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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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

Just a kid

when it visited your street you were just a kid –
flying kites, swimming in the sea
eating cake with your sister
fighting over who had the biggest slice –
you were just a kid
too steeped in your innocent life
to take an interest in your neighbour’s strange sickness

when they spoke of Addiction you were just a kid
your questioning eyes flitted towards the window
taking in hastily built bars and an anguished face within
mouth screaming for release, pleading for one last hit
you turned from his shame and you said
Why does he do it?
It doesn’t make sense. How silly can he be.
behind you, your mother sighed her relief
but you were just a kid
you’d only just put away your plastic fire engine
your Pokamon cards, your Superman suit
you had far to travel
before adolescence stole your wit.

she slithers through unresisting skin
racing through veins to swallow your brain,
fitting in place, taking you, flooding you with golden nectar
so close, so close, but never quite as you remember her
never the roundness, the ecstacy of that first kiss
she keeps her distance by an inch
like a femme fatale with one eye on her next victim
like a siren singing you to her side to see you die
you know her love is exempt
but you need her to survive
you need her though she has robbed you
of friends, family and pride,
and next she may take your life

so many times you’ve tried to leave
with gritted teeth you’ve begged for your release
angered, she squeezed you as you writhed
holding tight until you agreed
to yet another parting hit

©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.

Fucking drugs

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Ok,
so you’re what, thirteen?
fifteen? seventeen?
and it’s cool to swear
well I don’t fucking care
you can fucking swear all day
because I’m here to fucking stay
and you can fucking spit on the fucking pavement
if you really fucking must though I really fucking hate it.
you can yell fucking sexist, ageist, racist names
as you walk a-fucking-way
you are only fucking young and it’s just your fucking way
but don’t do fucking drugs and
don’t do heroin

I don’t know your history – you may have lost your sister
your father may have raped you, your mother may have blamed you
your brother may have beat you, you may have hated school
or none of the above. maybe you were loved
and nurtured from the start, but you just like to party
maybe you’ve seen your friend gouching with relief
as she bled from the tip of a needle
and you think it’s an escape from your boredom or hell
’til you wake up slouching in a filthy toilet cell
your hair draped around the sticky lavvy bowl
stale piss sinking through your joggers and your soul
while the blood from your sad vein slowly drips
and you know that pretty soon you’ll need another hit
so you get on the streets to beg or shoplift
or sell your wriggling body for another fucking hit
and your so-called friends don’t give a fucking shit
‘cos they’re not real friends and they all need a hit
you’re stealing and scheming and trawling the streets
and you’re rattling and hurting from your head to your feet
and you look like shit and you smell like shit
and you feel like shit but you can’t fucking shit
because the dirty brown slush has twisted your guts
and it won’t let you shit
and you’re fucking fucking bloated by fucking fucking shit
and suddenly the ritual
makes you feel sick
but you need another hit
so don’t do fucking drugs, and don’t do heroin
you can find a fucking cleaner way to do yourself in
or if you want an alternative
you can find a better way to live

©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