Kevin and Kerry’s Recovery Story: ‘A Family’s Journey’, Part 2

Kevin’s hospitalisation with septicaemia acts as a turning point and a process of recovery begins for the family as a whole. (6,933 words)

‘A key thing I’d like to say to other addicts is that no matter what anybody says, it is possible to come out the other side of long-term drug misuse and addiction and to live an abstinent, happy and fulfilling life, and be a valuable member of society. It’s a long hard road and I wouldn’t have made it without the strength I get from God. The trick is to never give up chasing what you want—just put everything into it and you will get there eventually.’ Kevin

‘Also, remember that it’s not your addiction—it’s your loved one’s addiction. You might get involved, but it’s not your life, not your addiction—it’s theirs. It’s not something you have done that has caused it. You might think it’s because of their genes, upbringing, or whatever, but it’s down to each individual having control over their lives—so don’t feel guilty. Of course that’s easier said than done, I know. The main thing is to support all you can. But remember—unless an addict wants to stop, anything you do is futile. They have to want to do it for themselves, no one else.’ Kerry

1. The turning point
Kevin (son): It was going into hospital that led to a major change in my life. When I was 18, I had a motorbike accident and had to have operations on my hip. Over the years, my drug use had taken priority over my hip and it had deteriorated badly. For weeks, I had been going to the hospital asking for help but they kept on telling me that there was nothing wrong with me and that I would just have to wait for a hip replacement.

One day, my Mum called round and when she walked into the room she thought I was dead. I had given up hope and I just wanted a way out, but I had used everything and was too unwell to go and score. She tried to get me in an ambulance but I begged her to drive me to the hospital so that I could score on the way. I was admitted into hospital straight away. At that point, I was a week away from multiple organ failure due to septicaemia that had been spreading throughout my body for a month.

At the time, I was really ill and I was clucking as well. The hospital put me on 50mls of methadone, but I was also taking my other 50mls script. For the first couple of days, I was using on top of that, but I had to stop because I was too ill to get smack. This was actually a release because I didn’t really want to be using it. I was quite happy at this point, because even though I was in hospital in a right mess, it was better than where I’d been a week before.

Whilst in hospital, I was put on some major antibiotics to fight the septicaemia. As soon as I started on those, I could feel myself clucking. I told them that I didn’t know what was happening but something was wrong. The doctors couldn’t think of anything and for days I lay in bed in agony.

The ordeal ended when I explained to a pharmacist who was checking my medication that I had been clucking. He said instantly, ‘That would be because of the antibiotics, they cancel out the effect of the methadone.’ My medication was then sorted out and the withdrawals stopped.

I was in hospital for eight months. I had found a dealer who would bring me crack and smack to the hospital and I was injecting my methadone as well. It was coming up to Christmas and my mum had been begging me to stop for Christmas. I was getting my mum to drive me from the hospital to Splott to get drugs. I knew that she didn’t have any money and what she did have she needed.

One time, just before Christmas, she was driving me to Splott and she was really upset. I thought about it for a bit and then asked her to turn the car around, keep the money, and take me back to the hospital. I remember that was such a big turn-around for me, and it made me feel so good. I’d made the decision myself. I was so happy.

Spending all that time in hospital helped me to decide that I needed to change my lifestyle and stop using drugs. At this point I knew that I needed something, so I started looking into rehabs. I had been told about a place called Livingstone’s and so I set up a meeting with them. When I went there I straight away decided that I didn’t want to go. It was a Christian rehab and I wasn’t a Christian. Tom, who runs Livingstone’s, asked if I wanted to have a look around anyway, so I did.

All of a sudden a very alien, but comforting sensation came over me. I knew beyond all doubt that it was God showing me what my life could be like if I chose to follow him. I felt at peace. I felt happy. The weight lifted off my shoulders. I was back how I remembered feeling as a kid. I knew this was the place for me.

However, the rehab didn’t usually take someone who was still on methadone. Normally, the person would have to go through detox and then come to the rehab. However, Tom said that if I were happy to reduce my methadone then he would accept me. I was over the moon. I would have been happy stopping the methadone dead from 120mls. We came to the decision that I would cut down at 10% a fortnight.

