The 20-year-old opposite me is a walking talking campaign against drugs. For many years he lost his way. Dealing drugs to the people of Horsham and getting high was his work, his pleasure, and his necessity.
But it all came to a head last year.
“If I took anything else I might have killed myself, so I stopped,” said Tom, who didn’t want his real name to be published.
He’d been hooked on all kinds of narcotics from a young age.
At 16, cannabis was the first.
It’s widely regarded as a gateway drug which makes a user more open to sampling stronger substances.
Tom says he has no doubt smoking weed eventually led to him trying speed, MDMA, cocaine, ketamine and Meow Meow.
He regrets ever touching any of them, and none more than Meow Meow -commonly known as mephedrone.
That’s because he could pick up a gram of the substance at the third of the price of cocaine.
It was cheap.
And buying this particular strain of drug in Horsham is easy if you know the right people, or the wrong people, as Tom tells me.
At a recent meeting with local police, officers warned me that Meow Meow could quite literally be cut with anything to increase profit margins for the dealer, and users are taking their lives in their own hands.
Yet Tom would isolate himself from the world for days at a time and do nothing but snort lines of the stuff. He couldn’t count how many he would do over a 24-hour period.
But the effects it had on him both physically and mentally are devastating.
His nose is visibly corroded. He’s nervous, paranoid and self-conscious. He can’t concentrate when he’s talking to me.
Last year the abuse took hold of his body and forced crushing pressure on his chest like he was suffering a heart attack. The drug played havoc on his nervous system as well, and panic attacks were regular.
Tom was rushed to hospital several times. Always surviving an overdose of mephedrone, and always going back for more.
The life of a drug dealer/addict had had an insidious impact on his relationship with loved ones as well.
“You lose love for your friends and family when they’re telling you to get off the drugs,” explained Tom.
“You’re like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, you keep that drug like it’s the ring and it really messes you up.”
Towards the end of 2012 Tom’s home was raided by officers who discovered a small bag of Meow Meow.
At the time he didn’t stash his supply at home.
Tom got lucky, and was let off with a police caution.
Four months ago he moved to the Horsham Y Centre and drew a line under that life to start a new one.
But trying to rid himself of his reputation has proved difficult.
“I stopped dealing but had these people come to see me and ask to buy drugs. I said ‘don’t you know drugs can kill you’, and one said, ‘yeah and so can getting hit by a bus’. But you don’t choose to get hit by a bus, but you do choose to take drugs.
“It’s not the end when you give up, it’s a whole new beginning.”
Now his focus is on music, with ambitions to become a renowned producer.
“Now I’m absolutely flying through life,” Tom adds, with a smile.
Earlier this year Horsham police executed a number of successful warrants which resulted in the largest seizure of drugs the district had ever seen. In recent months Roffey has been the target of more seizures. Full report pg 17.