In the second part of his story, former Calderdale drug addict Paul describes living on the streets, his deep desperation – and the accident that, amazingly, saved his life
HAVING been forced to flee two towns – and seeing his relationship with the mother of his second daughter fall apart – Paul had nowhere to go but the streets.
Now 26 and homeless, he slept rough in Huddersfield town centre.
“My patch was in the Imperial Arcade,” he said. “I busked, played penny whistle, played the blues on my harmonica and begged for money.”
He sank into depression and by this time his drug addiction was out of control.
He needed more than £120 worth of heroin and crack cocaine just to function.
“I was a raging heroin addict and I was suicidal,” he said.
“I was on a £120-a-day heroin and crack addiction. Every four and a half hours I needed a hit of heroin.”
He was also taking 90 millilitres of methadone every morning.
To meet his dealer, Paul had to cross a busy dual-carriageway, and, driven to desperation, he started picking a blind spot where he was invisible to cars as the place to cross. “I was playing Russian roulette with my life,” he said.
“It didn’t matter any more. If I was hit, at least I wouldn’t need the drugs any more.”
After nine and a half months, the inevitable happened – Paul was hit by a car.
“My head hit the windscreen and I somersaulted four times and then head butted the pavement,” he said.
He suffered a fractured skull, broke his collar bone, broke three ribs and had a punctured lung, and his heart stopped twice – once on the road and then again in the hospital in front of his children.
Because of his drug use, paramedics tending him could not find a vein to get him the medication he needed, and had to inject straight into his heart.
Even today, nearly 10 years on, his veins are still almost impossible to find.
Paul was in a coma for four days and when he did eventually wake, he thought he was 16 again.
“My brain seemed to have reverted me back to before the drugs really took hold, like it couldn’t process what had happened since.”
Although the accident almost killed him, Paul credits it with saving his life because, leaving him so badly injured and in hospital with no access to dealers, it forced him to quit drugs.
“That accident saved my life,” he said. “If that accident hadn’t happened, I’d be dead.”
But the recovery was far from easy.
Even when he was in a coma, Paul said his legs were banging against the sides of the bed as his body endured the first stages of withdrawl, known as “the rattle” or “the rip”.
When he woke up, the excruciating pain of the process hit him.
He explained how his body had stopped producing endorphines, thinking it no longer needed to because of how many were contained in the heroin he was taking.
When there was no heroin in his body, there were no endorphines.
“You need endorphines just so you don’t feel your hair and nails growing and your bones moving against each other,” he said.
“When you stop taking heroin, you can feel it on a cellular level. You can feel the cells splitting in your body. It is agony.
“With crack, it’s a psychological addiction but it’s much stronger than the physical one.
“When I was on drugs, I would always take the crack first, even though the feeling after would be much worse if I did, with the heroin withdrawl multiplied by at least 10.”
“Crack is the devil. Crack will make you sell your own mother or kids.”
* See tomorrow’s Courier for the final part of Paul’s story