Thin Wire: Heroin Addiction

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.

Christine Lewry lives in Hampshire, UK with her husband and two youngest children. She worked in the defence industry as a finance director for twenty years before leaving to write full-time. Thin Wire is her first book. For more info:

Christine’s story: Diagnosing Breast Cancer

I’m happy to host author Christine Lewry as she shares her first hand account of a breast cancer diagnosis. Christine– thank you so much for sharing such a vulnerable part of your life with us today. I am humbled by your honesty and bravery and am glad you have been cancer free for over 10 years.
I felt the lump again. ‘It’s probably nothing,’ I said out loud. It wasn’t a hard lump but a knot of soft tissue under my arm. A wave of overwhelming doom made my knees buckle, I sat back on the bed.
I rang the doctors’ surgery. ‘Is it an emergency?’ the receptionist asked.
I thought for a moment. Is it?
‘Well … yes,’ I replied. She gave me an appointment for later that day. I wandered about the house, kept looking at the clock, didn’t get anything done.
 ‘I don’t think it’s anything to worry about,’ the doctor smiled. ‘But I’ll send you for a mammogram.’
My husband, Tony, came with me for the mammogram. We sat in a comfortable pink waiting room and read the newspapers. He made a cappuccino from the machine. The nurse’s hands were round and warm as she squeezed my breasts into the X-ray machine. ‘I’ll show these to Dr Wainwright,’ she said. I got dressed and returned to my newspaper – I didn’t want to look at the frightened faces of the other patients.
‘Doctor wants to do an ultrasound,’ the nurse with the warm hands said.
I lay on a narrow bed while Dr Wainwright squeezed cool gel on my chest and ran the ultrasound probe over it. The room was dark apart from the faint glow from her computer. Shadows fell on the walls like ghosts in the night.
‘There,’ she pointed to a haze of white on the screen. ‘I’ll do a biopsy, then we’ll organise a taxi to take it to the lab.’
Tony stayed home with me until the hospital rang. ‘Very sorry, but you have breast cancer.’ The words sounded so trivial and yet so profound and life changing. I tried to stay positive. Anyway, what could I do? Break down? Scream? I had to hold on tight to the belief that I was going to be alright.
The morning of my operation, Dr Wainwright and the surgeon gathered around my bed. ‘We’re going to do a larger operation than we originally planned,’ Dr Wainwright said. ‘We’ve decided to take the lymph nodes from under your arm, in addition to the lumpectomy. The lymph nodes are used to diagnose whether the cancer has spread outside the lump.’
 I signed the form, leaving it to them to do whatever they thought might save me.
The next day my surgeon came to see me. He smoothed out the starched sheet and sat on my bed. ‘I’ve got the results of the lymph node biopsy. I’m afraid it’s bad news,’ he said. ‘Of the twelve lymph nodes I removed, six have cancer. I’ll arrange for you to see an oncologist. I expect he’ll recommend chemotherapy.’
I turned over and stared at the wall, waiting for Tony to arrive. My life was slipping away, like grains of sand falling through my fingers. The thought that I had cancer spreading through my body was terrifying. What if I died leaving my children without a mother? They were so young that there would come a time when they wouldn’t even remember me. I would be that photograph smiling back from the mantelpiece, a sad remnant of a woman who died long ago, never moved or put away since she left.
The oncologist talked in percentages and statistics, about improvements in life expectancy of five or ten years, his voice set in a monotone devoid of hope or compassion. What bloody good was five or ten years? I wanted to live, not wait it out. I wasn’t going to take on his fear or negativity.
The chemotherapy made me feel sick. I tasted its bitterness in the delicate lining of my nose and at the back of my throat. It made me feel like every cell in my body had been poisoned and that I had the most dreadful hangover, yet I hadn’t even had a glass of wine.
Mentally I had to pace myself. Six times, once every three weeks. I could manage that. I counted them off. Still, it was hard for me when all the hair on the top of my head fell out despite the torture of the cold caps. I always did care too much about my appearance.
‘Do you love me?’ I asked Tony whilst having the pinky-red chemotherapy dripped into my veins. The anti-sickness medication made me constipated for days and I became frail and weak. The more ill I became, the more I thought that if I died he might find a new wife; someone younger, thinner, better than me.
When my treatment finished, I was cast adrift. All the time I had been having hospital appointments, chemotherapy or radiotherapy I had been doing something positive to fight the disease. Now I floated about, waiting to see whether I would sink or swim.

Christine Lewry lives in Hampshire, UK with her husband and two youngest children. She worked in the defence industry as a finance director for twenty years before leaving to write full-time. Thin Wire is her first book. For more info: