Tag Archives: drugs

Sunk in the Deep

They weep at the shore
feeding fish to the waves,
hoping to bribe the helpless sea
to free you.

Brave souls leap in thinking to shield you
within a synchronised circle of love,
but the vampire dives through
and with eyes honed
by a chemical sharpening stone
he traps you.

You can only swim so far.
When the energy goes you will float
until the weight on your chest
presses you into the drink.

The instant you sink,
let your body go limp.
Take deep breaths;
allow your lungs to sup
until they welcome the salty brine.
The saline will soothe your wounds.

The vampire
will chase you to the ocean bed,
staying close, clinging on,
flaying your mind as it did
when your toes were still dry,
yet lie quiet; you are destined
to lose any fight.
.
No need to say you did not choose this,
it is understood. Few of us
elect to be pursued
by blood-sucking ghouls.

Don’t waste energy wishing
for new tomorrows or reminiscing
over the innocence that preceded
the need to teach yourself
to breathe underwater.
Forget the optimism of youth.
There is only now;
only this;

a silent you
and an angry parody of humanity
seething in the deep.

Daily Addiction: Pursue

©Jane Paterson Basil

Cold Substance

Their tears spill over my lids,
sting my eyes, drip down my skin.

Some families direct their rage at other victims,
laying blame, unable to comprehend that their children’s choices
were freely made.
I have been like them, and there are times when I wish
I hadn’t learnt my lessons so well;
that I could rise up and say, “it was him”;
anything to take my mind off the streets of pain, the losses
that gain in number every day —
but the perpetrator is faceless;
a brown powder with no individual markings
and no sentiency.

When I was a child, dessicated coconut was often sprinkled onto our school puddings. I thought it was the worst thing that had ever been invented; hate seemed an appropriate word to use in connection with it.

Now I direct my seething hate
at tiny packages that once cost thirty quid, but have since
dropped to twenty-five.

I want to shout obscenities at heroin;
to voice my hatred, to threaten the needle of death with annihilation,
to spit foam at the filth, as I scream: kill, kill…
but every time I get there too late, and with no weapons,
while passionless heroin builds up its armoury, boosting itself
with hidden fentanil,
another cold substance with no brain,
no wicked heart to whisper: death to the meek,
yet it enters the veins of pained seekers,
and fills up our graves.

As fatalities leap,
we repeat the phrase: rest in peace,
please rest in peace, we beg,
rest in peace with the rest
who rest forever in peace.

We brave the rain to lean bouquets against
wet walls where grieving souls will weep
to see wilting petals push those they love
into history.

We walk away, wishing for white doves,
their beaks holding gifts of gentle serenity,
and helplessly, we say:
At least he is finally at peace.

Rest In Peace, Nathaniel – your friends will remember you as one of the best.

I was eleven years old when I first heard the following song. I was deeply affected by the horrific imagery. The words stayed with me, playing in my head when my best friend at college became addicted to heroin, and all through the years of my children’s addictions.

©Jane Paterson Basil

White Satin

Or Needles and Bones

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There are many safe
places to swim,
but you leaped
into a downriver dogleg,
laughing like it was a lemonade spring,
anticipating sizzling festival fun
and satin wrapped hot-water bottle solace
even while you spun in a spiral;
a blind optimist whose
swimming certificate for
beginners held no dominion over
this whirlpool whose
mocking eyes
watched
you
skimming
on the thin
rim of mortality
while its tickling
liquid grip
stole your cash, your
clothes, your friends and
your kin, your food, your
home, your flesh and
muscle and skin and all
the sane
thoughts in your head.
Even the cheeky
grin and the dimpled cheeks
that your mother had
so delighted in,
receded, leaving
only needles and bones.

A pauper’s coffin
feels cold and grim.
Your bed of white satin
defies all metaphor.

Worldwide, there are an estimated 15 million people who suffer from opioid dependence, and there are an estimated 69,000 opioid deaths a year.

I have often reminded myself and others, that as the mother of two addicts, I am only one of many. Addiction has caused devastation within my family, but I look at these figures and I’m horrified to think of the amount of lives which are affected. As we say in Families Anonymous, addiction is a family illness.

