldn’t catch a break.
“I got close with this guy Steve who had been there for about three years. We’d often spend the evenings there and finish late together.
“It got so bad though and the workload was stressing me out. I had a girlfriend at the time and barely saw her.
“She would then argue with me telling me I’m not making time for her. She wouldn’t understand that I didn’t even have time for myself.
“I told Steve about this and he could see I was depressed every day.
“My mum told me to find another job but the money was so good and the firm was highly respected. So I couldn’t risk it.
“One evening, Steve and I were in the office till late, we had a mad deadline for the next morning and it was about half 10.
“I was yawning away and he asked me if I wanted something to stay awake and keep focused. So I obviously said yes and I followed him to the staff room.
“I thought it was a cup of coffee and he pulled out this bag of white. Straight away I was shocked and I said ‘what the f**k, put that away’.
“I thought we’d get caught but remembered it was just us two there.
“I got paranoid about the cameras and he told me it’s fine ’cause there were no cameras there. He started lining it up and pulled out a rolled-up tenner.
“Without saying anything else, he straight up snorted it off the counter.”
“I’d never seen that before and felt so wrong about it. I felt uneasy. I told him no but he said to try a bit and rub it on my gums.
“He said that’s safer and to trust him. Then Steve was like ‘oh don’t worry, it’ll keep you focused and you’ll get work sorted in the next 45 minutes’.
“I was in two minds and was adamant not to do it. I kept saying no but he persuaded me.
“But I feel like with how tired I was every day and how mentally drained I was, I didn’t have a straight mind.
“I never did drugs in my life and because of work and everything stressing me, I just did it. So, I rubbed a bit around my mouth and felt it a couple of minutes later.
“I was alert and everything was brighter, clearer.
“We went back to our desks and I was typing nonstop for half an hour, before I knew it, I was done with work and it was about 11:15 pm.
“Steve was there talking away and I remember feeling so motivated and full of energy.
“Steve asked me how I was feeling and I remember saying ‘amazing’. We packed up and went home. The next day, I woke up and felt so tired and down.
“I put it to not getting enough sleep and that day at work was dreadful. I couldn’t find the motivation I had the evening before.
“The same night, I was in the office by myself and was trying to get the mindset back that I was in the day before. I was trying to find that same energy but couldn’t.
“Having never done drugs, I felt myself thinking about it more and I think I was hooked at that point.”
“It was only a tiny bit but it’s like for that hour or so of rubbing it on my gums, I felt the most happiest and energetic I had in months.
“I called Steve and asked if I could buy a small bag. I thought I’d use it when I desperately needed it, not knowing it would f**k up my whole life.
“He gave me a small bag the next day at work and I felt so happy and couldn’t wait to try it again that night.
“Steve stayed behind, he did a line and I rubbed a bit in my mouth.
“Again, I did so much work and even went to my manager the next day with all my deadlines sorted.
“Even though the pr**k didn’t thank me at all or say ‘good job’, I walked out feeling great.”
This highlights how addictive cocaine is. Rifat used it on one occasion and only had a tiny amount but still found himself needing it to function.
This shows just how potent cocaine is but also how Rifat’s life turned around in a matter of minutes.
Whilst a stressful and depressing environment can hurt people, turning to drugs is not the right decision.
However, Rifat made that choice and reveals how his usage skyrocketed and impacted other parts of his life:
“I started using it every day and it was mostly at work on my late nights. But I found that rubbing it on my gums stopped having as much of an effect on me.
“My tolerance had gone higher so I started rubbing more and more which would get me high. But that feeling was short-lived.
“Steve told me that sniffing would be better and would keep me ‘up’ all night. It got to a point where I had a constant fiver rolled up and used that same note time and time again.
“I’d feel the effects the next day and would be so sad or depressed. I kept chasing that high.
“At the time I didn’t realise that’s one of the side effects of cocaine.
“When you’re high, you’re basically changing levels in your body and then the next day, they’re balancing out but you feel like sh*t.
“But because of how much I was using at work, I started using it more for normal things.
“When I went out with friends, I’d take a line because I felt like I needed it. My mates would say the day after that I was the life of the party or I was on form with the jokes.
“It made me feel good but also made me feel like I needed to use it to keep that up.
“I even started snorting before I went out with my girlfriend. Just to feel that alertness and energy all day became addictive.
“I remember one time that I took it at a wedding and was dancing all day. My parents thought I’d drank which obviously we don’t do at Pakistani weddings.
“So they were already on high alert that maybe things were going wrong. But it didn’t stop me.
“Things went on for a few months and it became so bad. I constantly felt like sh*t but then would snort to sort myself out.
“It became normal like how people have a cup of coffee in the morning, I’d go in the toilet and take some more.
“Me and Steve were in the office and I was begging him to take some lines with me. I saw by the look on his face that he was weirded out.
“We did a line each and then I wanted to go again. He asked me if everything was okay but I spazzed out on him.
“I yelled and screamed and then left the office. I went out that night by myself and can’t even remember what happened for half the night.
“That night started off with a full bag and when I woke up the next morning, it was all gone.”
“But I couldn’t stop. Who could I turn to or speak about it to? In all honesty, at that point, I didn’t want to stop anyway.”
