Ian and Irene’s Story, ‘Living Through Our Son’s Addiction and Death: Our Journey to Recovery’

After losing their son Robin to a heroin overdose, Ian and Irene set up CPSG (Carer and Parent Support Gloucestershire) to help family members avoid some of the problems they experienced. (5,469 words)

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Impact of a Loved One’s Substance Use Problems on Family Members

Our research aimed to look at how a loved one’s substance use problems can impact on the health and well-being of other family members. (2,145 words)

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‘Living Through Our Son’s Addiction and Death: Our Journey to Recovery’: Ian and Irene’s Story Update

In my last blog post, I described how I met Ian and Irene MacDonald at their home on the outskirts of Cheltenham during my last trip to the UK in September 2022.

Ian and Irene had lost their 27-year-old son Robin to an accidental heroin overdose in November 1997. In response to this loss, they set up CPSG (Carer and Parent Support Gloucestershire), a free and confidential service that was available to anyone concerned about another person’s substance use.

I posted Ian and Irene’s Recovery Story, Living Through Our Son’s Addiction and Death: Our Journey to Recovery, on this website in 2013. We updated this Story in 2021 for my eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction. Here is that update:

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Visiting UK Recovery Friends: Part 9 (Ian and Irene MacDonald)

After leaving Wulf and Melanie Livingstone’s house in North Wales, I headed to Ian and Irene MacDonald’s home in the outskirts of Cheltenham. I first met Ian Macdonald at the FDAP (Federation of Drug & Alcohol Professionals) Annual conference in 2007; we had previously corresponded about a few articles that I posted on our news portal Daily Dose. We hit it off immediately. Ian told me how he and Irene had he had lost their 27-year-old son Robin to an accidental heroin overdose in November 1997.

After a long period trying to get their lives back on track after Robin’s death, Ian and Irene realised that their lives would never be the same again and accepted that their lives would not be bad, just different. They then began to wonder if there was any possibility of something positive coming from Robin’s death.

They spoke to each other about this for a long time, until one night it occurred to them that what they could was to provide what they had wanted when they first discovered their son’s addiction to heroin—’quite simply, someone to talk to, understand what we were going through, be non-judgemental, have a knowledge of drugs and addiction, and be able to act as a signpost to further help.’

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Voices of Loved Ones Indirectly Affected by Substance Use Problems, Part 2

Continuing the qualitative research project conducted by Gemma Salter, a talented undergraduate student working with me back in 2004. The research involved interviewing nine parents and one grandparent (who had assumed the role of parent) of people with a drug and/or alcohol problem. The participants were recruited from West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA) in Swansea and Drug and Alcohol Family Support (DAFS) in Blaenau Gwent, South Wales.

…. It doesn’t take long for the effects of stress to manifest itself in physical and psychological health problems. Physical symptoms come in the form of eating and sleeping problems, high blood pressure, stomach problems, irritable bowel syndrome and tension aches. Some parents are prescribed antidepressants by their GPs.

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Voices of Loved Ones Indirectly Affected by Substance Use Problems

Continuing to look back at my career in the addiction recovery field and what I have learnt. After reading the excellent book Beating the Dragon: The Recovery from Dependent Drug Use by James McIntosh and Neil McKeganey in 2003, I made the decision to start a research programme involving qualitative analysis of interviews. The first piece of research, which focused on the effects of substance use problems on the family, was conducted by Gemma Salter, a third year undergraduate. Gemma was awarded the prize for the project of the year in my Psychology department.

Gemma’s research involved semi-structured interviews (lasting 42 – 129 minutes) with nine parents and one grandparent (who had assumed the role of parent) of people with a drug and/or alcohol problem. The participants were recruited from West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA) in Swansea and Drug and Alcohol Family Support (DAFS) in Blaenau Gwent, South Wales.

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Strategies to Face Adversity: Role Models

Role models were important to many participants and played a major role in many individuals being able to face and overcome the many adversities they had to face during their lives.

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