Updated: Jul 9
| This is the 114th story of Our Life Logs |
Let me take you back to when I was just six years old. My chronic asthma was a plague against my childhood, as I was in the hospital more often than I was in school. It swindled countless opportunities of social interaction, of fitting in, of making friends.
It’s 1986, in Melbourne, Australia, and I’m lying on a hospital bed. A dingy nurse repetitively stabs my arm with a needle. You’d think someone in her profession would be able to locate my cephalic vein. She stabs again, like it was a game of Russian Roulette. My mum was there watching. I could tell she was struggling to contain herself.
Finally, she burst. She started yelling at the nurse, even became aggressive. I just lay there, motionless as my mother argued with the hospital staff. Before the room turned into a wrestling ring, the new nurse ushered her way in and managed to insert the needle effectively. The drip was set, and now there was no need for anyone to be in my company. Lights out and I was all alone, abandoned once more. Both ill equipped and defenseless to deal with what life had thrown at me.
I guess I would have to learn how to fend for myself.
All throughout the ’80s I was moved school to school as though I were a dog. I was never anywhere long enough to establish a lasting impression on anyone, and when I was, my asthma obliterated any chance of fostering a connection. Hell, I couldn’t even tell you the names of my classmates. It didn’t matter. Because I was just another soon to be statistic of a disheveled government school where nobody gave a flying fuck about anything.
In the early ’90s I completed my senior years of primary school. My asthma had begun to recede in severity, and I managed to make a friend or two. I even became an altar boy at the local Catholic church. I enjoyed this a lot. I was someone important. Someone respected. My parents were proud of me and it was a great feeling…while it lasted.
I decided to rummage through my parents’ closet. I found photos of my mom, and the severe bruises adorning her body. She was documenting the brutality she was experiencing with my father. He was a very traditional Middle Eastern man. It was horrendous. I wanted to be numb. I didn’t want to feel this longing for something better.
In my early years of high school around 1995, I began smoking weed. I was wagging school every chance I got. I was buying and selling cigarettes and operated as though I were running a business–a talent I would later discover I had quite an aptitude for.
I was sexually active, with both sexes. My interactions with females were—for lack of a better word, inherited. But with males, it felt innate, legitimate. It just flowed so much better. I didn’t really give this a second thought at the time. I was just a young pubescent kid experimenting with his sexuality. In my early adolescent years in the mid 90’s, I was clashing quite frequently with my father. I had so much pressure to succeed, to do well. I found a recorder my parents had secretly placed in my room to try and learn what I was up to when they weren’t looking. Was this their way of trying to get me on the right track?
The relationship with my parents only got worse. I remember I wanted to spend time with the friends I was making at school. I was denied this privilege. My father would exclaim that my room was a mess. I’d come home to find my room had been trashed. CDs I had saved up for were shattered in pieces. All my belongings strewn across the floor. Was this love?
To get my parents off my back, I pursued a chef’s apprenticeship. There was no hope for me at school, but I needed to show my dad that I could make something of myself. This extended beyond the need to appease him.
It was 1996. I was 16 years old and working as a chef for an Italian family’s restaurant, though, it was no ordinary family. It was as if I’d suddenly been cast in the third sequel to The Godfather. As you’d imagine, I was around gamblers, prostitutes, ego and a political upheaval of a world I would soon be a part of.
About this time, I met a girl roughly my age.
She and I became genuine friends, and quickly fell into a serious relationship. She was the first person I shared a significant connection with, and for once, I didn’t feel alone. She introduced me to new substances that, at first, I wanted nothing to do with. But the allure and promise of power, wealth, authority…it was too good to pass up. When I came across the purest form of the drug ecstasy, I couldn’t help myself. This became more than just a habit. It was a way for me to forget, to numb all my pain and suffering. I quickly realized that if I sold enough product, I could use the stuff for free.
