What would you do if your child was a heroin addict suffering from acute withdrawal symptoms – disintegrating in front of your eyes – while waiting for rehab treatment to start? One mother from a village in the south-west of England describes how she ended up driving her daughter to town, and paying for her to get a fix.
She was pouring with sweat, vomiting, crying, hysterical, shaking – just desperate, feeling desperately ill. I felt like I was trapped in a corner and that there was nothing else I could do. So I said to her, “Is there any way we can do this – on the street?”
She spent a good hour and a half ringing around, and people could only offer her heroin, not methadone.
That’s how we ended up in the middle of a local town with me handing over my hard-earned money to buy a drug.
The problem really started five years ago, when she was 18. She had some life changes in terms of friends going off to university and changes in a long-term relationship that she had been happy in, and then it had gone wrong. Her behaviour, her personality, started to change.
Before she had been hard-working, she had loved her horse and would ride, and all these things started to fall by the wayside. She slept a lot in the day. I kept saying to her, “What’s wrong with you?”
And then she started hanging around with people that we knew were not a good influence – older people who were using drugs. And it started to sort of click into place.
We were driving back from somewhere one day and I asked her again what was wrong with her.
And she said, “Imagine the worst thing it could be.”
I said, “Are you pregnant?” – which, when I think about it now would have been nothing. It would have been fantastic in a way if that had been the answer, because the answer was: “No, no mum. Think of the worst. Worse, much worse than that. Think of the worst thing.”
I said, “Are you a drug addict?” And she said, “Yes.”
Then she broke down, and it was heartbreaking. It was the worst day of my life.
We talked about how to stop it there and then – how to bring it to a stop as soon as possible. We talked about it as a family, and there was a bit of shouting. You had different emotions – one minute you are shouting and angry, the next minute you are upset.
My husband’s brother had been a drug user and had died through depression, when he was trying to come off them. I think my husband thought it was a waste, that his brother could have been a really valuable part of our family life and our society. And I think he felt the same way about our daughter – that she had so much to offer, and he didn’t want her to make the wrong choices.
Our daughter at that point didn’t feel it was a problem. She kept saying, “It’s just fun, OK? It’s just fun.” And that would be interspersed with periods of depression and it not being fun, but her not being prepared to admit that. And as time went on we gave her an ultimatum. Looking back I don’t know whether it was the right decision or not, but we said, “If you continue to use drugs, you can no longer live at home.” And we kicked her out, because she continued.
Then her drug use got worse, and her friendship groups deteriorated more and more.
I hated her. I hated her so much.
I felt that she had all the power to stop it – and she didn’t. Nothing your children can do will stop you loving them, but the hatred was enormous. I was just desperately angry. I wanted to pick her up literally by her shoulders and shake her like a doll and say, “For goodness sake! Look at what you are doing!”
I had always been a very controlling mum when they were younger. They had set bedtimes and they ate their vegetables and all that. And I felt very out of control. I couldn’t say, “No you’re not going out. You need to come home and stay home and sort yourself out.” Because she would say, “I’m an adult, I can do what I like.”
I was disappointed. Very disappointed, because I had great expectations of what she could achieve. She wasn’t managing to achieve anything at that point, although things did change briefly when she started to realise she wasn’t happy.
She applied to the army, to the military police, and she did her basic training really well and got a good job in the military police. We thought she had kicked her drug habit and turned her life around, and we were just immensely proud. I remember thinking, “Oh my goodness, she’s done it. Not only has she done it, she’s done it big time – she’s got a really good job.” We didn’t know there was still a problem.