Release

My son, Paul, has been released from prison today. We made a vague plan for his first morning of freedom. He was to catch a train to Exeter, which would bring him about a third of the way home. I was going to catch a train from Barnstaple to Exeter, then we intended to meet up, and return to Barnstaple together. This would have meant that he would be at less risk at a time when he is vulnerable. Most addicts in prison, even when they’re clean, and determined to stay that way, think about having a hit as soon as they are freed.

However, there was a risk that he may be arrested as soon as he left the jail – for a small outstanding offence – so, whatever happened, he had to phone me and let me know. In order for me to be in Exeter at the right time, should he make it there, I had to get on the train before he would be available to ring me, but I realised that if I was on the train, I would be out of signal. Therefore, I couldn’t get on the train, because I would miss his call. The next train would get me there an hour after him.

He rang me as planned. I was still in Barnstaple. He had to use a public phone, and there wasn’t much time to talk. He pointed out, quite rightly, that he can’t be nursemaided for the rest of his life. He said I should stay where I was; he’d stop in Exeter for long enough to get something to eat, and see me later, in Barnstaple.

I can switch off the specific thought of what he may do – rather than, or in addition to, eating – in Exeter, but I can’t switch off the anxiety. To distract myself, I went to the gym, but found I’m too washed-out to exercise. I thought of going to Oxfam, and asking Karen (the manager) to give me something repetitive to do, rather than my usual work, which I’m pretty up-to-date with anyway, but I suspect that in my current mood I’d be a burden. Yesterday didn’t go particularly well. It was my regular day there, and in the afternoon I got a phone call from my daughter’s housing officer saying she’s been missing for a week. Although I knew that she’d been spotted on Tuesday morning by a friend, it made me so anxious that I had to leave early. I managed to locate Laura, and let the housing officer know that she was safe, so she could call off the welfare search, but now Laura is homeless again, and she probably hasn’t paid the top-up on her rent allowance either.

Paul reached Exeter fifty minutes ago. He will do what he will do. I should trust him. Families Anonymous literature on “helping” (written in the first person, making it useful as a visualisation) states:

  • I will have no thought for the future actions of others, neither expecting them to be better or worse as time goes on, for in such expectations I am really trying to create or control. I will love and let be.

Those are wise words, but it’s hard to carry them out when your son has just left prison. From here, things will get either better or worse; they certainly won’t remain the same, and my own future actions depend on what Paul does today. I’m finding it impossible not to dwell on it. It would be false for anybody who has an addicted loved one, to pretend that they don’t hold out hope for their recovery, and where there is hope there is fear.

I cannot help having thoughts of his future actions – of his current actions even. I have a great deal of hope, but at the same time, I am very afraid. If he was your son, wouldn’t you be?

©Jane Paterson Basil

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Crackers

I was supposed to raise my medication almost two weeks ago; what the doctor didn’t know was that I hadn’t been taking it, so, as I was deemed to need it, I began it on a lower dose.

Today I increased it to the expected level.

My vision closed in, my limbs began to shake, I felt just a little sick, but I was sitting , so I didn’t notice the other symptoms.

At the ring of the doorbell I staggered into a standing position and noticed that my knees were bending, in the way I’ve seen my son’s knees buckle when he was on particular drugs, but I didn’t give in, no, I made my winding way around furniture which had expanded since I woke this morning, leaving narrower gaps for me to negotiate.

I calculated; already hours had passed since I took that little pill. I spoke through the intercom, but the words came out the wrong shape; I could almost see them; magically writhing chunks of elastic detritus brought to life by the tide, making me nervous.

I mustn’t be seen like this by those who will gossip and misunderstand.

It was a relief to learn that my guest was a man who’s familiar with chemical that play with the mind. It was just Laura’s ex who had come to collect his key, which she’d given to me.

Joe was talking fast and he seemed excited. His eyes were wide and his pupils contracted but even like that he could see there was something amiss; let’s face it, it couldn’t be missed,with my erratic gait and the way I collapsed, but when I explained what medication I was taking he smiled in glee.

He related an occasion he’d taken the same thing without a prescription, but he took a bigger heap, and pretty soon we were laughing together, discussing shamons and things of the spirit, while I made him a cup of tea.

He stayed for a while and we talked about Laura, and by the time he left he’d agreed to come to me in the event of tragedy, and hold me and help me to see that it’s only her body which will decay; her spirit will finally be free, and we’ll find a way to celebrate a life which I made, which never wanted to be.

He hugged me and told me he needed a friend like me; a friend who is crackers and understands him.

You may call Joe a druggie, an addict, a junkie, and he wouldn’t disagree, but the first time I met him I felt a connection, a recognition, and though we are different in the way we live, in our souls we are really the same.

With him I feel liberated, intied from convention, polite pretention, stripped down to the depths of me. I know he’s a friend, I know he’s a soulmate, I knew it instantly. It’s love without need for sadness or pity, and it’s a rare emotion to see.

And yes, he lives on mind altering substances, but I won’t let prejudice cage me, difference enrage me, judgement disengage me. It doesn’t decrease my feeling of kinship.

Amidst all this, I spoke to my doctor and listed my symptoms. He waited for me to say I would like to discontinue my medication, replace it with nothing and see how it goes. His agreement was instant; even eager, and he admitted he doesn’t like Lyrica [lie-ree-sa]. It had been recommended by a psychiatrist I had seen.

Now a streaky sea of evening sky advances, and still I am shaky, still I am staggering, still I am off my face. Which probably proves I am not the type to misuse drugs, or I would be more immune, and the message is strengthened by my decision to give up taking prescribed medication, even though it’s the kind that’s desired on the street.

And in case you wonder, when I wake up tomorrow, straight and sober, I’ll still know that Joe is my friend.

©Jane Paterson Basil