Escapism, one of the oldest practices in human evolution. It has been viewed as a topic of controversy and perceived as a negative term, becoming associated with people who want to relieve themselves of their dull and depressing daily lives. It can be referred to as a mental diversion caused by feelings of unhappiness, loneliness and abandonment. Many people resort to drug abuse, excessive alcohol consumption and sometimes, even suicide. Some of us join in with a lost crowd somewhere, losing our minds only waiting to be found by a lucky stranger with a charming smile. In Berlin hundreds and thousands of foreigners leave behind their semi-normal, occupied, perhaps disrupted lives every year to roam into the accepting arms of this city’s famous club scene, drug induced adventures and cheap consumers’ delight. A few of those numerous visitors decide to settle here and look forward to a better future, a future with the promise of contentment and new endeavours.
On one of my first pursuits in Berlin I stumbled across a young man from middle England who was on the first step to his ‘awakening’. This 24 year old electronic music producer was a lonely boy in a man’s body, who happened to fall into the mystical wonders of a city that geographically seemed to be only miles away, yet in reality it was worlds apart.
I came to Berlin, escaped my reality and founded my dreams. I grew up in a small town called Spalding, in England. I have two siblings; with one the relationship has frayed. My mother is an alcoholic, suffering from depression and my father was a victim of betrayal and resorted to suicide. At the young age of 8 I was in the middle of a family being torn apart because of my mothers infidelities. On the 26th of December 1996 around midnight I awoke to hear my dad shouting to my mum: “Go on! Hit me again, kick me again!” My father had caught her in bed with another man on his way home from work early that night, I then heard the sound of my dad grabbing something from the cupboard under the stairs before storming out and driving away in the family’s 4 x 4, I didn’t know at the time that it was the last day I would see my dad alive. After he left I went and got into my mothers bed. She was crying her eyes out and we lay there together for hours both crying, I asked her where dad had gone, she lied to me and said he’d gone for a drive to clear his head, she knew exactly where he was going and she didn’t stop him. I know if I went downstairs like I wanted to I could have stopped him, if I had – maybe I would still have a father.
My mother and I fell asleep, morning came around she had already got up, I went downstairs and my Nan and Granddad were in the dining room with my mum crying. I ignored it. She asked my siblings and I to stop playing with our toys. We had refused. She then burst out saying; my dad was dead. As time went on I kept asking her what happened to him, she never told me the truth but only kept repeating that he fell asleep and, was at peace when he died. I have this image in my mind even to this day of my father sitting in the 4×4, the carbon monoxide gas filling the air, him in tears coughing his guts out.
Over time I developed a close relationship with my mother because of the pain and hurt that we went through. The death of my father was a vivid memory in my childhood and I feel like it shaped my life and contributed to who I am today. I feel like ever since this happened I have been escaping my reality and trying to find a dream world somewhere, so I didn’t have to accept who I was. After the age of eight I don’t really remember a lot as the main events in my youth merge into one another.
At the age of 16 my mother kicked me out of the house as I had gotten into trouble with the police for credit card fraud. I had used my mother’s credit card to buy CD’s and T-shirts worth around 155 pounds. Rendered homeless I went to stay with my girlfriend for two nights and then drifted until I ended up living with my friends Christian’s Godparents. They were cool with drug use however, alcohol was not allowed. About a year later I remember taking acid before I even smoked my first cigarette. Later I started dealing drugs; I thought the elaborate non-taxed wages were an attractive part of the job. In one of my deals I burnt someone’s house down because he punched my pregnant girlfriend in the stomach. She was 18; her mum had died of a heroine overdose. I had no guilt of screwing people over; I started taking drugs everyday, I got addicted to ecstasy and cocaine. The lifestyle seemed normal.
