Kate Holden

In My Skin


When Kate Holden had been on heroin for about a year she agreed to go for rehab. She grew ‘clear and vibrant’, yet when her month was up, instead of going home to her supportive parents, she went straight to Jake, her dealer. Like a cord, she says, the addiction pulled her right back. And right into prostitution.

Holden grew up in a comfortable suburb of Melbourne, loved and cherished by her parents and younger sister, in a house filled with books. A university graduate, she didn’t lose her virginity until she was nineteen, didn’t smoke marijuana until twenty-one, but when her friends experimented with heroin she was drawn in, not wanting to be left out.

‘Heroin is like wading into the sea. The first fizz of water at your ankles is delicious, shocking

…you grin with pleasure, and you think, why didn’t I come in sooner? How gorgeous, how thrilling! Then abruptly the sand drops beneath your next step, and you plunge into deeper water, and you can’t feel the bottom anymore.’

Her extraordinary account of floundering in that deep water grips from the beginning. The reader – shocked, saddened, revolted, surprised, sometimes amused, always fascinated – reads on. blackadderk03pic2.jpg

Graduating from the streets to the comparative safety of a brothel she made just enough money to feed her $500 a day habit, taking pride in what she was doing, talking history and literature with some of her clients. She told herself she was following in the tradition of the great courtesans of history and finding ‘how every man, however unprepossessing, might bear a kind of grace


Perhaps it was that pride and a certain ‘kind of grace’ that saved her. She lived to tell her tale when so many don’t, withdrawing from heroin as one might withdraw from a lover, believing that there will be no going back to the relationship but knowing that the affection will never be completely gone.

© Kate Blackadder

In My Skin: A Memoir, Kate Holden, Canongate ISBN 978 1 84195 791 7 / 1 84195 791 7 £9.99