Tom is a recovering alcoholic so he understood what I’d been through, which meant that I could respond to him more. I was not thinking, ‘Oh, what a wanker, go look it up in a book.’ It was important to me to know that he wasn’t looking down on me. Tom would show that he was no different to me, by telling stories of his alcohol use and then showing how he is now. He made it seem achievable.

When I first went to Livingstone’s, I was picking holes in religion. I was sceptical, but as nothing else had worked for me I just had to give it a go. At Livingstone’s, everything that I needed was given to me, even when I didn’t know that I needed it. I have now learnt that if I put in whatever effort I can, doors will open for me. After a week, I just didn’t want to use drugs anymore. I was beginning to see that there was a way for me not to be that person anymore. It’s really simple—all I’ve got to do is seek God.

In the coming months, there were times that I was tested, but I learnt from them. On one occasion, I had a glass of sangria at a barbecue. It was the first time I had drunk anything for about six months. When I left the barbecue, I saw a dealer that I knew and my head started scheming.

I went back to Livingstone’s and no one was there for me to talk to. The thought going through my head was, ‘If I get some, no-one will know.’ I started telling myself that I would just smoke it and not inject. Or I could get crack, as I’d never had a problem with that. But I knew what I would come back with if I walked out that door. It got so close that I even stood up to walk out the door.

Then I thought about my family and the forthcoming operation on my hip and I tried to focus on them. I prayed and asked God for help. I got through that night and it made me stronger.

Once I had moved into Livingstone’s, I started reducing my methadone by 10% per week. I spoke to my key worker about reducing and she tried to dissuade me. It’s weird. To get them to raise your script is easy; you basically blink at them. But to bring your dose down is another story altogether.

Luckily, I was on a weekly script, so I had more control than a person who has daily supervised consumption. I would just measure out the dose that I was on and then pour the rest away. I did always save a bit extra. I did this so that I would know it was there just in case. It was like a safety net. But I didn’t ever use it and when I did come off the methadone completely, I had a lot of joy pouring all the excess methadone down the drain. I felt completely free. It was the first time in 13 years that I wasn’t using mind-altering substances.

Towards the end, when I was dropping my dosage a lot quicker, I would sometimes feel the physical effects of withdrawal. It didn’t feel anywhere near as bad as withdrawing off heroin, but I would feel rotten for a couple of days. I was just so desperate to get to zero that I put up with it.

The first day I completely came off methadone, I felt so happy that I was finally free, out of the rat race. I no longer had to go to key workers, doctors and chemists.

After coming off methadone, I continued to live at Livingstone’s, where I completed my rehab programme. I found the structure of the 12-step programme particularly helpful, mostly because it helped me get a routine back into my life and it gave me a reason to get up in the morning. In addition to that, the other lads on the programme were really supportive and were always there to help me if I was struggling. I actually made a couple of really good friends when I was there and have kept in touch with them since.

Since Livingstone’s was a 12-step programme, I was asked to write my life story. I had to write down just about everything that I had done in my life —the good, the bad and the ugly. I found it quite difficult to look back, as it was hard trawling through my old life, thinking about all the things that I had done that I wasn’t proud of. I realise now though, that it was of great benefit to me as I could finally put my old self to bed. It was a chance to put everything behind me and look to the future.

I have to say it felt amazing to finish the residential portion of the programme at Livingstone’s. Although I knew that I would have to continue living by and practicing the principles of the course, I really felt that my past was finally behind me. It has been said that rehab is something that you never actually complete as it’s an ongoing process, but I’m not too sure about this as I’d like to think that I have completed the programme now. Although that’s not to say that I can do whatever I want, just that I am moving on and entering into a different stage of my life.

Throughout the programme, I definitely needed to look back and deal with some of the issues from my life, but now I feel that I have put them to rest and I’m living in the present. I just try to deal with what each day throws at me, one day at a time. Although I’m going on thirty years old, I find the future to be quite daunting as I know that I’m starting afresh. Thinking too far ahead is too overwhelming, so I just continue to put my hope in God, day-by-day, and try not to plan too far into the future.

