I’ve been under Dr Lennon the last few days, taking tips from his detox ditty 'Cold Turkey'.
36 hours rolling in pain/praying to someone to free me again
It’s junkie journalism at its finest as I retch and shudder my way through an opiate detox that is unexpected, awful and with a pain point of origin that’s ludicrous.
A fucking chihuahua bite got me rolling down the road toward this place I last visited nearly 40 years ago. The dog jumped me and bit my arm, I jerked back to get away from the tiny fangs tearing my flesh. A few days later the ligament in my knee, already frayed, went snap.
The pain was excruciating. I’m good on pain. When I got kidney stones I let my partner sleep a few hours before waking her up to get me a lift to hospital. I have a lot of aches and pains from car crashes, bar brawling and the carnage that goes with active alcoholism and drug addiction in my teens and 20s.
When the ligament in my other knee snapped and frayed during the run out of town in the big February Christchurch earthquake I survived on a stick for a year before an ACC/Southern Cross impasse about paying for the op got resolved.
This time, the pain sent me off to after-hours within hours.
The options for pain relief were codeine or one of the new-fangled forms of junk. I went for codeine. There was no choice.
Now, codeine and I have history.
I learned how to make opium in my teens and was an early adopter of heroin when the Buddha stick boys starting bringing in quality skag with the sticks. When I got codeine for a back injury I found a legal(ish) substitute for smack that kept me well with a few hundred mg a day without having to work through my horror of needles.
Addiction does have its downsides. When I finally cleaned up I had a house with an unpaid mortgage, a vicious knock-down divorce, no furniture, no food and a herd of cats plus a dog who loved me.
So why am I telling you this dreadful shit? Where is the upside? Like a lot of life’s bum cards there is no upside.
I’m telling you as my nose runs and I retch from cold turkey because I know the ropes just as well as any old junkie extant.
But I have had time in my broken sleep to reflect on the total madness of a health system that has closed down just about all the treatment centres and detox joints.
In my recovery years my networks have given me access to world experts on addiction and treatment. My post alcohol and drugs career has put me on talking “pick up the phone” terms with lots of politicians and CEOs.
I wish that I was a baby/I wish that I was dead
I know the ropes. This detox follows on from a few months of feeling like I was tiptoeing across barely cooled lava, taking a minimum dose till I got surgery and knowing the trapdoors of hell were creaking below me.
On Tuesday this week rather than taking my post-op drugs I sensed in the old mad dog way only an ex-junkie can that there was a wee window of magic and possibility open.
That if I just quietly snuck through, threw away the drugs and breathed gently I might be able to kick and return to what has become my normal state of clean sobriety.
So I did throw away the drugs and as the hours piled up it became clear my old habit had not cared less about minimum doses and medical necessity.
“Got you now baby and you know what’s gonna fix it”, it whispered.
“Fuck off, my God’s stronger than you," I said and settled down for a wee fight for my soul.
Now my world now is not a bad one. Stable relationship, house without mortgage, glasshouse, fruit trees, lots of kids starting to do adulting, even the miracle of a grandchild.
My friends that I had to leave behind? Bar one who got zapped by Jesus they are all dead. I’m like a very old man who has outlived everyone. I got my second shot at life by going through detox and treatment three times before biting the bullet.
That’s a luxury that’s barely on offer now. Even for the rich who can buy full on in-house treatment, it’s rare.
Some cost-cutting madness persuaded a generation of decision makers that in-house treatment and ongoing aftercare were not part of the answer to addiction treatment.
I’m spilling my guts here in the hope it impels our new Government to at least look at reviving proper, adequate treatment systems in New Zealand.
I am an old lag with a luxurious support system who has found these last few days horrendous beyond any adequacy of words.
Trapped in a corner, prodded with a stick and gazing glumly at the guillotine, I write stuff. Never happily or enthusiastically, but because I have to. It is how I make sense of this insensible process called life.
Like Dr Lennon did when he nailed it with 'Cold Turkey'.
But he was another tough old survivor who bar those fateful bullets would be with us still, bringing back his broadcasts from the outer limits of life’s rich tapestry.
Not all people who go down the Bill Burroughs highway are this hard.
My old habit had its fuse lit by an accident. I think after a few more bad sleeps I’ll come right.
I want the few people who pick up on this to think how many people out there need proper help now.
After the P epidemic we are going to have an opiate epidemic like this country has never seen.
After speed comes a need for downers and smack. Take it from me.
As a nation, we are not ready. We need to start to rebuild our addiction services along with the rest of society that public health policy has let fray and decay.
We need to start now.