Rifat’s usage spiralled out of control and in a matter of months, he was completely hooked on cocaine.
He hints as a British Pakistani that he could not speak to anyone but likewise, he didn’t want to come away from the drug.
A Complete Breakdown
As Rifat’s use of the narcotic worsened, his life started to fall apart.
Although Rifat was completely aware of his drug use, he kept it a secret for a long amount of time.
However, as with any addiction, it caught up to him and ultimately had adverse effects on his personal and work life:
“At this point, I was a proper mess when it came to using. I didn’t care anymore and just lost track of my surroundings and what I was doing.
“First I got fired from my job for missing deadlines. Because I was using so much, I lost track of time and would care more about keeping the high up.
“I got into arguments with my boss. We had a one-to-one meeting and I must’ve been speaking really quickly.
“He told me my eyes looked bloodshot and wide and I guess with the speaking, he thought I was on something.
“When I tried to deny it, he said people had complained I was behaving unnaturally toward them. I was then shouting ‘who, who?’ and he was so freaked out.
“I think that was the only time he was speechless towards me. He then told me either I hand in my notice or they’ll give me a disciplinary and inform the police.
“Working for a law firm, class A drugs aren’t the best thing to be doing. So, I had to quit basically.
“My girlfriend then left me. She found out I was using it because she found a couple of empty packets in my car and bits of residue around the dashboard.
“I also became abusive towards her and I hate to say it, hit her a couple of times and would shout and yell.
“When I told her about my job, she was very upset and told me I need to get focused again.
“But in my twisted mind, I thought she was patronising me and I argued with her over that. My mind was messing with me and I kept thinking she was calling me a failure.
“We argued so much in the car and then she left because I was about to hit her again.
“My life was breaking down. I was in and out of moods and would stay out till late, I didn’t even tell my parents I lost my job.
“I think I went a few days without eating and my parents came to me worried and mum was crying. They asked me if everything was okay.
“Then right there I had my first nosebleed. I thought nothing of it, but they told me to get it checked.
“I also started having muscle spasms, was dehydrated and kept having heartburn. Thing is, I kept using cocaine in between all of this mess.
“My mum then forced me to come with her to the doctors and they asked me if I did any drugs and I said no.
“They then said that my tests came back with traces of cocaine. The face of my mum was in complete shock. That’s when I got kicked out, they didn’t even help.
“But I thought I was invincible. I packed up my sh*t and went to a friend’s house. He didn’t know what was going on as well. I said me and my parents got into a huge fight.
“He then saw me using on that first night. Imagine that. That’s how bad it got.”
“I was naked in his bathroom and about to take a line. He came in and saw my body and I felt a bit ashamed because of how disgusted he looked seeing me.
“There were scratches on me from trembling when I was coming down and I was so thin that parts of ribcage were showing.
“My eyes had bags, I was bruised up and basically looked like a crackhead. My clothes masked most of that but when my mate saw that, he lost the plot.
“I remember feeling like I couldn’t get out of this rut, I didn’t want to stop and felt like I needed this to survive.
“Also, I got hallucinations a lot and was paranoid most of the time. I had mental breakdowns, would cry and smile, thought people were after me or would lose control of myself.
“I felt weak and couldn’t be around large crowds. And I was distant from people and did this thing when I’d twitch or look over my shoulder a lot.”
Rifat’s personality and behaviour were changing so much that he lost sight of the person he once was.
The domino effect of different aspects of his life going wrong and breaking ties with his partner and family showed the ultimate sacrifice he had to pay for his cocaine habit.
Whilst Rifat admits that he ended up staying in a hotel for a few weeks with his savings, it was a call from his mum that made him seek help:
“My mum rang me to say that my dad was in the hospital because of a stroke. She said I couldn’t see him until I was clean.
“Something switched in me and I just thought that this person who has never touched cocaine, drugs or alcohol had ended up in the hospital.
“I thought how lucky was I but also I didn’t want to lose my dad or lose my life. Not being able to see him was a big thing for me ’cause I was always close to him.
“At this point, things had gotten to the brink. I was running out of money, had no job, no home, and no friends or family.
“I decided to seek help and I’m currently on a sobriety programme with the NHS. I’m two weeks clean but I can’t lie, every day I want to go back to the white.
“The sessions do help and speaking about it plays a massive part. But, it’s so enticing to think about the high I felt when I was using.
“But I have to get those thoughts out of my head. Even now, I’m itching for something but have to be strong.
“I also went to the Imam at my mum’s mosque to seek forgiveness and help.”
“I spend most of my time there because he keeps an eye on me and makes sure I go back home every night.
“It’s difficult but these steps have to be taken. Otherwise, I feel like I’ll relapse.”
Whilst Rifat seeks the help he needs to come completely clean, it’s understandable that he still feels uneasy.
However, it took a shocking health scare with his father for him to find the motivation to seek support.
His harrowing story shows the effects cocaine can have and how quickly someone can get addicted and ultimately start spiralling out of control.
Hopefully, Rifat continues on the right track and more British Pakistanis and British Asians feel they can open up about their habits.
If you or someone you know need help with addiction, seek support from some services such as those below: