This is a gritty autobiographical piece by one of Australia’s well known comedians Greg Fleet. Greg Fleet is addicted to heroin and used other recreational drugs often.
While writing the work Greg decided to give up smoking as his last bastion of things bad for him and gives us an update during the work as to how he’s going. As a smoker I found it hilarious and I’m not sure whether that was the intention or not but it kept me well entertained throughout the work. At each chapter end I hoped the next was about the smoking. I’m not going to tell you whether he was successful or not because
Greg chronicles his descent into daily heroin use starting at the very beginning – the first time he used. He does not go into detail about what heroin feels like the first time and I think this was really responsible writing. He’s not encouraging people to choose this lifestyle, just telling everyone what the hell happened to him and aside the detail of heroin’s effects, he doesn’t hold any punches. He details some of his plight with hocking his stuff for heroin, and brutally examines what happened inside his relationships including the violence and the head games.
Greg went to NIDA (National Institute for Dramatic Art) which at the time (late 80’s) was the most prestigious (if not only) drama school there was. To get in was really hard but he nailed the first audition – high on heroin. He didn’t last the distance but did manage to learn enough to use his skills in Theatresports which led into his comedy career.
He talks about being on the show Neighbours and then finding his drug use on the cover a magazine. Interestingly for me, I was a Neighbours fan at the time and a devourer of all things salacious and cannot remember this tidbit at all which to me says a lot about mine and the public at large fleeting (another pun I really didn’t mean) attention span. From something I probably read and gobbled up as hot gossip at the time, to now having no memory, and then to read how that moment impacted on the person himself was surreal and insightful and again Fleet doesn’t hold anything back, but the next chapter is kind of R rated.
Greg outlines his one night as a gay man and the legacy that he now claims as his own – the gay man’s hot spot (oh the pun) Hepburn Springs in Victoria, Australia. This was the comic relief after a pretty intense chapter, again as raw and honest as I’ve read.
The work continues with a few hilarious stories including a sensational tale of failure while on stage. I really began to wonder where he might have ended up if not for the heroin and other drugs. Then a frightening tale which gave me insight into the clingy, demanding and manipulative nature of heroin. Fleet details two extraordinary episodes of complete risk and stupidity and knows he’s doing it – I just wanted to yell at my Kindle and tell him to stop – so this part is really gripping reading. We learn of his marriage and the birth of his child and some awful and hysterical things that happened during that time. I hope Peter Carey has read that bit.
Now we get to the ICE and it’s bad. The writing is great, but the story, it’s hard to read. It’s a descent into psychosis and all that goes with it and it’s admirable that he got out of there, but there are thousands and thousands of people still there and it scared the shit out of me.
The work continues with what can only be described as tributes to people who have shaped Greg into the person he is. He recalls many stories and events and important people in his life. One hilarious chapter describing his approach to comedy actually made me a wee a little bit laughing. When you get to Bundy Rum in a suit, get ready.
The saying those who think believe the world is a comedy and to those who feel the world is a tragedy, is prevalent throughout the whole work with bittersweet comparisons and a roller coaster ride between the worst of life and addiction told in a sting of comedic telling. There’s no real time to feel though because Fleet just keeps the comedy spin at an intense level.
Fleet closes out the work with a reflection (you will understand this reference/pun if you read it) about his body and what all those years of drug taking have done to it. Interestingly, for a heavy drug user, he doesn’t use Marijuana anymore and hasn’t for the past 10 years since the new breed hit the market. It makes him quite paranoid and other delights, which is an interesting (to me) argument against the legalisation of this new demon.
I really hope he stays off the heroin but he is not even sure whether he will and recounts a fall from grace as a reminder to be ever vigilant. I would love to read more of his work so I’m really hoping he succeeds, but only time will tell.