Interview With An Addict

“How long have you been an addict?”

“Since I was thirteen.”

“How old are you now?”

“Twenty eight.”

“So you’ve been an addict for fifteen years.”

“Wow!  Fifteen years?  Jesus … is it that long?  That’s incredible!”

“How did you start?”

“I was with some friends … they injected me.”

“You let some friends inject you?”

“Yes.  They tied a tourniquet around my arm and slid the needle in.”

“Did you trust them?”

“Yes.”

“What drug was it?”

“Heroin.”

“Heroin?  Was that the first time?  I mean, did you smoke it before you started injecting?”

“Oh, no.  That was my first hit.  Straight into the veins.”

“What was it like?”

“I was sick – really sick.”

“Why did you do it, then?”

“I don’t know.  My mother was an alcoholic.  Maybe it affected me?”

“What happened after that?”

“I got to like it, then started using it regularly.”

“Was that the only drug you used?”

“Jesus, no!  I took just about anything I could get hold of.”

“What are you on now?”

“Methadone and Diconol.”

“Are they prescribed?”

“The Methadone is, but I have to score the other.”

“What dose of Methadone are you on?”

“One hundred and twenty milligrams a day.”

“Have you stabilised now?”

“Yes, I’ve been on that dose for some time.”

“What about the Diconol … how much does it cost?”

“Five pounds a tablet.”

“How many do you take?

“That depends how much money I have.  But generally about two.”

“Is it hard to get hold of?”

“Not really.”

“How is your health now?”

“Bad – very bad.”

“Could you explain what you mean by bad?  What precisely is wrong with you?”

“I need a bone marrow implant.  I get cramps every morning.  My hands are swollen. I’m always sick.  My legs buckle from under me and my fingers spasm uncontrollably.”

“Do these symptoms go away when you take Methadone or Diconol?”

“The cramps and spasms do, but my legs still give way.”

“Where do you see yourself in the future?”

“I think I’ll be dead in two years.”

“Doesn’t that frighten you?”

“Yes.  When I think about it I cry.  I can’t stop taking the drugs yet they are killing me.  I just don’t know what to do.”

“What about your doctor … won’t he help?”

“My doctor is useless.  He thinks I’m a junkie, that I’m not worth helping.  I’ve begged him to get me a scan but he dismisses it.  He says all my troubles are related to the drugs.  I agree with him to a certain extent, but I still want my body checked out.  Even if I am a junkie, I’m still entitled to medical treatment just the same as everyone else.”

“Do you feel pigeon-holed – I mean, does the doctor see passed the addiction when discussing your health?”

“No he doesn’t.  I’m categorised and there’s nothing I can do about it.  They look at me and see a junkie, not a sick person.  In their eyes I’m not even a human being.”

I look closely at her face.  The skin is pale, her teeth neglected, but what strikes me more than anything are her eyes — they have a misty, glazed appearance.  The orbs are unhealthily dark. 

*

A long time ago I had a friend called Tony.  I say ‘had’ because he is dead now.  His eyes were the same.  Dead eyes, black and soulless like her’s.  Tony was hopelessly addicted to Morphine and speed.  I used to look into those dark eyes of his, the pupils blending into the retina like muddy, water-colour paint, and wonder how long he had to leave.  Turned out it was three years.  Just three short years.  It wasn’t his drug taking that killed him.  He was a pillion passenger on a motorcycle driven by drug-crazed friend. 

*

I glance down at her swollen hands, the fingers that move involuntarily.  Then my eyes settle on her distended legs.  Her ankles are unnaturally swollen.  So are her knees and thighs.

She fidgets nervously, then speaks again:

“I didn’t know what I was doing,” she said.  “If only I knew then what I know now…”

I can see that her health is rapidly failing.  I want to reach out and touch her, delicately mould my fingers to the shape of her face and run them caringly down her dark hair.  She’s as confused as a lost child.  But what can I do?  She is adrift in another dimension, another time, another world.  I feel helpless and do the only thing I can — show her I care.