‘A Personal Story’ by Kerrie

This very moving Story was written for our Wired In To Recovery website in August 2011. I published it on Recovery Stories in August 2013.

‘Hi, my name is Kerrie. I am 37 years old. Both my parents died as a result of heroin addiction. My mum when I was 8 years old and she was 28, and my dad when I was 15 and he was 43.

I grew up in the madness of their addiction; needless to say we were a very dysfunctional family. I don’t remember my parents ever getting any real support. The only people involved with our family were the police and social services.

I learnt at a very young age to tell them nothing, as I knew if I told someone, for instance, that my sister and I had been left alone or had not eaten properly for a few days, that my parents would get in trouble. And I was fiercely loyal and very protective of them.

In a way, I was the parent to them. I learnt to cook and clean very young, and after mum died I tried to look after my dad as best I could. But his using had got out of control because he was grieving so badly.

Again, I don’t remember him getting any support to be able to get clean and take care of us properly. We were just taken away from him and put into care.

We had been in and out of care for as long as I could remember. But this time it was permanent. I wish I could say that going into care was a better experience than it was, but unfortunately it wasn’t. We were treated cruelly and were never listened to by our social workers.

Although I realise we could not have stayed with our dad (because he was not able to look after himself, let alone two young girls), our needs were not met by the social services either. At the age of 18 I met the man I would fall in love with and eventually have two children with.

I craved security and a real family, even though I did not know what this was. My partner drank heavily. I didn’t see anything wrong with this, as he worked long hours and I thought it was normal.

Years later, he started using cocaine. But still I would think to myself, “Well at least it’s not heroin.” He still worked for his money and we did not have the police kicking the door through every week. So, again I accepted it as normal. Little did I know that he was an addict, just the same as my parents.

It took a long time before I could accept that he had no control over his drinking and using, the same as any addict. By the time my eldest son was 12 and my youngest three years old, our lives had fallen into complete chaos and I came close to having a complete breakdown.

I loved my partner immensely, but could not let my boys or myself watch him self-destruct the way he was anymore. I thought I was enough to make him stop, and tried everything to get him to do so. He had, by now, admitted that he had a problem and was seeking help. Unlike my own parents, the support was there for him.

It was after attending an open AA meeting with him that I finally realised he had to do this for himself. I had become very ill and had to make the break to look after myself. This was very hard as I had fought for a long time to keep my family together.

When I did end the relationship things were rough for a while, as I had to put myself back together. My partner went into treatment, and when he got out I still had nothing to do with him, although he maintained a relationship with his boys.

It fills me with pride to say he is now over two years clean and sober. He found his recovery in the 12-step fellowships and keeps his recovery by helping others. He is now a full-time paid employee at the treatment center he went into.

I am also in recovery. But it is emotional recovery. I attend ACOA meetings, and although the name ACOA means adult child of alcoholics, this can mean any sort of dysfunction that you grow up with. It was there that I learnt a lot about myself. I am also now doing Bridging the Gap.

I love to hear peoples’ stories of recovery, and have great respect for anyone that has the willingness to get clean from addiction and change their lives.

My partner and I got back together about 12 months ago, and through him I have met many people in recovery who now have beautiful clean lives. And they are, as I am, thankful every day for their recovery. It does make me sad sometimes that my own parents did not find it, but there was not the same support that there is now.

My partner and I were recently asked to give a talk to a family group in our local area. He gave a talk from the addict’s side and I gave mine as a family member who has suffered just as much as he has through addiction.

I was overwhelmed when the group facilitator asked me if I would go back again. I was asked if I would do some voluntary work with their women’s group and family group, as this is where my passion lies.

I think there should be much more support for the families of addicts, as I have found that the only time a family member can access support is when the addict in their family is a service user, or it is very impersonal i.e. over the phone.

Family members need to learn to put their energy into finding help for themselves rather than for the addict. Because only once we have a better understanding of the illness that is addiction, can we find the the tools we need and the strength to do what is right by the people we love.’

Such a beautiful Story, one which will resonate with the many people who have been in a similar situation. It provides hope.