He pitched. Miles made good on his promise to admit himself for a week-long heroin detox at 8am on Tuesday, and when I called the hospital at 8.30am, to my enormous relief, I was told he was there and “with the doctors”.

This may seem like an ordinary thing, like someone promising to arrive for dinner on a Friday night, and pitching up, or saying they’ll meet you for coffee at Vida E at 11, and being there.

But we’re talking a hardened drug addict here, a guy who’s been living on the streets for months and dossing down in a Somalian bunkhouse, who spent last winter sleeping rough on hard concrete, who begs from people parking their cars. We’re talking about somebody who lies for a living — and that living is the drugs that have replaced a normal diet for far too long.

So when he told me, on Sunday, that he was checking in for a detox followed by six weeks of rehab, when his tearful, intense eyes bore into mine with vice-like determination, and he said he really meant it, he was going to damn well do it … well, I wanted to believe him, but I must be honest: I wondered … “Please do it, bud, please, please follow through … but will you?”

They said, this morning, that I couldn’t speak to him right away, but I could phone back at 10. When I did so, I was told “the doctors are still with him”, but at 10.30am when I called again, they called him, and after a shuffling sound a soft, polite male voice said, “Hello?”

He’d made me promise to phone — more than anything, I suspect, because he wanted me to have proof that he was going to do it, that he’d be there. He’d made so many false promises to me — and I can only imagine how many to his parents and friends over many years — that he seemed to have become desperate to show somebody, “Hey, I can do that — I can promise I’ll sort myself out and I can damn well deliver. I can do it!”

Well, Miles, if ever you read this one day, and if by then you are clean and good and bright and have a life again, know that some of us out there were just as desperate for you to do that as you were to show us that you could.

You’ve a hell of a road ahead and I want you to make it and I believe you have it in you. You’re good, you’re intelligent, you’re compassionate, you’re kind — and you do not belong on the street. You belong in warm blankets, in a mother’s arms, a lover’s embrace, a friend’s caring hug. You belong in the bosom of the family that had the courage to love you in that hard way people are told to do when dealing with a drug victim.

Yeah, victim, for we both know that that is what you are, Miles. A victim of your own weakness, but there is strength in you too, enough to conquer it. A victim of the dealers who make it easy for you to get what you think you need. A victim of that old man you told me about, the one who gave you a room and a bed and then made it clear there would be favours involved.

I admired you, on Sunday, Miles, when you told me you have moved out and gone back to the Somalian backpackers rather than stay there and satisfy that pig’s stinking demands. Oh yes, I admire you for that.

I admire you for pitching up this morning, and I wish you every atom of strength in your being in climbing the Everest you have now started climbing.

God bless you, man. You’re gonna reach that summit and, whoah, the view is gonna be a high of another kind altogether.


Tony Jackman

Tony Jackman

Tony Jackman is a journalist, budding playwright and sometime chef. He's written two plays, An Influence of Ghosts and Blue Train Coming, and back in the day wrote loads of songs. He paints a bit in watercolours...

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