It has now been ten whole years since Breaking Bad’s pilot episode. Ten years. It feels like the time has just flown by.
Most of us will only ever be able to see Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, while a fair few people watching the Black Mirror episode ‘U.S.S. Callister’ will have spent the entire 75-minute run wondering when Todd Alquist got old.
Even Bryan Cranston, previously known as ‘that weird dad from Malcolm in the Middle’, became a new man after appearing as Walter White. That’s the power an award-winning show can have.
However, that’s not the only impact the show has had; it’s also reminded us that just because someone’s a teacher, it doesn’t mean they live an exemplary life outside the classroom. Sometimes far from it.
Of course, some of you already know this. Namely the teachers among you who got in touch to tell us your wildest stories involving illicit substances.
There are no examples of stealing freight from a train or rigging a bomb to a wheelchair, but there’s still plenty we didn’t expect.
Some names have been changed. Obviously.
I remember once me and a friend had come back from a rave after taking a load of Regretamine (K) and we decided to stay up all night in my kitchen. Although Ket’s known for making you have out-of-body experiences and ‘putting your space boots on’, essentially walking around like a massive unbalanced arsehole, I didn’t expect it to affect my conscious idea of things’ relative sizes. I looked at my feet and I was like “fuuuuck, my shoes are small” and then took them off to check, and sure enough when I looked at them up close, they were massive! After I checked my shoes I decided to do an experiment, so I took my shoes off and stood on my kitchen table, and then everything looked tiny! I can’t really remember the rest of the night, but I think it’s safe to say, when things are further away, they get smaller.
I once took so many uppers during and after a rave that when I got back to our mate’s squatted house at about 11am the next day, one of my eyes shot into the corner of its socket, so it was staring at the other one. I thought no one had noticed and was trying desperately to focus all my energy on keeping that eye straight. I kept blinking really hard and opening them to feel it stay still for a second or two, wobble and then BAM! straight at the other eye! About five minutes in to this I realised everyone in the room was looking at me. This was not in any way fun, and I had to get a friend to literally hold me up like an old woman as we walked home because my balance was that badly off and I couldn’t see shit. Fun times.
It all began on a summer’s day, on a fairly secluded beach in Dublin. I was there with a good friend and a bunch of his mates who I didn’t know very well at all. These were in the days of headshops being legal in Dublin – I never really knew what the stuff was, but thought ‘How bad can it be if it’s legal?’.
Someone produced an old pipe they’d nabbed from their dad, and a mysterious bag of green things I initially assumed to be oregano. As they packed the pipe with oregano I sat thinking to myself, “Why are they filling this pipe with oregano?”
It turns out it wasn’t oregano.
We lit it up and passed it around the circle. It came to me and I didn’t think twice about it, I took a few almighty drags, held it in for as long as I could and passed it around. This continued around the circle a few times until it was spent. We then sat starting at the sea as the sun began to set. It should have been lovely.
“Oh I guess this stuff is hallucinogenic”, I remember thinking as I saw thick black spider’s legs emerge from the sea (Pretty normal reaction to seeing that I guess). About 40-50 thick legs emerging from the waves started coming out over the water and clawing their way right towards me. They scraped at the sand of the beach and continuously jumped forwards and backwards towards me, closer each time. “This is weird,” I whispered, “my bad dreams are coming out of the sea and trying to get me.” Well, I thought I whispered this. Turns out, according to others present, I shouted this very loudly.
It was then I felt a spider’s leg touch my leg.
I did not hesitate.
I did not say goodbye to the people I was with.
I got up, and I ran as fast as I could all the way home.
Home was just over three miles away and I sprinted the entire time. All the while my spider leg nightmares were crawling after me. Every once in a while they would slow and fall back allowing me to slow down my speed, but as soon as I did that they would do a lightning fast leap to right behind me causing me to bolt and sprint once again.
I ran past neighbours on the way and didn’t stop as they greeted me. I had to lie to them for ages after that telling them I was training for a race. The out loud screaming was simply a technique I was trying out to free up lung space and help me run faster, not one of sheer genuine terror… I swear!
I made it home and thankfully nobody was in! So lucky! I leapt onto the couch and curled up into the fetal position as the spiders legs wrapped around me entirely. I shut my eyes until I heard them scuttle off. I have no idea how long I lay there for, but it felt like hours.
