Nothing to declare

In the fourth part of his personal story, Mark Dempster pushes his luck to the limits abroad and comes home for a dose of harsh reality.

I spent my break in Morocco drinking poppy tea and smoking hash. I hitched a lift in the middle of nowhere with some German tourists. We stopped by some woods so that I could wrap my hash and swallow it to cross the border – that’s when I saw a young soldier with a rifle pointing at my head. Next thing, he was nudging us over with his gun to a tree, motioning for us to pull our pants down and bend over – I begged him not to. I tried to convince the Germans to take one for the team, but they wouldn’t – I was scared he was going to kill us. After several hours of negotiation, we traded money and hash for our freedom. I was glad to be leaving Morocco. 

Despite nearly being buggered and murdered by a soldier, I didn’t learn my lesson. My next trip was to Spain to swap some LSD for hash. This time I was caught and ended up in a Spanish prison. I expected to be there for years – I had no trial and no defence. All around me people were beaten near to death and I had to act hard to stay alive. I got lucky again – but my friend had to do five years. I thought that somebody must have been looking out for me.  

Back in London, Walshy had messed up the business. I had been gone for too long and he had lost our customers to a rival. We were back to a few deals and had hardly any money. I thought a party for my 25th birthday would be the start of a comeback – all the big dealers were there, including Brian. The party was going well and then Walshy overdosed on heroin. We put him in a bath and slapped him about – he was looking better and just needed to sleep it off. So did I. I found him the next morning dead. 

I ran around the house searching for anything that would numb what I was feeling. Although I hadn’t given him the heroin that killed him, I felt responsible. For several weeks I locked myself away and drank myself into blackout so I could forget everything that had happened. Everybody blamed me for what happened – nobody would do business with me, Brian wanted money from me and Walshy’s family wanted me dead. 

Mum was worried about me and begged me to get off the drugs – she thought if I could get clean I would be OK. I thought that if I could quit the heroin then I could still drink and smoke hash – I just needed to go to a place where nobody knew me and I could get some distance from London. Time would heal things and I could kick the heroin habit in India. Besides, I could always smuggle some drugs back when I got sorted and start again – this time would be different. I didn’t know this was the beginning of the end. 

Mark Dempster is author of Nothing to Declare: Confessions of an Unsuccessful Drug Smuggler, Dealer and Addict, available now on Amazon.

Next issue: Mark becomes a beggar in India, homeless in London and reaches a crossroads in his life