Archives 3. Map

March 4, 2017

maps

We all have our own, personalised maps, which we carry in our heads. Red and green roads leading to doctor, family or shops may stand out from the rest, these destinations painted in gold, grey and red, radiating from the place where we live. As we age, the world moves on in jagged stages, and the trails may change.

Addicts have maps, too. Ten years ago, two of my children displayed theirs, waving them in my face, their ash-stained digits tracing narrow, blackened tracks for me, gazing with sinking-unblinking-blinkered-blinded-pinprick-pupilled eyes, eyes which failed to see their fall, or the festering fissure that yawned each time they entered my chest.

The creases of the pocked pages of their maps made a smudged and faded cross in the middle of the paper, and that cross marked the spot that gave me unlikely hope. It was the abode of E.

Like many, E. had his sad history. As an illiterate kid, he’d assumed that when he grew, his feet would fit into his father’s shoes. His father would teach him the specialised trade that he practiced, and the people in his little world would gaze in awe. He would be made; in his own eyes, he would be an idol, like his dad was to him. While he was still in his teens, his father died, leaving E. helplessly clinging to the scarred fingers of his suffering, sole surviving parent, as he swung one inch above an open hole.

His own hands, slick with sweat and tears, slipped, and he fell, readily descending into the well of addiction. When my children met him, he was in the depths of that hellish pit, eating needles and rocks, and beginning to think there may be better nutrition at the surface.

E. spoke to them, and later, to me, of recovery. Though they weren’t yet ready for the pain of healing, he had planted seeds in their brains. Later still, I met him on a hill. He was clean, and he said it had been easy. He’d put on weight, and got a dog, a black whippet, to keep him company. From then on, whatever shape he may be, when I sighted his canine friend, I knew he’d be nearby.

For a long while, my children danced in the dark, down where hollowed-out passages lead them to their punctured desires.

Meanwhile, E. looked down, nostalgic for the closest thing to comfort he could recall. This time, he jived to his decline, ignoring the facts of it, chasing the cackling witch of addiction, tasting her many flavours, licking his lips, greedy for the next tickle in his nose, the next explosion of the brain. Speed, cocaine and spice; banned drugs and legal highs of of every kind, while he told himself:

“At least it isn’t heroin.”

As my children slowly rose, raggedly climbing over craggy stones and sly shale, sliding, then climbing again, they met E. several times, going down.

I watched my two, and I reached, while they were yet out of reach, until I saw they were scarring my heart, and in doing so, tearing their own souls. So I stood back, crying, “Here I am. Find me in your own time. Come to me when you hunger for love and not for drugs. Come to me, not for money, or to sully my truth, but free from the uncouth devil that charms you, holds you in her sticky arms. Come, let me to stroke your sore feet.Feel my warm hands on your face. Come to me for a smile or an embrace.”

Their sinking-unblinking-blinkered-blinded-pinprick-pupilled eyes gazed, glazed. Agonised requests stuttered from across the caked terrain. They begged for sharp things, for painkilling murder in the veins. They begged for death, diluted in the blood.

Every time I saw E., he would look at me, eager, shifty, from the edge of the abyss, his arms  battling with Saint Vitus dance – but losing, his loose, drooling lips speaking through frowsy, chemical haze “I am clean, Jane, see, I am clean.”

My children peruse the bright, speckled lanes, marking out new trails on their maps. Laura, thrilled with her pristine plan, takes me on brief excursions down spingtime highways, pointing out primroses, softly smiling, soaking in sunshine, her lovely eyes holding mine, as they silently describe love, regret, compassion, and hope.

Paul knows that if he shows me a roadmap, I’ll suspect it’s stolen, so he keeps it folded, and stays away from my desgner rage, designed to keep the wolf at bay. This could be a good sign, but I shall not waver from my decision to stay distant until I feel safe.

Today, I got a text from Laura. “Hi mum. U want to come ova? xxx” My reply was followed by “How about 5 o’clock. Love u lots. xxx”

I looked into the cavernous hole below. Neither of my children did I see, just a man with a black dog; a whippet. I didn’t immediately recognise the guy; he’d lost weight, but I knew the dog immediately.

I went into my kitchen to make coffee. From my window, I could see E. waiting in the rain, waiting impatiently, pacing, waiting at the bottom of that yawning cave, waiting, waiting, for his dealer who lives in a flat – marked with X in the rusty colour of old blood, on E.’s crumpled map – a block away from me.

