Tag Archives: drug addiction

Her Tenacious Spirit

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My daughter’s first breath wheezed with a puny meow, but the sounds increased in depth and volume, until much of our oxygen was gone.

As Laura grew, the list of  her sufferings expanded. Flakes fell from her raw skin, exposing oozing flesh. Eggs brought out blisters, but nuts could kill. Her lungs stuttered, her stomach hurt, yet sometimes when she cried, I could find no reason.

Like a child flung from paradise and plunged into hell, pain battled with bafflement and anger.

She was a cracked cog in the wrong machine, juddering through school and fumbling youth, misunderstood and not understanding the rules, a magnet for juvenile cruelty, adolescent jibe, unkind adult attack.

She was so timid, so unprepared for society, yet she became determined to partake. Bravely she tried to play the game, and for a while she held her own.

At seventeen my daughter had grown into physical magnificence and apparent independence. She moved into her own home, and even took care of a hapless, helpless young friend.

Away from me, dark creatures circled around her. Grateful for the attention, and unable to tell the difference between angels and devils, she thought they were good people, but they stole secret pieces of her.

Each time she tripped, she fell out of my reach, and every fall cut deep. Her frail self-esteem shrank to invisibility, and she began self-medicating todull the pain.

In the wake of addiction, her hard-won dignity was stolen by dirty brown liquid on a stained spoon.

In my mind, a zigzag line on a graph indicate the moments of hope and the months of despair. The months became years, constantly stretching all of my fears. Laura lost weight to the point of danger, her face took on a course texture, her limbs developed a dance of their own. Psychosis set in. In the mud of her mind, monstrous men marched through locked doors, raped her, tore out her hair and bruised names onto her legs as she slept. She stritched sticky tape across all entrances, to know they’d been there.

Inanimate objects leapt across tables. Worms wriggled in her epidermis. Receipts she found on the ground revealed secret messages. Light fittings concealed hidden cameras. Poisonous gas seeped through walls. The Ministry of Defence needed to be informed.

The police and others in authority warned me she was likely to die, adding that they didn’t now how she had clung on so long. Some hoped that a mishap would land her in hospital for a decent time. So did I, if it may save her life.

Her life took her to nightmare places, and her mind carried her far beyond. If there is anywhere blacker than a starless night, she has been there.

My friends and many strangers promised to pray for her recovery. They sent caring messages and prayers. I shared them with her, and gradually saw a change. At the same time I kept my distance, explaining that the drugs made her abusive, and I would not tolerate abuse.

I would never have guessed that her spirit could be so tenacious. A year later, kind messages still arrive, and I still convey each one to her. She feels nurtured, which in turn makes her feel worthy. My struggling child is a fine woman now. She knows she can have a better future. She’s clean, and temporarily living with me. The sparkle in her eye reflects back onto me, making me shine. I glow with pride when I think af all she has already achieved. she’s fought her way through countless ills, and come out of them strong and positive.

Next week she’ll move in with someone wonderful, who has seen her potential. He hates drug addiction, and will support her in every way, with no hidden agenda. He’s comfortably rough around the edges, which suits Laura well, but more than that, he’s a wise, thoughtful, family man. Laura has a new family to love, and to be loved by.

And what of his interest in us? Fraternity, and a wish to see Laura well and moving forward in life.

It will happen.

Written for The Daily Post #Tenacious

©Jane Paterson Basil

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The Dark Lane

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“Later,” I heard you say.
Turning, you walked down the dark lane.
I watched as the numbers on the clock changed,
eating minutes, hours, days.

Years went by,
then, “Soon,” you cried,
and turned to walk again down the dark lane.

Your last word was “Tomorrow,”
spoken with confidence and hope.
I reached for you,
crying, “Today, please, today,”
but you turned away
to take one last walk down the dark lane.

Your clock stopped,
leaving memories of a lost embrace,
the deathly echo of a promise made too late,
and nightmares of a dark lane.

In memory of all the lives which have been stolen by addiction.

The Daily Post #Later

©Jane Paterson Basil

Who they may have become

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Some squeeze into lonely, ignoble deaths, leaving loved ones grieving, inconsolable, screaming the loss, their dreams stolen in that icy moment. No-one
will never see the greatness of who their beloved may have become, if they’d lived another day.

Backs sag, knees bend, wet eyes watch the coffin drop, long years
of pinprick horror forgotten — stolen by a final tickle in the vein.

So long they grieved, but not like this,
never like this.

Old tears swim through fishes’ salty fins
to swill in the ocean of lesser loss,
while this monumental pain will always taste the same.

It makes no sense in heavy heads which rattle with the raddled question of where the connection may be, between

the child with smiling eyes, whose chubby fingers reached for the rising sun, the girl who laughed to see stars in the night-time sky; the boy who cried when the dog died,
and that cold pair of letters that nudge together: O.D.

O.D. Odd. Ode. Overdose. Too much of something, somewhere beneath the skin. The old hands now know that their first shot was an overdose. Too much of a drug that the body didn’t require, which twisted the mind into thinking the needle of death held the elixir of life.

Photos spill from pine tables in rose-garden homes, they pile upon worktops in slick city buildings. Suburban parents and council house tenants squint at pictures in search of their children, eyes stinging as they make believe there is a secret hidden behind their youthful skin that will bring them back to life again.

