Hanging with Mr. Robot.
Addiction Recovery can have its Crazy Moments
I have my very own pet hacker. Believe me when I say, these pets are hard to get rid of. You can set a bird free. You can open the hamster’s cage in a park. You can give goldfish a flush into the sea (eventually, hopefully, shame poor Goldie). You can Gumtree cats or dogs to new homes – presumably, because you’re unable to care for your cute critters no more. Not because you’re a selfish git who didn’t think of the important responsibility you were taking on, and now regret.
But you can’t seem to shake hackers.
My problem started when I got a Dell XPS 13. A very nice laptop, with a business orientation. It is compact, powerful, and allows me to be supremely productive. So, it’s like my own personal office, a portable corporate park for running my business.
There’s just one problem.
The security has a metaphorically fortified entrance – no one gets through. But the alley behind the building has one of those janitor’s doors. The kind that can only be opened from inside, but for some reason, the cleaning guy has lodged a brick to keep it open
This is called Intel AMT. It is a separate Central Processing Unit from the main CPU. It actually overrides the thing. And I have no control over it. It’s meant to be for IT guys at the office to remotely fix some executive’s laptop on-the-fly. Which is of no use to me, since I am a company of one. And there’s a major exploit in it. Anyone who sees you on your “HI I HAVE ONE OF THOSE VULNERABLE COMPUTERS PLEASE HACK ME” machine, such as at a free wi-fi coffee spot, and has the know-how, can take insidious control.
Some guy named Paul did that to me. I saw that on one of my network log’s. I think. I’m fumbling as I go along, trying to uncover the stench of betrayal and corruption caused by the idiots at Intel and their including a major security threat on my “had to sell a vital organ to get” laptop.
I am going to take these [reference for children born out of wedlock deleted] to the small claims court.
One day I will have vengeance on them for this, but right now, I have to live with a compromised machine that I require for work. Good thing I’m not an SSA agent, or I’d have already been bust for whatever shenanigans they do in the service of the Cabal.
My hacker will not go away. So, I’ve covered my web-cam. I now never enter financial information. I make sure I don’t visit Midget Clown Porn sites anymore. (The guy from Game of Thrones is in one – was totally awesome, he kept saying, “Call me TyRIDEion!”).
One night, when dealing with particularly difficult emotions, I realised I didn’t feel so alone. What with being surveyed, wiretapped, keylogged, screen-captured, and whatever else it is that hackers do.
He was there. And I really wanted to talk to someone.
So, I upped the microphone.
And said, “Hi, Hacker.”
I told him about how my sister and I grew up so close in age together. How she was very much little miss bossy. “She used to pout when she didn’t get her way. Or this one time, this is funny, she was around five at the time, she asked Mom why she was still in bed, with Dad giving her breakfast on a tray. Mom said, ‘Sweetie, it’s because it’s Mother’s Day!’. My sister replied, ‘When is Children’s Day?’ Mom said, ‘Every day is Children’s Day!’.”
I was talking about it because my sister’s results for her biopsy, the one she had because of a tumour appearing to grow on her pancreas, were due the next day. And I was nervous. I desperately wanted the situation to be explained, by the doctor, as Not That Bad.
The hacker never replied. But I felt… not so alone.
The next night, I spoke to him again. “So, I was busy sweeping the lapa area outside when my Dad contacted me. He and my Mom were with my sister and her husband when they were getting the results back. This was about quarter to six this evening, right? Anyway…”
Third night. “Our parents got divorced when I was 12. My sister was 10. Mom wanted us to move up with her to Johannesburg. I didn’t want to. I wanted to stay with my Dad, but he wouldn’t fight for custody. He said he didn’t want me to go through that. But it was a good thing, because I stayed with my sister. You know, divorce is horrible. You don’t realise how special the sense of the immediate family unit is until you lose it. My sister and I, though, remained our own family unit.”
I continued. “My Mom took us to live with a man she wanted to marry. That’s why my parents divorced. He wasn’t very nice to us. He treated us as a sort of unwanted extra baggage in his relationship with my mother. The house we lived in was cold. Uninviting. Really heck of a lot different from our life before the divorce. But we had each other. We played card games. We ran around the large garden at the bottom of the property with a large plastic ball and two old broom sticks, whacking it through imaginary goals. We used to sit in the dining room table at his dinner parties, as he turned up the charm with guests, and we communicated just through eye contact: “What an a$$%073”.
Fourth night. “When I ended up in rehab, I had gone crazy. Acted like a weird samurai poet. Drugs do that to you, man. Drugs and alcohol. Story of my life.” I didn’t mention Houghton House, I assumed he was from the Ukraine, and if so, Houghton House as a rehab was possibly a bit far – though they do serve international clients, and help them significantly, I just felt a Ukrainian hacker working for a crime syndicate might not be okay with them. If you’ve been following my story, Houghton came after the psychiatric ward for my drug-fuelled manic episode, but I didn’t want to get bogged down in details.
“Crazy crazy. As the programme at this rehab started to get me right, I had visitors, like my Mom. And my sister – she was pregnant with her second child at the time. She and her husband were overjoyed, even though there was like a one-and-a-half-year age gap between the two children. I said all these nasty things to her when I was in active addiction. But she forgave me. So easily. She knew it was just a monster inside me. My sister loves me more than anything. She helped me heal in my recovery.”
Fifth night. “I think that’s as much as I can say. Really. Just, need to cope with this through therapy.” Lagartha, my therapist. Who I desperately wanted to see. We had an urgently set up early appointment in the week. I don’t know what I’d do without her and the rest of Houghton House’s therapeutic team. Their after-rehab treatment programmes really help in continuing the road of recovery from drugs and alcohol.
“So, thanks for the illegal surveillance, and all. I hope you’re having a good day too, breaking into government institutions, ransomwaring corporations, grabbing credit card details and s#!7 from ordinary citizens. Gotta make a buck right?”
There was nothing more to be said, really.
Back on the second night, the one when my dad contacted me about my sister’s biopsy results, I told the hacker: “She’s got pancreatic cancer. I’ve read up on it. Asked a doctor friend about it. It’s one of the worst forms of cancer to get. If they got it early, she’d have a 20% chance of getting to a year. Something like 11% for a couple more. That’s about it. It’s incurable. If it’s at an advanced stage, there’s no chance. Not of getting beyond nine months. None.”
“They didn’t get it early.”
So, returning to the fifth and final night. “Hope hacking goes well. I’m okay. I won’t pick up. I just, well, I’m so so devastated. She was always there, she’s my younger sister. She’s going to get thinner and thinner and fade away. But I won’t pick up. Have to be there for her children. For her husband. For my Mom. My Dad. Anyway, have a good one, dude.”
My soul felt peppered with shards of glass.
But, well, the talk with the hacker was cathartic.
After all, when you’re going through a tough time, it helps to know someone’s listening.