Tell It Like It Is
A well documented side effect of heroin addiction is the lying and the deceit. When faced with the profile of a heroin addict you immediately think of a stealing, lying, skinny Trainspotting type. I recently looked at photographs of Hannah from three summers ago. She was at the height of her addiction and conformed to the she physical stereotype in its entirety - thin to the point of emaciation, sunken eyes, dirty finger nails, swollen feet, bandaged wrists – the list goes on. With the hugest lie of all exposed and our reaction one of love and acceptance, I hadn’t understood that the deceit would continue.
And I was meant to be drug savvy.
The lies tumbled out of Hannah’s mouth like Rapunzel’s hair down the side of her tower. At first I didn’t realise she was lying because I felt I hadnt been engaging in conversations that warranted a distortion of the truth. What I later found out was that even when talking about what she might have had for supper was reason for her to fabricate a story. I couldnt understand why she did it. It made me so angry. Why couldnt she trust me? As a family, we had swallowed our fear, shown her as little judgement as possible and been open to the harshness of her truth in a desperate attempt to understand and support her. A relationship which is not based on trust and honesty, even with the best intentions, is a struggle.
I have always loved Hannah so much but our relationship growing up was often volatile. I remember being about 22 and walking down the street with her. She had been out the night before and I was interested in how her evening had been. I had only recently realised that my 17 year old sister wasnt a little girl anymore and thought we were probably having similar experiences. I really wanted to become her friend and confident. So I asked:
“What did you get up to last night?” .
“Nothing much, we just stayed in and watched TV“.
I knew she was lying. Why didnt she trust me? It felt as if she was positioning me in the same camp as our parents and I couldn’t understand. I was hurt and consequently angry. I wanted to bond with her but she put up a barrier that rarely came down. I took it personally.
When Hannah was staying with us a few weeks ago, before her relapse, she was in a good place. It felt as if she was on an honesty campaign as Serena and I found out all sorts of things we hadn’t known before. Although the information was often hard to bare it felt good to connect with her. There were, however, small discrepancies in things she said that Serena and I inadvertently found out – how much something cost, where she got something from, what she was doing on a certain day and so on. She would tell me one thing and Serena another for something seemingly pointless. These lies were not serious but they registered none-the-less.
Whilst my parents were visiting last week, it came as a huge surprise to hear that, as otherwise previously believed, Hannah had not been under psychiatric care over the last 18 months. This new information knocked me for six. Hannah had gone into so much detail around her relationship with her doctor. When asked, she could have brushed us off and changed the subject but she engaged in lengthy conversations about her relationship and treatment with her psychiatrist. I felt physically sick for days when I first found out. I was surprised at my reaction – this has, after all, not been the first lie exposed but the thought of Hannah not being looked after professionally when she was at her most vulnerable ,when I thought she was safe, was devastating. That she couldnt reach out to us and that she felt she had to fabricate complex scenarios felt more about our falabilities than her disease.
My mother recently asked why we never believe Hannah when she says something good but always believe her darkest accounts. I suppose the answer to that lies in the fact that over the last 10 years we have found out that there has rarely been any truth to any of the positive stories we have heard. Our family has repetedly wiped the slate clean and after the inital confused reactions abide, hoped again for honesty. I understand that lying is a side effect of her disease and in calmer moments am able to transfer my anger into compassion.
With the best will in the world, I still fight the fact that I will for a long time doubt everything she says. I pray that one day she will be able to tell it like it is.