Story from Dimitris Passas

The Escapist

I wriggle in my bed while being painfully aware that I won’t be getting even an hour of sleep. 3:56 AM. The darkness outside is mingled with the silence inside and the punitive stillness amplifies the intensity of my dejected feelings. It’s my third consecutive day without a single milligram of Buprenorphine running through my bloodstream. During the last few years, Bupe helped make my life more liveable, though certainly not worth living, acting as a pharmaceutical substitute for heroin, succeeding methadone in many countries around the Western world. After almost 4 years of use, the“miracle drug” that would allegedly bring revolution in the field of heroin addiction treatment became my trusted companion. However, my new “friend” proved to be a highly demanding one as the urgency to score Suboxone (brand name of Buprenorphine in Greece) is as rigorous as that to score smack. What mostly helped me when it came to Suboxone was the fact that each 8mg tablet contained an additional small amount of naloxone that rendered heroin use a lost cause. Simply put, even if you used skag, you would feel little or no effect at all.                                               –                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 It wasn’t my choice to cease my daily suboxone habit. Free will had absolutely nothing to do with it. It was forced on me by my own father. The betrayal stung more than anything and his voice still dilates and contracts inside my head in an endless refrain; It’s for your own good sonny. This time we will do it right. Let me help you. Please don’t hate me. I’m not the enemy.” His short spiel was outrageous per se, however, the conclusive prodding not to hate him further expanded the boundaries of ludicrousness. He invaded my privacy and stole my stash, consisting of 4 8mg Suboxone tabs, a respectably sized bud of premium pot, and some stray benzodiazepines, and then locked me in my room. I became a prisoner in my own house.                                                                                                                              –                                                                                                                                                                             What made me even more livid was the fact that my dad’s callous act was both unprecedented and so out of character for him. Usually, it was my mother who advocated in favor of such kind of radical “solutions” that would supposedly make my problems fly away more easily as she fervently proclaimed so many times in the past. But him? It was inconceivable. Even though, in general terms, he was always kind of distant and avoided in-depth discussions and confessions with his two sons, he was a man who had limits in his behavior. By that, I mean that he knew to respect other people’s space and freedom, always opting for discreet and tactful interventions even when things went seriously pear-shaped. Interfering was not a trait that characterized him, that was what one of the things that I’ve learned about him since I was a little kid.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Of course, none of the above thoughts made my predicament feel even a tad less excruciating. Contrary to the common belief, Buprenorphine withdrawal is several times harder than that of heroin. It’s a long road as the reverberations instigated by abstaining last for more than a full month. Plus, the intensity of the effects made the torment that laid ahead of me seem something analogous to Jesus’s sufferings. At least He had a plan while my suffering seemed to defy reason, mainly because it wasn’t my conscious decision. The thought burned my innards with fever-like fire.

                                                                                                                                  –                                                                                                                                                                                   I occupy a minimal space behind a double-locked door and my only luxury is the tiny WC in the adjacent room that will undoubtedly prove to be a life savior when diarrheas kicked in, a few days later. Oh, and I also have access to the balcony that stands several feet above the ground, its height leaving no room for thoughts of escape. I shut my eyes tight as if that would help me get a bit of rest but to no avail. Another white night.                                                                                                                             ——————————————————————————————————————————–                     Day 6. I’ve become a good friend with the toilet bowl. Either shitting foul-smelling water or throwing up vile excrement, sometimes the one after the other. It’s even harder than I expected, and that’s strange given that I was braced for a hellish ride. Neither of my parents made their presence known after day 1. Nobody talks to me. Nothing breaks the complete radio silence. My chance of survival seems to be hanging from my ability to find things, and I mean anything, to focus on, to forget myself even for a while. Much more than the physical sickness, opiate withdrawal is a cruel mind game in which the opponent is omnipotent and relentless, never allowing moments of respite for the afflicted. I try to watch TV series, crime fiction mainly, on Netflix and similar streaming platforms but nothing can hold my attention for more than 7-8 minutes. Then, the all-too-familiar veil of darkness falls and covers my mind and soul, leaving me feeling cold and alone.                               ———————————————————————————————————————

Day 10. More or less, the same in terms of symptoms. On the noteworthy side, my traitor of a father deigned to address me yesterday. It was noon and I was lying in bed, not because I was tired but mostly because I couldn’t do anything else. He first called my name two times and when I didn’t reply, he softly knocked on the door as if not to intrude. What a barefaced hypocrite. He first takes away my freedom and dignity and then pretends to be civilized. Anyway, I moved closer to the door to minimize the distance between us. I wanted to shout and be heard: “Get away you spineless son of a bitch. You were always a coward, but it seems that aging took away what was left of your wee balls. You pray that I die in here before we meet in person. You better watch your step from now on” As I ended my short tirade, I thought I heard him sobbing behind the door. For an instant, everything faded into the background, and I was transported back in time: strolling with Dad in a flashy European capital city, eating in fancy restaurants, and loving each other unconditionally. But the moment didn’t last long. It never does. I kept on: “DON’T PLAY THE VICTIM, YOU HEAR ME? I’M THE VICTIM HERE.” He didn’t utter a single word and I heard his loud steps retreating towards the kitchen. ——————————————————————————————————————-                                                                                                                                          