After completing the programme, I remained at Livingstone’s as a volunteer to support the next people on the course. I decided to stay on as a volunteer for a number of reasons. The greatest appeal was getting daily support from like-minded Christians, and I could continue to live in a more controlled environment whilst still enjoying the freedom of coming and going as I pleased. This was really beneficial, as it allowed me to slowly integrate back into society and start to move forward into a sober life.

I also wanted to volunteer, as I thought I could use my own experiences to help others who were going through similar troubles. Sometimes, I was responsible for running group sessions. This was both in the 12-step rehab programme and the discipleship programme that ran alongside it. Other than that, I was there as someone who could offer one-to-one and general support to anyone who needed it.

I think getting to know and supporting the three lads on the programme was probably the best bit of all. We didn’t get on all the time, but I learnt a lot about myself during this time and I think some of my rough edges were knocked off! One of the hardest things about this time was that one of the lads relapsed and was asked to leave the programme. He was dead within two weeks. This really hit me hard and any complacency that was left in me got knocked straight out. I learnt how important it was for me to stay away from drugs.

Volunteering at Livingstone’s was a really good experience, even though it could be challenging at times. I think this was because I was so new out of rehab myself, so it was difficult to put up with other people’s problems and deal with them in a positive manner. I gained a lot of knowledge and practical experience during this time. I also learnt a lot about myself and my recovery and the new direction my life was beginning to take. Overall, it was a very beneficial time for me.

I had to wait a year-and-a-half from the time that I entered hospital after my hip gave out to having the hip replacement. I finally had my operation in October 2006. I was excited that it was finally here, but also a little worried because of all of the complications that I had previously experienced. A year before this operation, I had my hip removed and one leg was five inches shorter than the other. There was still no guarantee that I wouldn’t be left with one leg severely shorter than the other for life. I felt a lot rested on the operation and that the outcome would really shape the rest of my life.

As well as that, it was quite frightening because I knew that I would need to move on mentally and physically when I had recovered a bit. After focusing all of my attention on getting to the point where I was able to have the operation, I hadn’t thought much past that point. Mostly because I couldn’t allow myself to think about things, until I knew how the operation had gone.

Even though it was a major operation, I had decided not to have any kind of opiate painkillers. I knew how my body had reacted before when I was given morphine and I didn’t want my addiction to be fed again. The doctors tried to talk me out of this, but I prayed hard and knew that I was doing the right thing and that I would get through it. The pain would only be temporary and I knew I could handle it.

Despite only taking paracetamol and ibuprofen, I was back on my feet with crutches within twenty-four hours and home within a week. After the operation, my leg was very weak as the muscles had wasted away. It took a lot of exercising and cycling to build them back up. However, my leg is strong now and I don’t even walk with a limp!!

After my hip replacement, I had decided that it was time to move on, so I started looking for somewhere to live in January 2007. I felt that I had got all that I could from the rehab, and having been there a year I realised that it was time to leave its safety and get on with my life.

I was both excited and a little apprehensive about leaving Livingstone’s, although I think I was as prepared as I could have been for leaving. I had the support of family and friends and I knew that every step that I took forward needed a lot of thought and consideration. I really didn’t want to make a mistake and take the wrong route.

While I was considering moving out, I bumped into the manager of a hostel that I had lived in a few years before and asked after my key-worker. He said that he’d left and had started up a housing association. I got in touch and within a couple of weeks I’d been offered a room in a shared house.

I knew I had to take it slow, so I decided to go and see the house and meet the people I’d be living with. It was really important to me that I felt ready and that I did not rush into anything. It turned out that the house was really close to church and lots of local amenities. I prayed about it and decided that it was the right place for me.

Kerry (mother): During the last year or two, I’ve been in contact with a community-based drugs project in Cardiff, called Inroads. I found out about this place from Kevin. He’d been going there for a while and he suggested that I get in touch because it had helped him so much. It’s a drop-in centre for people with addiction problems and for those people who have been affected by addicts. They offer all manner of support.