15 million people + their families = horror beyond measure…

and it’s not only the families who suffer.

©Jane Paterson Basil

I’m Alright

“I’m alright,
I’m alright, I’m alright,”
that tired mantra frequently uttered, repeated
until with sham faith, I’d stumble to my feet and act out life.

“I’m alright,
I’m alright, I’m alright.”
Recited each time my children tripped and I tumbled,
and, while I was not alright, yet the repetition
brought fumbling relief to the thundering danger and fear,
easing the hellish days and nights,
those weeks and years when the jealous witch of addiction
jigged a street-dumb death-wish into my drug-juggling offspring.

“I’m alright,
I’m alright,” I’d recite.
They didn’t die, and I have kept my sanity
in a wild variety of ways; oft in anger, raging, shaking,
weeping tears of horror, grief and fear of loss,
yet sometimes waiting patiently,
for my children to come back to me.

Now I can say it candidly,
I’m alright.

.

It’s been an emotional evening. My recovering daughter was here on a flying visit, dropping off some fabric for me to make into curtains for her. My son hasn’t come looking for me for almost two months, but – purely by chance – he showed up during the hour or so that Laura was with me. I wouldn’t have risked letting him in if she hadn’t been present.

I’m glad I did…

©Jane Paterson Basil

Panic mode

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At first it was cannabis. Some say it’s not a serious drug, but it hit my two younget children like a disease that races to the bloodstream and keeps on running.  Neither of them had reached sixteen, so the risks were greater. Within a few weeks my son was a stranger who seemed to hate me, and my daughter had receded into the distance.

They became obsessed with the drug, and it was impossible to keep them safe. They rebelled against all rules disappearing in the evening, and trying to stay out all night. It was often hard to track them down. Once we found them at 3am at a party on the beach, stoned out of their heads, and it was difficult to get Paul into the car to take him home. We tried grounding them, but they still snuck out.

Each time we couldn’t find them I panicked.

Later, the police suspected Paul of dealing, and chased him whenever they got the chance. Usually he was too fast for them, but one night he was caught, and landed in court. The criminal justice team got involved, but it didn’t solve the problem. He began experimenting with any drug he could lay his hands on. He became addicted to cocain, and sold it to pay for his toxic fun. I was scared for his welfare, but he didn’t care. He dealt with the cocaine problem by replacing it with heroin.

When I found out about his habit I panicked and confronted him. He denied it, I handled it badly and we ended up quarrelling.

A couple of months later, I learnt that Laura had fallen into the same trap. I panicked, but didn’t let Laura see the state I was in.

Ten years on I’ve lost count of the many times I’ve panicked; rushed around like a fool looking for a cure for my children’s addictions, and trying to help them out of dire situations that they got themselves into. I’ve had gun-toting crack dealers holed up in my attic, heavies threatening to smash my door in, or smash Paul’s face in, and a couple of times they did. I had to mop him up. I’ve been threatened, bullied, conned and robbed by him. I’ve had to turn him in when he was on the run, for his own protection. I’ve refused to smuggle drugs into prison to prevent him from getting a beating. I’ve watched my daughter turn into a skeleton, witnessed her in the grips of screaming psychosis, seen her running in front of moving traffic, been told that her organs were breaking down, and she would die soon, and sometimes I rose into panic mode, while other times I sank silently to the floor, curling up until I could cope with the agony.

I’ve panicked many times over the past fifteen years, but when the worst thing of all occurred, I kept my head. If I hadn’t, my son would have been dead that first time he OD’d. He’d stopped breathing, and I resuscitated him until the paramedics came. I watched as they tried to save him. When the first shot of adrenalin went in, it didn’t work, but I was calm. When the second dose produced no result, I stayed calm. After the third shot, the paramedic told me that it was the last one she could administer. If it didn’t bring him round there was nothing more they could do. I held my breath, but I didn’t panic.

