Many people around the world use drugs each weekend with little trouble. However, that’s not true for everyone.
If you were looking for an example of how drugs can derail your life, Londoner Henry Hendron provides a sobering and chilling example.
Five years ago, Hendron’s star was rising. A talented and acclaimed young lawyer, he’d established himself as one of London’s brightest legal eagles.
He had a roster of celebrity clients, representing the likes of Tory MP Nadine Dorries and The Apprentice winner Stella English, and ran his own office in central London.
The now 36-year-old was also in love, having embarked on a relationship with an 18-year-old Colombian man: waiter Miguel Jimenez. The two met in August 2014.
To help escape the pressure of his demanding legal career, Hendron had started experimenting with drugs. He says he first tried them when offered some in a gay sauna. By his own admission, he was ‘pretty naïve’ about drugs but quickly came to rely on them as a way to switch off from work.
With his new boyfriend, he was soon regularly taking GBL and mephedrone.
Aware that his drug use might be becoming problematic, Hendron tried hard to keep it in check. At first the couple stuck to drug-taking only at weekends, before deciding to take a break from chems for a few weeks in the run up to Christmas 2014.
As 2015 beckoned, Hendron felt optimistic. His career was booming and he’d earned a ‘six-figure’ sum in December. He was splitting his time between his apartment in the leafy, wealthy suburb of Richmond and barrister’s chambers in Temple, central London.
Then, in early January, tragedy struck.
Finding himself with a Tuesday free of court duties, he says that he and Miguel decided to take some drugs on a Monday evening.
Hendron later fell asleep. When he awoke, Miguel was dead.
Talking to GSN at his Richmond home, Hendron can recall the aftermath of that night in detail. He says he had spent the evening enjoying a take-away and booking some holidays online. He felt good. They had decided to extend their celebrations by taking some GBL.
‘It wasn’t that much drugs, that I was aware. I think ultimately what must have happened, having tried to kind of recount the events of that night, is that the G was mixed up, because we decanted G into a glass and then we decanted from that into a glass we drank, but there were two identical glasses.
‘I can only surmise that Miguel took the wrong glass and drank it.
‘When I woke up in the morning, without my glasses or lenses in, he wasn’t moving, but there was this red patch I could make out around his face. Instantly, I just knew this was bad.
‘I put my glasses on and screamed and I realized that it was just blood around his face and … he was blue in color.’
Hendron made the split second decision to call paramedics. They talked him through the steps to try and resuscitate Miguel until they arrived. Once they did, they took over and Hendron was told to wait in the living room.
“I’m sorry, we’ve not been able to restart Miguel’s heart”
Hendron said they tried for 30 minutes, but to no avail.
‘Half an hour or so passed and the paramedics came in and I knew what they were going to say. They sat me down and said, “I’m sorry, we’ve not been able to restart Miguel’s heart.”
‘There was now several dozen emergency services people in my living room, and with that line, “We haven’t been able to restart Miguel’s heart,” they got up and left, and as they got up, six police officers from the City of London came forward and I was immediately arrested and handcuffed.’
The police found 60 bags of mephedrone in Hendron’s apartment – worth around $1,350/€1,130. He was arrested and charged with procuring the drugs that had led to Miguel’s death. A post-mortem ruled that the younger man’s death was due to a lethal mix of mephedrone and GBL.
As a young, celebrity barrister, Hendron’s arrest and subsequent court trial made the papers. His fall from grace was humiliating and public, but more than that, he was grief-stricken by the loss of his boyfriend.
His way of coping? To throw himself into more drug taking – moving on from mephedrone to crystal meth.
‘I think I had crystal meth once before that occasion, and it was a one-off. It’s when my partner then died that I then kind of went on to the hard stuff.’
It was at this point that he started to do drugs when on his own.
‘Up until that point drugs, for me, I guess was an excuse really to have lots of sex, and justify it … an escape. Ultimately it was just me making excuses for what I was doing.
‘I never took any drugs by myself until my boyfriend died and then I was actually sitting in this flat and I was just unbelievably distraught. Suicidal. I thought “What do I do?”
‘I stopped drinking because I was increasingly depressed and I knew that that was going to end up with me jumping off a bridge or something. I turned to drugs, as a friend, I guess, and that was a bad decision.’
Hendron talks candidly about his drug use and the depths to which it drove him.
‘My response to Miguel’s death was to go on the biggest drug binge I’d ever been on.
‘I went off partying from one gay sex party to another’
Hendron went from a busy diary to having no appointments or work. With ‘Excess free time, cash in the bank … I went off partying from one gay sex party to another around London.