At Inroads, you can connect with people who have had similar problems to you, access alternative therapies, or just spend time there ‘chilling’. I started attending Inroads and would chat with workers, and have regular massages with their masseuse. It didn’t really matter to them what I was saying; they’d probably heard it or seen it all before, which was the good thing about it. They know and understand the issues, and they are very supportive.

The alternative therapies that they have there are all aimed at you as an individual, whether you’re a family member or user. It’s for you to get the most out of them. Sometimes, I’ve gone along to have a massage and have talked so long that there’s been no time for the massage! That in itself was obviously what was needed that day, so it was fine.

I was lucky that Kevin knew about Inroads. There are many people who haven’t heard of it—they really don’t know that such a place exists. Treatment services, including those for family members, do need a much higher profile.
I still go there for treatment, like reflexology, to relieve stress. For a period of time, I also had counselling there. That did help me, more so with my relationship with John and coming to terms with how things had affected me. There wasn’t a total focus on dealing with Kevin.

The counselling has finished now, but I can always start it up again if I feel the need. What I did find good there was the attitude of the people. They’re quite clued up, very understanding, and I think if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have got through things in the way I have. They were never judgemental and were always there to listen.

Kevin was also attending a prescribing service in Cardiff, which gave him regular methadone scripts. Although I think the unit was a help overall, it was also quite misguiding from an addict’s point of view. Kevin was offered a methadone prescription, but very little help or support to go with it. In my opinion as a health professional, I don’t think it’s much help just handing out methadone and Subutex without anything to back it up. It needs to be more of a wrap-around care, rather than just giving out prescriptions and drug-testing addicts.

I know of many addicts who are addicted to methadone and use it along with heroin. And because addicts are clever and know when they’re going to be tested, they know when to stop taking their heroin so it doesn’t show up. I had always thought that just having a methadone script was enough, but in hindsight, from my experience of being involved in Kevin’s care when he was ill, I really believe that other support is essential. At this time, there isn’t enough of these other forms of support available.

When Kevin was desperately ill with what we would later learn was septicaemia, I’d go to his house every day. He was deteriorating rapidly in front of my eyes. We’d been to casualty but nobody picked up on how desperately ill he was. I actually attended casualty twice with Kevin, to try and give him some sort of credibility, but twice he was turned away, even though his condition warranted being admitted. I’m sure that they saw no further than the fact that he was an addict.

I was nursing Kevin at his home every day. Every time I went there, and let myself in, I was prepared to find him dead. I really thought the end had come.

Even though Kevin was so unwell, he was still using heroin. I sort of understood it because at this point I knew that if he didn’t he’d be even more unwell. He was at such a stage that I think he might have died if he hadn’t continued using to some degree. He was already having rigours (uncontrollable shaking, fever etc), chest pains, and numerous other problems. So what would the effects of withdrawal have done on top of that?

I remember thinking what a terrible thing addiction is, that it could do this to someone. Enormously terrible, I can’t say that enough. How could it get like this? How could it get any worse? If he’d died at that point it wouldn’t have been worse; it would have been better. In his eyes, as well as mine.

This isn’t easy to say but I really did debate whether to end Kevin’s life. I could have easily. To see him there, like a skeleton, in agony and struggling for breath. He was comatose at times and I used to think how easy it would be to put a pillow over his head and end all his agony. I just couldn’t though. I just wanted so much for him to be better.

In the end, I absolutely insisted they take him into hospital. And they let him in. Thank God he didn’t die, but I could so easily have done that. God forgive me, and it wasn’t for any selfish reason. I just didn’t want him to suffer any more. I don’t think anybody quite understood what I was doing day in, day out, keeping him alive. I felt so isolated with him.

When he was finally admitted to hospital, Kevin’s body was wracked with septicaemia and we were told that he was only days from total organ failure. The lack of understanding from the medical staff about the addiction side of Kevin’s’ problems was very apparent. He was admitted to the poisons unit, but they just didn’t have an understanding of the psyche of an addict. The nursing care was nil, and the lack of physical care was apparent.

