It is cold, it is bitterly cold. I am sitting on an over turned bin in the market at Wolverhampton. Other than the other drinkers and drug users it is abandoned. I am drinking special brew and smoking a roll up. I am shivering with cold. I am shivering because I need some gear and more to drink. The methadone I’ve just taken hasn’t taken effect yet.
As I sit here waiting I’m staring at a fairly new block of apartments, 1 of which I used to own. I can see the blinds in the window of the bedroom I slept in. As my mind wonders and I start wallowing in self pity the wind changes. I can smell rotting flesh. It is a distinct smell I know well. It’s difficult to explain; it’s putrid and sweet, it almost smells warm and it gets stuck in the back of the throat. It is a foul smell, the worst smell, it is the smell that scares me when I am in withdrawal and if it wasn’t coming from the flesh being eaten away by the gangrene in my leg, if it wasn’t coming from me, I would undoubtedly be being sick. There is someone being sick a few yards away but I have put that down to his alcohol withdrawal. He keeps trying to down great gulps of Frosty Jacks Cider but is almost immediately sick. His blood and bile-fuelled retching fits continue as yet another person asks me for a roll up. I’d like to smash the bottle next to my right hand and stick the glass into his neck. I give him the tobacco. I’m waiting for the chap I use with, the chap I shoplift with, the chap I do burglaries with. He hasn’t long been out of prison. He was given 14 years. He is the only person I want to see right now.
Other than the apartment I have lost hundreds of thousands pounds in casinos, I’ve spent ten’s of thousands on heroin, crack, coke, booze, clothes, women, anything…anything at all that will change the way I feel. Anything that will stop me feeling like me, that will take me away from myself. Anything to stop the boredom, to slow my mind down. Anything to stop me thinking about the opportunities lost, the hopes dashed and the dreams shattered.
Three days later I’m admitted to a detox unit in Stafford. Two weeks later a rehabilitation centre in Bournemouth. I’m there four weeks. I relapse. When I realise that using is not the same after this short spell in treatment, when I realise that the guilt and self-hatred is so profound I can barely function, I want it all to end, but I don’t have the courage to do it. I can’t wait another two more years for funding to go back into a rehabilitation centre. I am lost totally. I am spiritually broken, I am destitute and I am a physical wreck. If I believed in a god I would be praying on my knees. If I believed in a hell I would be praying to go there. If I believed in anything other than my own capacity to self-destruct I would gladly face the east and pray. I had had enough.
My probation officer must have seen something worth saving. I don’t know because it must have been well hidden. He went beyond the call of duty to get me into the BAC in Burton and despite the fact that you can only, at the end of the day, save yourself, he found me the first opportunity. It was at this point that I first felt the tiniest flicker of hope.
I’m coming to the end of the therapeutic side of the treatment programme here in the BAC now. I come in here with one single desire; to stop doing drugs, drink and gambling. I have seen other clients, leave whilst I’ve been here (over the last 15 weeks). I’ve heard many excuses given as the reason for leaving. Many ‘wants’ not being met. I’ve heard people leaving because they’re missing their dog; because they’re hungry on a Sunday between breakfast and dinner; because they’re cured; because they never had problems with their diabetes when they were drinking; because they don’t like the food. The list is long. The actual reason is because they want to take drugs or have a drink. No exceptions.
The facilities here are excellent. It is comfortable but there are rules. There are a lot of rules, rules that are there for a reason; to provide a safe environment in order to give the clients the best chance of recovery. I am aware of most of these rules and have a personal attachment to virtually all of them, mainly because I’ve tested them all. But I can say this with all honesty; I would have slept outside all winter on the patio if it meant I could go on to live drug free and happy. I would have tried to manipulate the staff into giving me an extra pillow – despite the fact I probably wouldn’t have used it. I realised now that boundary testing is actually very dangerous because in affect I’ve been playing a game with my life again.
In short my journey through the BAC hasn’t been easy, but I’ve laughed a lot, I’ve made some great friends and it has all been done in a secure environment, supported by some fantastic and inspirational staff. An environment where all my ‘needs’ have been met. I’ve never once complained or moaned about the facilities and whenever I’ve thought about something I desire, I ask myself one question; “is it a need or a want?” People leave here because of wants. For me the stakes are too high. I don’t have another recovery in me and I certainly don’t have another relapse in me. Anyone thinking about walking through these doors needs to be honest with themselves first and foremost; stopping drugs/drink for anyone else isn’t enough – no one loves their kids, their mum, their husband or wife that much, so don’t kid yourself. If you’re using the BAC to avoid prison, to get your kids back from Social Services, to hold down a job; forget it – not good enough. It’s not a crisis intervention centre and you’ll just be continuing in old behaviour selfishly preventing someone who wants it for the right reason, from getting a bed…..but …. If you want to get up from off your knees, if you can’t see a way out, if you’re living in constant darkness, sadness, fear and anxiety; If you are riddled with self-hatred and have low self esteem… the BAC represents a beacon of light in a storm.
I’m 34 now and I feel like my life is just beginning.
Ben. Spring 2009