I'm Suicidal—Please Commit Me!
A break-up leads to a relapse leads to an attempt for institutional help . . . .
The following morning I got a text message: “That kiss was a mistake, I have moved on with my life and I can’t go back. You should move on too. Sorry.”
Our relationship was over. It had been nearly three years since I met her at a party, attracted by her black mascara and MDMA eyes. We had hugged each other as the nuclear light of morning struck. As time passed, we fell in love.
But now it was over and the news hit me like an anvil. It was Sunday morning and I was two months clean. Like an autoimmune disease, my thoughts began attacking my own mind.
How could you have been so stupid? How could she do this to me? God I need some heroin. No! I can’t score now, I’m two months clean, it would fuck everything up.
I pulled on my clothes feeling like someone was taking a tattoo gun to my heart. Downstairs I found my grandmother shuffle about the kitchen in her purple nightgown.
”Good morning," she said. Her Greek accent made it sound like “Gud Morlning."
Please go away, I don’t want to use. Oh god, I can’t take this, what am I going to do?
”Morning,” I replied.
As I ate I ran through a mental list of things I had been taught to do in rehab to help with the cravings. They were pretty abstract: first, pray. I tried but found no comfort in a god who was content to let things like this happen.
There was a church down the road, a grey stone building with arches and heavy wood doors. I ran there like a villager fleeing invading Vikings. It was cold inside. I cowered in the pews as the priest mumbled and waved incense. The place was deserted apart from a few African families and old white people. The priest’s echoing song served only as a lament for something that once had meaning.
I was desperate for someone to wrap their arms around me and tell me it was OK. After an hour I left and headed for an NA meeting at the other end of town.
The meeting was in a room in the admin wing of a large hospital. It was a 1970s concrete structure and inside it felt like a schoolroom. There were inspirational quotes tacked to the walls, “Think," said one, and, “One day at a time." A number of tables had been maneuvered into a wooden island in the middle of the room; it was strewn with leaflets, cups of cheap tea and biscuits. We sat around the table, mostly men, mostly wearing tracksuits.
The meeting began with a reading about how addicts can recover with the help of the NA community. I felt a bubble of hope at this.
Maybe I will be able to get through this.
The meeting was chaired by a fat, molish man who told us his story. He spent a lot of time reminiscing about how he used to stay up late and party. We all misted over at this, remembering our own days of ignorant bliss. Then it was my turn. I told them that I met my ex for the first time since leaving rehab, that I had been sure we would be together, and now I feel like I have been dumped all over again.
”I just really want to use right now," I finished. The next addict started talking. According to the 12-step lore, the act of airing cravings at meetings is enough to make them disappear, or at least weaken, but mine got worse.
After the meeting I stood pretending to be interested in the free leaflets hoping someone would talk to me. No one did. I returned to the grey streets.
Those bastards, where is their supposed spirituality?
I pulled my hood up.
At my grandmother’s house I forced sandy couscous down my throat and affected a state resembling positivity for the old lady’s benefit. We ate in silence and then,
”What you do today? You see your friends?” She said with her Greek ellipsis.
”Yes, something like that," I reply. ”You’re going to watch the Deal or No Deal today?”
”No darling, it’s Sunday, it’s not on."
After lunch I called my sponsor.
“You just have to not use," he said.
“But I can’t," I wailed, “I went to church, I prayed, I went to a meeting and I still want to use." There was silence.
“Just don’t use - it will pass."
”I’ll try," I said with a sigh.
”OK, call me anytime," he said. I sat on the bed. My jaw was clenched and my knuckles white as crack rocks. I willed myself to stay there.
Must. Not. Use.
“Man, I haven’t heard from you in a long time." His voice was like syrup. I felt instantly better like a valve had been released. “Yeh I’m on, how much do you want?”
“Just one," I said.
I’ll start my recovery process again, I can always start again, I just need a break, a holiday from this relentless shit.
I caught an underground train to a different part of town and waited in a newsagent, flipping through the scummy magazines until a sharp whistle caught my attention. The dealer was already disappearing into a dark alley opposite. We exchanged money and dope in a second and went our separate ways. The moment the tiny package was in my pocket my screaming heart and vicious thoughts begin to fade. All I felt now was a driving anticipation. I trotted back to the station.