‘And I was still on bail at the time. I had to report to the police station on Mondays and Fridays, and even pitched up at the police station with drugs in my pocket. I’d leave one party and go to sign on, and get an Uber or taxi and then go back to that party or go to another. I just didn’t care.
‘I’d lost everything really. Money didn’t make any difference to me.
‘I ended up in hospital several times. I ended up almost dying on two occasions. One pretty close. The doctors told me this as I was coming around in Intensive Care, strapped to the bed and things coming out of every orifice of your body. And they said, “It was pretty close, you know.”
‘And do you know what I did? I discharged myself from hospital on that occasion, in St Thomas’s and I went out partying again. I think that was the very same day. Nothing was going to stop me.’
Court and sentencing
Hendron’s court case loomed, and he faced the real possibility of a custodial sentence. In the end, after pleading guilty to possessing mephedrone and GBL with intent to supply, he was sentenced to 140 hours of unpaid work. He was also suspended by an independent tribunal from working as a barrister for three years.
Speaking at his trial, he told the Old Bailey, ‘Miguel’s death is something I will always blame myself for.
‘It was tragic and unintended, but with hindsight, all too foreseeable. It has profoundly affected my life and the life of both mine and Miguel’s family.’
Since that time, he’s battled to get his life back on track, but admits it continues to be a struggle. This summer he taken back to court by his brother in a legal dispute over property. His brother labelled him a ‘drug addict’ in court, and he’s open about the fact that staying away from drugs is hard for him.
Hendron says he last took crystal meth two weeks before our meeting. At his peak, he was injecting himself daily.
‘During the course of my high, the peak of my use, I would say I was barely functional, but I was going to an office in Chancery Lane, I would shoot up in the toilet, and then speak to people.
‘What an idiot I must have been!’
‘You’re probably the third person I’ve admitted that to. It moved away from sex, using crystal meth and other drugs to enhance a sexual experience with men, I still do that on a pretty much daily basis, to just being able to kind of function.
‘Even just thinking about it now, it just makes me feel crazy, like “What an idiot I must have been!” To go into the office with syringes, which were already filled, I was very organized, so it was just a matter of adding hot water, and I’d do that throughout the day. I did that for well over a month.’
He was no longer doing it for sexual kicks, either, admitting that sex with others while constantly high no longer held much appeal.
‘You don’t really engage with those you’re having sex with in that environment. It just becomes boring.’
Avoiding drugs remains a struggle.
‘I really don’t want to get on to crystal meth again. I really don’t because every time you do it just gets worse, there’s no doing it just the once, or for a bit of relief, it’s all just a nightmare and the nightmare grows the more you have.’
Living with loss
Of course, although Hendron’s life has been turned upside down, he is not the chief victim in this story. I ask him if he has any contact with Miguel’s family. He nods to a vase of decomposing flowers in his kitchen window. He says Miguel’s mother had left them for him three weeks earlier. She’d called around but had found him not in.
When he was arrested, Hendron says he asked that the police send a interpreter to Miguel’s mother, who works in the UK as a cleaner, to inform her what had happened.
‘His mother relied on him. To an extent, Miguel’s family, and certainly his mother, didn’t want to speak to me initially, and I can understand that. But I felt that I had to speak to them, and I had to do what I was right in Miguel’s name.
‘To an extent I forced myself upon her and wouldn’t accept no for an answer. And eventually she came here. We spent the whole day, from morning till evening, going through photos and crying.’
Today, the two remain in touch.
Kicking the habit
In an effort to combat his issues with drugs, Hendron is escaping London for a few months. He’s planning a lengthy trip to Colombia.
The irony of leaving London and going to a country renowned for its drug production is not lost on him.
‘I won’t know where to find drugs even if I tried. but I don’t want to. Just changing that environment, with every addiction, it’s breaking the circle, breaking that pattern of use. That’s the hardest thing.
It’s also somewhere that he feels close to Miguel as he can visit his grave.
When he returns, he says he is looking forward to trying to resume his legal career. He talks of also trying to start a charity that may use his experiences to help others who have run into substance abuse problems.
‘If I kept on going, it would kill me’
If any good comes out of Hendron’s experiences, he hopes it will make some people think twice about their drug use.
‘Is it really worth it?’ he ask rhetorically. ‘It really isn’t. I lost my career, or was at the point of losing it, I lost the person I really loved in my life, and I lost several hundred thousand pounds of money because of it, and I’ve lost the opportunity to do better things. And for what? For some artificial high.’
Despite his sober mind acknowledging the dangers of his drug use, fighting the temptation remains a daily battle.
‘I would like some crystal meth now but I’m not going to have any … if I kept on going, it would kill me.’
This article is part of the Gay Star News Chemsex Series. Read more stories, support and see the videos on our chemsex section.