Beneath gratitude for the new hope given to me, I feel sorrow and pity for E.,who planted the seeds of recovery in my offsprings’ heads, so long ago, when even the echoes of my own laughter had become a distant longing. I watched him on the incline, climbing so much faster than those tied to my womb, and I saw him topple and tumble back into the pit. I saw him crumble beneath the weight of hollow air. I felt the void that his father wrote, with ink that wasn’t there,  his dead fist limp in the grave, unable to grip a pen that wasn’t anywhere.

©Jane Paterson Basil

I’ve had an idea!

lauraagain12.jpgIt’s 2.30am, and I should be in bed. I should leave this post for a time when I can express myself clearly, but I have to get it out there now. People are suffering and dying as a result of addiction, and I think I’ve found a unique way to help addicts.

It’s all thanks to my wonderful, compassionate WP friends. I hope you all know who you are. Ever since I started blogging I’ve been looking for a way to help addicts and their families. I’ve been convinced that there’s something I can do which hasn’t been done before. Maybe this has, but I’ve never seen it.

I’ll explain how you fantastic friends gave me the idea, and then I’ll tell you the plan.

From the very first time I began writing about my children’s addictions – and particularly Laura’s (that’s her in the picture), you have sent messages of love and support, often telling me that you will include both of us in your prayers. I’ve been sharing these messages with Laura, and they have meant a lot to her – more as time goes on, and her mental health improves – and along with it, an increasing desire to go into recovery. There have been hiccups along the way, but each one is less severe.

What I’m saying is, that she’s more well than she’s been for over three years. She’s even found herself a Guardian Angel of the human sort, right here in this town, who is a wonderful man, father of six healthy children and a crazy amount of Grandchildren. This is all thanks to you, my amazing friends, and also quite a number of caring strangers who’ve dipped in and sent me beautiful messages.

I want to build a blog which the loved ones of addicts can connect with. They can tell their stories, send pictures, or not, as they wish. All they have to do is give the name of “their” addict – even a fake name would do, it will still represent the same person. Each name will go onto a list, and every family, friend – whatever – will pledge to focus on that group of addicts, every day, and do whatever they feel comfortable with – whether it is praying, or sending out a pink bubble, or simply thinking positive thoughts about that group of people.

Whatever they believe God to be, or if they are atheist or agnostic, it will work.

Whether they are  Christian or Hindu, their God will hear them. But here’s the most wonderful thing – if they are atheist or agnostic, all the addicts on that list will benefit from your thoughts, provided they’re in touch with the donors (whoever put their name on the list), because the referers will tell them about it, and the addicts will feel less isolated, more nurtured.

It’s aimed mainly at those addicts who wish to get clean, but need help to do so, but anybody will be welcomed into the fold.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about people with an addict in the family, it;’s that most of them hate addiction, and they’re not just concerned for their children, but for everybody else’s as well. They’ll genuinely care about everyone on the list, and everyone who is suffering because of addiction.

I know this can work. I know it will make a difference, but only if it is marketed properly.

I need:

  • Someone who’s hot on publicity
  • Someone to look after a Twitter account
  • Someone to look after a FaceBook page
  • Advice I can understand about tags, and stuff to do with attracting the right readers to my blog.

We all do our best to make our own blogs successful, but this is important. Lives are at stake. Does anyone have any advice for me?

Laura’s beauty returns a little every day. I want the kind of help that you have given her, to be given to addicts, everywhere. I want to facilitate that, but I can’t do enough without help and advice.

If you think that reblogging, or sharing anywhere else, may be useful, I’d be happy for you to do that.

I should add a contact form, but I never quite figured out how to do it, so it’ll have to wait for the moment.

Okay, Jane, be brave. Click publish.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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

Happy land

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did you find that place?
glimpsed so clear and clean in the split-second
when you tripped from doubt to decision
so clear and clean that you could almost feel the
toothpaste-tingle as your lips stretched across your teeth

did you find that happy land?
where the wraps from yesterdays tricks and treats
have been blown from your soul and into the bin
where hope has been reborn and grown
(deep rooted like a noble oak) to become reality

did you find that place?
did you stagger, did you crawl, to reach it?
did you cry out for mercy or relief?
rolling in you own vomit, odour of the devil’s shit up your nose, curled up stretched out writhing cramping agony, aches through every inch of you thinking it’s big so big like the planet like the Universe nothing but this this is all there is brain screaming out its need brain screaming for release screaming for
one
last
pinprick
that little pinprick would take away the pain
did you give in?
or did you reach that happy land?

did you reach that place?
did you escape your prophesied fate?
or do you still die a little every day?

