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 opposing demon siblings. Dodging police, each narrow miss another weight on him. Paranoia, like a fever, seizing him, flinging him into prickly bushes; chasing him across lines of fast traffic, pushing him to scale walls, scrape his shins, fall; leading him to muddy waters, dunking him.

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

I prepared his last supper, and, like Judas, I attended, smiling while he tasted; chewed; passed compliments on the food, all the while assessing his pitiful condition: face and hands cut and bruised; ripped jeans stained where the blood had seeped through.
I looked at his eyes, hooded by brows that I had not designed, pupils working overtime; taking in the room; flicking to the curtained window – his tormented mind visualising police in the darkened 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 beginning a short chain of events resulting in a tense knot of uniforms beyond 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, but suddenly, as if he’d been baptized, arrest had cleansed him of his sins, sloughed away the years of filth the drugs had left behind. The feeling of grief and loss redoubled, splintering beneath my ribs. Pity dripped into my soul. I had to fight to hide my tears: crying wouldn’t ease his journey to the cells. When we parted, a brave smile clung unconvincingly to 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

This post was inspired by a heartrending post on grieving and healing mothers. My poem tells of an event that occurred over two years ago, and is therefore no more or less than a part of my history. My son was arrested and 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 will remain in prison until September, after which time his sentence will be over.

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.

A better man

I could say it’s been a pretty ordinary week – nothing particularly unusual has happened, just the usual hellish day-to-day grind with my delinquent son, but I have responded to it in a different way. I’ve come out of denial – stopped blaming the drugs, because it is he who has made the choices. Three times now he has been clean when he left prison, and has claimed a guilty conscience, gusshed apologies and made promises, then chosen to go back to his previous life, thereby making life miserable for everybody.

I don’t think he is a very nice person, and anyone who heard the full story would probably agree with me.

My daughter Claire told me that only a few hours ago he claimed “Mum’s turned her back on me just when I’m recovering. I’m better now than I’ve ever been.” He only says that when he’s in a really bad way. She tried to point out that he was extremely drunk and in drug withdrawal, but he continued to be in denial.

The police are always nice to me. There’s no reason for them to be anything else, but I’m grateful anyway.They are also gentle with Paul, and even manage to be polite to his sister Laura, although she has tried their patience with her regular accusations of crimes against her person and her purse. I just wish they weren’t so under-staffed. I made an emergency call to them tonight and it was an hour-an-a-half before they showed up at the address I gave them, because it’s Friday night – the beginning of the weekend, and they were busy.

By the time they got there (Claire’s home) Paul was long gone, even though he was in such a mess he could hardly walk. He’s been recalled back to prison. The arrest warrant was issued a couple of days ago, but he and his girlfriend are thinking of going on the run. He’s so wasted on drug withdrawal and alcohol consumption that I don’t think he’s up to it, but I’ve seen him like this before, and he could wind up dead if he doesn’t get arrested soon. He’s very unwell – unwell and unwelcome in most places he goes. His charm slips somewhat when he’s been drinking, but now he’s main-lining cocaine and has become totally obnoxious.

I hope the police pick him up soon. His girlfriend is a drug addicted liar who’s backed up all his stories – including the one about them having rented a place in Ilfracombe (she lives in sheltered accommodation in the same town as me) but she is also a very vulnerable young person. He is already damaging her, and maybe when he’s in prison she’ll move on.

I don’t want Paul anywhere near me or the rest of my family, particularly my grandchildren.

Paul said that this time, if he goes to prison, he will come out a better man. He will make us all proud of him. He has since suggested that he may become a professional shoplifter.

I rest my case.

©Jane Paterson Basil

But you can’t hear me

you never give, you just take
while my aching soul wonders
how many heartaches make too late
I can’t find the formula for this equation
and anyway, I lost count of the many occasions
you both made me suffer
and now it hurts too much to concentrate
my heart strains and I feel I may suffocate
there are times when I think I hate you
but I know it’s just frustration
I try to be what the two of you need
but you want oblivion without the dearth of death
you don’t care about me, only the things I can be for you
you hound me when you need someone to lean on, to feed from
you take as many pieces of me as you can carry
then you’re out of reach ’til you need something else
everyone has an opinion
some say I should cut you both loose
while others say I shouldn’t desert you, I mustn’t lose you
but I lost you years ago, and now I’m not certain who you are
and I just want the pain to go
or at least to shrink to a familiar ache
but it weighs me down, steals marrow from my bones
dehydrates me, makes the blood flow sluggish in my veins
I faint, I hyperventilate, I shake, my skin creeps
and when I wake to find I am still alive
I know I have been grinding my teeth while I was sleeping
I forget to meditate to ease the strain
I’m sick from the grieving
but, hey, why am I complaining?
It’s not me who is the victim of addiction
and, as you are always telling me
I haven’t
a clue
what
it’s like
to be
you

©Jane Paterson Basil

Legacy

brush-131.jpg

they used to act crazy and they said they didn’t care
about the state of their clothes or the cut of their hair
but their jeans had to flare and their locks were always long
and their colour-clashing fashion style was never wrong
their music was appealing, though it wasn’t the kind
you could write without the aid of a pill to shape the mind

they looked looked down their noses at those who had cash
their ashtrays overflowed with wacky baccy ash
they’d float up the road in their long drooping skirts
dragged down by the weight of the grey roadside dirt
they said they wanted freedom, they said they wanted peace
but a lot of them just wanted to score some LSD

the best of them were present at important demonstrations
while the rest of them confined themselves to cliched remonstrations
they complained about the bread-heads, the straights and the dole
they didn’t think that they should have to take a working role
so they sat in cosy corners in a muttering clutch
making ignorant remarks that didn’t help much

they were young and the world pulsed under their feet
and they thought it would dance to their youthful heartbeat
but you can’t change the world when you haven’t a clue
about what is the right and the wrong thing to do
you can’t change the world to fit your shoes
you can try if you like, but you’re bound to lose

the best of them examined the world as it turned
changing their course through the lessons they learned
looking for ways to make the world a better place
for the birds, beasts and fishes, and the human race
or simply settling down to an average life
with house, job, two kids and a husband or wife

and what of the hippies that they left behind
who lived for themselves and chose to be blind?
their years went by in a chemical haze
and sometimes they’d shuffle in a glass-eyed daze
down to the shops to pick up some fags
their psychedelic clothing reduced to rags

every so often an old friend will say
“so-and-so died in the hospital today
he should have been placed on suicide watch
goodness knows where he got that match
but he started a fire and he lay on the bed
they tried to save him, but he wound up dead.”

some of them found heroin and some found crack
some died from overdose or heart attack
some of them are locked in a psychiatric ward
the ones who kept their freedom are all getting bored
sitting in a chair with a warm cup of tea
trying to pull a tenner from fifty p.

we’re the predecessors of the current youth
and it’s time we admitted to the difficult truth
for fifty years the drug disease has been growing
while half the world ignored the seeds that it was sowing
the present generation is the most affected yet
all of us are shocked, but what did we expect?

(reposted from my mother blog Making it Write)

©Jane Paterson Basil