Weeping, they recall
the day he won the game,
the way she longed for fame.

They can’t escape the horrid thought that hammers in their brains:
“Was I to blame for the fall?”

Misplaced guilt and memories increase the weight of pain,
but still it tastes the same,
still it tastes the same.

“Another day and he may have gone straight,”
“another day and she may have been great,”
“They may have seen the light,”
they say, and they may be right,
but tomorrow came too late,
too often, it comes too late.

Some struggle with hope, and some recover to become great.
These are the lucky ones, for whom tomorrow was not too late,
but they have to be brave to break the chain
that binds the brain with links of lies;
their wills must be strong to beat the Devil at his evil game.

Those who win are grateful that the reaper waited
until it was too late to stake his claim.

Should you ever meet a recovered addict in the street,
know that it is an honour to be in his company.
In his weakest hour he has risen from his bed,
kicked away the painkilling killer
and writhing through sickness and agony of body and brain,
has beaten foul fiends the like of which you and I have never seen,
to come out cleaner than we may never be,
and to become much more than he may otherwise have been
even if he had always been clean.

The Daily Post #Elixir

©Jane Paterson Basil

Floundering

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In sleep, you forget what you knew the night before —
until you’re rudely woken by it knocking at your door.
You rise from bed, scratch your head, to try to dispel the daze;
as you open the door to let him in, “She’s gone again,” he says.
I, in my PJs, make a soothing cup of tea –
the simple British reply to dire difficulty.

When man or android beats the dust, or the dachshund runs away,
when air grows fat between the hand-picked words we want to say,
when cabbages and kings can’t change the way we feel,
we make a cup of tea, and as it chills, we wait to heal…
though for many, wine suffices and our well-worn ways are gone,
my daughter’s man is old-school, so I put the kettle on.

This decent man has angles, and some of them need grinding,
and, despite his open anguish, it’s the right time to begin.
He tries to keep control, but if you take a careful look,
you will see his weaknesses; I’ve read him like a book,
so instead of dancing curlicues around his jagged points,
this time I knock the ends off them, and don’t massage the joints.

My eyes may tell a lie of lazy waves on sleepy sea.
but every pin that pricked her vein is embedded deep in me,
I’ve wrapped them up in winter-jasmin blankets that I weave
with thickest weft to hide the sticky warp of secret grief,
so when the witch with bloodied wand casts spells to steal my girl,
my heart will hold together, my life will not unfurl.

In his hurt, he feels the need to ruffle my still water,
so he uses words as weapons, in quiet rant against my daughter.
He tells me homeless heartache waits, and trailing dampened bags,
mentions filling flattened veins with death-dirt, dressed in rags,
as if he thinks my suffering will negate his twisting pain —
and as a slapping afterthought, he says, “she’ll never change.”

He gazes again, at my calm, centred ocean, and I think he can see
my stillness is gulped carefully, and measured well, by me.
Now he knows that the faith I have found in my daughter
will not easily be shaken, and the perception of water
takes his breath away. Loneliness swarms in his brain.
I see it, yet don’t reach out, and I refuse the blame.

Loneliness swarms, and though I empathise, he needs to know
that although I cannot travel everywhere she goes,
I will watch her on her journey, cheering at every rise,
and I will be there when she bravely climbs the other side.
He must define his desires, decide which way he will go,
I won’t try to persuade him to star in my daughter’s show.

He’s floundering; this conversation is outside the bounds that he set.
He looks for a space where the dubious words “I can’t do this,” will fit,
but I’ve changed the cue, as it would be a waste of oxygen.
He waits until the buzzing swarm of silence is gone,
then politely asks if he can make another cup of tea.
We listen to the water as it heats for him and me.

His phone rings. Her voice comes through the waves
He looks relieved. “Where are you?” he says.
She’s back at the flat. He leaves immediately,
invisioning a leaky seam through which the light may reach.

She only spent one night away.

Previously it was three.

Before it was more.

Deep within me, the inches of new weft,
secretly woven as I listened and spoke, settle.
They will not be needed yet.

The kettle boils and switches off, ignored.
I breathe, my fragile peace restored.

Written for The Daily Post #Swarm

©Jane Paterson Basil

Maps

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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

In the Street

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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

A bigger deal

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I know your every whim should be my top priority;
your youth implies importance; you’re a bigger deal than me.
You’re short of cash? I’d better dash off with my debit card,
and get your dosh; it doesn’t wash to tell you times are hard.

I may not have enough to pay for eggs and milk and bread,
but I must aid you, as you claim a price upon your head.
You state your case as if you lie, but why should I complain?
I’m probably mistaken, due to water on the brain.

You said you needed thirty, but now sixty’s not enough
to dole out to your dealer; your afraid he’ll cut up rough.
If he don’t get ato least a ton he’ll fracture both your knees;
So here you go now sweetie, I’ve a thousand, take it please.

I shouldn’t be so greedy, I shouldn’t need to eat.
I needn’t spoil my Grandsons with some silly Christmas treat.
I shouldn’t be so selfish, you’re a bigger deal than me;
I know your dirty drugs should be my top priority.

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Before my friends get the idea that this is still going on, I should explain – it was written for a contest which required a sarcastic poem. In the end I didn’t use it.

©Jane Paterson Basil