Strangely enough, even after the way he had lived, Kevin was always worried about disinfecting things and making sure things were clean. He always has and always will, thank God, but the staff just didn’t expect him to have those standards. He was an addict, a junkie, his illness was self-inflicted, and he didn’t deserve better care. It upset him, it annoyed him, and he was very angry at times. Mentally, he was desperate for the right attitude.

It did change a little when I spoke to the ward manager as I read out something from Kevin’s notebook about how he’d been treated. She burst into tears and said that she had no idea of how he was feeling. Luckily, she was a good ward manager. She took it on board and did make changes.

Some doctors and nurses believed in Kevin though and they really made a difference. There really needs to be more education given to medical staff about addiction. I’ve talked to senior nurses in emergency units and they’ve said themselves that there’s a distinct lack of understanding about these issues.

Basically, it should be part of their training. There ought to be something put in place to help them to look past the façade of addiction. What you see in front of you is not necessarily what is there. Addicts are labelled. Most, but not all, nurses, use derogatory terms when discussing addicts. It is sickening. There should be more understanding of the psyche of an addict.

For a long time, I kept it secret that my son was an addict, but when Kevin was ill in the hospital where I worked, I had to be open. It really taught me, more than ever, that addiction is an illness and something can be done about it—and it should be.

Since Kevin has left hospital, I have talked freely about his problems in a way that I would never have thought I could—in a less emotional way. It’s the only way I can think of to show people that we are an ordinary family.

Kevin was brought up with values, the same as his sister. He chose one way and she chose another way. So how can it be the way you bring a child up? It can’t be, otherwise Kate would have been an addict as well. I think it’s important for people to realise that it could happen to them. For example, even their husband could become addicted to pain relief after an operation—so don’t be complacent.

The worst thing for me was the attitudes of some of my work colleagues. It’s very strange because I work in a caring profession in the health service, but some of the attitudes of workers were truly awful. Over the time that Kevin was an inpatient, I heard that the staff had been gossiping about him, not only on their ward but on other wards. They discussed Kevin and our whole family in a very derogatory manner. Much of what they said was unfounded or damn right untrue. I find it incredible that they can break confidentiality with other members of staff.

I was angry and hurt, and felt dreadfully bad for Kevin. He was desperately ill and they were discussing him in such a malevolent way. Gossiping, saying, ‘Why hasn’t his father visited?’ or ‘His sister has cut him off?’ which was quite untrue at that time.

My manager found out and said that it was a breach of confidentiality and they should be disciplined. However, she could only take things further if I made an official complaint. I felt that I couldn’t because I wanted to keep working there. I’ve been made more and more aware since I’ve had problems of my own how nasty gossip can be. It’s made me far more aware of people’s feelings.

People are really unaware of the deeper issues surrounding addiction. I would have thought the people I was close to at work would have understood. Yet all they could say was, ‘She should cut him out of her life.’ I actually had someone say that to me, not in a nasty way but thinking that she was being helpful. I took it as well-intentioned, because she wasn’t malicious, but I said, ‘There’s no way I could do that, he’s my son.’

Before Kevin was seriously ill, he knew he could not go on living the life he was living, and I think the seeds were set for him to change. However, at the time he was far too weak to instigate or do anything about those feelings.

Whilst he was in hospital, there was a gradual change. When he was talking to me, he made it clear that things were going to change and that it was make or break time. I think he actually said to me at one point that he could feel a turning point and that something had called to him. He could feel the strength coming to enable him to do it. He became more and more interested in learning about God’s work and his message. As he was bed-bound for so long, he had a lot of time on his hands to read and find out more. He began to change.

When he was starting to recover from the septicaemia, it was a real challenge for Kevin. For example, there were difficulties dealing with the issues of pain relief medication and methadone. He was actually given antibiotics that counteracted the methadone and nullified the effect. Very often, he was in withdrawal although he was seemingly on the correct dose of methadone. It was very difficult for him to deal with it and to communicate what was happening to the staff.

