It has been lurking in the shadows for the past two weeks. Observing my husband, waiting, seething, weak, sick. Today it reappeared, in half form, ready for war. In the beginning my husband was too sick to consider using. Too sick to even try. The end of this week, as some of the physical symptoms subsided, the emotional symptoms worsened; the depression, the restlessness, the anxiety. While we may categorize these symptoms as emotional or psychological, anyone who has observed or suffered through these knows the physical toll. I watch over him, vigilant, and bear witness to the unrelenting, gnawing suffering: crawling out of his skin, deep icy pain in his eyes, bone chilling discomfort, thrashing body, goose bumps raised on the skin, heavy fatigue, pacing legs driven by insolent restlessness, knotted muscles, interminable insomnia, medicated mis-sleep, and chattering teeth. This is physical, at its core the physiological result of the misfiring synapses of his brain gone haywire. And so the demon emerged, beckoning to my husband to just have a taste. Bribing him with relief, a dangling carrot, the temporary numbing of opiates. He didn’t tell me the beast is here, but I see it, it takes possession of my husband. I see the gears in his mind rotating, the hideous metal grinding together, scheming sharp teeth turning, the twisted torque of possession. And then it speaks to me. From its putrid halitosis festering mouth, its words are all too familiar: “I am going to take the car for an oil change, and I need the ATM card, they take cash only.” I may be gentle with my husband, but not with the hollow and hungry beast. With the beast, you can’t offer compromise, you can’t offer reason, you just have to shut it down. It is like waging a very quiet war. A war that we hope has only one casualty, leaving all others spared. My weapon a simple “no” and an offering of soup to my husband still present amidst the rattling bones of the starving beast. Magically our dog licked my husband’s face with loyal and instinctual love. Lucky for us, he is resilient in this moment and the demon is still weak. It hasn’t been fed in weeks and it doesn’t eat soup. Deprived and somewhat feeble, it did not dispute me and retreated to the shadows that inhabit my husband’s brain. But it remains lurking. Present in my husband’s deep sighs, his blank stares, his heavy and twitching limbs, his beating fists, in the pillow wrapped around his head, in the misfiring neurons and tangled pathways of his brain. The fear takes hold as he wages his own war with the demon, this war appears much more violent. I am scared shitless.
My mind wanders to suboxone, ER, options, any other option. Then the anger bubbles up, heat splashing my throat, blurring my vision. If only we had gotten him in sooner. I think of the horror stories I have read, of people, children, men, women, overdosing as they wait for rehab. I think over this week, the phone calls and faxes, the insurance denials, the wait-lists. Finally there is a good, no a great program, the faceless voice on the end of the phone line stating “we didn’t receive the fax, you have to want this, you have to be ready for this, there is a bed open, call back Friday”. Calling then waiting by the phone. My therapist’s words about this program, “they make you prove yourself, make you work for it.” Questioning: Why? Defeat: Yes, yes, we know you have to prove your dedication, that is what he is trying to do. Convincing them of his worth and competing for resources in a state, within a country, suffering from an opioid epidemic. So here we are awaiting rehab, gritting our teeth, fighting like crazy, praying, writing, baking apple crisp, breathing, reading, watching movies, mindless television, trying to keep the demon locked up in the shadows, scooping brimming spoons of hot comfort into our mouths, quietly waging this war tucked away in our dimly lit, but glowing 6th floor apartment.