THE ARCHWAY CHRONICLES: CHAPTER X


Having bought the pills not long ago last night, I had originally decided to split the facility for good. But, oddly enough, by using my own willpower that was non-existent when trying to avoid the drugs, I was able to stop packing my things. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the drugs began to take their effect and my motivation to jump that gate a second time, though now with two heavy bags of personal belongings, was wearing thin.

I’ll take the second option now that I see the two together.

I managed to visit a chemist that actually takes the sale of a narcotic over the counter seriously. The odds of a pharmacy acting this way, in this city; the odds of a Vietnamese pharmacist giving a shit about who he is selling his own pharmacy brand medication to, was certainly a surprise to me. Not a first, but certainly not a regular occurrence. It has happened enough times though that it didn’t catch me off guard.

I instantly felt dirty as the familiar routine began. Once out of the facility, as I explored the near shopping centre, I found my thoughts percolating in a disturbingly familiar way. Manipulation has become so easy, and seeing I am actually in chronic pain, it is not very hard to convince anyone that I am in said pain. What bothers me is how I am effortlessly able to change what my alleged symptoms are. Only on the slight chance that an employee works at two pharmacies and recognises me and therefore my excuse of a bad lower back will be questioned.

One memorable moment though I do remember was visiting a pharmacy where the pharmacist did recognise me. I claimed shin pain, to which he said, somewhat (and inappropriately) jovially, “I thought it was for your lower back!”

Woops.

Back to last night; as I walked I thought about this and decided it was time to change my story, for what must have been the fiftieth time. Lower back pain seems to be the junkie’s go to excuse; so common in fact that often when I visit a chemist, for a prescription or otherwise, I will disturbingly often over-hear another probable addict asking for our over the counter codeine/ibuprofen combo, and each time it is for lower back pain. These workers are surely becoming wise to this insanely common complaint, but they still hand over the generic brand medication with little fuss.

Still pondering on this, I decided to begin walking with a slight limp as I entered the shopping centre. As I entered the pharmacy, I browsed the section that advertised pain relief and sports medicine, knowing full well that the drugs I so desperately craved were behind the counter, requiring ‘permission’ for purchase by the pharmacist.

The logic? Simple: I decided that if I pretended that I thought what I was looking for was on the shelves, I would be corrected and then shown where the medication was located. Nothing like a little naivety to baffle unsuspecting victims.

Indeed though, I was the truly naive one here.

Upon listing the prices of the various brands of this same medication, I was taken aback when the man asked me for my driver’s license. I claimed I was unable to present any sort of identification and only had cash; and as I said this I became instantly wary of the fact that my wallet was clearly visible in the pocket of my jeans. Luckily the guy was too busy to notice, or was simply fulfilling what he was required to ask about the medication while simultaneously not giving two shits about my safety or my potential addiction to the drug.

A lack of identification wasn’t a problem at all it seemed, as the man simply asked for my name instead. Thinking quickly, I pieced together a first and last name from two old friends from high school. I was then told to sit down as if a prescription was being prepared, which in a way it was; once I received my beautiful, immaculate gift, I couldn’t help but find it odd that a completely false name adorned the medication that I held in my hands; soon to be dissolving on an empty stomach so as to heighten the effect of the high.

But using the word high doesn’t seem right.

Those who don’t become addicts often claim how much they love opiates, how it feels like heaven. This is true for perhaps the first… year of consistent use, if that, as it does kill pain, no doubting that. But not long after this the high is replaced by a general feeling of laziness and a complete lack of humanity – not to mention pain in multiple other areas, both physical and mental.

It is now the day after my slip and my mind still feels like mush, incapable of any emotion. I feel as if my brain is not only handcuffed, but it is attempting dead-lifts while handcuffed.

How can this be considered a high?! This is a low. An especially new low in my life as I have literally jumped the back gate of a rehab centre to facilitate my habit.

Unsurprisingly, after the madness of last night, I feel like utter shit. I lied in bed all night but didn’t sleep for a minute, such is the effect of large doses of opiate based medication when used for extended periods of time. I think eight years would be considered an extended period of time, though I certainly know folk who have battled those extraordinary demons for longer than I have, much longer, and I am beginning to realise that being one of the youngest people here is a blessing.

Nearly everyone here is a parent; they all have families that visit them on a weekly basis. They are still battling their addictions while their families stand by them with support. Some of these kids are teenagers, if not older, and don’t seem to be much younger than myself.

Thank fuck I haven’t ruined a life like that, at that age. But this does little to numb the depression of my idiotic behaviour. And I can feel that depression settling in – after all, opiates are a downer. A depressant. And that feeling is slowly building weight and momentum, using gravity to its advantage to put as much weight on my shoulders as possible. I do not want to see or speak to anyone today. But given the place I have willingly put myself in, this doesn’t seem like an option.

In an effort to combat this feeling of lethargy, I decide to ask Chris to come with me to the local shops, thankfully something he is more than willing to do. I am glad I trusted him, he isn’t telling anyone and furthermore seems to understand, at least in part, where I am mentally right now, but more-so just how much I hate myself for having crumpled like horridly made origami when those cravings hit me hard. That is a feeling that must be shared amongst everyone here – no one is here against their will as far as I know. They want to stop.

We enter a giant shopping centre and I begin hunting. First item on the list – some energy drinks, lots of them, to perk me up from this post-opiate-binge stupor. As I go to grab a handful that were on special, Chris points out to me that such drinks aren’t actually allowed to be bought while a resident. Fuck it, I grab one ice-cold drink and next hunt for some no-doze tablets. Caffeine in a tablet. I get the same spiel from Chris but buy them anyway, and shove them deep into a pocket once we leave. I chug down my drink as Chris smiles, but I am still reeling a bit from the fact that these drinks are literally not allowed on the premises.

Coffee, cigarettes? Fine, we can all smoke ourselves to death with the world’s most deadly drug on the planet. But a little pep? It seems that unless this comes from coffee, pep is another banned substance.

Upon returning to the facility I am told to report to the manager, Kirk, to my shock. How does he know what is in my pocket?!

My initial freak-out wasn’t needed; the sit-down was about another matter, coincidently though it was about a similar issue. I am being told that the Listerine I brought into the facility is hazardous. As I try to figure this puzzle out I am told that it contains alcohol, and that I should know well by now that alcohol is the vice for most of the folk staying here. He is telling me this as if I vindictively brought it in for this very purpose, but the sad reality is that I am this ignorant.

So… alcoholics can drink Listerine to get drunk? Shuddering at the thought of swallowing that shit, we walk towards the bathroom in my building so he can present to me my new mouthwash, alcohol-free Listerine. Something tells me that this isn’t going to be as effective as what I had, but I am in no position to complain.

I try the new mouthwash, and as soon as I begin to gargle the stuff, bubbles foam out of my mouth as if I am gargling soap, temporarily blinding me. With the packet of no-doze in my back pocket, Kirk clearly notices the packet. It could have been worse, and I wasn’t to know he tells me reassuringly.

Coffee is okay, but caffeine tablets aren’t? I am allowed to take benzodiazepines at my own disposal here? This place is feeling more backward with every passing day. I try to use this as an excuse for my lapse, the awkward and bizarre nature of what I am surrounded by, but I swat it away. There is no excuse, I simply caved.