Throughout her childhood Katherine was subjected to domestic violence. This is her story of addiction, how it affected her family and her recovery.
“My father, the man I knew as my father was very controlling, and who would hit my mother. I felt very unhappy when this happened. He would put me and my siblings out of the home and we’d have to go and live in a hostel with our mum.I felt sorry for my mum back then. I wished somebody would step in and make our lives better, but it never happened. I loved my mum and felt sorry for her for what she was going through. When I was about 12 and at senior school I found out from other kids that my father wasn’t my real father, that he was my step father. My mum was forced to tell me the truth. From that moment I became so angry. I had so much anger towards my mum for not telling me the truth earlier, anger towards the man I had always thought was my father for not being honest and yet who had treated us terribly all our lives, and anger towards my real father for allowing us to be treated the way we were.
I started drinking at about 14 years old. My siblings also struggled with the way our family was but I was the only one who started to drink and use drugs. I remember I was taken to hospital one time after I had a fall when I was drunk. My step father wouldn’t allow me back home. I had to go and live with a relative. Yet it felt like living with a stranger as he’d even discouraged contact between me and this relative, years earlier, so it felt strange living there.
In the subsequent years I would drink a lot on the streets and often getting into a lot of trouble. I was put on temazepam by my GP, so I was drinking and taking medication together. When I was 16 I got involved with an older boy and we started experimenting with heroin. I continued using drugs for years, on and off. The off was mainly when I’d be sent to prison for theft, theft for money to buy drugs. I would shop lift all the time, every time to feed my drug habit. I was put on a treatment programme, prescribed methadone. This only gave me an extra high. That’s why I took it.
Some of my family turned their backs on me for getting involved in drug use, but thankfully not all of them. I wouldn’t get invites to some family weddings. I regret that we don’t all get on well together. I regret that all our children don’t know each other. I still resent the fact that when I was still taking drugs, some of the family forced my mum to choose between me and them. I needed her. She chose to support me and they punished her by stopping her seeing their children.
I know who my real father is but I have little to do with him.
I don’t use drugs now. I’ve turned my life around. The main emotion that I’ve been left with is anger for the way my step father controlled people. I think the anger I had towards him even affected my recovery as I always used drugs based on my feelings, and my feelings were always sadness and anger, so I even felt like he was stopping me getting better.
I’ve worked on many issues in my recovery and I’m less angry. I do worry about my mother even to this day, worry that she can be manipulated, and I can’t stop worrying because I’ve been around manipulation for years. But I do feel sorry for my mother’s past. I can imagine how difficult it has been for her. But this only drives me to never allow my own child to be put in any situation like I was put in.
I haven’t used drugs for 4 years. I have a child of my own now. I always thought I’d die a drug user. My experiences drive me to bring my own child up in the best way I can. I want to protect my child from any experiences like I had. I worry that if I ever bring somebody into my life then maybe something will go wrong and jeopardise how happy we are. Even though I think I’m quite strong, I do recognise I have some of my mother’s traits, that I could be manipulated by others. But this was when I was using drugs. I do feel very grateful that I had help when I was going through my problems, help from somebody who treated me like a daughter and who gave me hope and direction, a person who gave me belief that I wasn’t a worthless drug addict, and somebody whose belief in me allowed me to believe in myself. That was so important.
Now I am better and now it’s me and my child. That’s all that matters.