A couple years later I found myself working for another Italian family. Despite my apparent ‘partying’ I still displayed an excellent work ethic. I knew the importance of making a good impression. Things were relatively similar, except I wasn’t getting paid. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I took the keys to the business and demanded my money. I was working hard, and I deserved to be paid. It was the right thing to do.
Next thing I know, I was getting phone calls from my previous employers, asking if I knew who I was threatening. The truth is, I had no idea. A few days later, my current boss died. I was shocked to find his face on the cover of next morning’s newspaper: “Underworld Boss—Dead,” or something like that. I was closer to the world of crime than I realized.
Years went by and I found myself working as a top-notch salesman for a national telco brand. I did so well. I was awarded with a trip to Paris and Vienna. I was so excited. For the first time, I was being acknowledged for my hard work. My girlfriend and I flew over without hesitation. Yes, my relationship still flourished, despite secretly running off to rendezvous with those of a more masculine persuasion.
When returning back home in Melbourne, it dawned on me that all I had been doing my whole life was working. The new millennium had just begun. I was in my 20s and desperately wanted to live a life worth living. My drug dealing helped a lot with this. I was meeting people. Partying, clubbing, hosting epic benders that went for weeks. Everything seemed to be going well. That’s when the Russians arrived on the scene.
Someone had betrayed me and provided a little too much information. Before I knew it, I had a knife to my throat and watched as several men ransacked my home—my first home that I had worked so hard for. All my furniture, money, drugs, phones, my grandfather’s cross. I was shoved into a taxi, driven to a service station and forced to withdraw the entire contents of my bank account. I was abandoned and left with nothing.
My girlfriend took me under her wing. Our relationship was shotty at the best of times, but regardless, I was glad. I remember staring at an alleyway for two weeks, ruminating over my next step. What was I doing with my life? In roughly 2005, she and I decided to get a new place together. I found a car salesman job advertised in the paper. I got the gig quicker than you could say interview. I was good. Crazy good. Sales was something I excelled at. It didn’t take long until my girlfriend and I had a fight. I was left with no choice but to relocate once more. I moved in with a friend on the other side of town close to the car yard I worked at. I was there for a considerable amount of time, until our landlord saw a photo of a bong on my kitchen table. My housemate had unwittingly left it out in the open, despite knowing full well we had a scheduled house inspection. We were evicted two weeks before Christmas, and once again I was out on my own.
This time I took out at a map and considered where I’d like to live. I moved to the beach in Melbourne, bought brand new furniture and really set out to succeed. My car sales job was paying me quite well. I began managing the yard. I had a fuel allowance, and I got to start work whenever I wanted. I was stoked. I bought an apartment nearby which I leased out. I rented another business space where I operated a mechanic shop. You see, success? I was capable of it.
But then I got that phone call that would change everything. It was the latter half of 2009, and a friend needed help. He was in a considerable amount of drug debt. I decided to hook him up with a connection I had acquired through my escalation of the treacherous underworld. But because of the position this person held, he would only deal with me.
Because my willingness to help others far exceeded my willingness to help myself, I decided to lend a hand and help set up his entire operation. And, since I was doing a considerable amount of work, I might as well make a gain. It was only three months, and those three months went by without a hitch.
Six months later, and people all around me were getting arrested. Something I didn’t give a second thought to. I was clever, smart, you know, I pranced around like a fox. I came out of my bedroom one morning and was suddenly inundated with the trenchant thrumming of a helicopter suspended five meters in front of my balcony.
“What the fuck was happening?” I hid behind a wall and within minutes, the chopper had left. I would later learn that the police were scanning my premises so that they had an idea of the property’s layout and structure. I didn’t really pay this occurrence the attention it deserved. I had other things to think about. I was shortly turning 30 and my friends were planning me one hell of a party to remember.
In early June of 2010, I woke up to an ear-splitting sound. The buzzing penetrated my senses as I slowly brought myself back to consciousnesses. I had just wrapped up almost two weeks of heavy partying. Who the hell had the nerve to piss me off this early in the morning? I didn’t recognize the voice. He proceeded to tell me that someone had just smashed into the rear of my car and sped off.
