In That’s Handy (Part 1) I recounted how I ended up in a ward bed in Glasgow Royal Infirmary, my left hand slung from an IV drip stand, my body saturated in morphine, my mum at my bedside, my sister Yvonne at my mum’s side.
I knew I was stoned out of my head on the morphine, you’d think I would be in heaven right?
All I was aware of was that my hand was still sore, despite the morphine, and it was black.
My mum was visibly upset and angry. My sister was angry. I tried to lie about what I had done, as far as I knew though the doc had already told them.
The ward was very busy and there was a lot of commotion going on.
I got a new, very high dose, morphine injection every two hours. They did what we called muscle popping it. That is the needle was stuck into the muscle in either side of my stomach, or one of my thighs. It was quickly absorbed into the bloodstream that way. I had very little in the way of circulation due to years of damage as an addict.
My friend, Angie Marshall came up while they were there as well. She asked how I was getting on, but never stayed long. To be fair it would have been awkward. But it was nice to see a friendly face.
I was very quickly moved to a Cardio Vascular ward in what was then the new building. Ward 66 seems to stick in my head but not sure if that was correct. The ward was very modern and spacious. There were ten beds, normally occupied by older patients with circulation problems. This day it had four pensioners and, including me, six much younger addicts, all dealing with varying effects of injecting Temazepam. One guy had lost his lower arm.
It wasn’t me.
Even at the time I had great sympathy for the older guys, for the most part they were there due to their bodies wearing out. Yet they had to put up with much younger, foul mouthed guys caught up in addiction but boasting about how much drugs they could consume and how wild their lives were. I lay in my bed, soaked in morphine, thighs and stomach now beginning to ache with all the injections, and hating every second of it.
The constant and very heavy morphine high was too much for me.
I remember, on the 4th day, begging the consultant to take me off the morphine, and give me Methadone instead, (well they were unlikely to give me heroin and I was still an addict). He kept refusing, insisting that I would be in too much pain. As unlikley as it seems, though, I genuinely had had enough of being that out of my head so constantly.
By now, the skin on my hand was all dead. It was black, and if you tapped on it, sounded like plastic. On the inside, I was told, that it would still be fighting hard to recover itself. I am always amazed at the human body’s capacity for taking deep levels of abuse and injury. It is almost as if a loving Creator knew how cruel we could be to ourselves and built in many safeguards.
My index finger was already showing signs of even deeper injury than the rest of it, if that were possible.
Eventually, due to my constant moaning, pleading whining I was taken off the Morphine and given a dose of Methadone. The Methadone did deal with any withdrawals, but not the pain. As soon as the last of the Morphine began to wear off, the pain began to force its way through. It was as if it my nervous system had been lurking in the shadows waiting to get me back for the damage inflicted on it. There was no creeping of pain, it mugged me, hijacking my thoughts my focus and all my attention. Every nerve in my body screaming out in defence of my hand. Toothache in every cell below my wrist.
Lying in my bed all the time did not help. The pain was constant and consistent, but I refused to go back to the Morphine.
It was broken only by joining the other guys in the smoking room and smoking hash. No one ever complained about us. Would you?
They just avoided us.
I did get plenty of visits from family. All of them revolved around what I was to do? How I had got away with it this time and something had to change. I always nodded compliantly, whilst tasting that first shot of heroin I would get as soon as I got out.
After 7 days, the pain had subsided enough and the injury had settled enough that they felt I could leave. Remember, medically nothing could be done for my injury other than hang it high and let my body do what it could. No surgery could stop the damage.
My finger tips all looked like they had been badly burned, which the doctor told me was pretty much how it was. Deprived of circulation, they had began to decompose. It was the same story with my plastic skin. It would eventually be replaced with new skin.
Creator God and His design methods.
I was checked out with a velcro splint with a metal bar in it to help my very weak hand. The physio gave me very strict instructions on the physio I had to do, and I got strong painkillers to do me until I could go and see my own doctor. Oh, and about a thousand different creams that I had to constantly rub into my still dead skin.
As soon as we got home, I made my excuses about having to go to Ark’s office, to see about going back to work.
The look on my parent’s faces said it all. My dad – anger, my mum -despondency.
It is amazing how addicts learn to push all this aside in the quest for the treasure we seek. I had not had heroin now in over a week. My mind was doing cartwheels in anticipation.
One week after I could have died through a Temazepam injection, fresh from sleeping in a ward with guys even worse off than me with the injuries, I had a fix of heroin.
Business as usual.
My hand never did fully recover from the injury. My index finger is missing its tip, and the muscles in my hand are all fibrosed, which means it is in a permanently distorted, swan neck, position.
I do not have full use of it, and acts as simple as picking up a can of juice, once so subconscious, now have to be done with the help of my right hand.
In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 3, there is a story of Jesus going into a synagogue and meeting a guy with a withered hand. Despite the hostility of the onlookers, (I know who would think people would be annoyed at the potential for Jesus to bring healing, right) Jesus tells the man to stretch out his withered hand, and Jesus heals it.
Every time I hear a preacher read those verses, I always think, “is this the time?”
Whilst my hand may not, yet, have been healed, the cause of my hand being injured has been.
That Sunday night, May 25th 1997 in City Temple Swansea, as Pastor Phil Hills preached the Gospel, Jesus never asked me to offer my crippled hand to Him for healing, but He did ask me for my crippled heart. The root cause of my hand was my heart that burned in isolation not knowing how it was supposed to beat.
That night, as I returned to the Teen Challenge centre, sat with Pastor Hughes and prayed a simple prayer, I knew that God had forgiven me of my wanton destruction of my own life and others. I knew as that man with the withered hand knew, that the best place for my brokenness was in the hands of the Jesus who loved me.
On Sunday 18th February 2018, in Easterhouse Community Church, Pastor Phil Hills spoke as we celebrated 7 years of ECC. Who knows, as this man spoke of God and His wondrous love, maybe those present felt the call of Jesus asking them to stretch out their withered and broken life, maybe they got to see their true worth and value to the Creator who designed them an knows best how to guide them. maybe as you are reading this, you will feel that same call?
After 21 years of trusting Him, I do.
This blog is part of a wider collection to show the journey that would eventually lead me to the cross of Jesus Christ, my personal redemption, and my journey of faith afterwards. If you would like to know more of my story, please click on my “About” page and take it from there.
Alternatively you can visit the Media Links page and see a short visit done by BBC Radio Scotland for an interview I did there.
If you or someone you love, needs help with the Christian response to addiction, or if you would just like to know more or need hope, please click on one of the following:
Teen Challenge Strathclyde
Teen Challenge UK
Teen Challenge Global
Bethany Christian Trust
Cornerstone Assemblies of God, Maryland
Broken Chains Ayr
Easterhouse Community Church