A few months ago I was watching Russell Brand and Peter ‘Bloody’ Hitchens* debating drugs policy on BBC Newsnight(1) .
I do not find Russell Brand very funny as a comedian – I think he is over rated and bland. But when he is talking about addiction – that’s a whole other kettle of fish. This guy is a recovering addict and knows what he is talking about. He’s been there, in the corner of the room, shooting it up, smoking it up and drinking it down in a decade of addiction – and a decade of recovery. Whilst his evident intelligence might often be missing from his comedy, when he talks about drugs and drug addicts, it shines through.
Peter ‘Bloody’ Hitchens, on the whole and particularly on the subject of addicts and drugs policy, is a moron, and I cannot quite decide if this is because he is simply wilfully stupid on the matter, or just plain heartless. To him, addicts are simply selfish people making bad choices, unworthy of any consideration. They choose their misery, so he chooses not to care.
I cite the debate (a generous term) between these two men back in August because, after almost 2 years, I am starting in some small way to come to terms with the death of my sister – the ‘Pineapple Head’ of the title of this piece. She was 37 years old when she died, the mother of 2 beautiful girls; she was in possession of the dirtiest laugh, with a filthy sense of humour to match it. She was generous, her temper mercurial, tactless yet filled with compassion with those worse of than herself and desperate to be loved and to give love in equal measure. She was gorgeous and unpredictable, loyal to a fault and nobody, before or since, has ever held me to the standard to which she held me – often angrily, but always with love.
She was also a morphine addict and had been for the best part of 2 decades when she died.
My sisters’ particular addiction was prescription opiots – she was chewing down up to 15 Oxycontin tablets a day when she died, her brain so ravaged that she was suffering seizures several times a day. Her bodily functions had become so severely affected that she needed help to get out of bed and be taken to the toilet. She looked as though someone had blown her up with bicycle pump, and her speech was no longer intelligable. She dribbled.
I won’t pretend that she was easy to love at the end; she was a bitch as often as she was a pitiable child, frequently savage and frightning when conscience, manipulative and sly. The nerve shredding, distorting fear that we were losing her often sank in to anger – anger at the addiction, at Pineapple Head for being an addict, for making our lives revolve around the addiction too. And then, when death claimed her at last, there was relief.
Yes, relief. The sudden release from that endless vicious fear is like opening a door on to a sudden rush of cool wind after a long, hot day. No more drama. No more nights waiting for a call from the police because Pineapple Head had been picked up from some hospital or chemists in some other part of the county in her endless search for the drug that claimed her. No more carrying her urine soaked body up stairs to the bathroom to get her clean, and get her to bed.
Release for her – peace at last. No more fear. No more misery. No more of the prison that is addiction.
Her favourite scripture, (for she had a faith – though ill defined) was from 1John 4:18
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. (NRSV)
Towards the end she would ask me to read that over and over again. At the heart of it all, you see, was fear – fear drove her, fuelled her addiction, distorting everything, her view of herself most of all.
My sister – she of the filthy laugh and the generous heart – was not the person Peter ‘Bloody’ Hitchens would tell you that she was because he never knew her. He passed his judgement on one part of her life and without a thought would have cast her down still further into the fear which ate her away.
It may have been some months since Peter ‘Bloody’ Hitchens made his savage, judgemental, insensitive, thoughtless, stupid, crass, ill-informed, idiotic, moronic comments on Newsnight – but I think I have calmed down enough now to tell him where to shove it (in a relatively diplomatic way).
*I will only allow Peter ‘Bloody’ Hitchens to be referred to at home in this manner. It is mandatory, and failure to use the qualifying ‘Bloody’ results in a fine. Or at least the withdrawal of cake.
(1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01lvd7f (10/08/2012)