I Learned to Say No

Both my sons were on drugs. It started because my eldest son was in a motorbike accident. His mates brought in other drugs, and that was him on a downward spiral. Bill was a big man - six foot four, looked like Clint Eastwood. He was into body building. He was in and out of rehabs, couldn’t cope outside. Both Bill and his younger brother Davey were into cocaine and heroin.

They’d come to us every day. Life was a nightmare. I had a daughter in the army. She disowned them. The turning point came when I let them go. Where they were, I couldn’t do a thing for them. I went for parent counselling. My life was a mess, but once I realised I couldn’t help them, I began to stop feeling guilty. I stopped supporting them financially and emotionally. I realised their drug abuse was nothing to do with me. I hadn’t been a bad parent and it wasn’t my fault. I began to take back control of my life. They didn’t like that. I got stronger. I knew what they were up to. I learned the street names of the drugs they were on, and how they used them. I said “NO” when they asked for money. I locked away my things and didn’t feel guilty. But I did promise myself if they ever decided to stop using, I’d be there for them - and I told them.

After my husband found Bill dead from an overdose he couldn’t cope. He also developed Alzheimer’s disease. My other son Davey went crazy, taking anything he could get his hands on. You’d have thought his brother’s death would have woken him up, but no. Davey has spent most of his adult life in prison. The turning point for him was when a social worker took him to heart, listened to his story and found out that he’d been sexually abused by an uncle when he was small. With the social worker present, Davey told me about the abuse. Counselling began to turn his life around. I felt terrific. At last there was some hope. Someone was going to help, and there seemed to be a reason behind it all. I understood what had happened.
He got involved with a Christian group and that seemed to help too.

There had been a lot of ill feeling between us. We had to get to know each other again, rebuild trust. I loved Davey, but didn’t like what he did. I had to lay down rules when he wanted to come home. I was nursing my husband. I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for Davey. He cared for his dad: fed him, changed him when he was incontinent, took him for walks. He made meals for me - he’d been training to be a chef. He cleaned, dusted, vacuumed, decorated, and ironed. He helped me make the decision when his dad needed to go into a care home, and then he visited him regularly. I’ve taken him back into the fold, and he’s been welcomed in all our houses. He loves being an uncle, and he makes cakes for my grandchildren.
His words are: “its payback time”. He knows he’d be dead if I hadn’t made the choice to step back and to ask for help.

Davey doesn’t have a problem any more, but I do. It never goes away - I feel terrified he’s going to relapse. I couldn’t live that life again. After seven years I still don’t trust him. Yes, I have Davey at home. But he’s got no friends, and still afraid of life. There are always drugs out there in the big bad world. Drugs have left Davey psychotic: he’s afraid of meeting people. When he went out with a girl, he asked me, “What am I going to say about my past?” He told her, and she didn’t want to know him after that. I tell him to keep trying, someone will come along. Life doesn’t have to end in tragedy. When his dad died, we thought he’d drift back to drugs. He hasn’t.

My support is a group of women. We’ve all lost a child to drugs. I’ve got things I still want to do in my life. I’m a puddlejumper. I love architecture and Scottish history. I like visiting abbeys and cathedrals. I want to continue travelling. Davey and I go on holiday together every year. We’ve been to Tunisia three times. We women have more strengths than we think we have. I never used to think of myself as a strong woman. I do now.