living with former prisoners has its good points- rehab part 7


We had to go to a fellowship meeting each night, so after all day hearing crying and a shitstorm of wasted lives, smashed families, broken dreams, we had to hear it all again every night, only with prayers and biscuits. In drafty halls. I liked the prayers, though they were Godless to appease the non believers. That’s all the higher power stuff. Plus I liked the more dramatic stories, you could tell they quite enjoyed telling them, particularly the narcs. They really, really still loved heroin and no matter how much they said life was better now, without it, some wistfulness in their eyes, like a guy talking about his first sweetheart, body glistening with sweat and chlorine at the open air swimming pool, you can not replace that longing look, even if you can replace the longing. And though I’ve never taken smack, nodding out in a room where no one cared, seemed better than sitting , freezing, in a church hall, with broken ribs, and my mug of instant coffee with its granules floating to the top, tepid, nauseating, and listening to all this very depressing stuff. 

And of course I was part of that shitstorm. I would put something out now and again. Not always nice. One guy said he drunk drove and either caused a death or life long injury (not to himself) and my first thought was wanker, you are getting a clap for honesty, for sharing, while some poor bastard is a parapalegic, pissing into an ergonomic bottle, talking maybe with one of those electronic Brief History of Time voice machines, wishing you a slow and painful death every day, or perhaps he or she is already dead, and everyone said well done for saying that, how brave, and I stood up and said boy am I glad they took away your driver’s license.


One girl, her dad was the king of some sweetie emporium, so she always had sweets, and strangely, great teeth and a knock out figure, she came up to me and looked at the cross around my neck and said, how could you say that, you, a Christian, you should forgive him. And I just wanted to kill her, and him, and explode the sweetie factory, for good measure.  What would Jesus do. He’d forgive and turn the sweeties into loaves and fishes, and the water into tepid coffee.

The ones I hated the most were run by these Hells Angels reject types. Bald on top but long ponytails, pot bellies, would laughingly say only poison now was Starbucks and cake. Their stories usually involved hot chicks lured by the promise of good drugs, cars, fancy watches ( they were really into their watches, surprising now as most had no jobs and really only had to show up for meetings) swallowing condoms full of drugs, near death experiences, waking up in alleyways covered in piss and shit and vomit, how the piss is a relief at first when you are bursting and its warm, but how it gets cold real quick and stinks, collapsed veins that means there are fewer places to inject ( testicles for guys, dunno where the girls did it) how easy it is to get drugs in jail, how you have to be really tough in jail, how jail makes you worse unless you find God or Allah, how you go out and score as soon as you get out. And everyone would  nod and smile like yup, been there, nearly died four times, those times I was covered in shit ,wasnt sure it was my own ( cue laughter of recognition) and I wanted to just stand up ( but I couldnt cos my ribs were killing me) and shout oh fuck you, my dealers were my doctors, it was all very nice, my little green NHS script, before that, in the States, other script pads, before the days of computers, and I never shat myself , not literally, and I never did all that stuff. This was like some Guy Ritchie movie I couldn’t follow.  I never even stole anything and I raged this thought to my mate G, and he said, maybe you stole your kid’s mum away from them. And then I cried for real. That made sense.   I mean if someone said it, like, in a made for tv movie, I would have said what shit dialogue, but it got to me. And after he said that I stopped being so obnoxious in meetings, stopped glaring at the fat Jim Carrolls who had not died, died died, or written anything half as good as the Basketball Diaries,  and started to really listen, trying to catch a glimpse of something, anything, I could relate to. And in one meeting this beautiful girl, I mean drop dead gorgeous, smart, young, she told a story bout getting some gig at a doctor’s office or pharmacy and my ears pricked up. She mentioned the V word, Valium was her poison too and she did lots of the same shit I had done only was younger and smarter and got better faster. And I fell a little bit in love with her. And I wanted her to take me home and fix me and I would do exactly what she told me to, but I could not because I was about half way through the programme and and already decided to move back to London. And she could not have done that stuff anyway. And I would have just egged her, like don’t you miss it just a bit, I mean not the almost dying bit, but all the other good bits, the feeling calm all the time? And I am such a salesperson I can’t help thinking we might both wind up back on it, but she was and is still strong and doing really well in her recovery. And so I love her from afar. 

There was one point in my flat when everyone except me and this other girl had been in prison. And we left the flat to rush to a meeting and the girl responsible for the keys left them inside the flat. And this was handy, cos there were four guys who could break into a house quickly, softly and without breaking anything. So one shimmied up the drainpipe and we got the keys. Another time we went out to do our basic food shopping and we all had to sort of babysit each other, like couldn’t even walk through the alcohol aisle. And one of the guys picked up the loudspeaker and said, “Today check out our discount on our own brand seeded loaf, and Michele, put the Smirnoff back.” That was probably my first proper laugh there. I liked hearing my name on the loudspeaker and I was no where near the booze, but I enjoyed the joke. The guy didn’t even get in trouble for using the loudspeaker. I didn’t like that guy all that much but he gave me a book called The Shack about what happens when a man’s daughter is brutally murdered, and he meets all these spirit guides. And I cried my eyes out every page of that book , and anyone who has ever lost anyone they loved, they should read it. And it hit me then that everyone who “fixes” on drugs then fixes on something more acceptable, like sweets, or exercise, or meditation, or meetings.  And I told G I don’t fix on jackshit, only pills, only specific pills and specific alcohol, and then I read the Shack, I read it constantly, in bed, like porn. Only not like porn cos it didn’t make me feel sexy, it made me cry til I was practically sick. And I got it. I fixed on death. Which is like the worst thing to fix on cos everyone dies, often way before you do. TBC