We decided to pick up some MDMA before a squat rave near Liverpool Street. We met our usual dealer and he gave us what looked like a bag of MDMA (Narrator: “It was not MDMA”). So we started to take this stuff and it clearly wasn’t what we thought, so we called it Sparkle.
Two of my mates went off into one of the many abandoned offices in this squatted out block we were in and decided to run through a glass door, as you do. One of the two, let’s call him Donny, cut his head open pretty bad, so we eventually called an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived he had his top off with blood leaking down his chest and he shouted “Freeeeeeedooooooom!” at the ambulance (a la Braveheart).
Anyway, the ambulance sped off with Donny and another friend in it, and our ten-strong group decided to jump on a bus and followed the ambulance to the hospital. When we got there, we found his bed, drew the curtains, and whipped the bag of sparkle out. We were all fucked in this hospital, so I decided to steal a hospital gown and get naked. As you do.
After we left the hospital, my friends decided to throw my clothes in the road, so I’m wandering around on the streets in nothing but a hospital asking people if I can use their phone to call my friends. Eventually a homeless man let me use his. I think he thought I was crazy.
I finally found my friends and by this time it was 8 or 9am, the perfect time for a pint after a long night, so we headed to the Spoons, went in and asked the lady “Can we have a pint please?” and she said, “No, I’m just the cleaner”.
At this point we realised this pub was split into two bars, so we headed round the other bar where nobody was, had a look around and decided, fuck it, why not? So we all jumped behind the bar and took as many bottles as we could from the fridges and bolted. Safe to say it’s not my proudest moment, but I got to spend the rest of that sunny day sitting in the park drinking strawberry cider in my hospital gown with chemical burns on my tongue, and in the words of Sol Campbell, it was just lovely.
You know how they say you always remember where you are when you first heard The Beatles? Well, I think people in their late 20s always remember where they were during the ketamine drought. I was studying for my PGCE at the time and ketamine was rarer than a fully functioning bladder at an after party in Dalston. My friends and I had sourced some mKet from the dark web; this was dubbed as a substance similar to ketamine with slightly stronger effects.
Having herded back to a cold conservatory in the early hours of a Friday morning after a club night, I had a decision to make: go to bed or keep going? Despite being mid-way through a placement that would greatly determine my future and facing the prospect of teaching 30 small children at 8:30 that morning, of course the allure of a ketaminey experience was simply too good to turn down.
My friends and I decided to start doing keys to see whether it was genuinely was stronger than ketamine. What happened after that will forever remain a mystery, a complete memory blank. I came to my senses whilst walking down a busy dual carriageway around five in the morning with no recollection of where I was, or how I got there - safe to say the ‘stronger than ketamine’ claims were valid. It was at this precise moment I realised that my decision to carry on was probably a bad one. I had no idea where I was and there were 30 small children tucked away in bed who would soon depend on me, up to my eyeballs on a hallucinogenic substance, to facilitate their day’s education. I managed to hail a taxi for the both of us and somehow coherently spat out my address. I bowled through the door of my house and got dressed as fast as I could and layered on thick deodorant to mask the smell of pure regret.
As I made the usual commute to school I was contemplating the many ways in which my teaching career could soon be coming to an end. The question “What happens if I’m sick on a child?” is not something they answer on the PGCE curriculum, so I was forlorn. Up until now, I had a very good relationship with my mentor and it took all my might to appear respectable and alert when she was discussing the day’s teaching.
Thankfully, since it was Friday, the children were indulging in one of those flavour-of-the-month government fads popular at the time known as ‘The Big Write’. This was my savior. In a ‘Big Write’ children use all the planning they have done in the week to create a final piece and sit and write it for the entire morning - easy right? But that’s not all - their writing is accompanied by classical music and candles (little did they know this was not only aiding their creative process, but preventing my comedown).
As the kids bundled in at their usual time, smiles on their faces, I realised there is nothing more powerful at accentuating the guilt of a drugs binge than the innocence of a child. I remember sitting there, stumbling through the register and hallucinating weird shapes as the children repeated ‘here’ to me. I managed to get through the Big Write session despite many close encounters with falling asleep, returned home and promised myself never to do drugs the night before teaching children ever again. Well, at least not until I was fully qualified, anyway.