The seconds ticked by. Four paramedics stood in the room. I sat close to Paul’s feet. Across the room were two of my daughters, and my fifteen year old grandson, who shouldn’t have had to see his uncle like that. The room was silent, waiting for a horrific proclamation. Nobody breathed.

My son lay, grey and motionless, on the sofa. Time slipped away, as  he lay still, and we waited.

It happened do fast that we were all thrown backwards. The paramedic who was tending to Paul nearly lost her footing when he leapt into a standing position, inadvertently pulling the canula out of his arm, sending blood spurting up the wall. He stared around him, terrified. He was shouting incoherent accusations at the room. It later transpired that he thought he was being raped, but I had no sympathy for his terror. I didn’t panic. I just screamed blue murder at him for frightening me so much by nearly dying.

I didn’t panic three weeks later, when he OD’d again, but I wouldn’t say I’ve become immune to panic. However, I’ve learnt to control it when it hits me.

The Daily Post #Panicked

©Jane Paterson Basil

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

Love an Addict

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few days. I made plans to start a new blog on Monday 3rd April – today – but my life is so complicated that I have to put it on hold for the moment. The name of the blog is to be Love an Addict. I chose a theme, wrote my About page and worked out some of the details, but then my life became more  complicated than usual .

It was designed to be a blog to support addicts everywhere through the love of the families of addicts everywhere. I’d need to give this blog my attention on a daily basis. I’d have to be reliable, and owing to current circumstances, I’m not in a position to be reliable at the moment. I have to focus on my family. My two youngest children are in the early stages of recovery. Paul doesn’t require as much attention as Laura. I’m her main caregiver, whereas Paul has someone else to fulfil that role – but there’s no knowing when he may need me.

Maybe in the coming weeks things will settle down enough for me to start my new blog, hopefully  giving other addicts the opportunity to receive the kind of love from good people all over the globe which has helped Laura, in particular, to reach this point.

The time in the UK is 02.15am on Monday, 3rd April. I can’t make up for my failure to begin my blog, but I can go some way towards doing so, by sending out love.

If you’re an addict who wants to go into recovery, there’s someone here – sitting on a living room floor in a flat in Barnstaple, in a county called Devon, tucked away in the South West of England – writing a blog post. She’s called Jane. She’s thinking of you, believing that you can make it, and sending you love.

I will think of you daily, and daily I will send you my love and my support. Some of my readers will be inspired by this, and they will do the same for you. Some will do it through prayer, others through meditation. Whatever their method; whatever their faith or understanding of life, they will send you their support. If I had a larger readership, more people would do this for you. There is plenty of love which may become accessible to you. Don’t let the drug tell you that you are not worthy or not able; you are.

xxx ~ Jane

If you feel inspired by this post, please share

©Jane Paterson Basil

Long weekend

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It’s been a long weekend, starting on Friday afternoon. Laura was with me in my flat when I received a call from the inneffectual stand-in Supervisor of this sheltered housing complex (our lovely permanent Supervisor, Sandra, has been ill). He told me that it had been reported that Laura was in the building, and her ban was still standing, so she must leave immediately and not re-enter.

Laura was banned from the complex about fifteen months ago, as a result of a noise complaint. She was in psychosis at the time. She endangered nobody in the building, nor would she have at any point, but I was very shaky and her confused, aggressive presence increased my anxiety.

I have twice since been refused an assured tenancy due to this disturbance. It’s up for review next month and I was told I could expect it to be granted if there is no further trouble – but they said that six months ago, and changed their minds without any good reason.

Even a ‘lifetime’ ban from a shop tends to expire after a year or so, if there’s no cause to extend it, but I wanted to talk to Sandra as I felt that she’d support me in getting the ban squashed. However, she’s had a lot of illness lately, and I never managed to catch her when she was in the office. The few things I’d noticed about the stand-in hadn’t been promising.

So the ban was still in place when Laura got beaten up by that monster, and ran to me for support. Naturally I took her in – it’s in a mother’s contract, written in capitals. It overrides landlords rulings, and I didn’t think there would be a huge problem anyway; her behaviour is now beyond reproach. She hasn’t stayed with me every night, and we’ve arranged for her to move to safe place far from here, soon.

