I was in my late 20s. I had spent my youth as a good Christian girl but, having lost my faith and moved to the den of vice that is London, I decided to do all the things that good Christian girls don’t do.
Among other things, this involved a lot of drugs, legal and otherwise.
One drug that was still legal at the time was GHB. I loved it. It gave a nice buzz and, I was told, increased your metabolic rate. For a young woman who liked getting high and worried about her weight, it was ideal. I mean, it’s basically a cocktail of paint stripper and drain cleaner, but who cares? IT GETS YOU HIGH! IT KEEPS YOU THIN! (OK, so it also gives you terrible acne, but two out of three ain’t bad.)
Because one of its effects is a raging horniness, GHB was sold in sex shops. I spent an inordinate amount of time (and money) in one particular sex shop in Soho.
Billy was one of the guys who worked in the sex shop. He was in his late forties, greying, moustachioed, and with a Yorkshire accent heavy enough to anchor the Knock Nevis.
The Knock Nevis: heavy anchor required.
I adored him. He adored me. We chatted while he worked and went to the pub together during his breaks.
Billy watched me as I went from a giggling, tipsy customer who came into the shop with her buddy, to a more haggard and heavy GHB user, to a solitary shopper who slunk in asking where the nearest coke/crack dealers were.
One evening, he took me to one side. “Rachel,” he said, “you’re a nice girl. But I’ve seen a lot of nice girls come in here, who’ve ended up living on the streets, selling their arses for a fiver. That’s where you're headed.”
And that was the most frightening thing anyone has ever said to me.
Billy wasn't the first person to express concern about my drug use, but coming from someone who had worked for years in the heart of Soho, it meant something. He knew what he was talking about.
Billy stopped serving me GHB and refused to tell me where the local dealers hung out. He instructed everyone else in the shop to do the same.
Me? I stopped drinking and got clean. Billy’s words played a large part in that.