I awoke to the phone ringing. As I snapped to I realised I was sitting on the sofa and the cup of coffee I made, which I had intended to drink to keep me awake, had gone cold. It was just a few minutes past four in the morning. As best I recall, it was close to 2am when I had made the coffee.
It was a police officer from a town not far away. She had found a girl wandering the streets in a highly agitated state and was having difficulty in understanding what the problem was. Among the items in her pocket was one of my cards. According to the officer the girl was desperate for them to phone me. It was the heroin addict, Laura; I had taken to hospital recently.
The WPC was quick to say that she was not in any trouble, but it was her guess that Laura had a history of problems with drugs. I confirmed that this was correct and asked her whether she thought Laura had taken any. The officer said she was in a highly agitated state and was shaking quite a bit. They were going to phone the medics, but Laura repeatedly asked her to phone me first. She added that as Laura hadn’t been detained for any reason, they had no reason to have her tested.
I explained that Laura’s GP was trying to find a bed for her in a drug dependency unit and I briefly related the events of last week. I had twice taken Laura to the doctor and we were in a state of limbo whilst we waited for a bed to become available.
The officer told me they could keep her there until later in the morning or they could have the medics have a look at her. I knew Laura had been prescribed some drugs to help with her addiction, but I also knew they would not cause the withdrawal pains to subside. I asked if I could speak with her.
Laura sounded awful. She began crying. She told me there was ‘gear’ in her room but she swore she hadn’t taken anything, but she wanted to; she admitted that she had bought it earlier in the day. But what had stopped her was the image of ‘Tina.’
Laura said she was frightened to go home because if she went back into her room she knew she would take the drugs. I asked her if I could possibly explain the situation to the police officer and ask her to remove them. Laura panicked over my comment and cried saying if the police found anything she’d be put in prison.
Under the circumstances, I honestly didn’t know what the officer’s responsibilities would be. If I told her there were drugs there, but all Laura wanted was for them to be taken away, would the officer be duty bound to arrest her for possession of the drugs? It’s one of those paradoxical situations no one likes to face and considering that it was now 430 in the morning, I wasn’t really certain that I was thinking clearly.
I asked Laura if she wanted me to come collect her. She said ‘please.’ I asked to speak with the officer and I promised that I would not reveal what she had told me about the drugs. My thoughts were that I hadn’t been told what kind of drugs she had, so in all honesty I couldn’t articulate to the officer what was there. For all I knew Laura could have been referring to the prescriptions I had collected for her several days earlier.
I explained to the officer that her intuition was correct; that what Laura was going through were withdrawal symptoms, and she was not only in agony but fighting with herself over the physiological need for the drugs she had been taking for so long. I told her of the prescriptions Laura had. I listened as the WPC asked Laura if she had her prescriptions with her. I heard Laura say ‘no’ and that she was ‘trying not to take them either.’ I appreciated the officer’s kind gesture to Laura as I heard her suggest that the reason she was given the prescriptions was to help ease the pain a bit, as she moved away from her addiction. She asked Laura if she wanted me to come collect her.
I apologised to the officer, explaining that it would most likely take me more than an hour to get there and I asked whether she felt Laura was going to ‘make it’ during that time. Again, I listened as she spoke gently to Laura, telling her I would come and asking whether she could ‘hold out’ until I got there. I didn’t hear a reply, but the officer said she’d be ok. I also asked whether they would have to lock Laura in a cell. She said that wouldn’t be necessary as long as she remained calm.
It was a shocking site to see Laura. She looked worse than I had ever seen her. On the drive back to her room I twice had to pull to the side of the road, as Laura was violently sick. I suggested then that we should go to hospital instead. She told me ‘no’ as it was a reaction to not having her ‘gear,’ (which I now understand to simply mean any kind of drugs).
As I pulled in front of her building I asked what would ‘we’ do now. I pointed out that if she went back into her room, the temptation would be in front of her. She said she knew this and she asked me if I would go in and throw the drugs away. I explained that I couldn’t do this and in any event, if I did it, it wouldn’t be as powerful as her doing it. She sat silently for a moment then suddenly told me she’d be right back.
I sat in the car and waited as she half walked, half ran to her front door. Even the way she walked showed that she must have been in agony. A few minutes passed and I saw her come out the door. I had turned off the motor, so everything around me was silent.
Rather than coming back into the car, Laura stood in front of it. She held up what appeared to be something that looked like the corner of a plastic bag containing a substance. I really couldn’t see it well enough to describe it. But it was clear what Laura was doing. She pinched apart the small piece of plastic and the powdery contents fell to the ground. I could see Laura rub her thumb and index finger together causing the remainder to leave her hands and drift downward.
She came around to my side of the car and thanked me. I asked if she would take her prescriptions now. Laura said they weren’t stopping the pain – they only made her groggy. But she acknowledged that she now felt tired and that the ‘wave’ had now gone past. She asked me if I would phone the doctor this morning to see if a bed was available yet. I promised that I would as soon as the surgery was open.
Laura turned and waived to me as she stepped into her door.
As I drove home I recalled that I had complained to my son last night that I never seemed to have enough hours in the day. As I pulled in front of my home I reminded myself that it isn’t the hours, it’s how you use them.
God bless you Laura. I do hope you make it.
Labels: addiction, drug treatment services, encouraging words for someone withdrawling from addiction, help for drug addiction, helping people with addictions, heroin addiction, withdrawl