feet apart when Bob launched himself off the bag towards me. It was the most athletic leap I’d ever seen him make, and that was saying a lot.
‘Whoaah there, fella,’ I said, lurching forward to catch him then holding him close to my chest. He pinned himself to me like a limpet clinging on to a rock that was being pounded by waves. He then nuzzled his head in my neck and started rubbing me with his cheeks.
‘Hope you don’t mind, but that’s why I couldn’t come in. I had to bring him,’ Belle said beaming. ‘He saw me packing a few things for you and started going crazy. I think he knew I was coming to get you.’
Whatever doubts I’d had about our future together were swept away in that instant. On the way home, Bob was all over me – literally. Rather than sitting alongside me he sat on my lap, crawled on my shoulders and sat up with his paws on my chest, purring away contentedly.
It was as if he never wanted to let me go again. I felt exactly the same way.
They say that there are none so blind as those who will not see. In the days and weeks that followed, I realised that I had been unwilling, or maybe unable, to see what was glaringly obvious. Far from wanting to leave me, Bob had been desperate to help ease my pain and get me on the road to recovery. He’d given me space to recover. But he’d also been nursing me without my knowledge.
Belle told me that whenever I was asleep in my room, Bob would check up on me. He would lie on my chest and even run checks every now and again.
‘He’d give you a little tap on the forehead and wait for you to react. I think he just wanted to make sure you were still with us,’ she smiled.
At other times, she told me, he would wrap himself around my leg.
‘It was as if he was trying to apply a tourniquet or something. It was like he wanted to take away the pain,’ she said. ‘You would never lie still long enough for him to stay there for long. But he knew where the pain was and was definitely trying to do something about it.’
I hadn’t seen any of this. What was worse, whenever Bob had tried to help or comfort me when I was awake, I’d driven him away. I’d been selfish. Bob loved – and needed – me as much I loved and needed him. I wouldn’t forget that.
Lying in bed for days on end had focussed my mind on something else as well. A few weeks after I was back on my feet, I took the most important step I’d made in years. Perhaps in my entire life.
When I’d actually heard the words at a regular appointment with my drug counsellor at the specialist dependency unit in Camden, they’d not sunk in at first.
‘I think you’ve reached the finishing line, James,’ he’d said.
‘Sorry what do you mean?’
I’m going to write you your final prescription. A few more days of taking your medication and I think you’ll be ready to call yourself clean.’
I’d been attending the clinic for several years now. I’d arrived there a mess, addicted to heroin and on a fast track to an early grave. Thanks to a brilliant collection of counsellors and nurses, I’d been hauling myself back from the brink ever since.
After coming off first heroin and then methadone, my new medication, subutex, had slowly but surely been helping me to wean myself off opiates completely. I’d been taking it for around six months now.
They called it a miracle drug and, as far as I was concerned, at least, that’s exactly what it was. It had allowed me to reduce my craving for drugs gently and without any hiccups. I’d been reducing my dosage of subutex steadily, first from 8 milligrams to 6 then to 4 and then 2. From there I’d started taking even smaller doses, measured in 0.4 grams. It had been a pretty seamless process, much easier than I’d anticipated.
So I wasn’t quite sure why I left the unit that morning feeling so apprehensive about the fact that I was about to stop taking subutex altogether.
I should have been delighted. It was time for that soft