Day 13. The downward spiral is in full swing. Things are getting worse day by day instead of the opposite. There are moments that I feel like losing my mind for real. My thoughts are meandering around like kites floating in the murky sky and my mind moves in endless circles. A primordial angst has nested in my heart, a voracious beast claiming more and more room to occupy. For a moment, I thought that I heard someone hovering outside my room’s shut door, but I can’t tell for sure. It could be my mother. She has been keeping silent for nearly two weeks, a new record for her. She was always the most

talkative compared to my dad, always proclaiming her fragility and neediness, a textbook case of what is known in academic circles as martyr complex. Growing up in such an environment, it’s no wonder I quickly started searching for happiness in all the wrong alleys. Ideally, I would like my father to be able to express his inner sentiments, something closer to my mother’s temperament, and vice versa. I would prefer her to be less dramatic and more sensible. My laptop is on 24/7, mostly playing movie soundtracks and chill/dub music mixes as I can’t for the life of me concentrate hard enough to watch something even remotely coherent. Sweat is gushing from every pore of my body and the acrid stench makes the stuffy atmosphere in my room even more appalling. ———————————————————————————————————————

Day 21. Some of the physical symptoms begin to ease off but the confusion lives on. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder back in 2013 after experiencing alternating stretches of depression and hypomania. So, apart from my long-standing career in various chemical substances, I’ve also been on triple medication for my condition for more than a decade. I resolved to make a little experiment: I upped my dose of Zyprexa, an anti-psychotic drug with sedating effects, hoping that it would help me relax a bit and make time pass a bit faster. No luck. The tension within my head is almost palpable; something ravenous inside craves to get out. The thought crosses my mind for the first time even for just a nanosecond, but it does. What if I jumped off the balcony? Was it so sure that I would break a leg or something worse even? But it’s not necessary to be so serious. Even a sprained ankle would mean that I wouldn’t be able to take a single step. I get out there to re-check the distance separating me from the pavement. Too high. I quickly forget it and struggle to move on with my new daily “routine”.                                                           ——————————————————————————————————————-

Day 23. My father comes at my door early in the morning during one of the rare times that I managed to doze off for a few minutes. I wake up in irritation and go straight to the door, ready to launch another jeremiad against him. He takes his time before uttering: “Dim, how are you? I hope that you’re finally starting to feel better. Did the diarrhea stop? What about your spirit?” My spirit… What a load of crap. How did he imagine I was feeling? In top shape and vigorous? The sickness is eating me from the inside, I wanted to yell. Almost despite myself, I adopt a more neutral tone, however brimming with sarcasm: “Great dad, great. I’m thinking of taking up writing again, now that I feel so spiritually virile. Don’t listen to those who say that suboxone withdrawal is a bitch. They are a bunch of morons. Ok now? Are we good?” He sighs loudly and I sense that he is searching for the right words to say: “Listen, sonny, you may think that what I did is atrocious and perhaps you are right, but I can think of no other way to save you. Understand? Save you. You are my son and I’m willing to do anything, and I mean anything, to see you standing on your own feet. You can’t hold that against me.” I suddenly feel so tired. I don’t answer him and head back to my bed.                                           ———————————————————————————————————————

Day 26. I wake up in the middle of the night and I go out to the balcony as if I’m in a trance. I look down once again. I don’t know why or how but this time the altitude feels less intimidating. Perhaps it is possible to make the bold move. Am I going insane? The question churns in my mind but does little to eradicate the compulsive thought. I go back into the room and sit in front of my ailing laptop’s screen. I strive to figure out the right keywords to put into the search engine in order to learn something valuable, something helpful that would provide me with the mandatory courage to act on my idea. Alas, zero. I lay down in my bed and close my eyes.                              ———————————————————————————————————————                                                                                                                Day 29. Today is the day. I only managed to get one and a half hours of poor sleep and when I saw my dilated eye holes in the mirror after another bout of vomit, I was shocked. There is no hope, period. I flirt with the open balcony door for a long while and then I start taking baby steps to the rail. When I finally reach it, I look down for the last time. It is now or never. Luckily, I had some money hidden for a time of need and if I could jump and walk away-relatively- unscathed, I would be able to go downtown to score some Suboxone. As I’m striving to calm my nerves, I hear my father’s voice coming from somewhere afar: “Dim, please have patience. Only a few days are left. Soon all that nightmare will look foreign to you.” I hear his words but don’t register them. I’m ready. I take a last deep breath. I’m ready.                                                                                                                                                     ——————————————————————————————————————–                  –                                                                 THE END

Dimitris Passas is a freelance writer from Athens, Greece, and the editor of the online magazine Tap the Line (www.tapthelinemag.com), in which he reviews books, movies, and TV series while also featuring articles, news, and Q+As with authors and artists. His academic background includes bachelor studies in sociology and a master’s degree in philosophy. His work can also be found in ITW’s legendary magazine The Big Thrill and various online platforms such as DMovies, PopMatters, Off-Chance, Loud and Clear Reviews and others. His latest book reviews have been accepted for publication in esteemed literary and film journals like World Literature Today, American Book Review, Alphaville, Bright Lights Film Journal and Compulsive Reader. Dimitris’s short and flash fiction, as well as his CNF pieces, can be found in various literary magazines such as Litro Online, Maudlin House, 34th Parallel, Memoir Land (“First Person Singular” series), Litbreak, and several others.

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