For years I thought nobody knew my daughter was using drugs

For years I thought nobody knew my daughter was using drugs. She was addicted to Heroin for 4 years before I found out and I was doing a great job in keeping her safe how would other people know. Little did I know that everybody in our village knew. When Karen started to use Valium things started to change. It was evident to the world that there was something wrong. Karen had a difficult upbringing.

I will always see her as my daughter but she is in fact adopted. She had been neglected as a child and taken into care. Both her parents were in and out of prison for all sorts and she was a very quiet child. Looking back I guess she has always been hurting but putting a face on to the world that she was ok. I’m not making excuses for her behaviour, yes she has committed crimes to fund her addiction and yes she needs to pay. What people don’t understand is she isn’t well. Not one single human being would choose to put a needle in their arm and destroy their life if they were not trying to escape from something. Whenever we discussed drugs it would end in a fight.

Karen did not live with me but I would prefer if she did. If she lived with me I could keep an eye on her and make sure she was safe. I wasn’t coping, heart palpitations, sleepless nights, weight loss and constant headaches. I went to my GP who suggested that I see the local Family Support Service. I didn’t think it would help but what else could I do. I couldn’t live the way I was or I would be dead before Karen.

I arranged to go along to the local group but was just going to observe and see what was happening. When I arrived I received such a welcome from so many people, who just like me, had a loved one in the midst of chaos. For once I felt accepted and normal. Society shuns families of drug users as if we are a lesser class and for once I was seen as equal and accepted. I received ongoing support from the group for 2 years.

I learned a lot about drugs that I never knew. I received training in Naloxone incase Karen ever overdosed in my company (thankfully she has never overdosed, well not to my knowledge!). I regained some life back, made friends, learned to look after myself more and put myself first. My health improved as did my relationship with Karen. I was more informed about drugs, could tell when things were “not quite right” and we could talk about it. We regularly discussed treatment without getting into a shouting match and Karen knew I was there to support when she was ready. A year ago Karen lost her best friend to a heroin overdose. She was in the house when she was found.

I think this was the push that Karen needed. She told me she didn’t want to die and we discussed her options. We made an appointment to go to the local drugs hub and see what her options were. Karen was placed on a methadone script and at first she was topping up as she didn’t feel it held her. Her script was raised until she felt she was coping. With the support of the local recovery community she made friends, got involved in local groups and activities to keep her busy.

To cut a long story short Karen has been on Methadone for 14 months now and is stable, not using other drugs and on a reduction plan to manage her off methadone. She works part time in a local shop and volunteers 3 days a week in the local recovery community. For once I have seen a personality in my daughter that I never knew was there. It’s good to hear her laugh and she has a wicked sense of humour. It’s not the end of the road for us as a family but with the ongoing support of the family support group and the local recovery community we will get there.

We wouldn’t have got this far without them all and I don’t think Karen would be here today. If I can give one piece of advice to anybody out there who is concerned about a family member’s drug or alcohol use is get help. Helping yourself keeps you well and it really does make a difference to your whole family.

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