Laura was about to go out when I got the phone call. I told her what had happened. She raised no objections, even going so far as to comfort me, assuring me everything would be OK. She left to meet a friend, and I went down to the office to speak to the drippy stand-in nitwit, who at least made sympathetic noises and gave me a number to call.

I spoke to a secretary who said I’d get a callback from the appropriate officer. I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t. This was Friday; the weekend was looming. I prepared the food we’d planned to cook together, then we met and ate together, outdoors. She said she had somewhere safe to stay. I knew that her ‘safe’ place would put her at risk of weakening and using drugs, but I had to let her go.

On Saturday we met in the morning and again in the evening, dining on a park bench as we watched the sun go down. She said she had somewhere better to stay than the place where she’d been the previous night. We parted.

Yesterday was Mothers Day. It began with a lunchdate with my two elder daughters and their families. After lunch we all went to the park, where the little ones romped and played. I left them at about 4pm to meet Laura. We enjoyed a pub meal with coffee and followed it up with a long walk, sitting down every so often, as I tire easily these days. She said she was going back to the place she stayed on Saturday. I reminded her that we were having lunch with my sister today, and she was excited about it. She and my sister have a special bond. Sadly, Christine’s house is too crowded for a short-term guest.

She left me at about 7pm, walking in the opposite direction to the cosy sofa that was to be her bed for the night. She told me she had to see a friend first, but I knew she was going to a dealer’s house. I can spot the signs, however subtle.

This morning I couldn’t contact her. I went looking for her at the address where she should have been – she doesn’t know that I know it – but nobody was in, and I felt her absence stretch backward – I could sense that she hadn’t been there last night.

I came home, and – wonder of wonders – Sandra was back. I saw her through the office window, so I went in to ask if she’d seen Laura press the buzzer. She hadn’t and she made me sit down and tell her the whole story, then dialled 101 for the police, and handed me the phone. The police treated her disappearance as an emergency. As there were serious concerns for her safety she was put on the missing person’s list. A police officer quickly arrived to take down more details.

Meanwhile, Sandra got hold of the housing officer, and told him he must speak to me urgently. She was asked what she’d have done if she’d been in charge on Friday. She said she would have said Laura should stay with me.

As the policeman was about to leave, I got a phone call – from Laura. I was right – she never reached that safe sofa. She’d spent the night at a dealer’s house. It wouldn’t have happened if Laura had been with me.

The police officer arranged to meet her somewhere outdoors as she didn’t want to lead him to the dealer’s house. On the way to meet him, she bumped into her brother, Paul, who was out looking for her (he had a pretty good idea where she would be, and he was right). She’s had an aversion to her father’s home for some time, but between us, Paul and I persuaded her to stay there tonight, safely away from this town.

Thanks to Sandra’s intervention, the housing officer phoned me, but he said he had to speak to another officer before allowing  Laura back into the building. He asked if I knew of any official who could vouch for her, and I gave the drugs services – it was my only choice. He promised to try to get back to me tomorrow.

This evening I rang Laura. She was happily surrounded by Paul, his girlfriend, her dad, and the cat who disgraced herself on Saturday. She says she may stay there again tomorrow night. There was laughter in her voice.

And me? Maybe I’ll be able to eat some cereal, fruit and yogurt. A meal would be too much to cope with. I’m walked off my feet, my brain’s been fried by constant radioactive calls, and I need some sleep, but for the moment all’s almost well with my corner of the world.

Later, I’ll deal subtly with NNND (nasty neighbour next door), who made the complaint. She hates being caught telling tales, and she’s so bitter and twisted that she can’t stand to see people happy. I’ll give her my most sarcastic smile, and sweetly thank her for giving Laura the opportunity to meet a couple of helpful housing officers AND to prove herself worthy of entering the building. Maybe I’ll get Laura to help me with the garden. The added advantage there would be that NNND would see the other residents stopping to talk to Laura. She’s an attractive, personable woman, and quite a few of them like her.

Sweet revenge…

©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

maps

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