I read some eejit on boards.ie or somesuch the other day, yelling about how Dublin’s heroin addicts needed to be rounded up and thrown into The ‘Joy — into prison. So long as they were out of sight.

In January, when my mother was dying in Beaumont Hospital, I walked out one night, having spent the day and night in the stroke ward. There’s an area outside the main entrance where people go to smoke. A loudspeaker is on a continuous loop, telling us it’s a no-smoking area and there are warning signs all round. Buy hey — it’s Dublin.

I was in absolute turmoil and my head was wrecked. Really was. I couldn’t take in a thing. Everything was a fog, and I felt absolutely numb.

I’m walking out past the smokers and this woman in a wheelchair yells over at me — ”Hey luv — who dun yer hair?!” She looked to be in her fifties with sunken eyes, bleach-blonde hair with the roots growing out, stick-thin. Big mad Kilbarrack accent on her, and a tired grin. I was rocking bright purple hair then, so we got to talking. I had it done in America where I live now, and I’m just visiting. “Thought so all right! So are ye back for the holliers?”

“My Mam is dying. Just days.” First time I’d actually said it to someone, and it was all I could get out before the tears came.

“Oh c’mere”. We both hugged and cried, her still in the wheelchair.

Turns out she had been a heroin addict for decades. She’d kicked that some months back and switched to cocaine. Now she was struggling to get off that, and had gone outside to roll a spliff. Her liver was wrecked and she needed a transplant. Soon. But that wasn’t happening and things weren’t looking great. Early 40s only — younger than me. We’d see each other a few more times outside, and we’d chat, until Mam got moved out to Blanchardstown Hospice in her last few days.

Anyways — why am I telling this? Heroin addicts. Junkies. Scum of the earth. It’s easy to lump them all together and dismiss them as ‘other’ and dehumanize them, as I hear people like that Boards eejit putting it. It’s really just not like that. I lost school friends and family to drugs. Real people with names and hearts and souls and families who loved them, and pain in their lives often. How easy it is for some to dismiss their humanity.