I’m pleased to host author Christine Lewry as she shares from her book that deals with her daughter’s struggle with heroin.
Abridged extract from Thin Wire: A mother’s journey through her daughter’s heroin addiction.
Amber’s story: Heroin Withdrawal
Living with Dave, I’ve always had an easy supply of heroin. The thought of what a long, enforced withdrawal might be like flits across my mind. I dismiss it – I’ll be okay and we’ll soon be home. ‘Sleep as much as you can, it’ll help slow the cluck. The more you move around, the more it’ll hurt,’ he says.
The journey to the station doesn’t take long. The police van pulls up into an under-cover, concrete courtyard. A policewoman unlocks the barred door of the van and swings it open. We step down, straight into a frigid, stark cage.
‘Out you come,’ the custody sergeant says as he opens the door from inside the station. He points at me. ‘You first.’ I follow him to his desk. He has a two-page questionnaire to fill in about me. When he reaches the end he says, ‘Do you need to see the doctor?’
I lift my chin. My eyes settle on his face. ‘No. I’m not a drug addict.’
‘Okay,’ he marks it on the paperwork. ‘If you say so.’
In my cell there is no mattress or pillow, only a scratchy old blanket. I pick it up and shake out the dust. It smells of old men and greasy hair, like it’s never been washed. I lay the blanket on the wooden bench and use my coat to cover me.
The mental itch for heroin creeps over me. I close my eyes and try to sleep, turning on my left side and then my right. The fake-fur collar of my coat makes my nose itch so I push it away. I take off my shoes then decide my feet are cold, so I put them back on.
It’s been ages. I ring the bell on the wall of my cell. The empty echo of the policeman walking down the corridor gets closer. He pulls back the slat in the door.
‘What is it?’
‘Can I have a cup of tea?’
‘Only after you’ve been here an hour. I’ve got too much to do.’
‘Well, I’ve been here an hour.’
‘Fifteen minutes actually.’ The slat slams shut.
Fifteen minutes! He’s having a laugh! Panic rises up inside me. I must get a grip of myself, stop the uncontrollable shaking. The itch is getting stronger and I have no idea how long the police can keep me here.
Pacing up and down the small room, I notice the heavy door is scuffed excessively on the inside, as though most of the previous inmates have leant their weight against it and kicked it continuously. One of the walls is painted yellow, the colour of sick, and the other three are brick. The floor is cold concrete and there’s a stainless steel toilet in the corner that smells of bleach. I lie down, telling myself to relax and stay still.
A heavy key turns in the door and someone opens it. A cup of tea is placed inside. My hand shakes as I take a small sip from the white plastic cup. It squashes in and I think it’ll spill over the top. The tea is tepid, not hot, and tastes of metal like it’s come out of a machine, weak with no sugar.
I’ve been walking up and down the limited space in my cell for most of the day. The windowsill has hundreds of messages, names and poems scored into the wood. I read them all, running my fingers over the surface as if it’s Braille. Do I know any of the people who have been here before me? Are they addicts? Dave’s punters?
The pain in my arms and legs is excruciating; I can’t stand it any longer. I’m starving hungry yet sick to my stomach. Freezing cold and shivering, but when I touch my skin it’s burning and wet with sweat. I’d do anything now, anything to stop the unscratchable itch for heroin.
I ring the bell again. ‘I’d like to see the doctor.’
The policeman looks at his watch. ‘Sorry love, too late for the doctor to come out tonight. You’ll have to wait until the morning.’
‘But I can’t wait till then. Please.’ My mind is frantic, searching for some reason I could give him to make the doctor come out.
‘Did the custody sergeant offer you the doctor when he signed you in?’
‘Yes, but you don’t understand …’
‘Then you should have said “yes” when he asked you.’ He shut the slat.
I sit on the cold floor and rest my head between my knees, waiting to see whether I’ll puke. The blood in my ears is roaring. The ache of withdrawal has taken over. I’m exhausted, but my speeding brain prevents me from sleeping. The pain comes like a hard punch, as if I’m a boxer in the ring being beaten, but even a boxer gets a thirty-second break between rounds. I clench my fists and knead them hard into my guts as a wave of agony flows over me. The worst part is knowing that if I just had a little heroin all this pain would go away.
Good news is Christine’s daughter beat her heroin addiction and has been clean for almost a decade.