I tried staying with my girlfriend for 6 months, but we were arguing everyday. I eventually lost my mind and cheated on her. She punished me by throwing me out. I had no choice; being a lost soul myself I had to leave my daughter behind. I didn’t care about anything, and I met a girl from Liverpool on MySpace. I visited her and then she got pregnant. She was 33. When I went back to Peterborough the betrayal had caught up with me. 20 guys beat me up by a river where they left me for dead. I decided I would give up my drug dealing life and take up the responsibility of being a father. I was still taking a lot of drugs and got into shoplifting, my confidence in this trade grew over time with more experience. I was stealing clothes and food from expensive shops, the rule in our gang was to only steal from companies and not from people, it made me feel like it was right, I felt like Robin Hood. The most valuable item I stole was cashmere sweater worth over 200£.
The thieving was getting noticed so I had to move to Wales, where I stayed with some friends, and continued to steal until I was 22. Around this time my life was starting to hit rock bottom, I found myself spending more and more time in Liverpool. As fun and exciting as being in Liverpool was, it really wasn’t much of a life, about 10 of us were living in a 4 bedroom student apartment, but no one had a job. We spent most of the day shoplifting to keep up the facade that we were ‘loaded’, when in reality we were nothing more than lowlife scumbag druggies. We were all heavily into smoking weed. Between the 10 of us we were smoking an ounce a day, it made it worse that our dealer lived two floors below. Not only were we hammering the weed but also we all started getting into Mephedrone quite badly. After a while we were each on 2/3 grams a day, we achieved this by stealing and selling shit to buy more of it.
As I started slipping further down the Meph hole my behaviour got worse, stealing got worse, my attitude towards other people was a joke. For me it all started to come to a head in June 2011, it was nearly time for us all to move out of the apartment and things between us all started to get really grim. From this point on I remember nothing, just fuzzy memories, flashes of things, things I’m not even sure had happened. I got into trouble with the police several times for attempted burglary and I was put on bail. Being on a curfew, as much as I hated every second of it wasn’t that bad in the end. I got a full time job even though I did spend all my wages on weed but I still had a job and I was good at it. I was getting good sleep and good food and for once, it seemed like I had some kind of stability in my life – even if it was forced.
One summer afternoon, I was left alone with one of my friends girls, he kind of liked her. We spent the day laying in the sun and talking until we had to go inside. At one point she said I was a lot nicer than my mate. From what I remember we decided to go back to her place in Preston and had the most intense sex. For four days we stayed there with out having any contact with the rest of the world. From that moment on things started to get hard for me, all my friends got together and made it their mission to ruin my life, I got thrown out of my house. I lost all my friends.
I started thinking more and more about the mistakes I had made, the debts I was in and what everything had cost me: my friends and my reputation. My relationship with my family was ruined, these were the only people who had cared and supported me. I started to feel regret and hatred towards myself for all the bad things I had done, I had nothing left and it was all my fault. Sometimes in life you do things that are impossible to change, the only thing you can do is live with them. I was finding it hard to accept that. Over the course of a couple of weeks all this had started to overwhelm me. The feeling of guilt and dread was unreal. Suicide became an option. I was miserable and alone and I felt like the end was near. Until one Wednesday morning I sat up and said to myself fuck it…I’m moving to Berlin. It was the best decision I have ever made. I feel content here, and finally at home.
When I turned 22 I started writing an online journal, I could not talk to anyone. I was afraid that people would judge me. After moving to Berlin, facing my fears, escaping my hell on Earth, I can finally put my demons to rest. I think everyone has skeletons in their closet; maybe sometimes it is better to leave them there and make your ultimate escape. I feel after doing it, I am at one with myself. I feel more inspired and have got my music signed to a record label. I am proud of my achievements and have found true friends who accept me for who I am. I think knowing that I could get away and start over, helped me get through my darkest hour, because I had lost everything else, all I had left was myself. I sometimes think escape is necessary so you can find a new strength and willpower to go on. Berlin is the greatest place for someone to have a new beginning. The city welcomed me with bright smiles and beautiful techno, opened windows of new opportunities, and gave me a reason to go on. I feel like I can achieve anything, the world is limitless and I am a free spirit. When I stand somewhere in a lost crowd, I feel found. Berlin.