Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Better than love...

Saw a very strange thing today.

I was taling to Mr Wormwood, a gaunt, long-haired man recently discharged from prison. He was remarkably tall and thin, a tangle of acute angles, hunched uncomfortably in his too-small chair, with home-made tattoos on his hands and face, and a home detention bracelet around his ankle. He was here for fortnightly "script review", which means we check how he's going on the buprenorphine (a medication for drug dependence), see how he's handling the cravings, see how everything else is going... "having a friendly chat" as my boss said.

Or we would be if the bugger would tell us.

"So, how's it going on the bupe?" I said.


"Are you getting any cravings?"


"How's the sleep? Any sleep disturbances?"


"Some people who use bupe finds it makes them sweat. Any trouble with the sweating? Course, it's been pretty hot the last few days..."


"And the stress levels? Adjusting to stuff on the outside?"


"Mood alright?"


I noticed I was starting to speak in shorter sentences too, as if language was an ability we were both gradually losing. In a few minutes we'd be huddled on our chairs like not-so-great apes, grunting at each other and chewing on sticks.

I stared at him for a moment, and he stared at the floor. Outside an ambulance keened by, the summer sun shone, a bird muttered threats in a tree. I'd asked everything on the list and he'd answered it and we'd got all the right answers and we'd got pretty much nowhere. I decided to try something different.

"You mind if I ask you a personal question?"

He looked up at me.

"The home detention thing, the whole 'three times a week' urine tests. You've been drug-free for ... three months now."


I paused, wondering how to frame the question, then deciding to be honest about what I was asking.

"Do you miss it?"

And his face lit up. The hard angles around his mouth and eyes softened, he grinned, a great, slow, gap toothed grin. He leant back in his chair, as if reminiscing, then leant forward.

"Like nothing else" he said. His voice was soft and low, almost conspiratorial. "Like nothing fuckin' else. Especially days like this, paydays. We used to go out first thing, score some gear... get a couple of grey nurses*, maybe a great white**... we'd be off our fuckin' faces by lunchtime. Go round to me mate's house, he'd have a carton of Victoria Bitter... Jesus."

He paused for a moment, savouring the idea, and gazed off over my shoulder with such intensity I almost turned around to look at what I could not see, had never seen. From whaere I sat, the tightness in his neck and shoulders had dissolved, his pupils were large and dark.

Honestly, that sounds unbelievable, but.... It's a look I've only ever seen on someone cradling a child.

"Right" I said, slowly. The switch was flicked, the light inside him went out. "I might bring your next appointment closer."

And I suggested an increase in the dose, which he grudgingly agreed to consider, and after a few more pleasantries he was on his way. To call in next fortnight, and the fortnight after that, and every single appointment we make, and answer all our questions, and piss in a pot for us... until the bracelet comes off in about three hundred days time, and he can get back to what he was really doing before we interrupted him, back to his real life.


* a tablet of morphine sulphate 100mg

** don't know what this was, neither did he. Some bloody big white tablet, apparently.


Blogger Chade said...

I think this highlights a great tragedy of drug use. Sometimes, in the right combination, in the right environment, with the right variables; It's the single greatest experience of human existence.
Think of how Timothy Leary used to describe evolution through acid. They believe it is the truth, providing clarity to an otherwise grey and cloudy world.
I can't say that the allure of drugs ever took me beyond experimentation but I once saw a good friend leave his head and never come back. The last I saw of him, he was living in a Trust Flat with weekly visits to a psych/counseler to see how he was adjusting to whatever they had him on to get him off the drugs. The friend I knew was long gone from those cold, steely eyes. And he wasn't off the drugs. He will never be off them.
The real tragedy of this friend of mine was that he was an A grade student, aspiring writer, allround good guy, if a little rough around the edges. Then, by 17, he was gone for all intents and purposes.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Camilla said...

Chade, that is tragic.

I feel so lucky and thankful that the whole drug using thing passed me by (touch wood).

6:49 PM  
Blogger Foilwoman said...

I think there are some substances that are toxic for some people, but magical for others. In the right amount. If you stop in time. If they don't overwhelm you.

The prescriptions I take (in the U.S., Zoloft and Adderal) change the way I see the world. There are people who get into big trouble with the law here to score speed (which is what Adderal is, really, straight amphetemine), and yet I'm given it and it mutes me just enough so I can express myself coherently rather than getting sidetracked every minute. I just get sidetracked every other minute, then (and use lots of parentheticals). I had a friend (not too surprisingly, now dead) in college who really did express himself better on narcotics. Unfortunately, after a certain point, he too, was gone. And that was in the early 80s, so it wasn't the drugs itself, is was the new bubonic plague, AIDs that did him in. But that's my generation. Every gay man I went to college with: dead. Every kid with a bit too much of a drug problem: dead. But that's another conversation for another time.

7:47 AM  
Blogger Foilwoman said...

And wouldn't "Big White" be the big white horse tranquilizers?

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Danny said...

There's a story that's been going around for years now. Bono (lead singer of U2) popped around to see none other than Johnny Cash. As Cash had found religion and as Bono believes he's the Pope (at the very least) they decided to have some prayers together before eating. So they bowed their heads and had a little pray. Bono then looked up and said, "So how long have you been this relgious for Johnny?" and Cash replied that it'd bee a few years now. Bono then asked, "Do you find peace in religion?" and Cash looked at him and said, "Yep, I guess I do. But I sure do miss the booze and drugs though."

Drugs are a damn hard thing to kick. For some they provide an escape from the shit that is the world, and coming down from them, and being weaned from them means they have to walk outside and once they get past being blinded by the light the shit comes back to them. Is it any wonder why they go back to the escape?

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Danny said...

Also, who are we, or indeed who has any right to judge what others do? They want to fry their brains - so be it. I know people who are slowly drinking themselves to death, but it doesn't stop me from getting drunk every time we go out. I see people around me every day who utterly waste any talent they have by refusing to embrace it. I see people who take the most insane of physical risks, all in the name of getting that adreneline fix. How different are they to those who are wasting away on drugs?

Mind you the general perception of the media and the like do drugs all the world of good. People will refer to Ectasy, cocaine and even heroin as 'recreational drugs'. Ummmmm, BZZZZZT WRONG ANSWER!!! They're illegal drugs. Nothing recreational about them at all. Take one pill and you're on that road - and hey - I'm no saint, been down that road at times, but you either wake up and start to live, or ly down, inject and just die - hopefully faster than slower.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Benedict 16th said...

So Danny - what you are saying is....
"reality is for people who can't handle drugs"?

Makes sense to me.


9:31 PM  
Anonymous Danny said...

Pretty much Benedict. Drugs are means to escape reality, and also a means to escape responsibility. Drugs allow people to ignore the basics of life, allow people to abuse their spouses, children and others, allow people to commit crime - all because of the drugs, man. It was the drugs that did it, not me.

I can more than handle drugs. Ask Dr John his reaction when I told him that I'd had a drink spiked - I thought for a second, the way he was looking at me, that he wanted to throw me up on an operating table and start carving me open to see what's inside. But at least when I fuck up, I know I'm to blame, and I'm not about to blame weed, speed or ectasy.

There's been times, and there still are, when I'd love to give in and slip into blissful oblivion. That ain't gonna solve my problems, or make them go away. Just means I'd be too weak to face up to my responsibilities.

8:27 AM  

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