©Jane Paterson Basil

Laura’s detox Part 2

Laura’s detox is over. at about 8.30 this morning she was in pain, and twitching. At about 9.15 she rang her sister Sarah, probably hoping that the sound of her voice would strengthen her resolve – which it did for a short while – but at about 10.15 she started hassling me for a tenner she saw in my purse yesterday. I had to keep repeating the same refusal over and over, but she wasn’t hearing me, because it was too late. She’d already made the decision to use.

Her dad, Mike was in bed, because he had to work early this morning. She went upstairs and begged him for money. When he refused she took £20 out of his trouser pocket. Instead of refusing to give her a lift untill she returned it, he agreed to take her to Barnstaple immediately. I had slept – badly –  wrapped around my bag, and held on to it all morning, but when Mike agreed to take her into town I momentarily forgot all about it. I went to pick up my belongings from the spare room, upstairs. As soon as I got to the top of the stairs I realised, but it was too late. I found Laura crouched over my bag. She jumped away quickly, but it was too late. My wallet was open and the money was gone. She vehemently insisted she hadn’t taken it. There was nothing I could do. I asked Mike not to go anywhere until she returned the money, but he refused to co-operate. He said he was driving into town straight away.

It has always been like that. Apparently we should not apportion blame, but I find it hard not to, as I’ve watched my children grow up with no boundaries, because the ones I tried to build were deliberately saboutaged (Mike resented my ability to take on almost any task, and carry it out well, so he punished undermined my parenting without the least concern for their future) and Mike was too lazy too build any himself. Laziness usually results in extra work later on, and parental laziness can be disastrous, as my two younger children demonstrate.

I was furious with Laura, and unable to cover it up. I was also furious with Mike, but there’s no point in venting my spleen on him. It only makes matters worse if he sees me as the enemy.

Mike sometimes drives a van, because he delivers newspapers over the weekend, and that was what he was using today. I put Laura in the front seat because she was feeling nauseous – as could be expected – and she needed to be able to get out quickly if necessary. She asked me to reach over the seat and  hold her, but, because I was so angry and frustrated, I refused. Then I glanced at the newspaper on top of the  pile beside me, and saw the murdered MP Jo Cox’s smiling face gazing at me. I remembered my promise to myself, made only three days ago, to think of Jo every time I got angry.

I felt ashamed. I knelt behind Laura’s seat Laura’s seat, reached my arms out and got as much body contact between us as I could, resting the side of my head against hers, and I stayed in that uncomfortable and increasingly painful position until she got out of the car.

24 hours earlier Laura had been talking about ending her life. I don’t know what her future holds, and even if I did, that would be no excuse for witholding love from my sick child. She shouldn’t have stolen from me, but I knew she had reached the point when she would if she got the opportunity, and I gave her that opportunity, if only for a moment. She suffers enough. She shouldn’t have to suffer for my mistakes too.

Here’s the amusing (?) thing – When I told her to give the money back, and she told me she hadn’t taken it, she pulled everything out of her pockets, and the ten pound note wasn’t there, but I saw a five pound note sitting on top of the bag she had slung over her shoulder. I picked it off her bag, because otherwise it would have floated away. The extent of my honesty is such that instead of hanging on to it, I placed it in her palm, and she quickly shoved it into her pocket. When I got home and unpacked all my stuuf, I noticed the following items in the bottom of the bag which contaained my wallet: 1 pouch of tobacco, and £1.71 in change, and I suddenly remembered the only cash purchase I’d made while in South Molton. Laura had asked me to buy her a pouch of tobacco, and it had cost £3.29. I’d paid for it with the tenner, and been given £6.71 change. The fiver I had given back to her had been mine. When she said she hadn’t stolen £10 she was telling the truth. She’d only taken £5. When I caught her in the act, she pushed it up her sleeve, and it fell onto her bag.

For a few hours Laura and I were close again, and the fact that it didn’t end as I had hoped, does not detract from the experience. I feel enriched by it. She wants to get clean from drugs, but hasn’t got the strength to cold turkey. She’s engaging with the drugs services, and she will be put on a script if she doesn’t have another wobble and miss her appointments. It’s not my idea of the best way to get clean, but for her and many others like her, it may be the only way. Knowing that I still love her as much as I always have, and will be strong for her, will help to urge her forward.

Laura’s Detox

I woke up yesterday feeling tearful. Too many bad things are happening, and I just wanted to hide away. I was supposed to be going to a get-together with some friends, and had been asked to make coleslaw – they have the idea that there’s something special about my coleslaw – but going out to buy the cabbage and carrots seemed daunting. However, I managed to get myself down the road. The shop where I was going to buy the vegetables isbeyond the Oxfam shop where I work, and by the time I reached Oxfam I was exhausted -although it’s only five minutes stroll from home – so I went in to see Karen, the manager, but was so upset that I was unable to talk for a couple of minutes. She made a cup of tea, and with tears streaming down my face, I managed to explain all the things that were troubling me. Karen put me back together as only she can, and helped me to make a decision about how to cope with the rest of the day. I went and bought the vegetables, took them home, and started cutting up cabbage.

