Karen's son lost his battle against addiction in 2013, this is her story

"We found out about our son Daniel’s problems in 2006 when he was 24. He lived in London and had been working as an airline steward for some time. There had been no suspicion of him using drugs, ever. We didn’t see much of him but we were in touch almost every day but nothing gave us any concerns. He came back to visit us at Christmas. It was December 18th. I went to the railway station to collect him. I walked past him as I didn’t even recognise my own son. He was skin and bone, not a vein left in his body that hadn’t been used to inject cocaine. Daniel had changed from a gorgeous young man into a person I didn’t recognise any more. He was just dead inside, the light had gone out of his eyes. All the family were excited to see him as they hadn’t seen him for 3 months. Within 2 hours of him coming back he collapsed, he was having a fit. We sent for an ambulance, the ambulance man told me that he had been using drugs, he saw the signs. He even said he didn’t think they’d reach the hospital with Daniel still alive. My son had elastic bandages on his arms and told me he’d had an accident trampolining. I had no reason not to believe him, he’d never lied to me before. On the same day we found out my son had HIV. He was in hospital for 3 months. He had massive blood clots in his groin. He stopped taking drugs and started to drink alcohol when he came out of hospital. 

The following few years we just lived day to day. I think he’d decided that he didn’t want to live with HIV and the drugs and alcohol was the way out for him. I didn’t know how to protect him. I didn’t want to let him out of my sight. It was like having a child all over again, I needed to stop anything or anybody from hurting him. It destroyed the whole family. Everything had been fine in our lives until this time. Now every single day became torture, mental torture. If he wasn’t there with me I would worry that he would be dead somewhere. I gave everything up for him, I gave my life up for him for 6 years. I split from his father. My husband wanted to be hard with Daniel but I wanted to protect him and look after him. I Daniel and his father were a little jealous of each other and always wanted my attention over the other. So me and my husband didn’t become closer because of our son’s condition, it split us apart. I couldn’t take it any more, the way he was towards Daniel. Whatever I wanted to do, my husband wanted to do the opposite. My son continued drinking. I left my husband. Strangely, when we were separated we got on well. We got our son a flat but his drinking got worse.

 

Later on I got my own place and at one stage my son moved in with me. I knew Daniel was drinking heavily. On one occasion he’d got drunk, he swore that he wasn’t drinking but I knew he was. I told him I couldn’t stand watching him destroy his life and I told him I was calling the social worker the following day as I couldn’t take it anymore. I did this. He was dead 6 weeks later. I’ve always wondered if he’d be alive today if I hadn’t called the social worker and he hadn’t been taken back to hospital. 

But he was on a mission and he was determined that he would succeed, his way. He was told by his specialist that HIV wouldn’t be the thing that killed him, but the drugs and alcohol would. There were times that I just wanted my son to be free from the pain that he was in. My son was attacked, that’s how he became ill. This led to his drug and alcohol use and ultimately, it took my son away from me. I feel so bitter, so angry and resentful. 

My son died in 2013. If I didn’t have my daughter I think I would have given up a long time ago. But I can’t. I need her and she needs me. That’s how we survive."

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