Armour

armour1

.

I loved you

with a mother’s heart,

thinking my love could save you,

but I was a fool, slave to your determination,

lost in your control from the start.

Your supremacy has been hacked away,

but you still have the power

to cut me apart.

.

Liquid armour

sweats through your skin,

your skillfully smelted weapons rust,

corroded by a war that you could never win.

You sought cheap freedom from pain

but found yourself in chains,

battle-scarred limbs

weakly reaching to steal alms

from scattered compadres and thieves.

.

Once the lady of deceit

soared through clean veins

bringing laughter and a peaceful relief,

your inner warnings melting on a sticky spoon,

your synapses giggling in denial of disease.

.

Did you feel that moment

when the switch flicked from want to need?

Did it creep up silently, like age sneaked up on me,

Or did it swipe you like lightening from behind?

.

Every vow to stay clean

Fades as it encounters your frowzy face.

The lady will not be disobeyed.

.

What think ye of thine armour now,

my beloved, struggling son?

.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Archives 2. Street

1st February 2017

 

streets.jpg

.

Saw him in the street today.
I could say we passed like strangers,
but it wouldn’t be true.

Years of  abuse
curled like vapour
in the grey space between us.
I caught the rueful look on his face,
maybe shame, maybe regret at having lost
his power to use me.
He limply lifted his hand in vague salute,
and my view willingly slid from his face.

He didn’t slow his pace –
neither did I.

After we’d passed each other by,
I felt chilled relief;
throughout the vacant years of addiction,
I have clung on to a fake picture of a wonderful son.

I don’t know when he went, or understand why,
but he died, leaving but a shallow crust,
to be squatted by the horror I saw
in the street today.

Maybe I need to grieve,
but it feels like I’ve been grieving forever.

Please don’t criticise,
nor empathise or sympathise.
Don’t tell me he’s still there, or that he cares;
don’t treat me like an innocent,
or like a green beginner ~
I may be too brittle to take it;
I may break.

<> <> <>

©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

Will I ever learn?

I’m at my support group meeting, Families Anonymous; created for the benefit of the families and friends of addicts, and I decide to share my triumph.

I say that I am learning to cope with my children’s addictions.

As soon as the words hit the outside world and are heard by my anonymous siblings in suffering, I know that they’re a lie. I’m not learning to let the pain pass me by, or making the most of my own life no matter what unsolved troubles surround me.

I’m feeling happier than I have for a very long time, but that’s only because my son’s ability to damage me has been limited by his lack of access while he is in prison, and my daughter’s behaviour has improved since she escaped the madness of legal highs.

As soon as he is free and she whips up another crisis my muscle will probably crumble and die.

I doubt I’ve learnt anything, and I wonder if I ever will.

Written for The Daily Post #Learning

©Jane Paterson Basil

Like Judas

Weeks of running, chasing the tail of crack and smack, the hateful demon siblings.
Dodging police, each narrow miss another weight on him.
Paranoia, like a fever, seizing him, flinging him into prickly thorns;
chasing him across lines of fast traffic, forcing  him to scale walls,
skin his shins, fall, leading him to muddy puddles, dunking him in deep seas.

If the police didn’t get him
he’d grow too weak to swim.
He would sink.

I made his last supper and like Judas, I waited, smiling while he tasted, chewed,
passed compliments on the food. I assessed his pitiful condition —
flesh cut and bruised, ripped jeans stained where the blood had seeped through,
eyes hooded beneath brows not designed by me,
pupils working overtime; taking in the room, flicking to the draped window,
his screaming mind picturing police in the street.

Judas did it with a kiss, but in this age of technology I did it with a click.
My text sent, its single word a simple request activating a chain of events
that brought a tense knot of uniforms to my door.

As the handle turned, my heart churned, altering the shape of my fear,
but offering no relief.

a
six
year
prison
sentence
was expected.
it felt like
eons,
like
f
o
r
e
v
e
r

The police were kind; they gave him time to say goodbye.
I looked into his face and recognised the child I’d raised
who’d filled my soul with love and pride. I’d thought that child had died,
and yet, as if he’d been baptized, arrest had cleansed him of his sins,
rinsed away the years of filth the drugs had left behind.
The feeling of grief and loss redoubled, splintering behind my ribs.
Pity dripped into my soul. I struggled to hide my tears:
crying wouldn’t ease his journey to the cells. When they took him away,
a brave smile fought to find my twitching lips.

My eyes stayed dry;
I didn’t shake; I didn’t hit the floor –
until I heard that final sound –
the slamming
of the
door.

My son was imprisoned in March 2014. He received a thirty month prison sentence – far less than was expected, and has since been released on licence on three occasions, only to be returned each time for infringing his licence agreement. He left prison a free man in September 2016, having finally completed his sentence.

©Jane Paterson Basil

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.