22-28 May 2008
AROUND TOWN Junkie nutrition It ain’t all just veins and vla! As you may have read, this roving reporter broke his jaw, thereby restricting his diet to liquid food like soup and, that typical Dutch delicacy, vla, in quantities previously unknown to mankind. Amsterdam Weekly, always prepared to put a salty finger on the sore spot, thought it to be the perfect state of general misery to send me out on an assignment, researching the eating habits of drug addicts. As all Amsterdammers know, or suspect, junkies don’t particularly give full attention to the nutritional side of living, as they have far better things to do: like being high as a kite. For Marcel (43), who prefers not to reveal his last name, the question comes down to: ‘What’s it like to be addicted to freebasing cocaine, and how does it affect one’s culinary escapades?’ Marcel is a tall, skinny dude with beaming eyes whose general appearance wouldn’t get him a job in international banking. Bony hands keep wandering off by themselves. His voice gasps at times, and changes volume in an almost theatrical way. A large hat conceals most of his receding hair. (Come to think of it, that could also be a description of me: together, Marcel and I could make one complete set of teeth.) The fact remains that Marcel is an eloquent chap who chooses his words carefully. ‘I was seriously addicted to coke for about four years, from 1984 to 1988. At first it was all pretty containable for me, until I started freebasing, for say, the last six months. That is like... nothing you’ve ever experienced before. You feel on top of the world, your mind is crystal clear. At the same time, your will power has reduced to nothing. Not to mention the fact that as soon as the effect takes place, you’re already thinking about the next hit. The freebase itself doesn’t affect you. But it triggers the production of a substance in your brain stem that makes you feel that way. And the body needs calcium to do that trick. If it can’t find enough in your food, it will subtract the necessary quantities from other sources, basically your teeth and bones. You essentially eat yourself. To place calcium back where it’s gone can take up to three years. You do the math.’ ‘Besides, I didn’t eat every day. Lack of funding is one reason. Plus I had a girlfriend; we were going down together. She couldn’t eat meat—not even stock—so we both didn’t. We were vegetarian freebasers, for crying out loud. That’s asking for double trouble. Once a week I ate a kroket out of a Febo wall. We broke up eventually.’ The junkie image we all learned to cherish is the fast-paced, lean, mean, shooting machine carrying a pack of vla.
By Jaro Renout
Is that correct, or is there more to the deal than dairy? ‘I had a passion for food, long before the dope. I had a mortar and pestle back then, and if we would get around to cooking, I would make curries and such, by hand, with fresh products. I got stared at by other junkies when I was seen spending money on food. I guess I was an exception. But I felt it was important to maintain basic nutrition standards even though it was physically impossible for me to eat anything on coke. It had to happen in between. ‘In particular, I had to get carbohydrates at least once in a while. Pasta, potatoes... I had a golden rule. No one was allowed to take anything from my carb stash without replacing it. You see, not all my ties to the real world were cut; I knew what I was depriving myself of. I finally kicked the habit myself. Without the Jellinek or any of the other drug rehab programmes and facilities. I can tell you that
All junkies know: use a thicker needle for vla.
is extremely rare. When I was clean for a year, I gave myself a present: two months of sunny Thailand. That was a slap in the face. I remember saying to myself: “Hello, where were you all this time? You were going to miss all this?” I really pigged out on food when I was there. ‘But an addiction like this is never over. If you lay me down a line right now, I would take it without hesitation. I have relapses. You know, sometimes I go back to Centraal Station. There’s all new folk in the scene there. A generation of freebasers is replaced by the next one a lot faster than in real life. Mine was wiped out, and just a few got away. It’s pretty much kick it, or die. If I would freebase now, I would re-experience four years of my life in about three minutes. And believe me, that is not something I would greatly enjoy.’