It begins easy: the detoxification. Detox. The time was right. The environment was ready. Last drop of fentanyl sublingually on May 31st, 2016. The last ‘tickle’ of heroin had its swansong a month prior.
It was a safe venue. Around-the-clock support for the unpredictable detoxification process. Hoping this would be enough to do what needed to be done to make the process a success.
Below are fragments some short, some longer, in a general narrative of paying the piper a long-overdue price.
– London / JULY 2016


There’s no need to spend a couple of days battered between uncontrollable vomiting, diarrhetic surprise visitations, joints in electric shock, and a rollercoaster of boiling hot and inescapable cold, sweating and snotting and wailing an inevitably self ­pitying, often despairing protest. “Make it stop!” you may cry, real tears mingling with the streaming mucus. This is unnecessary.

The first few days are the physical withdrawal symptoms playing out the cold turkey battlefield of sense and body panic­state. Benzodiazepines and clonidine are a godsend. Hardcore anti-psychotics can help too. With enough clonazepam and clonidine in the system, the symptoms and indeed conscious thought gets shut down into fake stupor (at best) or dark waking dream­state where detachment from one’s own suffering body makes the detox bearable; and quickly forgettable.

There’s little to say about this part ­ the much caricatured, exaggerated and tyrannical ‘cold turkey’ as opiates are expunged and the body and brain are partners in trauma, masked by the medication, 48 to 72 hours to become physically clean and no longer dependent on three heroin shots a day.

So far so easy. There may even be a day or two immediately after detox where the brain remains in shock at the revelation of a world without the drugs, it holds onto some expectation sobriety is going to end and this expectation creates a  dead­space  that engenders an emotionless, disbelieving connection with things external.  Reality is like a movie,  one’s own body an unfeeling contrivance without appetite yet alive and carrying a fetal version of who you are.

This fetus must reach out in the mind, then, by extension in the world. It is fundamental to being human. But for a day or two, the fetal self might remain insouciant and furled. It might even seem like the hard part is over…

Then the real fight for recovery begins.

The damage to the brain has a legacy far more profound and frightening than mere days of grotesque physical expunge and protest. After all, if you need to vomit, you puke and it provides occupation if not a moment’s relief. Physical symptoms are cause and effect and reaction to mitigate. But the mind? Therein madness and maddening confinement: the fragmentation of your one and only personality, separation of the trinity of the self (superego, ego, and id), emotionless isolation as the perfectly comfortable placenta of the opiate womb is drained suddenly by detoxification and what’s left behind is nothing tangible yet it is you: all that you are…

There is just one scene playing in your mind: you, pure ego, and nothing more… suspended in a seemingly infinite space. All sense of superego (the world and everyone in it) and id (emotion, volition, love, warmth, joy, vitality, libido) has been separated from you and remains impossibly out of reach, out of sight. From a thousand directions spotlight beams excoriate the infinite space, all pointed at the you, unable to move away, writhing suspended: an adult head and a naked rash ­covered baby’s body. Crawling vying with miasma across the undermost layer of skin ­ unreachable ­ sudden illumination, every angle imaginable exposed by the light that burns a remorseless interrogation like an automaton sadist. There is no escape because this is inside your own mind and it is a manifestation of consequences: warped brain chemistry where only personality and intellect and consciousness must face the emptiness without feelings or communion with any other soul. It dooms you to a blind wakefulness, stripped bare in the harshlight and commentating every excruciating second.

And the ego screams in this terrible prison, knowing there is no escape, knowing there is no solution except to endure the torture.

The joints are arthritic, the muscles flaccid, the skin crawls to every touch, yet it is impossible not to touch something! No position is comfortable, no succor can be gained because it is the very mind, the core of your once inviolate being turned against itself. No patience helps. No meditation or self­-therapy avails. This is reality, and the bloated indulgence must pay for what it did. It is a hell whose penal term is of unknown length and of course, the thought it may be permanent, that this time the mind may be broken permanently, adds panic to the screaming impotent ego-­baby. There isn’t even anyone to blame or anyone to help. Sympathy is irrelevant.

All eyes are inward and the loveless, joyless, desolate “I am” writhes pathetic and hunted by brain chemistry warped and trying to right itself; the organ that is our everything spinning in emergency mode and you have no choice but to be you, all wounds internal, all of them open, exposed, biting and without respite.

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