Thursday, July 22, 2021, 11:33 p.m., Honolulu, Hawaii
Remember Winona, age 60 something? She might have had a stroke
I say “might” because when she was stricken with whatever made her seriously ill, she only stayed in the hospital a day and a half and left against medical advice. It is not unusual for people with addictions to leave the hospital in search of dope downtown. Queens Hospital is near downtown Honolulu, and they get a lot of street people looking for a place to sleep or presenting with self inflicted (and therefore “unworthy”) medical issues from doing drugs like skin abscesses or inflammation of the valves of the heart from bacteria introduced into the body by the needle pushing it beneath the skin. Most addicts do not swab their arms or wherever they are shooting dope. The staff at Queens is so hostile to addicts that, in my humble opinion, many of them are downright unprofessional and I wonder if they are trying to drive people out to their deaths. After a seizure a woman from downtown was resting in the Queens E.R. when a nurse one would expect to exhibit compassion, woke her by kicking the gurney and saying, “Get up Get out. I am not your mother.” Queens is an easy hospital to leave, especially given it is within walking distance to dope, even for people wheeling i.v. poles. I have seen a patient with i.v. in tow looking for dope, still wearing the hospital gown. Winona was similar to this person in that she needed a wheelchair but did not wait for the social worker to help her so she arrived downtown pushing herself along in a wheeled office chair. Winona won’t go back to the hospital, according to another associate, Antonia, another downtown denizen of a certain age, who is in a wheelchair because she did not follow through with physical therapy after hip replacement surgery and her muscles are too atrophied to allow her to walk again. Or so I have heard.
I told Winona I would take care of her if she went back to the hospital. I’ll bring her dope. But she won’t go. I don’t really think she had a stroke because I had a stroke when I was in the hospital and that does not seem to be what is wrong. She is weak though. I watch out for her at night because she sleeps with our group. But I can’t keep supporting her habit because I have to sell the stuff or get cut off.Antonia, contradicting herself by promising to supply the ailing Winona with dope but complaining that Winona feels entitled to free dope now that she cannot work the track to supplement ineffectual sales. The women are both their own best customers and unless they have plenty of heroin they have always had to supplement their dealing with prostitution to keep themselves well, or avoid withdrawal due to lack of heroin.
Fear of Missing Out is a real psychological phenomena that keeps aging and ailing addicts hunting for dope when they should be seeking medical care
Addicts know that once hospitals have a record of your addiction, they are extremely reluctant to give you even necessary painkillers. There is no such thing as successful drug seeking behavior at Honolulu hospitals. The staff is hip to that game and they seem to get offended that patients would try to con them. The only way to have dope in the hospital is to very respectfully explain that you have a habit and ask for the minimum of methadone to stay out of withdrawal. If you do this, it is likely the hospital will comply, but that is no way to get high and addicts have to sneak in additional dope if they want more than to just not be sick. Addiction causes problems precisely because people are unable to regulate their use, or resist their cravings for drugs. People with addictions are often unable to leave an area where the drugs are located to go to a drug free area. The very thought of such a journey, however short or temporary, can cause full blown panic attacks. The slang term is “getting stuck” and it is one of the main reasons people miss appointments, family gatherings, court dates, anything of tremendous importance is that they do not anticipate getting stuck. They imagine they will leave in plenty of time to arrive at the urgent affair and that simply does not happen, nor is this failure ever anticipated. The mental disease lies to the sufferer and tells her, “this time will be different.” Things are never different. I have seen drug users grow older and more infirm, and although they are not elderly by society’s standards, once they are in their 50’s and 60’s their health is quite bad and does not improve because they make no more effort to support their health than they did in their pre-teens, which is when most addicts raised in Hawaii get their start using drugs.
The Problem is death is not instantaneous
Addicts, even non-addicts, will say they do not fear death. Who cares anyway? It is not like anyone will miss them. Their families, parents, children, siblings, do not speak to them. There are no real friends in the dope game. If it all came to an end would that be so bad? Obviously, I have no idea about death but I do know that people rarely go from perfect health to instantaneous oblivion. A period of disability is not unusual. I have seen people last for several years, confined to bed, unable to rise, or speak, or understand words spoken to them. This period of infirmity is almost universally feared by anyone I have ever spoken to about it. Whenever people refuse to take their blood pressure medication claiming they do not care if their life ends, I remind them of how a stroke can leave them. And I tell them that they vow they would kill themselves before they let that fate befall them, but that fate befalls them before they have the chance to kill themselves. Then what are you going to do when your body is your prison?
Is there an addict community?
Kind of. There are people who will help you get high, or provide you with a place to get high if you share your drugs. You might even come to like these people and seek out their company. But will they be there to care for you since you have no family? I know a woman named Joyce, also in a wheelchair, now that I think about it, whose hip replacements became infected from street life and in a process I do not understand somehow her hips are not securely held within the ball and socket joint. Like the previous two women in chairs, she is not paralyzed but infirm from street life. Yet she has a smile for everyone and she insists that I, and everyone else, band together to take care of each other because we have no one else. It is hard to motivate for the previous two women who have gossiped about me with considerable viciousness and stolen from me. I could help Joyce, although I admit to avoiding her since Winona got sick and she insisted that I find Winona and see if she needed my help or if she wanted to stay with me. I do not want Winona in my space because she would rather see me homeless by sabotaging me than for me to have a place she might be able to visit. This amount of spite is very typical. Like others who escaped the streets, I learned that I had to get rid of my desire to reach out to others or else lose what I have when these others do things like leave syringes around the property in the hope of causing me to lose my apartment. Joyce is kind and she shows me I could be a better person, but my willingness to risk everything for people who would never risk anything for me is not great. Forget risk, these people would not inconvenience themselves for me! Do I believe that I might need someone to take care of me? Realistically, I have learned that it is only the folly of youth that makes people thing themselves invulnerable. Something could happen to me and I might need help and if that happens I do not know what will become of me. But I do know that opening a care home in my place will not win me any favor with women who dislike me but will happily use me.