“They Live Chaotic Lives”

I wake up with dread and a sense of defeatism – as is fairly common with me these days. As if my eyes have been gouged out at the lid. Sleep deprivation is cumulative and, like a scar being ripped open repeatedly, it’s not something which is ever rectified after one day of abstinence from the self-abuse. It takes a steady commitment of consistently listening to the body – the kind of commitment I’m unable (unwilling?) to muster right now.

I’m last minute in the morning, frantic. I’m unable to afford the luxury expense of taxis but I’m even more so unable to get my ass out of bed early enough to make the bus so another tenner is frittered away at my expense.

I run down the stairs with a gapingly empty stomach and my toothpaste and toothbrush in my bag – I’ve not even left time to brush my teeth – resenting the fact that I haven’t gifted myself the time and space of the walk to the bus stop.

I get to work knowing I’ll be unable to work at 100%, feeling guilty about letting people down. I’m starving. Some people don’t get hungry in the mornings – I am not one of those people. I’m pining for my 15 minute break the whole morning, so I can go to Greggs to fill myself with processed food while I run on 20% – again, more money wasted.

These life decisions and their consequences (staying up late, routinely eating processed foods, wasting money and letting down my team) breed shame. Shame is one of the most powerful inhibitory emotions (inhibitory, that is, because it serves to mask a core emotion such as fear or anger).

“When we repeat mistakes, make consistent bad choices, act in self-destructive ways, cannot get along with others, or fail to reach our potential, small t trauma offers a possible explanation for our being stuck or our compulsion to repeat: old neural networks might be unconsciously and adversely influencing our choices and actions.” – It’s Not Always Depression, Hilary Jacobs Hendel

A couple of forgetful and scattered methadone patients have joined our pharmacy in the past week. The woman, only 2 years older than me, passes me a trazodone prescription which was due to start 3 days ago thinking it’s for methadone. I let her know that it’s for trazodone and that I can’t dispense off of an expired prescription and she all but has a meltdown. “Don’t do this to me!” She pleads with her partner as he scrambles to find her methadone prescription. He offers to share half his dose with her but they eventually leave and somewhere between her leaving the pharmacy and returning 30 minutes later, the prescription has materialised.

Another patient, a guy 2 years younger than me, has also joined the pharmacy. He comes in one particular busy Tuesday, needing his methadone dose ASAP because he has an appointment in 10 minutes. The pharmacist sighs and manages to administer the dose amongst everything else she’s doing – including checking the prescriptions of roughly 10 people standing about in the shop.

“God, these people live such chaotic lives,” she mentions after he leaves for his appointment. “Yeah,” I mutter, glancing over at her.

Chaotic lives is a term I’ve heard another colleague use when discussing the habits and behaviours of some of those on the methadone program, too. It’s a stab at empathy and understanding – “they can’t help it, they live chaotic lives, it’s just the way it is” – but it also creates an “us and them” dynamic, in my opinion.

Are their lives much more chaotic than mine? Are they any more driven by chaos and entropy than what I am? I bury my head in the sand, too. I don’t check my bank balance. I’m constantly running late, I consume sugar and social media in an attempt to salvage some dopamine – I want to blur out the things that hurt, too.

Many methadone patients are on the program as a form of harm reduction. That is, they still use on the side. Often with needles from our pharmacy. The needle exchange is strictly confidential so this information is never passed onto their doctor, although their toxicology reports would probably make this quite clear.

“Every day, when you wake up, you have a choice. You can choose to do drugs and be a waste of space, or you can get a job -” I cut him off, this guy at an open mic, to argue that trauma limits your choices.

The young woman who lost her prescription, with downcast eyes and a grey face, looked pretty miserable. Looking at her, I imagine her as a young girl, innocent, being abused. I imagine a spirit being broken, an injustice that doesn’t make sense, turning a young 20-something to heroin.

“People who suffer because of past trauma and childhood adversity are not at fault and not to blame. Suffering symptoms of trauma is not a sign of weakness. If anything, it is a reminder of our humanity and our biology.” – It’s Not Always Depression

When I told my last therapist that I felt I lead a fairly chaotic life, he found this humorous. Because, I mean, look at me. I’m a “functioning member of society”, I hold down a full-time job and a flat, I have creative pursuits etc. And so is the concept of chaos defined by what is overtly visible? Is it defined by what is socially acceptable? My chaos of abusing my body and making unhealthy decisions is more socially acceptable than having a daily prescription and using heroin. What a load of bullshit.

We live within the means of our emotional capacity and our history of trauma, which is like a fingerprint unique to each and every one of us. We act and react appropriately to what is happening inside. How can we truly look at someone, externally, and feel qualified to judge their “destructive” actions?

And how can we demonise those whose coping mechanism is using heroin when our capitalist society’s thriving is contingent on its members being addicted to whatever it decides to sell that week? EVERYONE is fucking addicted. You get on a bus and everyone is on their fucking phones. Greggs is full of working class people who are fucking miserable and want junk food to cheer them up (myself included). People are addicted to binge-watching Netflix because it lets them escape their own lives.

Yet we judge so harshly the decisions of those with more visible addictions, as if we aren’t all slaves to habits that rob us of our personal power.

Thanks for reading.

– SMUT. ❤ xxxx

Art by Soo Nathan – https://sdotnathan.wordpress.com/

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