This is the most difficult start to all the posts that I had written, for it will deal with that part of my life that I often look back at with a lot of pain, regret and shame – a major source and contributor for that “What might have been” thinking that would always lead to my being melancholic.
But it’s something that I must write about, for it will help explain some things – not just to the readers here but also to myself. There is this part of us that sometimes suppress, deny or discount certain incidents instead of seeing them “as is” – probably as a “defence mechanism” to prevent us from emotional pain. I’m no exception, of course; and probably even more so than the average person. When we write, hopefully we will be able to see with more clarity.
This is the continuation of the The powder of Joy post of almost a month ago. As with many of my posts here, I’ll simply write what comes to mind, based on a mental impression of that period. I’m trying to do what Mat Salo of Borneo Blues had advised me to; of “being true to yourself”.
By the way, the title isn’t too gimmicky actually. Yes, many will instantly recognise it as the title of that illustrious album by Pink Floyd (1973), and the phrase is quite apt for drug addiction too. But there is also a direct connection to me and this post here, as you will see later in the story (if not in this post, then in another). I’m continuing from the relevant post:
That “pulling a gag and conning Hisham” in 1976 when I was 16 was my first introduction to heroin – a substance that was to be the source of a lot of trouble, heartache and destruction for me and for those closest over the ensuing years. And even right until now. Despite no longer using it, I’m still paying the hefty price plus interest in one form or another for the encounters and trysts with it.
The pernicious thing about heroin (or morphine, and maybe opium too) is that you don’t realise you’re getting hooked. I didn’t even feel “anything strange” from that first encounter despite the body never having felt it before!
There were none of those “Warning! Something’s wrong!” feelings you’d get with most other substances – or at least those that I’ve tried. With ganja (cannabis/marijuana), you’d feel “something is happening” after a few minutes. With alcohol, the sensation or buzz is immediate and noticeable.
But I remember that I did feel good – a joyful and ecstatic “everything is A-okay and great!”. But I had thought it was because of “the successful gag on Hisham”! The next day, that feeling was gone. Innocent and naive that I was, I crushed a bit of chalk and spiked it into a cigarette; hoping for that same feeling again. Of course, all I got was a sharp pain in the throat.
I missed that feeling and sensation, and was quite unhappy that I was no longer feeling it. A few days later, I discovered from Zaki what it was – and I could recapture it again! To be fair to Zaki, he did apologise for the gag. But he said “You won’t ever get gian just because of smoking it once”; warning me that I will get hooked should I take it continuously. He said it was “three straight days”.
Zaki was right and wrong about these. Yes, one does not get physically addicted after just one smoke. But the mental addiction was started… And this one is of no less importance than “physical addiction” or dependance. From my own experience, it is more important.
In retrospect, with the knowledge and experience gained over the years, this is what that keeps one hooked to something – the desire to repeat a certain feeling and sensation … the same as that felt by those with obsession and compulsion for alcohol, gambling, sex, eating, impulsive buying and whatever else.
But with heroin, there was an added “motivation” of physical addiction – fail to feed it and you will hurt physically; with aches and severe discomfort in all parts of the body. Add the mental addiction – of ALWAYS thinking about it – and you’ve got a formidable monkey on your back to carry.
When it comes to physical addiction, you can get over it after detox of a few days – 14 should be the very most. Oh, let’s make it one month to be on the safe side. Within this period, and no matter how heavy one had used and no matter for how long, there WILL come that day eventually when the body is fully freed from any physical dependency.
The withdrawal that a heroin/morphine/opium addict goes through is terrifying, especially the first 3-4 days. It has been compared to “flu with severe fever, plus severe stomach ache” – something to help the normal person understand.
But there are two other factors to add – It’s “24/7” pains and aches, with absolutely no respite. At least a normal person with fever would be able to have some sleep. But not with opiate withdrawal – you can feel each second of it, and I’m not exaggerating. And the other thing is the mental torment – of knowing that all these pain and aches will immediately disappear within 10 seconds of you taking the substance again…
But the mental/psychological addiction – It will always be there. Yes, it does get better over time, but it doesn’t disappear completely. Because it won’t. Like a camera or harddisk, the mind has captured an image of it; that “Heroin gives a great sensation!” and remains saved in our bank of knowledge and experience. And this is something a recovering addict has to accept – and deal with it the best that he can for the rest of his life.
* Update 5 Nov 1:50 AM – Thanks to Malaysian Tigress for providing a link to this interesting explanation of the “mental image” above.
* Update 5 Nov 4:18 PM – There’s a new post by ArahMan7 at My Journey to Recovery titled Family Day 2008. He has started it with quotations from Narcotics Anonymous – the organization/fellowship that makes the most sense to me when it comes to “Recovery”. There is something about “Living with unresolved problems” ; the things that burden us unless and until we bring them out and have a look at them as what they are/were. And then leave them. Only then could we move on with life. This is one of the main reasons for this post, and for the existence of this site.