We care, for the better.
A place for families, because you don't have to use drugs to be affected by them.
- How do I know if they're using drugs?
- Why do they use drugs/alcohol?
- Is it my fault?
- How can I cope with their behaviour?
- Understanding the stages of addiction and recovery
- Where do I get the help I need?
- Getting support for your loved one
Janet shares her story of her son's drug use
A Mother’s Perspective: Billy’s Story
Billy was a very bright, musical child but easily bored. He saw a set of rules as an obstacle course to be bypassed, climbed over, tunnelled under – anything except obeyed. He liked to push things to the limit, but unfortunately sometimes miscalculated.
The first big miscalculation resulted in him being asked to leave a school he was pretty happy at, when he was 13. I think the second was when he started to dabble in heroin. Not that he saw that at first. I believe he really liked it – it made him feel invincible. It cost him his place at college doing Popular Music which he had enjoyed.
A gang of lads came round to our house nearly every night, as lads do. I was so naïve, and trusting. One day a mother came round and told me they were smoking heroin upstairs. Bill denied it. I refused to believe it.
I must be honest and admit I knew he had been smoking cannabis for some time, but as a teenager in the early seventies I didn’t have a problem with that. I didn’t realise how different that substance is from the weed of 45 years ago. Even then no-one would touch heroin. Why would anyone?
Almost a year later, on the way to college for a final disciplinary hearing for poor attendance and no work, when I asked Bill what he was going to say in his defence, he said: “I’m going to tell them I’ve been a heroin addict for the last year.” That was the first time I really knew.
After that, for 12 years Bill was always in work. All his money went on gear. Methadone helped him hold down jobs, and for some periods he appeared to be clean apart from the meths. Then of course they tried to reduce the dose, and he would start using again.
The heroin usage was not negotiable, not really under discussion, and he tried to keep it his business. But as a mother I could see he had no life, no future, was in constant danger of being arrested, or of falling out with dealers. One time I was just watching the box set of The Wire while a similar terrifying scenario was happening to Bill.
About five years ago something changed. He’d lost one job because he’d been caught using, but managed to find another, and his credit rating had gone up. He had more money, so started buying more gear. An old friend came back into his life and seemed to encourage him to use more. By this time he was using crack cocaine as well. He stopped being able to get up for work, wrote yet another car off, and lost his job. His life seemed to implode, and rehab seemed to be the only option left to him.
I drove him down to Weston to his first rehab, full of hope and relief. His attitude wasn’t quite as positive, and he insisted on smoking his last crumbs of heroin on the way down, right until we drove through the gate. He lasted 11 of the 12 weeks, and had starting using again by the time he got to Bristol on the way home. The next rehab he managed 14 of the 15 weeks. Every time he got within touching distance of a second stage he would blow it.
My mother died while he was in the second rehab. He came back for the funeral with a minder, and managed to smuggle back some cannabis that he’d stashed in her house. He then admitted it and was of course asked to leave. Self-destruct mode again. Two more rehabs - same story. I was so happy each time he was accepted, with Sunday visits to a completely different son. I felt he was safe. But none of them offered him a change of life – a better drug-free life. It was all pretty bleak really. Each time he was kicked out there was the very real terror that he could die. He would try to fool us that he was clean for a few days, to give him time to find another room where he could live in squalor.
Finally he was accepted to the wonderful Changes. Somehow they do things differently. I think he needed to go through the other rehabs, which are all good in their own way, in order to appreciate how great the Changes organisation is. The residents are encouraged to do things, the houses are proper homes with really nice furniture and not institution like. At last Bill has been shown a pleasant alternative drug-free life that he is embracing. He is now 18 months clean; enjoying work, friendship, family, health and I am so happy for him, and so proud of him.
I had resigned myself that my son would never reach his 40th Birthday. Now I can picture him in middle-age, with a family, and a great life. I still cannot get used to him being on time everywhere because he was always late to EVERYTHING.
The day Bill had to leave his school, and the devastating way he had to leave college were the two worst times of my life. The day he was 18 months clean, recovered from open heart surgery only diagnosed in rehab, and looking forward to a great new job was the happiest.
Thank you, Changes.
Janet is supporting Steve Dixon of Changes in fundraising by running the Birmingham half marathon in Autumn 2017. Donate here.