It was by chance, whilst talking to a medical registrar about what he was experiencing, that the medication conflict was realised. So although he was seemingly being looked after, there were huge issues surrounding the control of his addiction. Unfortunately, the pain unit, addiction unit, doctors, nurses and Kevin himself, were all at conflict with one another. It took a very strong personal will to come out of that, and come out the way he did.

Kevin left hospital after eight months and went straight into a Christian rehab. He found out about it through a very good Christian friend. Now I can see that he’s really happy—it just oozes out of him—and there’s an aura around him. He was helped both on a religious level, and on the addiction rehabilitation side. He’s had all the help he needed and has gone from strength to strength. He even continued to live at Livingstone’s as a volunteer where he was able to help the next intake of residents.

Kevin now looks wonderful and is strong and healthy. He is different now. I believe this is the first time we have really seen him, how he is meant to be, in his adult life.

2. Adapting to a new life
Kevin: At times, I find the normality of life quite boring and tedious. To overcome this, I got more involved in volunteering with Wired In and I really enjoyed the days when I was doing this voluntary work. Wired In has given me the opportunity to speak at conferences, run discussion groups and take part in film projects, where I have been behind the camera as an interviewer, as well as doing a film of my life story.

One of the things that I have found hard to deal with is the highs and the lows that you experience as part of real life. I’ve found that being honest with myself when I am struggling has helped a lot. The support that I’ve got from my family and friends has also made all the difference. I’ve come to realise that life is a rollercoaster and that nothing ever runs smoothly—but that is the excitement of life.

I rarely have any urges these days. When they do come, I am learning more and more about how to deal with them. I find praying straight away and talking to my friends about them really helps me. I know I’m lucky as I have a good support network of people who really care. Sometimes when I’m feeling down, I try and distance myself from these people, but I have come to realise that this just doesn’t help.

Lots of people say that they find it difficult when they bump into their old drug-using friends and they are tempted to use drugs. However, I don’t find this. I find it quite easy to avoid temptation, because I can usually see where I used to be in that person and I don’t want to go back there. I’ve also found that I don’t have a lot in common anymore with my old mates, which makes it easier to walk away when I need to.

I’ve tried to fill my life with constructive and positive things. I’ve tried to build my life by getting involved in church and surrounding myself with good people. Getting involved in Wired In has also helped a lot and I’m now planning on training in the drugs and alcohol field and eventually finding paid employment.

I’d like to work in the field so that I can give support to the people going through the same struggles in life that I did. I have an empathy that can only come from having been in those same situations and its something I want to use to help others. After doing voluntary work in the field for a year-and-a-half, I feel that I’m ready to train in this field and that I have something to offer it. I would really like to work as a drugs outreach worker in South Wales.

I think one of the difficulties I’ll face is balancing emotional attachments and professional standards with clients. At the moment, I see myself as the same as the people I meet in drugs’ projects that are using but want to stop. I just consider that I’m a little further down the line than they are. I think it will be strange to think of myself as a drugs’ worker and not as a client when I’m at a drugs project.

However, I know that I’ll be able to deal with these problems as and when they arise by talking to other workers and keeping my feet firmly on the ground. With the church, I’ve found that prayer is very important to me in dealing with any issues that arise. My relationship with God is the foundation on which I will build everything else in my life.

My self-esteem and confidence have taken a big knock from all the years that I spent as an addict. Although this has been improving slowly, I know it will take a while longer to come back fully. One thing that came as a bit of a shock, was actually finding that girls were attracted to me. I have to admit that this gave my confidence a big boost! Initially, I fell into a bit of a trap with this and started to enjoy myself in ways that I probably shouldn’t have! However, I could see that this wasn’t the way forward and I stopped it all.

A key thing I’d like to say to other addicts is that no matter what anybody says, it is possible to come out the other side of long-term drug misuse and addiction and to live an abstinent, happy and fulfilling life, and be a valuable member of society. It’s a long hard road and I wouldn’t have made it without the strength I get from God. The trick is to never give up chasing what you want—just put everything into it and you will get there eventually.