I rushed down the stairs and BAM! Hundreds of cops appearing from thin air bombarded me in seconds and a set of handcuffs were slapped over my wrists.
“You’re under arrest…you know why,” they exclaimed.
I spent the rest of the day, restrained in my own home while the cops scoured for evidence. I was taken to the station, but I wouldn’t talk. No matter what tactics they used to threaten me, I wouldn’t give them any names. I was charged with two counts of commercial drug trafficking. And charged for my involvement in the ecstasy drug syndicate.
I spent the next two years and nine months in one of Victoria’s jails. I was put in a cell with a murderer who’d sharpen his secretly acquired blades at night. “Be careful what you wish for.” Let me take you back a fraction in time. I was on my bed crying, and I remember thinking, “I want out and away from it all.” I should have specified the exact terms, because I got what I wished for, but not in the way I intended. It took me eight weeks, but I finally accepted the fact that I wasn’t getting out.
I decided to make the most of it. You can get jobs in jail just like you would in the real world. Only they paid something shocking like 10 cents an hour. I was the peer supporter and gave tours to new prisoners, helped inmates make their beds, you know, stuff they were having difficulty with. I was welcomed into every clique, because I wasn’t prejudiced and saw everyone as equals. I read self- help books and expanded my knowledge of philosophy and Buddhism. I meditated every morning before my cell was unlocked.
I was released in February 2013 and was thrown out with my belongings. I organized for a friend to pick me up. I wanted him to take me to the beach. I wanted to lie in the sand and just take everything in. The car started moving and I freaked the hell out. I was so accustomed to living in a box, that I felt sick as an exaggerated sense of agoraphobia consumed my senses. I was taken straight home. When I learned that my mother had mismanaged my finances, I was heartbroken. My father came clean to me about everything. I lost my businesses because nobody was paying rent. I lost my apartment because my mother failed to exude any responsibility over it. I had to start all over again.
In 2014, I operated a car yard with my dad. I was back in my natural element and I even had a boyfriend.
If I was going to do this whole life thing, I was only going to do it by embracing my individuality. I was happy. Or rather, I was happy when I ignored the torrent of trauma swarming in my head. Work, my relationship, my friends, my history, it was all too much. I found solace with use of a glass pipe, and the many, many, shards and shards of ice.
Two years later and my boyfriend was fed up. I lost my car yard. I had hit rock bottom yet again.
In 2017 I met another guy. Before we really got to know each other, he was deported back to his home country in New Zealand. I had a desire to nurture my affections for him. So, I flew overseas, visited him and found that I rather enjoyed the country. In January 2018, I moved over with only four suitcases. Applied for a sales manager job for a luxury car brand, and as you’d expect, I landed the gig without breaking a sweat. Just last week I was promoted and am now the General Manager for the entire brand. So here I am now, I’ve got a fantastic job, a blossoming relationship, and am so far having a good run at it. I couldn’t tell you precisely how many times I’ve had to rebuild my life. But something tells me I’ve become quite an expert.
I look back over almost 40 years of my life and can honestly say, I have learned a lot. My time as a drug dealer, while definitely hurting me, has also contributed to what I know today. I was forced into compromising experiences I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy and taught me how to stand on my own two feet. But, I have also realized that sometimes, you meet individuals who are only capable of behaving with what limited knowledge and wisdom they possess. We should not expect of them what they do not expect of themselves.
And so, here’s to a bright and prosperous future.
This story was told anonymously. After a childhood of falling short of his parents’ standards, the Australian storyteller dove headfirst into what would give him comfort. Somewhere down the line, the storyteller became involved in mob-related activities—even spending a stint in jail. After hitting rock bottom, he has finally reached a point in his life where he can truly appreciate all that he has. He is now on fantastic terms with his parents and on good terms with those of his past relationships. He enjoys his downtime with drinks and friends and loves prattling on about chickens.
This story first touched our hearts on July 6, 2018.
| Writer: Ben Siljac | Editor: Colleen Walker |