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A heroin addiction during Melbourne lockdown: 'How my husband unravelled inside our family home.'

2020 started in a moon boot and it was an omen of the year ahead. The injury was sustained at my family Christmas party and I wasn’t even drunk. I was in my sister's backyard with a bon bon hat on playing with the kids' new water toy. I fell over in a hole that was “covered” by a plant in a pot. I was squirming around on the ground like an injured hippopotamus, the kids were spraying me with water and I was crying for help with a hurt ankle. The adults finally realised that something was wrong and gathered around me. Amidst the frenzy, I had rolled in dog poo and felt sick from pain and the smell. I was assisted to a chair, given an ice pack and stayed parked there for the rest of the day.  Scans later revealed I had chipped a bone in my ankle and on New Year’s Eve I was told to wear a moon boot for six weeks. Yep. 2020 has been like sitting in that seat in pain while you can’t get away from the bad smell.

Fast forward to March and I am finally free of the moon boot and ready to get out and about with family and friends. Hold up, did somebody say Covid? Lockdown? Working from home? Yes, the calendar at my work desk is stuck on March 20, 2020. The day I packed up my work chair, computer screen and headed to my new home office indefinitely. 

So far it has been seven months. This is the most amount of time I have spent on my own, ever. I have worked with people in offices for 20 years. I have found it really hard to not see people. Video calls tire me out and I cannot get a good read on people. It can be really depressing being abused by a customer over the phone working in your own home. I have not completed any cool DIY renovations, major projects, lost weight, or accomplished anything that I could say I am proud of during lockdown. I have continued to parent, work full time, run a house and keep in touch with friends and family. An anxious disappointment is growing within myself that I haven't "achieved" anything in lockdown. What have I got to show for myself? I have felt useless in trying to help my mum who is slowly dying of cancer and has been in and out of hospital three times during COVID-19 restrictions. Each hospital stay she has not been allowed visitors and many nights I lay in bed crying thinking of her being alone. I have tried to keep it together whilst my relationship, partner and family is falling apart. The rest of the world doesn’t know what is happening and it isn’t something to brag about. 

During lockdown my partner has spiraled into a heroin addiction. A functioning heroin addict. I knew that he had used recreationally years prior to us getting together. I never expected it to enter our lives like this. He is still living with us, still goes to work and we are still a family. I have not asked him to leave because we are in the midst of a pandemic and there is no immediate support (or am I using that as an excuse and refusing to accept reality?). If I ask him to move I fear we will lose him. He has some really outstanding parenting and human skills, is it fair that our son loses all of him?  

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Once I found out he was using, he began taking a medication that acts as a blocker. That means that if he were to have heroin it wouldn’t work. I watch him have the medication every day now, like in a psychiatric nurse inspecting his mouth and watching it wash down. This is due to the day I busted him not having it, tricking me, our eyes locked together on the lie. He knew he was caught and I was devastated. That memory is burned into my brain forever. Watching him trying to cover it up was futile, the game was up. Addiction is a cruel beast, it makes people so mean, selfish and erases any moral line. He has lied many times during lockdown. He tried to swap the blocker medication out with something that looked similar. I naively watched him take “the blocker” for several days until I realised his eyes, skin colour and demeanour told the real truth; he was back using. The skill of sniffing out a drug addict is what I have learnt in lockdown. I have not spent one night away from it. I have had to stay in the house every night with this heroin hole getting bigger and fiercer.

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How does someone become an addict when there is a law enforced lockdown going on? We have been locked in by a curfew and have had to be in our homes from 7pm to 5am, could only leave the house for four reasons, and have not been permitted to drive 5km beyond our home. He has not been busted by police once. I have a COVID station set up at the front door with hand sanitiser, spare masks and antiseptic wipes to be used every time we come in or out of the house. It seems so pathetic when I think of what he is doing and where he is going to get the gear. He was blatantly lying about work call outs to head out for his next hit. I have found makeup that he uses to cover the track marks. I have asked for the salt at dinner time so I can covertly check his arm for needle marks. He had attempted suicide years prior to COVID and suffers from depression. He was on medication and doing the work leading into this year. COVID meant he couldn’t go to the footy, couldn’t spend time with his mates and couldn’t visit his family in regional Victoria.  COVID cancelled our holiday plans to visit his dad interstate at Easter.   There are nights that he takes off, turns his phone off and I have no idea where he is or when he will be back. These nights are sleepless, long and full of anxiety and stress for me. I find myself planning for the possibility that the police will knock on my door and tell me he has died from an overdose. How will I protect my child from all of this? How is he getting away with travelling distances and breaking curfew during COVID? What type of people is he buying from? Will he bring the virus into our family and then we become super spreaders? How can people still be trading in the drug market during a pandemic? Does he have gear in the house? What if people find out? Add to that general COVID fatigue, worrying for my mum and my brain feels so tired.

To neighbours, friends and family it looks like he has accomplished so much during lockdown.  Every weekend he has achieved something. Re-built the deck, painted the deck, built multiple retaining walls in the front and back yards. The property and the garden has never looked better.  "Isn't he wonderful" they all say.  Meanwhile, I am a shadow in the background with anxiety, grey hair and red eyes from crying in the dark.

I want to keep his secret in lockdown because I know the stigma that comes with heroin and addiction. Lockdown has been the most unreal and intense journey. I don’t know why he chose to do this, I don’t know if I can recover from the hurt, lies and pain this has caused me. Today he is on the meds, doing counselling via Zoom and says he is committed to beating this addiction. COVID restrictions easing makes me feel scared, I have a big black hole that I need to start climbing out of and I feel too tired to start.

Feature image: Getty.

The author of this article is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. 

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