It is an ugly thing to die alone but there is not a thing I can do to help her.
Some time ago, a couple of years anyway, I wrote about my erstwhile friend Deborah, the drug addict. I won't tell the entire story again but some of it bears repeating to put this posting into context.
Deborah and I were friends, pretty good friends, for a time shortly after my ex and I separated. That friendship, however, was built solely on emotional needs and on drugs. We were drug buddies. We got together to do drugs. That was the friendship. That was all it was. Other than cocaine we had virtually nothing in common. It was what it was. Nothing more and nothing less.
Eventually the day came when I wanted to quit, I wanted the drugs and that lifestyle behind me and it came as a shock when I found that, seemingly, I couldn't quit. I make no excuses and I take the blame. I knew the risks I was talking every time I partied and I knew that hanging around Deborah was not helping me any. It was clear that if I was addicted to cocaine she was light years further into addiction than I was.
I went to a treatment center and quit doing drugs. I spent many nights in 12 Step meetings. I did everything I had to do to put that life behind me. Deborah did not. She continued and she took a long slide into depravity and degradation.
The day came when I received a call. She was in crisis. She was sick. She had Hepatitis B. She was living on Skid Row in Vancouver, on Hastings Street, the worst slum in North America.
Long story short, as they say. I took her into my home. I fed her and looked after her and saw her well into recovery from addiction. Her husband died in that period of time but once she was happier and healthier she met Morris and the two of them hit it off. They were married and she went on her way.
Years passed in which I seldom heard from her and when I finally did it was not good news. She and Morris were split. She was doing drugs again although she proudly told me she no longer did a needle but was "on the pipe" as if that somehow mitigated the situation.
More years went by without a word and then one day a couple of years back I had a call. She and Morris were here in the city. They were looking for a new start. His job had petered out. They were looking for Joanne who had come into some money and would surely help them out. Yada, yada, yada. It was drug induced bullshit at its best. You can't con a con.
The next day I ran into them and my suspicions were confirmed. They both looked like dog shit although Deborah was insistent that they were clean, hadn't done drugs in years.
I gave her a ride a couple of times after Mo had gotten a job. Nothing had changed, of course. Soon her meal ticket was tired of being used and booted them. She was back to me for help. I gave her all the advice I had to give, Narcotics Anonymous meeting times, the names of churches in town providing free meals, the Salvation Army helpline. She rejected them all. She didn't need that shit.
Every time I ran into her she hit me up for money. Every time she did I told her that I saw her at 'The Browns" (cabins where the drug dealers sold from) every day. If she could afford drugs she didn't need my money. Eventually she stopped talking to me telling people I didn't have anything she wanted (except money, of course).
Then they moved. Again. Another geographical cure. I never heard from them again although last Christmas I received a call from a Money In Minutes loan place asking me for a recommendation so she and Morris could borrow money. My recommendation was that if they wanted to ever see their money again they not lend them a dime.
Last week she called my father looking for me. She was in the hospital in the next city. She had been there 7 weeks. She needed to talk to me. But she left no number. I am not sure I would have called back if she had.
This morning she called Dad again but I made the mistake of answering his phone.
I'd say she was a goner. The doctors will not allow her out of the hospital and have a court order to confine her. She is on the verge of a stroke and a heart attack although from her speech I'd say she has already had a stroke at some point. She had already gone blind in one eye and was losing sight in the other. She is a tiny woman but her weight had ballooned to over 250 pounds nearly all of it water. Her kidneys have failed and she is currently getting dialysis twice a day.
She started the conversation off my blurting out she needed my help and this wasn't because of drugs. Deborah wouldn't know honesty if it hit her in the face. This isn't because of drugs? Really?
Her family has abandoned her although her brother and father did drive hundreds of miles to visit her as did her sons. She and Morris have split up because she wants free of drugs and he isn't but when I asked where he was he was "in camp" (a logging camp) and wouldn't be there if he was doing drugs I can tell you that. She had been living in a homeless shelter but now wants to get thongs together and get her own place and live her own life.
I am sure she does, somewhere deep down inside, and I am also sure that absolutely will not happen on the $700 a month disability check she can get if she and Morris are not together. I am also absolutely certain what she really means is she wants to get healthy enough to go back to drugs. Or, who knows, maybe she and Morris are still actually together and she is already scamming welfare. They have done it before.
This is not about drugs but she asked if I would buy her an AA and NA Big Book and some recovery literature and bring them to her. I told her that there were recovery meetings in the main floor of the hospital she was in three times a week. She told me I was wrong. I know I am not. They have had them there for years and they are listed in the city meeting list I looked up online while talking to her.
She says she is scared. I believe that. I am sure she knows she is dying. I know that from merely talking to her. She says she wants to get out of the hospital. I believe that although I don't think she ever will. She wants me to help her. I am sure she does. She is lonely. I am certain she is indeed. There is no one in that city for her.
Just as I am sure there is absolutely nothing I can do to help her. I cannot give her money and even if I could afford it that would not be a help but a means to get more drugs. I cannot provide her any place to live. I am too busy looking after my parents and helping my children and my grandchildren and fulfilling my duties and responsibilities to Tess and attempting to look after myself to be running back and forth up and down that empty highway to see her even once every two weeks. And if I did, to what purpose?
I told her I could not come up any time soon. I have to help my middle daughter move this weekend. Tess' nephew is coming for a quick visit. Next weekend we may have to make a quick two day trip to the coast. Life is busy. Life is full. I have little enough time as it is. And you know what? What can I do for her? What?
I have her room number. I will mail a card. I will contact the Salvation Army and ask that a chaplain visit her but I know she will hate that. She doesn't need God, she told me. She doesn't need a preacher telling her how to live. She knows how to live, she says
And apparently I am once again last resort anyway. She called the woman here she used as a meal ticket asking her for help first and I am sure that call was for money.
I wish I could help but I can't.