That’s when my daughter Laura rang my doorbell. I went out to see her, because she’s banned from  the the block of flats I live in.

The things she said made me forget my morning’s struggles.

We sat together on a wall nearby. Laura was very depressed. She said there was nothing left in her life, everything was destroyed and there was no way back. She needs drugs but she has no money, and no way of making it, because she’s lost her phone and her particular route to cash involves ‘clients’ contacting her by phone. She has no life. She needs to be in town to have any possibility of making money, so she can’t live with her father, who’s about nine miles from town. As a result she lives as a homeless person, and she’s used up all her friends, so nobody will agree to give her houseroom. She says everyone hates her, and while I wouldn’t put it that strongly, they do dispise and dislike her for several reasons. She’s managed to become an outcast even amongst the addicts.

She was talking about suicide – not in the angry way people sometimes do – she was seriously considering it. I told her that even as her mother I have no right to try and change her mind, but if she chose to do it I would like her last thought in this world to be a happy one: that I love her and I will never forget the good times she and I had together. I will never forget the particular closeness that I shared with her and with nobody else. I told her that she was unique, that her school friends love her and are waiting in the wings for her recovery. I reminded her what a nightmare she was to them sometimes, yet they still love her because she possesses something wonderful and magical that they will never find in anybody else. I told her a lot of things as we sat on that wall, because although I was going to do my utmost to keep her alive, if she makes the choice to die, I want her to die at least knowing that, whatever addiction may have done to her, she has been loved, and been worthy of that love.

We sat in silence, while I let her digest the things I had said. After a couple of minutes I said that the alternative to suicide was cold turkey. She said she’s tried it several times before, and the last time was only a few days ago. I reminded her of all the times she’s had no money and been ill over the years, and all the times she will rattle if she carries on using. I reminded her that her body appears to be shutting down, that she is dying slowly. That’s when I saw it – that spark – she no longer wanted to die.

I suggested we go back to her father’s place together, and I hold her while she rages, while she screams for heroin, while she throws up on me. She seemed reluctant. She told me I didn’t know how bad it would be – I haven’t seen her at her worst. She said her bedroom still smells like someone had died in it, from the last time she clucked. And then she turned to me and said “Do you want to come out to Filleigh and go in my bedroom, and smell it?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Just give me a few minutes to tidy up and grab some stuff.”

I ran up the stairs to my flat, called my friend to apologise and explain why I wouldn’t be able to make it for dinner, at the same time clearing up the half-made coleslaw, grabbing clothes, washing stuff and other essentials.

Half-an-hour later Laura and I were on a bus, and I was on the phone to her dad, asking if I could stay there while Laura detoxed. He was fine with it.

It was only when we had been at Filleigh for an hour or so that I realised we could do with some medication to help Laura with the symptoms, so we jumped on another bus and went to South Molton, four miles away. The lady in Boots was very kind, and took us into a consultation room to discuss it. I bought everything she recommended, we went to Sainsbury’s and picked up some food, then we caught the bus back.

On the bus I looked at Laura, and she was smiling.

The evening passed quietly. She fell asleep on the sofa, so I left her there and slept on the floor. She woke up at about 1.30 am, feeling a little unwell, with a strong desire to go to Barnstaple, then she fell asleep again. It’s now 8.20am. We’ll see what today brings.

Momentum

bridge-19.jpg

I recently heard the story of an addict who had been using for years, daily staggering through the same old game, hustling for the money to feed his habit before trailing after dealers to sell him his next inch of jaded relief. One day he was sitting in his regular patch when an old friend from school passed by. Without slowing his pace, the man turned slightly, and, glancing his way, said Are you still at it? in a disinterested tone, then continued on his way.

The addict stared after him, shocked by those few, simple words. Only he knows what images of the past crowded his brain, what feelings of loss at his wasted days, what thoughts of his shame and degradation – but in that blinding instant he made the decision to change, to embrace the future he had perhaps, long ago, in his schooldays, taken for granted.

He went into recovery, and now he repeats his inspirational tale to all who he feels may find it helpful.

I like to think that he thanked the school-mate for clicking the switch that gave him the momentum to change his life.

We all have moments of grace, when desire, strength and faith combine to make many actions that hitherto seemed too distant to consider, achievable, and the littlest thing can open our minds to great possibilities.

©Jane Paterson Basil