A Defining Moment 11/09/11
I want to start this story by explaining that this time of my life was not the worst I’ve been when in addiction, but it was one of the most significant.
The feelings I felt then stay with me today and I embrace this, only because those feelings remind me what it was like for me and it keeps me strong in recovery. Of course, all of us have “rock-bottoms” or “defining/significant moments” in our lives, some are worse than others, but they are OURS.
Each one is to be given its own respect because they made us feel the way they did, and still do, about the situations at the time. In my life there have been many defining moments/rock-bottoms, as there have in all of our lives, but this moment for me was significant because without knowing it at the time it planted one of the many seeds I needed to start my journey, although I was, and remained for a while, very chaotic and reliant on substances.“When a defining moment comes along, you define the moment, or the moment defines you” Kevin Costner (b. 1955) U.S. film actor, director and producer It was 2007, November and I was living in a bush at Park 17 industrial estate in Whitefield. (Park 17, Moss Ln, Whitefield, Manchester, M45 8FJ, UK. If you Google this on maps and go to street view, turn 90 degrees right and go as far as the orange truck, you’ll see a big bush on the left with a small path running down the side of it, just before the double yellow lines finish. That’s my bush). I’d been there for a week or two and would remain there for a further two weeks before this episode was over. How I came to be living on the streets is a catalogue of letting people down and losing trust and respect from the people who should have mattered in my life.
It was freezing in November, the snow was falling thickly and the temperature was around zero degrees. I’d made the bush as homely as I could, id found some lino and spread it on top of cardboard boxes to cushion me. Id found a large box id flattened and put above me to try to keep out the rain and snow. I had a sleeping bag which by this point was damp and I had a flask which was filled every night. That was my world in November 07, a bush in Whitefield in the middle of winter.
I would of been living with my father had we not of had an argument regarding my ex girlfriends pregnancy. I would of been living with my girlfriend had I not been addicted to heroin and subsequently we finished. I could have been living in a hostel if I knew where to get support for this. I would have had my own place but the housing didn’t see me as a priority. I would have had my car had the police not taken it off me for not keeping up to date with my insurance payments. I would have had friends and family but as always the kinds of friends I had were not interested when I was skint and family had been scarce since early childhood. So I had my bush, it was an evergreen bush so was thick and full of leaves this time of year. It was spacious and roomy, I could see out all around me without people being able to see in. As bushes go this was a good one.
At this time I was on a methadone script and was being reduced. I was still using heroin as well but the money soon ran out, I couldn’t even afford to eat. I had a mobile phone with a quid on it, the only real thing of value I had. So I was withdrawing, the shakes and pains had hit me already and these were made worse because of the temperature. I was cold to the bone in damp clothes and my feet were like blocks of ice. My only highlight and my only source for real warmth was when I had my nightly visits to my dad’s flat a mile away to fill my flask. I’d turn up at about 7 so it gave him time to eat his tea, I didn’t want to watch him eat as I knew I wouldn’t get any.
This reminds me of something which happened while I was living in that bush. Park 17 was also a truck stop for truckers to park and sleep overnight. One morning I started my day around 6:30am to the sound of a truck getting ready to leave. I was hungry and was going to go and see if I could steal a chocolate bar from the shop on the way to pick up my script. I stepped out of the bush not realising that there was a trucker just walking round his cab. He made me jump a bit as I wasn’t expecting company. He saw me, I saw him, he kind of tilted his head in acknowledgement, and I did the same and set off. Id managed to steal a choccy bar, although looking back I kind of think I was given a free pass from the shop owner, and went back to my bush as I had a while before the chemist opened. The trucker and the truck was gone, I could see the big truck shaped gap in the snow and the tarmac underneath. There were fresh footprints all over the place. I stepped into my bush and stopped. On the floor next to my bag of wet clothes was another bag, a new one. It was a plastic carrier bag stuffed with food and drink. Crisps, coccy bars, a pie, some soups sachets, bread, cold drinks. I looked around almost expecting it to be a trap, then I realised it must of been the trucker who left them. Who he was or where he is now I don’t know, thanks mate, you gave me more than food that day.
On the day of my moment I set off to my dad’s to fill my flask. This day was more wet than snowy and a wind had stirred up to the point of a gale. Head down, hands in pockets I trudged on thinking of hot coffee and 10 mins of warmth from dads flat. This was a journey id made alot of times and every time I was kind of buzzing knowing that this might be the night my dad says “sleep in your bed son”. I arrived and buzzed, the door clicked and I went up. The staircase was warm and when I got to my dad’s flat I could feel the warmth of inside pulse over me. My dad had his heating on full blast, the kind of heat that makes eyelids heavy and sleep come quickly. He always left his door open when I arrived, never greeted me at the threshold so I walked in as usual. “Hi dad”. A kind of grunt of acknowledgement came from the other side of the front room where my dad was playing his computer game. I went to the kitchen and put the kettle on. “you ok dad?”. “fine” was the answer I think. “how’s Nan?”. Again “fine” was the answer.
This was the extent of our conversation and it was to be expected, it hadn’t gone any different for ages now. I made my flask and dragged it out as I knew how bitter the weather was and didn’t relish the walk back to my bush. I stood behind him watching him play his game. I looked at his comb over and wished he would get rid of it. I looked around the front room at the pictures of my half brother and his kids. I listened to the zebra finches my dad had, chatter away to each other. 10 mins had past and the words I wanted to hear hadn’t come so I said “ok dad i’ll be off then, back to my bush”. I tried the old guilt trip routine. “Ok son” was the reply. My heart broke, I walked out making sure not to slam the door as I didn’t want dad to know how hurt I was. The walk back was hard. Uphill, cold, wet and emotional. I was crying, I’ll admit it. In fact I was sobbing hard. Sounds came from me id not heard for a long time. I felt abandoned again, like I felt when I was a child. I felt lost and alone. Then I started to feel angry. I hated dad for not letting me stay. I hated his warm flat, those bloody birds, and his stupid computer games. I hated everything right then and was heated by resentment. I had to phone him so I did. I didn’t think about what I was going to say, no plan, just vent. He answered and the first words out of my mouth were “what makes you think that it’s ok for you to let your child sleep on the streets in this weather?”. I don’t know what I expected his reply to be but what I got was “it’s not my problem son”. That was it, click, and end of conversation.
I find it difficult to express what I was feeling; I’ve found it difficult to write about. I suppose I realised what id become in the eyes of others. I felt worthless and un wanted. There’s more to it though. I was angry at myself because id brought myself to a point I swore id never let myself get to again. Id tried hard not to but it happened. Now I look back and hold the feelings I have from then close. Even after writing this i’ll be calling my key worker as I’ve feelings in me which are dangerous not only to me but to my dad. I hate him, not for what he did or said, but for what he didn’t do and didn’t say. I suppose in my sons eyes I’m just like my own dad. I’ve done the same over the years, abandoned him, and stayed out of his life. I hope though that there is a way back for me and my son, I don’t think there is with me and my dad.