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


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


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
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

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.



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

Letter from prison

hi mum,

I’m looking at the things I did
those months when I was free,
how often I have hurt you,
while you have cared for me.
all those times I bullied you;
I should have let you be.

as much as I need prison
I know it will be hell
but I have made a mess of things
and this may make me well
though whether you’ll forgive me
only time will tell

now I ask nothing of you
I’ve given up the right
if you should want to turn your back
I won’t put up a fight.
I won’t resist if you choose
to banish me from sight

so many empty promises
so many tricks and lies
so many times you trusted me
when you looked in my eyes
but eyes can be deceiving;
an intimate disguise

as I look back at recent months
I’m filled with guilt and shame
I’m sorry that I caused you
such agonies of pain
I promise that I’ll never do
those things to you again

please understand my one request;
don’t visit me in jail
just know I love you very much
and don’t want this to fail
if I don’t feel the loss of you
my weakness may prevail

I’m looking at the things I did
those months when I was free,
how often I have hurt you,
while you have cared for me.
I promise I will try to find
a better way to be

©Jane Paterson Basil

With love from your angel

I introduce this blog with a fictional post, to send a message of hope, and to suggest that miracles do happen.

The monster is talking again. Deep inside the lower part of your brain he lurks, a black, imaginary figure from whom there is no escape.

“I have brought you a cup of grey dust and a plateful of ashes, but I promise you better things when I take you back to the carnival. I will make you safe and well, as long as you have the £30 downpayment. Don’t bother about the smallprint where it says you have to make up the rest with your soul. Who needs a soul anyway?

Every morning, as soon as wakefulness pushes it’s unwelcome way into your life, your limbs ache and and something wriggle beneath your skin. You suffer nausea and cold sweats. Often your head aches. You feel that you cannot move, but you know you must. Somehow you unravel yourself from your dirty sleeping bag, which barely keeps you warm anyway. You have to make it to the seller of lies, who is also just a victim, taking your money to fund his own habit.

So you give him the money for the drug that makes you die yet another death, because each smalll death takes away a few moments of suffering.

And as you go alone through the curtain, into that dark carnival; where there are no family, no friends, in a bedsit half a mile away your dealer is also pulling a blood-smeared needle from his vein.

As the drug wears off you reflect, as so many times before, that winter arrived too quickly, and has stayed for too long, the rain making the bright colours of the cheap carnival fabric fade and run.

The magic was lost long ago, and although you knew it; have known it for years, still you hoped, and still you had no willpower to resist another visit, because you think it is better than the agonising alternative.

Now, as you walk towards your daytime pitch in the centre of town, you remember your mother’s laughter, as she stood in the kitchen watching, while, at twelve years old, you mimed crawling through an imaginary narrow, black tunnel which curved downward. You couldn’t manage the downward slide in a convincing way, and your efforts drew your mother into tears of mirth.

She laughed so often; at your antics, and at every mildly humorous thing.

Her laughter turned to racking sobs as the tunnel became real, and your descent was no longer mimed. When you had finally stolen all she possessed to fund your addiction, she made the decision to take a one-way ticket out of the county.

The only things she gave you before whe left were a piece of paper with her email address and the name of the town she was moving to, scribbled across it. That and a promise that she would always love you unconditionally.

Your last meeting with her was a week before she got onto the coach. You told yourself that you didn’t say goodbye at the station because you felt so resentful. You told yourself that unconditional love was a strange way to describe the act of deserting you.

But the real reason you didn’t show was that you had to meet your dealer.

As you approach your pitch in an unused doorway beside the chemist shop, you see someone who looks familiar, bending down to put something in the place where you normally huddle. Omwo? It looks like him. Tall, with Omwo’s distinctive, wide-boy walk, but this guy is dressed more smartly, and isn’t Omwo dead? Or had he moved away and got clean? Everyone, including Omwo himself, thought that he would wind up dead before the rest of you. He used to say “I’m on my way out.” On My Way Out. OMWO.

You look to see what he left behind. Just a folded sheet of paper, probably a religious tract. You’ve seen it all before. You leave the leaflet where it landed, but you’d really like to catch up with Omwo, if it is him. So you look in the direction he went. He was there only a moment ago, walking along by the wall of the multi-storey car park, but he’s disappeared, although there is nowhere he could have gone.

So you sit on your sleeping bag, place your empty bowl in front of you, and concentrate on looking hungry.

Pickings are poor, because most people can see what you are. They evade your searching eye, cross the road. They don’t want to fund your drug habit. Still, it’s a place to rest.
Was that Omwo? Is he dead? So many have died. If you die, how long will it take for your wasted body to be identified? For your mother to be informed? How long before she will learn to laugh again?

Black ink has splilt over your brain, and is spreading into the hidden cavities. Confused, you mouth an unhelpful incantation, “this is a bad day, this is a bad day.”

It is not the hope of a miracle that causes you to pick up the leaflet that lies beside you. You just want to mop up the ink blot by surrounding it with innocuous narrative.

The words “Narcotics Anonymous”, written boldly on the front don’t impress you. On the back, the place and date of the next meeting is handwritten. Vaguely you realise that it is this evening, and you think “Big deal”. They have nothing to offer you. It’s all very well for them; they weren’t so ill so deeply intrenched they were stronger they had people who loved them they had more reason they had……

There is a sheet of paper inside with something that looks like a poem printed on it. It is headed “With love from your Angel”.

It’s not a poem, but a page of quotes, or slogans or something. They look a bit soppy, but you read them anyway:

“Guilt is the gift that just keeps on giving.” Cynically, you raise your eyes to heaven.

“To thine own self be true.” What does that mean anyway?

“You are not alone.” Now there are tears in your eyes as you realise that it was you who left your mother, not she who left you. She just couldn’t live in such close proximity to your absence.

“Let go of old ideas.” Your head drops, and your hands cover it as you weep shamelessly, while passers-by evert their eyes and choose not not get involved with the troubles of another half-dead junkie.

Gradually the racking sobs subside, leaving you physically weak, but with the miracle of determination, and alongside that determination, one truth piles on top of another.

There is space and light where only a while ago there was nothing but ink blobs.

You make yourself a promise to get clean from drugs.It is a promise you have hearf-heartedly made before. It has been said that a promise, once broken, cannot be mended. But it occurs to you now, as you glance upwards at the optimistically blue evening sky, that although a broken promise cannot be mended, a new one can be made.

You know it won’t be easy, and you know there will be pain, but pain is as familiar to you as breathing, whereas fellowship has been missing for years.

You wonder whether you will see Omwo this evening.

You stand up and retrieve your bowl, pocketing the change. There is enough for you to have a shower at the leisure centre.

It would be disrespectful to go to Narcotics Anonymous without making the effort to clean yourself up first.

You incant “I will recover, I will recover.” You feel as if you’re halfway there.

You don’t know it yet, but before the year is out you will revel in your mother’s laughter again.

©Jane Paterson Basil