Having attended a recent Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, I am left with a pit in my stomach and a pain in my heart.
A young woman shared her story in which her husband of 3 years died from an overdose. The following is my account of that horrid night;
Laura* was used to seeing her husband, Jake*, high on pain killers. Jake had a chronic hip problem after years of playing semi-professional football and had been taking Percocet for 4 years. He reached the point where his physician needed to wean him off of those pills and Jake, now addicted, turned to smoking heroin. (Heroin is a relatively cheap illegal narcotic that leaves one feeling effects similar to opioid medication.)
Smoking heroin led Jake to snorting it and within a year’s time he was injecting it. Jake ‘used’ upwards of 6 times per day, traveling into a nearby city to meet his dealer each morning. Laura was worried sick, yet shared Jake’s addiction with no one. She dealt with this trauma using denial and by drinking a bottle of wine each evening. Laura had, over time, become addicted to her liquid solace. Friends and family were told only that Jake was taking a prescription medication that caused him to be sleepy, confused and unable to work. Laura was able to meet their financial responsibilities.
On a Tuesday night in June, Jake shot his heroin dose into a vein in his foot. He lay next to Laura and soon was nodding off and barely audible as he told her that he loved her. Laura was tired from a particularly rigorous day at work and fell asleep around 10 p.m. Her alarm woke her the next morning. As she readied herself for the day, Jake slept on, curled on his side- saliva from his mouth staining his pillow brown. She tussled his hair, said, “I love you,” and left.
Returning that afternoon around 4:30 with a bag of fast food, Laura was not particularly surprised to see Jake in bed. He spent his days shooting heroin, sleeping, smoking cigarettes and watching television. She poured herself a glass of wine, ate her chicken dinner and made a few phone calls. As she spoke with a friend, panic suddenly overcame her. Jake was not yet awake and she felt faint as it occurred to her that all was not well.
Rushing into the bedroom, Laura instinctively knew that her husband, lying in a pool of vomit, was gone. She shouted at Jake as she shook him and went so far as to repeatedly pound on his chest with a closed fist. Dialing 911, her words were masked by sobs of terror and she told the operator that her husband was cold and stiff. The paramedics futilely injected Narcan, a narcotic antagonist, into his scarred arm and left performing CPR on Jake. Laura silently screamed as the ambulance tore away, sirens blasting.
Laura’s mascara blackened her face as she wept. It had taken her a mere ten minutes to complete this tale and our group of thirty sat in silence for some time. I felt nauseous and ran from the room to vomit in the restroom.
The chair-lady for this meeting looked flustered and it took her a bit to compose herself and resume the meeting. She said, “Dear Lord, sweet Laura…my heart breaks for you. I think we will take a ten minute break.”
Laura quietly left that meeting during the break and we were never to see her return to the fellowship.
*[Names are fictional]