It’s hard to believe that anyone can survive a full-blown 25-year addiction to heroin and crack cocaine. With long periods of homelessness and visits to prison thrown in. Constantly having to find money to buy the drugs. The same things every day, day after day… talk about Groundhog Day!
Remarkably, that’s exactly what Marcus Fair did. He not only survived, but also avoided getting any blood-borne viruses and kept all his limbs. Mind you, he did die a couple of times along the way. But Marcus was meant to stay on this planet… and go on to do some pretty amazing things. He is Founder of Eternal Media, a media production social enterprise and charity based in Wrexham that makes high impact documentary films, as well as operates an inspiring recovery community.
Marcus is now nine years in recovery. Here is his addiction story, told by him in an interview with Wulf in July 2023.
After Marcus and his three close friends did a year in jail for selling ecstasy, they met up and started clubbing together again. They made a pact—nothing harder than cocaine. They were soon looking for the ‘off-switch’ to help them come down from the stimulant high they had experienced all night. They tried all sorts of substances, but couldn’t find the come-down they were looking for.
Marcus and his friend Nathan, who was a Grade A student and ‘was going places’, discovered their other two friends trying something on a piece of foil one day. Marcus thought that since Nathan was willing to have a go, he would do as well as Nathan obviously knew what he was doing. Nathan tried it just the once… Marcus continued for 25 years. ‘It’ was heroin. ‘That was me gone. It took me, it absolutely took me.’
Marcus considers heroin a very honest drug. With alcohol, it’s a disease that will tell you that you haven’t got it. You can go for years being in denial. ‘But with heroin, you know you’re f…ed.’ Marcus and his friends used the drug as an off-switch for the high of stimulants. However, they soon stopped clubbing and spent their time chasing heroin on a foil. After a few weeks, Marcus felt he had the flu. He tried heroin with a friend and the flu disappeared. The penny dropped. ‘It’s that old cliche, it’ll never happen to me. Until it does.’
In a very short space of time, Marcus was paying £20-40 a day just to feel normal in the morning. Homelessness came in quite quickly—he was living in sheds and vehicles, until the real homelessness kicked in. Crack followed, which led to burglaries. Marcus believes that crack is designed to give you no satisfaction. ‘There’s no point where you think, you know what, I’ve had enough.’ The high is very high, but also very short-lived, so you just want more. Injecting the drugs came next. Luckily, Marcus didn’t contract any blood-borne viruses, which he puts down to being too selfish to share.
‘It was 25 years, just looking like a skull on a stick.’ Eating every three days, if he remembered, and if he could get into the local garage to rob something. He’d travel around the country buying heroin. He used to wear out towns, rather quickly, because of the amount of crime in which he was involved. He had to keep moving on. He didn’t access any treatment because you had to wait at least six weeks to see anyone. And if he was in a place long enough, they’d give him methadone…
Wulf asks Marcus whether there was anything that marked itself as a beginning of change. Marcus replies that it wasn’t about not wanting to do it. It was about the heart-sinking feeling, the overwhelming despair that occurred when he was coming around in the morning, even before opening his eyes. ‘Oh shit, I’ve got to do everything that I did yesterday again today, and that’s the horrible thing about addiction. It’s the same thing, the same crime, the same people, doing the same desperate things living the way you do.’ Marcus points out that when you’re ‘asleep’ after taking heroin, it’s the place you want to be.
He goes on to say that medical grade diamorphine (heroin) is not a dangerous drug—it is commonly used in hospitals as a painkiller. It’s the street drug, the delivery system, and the lifestyle that are the problem. When you’re taking drugs like heroin, you’re instantly a criminal and that’s a tough place to be.
Marcus wasn’t aware that you could change. He came from a town where you didn’t get clean. You had two options—you died or you became an alcoholic, or both. Of the two close mates he continued to use heroin with, one was dead and the other was an alcoholic and close to death.
He stresses again that he didn’t know you could change, that there was a way out. That’s why he loves working with people in recovery, like those in North Wales Recovery Communities and others he works with. They do a lot to make recovery visible and that’s so important, especially for people in addiction who don’t know that recovery exists.
Marcus describes what led to him trying to make some change—it was out of desperation and the pain. He believes that pain is a great instigator of change. However, the trouble was that he had a very high pain threshold. He still has holes and tracks all over him, and he nearly lost a leg twice. At one stage, doctors wanted to put a stent into his heart to keep him alive.
When Marcus went to one rehab, workers asked him want he wanted to do. ‘Just show me how to not use drugs for one day,’ he replied. He hadn’t been clean for as long as a day for a very long time. He had been given methadone a number of times, but he had to keep getting back on heroin to get off the methadone. He remembers being in awe of a guy from Liverpool who had gone to rehab a day before him… and had been clean for that one day.