Back at my grandmother’s house I tore two pieces of foil from the roll I had hidden in my wardrobe. I rolled one into a tube which I put in my mouth and then ripped the plastic package of heroin open with my teeth and dumped the contents onto the second sheet. My hand was shaking. The lighter misfired. Again. I lit it and held the flame under the foil beneath the pile of powder. It liquefied instantly and the liquid shimmered like mercury. It slid down the foil leaving a trail of sluggish smoke. I sucked it up and sat back. It was an anticlimax. I felt nice and the pain was gone but it wasn’t like those first few times. I wanted to feel like I was being hugged by angels again. I smoked more. I had been clean for two months and my tolerance was non-existent but I carried on. A strong stupification landed.
I opened my eyes to find my head thrown back with my mouth hanging open - dried saliva had left crusty trails. I jerked up. My neck was sore. How long have I been out? I reached for the foil… I opened my eyes and I was slumped against the toilet door. What am I doing here? I tried to pee but it wouldn’t work. Now I was on the toilet. My bum was cold. I struggled up and pulled up my trousers. I opened the door. I opened my eyes. I was crouched on the floor with my head against the closed door. Didn’t I open that? I opened my eyes. It was morning. I finished the last of the dope. I looked down at my thighs and saw four red, neat cuts. I looked at the window sill and saw a blood encrusted razor.
When the dope wore off I called my sponsor.
”I relapsed, I’m a mess, I can’t cope, it hurts so much, I’m sorry.”
”I tried everything, I prayed, I went to church, I went to NA, I spoke to you and nothing worked.”
”But I told you it will pass.”
”I know but I couldn’t do it.”
”You know, I can’t sponsor you if you don’t have the commitment.”
”But. . ."
”I’m hanging up now.” And he was gone.
The next day and my phone was blank. No replies from the many calls and texts to my sponsor. I was incandescent with comedown. My brain was stripped of sleep and painkilling endorphins.
I exited the house. My tears turned cold in the clear air. It was morning and people were going to work. Normal people. OK people. People who could cope. I passed them, walking fast. Heading back to the hospital. I arrived and followed the signs to A&E.
I walked in and went to the nurse’s station. She was behind shatter-proof glass.
“I’m fucked I need to see someone.”
“What’s the problem?”
“I think I’m going to kill myself, I started cutting myself, I can’t cope and I’m taking heroin,” I said.
I felt the need to section myself in case my madness gets worse. I felt like some kind of tragic self-sacrificial figure. Crucified. Both my thighs stung from fresh cuts. The razor was unpleasant but it felt right. It silenced the voice that demanded I be punished for my weakness.
“Wait there,” said the nurse, motioning to screwed down plastic chairs in the waiting area.
"Do you have a support system?” The doctor was eastern European, matter of fact, but kind.
”I go to NA."
“Well, you should go there” she suggested. The room was worn from constant use. A green curtain had been pulled hastily around a bed. It smelled of disinfectant.
“But those meetings, they don’t work, I’m really unwell," I said. I dropped my trousers to reveal the tally chart I had carved on my thighs. “I’m thinking about suicide too," I added for good measure.
”Have you tried?” She asks
”Well, no, but I might do." I fantasized about a soft white bed, a ward, and mind-numbing drugs. If I could get sectioned then maybe they will give me something to stop the madness.
”Do you have any family?”
”No,” I lied. I needed medication not family. I used my impending nervous breakdown like a politician uses their kids - to aid my cause.
”I’m on the edge, please, I don’t know what I’ll do, I’m all alone," I said. She furrowed her brow and phoned the local mental health team.
“Yes, he’s very upset, his girlfriend has dumped him, and he’s feeling very sorry for himself." I felt sheepish. She replaced the receiver. “They will call you in a couple of days for an assessment,” she said.
“There is nothing more I can do for you now - I suggest you go to an NA meeting." I left.
What has a guy got to do to get sectioned in this town? I wondered.
The blank day stretched ahead. I wandered away lost.
Nathan A Thompson is an ex-addict who is now a writer and journalist. He spent last year covering news stories in South East Asia and is now writing a memoir about his time on smack. He tweets about music, yoga and breaking news @NathanWrites.