Kerry (mother): Kevin has had to work very hard. It hasn’t been the end of temptation. I know there have been times when he has struggled. He has had to adapt to a very different lifestyle. He still speaks to some of the people he used to know. I think you’ve got to, since you can’t avoid everybody you knew from that life. You’ve got to deal with it and get through it and come out the other side.

I’m sure it’s a battle every day. I believe that once you’re an addict you’ve got that there, and there will always be the possibility that you could slip back. But I believe he’s got the right attitude now and he’s going to make it.

As time has moved on, Kevin has reunited with his father and sister and now has a full relationship with them. In fact, he has a better relationship with his father now than he’s ever had. They feel comfortable in each other’s company, although that’s come very gradually. His dad at last believes there’s a future for him. His sister is thrilled to bits that he’s back. He really is part of the family again.

It’s been two years since Kevin came out of hospital.  He’s had marvellous reports from the medical staff and his friends. But it’s all been down to him. If he hadn’t made that decision, it would never have happened. It’s got to come from within—I’ve learnt that no amount of cajoling will work. I think it was God’s power that gave him strength and others have helped him channel it and put it to good use.

At the moment, things are still fresh and by no means forgotten. I saw Kevin as low as he could have got. I think it will be quite a while before that eases. I know the memories will never fade completely because the images are too strong- but they can be in the background, and be of no concern.

I’ve got my financial payments that I’ve got to pay off for quite a while. I should be comfortable at this point in my life, but I’m not. But that’s a fact now, there’s nothing I can do about it. All I can do is learn from it and never do it again. I realised that what I did with Kevin before was also destroying myself. I wasn’t living my life, I was living Kevin’s. I was involved in things that I wasn’t meant to be involved in.

I had a choice—I wasn’t addicted, he was—and it’s important to remember that and stick with that. If he chooses that route again I can’t really stop it; it’s his choice not mine. I realise that there are going to be temptations, but I’ve realised that it’s his addiction, not mine, and I have to let him deal with it. I can help him certainly, but that’s it.

I put on a lot of weight because I comfort ate, but I’ve no intention of dieting at the moment. I don’t want to give myself the stress of doing that. For the first time in a while I’m relatively stress free and I’m savouring the moment. I don’t want to put myself under any pressure—that wouldn’t be a good thing.

Aside from these difficulties, things are so much better now! I don’t wake up in a panic. I don’t even think twice about what Kevin’s doing, where he is, or with whom he is. It’s fabulous. I thank God every day for how he’s changed. Instead of my heart contracting, it flutters. It’s absolutely wonderful that I wake up every day and look forward to my life. It’s just unbelievable.

I can’t wait to see him grow and do normal things, have a normal lifestyle. I’m sure that he’s going to do something special with his life now. I just know he’s going to use his experiences for a good purpose—maybe in the Church or working with people with addiction problems. He will do something more fulfilling and worthwhile with his life and maybe that way he’ll give something back to the community, something good for others, and repay what he’s been given.

Although I’ve been through all of this, it’s still difficult to give advice to others. But, what I think is important is that people should seek help and shout from the roof tops if need be. There are places out there that will help you—you just need to find the place that’s right for you. I think that awareness is increasing and it will be easier to get advice, support and so forth in the future.

I’d also advise family members not to try and ‘sort it’ by themselves. I made a big mistake and wasn’t open with John from the beginning. I didn’t give him the opportunity to help me deal with it. The outcome might have been the same, but it could also have been very different.

Also, remember that it’s not your addiction—it’s your loved one’s addiction. You might get involved, but it’s not your life, not your addiction—it’s theirs. It’s not something you have done that has caused it. You might think it’s because of their genes, upbringing, or whatever, but it’s down to each individual having control over their lives—so don’t feel guilty. Of course that’s easier said than done, I know. The main thing is to support all you can. But remember—unless an addict wants to stop, anything you do is futile. They have to want to do it for themselves, no one else.

So, do not feel guilty, but do not lose hope either. Miracles do happen!

> Kevin and Kerry’s Story, Part 2 (pdf document)